Tag: sales strategy

Top tips for dealing with late-paying clients - New Frontiers programme

Top tips for dealing with late-paying clients

Top tips for dealing with late-paying clients - New Frontiers programme

We’re not pointing any fingers, but you know who we’re talking about! When it comes to late-paying clients, there are always a few stragglers. Although it’s not personal and usually just an indicator of clunky business processes, if you’re a small business trying to grow it is hard to be sympathetic. However, if most of your late-paying clients also happen to be your biggest clients, your problem is a bit more of a challenge.

According to ISME, the Irish SME Association, 55% of companies experience payment delays of two months or more (Q2, 2019). CEO Neil McDonnell points out that:

“Smaller businesses do not have working capital to wait for payment as long as big businesses. 36% of multinationals are taking longer to make their payments, showing a total disregard for SMEs.”

It all comes down to big companies wanting to have as much ready cash available to them as possible, but this can turn into a serious problem for SMEs in the long run.

Although no healthy business should be reliant on any one client, this worrying trend of late payments can be detrimental to a small business if not managed correctly. That’s why in this blog we’re going tackle the credit-control challenge head-on.

Should you be giving credit at all?

Providing credit is not uncommon in business, but it is not the rule and you are not obliged to offer it. If you’re a small business ticking over with only a handful of clients and you can’t afford to give credit, then perhaps you shouldn’t. In the creative industries and for freelancers, payment on delivery is the most common payment term. For larger or longer projects, it’s typical to pay half upfront, or even staged payments throughout the life of the project. Maybe your business could adopt a similar model? Take a close look at your current cash flow situation and determine what kind of figure you should be starting the month with. If getting to that figure requires bringing those invoice deadlines closer, then don’t be afraid to put your foot down. Remember, it’s your business and you make rules, not your debtors.

Set clear terms before you start

When a new project or contract comes through the door, it’s tempting to show how keen you are for the business and dive in as soon as possible. But not setting clear boundaries from the outset can be something you come to regret. If you do need to offer credit, then agree in advance what that will be and get it in writing. Ideally, this will already be laid out in your Terms and Conditions, but even so it’s worth drawing the new client’s attention to what these are. If you don’t have Ts & Cs already, or if you want this client to stick to different payment terms, make sure to get this agreed in writing beforehand including a) at what point(s) you will invoice, and b) how many days they will have to pay. If they subsequently don’t stick to these terms, you can start chasing straight away and draw their attention to the agreed terms.

Offer an early-payment discount

As with everything in business, you are dealing with human beings, which means that incentives and motivational tactics can work a treat – especially when it comes to saving money! You don’t necessarily have to offer this to all your clients, but you can pick a select few who you think would be open to the idea. You can offer them a discount for paying within, say, 10 days if that is helpful to your cash flow situation. The only drawback with this strategy is that payments may still be unpredictable. It is up to your client whether they take you up on your offer, and even if they do you won’t be sure exactly when they’ll pay.

Penalise those naughty late payers

Did you know that you are entitled by law to charge interest on late payments? It doesn’t just apply to your Irish customers, as this is a European Union regulation. The majority of businesses don’t do this, perhaps because they don’t know they can, don’t want to rock the boat, or think it isn’t worth the hassle. But you can do this for any commercial transaction and you don’t even need to send a reminder first; you can start charging as soon as the invoice is overdue. The Late Payment Interest rate is currently 8%. This means that if a client was a month late paying a bill of €2,000 + VAT, you’d be able to charge them €16.13 in interest. You can use this online interest calculator to work out what you are due.

In addition, you are automatically entitled to “compensation for recovery costs” without needing to provide evidence of having incurred recovery costs or issuing a reminder. This is a flat fee entitlement. If you had a particularly tricky situation and had to hire a solicitor or debt collection agency, this would obviously be a whole different situation. The automatic compensation you are entitled to under the regulation is:

  • Up to €1,000: €40
  • €1000 – €10,000: €70
  • Over €10,000: €100

Automate the credit control process

These days, there is a software solution to alleviate any business ailment. If you’re tired of payments dribbling past the finish line like the world’s slowest snail race, the time has probably come for more proactive credit control. There are lots of fintech solutions for debt management out there that make it easy to chase late payers. Some examples are Chaser and Fluidly.  With Chaser, you simply connect with your Sage, Xero, or QuickBooks account and set up auto-reminders so that your clients are prompted when their invoice is past due. Solutions like this allow you to personalise these prompts so that your business brand is kept intact. You can also control who gets reminders and how often, and even escalate the reminders to get more serious the longer the debt is outstanding – for instance by changing the recipient and sender of the reminder to more senior counterparts in your respective businesses.

