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Selling Clothes With BMWs

Selling Clothes With BMWs

Tap into your customer base by piggybacking on established businesses with similar target markets.

Brad Sugars, Entrepreneur

Some years ago, I overheard a debate between two friends about the name of a startup business. “It’s a good name,” said one friend to the other, “but I’m not sure it’s the best name.” You could say the same thing about the techniques typically used to attract customers to a new business. Traditional strategies like networking and mailings will do the job, but they won’t do the best job.

If you’re a startup, the fastest way to get the cash registers ringing is a little-used method that involves forming “host-beneficiary” relationships with established businesses that cater to a target audience similar to yours. Then you promote yourself to their database with a special offer presented as a gift from the older business.

The beauty of this arrangement is that the startup (the beneficiary) can instantly reach large numbers of highly qualified prospects with the tacit endorsement of the established business (the host). The host is willing to participate because it’s a way to reward loyal customers without incurring any costs. The rookie gains new customers, while the veteran gains goodwill.

Women’s Clothing and BMWs

One startup that successfully used this technique was a high-end women’s clothing boutique. The store arranged to give a free silk kimono to every female customer of a local BMW dealership who brought in a letter sent by the dealership offering the gown as a gift for their past patronage. The kimono had to be picked up at the boutique.

More than 600 women responded, picking up $100 kimonos that cost the store just $16 apiece. Those 600 women spent an average of $400 on other merchandise during their initial visit. Do the math, and you’ll see that the startup spent $9,600 to generate some $240,000 in sales—and, not incidentally, to begin building its own clientele.

Six Steps to Success

Host-beneficiary marketing is actually a simple and relatively inexpensive process that will deliver solid results if you follow a few basic rules:

1. Precisely define your target audience. “Women 35 to 55” might be a start, but it’s not enough. Create a detailed profile of your target customer. The more segments you can identify, the more potential hosts you can approach.

The women’s clothing boutique that marketed to BMW owners, for example, determined that their likely customers drove certain types of cars, patronized a certain class of hair salon, belonged to a health club, and were likely to play bridge. A birdseed store might come up with a list that includes consumers who shop at outdoor equipment outfitters or are affiliated with local conservation groups.

2. Identify local businesses that serve the same market segments. That way, you can not only bring people in the door for your initial offer, but also increase the likelihood that they’ll return to give you repeat business.