Customer spotlight...Thorn Cycles
Customers of Thorn Cycles tend to be 40+ years of age and looking for adventure. From long treks to around-the-world travels, such as crossing China, they all have one thing in common - and that’s a love of Thorn bikes.
"Our customers are really interesting people, that’s for sure! And really supportive of each other too when it comes to researching their next cycle holidays and adventure tours - and pretty much all things cycling."
For the previous ten years Thorn Cycles had relied upon its first website (created in-house), traditional advertising in cycling magazines and cycling club literature, and taking part in cycling shows - with varying degrees of success.
"It makes complete sense having a presence where our customers tend to be. So the advertising in relevant magazines and customer club literature has always worked - although to reach our customer base our advertising has moved to digital rather than print in recent years. Our customers spend a lot of time researching online, so it’s important we can be found during their online travels. The cycling shows on the other hand have been difficult to justify - the return on investment hasn’t been good."
Paying for adverts was only getting Adrian so far though - naturally, the content within adverts is often quite basic so it was important to use them to steer towards a website, which would hold tons of information - but the old site really wasn't the best place to receive new visitors.
"The old website was incredibly difficult to update. So much so that we started to rely (probably too much) on uploading PDFs of company literature rather than updating the content on the site directly. I understood that to make Google happy we really needed to be updating the actual content on the site regularly, but more importantly, I wanted our customers to get new updates and understand how we could work with them quickly and easily. A website built on a solution that meant we could easily edit in-house was a must. Fortunately, we found it!"
Adrian moved the business site across to Smart Little Web with the help of Pam at White Knight Marketing, their Smart Little Web Associate and hasn’t looked back.
What has also worked, phenomenally well, is the Thorn Cycles Forum that Adrian and his team established over 12 years ago. With a large number of cycling enthusiasts using the forum to share stories, support their research and ultimately network, it’s become an important tool in the Thorn Cycles' marketing arsenal.
"We thought it would be good for customers so created it a few years ago. We don’t actually do anything other than host it and help with issues every so often. Otherwise, the Forum members manage it themselves - and as the members are wider than our immediate customer base we do often get leads from it. Independent conversations where customers tend to argue our case provide the best sales and advertising opportunities we could have."
Thorn Cycles is about to go into the quietest time of the year; Christmas isn’t a sales-driver. But Adrian and the team are preparing for the New Year when customers tend to start thinking about the next trip. To gear-up for this, Adrian will be overseeing the transition of the old-style PDF brochures into fresh and dynamic content and improve the customer interface, which their Smart Little Web Associate will help them integrate into their new site. Research for the best tool is currently underway!
In the meantime, the team has new products in the pipeline and continues to review the bikes and make improvements.
We asked Adrian what he is most proud of.
"Our customer following. People really do love our bikes. Some have got several of them! Our customers have such an allegiance to owning one - it’s a lovely thing."
Adrian’s top tips:
- It’s really worthwhile considering how to help your customers interact with each other - if you can start a Forum or something similar, it’s definitely recommended!
- Learn how to use your website tool and then use it regularly. Don’t let it become daunting.
- Trial and error really does work when it comes to marketing. It’s necessary. But make sure you’re where your customers are (only)!