Leverage outstanding bills with invoice financing

A 60- or 90-day credit window can become too much to bear for some small businesses. It’s a situation many businesses try to suffer through but there are ways to get around this problem if chasing your clients isn’t enough. If existing credit terms are now proving challenging for your company’s cash flow, you could look into invoice financing. Invoice financing is a finance facility that allows businesses to borrow money against outstanding customer invoices. Typically, you’ll receive a large portion of the funds immediately and when your client settles the invoice, you’ll receive the rest (minus a fee for the service, of course). This isn’t an ideal scenario in the long-term, but it can get you through a challenging period.

As you can see, there are many ways to manage late-paying clients. The key is to find the solution that works best for your type of business as well as your clients. It can be uncomfortable talking about this issue with clients, but never forget that you deserve to be paid for your hard work. Asking for what you are due is a fair and reasonable thing to do!

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Nicky Bowman chats about sales strategies and finding your first customers - New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development programme Ireland

Nicky Bowman chats about sales strategies and finding your first customers

Nicky Bowman chats about sales strategies and finding your first customers - New Frontiers Entrepreneur Development programme Ireland

There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing your startup idea come together and take the shape of a deliverable service or product. But now there’s a fresh challenge waiting for you – winning those invaluable first customers. Not beta testers, not friends and family. Real, paying customers.

We spoke to Nicky Bowman, an experienced sales coach and Enterprise Ireland mentor, about how startup founders can develop their sales strategy and find those crucial first customers.

Presumably, if a founder has built an amazing product or service, getting sales should be fairly easy?

As a startup founder, you probably have years of industry experience behind you that’s been invaluable for getting you to this point. But suddenly you have to think about sales, and this is likely to be far out of your comfort zone. For the first few years at least, you won’t be generating the kind of turnover that will enable you to hire a salesperson, so that duty is going to fall on you as founder. But sales is a lot more skilled than many founders imagine, and it’s important to go about it the right way. If you go out there with the impression that a monkey could do it, you’re probably in for a big shock.

Tell us more about what makes for a good sales strategy

Sales is not about going out and telling people how fabulous your product/service is and how excited they should be. The chances are you’ll have a great meeting but won’t actually sell anything. When done right, sales brings a customer to the understanding that they need your product, but very few people will make that connection for themselves. It’s the reason a lot of new startups get off the ground but then struggle to get past the first handful of sales. I think a lot of organisations tend to throw a lot of mud at the wall – they might do a huge amount of untargeted marketing, for example, in the hope that people will pick up on it and make the connection. But, as they say, hope is not a strategy!

A good sales strategy is quite targeted then? How do founders go about that?

Yes, the key to success is to find those people who are willing to make the switch to you despite the fact you don’t have a track record. These ‘early adopters’ as they are known are your first target market. You need to identify the reasons why they might be interested in your service/product and then align your approach with those reasons. You start this process by identifying which organisations – and which individuals within those organisations – are likely to be willing to try something a bit different so you can focus on them. This would be in the B2B market, obviously.

That sounds difficult if you don’t have inside knowledge of the company. How is this done?

You’ll want to be quite programmatic about it. It all starts with good research. You should look for those organisations that are less traditional, ones that may have been early adopters of other solutions or processes in the past. You can tell a lot of that just from their mission statements and the texts on their websites. Do they talk about being innovative? Or do they talk about being steady and reliable? With good market research, you can identify those forward-thinking organisations to target. Then ask yourself questions such as: What is their process for buying and who needs to be involved? Would they need to do some kind of trial or pilot? Do they have to go through a committee for approval? That will show you how to make your initial approach to them.

It sounds like a data-led approach is most likely to get results?

