Marketing. It’s a lot like painting, really. Some people favour the splatter-gun effect to ensure maximum coverage and make a big statement, while others – like independent retailer Binda Tatla – prefer a more precise, detailed approach.

When he opened his first convenience store in the Surrey village of Hampton Hill two years ago, Binda made a conscious decision to steer clear of mass newspaper advertising and leaflet drops. Instead, he opted for carefully targeted marketing in the form of supporting chosen local events.

However, before he could start marketing, the first thing Binda had to do was some research. Who were his customers? What did they do? Where did they live? And what did they need from their local store? By truly understanding his customers Binda could then be sure he was focusing his energies on the right people, and in the right places.

Binda’s Budgens-branded store commands a prime high street location, close to a number of schools and upmarket pubs and cafés. And it was on schools that Binda first decided to focus his attention. He started by linking up with four of them in Hampton, asking the children to design cotton ‘bags for life’. 

The winning design was then used for bags which he donated to the schools and later sold in his Budgens store. Binda’s next step was to get involved in a sports day by supplying all the soft drinks for the event. The initiative proved so popular that he then went on to do the same thing at the annual garden party for the local parish church. In both cases, visitors to the Budgens-branded drinks stall were simply asked to make a contribution to the school and church funds. “We had a big sign by the stall which read ‘Budgens Hampton Hill. Supporting The Local Community’. Hundreds of people turned up to both events and they all saw the stall. It meant that local people viewed us in a different light and it sent out a really positive message about us,” he says.

Setting up the stall didn’t cost a great deal of money, certainly not as much as a full-page advertisement in a local paper would have, and whatever didn’t get sold was taken back to the store.

doing it differently

Binda's innovative approach to advertising was further put to the test last summer when Binda decided to extend his store opening hours. "Instead of putting posters in the windows and taking out an advertisement I decided to get a load of bright yellow T-shirts with the new 7am till 11pm opening hours printed on them," he said.

Staff were encouraged to wear the T-shirts over their normal uniform. "They attracted a great deal of attention because they were so eye-catching and provided a real talking point, ensuring that customers got the message loud and clear," Binda says.

His latest idea is a community lighting scheme. Behind his store is a large car park, which also serves a neighbouring block of flats. The car park doesn't have adequate lighting and can be a forbidding place when the sun goes down.

With the agreement of the local council, Binda's plan is to install lights in the car park, which would feature the Budgens Hampton Hill logo. "If it gets the go ahead the scheme would be a wonderful thing for the local community and it would be a great advertisement for us. It's a win-win situation," he says.

So what has Binda got in store for the rest of the year? Well, apart from a charity bucking bronco competition, he's also organised for a professional photographer to come and take portraits of mothers and their children in the run up to Mother's Day.

"The scheme is bound to attract a lot of positive attention as it's normally really expensive for people to have a professional photograph taken," he says. "We'll be doing it at a really affordable price and I just know it will be a big hit with parents and grandparents."

This year will also see the opening of a spanking new Sainsbury's Local a stone's throw away from Binda's store, but he's not worried. When Binda asks his customers why they choose to shop in his store rather than at his competitors (he also has a Tesco Express down the road) the answer, like his advertising, is precise and simple: "It's because we like you," they say.
What you can do
Binda makes the most of any special times of the year, using Christmas, Easter and Mother's Day as excuses to get involved in the community and increase his store's profile.

Last Christmas he put together a selection of premium hampers made up of Budgens-branded products. He sold the hampers in the store and gave the money to charity. He also joined forces with the local pub to provide prizes for their charity raffle - initiatives which could work at any time of the year.