Gracie Opulanza - Co- founder of menstylefashion

It seems that many entrepreneurs who sell (and produce) fashion-related products have the uncertainty of one of the most important things in business – how to take their product to market. This is a hard thing to do as it depends on a lot of things, the product is number one, but also, how much money do you have to invest and how much you know about marketing communications, supply chains and also networking.

Understand Your Target Market

Your product can influence how to approach reaching the right audience… For instance, If your product is a range of hand-made luxury candles, your logic might be to approach a high-end customer-facing outlet like Harrods or Selfridges, but if you’re selling low-cost candles that you know would never be seen in the likes of Harrods, then you need to approach things differently. Why? Because the target audiences are different people, meaning they have different experiences of life, different ideas of what is expensive or cheap, and ultimately their lifestyles are worlds apart… Speaking broadly, those who shop at Primark wont shop at Harrods… Therefore, you need to understand and appreciate who will want your candles, is it the Harrods buyer or the Primark buyer? Also, it’s important to note that you’re own opinion of what’s the right price could well be wrong for your market!

Do Your Research

To get an idea you need to do your research. If you’re lucky enough to have a stall at say, Spittalfields Market, you have a great opportunity to get casual conversations going with your customer to find out where they live or where they’re from… notice the brand of jacket, the type of shoes, do they look wealthy or poor… Over hear their conversations when looking at your candles… What approach to spending do they have and why do they want the candle. If you have small/cute options at an entry level price running up to larger impressive mantel piece candles at high cost prices, this will give you a platform to a) appeal to more customer types but b) importantly it will inspire conversation and interest with the customers from where you can extract your research with your eyes and ears.

Once you have an idea of who your audience is, then you need to look into their lifestyles to understand the language they speak.. IE, broadly speaking, the Harrods buyer will be used to very fine wine, leather seats, cashmere… the alternative might be the bargain wine, canvas seats and a cotton-mix. If you want to appeal, you need your candles to sit within their lifestyle expectations… In quality and also what they (their brand) stand for, and price…too expensive and it’s out of reach, too cheap and they could also be put off. You need to know how to speak their language.

Know Your Competitors

Obviously, the next challenge is the fact that you’re not the only candle brand targeting you audience. You need to know your competitors’ offers / USPs, and you need to know yours… IE, what differentiates your candles from those already out there? What will make someone desire yours more? And this brings me on to ask what is your motivation for being in business?

How Big Do You Want To Be?

Do you want to remain small and independent or do you want to become larger and enter the commercial world of high-end or low-end mass-market? For instance, if you want to remain small and run a successful stall and then perhaps a shop and then more, that’s fantastic. You need to take advantage of your charisma to sell; your passion to start early, work late; your confidence in your product to sit there in the cold when theres no crowds… But if you want to hit the larger audiences through a channel such as Harrods, then you need to get a different game plan in action.. You don’t need to understand just your customer… You need to understand who they think is their customer… You wont be selling over the counter to David and his family from South Ken anymore, you’ll be selling to an experienced, knowledgeable buyer employed by Harrods to find a great product at a great cost to them which they can sell to 1000 davids from South Ken – there’s a difference. You need to do your research into Harrods customers, their expectations on quality etc.. You can research their past ranges to get a feeling of where their direction is heading.. Maybe their buyers have a plan and maybe your candles are the next thing to fit their plan, if not, why not? If so, what can you say to convince them more. You need to give them a story to dramatise your product but without steering away from the truth in origins, quality etc.. They can’t sell lies and they will inevitably find out if anything you say isn’t true.. And always, always sell the sizzle, not the sausage.. IE, if your candles are made by a family in Norfolk, dont say just that. Say they’re made by 2 generations using the best materials and put together with passion and love for the product.. In a remote factory in the misty wilderness. (this should apply in stall trading too) Even better, bring the family to the meeting with the buyer. Make the buyer create a vision in their mind. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee success but its a weapon in your arsenal and might help seal a deal.

Never Give Up

Whatever happens, there’s lots to think about and lot to embrace, and lots that hasn’t been mentioned here. But whatever happens, make sure you believe in your product and your talent, otherwise you’re starting in third place. Positivity breeds success, and fun!

Baleeblu - WGSN Global Fashion Awards 2013

Coolway - Oxford Street London

Gracie Opulanza - menstylefashion - photos by maria scard