Absolutely, it’s all about data. But it often surprises me that people who have a very data-led approach to the rest of the business start making a lot of assumptions when it comes to sales. Experience in an industry doesn’t always mean experience of a market. The ideal candidate for purchase is often not the one the startup founder assumed. The way to get over this gap in assumptions is to ask yourself WHY? If you think your ideal prospect is a 40-year-old male in business development, ask yourself why you think that and look for evidence to back it up. You won’t know who to get in touch with until you have a solid grasp on the market and the prospects you need to target.

And what needs to happen once that first contact with the right prospect is made?

Even if you’re not experienced in sales, you can still build out a strong process to support the sales function. This involves establishing how a prospect will make a decision and determining how you can help them along that path. If your product/service is fairly expensive, there is likely to be a reasonably complex decision-making process on the purchaser’s side. The scenario where you walk into your first meeting and someone says “I love your stuff, here’s a cheque” is for movies. The more likely situation is that you first raise awareness, then you establish interest, and then you move on to talk numbers. But because you’ve already found out what their decision-making process is, you’ll be able to help them at each stage.

What should happen once someone does say ‘Yes’?

It’s fairly common for people to say ‘Yes’ in the room, but you must never stop with your process until you have a signed order in your hand. They may say they want to work with you, they may say the product/service looks great and they can’t wait to get going, but what you want is concrete action. This is where your robust process will keep the wheels turning: Can I call you next week? Who needs to approve this? How can we get a Purchase Order raised? Your sales process should help people along the journey of Awareness, Interest, Decision and Action.

Are there any common mistakes you see inexperienced salespeople repeat?

Yes, it’s very common to see what we call the show-up-and-throw-up method, which is just to sit there telling the prospect everything you can about your product/service. The key skill in selling isn’t to talk until you establish interest, it’s to ask questions so that you can establish WHY they might be interested. The other thing people do is they keep talking after the prospect has shown clear interest. Once someone is interested, they don’t need to hear, “It also does this, and it can do that.” They’re interested, so now you need to start asking for action. Ask for a commitment, or get decision-makers into the room, whatever the next step is according to your process.

What would be your key takeaways for the founder fulfilling their own sales function?

The headline for me is that selling is a profession like any other and you have to learn the skills involved to do it well. You can’t wing it.  As a founder, it’s likely that you’ll have to take on sales at the beginning because you’re bootstrapping. And you probably dream of the day you start making a bit of money and can hire a salesperson to take this task over. My advice to you is to not do that until the day you can afford to make the wrong hire. The issue is that hiring salespeople is even harder than selling, because salespeople are really good at interviews. They’re salespeople, after all. So, before you make that hire, and it’s an expensive one to make, think about how much it will cost you if it doesn’t work out.

But I don’t want to end on a negative note! Sales is simply a skill and a set of processes that anyone can learn. You can too, and who better than you in those early days to go out and sell the product or service you’ve developed. I’ve seen entrepreneurs who really don’t like selling and are not naturally a fit for it learn to do it very well. They’ve understood that it’s all about developing a good process and they’ve adjusted to that way of thinking. And it’s worked for them.

You can find out more about Nicky Bowman and her sales coaching at www.salescoach.consulting

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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product-market fit and finding your sweet spot - New Frontiers

Emer O’Donnell chats about product-market fit and finding your sweet spot

product-market fit and finding your sweet spot - New Frontiers

If you are unsure about what product-market fit is, ask yourself are customers banging down the door? Instead of manufacturing demand for a product or service and relying on the hard sell, product-market fit is when you have found a sweet spot in the market and customers’ needs mirror the unique value you offer.

A Qualified Executive Coach and regular Enterprise Ireland and New Frontiers trainer, Emer O’Donnell has spent 15 years helping companies to locate their sweet spot and grow. I sat down with her to find out more about this business strategy which turns build it and they will come on its head and puts customer needs in the driving seat.

Emer O’Donnell chats about product-market fit and finding your sweet spot - New Frontiers


Let’s start off with the obvious question, how do you define the product-market fit strategy?

One of the participants at the Founder’s Forum summed it up beautifully, way better than I could – customers are banging down the door for your stuff. Two authors have written a lot about this, Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits. Their definition of product-market fit is as follows:

Product-market fit, the match between product and market segment that results in high growth or high demand. So many customers are demanding your product that a clear market signal has been sent saying your product is needed.

Brant Cooper & Patrick Vlaskovits

Is there any way to measure it?

