It is an interesting time to be in the cycle business. There is no doubt that cycling is undergoing a renaissance – a combined product of many factors including, but not limited to: British successes in competitive cycling; newly built facilities; concerns over carbon emissions; and even fashion. In major cities like London cycling clubs are welcoming new members, bike share schemes are in operation and people are signing up for events like the London Triathlon.
The current climate should spell “goldmine” for cycle retailers, however as with anything increased demand often leads to increased competition as new kids arrive on the block. The key to standing out from this competition is getting your marketing right, and so we come to another busy marketplace in its own right…
Just as you as a business owner want to be heard over the family run business, the high street chain, the start-up, the online retailer and the supermarket that’s branching out into everything, so do marketing platforms – online, print, broadcast and more – want you to pay attention to them more than anyone else.
Here are some considerations to make when choosing the right channel for promoting your business.
Beginning with traditional formats, there was a time when newspaper advertising would have been the only option available. While it has seen better days the printed press appears to be defying those who prophesise its doom for now, and the number of people who still pick up a paper is far from insignificant. But one thing to bear in mind – and this will be a recurring theme here – is the potential hit rate of your advertisement placed in the newspaper. How many of the readers read from cover to cover, and of those how many are cyclists – i.e. your potential customers?
It is important to remember that print is not just newspapers however – specialist cycling magazines will naturally deliver a more captive audience.
In broadcast, budget will be the big decider. If you’ve got the money to run a sustained television advertising campaign then it can be highly impactful. But to be really effective you are talking top quality production, originality and a long term commitment – it can all add up to a hefty bill, but if you go cheap in terms of either production or campaign booking then it could be a waste of time.
For small to medium sized businesses radio is likely to be the more feasible option – in fact there are a few advantages here. Cost-wise radio advertising tends to be cheaper than television and there are more options available at local and regional level. In terms of impact, many people have more of a routine when it comes to radio listening and the repetition of that advert on every commute every day can put your brand firmly in their mind. And local radio stations are more accessible to you the client – you can sit down with one of their sales representatives to discuss exactly what you want and, all being well, build up a good rapport with the station.
One other traditional format to consider is outdoor advertising. Billboards are surprisingly cheap to book and the right location combined with the right creative content can really capture the market’s imagination. Advertising on public transport is another option, but can be on the pricier side – particularly in London.
Pros and cons of all of the above aside however, not everyone will read a newspaper or switch on the radio or drive by a billboard every single day. On the other hand an ever increasing number of people will look at their computer, tablet or smart phone at least once a day, every day – whether they’re having a productive day at work or staying in for a duvet day.
You will therefore undoubtedly factor online content of some form into your campaign – in fact, a wholly digital campaign may well be what is right for you.
Just like the traditional outlets evolved, so has the internet and again you are presented with many options.
Let’s start with websites – yours and other people’s. Do you need a website? Not every organisation does – in the early noughties lots of businesses felt they had to have a website to keep up with the world, paid a lot for a domain name and then… produced a one page effort that featured their contact details. If you are going to go to the trouble of having a website built and maintained, do it right – make it look good, make it functional. Remember it is your shop window and on the high street you wouldn’t just hide all the bikes by whitewashing your window and writing the phone number on it.
There are of course advertising opportunities on other people’s websites – particularly those of the media outlets who are branching out to provide a back up to their print and broadcast sales. To stand out here your ad needs to be dynamic – a stationary banner will not catch the eye in the same way that a bright, colourful one featuring moving wheels and pedals will.
Cycling is a very sociable pursuit, and therefore social media will be a must for your business. Facebook and Twitter remain the leaders of the pack for now so for starters get on to them, but make the most of them. Update your Facebook page on a daily basis, providing the right balance of quirky bits and pieces and information about your business that will actually generate sales. Make sure you keep uploading pictures too – a couple of sentences won’t stand out on a fan’s feed if they’re sandwiched between an old school friend’s wedding photos and a meme celebrating the fact that it’s the weekend, and for people visiting your Facebook page it will just look bland and uninspiring without pictures.
On Twitter, again regular Tweets on a daily basis are in order. A helpful way to build your follower base from the start is to follow a lot of people yourself – it will pique their interest and they may well follow back, all the time breaking down the degrees of separation between you and the rest of the “Twittersphere”. But do be tactical about this – look for people that you think would be interested in your business, and don’t just follow thousands of random people.
Don’t let the big two overshadow the other social media options available to you – among the other ways to make a buzz are putting great photos on Instagram, doing catchy little videos on Vine and creating an interest on Pinterest.
The route you take for marketing your business depends on the size of your business, your location and your target market. But whatever choices you make, the key steps towards standing out and being noticed by the London cycling community are research, planning, delivery and maintenance: explore your options; devise the best possible way of utilising the platform(s) and don’t just rush in; present something that attracts attention from the beginning; and keep the message fresh to ensure you hold that attention.