I’m so excited to be part of the Expert’s Panel at The Soap Guild Forum this morning. Don’t know about The Soap Guild? Check them out here. PS – They have a great insurance program for soapers! The forum is located here.
Here’s an example of the questions I’m answering, all morning until 1 p.m. EST. This is a real question that came in right before 9 a.m. and this is my, on the fly, response.
Q: There are so many directions to go to market your business in today’s high tech world and only so many hours a day as well as budget dollars to do it. Where would you guide us as to where to put our energy and dollars? Is it still a cold call world (or warm call) for soapers or is it time to get savvy with technology?
A: Maria, that’s a great question. There are a lot of places to spend your time and energy on when you’re a new (or experienced) business.
Let’s break this down by free (it only costs your time) and by not-free (you pay cash and potentially your time):
Blogging – I have a firm belief that people buy from people they like. Blogging is a great way to speak to your customers on a daily basis, to let them know what you’re up to, to give them a window into your world and for you to ask for feedback about new products or ideas you have. Best yet, blogging takes only your time if you’re using free blogging software, like blogger.com (thank you Google for giving it to us for free). My daily blog, www.soapqueen.com runs on free software from Google (blogger.com)
Cold Calling – Again, sales is all about relationships. There is no cheaper or better way to get your product in front of customers than by showing up at their doorstep (with an appointment of course), with your wares in hand, your price list accessible and your humble and sincere desire to introduce them to your products. If you’re not cold calling once a week to at least one place, you are doing you and your business a disservice.
Relationship Management (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr) – There is a new term popping up in business called “Community Manager”. This essentially means that one person is in charge of managing your brand and reputation to potential customers through all the social networks that exist online. Managing your brand through Twitter (my user name is @brambleberry You can see my tweets here: http://twitter.com/brambleberry), Facebook (a great relationship builder that allows for real-time conversations) and Flickr (post photos that are interesting to you, comment on others) is key to making your business successful in this age of technology. And best yet, these free tools allow you to connect with people all over the world! Talk about opening doors…
Traditional Marketing – Traditional marketing is that you pay a PR firm $2000-$5000 per month to connect with press on your behalf. This method is slowly going by the wayside as companies can duplicate these efforts in-house with some elbow grease and talented communicators. For a new business, I’d recommend being your own PR firm and sending out “pitches” with samples every week – even just one pitch per week to one media outlet will eventually pay dividends.
Advertising – Again, traditional print media is starting to show some signs of frailty. It’s still a great way to get your name out in front of potential customers. But, when you have a limited budget, I would spend that limited budget on packaging and on your brand before spending money on advertising. Once you have the brand and packaging totally fleshed out, then start to advertise. Bramble Berry has advertised with Better Homes & Gardens publications, Herb Companion, Herb Quarterly, Teen Vogue and many other publications with varied success.
Blanket Sampling– If you have an extra $10,000 lying around, making up samples and press kits and sending them to targeted stores and media outlets is a great way to get press and business if you are ruthless about following up. That’s the key – follow-up. How many times have you given someone samples and not followed up? You told yourself that if your product was good enough that they would have called you. That’s not the case. Store managers and reporters are busy, busy people. You need to do the follow-up yourself. If you want to develop a marketing plan and have that $2000-$10000 to invest, let me know and I can answer another question about that later.