IN YOUR SHOES Tips For Small Business

Getting New Customers

Diana Pohly

Why Looking for Customers in All the Wrong Places Can Be a Great Idea

Is selling to the “wrong” customers the right idea?

“For Martha Stewart’s New Fans, Tattoos Meet Appliqué,” a recent article in The New York Times, reported that a number of edgy young artistic types have recently discovered Martha Stewart. They are looking at her and what she sells though a new lens, and liking what they see.


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It’s not the first time that a company has discovered lots of potential customers in groups that they never even considered. Some years ago Tommy Hilfiger discovered that inner-city kids were snapping up his company’s preppy clothing lines, which were conceived for upper-class, mostly white consumers. Rémy-Martin cognac made a similar discovery and has been advertising assertively to black customers for years. Vera Bradley, whose original mission was to provide attractive luggage for women, now also markets heavily toward young girls and the college crowd.

Where do those unexpected customer groups come from, and how can you find them? I am not a psychologist, but I think that these forces might be at work:

  • There’s an aspirational side to it. I recently wrote here that a growing number of older Americans are now buying three-wheeled motorcycles made by Harley-Davidson, which has abandoned none of its all-American, rough-and-tumble personality. So unlikely customers could be attracted to your brand because it represents something that they would like to be.
  • Growing economic power comes into play. Customers who have never had the means to buy what you are selling can be drawn to you as their buying power increases. For example, a growing number of young entrepreneurs who favor environmentalism and scruffy clothing are now buying luxury-brand watches from Patek-Philippe, Vacheron-Constantin, and other makers. It all seems incongruous, but no doubt about it; some customers buy more expensive products simply because they can. That could be worth considering in your marketing plans.


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