Three marketing lessons from my side hustle in custom table tennis equipment as The Bat Guy

A ‘The Bat Guy’ branded orange shirt with a table tennis bat laid on top of it

I love table tennis and also really enjoy the process of assembling bats. Two years ago, a couple of friends encouraged me to start building bats for others and selling them.

I had a long think about it at that time before deciding to do it. Here are three key lessons from my experience when I started The Bat Guy.

Lesson one — Your market may be larger than you think

Before starting to build more bats, I first thought about my potential market and longevity. My primary sales are all done face to face and are centred on a single location in London where a couple of outdoor table tennis tables are available for anyone to play.

Initially, I estimated about 20 sales out of about 60 players of varying abilities. That estimate was also based on the number of players who might need my services because much more experienced players could do the assembling job for themselves.

A tablet being held and an open laptop with a screen showing coloured bar and pie charts
A tablet being held and an open laptop with a screen showing coloured bar and pie charts

What I failed to realise was the power of word of mouth marketing AND that my customer base was NOT static. New batches of players would come and some might ask where to get bats. So, what ended up happening was I got more than twice the amount of business I expected AND there was still more room to grow. I also forgot that some might want more than one bat or might be repeat customers.

As soon as I realised this, I quickly trialled a simple referral system to reward my friends to introducing new customers. So far, that system has helped to incentivise an approximate growth of 10% in sales and more than pays for itself in brand building.

Lesson two — Your market might spend more than you think for product quality and service.

Before starting The Bat Guy, I considered what my customer base might spend per product and I estimated it was around £20-£30 at the most. Especially since the mighty Sports Direct was nearby with their range of £3 — £15 bats. You could also order complete bats from UK table tennis shops or even from Amazon/eBay.

Hand holding out a Mastercard credit or debit card for payment
Hand holding out a Mastercard credit or debit card for payment

What I failed to realise was that customers don’t always know what they need. My unique service proposition (USP) was my vast amount of table tennis equipment knowledge gleaned from hundreds of research hours paired with the ability to analyse what equipment a player might need after observing their playing style and asking questions.

This meant I was able to offer customised setups to suit playing needs which met a gap in the market for it.

Lesson three — Your market might be prepared to wait longer than you think for a quality product.

Initially, I estimated customers might not want to wait long for a new bat. After all, ready made ones are easily available online and in shops like Sports Direct and Argos, while those with Amazon Prime could get next day delivery.

Top-down photo of a black haired man wearing a vest with formal clothing standing against a wall
Top-down photo of a black haired man wearing a vest with formal clothing standing against a wall

What I failed to realise was that customers were prepared to wait when I was upfront about where I got my stock from (China and other parts of Asia) and how long they might need to wait (two to three weeks). Also, that the word of mouth marketing from lesson one would also help here in terms of building trust with customers.

In conclusion

There are definitely more lessons to be learnt as I grow this further into a registered small business and I look forward to sharing more of my journey.

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences and learnings from trying to start their own brands.

Do drop me a line!

Live is for living so live life lively. Writer, voice talent, social media evangelist, singer, beatboxer, and big time fan of Nottingham Forest and Nintendo.