Mentor, Michael Halligan, Sales and marketing

How do I target an exclusive clientele without alienating other potential shoppers?

Michael Halligan /

I’m looking to market my boutique clothing business to an upscale audience.


How can I best target affluent shoppers without alienating everyone else?


After all, I’ll take anyone’s money at this early stage!


The early days of running a business are the most exciting, yet they’re the most volatile.


Dealing with cashflow, getting the word out and, most importantly, getting a few early sales on the board will keep you busy.


The temptation is often to start at a lower price point, test the waters and raise prices later once you have some cashflow.


Is that always the best course of action? Maybe for a tech start-up, but I’ve found through working with countless start-ups that it doesn’t necessarily equate to long-term success for retail. Once the fickle retail market sets their mind to your worth, it’s hard to change perceptions.


Be the brand you want to become


As they say: Fake it until you make it. By acting as the brand that you want to become, rather than the fledging start-up that you are now, you will:

  • Build a culture of excellence
  • Be motivated to reach your goals sooner
  • Be forced to think big and stop being caught up with the little issues of a small start-up
  • Save yourself the hard work of fighting to change market perceptions

Be outrageously good at marketing


Marketing a premium brand is one of the most difficult challenges in marketing. Without competing on price, you must care and nurture your brand image and perception like nothing else. It’s the heart of your brand. Experimenting with constant sales, budget product lines and mainstream markets to channel will often dilute your brand and confuse customers.


As a premium brand, you need to work on your customer service experience, the exclusivity of your product, your brand’s authenticity, your confidence echoed through your brand communication and your product’s quality.


With these brand qualities in place, your customers won’t mind that you’re new. They won’t worry about judging you on a past record. Online shopping and the plethora of buying options out there have us all searching for new things. The desirability of the new and novel means we want to be the first to share a premium experience with our friends.


Market your brand effectively, provide a premium experience, and consumers will be rushing to get to you before their friends do.


Associate with premium attributes and communicate via mainstream channels


Try to strongly associate your brand with the premium lifestyle qualities that your market aspires towards. As a boutique clothing brand targeting affluent customers, that might mean using imagery of beautiful European cobblestone streets or an affluent woman enjoying a drink at a bar.


Using mainstream communication channels will give you access to a large market, allowing you to communicate these aspirational brand qualities to a large audience that feel loved, respected and, most importantly, wanted.


Whether it’s Facebook, Pinterest or any other marketing communication channel, you’ll generate interest from the mainstream market that is attracted to the exclusivity and appeal of your brand.


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