There are a couple of people who’ve written extensively about product-market fit in the last five to 10 years, and they’ve come up with mathematical ways of measuring it. I think those are really helpful for start-ups to look at because it takes you a little bit away from the kind of “art” or “voodoo” of am I there or am I not? and instead provides something factual for you to measure.

So, the first one of those is from Sean Ellis. Sean was the original growth hacker or marketeer behind the initial viral growth of Dropbox. Sean’s suggestion for measuring product-market fit is to ask your customers a very simple question, and that question is “How would you feel if you could no longer use or buy my product?” You give customers optional answers such as wouldn’t care, would care a bit, would be disappointed and would be very disappointed. You obviously need a reasonably sized sample to do this, but Sean’s view is that if more than 40% of the people say that they would be very disappointed if they could no longer use your product, then you probably have product-market fit!

As a trainer with the New Frontiers programme, you have a lot of hands-on experience with start-ups. What are the warning signs that they don’t have product-market fit?

If I look at the start-ups that we interact with, one of the indicators to me that a company may be at product-market fit would be when I hear them talk about the challenges in their business and they’re not talking about sales. When I hear start-ups talking about things like “My sales cycles are taking too long”, or “I’m struggling to find customers”, or “I’m missing my sales target”, that’s an indicator to me that they don’t have product-market fit.

I think one of the big mistakes that we see with start-ups that don’t have product-market fit is that they start spending money in places that they shouldn’t be spending it. There is this concept of a growth pyramid which says that at the bottom of the pyramid you should have product-market fit. You need this as a solid foundation first, and then you build everything else on top of it.

One of the most common mistakes I see start-ups making is that they hire a sales team before they have product-market fit, and then they wonder why the sales team doesn’t work out. If you’re not at product-market fit, then you either need to refocus the target audience or you need to tweak the product. But either way you need to keep your cash burn low.

To recap, product-market fit is when the market is sending out a clear signal that there is a need for whatever product or service you’re offering. Often the challenge when a company hits that point will be related to delivery, and not to sales.

Let’s say you are a start-up that does have product-market fit. What would be your advice then?

OK, on the flip side of that is say one of the companies that I am working with right now on the Founder’s Forum. They have product-market fit, and they are hesitating over expanding the team and raising money. Now they are at risk of a competitor coming in and taking the market from them. It is a balancing act. If you go too far, you run the risk that you are not building on a solid foundation; but if you go too slowly, you can miss the boat. It’s about balancing the two.

What are your key steps for achieving product-market fit?

There are three elements. The first is that they have a well-defined sweet spot or target market. They need to be very clear about who they are targeting. This can be a real challenge for a young company, because often they go too broad and go for, say, “Everyone in North America”! You need to focus down and get really clear about it.

The second one is what is the customer trying to do? What is the problem they are trying to solve or the job they are trying to get done? And knowing how you deliver in value against that and being really solid about that.

The last one is understanding why customers should choose you over the competition. You need to be clear about how you’re different from the competition. The three of these things working together is the recipe for product-market fit. If any one of them is out of whack, you are unlikely to hit product-market fit.

It’s important to remember that the answers don’t lie in your team, but in your customers. You need to be good at getting out and listening to your customers in a very open way, without assumptions. Most people will go out and look for the answers they want to hear. Instead of asking “That’s a good idea, isn’t it?” you should have a much more open set of questions to explore and get new insights. I did an exercise over the summer when I talked to 10 of our own customers, and I got some really good insights. I learned things about how our customers view us that I would never have guessed. But it’s all in the way you ask the questions.

If you’d like more insights from Emer, sign up for the monthly email sent out by her company, Select Strategies, examining the issues which affect growth in many companies.

About the author


Scarlet Merrill

Scarlet Merrill is Editor of the New Frontiers website and founder of her own startup, Engage Content Marketing. She is an expert in designing and executing content strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence… [Read Scarlet’s profile]

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Negotiating is like going into a church - New Frontiers Simon O'Keeffe

Negotiating is like going into a church

Negotiating is like going into a church - New Frontiers Simon O'Keeffe

Negotiating is like going into a church or temple. It’s different. There are different rules and etiquette. People behave differently once they are there. Like a church, negotiation has a special purpose that makes it different from ordinary, humdrum conversations. Its purpose is to reach an agreement.

