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Niche Marketing – and how to get it right

Niche Marketing – and how to get it right

There’s nothing nicer than taking a little time out to sit in the sunshine and do some reading. That’s what I was doing when I came across a fascinating piece in Marketing Week about the company Pret A Manger. For those of us who have spent any amount of time in the Capital, or any big city centre, Pret A Manger is a very familiar part of the landscape and have been for many years. Forging a niche

From the outset, Pret A Manger found a niche in an already very over-crowded market, and have built on that year-on-year. A fast but healthy food place that you actually might like to stay and enjoy your food in – a great place to grab breakfast or lunch for any busy city dweller.

Building on the brand

There’s a lot to go at in this article (read the whole thing here, but what is striking is the way they are utilising their marketing spend. Considering they have 380 stores across the nation, two facts immediately jumped out at me:

1) They have their own in-house marketing team and are not led by agencies or outside parties and
2) None of their marketing spend goes on advertising

Individualistic or just plain risky? Could be either but it’s plainly working for them, with sales up 16% in the past year to £594m and the creation of 526 new jobs. Not then a company in stagnation or decline.

For most companies it makes sense to spread the marketing spend across as many methods as possible, so why has Pret A Manger’s marketing boss, Mark Palmer eschewed traditional advertising as a route to market? It seems like the decision has come from listening to their many customers. In the article, Palmer states; “For me as marketing director the question is: would I sooner invest in a TV campaign, which ultimately is short-lived, or in actually improving the in-store experience?”

Most of the marketing spend goes on improving the in-store experience, menu development and engaging regular customers through social networks and their strategy is built upon brand perception.

Brand development is key for growth

In order to grow their brand, Pret has made an astute decision in that they are developing an evening menu (launching at The Strand branch and then rolling out to larger sites). They seem to be developing this without straying or diluting their niche – All food is already freshly prepared in the kitchens of every store so it makes sense to take a bigger slice of the evening market by expanding what they offer – with a little dinner jazz thrown in.

Reaping the rewards of the niche

Pret A Manger exemplify niche marketing at its finest and the core principles can be useful to any business, whatever the size:

Identification – If you are moving into an overcrowded market, how are you going to carve out your cut? Is there an area within that market that is not being served, but that people would be willing to buy? What makes you different from the rest? Is it price? Speed of delivery? Quality? Location? Find what the market needs and answer that call.
Brand building – Once you have your niche, then building your brand is an important development step. Making the right decisions comes largely from listening to your customers and adjusting your offer accordingly
What works best – Where you invest in the growth of your brand is also largely down to your customer base and being clear about how your customers perceive your brand. Pret A Manger has identified that the money they could spend on advertising gives them a much higher return on investment when spent on social media promotion and making the in-store experience a lever for brand loyalty in their customer.
Developing the future – The most successful companies develop their brand and offering constantly. However, to do this successfully, as in Pret’s case, it does to not dilute or stray too far from the original niche – otherwise, you are moving away from what brought you success and into a different market with a completely different set of demographic and marketing requirements.

All in all, Pret A Manger are a great case study about how successful marketing starts with listening to the customer.

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