How to reach your peeps is just about always on my mind – it comes with the territory of being a marketing therapist. So here I was, two days ago, lounging around on the public beach in Puerto Vallarta. And I ended up, no big surprise, watching the vendors who sell up and down the beach. It is a great case study of how to figure out what to sell to a specific target market.
In the space of two hours we were visited by quite a number of beach vendors. Here's a list of the items we were offered:
Cooked skewered shrimp, topped off by one of the limes hooked onto a separate skewer.
Heavy blankets in various colors that could be used on the beach or as a rug at home.
Brightly colored large pitchers that looked like ceramic but were actually wood.
Toys and gum from a basket.
Tuba-tuba, which is a chilled coconut drink served into a cup from a huge hollowed out double gourd.
All sorts of jewelry – silver, shells, beaded.
Elaborately carved cold fresh fruit, your choice, from a head-balanced platter.
Music from a 3-group band, complete with voice and instruments (including a bass fiddle)
Music from a two-person steel band percussion group, a 4-foot long instrument that unfolded and sat on a table, complete with sound system (battery operated).
Bracelets hand-woven with your name on it
Large silver and mother of pearl fish which are jointed throughout the body so that the fish “swim” when wiggled.
I'm not quite sure this is everything, but the list covers most of the vendors we saw drifting by.
OK, let's say that your job is to be a beach vendor on a warm Mexican beach. Some of your potential customers will be sitting in chairs under palapas, some will be already sitting in restaurants along the beach. Your job is to sell as much as you can from what you are offering. Can you name the top two things to sell? Can you name the bottom two things to sell? Remember that your target market is beach goers, some of whom are foreign, some of whom are locals, all of whom are on the beach, and some of whom are eating or drinking in restaurants. What are your picks for the two best things to sell to this market, and the two worst things?
Keep in mind, too, that you have to carry what you sell, walking in the sand, up and down the beach for miles and hours a day.
My two picks for the worst? The brightly colored large pitchers, which look like ceramic but are made of wood. They are awkward to carry, the vendor can't actually carry more than about 4 at a time, and who on the beach wants one of these pitchers right then? Even if a potential customer was not on the beach, the pitchers are too large to easily carry home if you are a foreigner, and more than likely the locals don't even use them as they don't hold liquid. I think the guy who chose to sell the pitchers needs a few marketing lessons!
My second choice for the worst to sell, although a close race, is the steel band percussion. The instrument was huge to carry (requiring both persons) up and down the sand, hard to set up, and had to be hauled along with a fold-out table and the battery-operated sound system. That's a lot to set up and take down for just one song, even if you had good luck selling the music to a lot of people. Plus, many people besides the one person who paid for the music can hear it, so you aren't exactly going to sell music to the next person, are you? And frankly, most beach goers are busy sleeping, reading, riding the waves, or walking up and down the beach…..they don't really have hearing live music on their minds.
My two choices for the best things to sell? Straw hats, because lots of beachgoers get to the beach thinking they won't need a hat. But when they get there, they realize they do! The hats are relatively light to carry (I saw one vendor with a stack of about 50 straw hats on his head). As I watched him sell to someone on the sand, I realized he also had an upsell! He took leather braided bands out of his pocket and offered to add one to the hat for just a few more pesos. Smart guy – beach goers need hats, and they didn't wear him out to carry.
My second choice for the best thing to sell is the cold, fresh fruit. It both gives a beach person something to eat and quenches thirst. It's colorful and appetizing, and very noticable since most of the fresh fruit vendors carry the trays on their heads. It's not expensive, it's healthy, and even the kids seemed to like it. It's probably one of the easiest things to carry on the beach, and the tray actually gives the vendor a little shade as he walks.
The point to this is that there are many things to consider when you are deciding what and how to sell to your target market. You do have to consider the pound of flesh it takes out of you, the costs you have in obtaining the product, and, of course, what you believe your market will want.
This doesn't apply to the beach vendors as much as it does to you, but one way to quit guessing what your market wants is to ask them! Use a brief survey, talk to a subset of your prospects now and then, keep your ear to the ground. You'll be more apt to design something that is wanted and needed than if you just put something on your back and start walking.
(c) Sue Painter