by Andrew Smith on 14/05/08 at 3:47 pm
OK, so we haven’t made our millions yet, but here is a graph of sales on Yuppiechef in the last 2 years:
We started picking up speed after we tapped into the marketing genius of Cherryflava consulting. Part of their advice was to take on the services of a PR company (the blue arrow), and that’s when we shifted a gear. Here is a brief look at how PR has worked for us and what we’ve learnt, and at the end I’ll let you know how you can get it too.
We want our money back!
Shortly after signing up with our PR company they organised a whopping big article in “Die Burger”, singing the praises of Yuppiechef.
Die Burger is apparently the biggest newspaper in the Western Cape, so this was going to be HUGE for us. I had the hosting company’s support number on speeddial in case the extra traffic crashed our server. We stocked the office fridge with champagne, and I started thumbing through Pam Golding’s latest flyer for our new home in Constantia.
24 hours later, and, ummm, no sales. Well, there might have been one, but it was a week later and hard to tell if it was directly related. In fact, you can hardly even notice an increase in visitors to the site from the week before:
The green line shows the day-by-day traffic for the week before the article, and the blue line shows the traffic for the week after the article. Not much in it, is there?
Perhaps Die Burger was the wrong audience? Well, here was the effect of a glowing piece in the Sunday Times a few months ago.
The blue lines is higher than the green one, but it’s certainly not off the charts.
Lesson 1: PR doesn’t drive sales, it raises awareness.
You see, when the loyal reader of the Sunday Times is sitting on the couch at 9:30am reading his paper, and he sees a glowing recommendation to shop at Yuppiechef, he doesn’t leap from the couch, fire up his old PC and make a purchase. He files it away in that part of our brains where we store awareness of brands, and he moves on. In fact, he doesn’t even visit Yuppiechef the next day at work, because he’s probably forgotten all about us. Two weeks later he’s sitting on the loo and he sees a picture of a stunning coffee machine in Oprah Magazine (his wife’s, of course), and he notices that it’s available from Yuppiechef, and the memory is triggered. “Gee, these Yuppy Cooking [he still hasn't quite got it fully] guys seem to be everywhere”, he thinks to himself. Does he jump from the loo and make a purchase? No.
At this point paying the PR company at the end of each month starts to hurt. “Where are the sales?!” you ask, at first quietly to yourself, and then out loud in the progress meetings.
And then slowly a wonderful thing starts to happen. Our media-consuming friend wants to buy his wife a birthday present, so he goes to Google and does a search for “gift ideas”, and in amongst the noise and clutter he spots a name he recognises:
PR won’t get us into the top 10 of Google (that’s a whole other article, or a job for a specialist), but the point is that PR raises awareness, which means that other forms of marketing are more effective.
Having spotted the link to Yuppiechef’s gifts page on Google (or in the Yellow Pages, or a leaflet at the traffic lights etc), our reader arrives on the site and starts shopping. He likes the product, he likes the free delivery, but he’s still nervous – “What if these Yuppiechef people sell my credit card details to the Russian underworld?” he thinks. But then he remembers that O Magazine said last month that Yuppiechef was “the easy online resource with a top-of-the-range selection of products”.
Of course, he wouldn’t admit it around the braai, but he’s an avid Oprah fan and he trusts her like his own mother. If her magazine says Yuppiechef is above board, then it must be.
Lesson 2: PR builds credibility.
Readers trust the publication they’re reading, and that trust gets inferred to your brand when you are written about. Traditional advertising can be effective at building awareness, and to an extent credibility, but it’s not the same as getting a mention within the main text of a magazine or newspaper, or from the mouth of a radio DJ or guest.
Getting back to our story – with his fears allayed, the sale is finally made, weeks or even months after the first of many sightings of the Yuppiechef brand in the media. Over time momentum builds and sales increase, and so you get the growth graph that I pasted at the top. But you can’t trace that growth back to any one publication or interview – PR is an ongoing process, rather than a goal to achieve.
The champagne is still waiting in our fridge.
The reason this all works in the first place
Let me go back a few steps. You might be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. “The Sunday Times writes about you for free, and all you pay is your PR company to make it happen?”. It sounds to good to be true, but it all hinges on this simple fact -
Lesson 3: Journalists are overworked and underpaid.
I mean that with the greatest of respect. Magazines have 100 glossy pages to fill every month (newspapers have to do it every day!), and they just can’t afford to hire enough journalists to research and write every word as an original pulitzer prize-winning masterpiece. They need content, and the PR companies offer to help them out.
Elle Magazine wants a page of trendy gadgets for a feature? “No problem!” the PR company tells them, “I’ll have the high resolution pictures on your desk by 5pm”.
The magazine gets original looking content, but the PR company has done all the work for them for free. The person who pays for the PR company’s time is the brand being promoted, but it’s a fraction of what the equivalent advertising would have cost, so they’re delighted. Everybody wins! [Queue feel-good music]
“Hang-on”, you ask, “I sell industrial ceiling paint. Who’s going to write about me?”
Mmm, you have a point.
Lesson 4: You’re not paying for advertising space, so you can’t dictate the terms.
So Men’s Health might not do a piece on you, but don’t let that limit your imagination. There are plenty of highly-niche magazines and trade journals that are also looking for content, and they face the same pressures as the broader publications.
The other trick is to hide yourself and your company within a newsy looking article, and make it appear that you are the “expert” on the topic at hand. Here is a snippet from an article that we wrote about “Kitchen trendsfor 2008″ where Shane is the resident guru:
Shane Dryden, co-owner of South Africa’s premier kitchen tools store Yuppiechef.co.za, says; “We are realising that less clutter, really does mean a better quality of life and the kitchen is regaining its status as the heart of the family home.”
The full article was published in various magazines and websites, including here.
In this case, the newspaper/magazine/website gets original looking content without having to pay a journalist R5 per word. Smiles all round.
Where do you start?
Of course, you could give it a bash yourself, and nothing’s stopping you. The main reason you want to sign up with a PR company is to benefit from their network of relationships. They are dealing on a first-name basis with the editors and writers of all the magazines, while you might spend half a day just trying to get one e-mail address. They also bring years of experience and creative thinking in a field they are passionate about. Yes, it does cost money, but the equivalent in advertising spend would get you a tiny weekly ad on page 10 of a local newspaper.
If you’re interesting in speaking to the PR company that works for Yuppiechef, send an e-mail here and I’ll get someone to contact you.
I hope you can handle the fame!
Andrew Smith is the pedantic systems guy behind Live Alchemy, a SA e-commerce company. Andrew writes for Ideate in an attempt to make the world a more efficient place. View more articles by Andrew Smith.