I’ve just started my own business selling natural horse care products. I manufacture them myself (at the moment) and am wondering what’s the best way to get them out there into the market and raise my brand’s profile, so I can grow my business? I usually sell them at horse shows and pony clubs over the weekend and am aiming to get them into stores like Horse Land and Europa, selling Australia wide.
It’s important you choose low cost marketing options, so I think horse shows and clubs are a smart move.
In addition, I would experiment with ads on Google, Yahoo and MSN, in a variety of horse related categories.
Next up, I’d create a low cost website if you haven’t already, that helps sell your wares.
Finally, I’d have a pop up box on that website that asks for people’s email address to get a newsletter from you.
That way you’ll soon have a list of hundreds of horse owners that you can inexpensively communicate with online.
If you want to grow your business, you must build up your brand – the stronger the brand the stronger the business
Over the past 28 years branding has been a crucial factor in the success of my business. So when people hear the name Russo, they think education, training and finding jobs.
So what is branding? I like the following definition from Harvard University: "Branding is a promise between the producer and the customer, over enough time to be believable".
Branding is really powerful when it’s backed up by an exceptional product. Stores like Horse Land and Europa must be drawn to your brand with the desire to experience an emotional charge from your natural horse care products.
You must also never stop working on your brand. Networking is a fantastic way to take your brand to the next level, particularly with key industry players. By networking with successful people your horizons are opened and you will become more expansive in your thinking, you’ll think wider, further and deeper—you’ll have vision.
Some of the most effective branding initiatives I have undertaken over the past 28 years include starting up my own TV Show, How to Get that Job, writing my own book Meet me at the Top, and buying my first CBD building and naming it after myself.
People often comment that the nudie brand came from nowhere to be everywhere seemingly overnight. One of the reasons for this is that every nudie bottle is an advertisement—a tiny billboard—and a nudie is a product that can be consumed by everyone potentially multiple times a day. So, as the distribution base grew the bottle advertising exposures increased and the brand building effect was multiplied. Nudie is firmly in the mass market, ‘fast moving consumer goods’ (FMCG) arena and this means the exposure and brand building also move fast.
The principles used to build the nudie brand can be applied to any industry whether B2C (business to consumer) or B2B (business to business) but the speed with which it moved may not.
A natural horse care product is very specialised, is not directly consumed (ie the horse owner buys it but the horse is the ‘consumer’), and doesn’t benefit from frequency of exposure. So, the brand and business build will be correspondingly slow. There is no getting around this but to offset the slow build it is critically important to be highly targeted in the marketing and distribution of the product.
Horse shows, pony clubs and specialist equestrian stores are obviously targeted and so it seems to me your existing focus is spot on. Remember it will take time. The only other area not mentioned which must become an additional marketing platform is the web. Horse owners and enthusiasts will have favourite sites just about horses. To help build the brand profile quickly you need a great website for your product. You need to drive traffic to your website through a search engine optimisation (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM) strategy, and you need to create an online campaign around other horse websites.
There are several challenges when increasing the scale of a business from a market or order based approach to full-scale retail. These include convincing retailers to stock your product in the first place, producing sufficient volumes to supply national chains, and the distribution and financing of this.
Going straight from weekend sales to national distribution is probably too big a step to achieve in one go. A more gradual approach would involve an online strategy, such as setting up a store within eBay, or paid words on Google for horse care products, and also approaching independent or local retailers to distribute your products. National chains are unlikely to risk stocking your product without a track record of selling larger volumes, thus if you can prove your product on a smaller scale than national, but larger than current, it would be a good first step.
When introducing a new product to a national retail chain it is common for the retailer to take stock on consignment (ie not pay you unless the product actually sells), or even to charge for shelf space. The retailer will expect to generate a certain dollar return per area of shop, and will therefore seek some guarantee from you that this can be delivered, hence you have to pay for the space until sales are proven.
You also need to consider if making a product yourself you can achieve volume to sell to chains of 50-plus stores. If not you need first to develop a strategy to manufacture commercial volumes and be able to roll this out if you get supply contracts.
To achieve this larger scale rollout you will likely need substantial funds, so you need to consider financing as well.