But to leave it at that would be like saying that a church’s purpose is to keep out the rain. There’s more to it than that. Done properly, negotiation can deliver a rewarding and enriching experience as well as a good agreement. You can learn more about yourself by reflecting on a negotiation. You can find out more about others in the negotiation and deepen your relationships with them. Negotiation can provide space for great creativity. It’s often a chance to show and receive generosity that will repay itself many times over.

So, back to the church analogy – say a famous cathedral in a foreign city. How many times have we gone in, let the biggest decision be whether to go clockwise or anticlockwise, trudged around and left? I’m not at all religious but I remember once visiting an Armenian Catholic monastery on San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a small island in the Venetian Lagoon. Luckily for me, I was with somebody who always prepared well, so I had clear expectations about what I’d see, hear and feel. It was a visit full of wonder and I came away with a new respect for others’ practice of their religion and celebration of their history.

Of course, few of our negotiations bear comparison with visiting San Lazzaro! I don’t want to overplay the comparison. My point is this: you can reap additional rewards from a negotiation if you see it as a process to steadily and deliberately reach an agreement. The better you become at working the process, the more time you will have to spend on the people involved and on researching and understanding the issues. This is rewarding in and of itself and it will lead to a better agreement and stronger relationships.

The process of negotiation

The process of negotiation that derives from Roger Fisher and William Ury’s seminal Getting to Yes is simple to grasp, even if it’s quite hard to discipline oneself to use it! If you’re facing into a negotiation into which you’re going to commit effort, it’s well worth working on the imperatives of a negotiation that Fisher & Ury put forward. It’s even more worthwhile if it’s a negotiation into which you know the other side is going to commit effort because it helps to ensure that a principled approach will prevail.

The imperatives are:

  • Separate the people from the problem.
  • Focus on interests, not positions.
  • Generate a variety of options before deciding what to do.
  • Insist that the result is based on objective criteria.

You can approach this in stages: Analysis, Planning, Discussion, Bargaining and Agreement.


The first stage is Analysis. Spend some time, preferably with others, trying to diagnose the situation. Gather information, organize it, and think about it. Consider the people problems of partisan perceptions, hostile emotions, and unclear communication, as well as to identify your interests and those of the other side. Note options already on the table and identify any criteria already suggested as a basis for agreement options.


During the ensuing planning stage, you deal with the same four elements a second time, adopting a point of view about the people issues and what the real interests at stake are. That forms the basis for productive work to generate additional options and additional criteria for deciding among them.


During the discussion stage, differences in perceptions, feelings of frustration and anger, and difficulties in communication can be acknowledged and addressed. Each side can and should come to understand the interests of the other. Both can then jointly generate options that are mutually advantageous and seek agreement on objective standards for resolving opposed interests.


Then, in the bargaining stage, you can go hard on resolving the opposed interests and yet go easy on the people. By using the give and take of bargaining, you narrow and close the gaps and leave everyone with something.


Finally – and this is often forgotten – it’s essential that you jointly record the agreement reached. All to often, you’ll hear “but I thought you meant…”, so, write it down and agree what’s written!

So, negotiating is like visiting churches. The more you know about them, the easier it is to appreciate the specialness of one you’re visiting this time. Similarly, the better you become at working a negotiation along the lines described here, the more rewarding the process itself will be and the better the agreements you reach will be.

About the author

Simon O'Keeffe New Frontiers programmeSimon O’Keeffe

Simon O’Keeffe has over 20 years’ experience in business strategy and operations. He has been involved in leadership training of New Frontiers participants since 2011… [Read Simon’s profile]

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Richard Mc Manus Exhibition tricks and trips New Frontiers

Exhibiting your startup: a 25-step checklist for excellence

Richard Mc Manus Exhibition tricks and trips New Frontiers

Trade shows and exhibitions are an invaluable opportunity that’s often underused by early-stage startups. However, it’s a mistake to view them solely as a sales tactic. In this blog, Richard Mc Manus looks at other reasons to exhibit at shows and fairs, the lessons he has learnt from attending some 40 events with his startup, and gives us a 25-step checklist for exhibition excellence!

You must be mad!

Unless you are selling food for the hungry or hurley sticks at the Ploughing, you do not make money at exhibitions. Since graduating from the New Frontiers programme in 2015 my start-up, Cara Mara luxury seaweed baths, has participated in around 40 exhibition events. I hope that many business owners and managers, especially of new businesses, can learn from my experience.

