Claudia Gillow, founder of Frome-based clothing retailer Deadly is the Female, explains how her business attracts punters
"I went to fashion college in London and while there I did work experience at an alternative fashion company. I ended up working there for five years. Later I visited Frome in Somerset, fell in love with the place and decided I wanted to open my own shop there.
"There was a shop vacant on a lovely street of independent shops, so my husband and I decided to set up a business. We quit our jobs and opened the shop in November 2008.
"I noticed that vintage fashion had become more and more popular, in the mainstream as well as the alternative market. I also knew that a lot of people were fed up of the generic high street shops.
"Other shop owners in Frome gave me phone numbers for local journalists and one newspaper wrote an article about my shop opening. Our first customer actually came in the day before I opened, while I was doing the window display. She ended up buying a dress and has since made purchases through our online shop too.
"Because the shop is called Deadly is the Female, people are curious about what it is. My window displays are quite creative, so that also gets people's attention. I borrowed some accessories made out of road kill and did a display based on those a few months after I opened, and the whole town was talking about it. I change the overall scene monthly, but I change the clothes within it much more often.
"I started my website about the same time as the shop and I had a MySpace page. Now I also have a Facebook page which has lots of fans. I'd had a bit of experience with online marketing, because I led the Google Adwords campaign at the company I used to work for and I had SEO training.
"I designed my original website, but my current one has been designed by Allie from Manage my Website, which I'm really excited about. She reminded me how important things such as blogging and my Facebook page are. I've been doing more of that lately, and it's made a massive difference to my online sales. I also send out e-newsletters to customer contacts.
"Hiring someone to advise you on start up marketing is a good investment, but finding someone who really understands your business is important.
"Some local people were scandalised to begin with, because the name of my shop makes it look a lot naughtier than it is. But it helped to develop a bit of a buzz about my business.
"When we are in the shop we make sure we are wearing clothes from the right era. I have a dog called Gomez who sits in the doorway and when people see him around town they recognise him before they recognise me.
"I've learnt to be more picky about advertising. About a year after I opened I put a small ad out with a 10% off voucher, and I only got two back.
"The shop was my main focus for the first year, but now I'm looking at expanding the website, because that has a much wider potential customer base."
Claudia's three key lessons
- "When publicising your business, focus your time and money where it's most likely to have the greatest impact. Use knowledge of your target customers to decide which marketing methods to use"
- "Don't waste your money on blanket advertising - your efforts must be more focused than that if they are to prove effective"
- "Keep a close and constant eye on important developments in your market"