Small Business Marketing by Jillian Shaw Marketing, Advertising & Public Relations for the Small Business

Are Children A Marketing Vehicle?

Marketing to Children for Small Business

You bet.  Why?  Let me break it down for you.

Women are the fastest growing market segment in America.  They’ve been gaining ground in making their own money, many are becoming the official breadwinners of the household, and they’ve taken over virtually all of the control of the entire household income, making women the decision-makers a huge percentage of the time.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s a personal example for you: My husband got a new job, so we’re moving to New York.  Do you think he’s the one you should be marketing to?  Nope.  Guess again.  Who’s made the final call on the apartment?  Me.  Who’s furnishing the entire apartment – me again!  And who’s choosing the cable provider, calling a phone company, doing the grocery shopping, planning nights out, choosing the preschools, planning the vacations, and buying all the Christmas presents?  Me!

And why does it work like this?  Because I’m the woman (and a control freak).  Now what does this have to do with marketing to kids?  Well, pretty much everything on the spending to-do list above (except for cable and phone) completely revolves around our kids.

The meteoric rise of the “mommy-blogger” is just one very obvious signal that women with children are the most influential market in today’s economy and control the lion’s share of America’s pocketbook.

So what does this mean for the small business owner?

It’s not about how much money you earn.  It’s about how much you control.  And those little rugrats that you let eat for free at your restaurant, or you give free balloons or cookies to, or you provide a play area in your store for – they call a lot of the shots when mom and dad (but mostly mom) are making purchasing decisions, whether they realize it or not.

So how can you take advantage of these amazing little munchkin cash-cows?  Give them whatever they want.  Here’s the best part – it’s one of the cheapest marketing investments you can make!  And practically any business can adapt their very grown-up business atmosphere to accomodate and even attract kiddos and (more importantly) their mommies.

Here are just a few ideas.

  • Do you have a cash register?  Take a cue from the bank and stick a cup of dummies suckers up by it.  Offer a smile and a lolly to kids of your customers (it’s a good idea to find out if it’s okay from mom first – or find a sugar-free alternative).
  • Put a child-size table in a small corner or other area and provide toys and kids activities that relate to your business.
  • If you run a consignment clothing shop, have a box of ‘fancy’ dress up clothes.  A day or two after Halloween is a great time to pick up costumes super-cheap.
  • If you own a used book store, have some children’s books handy.  Better yet, host a ‘story time’ for kids at a bed-time friendly early evening weeknight – preferably one that is slow for you anyway.
  • Own a coffee shop? Give kids a child-sized milk for free and make it in a cup that looks just like mommy’s latte.  You already have every type of milk you’d need.  Look at these cute little 4 oz. cups!
  • Manage a restaurant?  A couple of crayons and coloring place-mat is always a big hit.

The point is, part of your job as a small business owner is to provide the best and easiest purchasing experience possible – for everyone.

I’ll leave you with some key marketing through children tips:

  1. Give parents an excuse to go to your store.  Generally errands are a bore to children, but going to Joe’s Bakery and getting a free cookie, or going to Bob’s Knob Shop and getting a free balloon (that says “Bob’s Knob Shop” of course) is definitely exciting, and helps parents get kids to your store willingly.  If your store offers something like this and the other guy’s doesn’t, guess where I’m shopping…
  2. Be generally kid friendly, from the beginning to the end of the shopping/dining/service experience.  This doesn’t mean you have to turn your store into a brightly colored circus-like environment.  It just means that you can at least accomodate for children and welcome them.  Acknowledge them and treat them like people.
  3. Don’t require a purchase to get the goody.  That’s pressure, and a turn off.  Don’t require a purchase for pregnant ladies or potty-training toddlers to use your bathroom either.
  4. Give them take-aways.  In fact, make sure all your customers have take-aways.  A balloon with your logo on it will be in the house for a week before losing it’s usefulness.  A magnet will stay on the fridge for years if it’s great for hanging finger-paintings.  Crayons with your logo will stay in mom’s purse as a distraction tool for months to come.

Marketing to kids this way usually won’t attract new customers (although I’ve decided to patron businesses that use kid-marketing tactics just because other mothers told me about them), but it will make serious repeat customers of parents who appreciate that you’ve gone the extra mile for them.

What kid-marketing ideas have worked for you?  What hasn’t?  Any parents out there willing to share ideas?  Leave a comment!

Jillian's Currently Reading: Guerrilla Marketing, 4th edition: Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
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    Wonderful ideas! You’re absolutely right. Women take control in everything in the house and in taking care of the family. I have visited blogs of mothers in the web and most of them have a review of different products they have used for their own homes and for their kids. So I think your tips above are really helpful. Thanks and have a great day!

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