6 killer marketing tricks to build buzz around your business

Three hugely successful entrepreneurs tell how they got their start-ups noticed when marketing was done on a shoestring

How do you get people talking about – and buying from – your business? It’s one of the biggest conundrums every start-up faces.

Taking a leaf out of the books of entrepreneurs who’ve written the manuals and tried every trick in them would be a good place to start.

Ahead of the British Library’s ‘Marketing Maestros’ event next week, we asked entrepreneurs from three global brands – Green & Black’s, King of Shaves, and JoJo Maman Bébé – to reveal the killer tricks behind their highest impact marketing initiatives to date.

Jo Fairley, Green & Black’s

Jo Fairley, who with her husband co-founded delicious organic chocolate company Green & Black’s in 1991, is our first expert. She now runs organic one-stop-shop Judges Bakery in Hastings after selling Green & Black’s to Cadbury’s in an estimated £20m deal.

Getting people to pay a premium to buy a new chocolate brand before the more recent arrival of independent chocolatiers was no mean feat for the writer-turned-entrepreneur. Here are Jo’s top tips:

1. Give out freebies

The thinking is quite simple:  when you have a great-tasting product, get it into people’s mouths. This brings a product alive in a far more evocative way than advertising can, especially in the earlier stages of a brand when the recognition isn’t there.

We cover-mounted chocolate onto Sainsbury’s Magazine and onto Observer Food Monthly and it directly translated into an uplift in sales, proving that with Green & Black’s, tasting really is believing.

2. Smart sponsorship

Green & Black’s is well-known as a chocolate brand – but the profile of our ice cream has never been as high. In order to address this problem, a few years ago we sponsored outdoor events at Kenwood House in Hampstead and cycled around on branded bicycles giving away thousands of small tubs of ice cream, along with a flyer telling people where they could buy more.

It’s hard to track the direct success of initiatives like this, but our ice cream market share has been steadily growing, and again: letting people taste the product (without having to spend nearly a fiver) has been crucial.

Will King, King of Shaves

Will King, founder of King of Shaves, is expert number two. Starting in a recession in the early 1990s King created a shaving oil, followed by gels, that proved a huge success as metrosexual men turned to high quality toiletries – but gaining a foothold took marketing ingenuity.

Today the challenger has become a leader with over 30 products, including patented razors, stocked globally. Will says:

3. Move quickly

In 2006, King of Shaves agreed to sponsor a Class 1 Powerboat, the fastest and most powerful of its type. During the British Grand Prix held in Plymouth, the powerboat spectacularly capsized, with the whole drama caught on video (no one was hurt, thankfully). Quickly afterwards we turned this disaster into an opportunity, shooting a tongue-in-cheek ‘response’ to the video entitled “The Things Sponsors Insist On” – by moving quickly to respond to this we created one of our most popular videos.

4. Intrigue the media

In December 2011, my attention was drawn to the plight of British sprinter, James Ellington who had put himself up for ‘auction’ on eBay to raise sponsorship. He quickly reached his target (£32,000) but the winning bid turned out to be a hoax. In the ‘nick’ of time, we stepped in as the new sponsor. An announcement about this was drawn up (national media were intrigued as to who the sponsor was) and as a result the story was picked up by media world-wide. The story aligned a challenger brand with a man determined to compete in the Olympics – which he did.

Laura Tenison, JoJo Maman Bébé

Laura Tenison set up maternity, baby, and nursery brand JoJo Maman Bébé in 1993 after coming up with the idea while recovering in hospital from a terrible car crash. She scraped together £50,000 to start-up and effectively helped start the ‘yummy mummy’ revolution.

Today, the company is the UK’s leading multi-channel specialist in its market and on target for a £44m turnover next year. With 60 stores nationwide and present in over 60 countries around the world, JoJo Maman Bébé is synonymous with high quality products. But it might never have gone beyond a niche mail order business without Tenison’s constant drive for evolution. Laura says:

5. Really talk to your customers

Before we open a new store I work my way around the area in the same way a shopper would; journeying to the store location from the car parks or public transport points.

I stop our customers on the street, ask their opinion of the brand, location and store options. On the train home I’ll do a Twitter survey to check which of the various options our local customers might prefer and finally on my arrival back in the office I send a personal email to recent customers.

Direct communication with our customers helps them to feel empowered by helping me make the decision on the next JoJo store location.

6. Customers get customers

In the mother and baby world word of mouth recommendations go a great deal further than marketing tricks, and no amount of marketing hype will save a company if the product does not speak for itself.

We started adding genuine online customer reviews to our website, resulting in our biggest increase in hits for years. If you trust your quality, design and the practicality of your product and you still don’t have a web review section up and running – then what are you waiting for?

‘Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Marketing Maestros’ is presented by the British Library’s Business & IP Centre on 17 September in partnership with Barclays. Tune in to watch the event live from around the UK for free by registering here .

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