Before starting the Fabulous Vodka Company I worked as the Senior Manager for an independent distiller and bottler, over the years my role encompassed product development, production management, personnel management as well as hands on distilling, bottling and customer liaison. I would come up with a product, to meet the customers brief, and then present them with the finished product. All the customer had to do then was to go and sell it. Having developed Caralicious, had the label designed and come up with the finished package, set up the business, sorted out the finance and got the first batch of production ready to sell, all I had to do was to sell it! My first event was a Christmas market at Reading Oracle Centre, I was there for four days a week for four weeks up to Christmas, and I sold nearly all my stock! I was also supported by my local brewery Rebellion Brewery in Marlow, they sold so much Caralicious that I struggled to keep up with supplying them. All this sounds great, and it was the best start that I could have hoped for, but immediately after Christmas it all went quiet! It always does go quiet in the alcohol trade in the new year. This is the point where I found out that the most important thing for a small business to have is publicity or marketing, now, I’ve never done marketing before, I’ve never had to, but I had to learn as quickly as I could! First I tried advertising, I soon found that I was getting three or four calls a week from advertising companies, newspapers, glossy magazines etc telling me how wide their distribution was, how many copies they sold, and how good a rate they could do for me, and how they could even help me to write the advert, obviously I believed all this, especially when it was a well-known magazine with a really big circulation. Even if I said no to their advert they would nearly always call back with an improved rate, I would spend four to five hundred pounds a month on traditional type advertising, and none of it worked! Before Christmas 2011 I engaged the help of a PR agency, they did a fantastic job on getting free editorial from some of the country’s largest magazine titles, this gained us lots of internet sales, and lots of lovely publicity, but it was expensive so unfortunately I had to stop using the agency, but I’d love to work with them again when things are better. This has taught me that sometimes you need to let other people do what they do best and to trust them with your business, you will be paying them after all! Since Christmas 2011 I’ve been marketing my business myself, and I’m on a steep learning curve, I still get the phone calls from newspapers and magazines, but I do not now advertise in them at all, I’ve been lucky that my partner Sarah has taught me how to blog, use Twitter and Facebook to much better effect, all of which are making a difference. It’s up to me now to really push my business and grow it to a point where it actually makes money! My final thought is that it’s no good to expect larger businessesto help you, or give you any breaks, I’ve spoken to large distributors who have offered to take on my products, they expect me to pay to go on their lists for 6 months, and they do nothing except list my products, they don’t push or promote them to any degree, so it’s still up to me to market my business, so that their customers are made aware of my products, and that my products are available to them. So I handle distribution myself, and deal exclusively with small and independent retailers, businesses in largely the same situation as me, I am distrustful of large businesses, my earlier blog “Online Payments, Who’s Looking After Your Money” will tell you why, I’m back to relying on just my self for almost everything.
- Majority of Brits believe small businesses offer the best service (premierlinedirect.co.uk)
- Is Traditional Advertising Dead? (phillthedill.com)
- Benefits Online Marketing Plan (marketingmoaner.com)