Some of my fellow exhibitors have cried after the event because they did not get a single sale. Recently, I heard one high profile startup entrepreneur tell how he spent €10,000 on a single event, had negligible sales and managed to wipe out his cash reserves.

Why exhibit at trade fairs?

To build initial public awareness of Cara Mara – which sells a home seaweed bath product – we exhibited at a range of fairs. This included exhibitions tied in with sport, health, business, as well as summer shows. Yes, they did create a certain level of awareness, but they never generated high volume sales. Truthfully, it was a mistake to have even attended some of them. The lesson I took from this is that it is essential to ask yourself two questions when planning to attend an event:

  1. Will your target customer group(s) be at the exhibition?
  2. Will they be buying?

Here’s how we experienced the different events we exhibited at, and the level of interest a product such as ours could typically attract:

  • Sports events: participants are completely absorbed in their preparation and recovery (e.g. running, cycling, etc.) and then socialising with their friends afterwards.
  • Business seminars/exhibitions: attendees are mainly interested in the conference talks and then socialising and networking during the breaks. Exhibition stands are almost a distraction.
  • Summer shows: visitors are mainly interested in being entertained by animal demonstrations, live music stage shows, and a summer day out to meet friends old and new.

The best exhibitions are those which people attend because they have a specific need to address, and they intend to buy. In my case good examples included:

  • Taste of Monaghan, Taste of Cavan, etc. Yes, these provincial events include non-food products and services.
  • Wellfest. Attendees were specifically seeking ways to enjoy life and improve health.

Think awareness rather than sales

Most businesses, whether they are selling to business or the general public, will have specific exhibitions where their target customers will attend and hang out. It’s essential to research such events to make sure they are right for you.

What does the word ‘exhibit’ even mean?

“To publicly display, show, present, demonstrate, showcase.”

So unless you’re one of those food vendors or hurley stick sellers mentioned above, exhibitions are mainly for creating customer awareness! You’re making a connection in anticipation of future transactions. But remember that consumers are busy people and easily forget you, unless you are in front of them on a consistent, regular basis.

Exhibit with excellence – a checklist of 25 steps

This is my 25-step recipe for a successful exhibition strategy.


  1. Check out the exhibition the year before you expect to attend – i.e. visitor profiles, traffic flow, etc.
  2. If that isn’t possible, check out the organiser’s website to see who exhibited last year. Phone those exhibitors and ask how they got on and what advice they would offer.
  3. Cost benefit – decide what your objectives are and write them down. Are the expected benefits worth the cost (stand costs, staff, travel, accommodation, meals, extras)?
  4. Grants – perhaps you could leverage funding to help with costs? Are there any business development/export grants you could apply for?

Dealing with organisers

  1. Try to get a discount on the cost of a stand. Explain that you are a startup, you are on the books of your local LEO or an Enterprise Ireland client, or perhaps that you are a first time exhibitor at this particular event and you’re not sure it is for you. Always seek a discount, most commercial organisers are flexible on price.
  2. Consider waiting to the last moment to get a discount price for late cancellations/organisers seeking to fill exhibition hall.
  3. Payment: delay to latest date possible and pay in instalments. I suffered a significant bad debt when an event was cancelled and the organiser went into liquidation.

Stand preparation

  1. Traffic flow: check out or anticipate the visitor flow in the exhibition hall. There is no point in taking the cheapest stand if it’s at the quietest part of the hall.
  2. Positioning: the best stand pitches are at corners (you gain exposure from two directions) and the end of aisles (visitors can directly see you as they approach). Ask for them.
  3. Be professional: your stand backdrop, exhibition table, and product display need to reflect quality and grab visitors’ attention. It needs to say “I’m interesting. Check me out.” There are many excellent display providers, but I particularly like focusonline.ie.

Exhibition preparation

  1. Checklist: prepare in advance to avoid any shortcomings
    a) Equipment, brochures, and leaflets for the stand
    b) Product for the stand
    c) Staffing
    d) Times: opening, closing, set up. Organise logistics to get there on time
    e) Insurance: make sure you have adequate public liability cover
  2. Social media: spread awareness and make a noise about the event in advance. If you tag the organisers, they will usually re-post your communications.
  3. Customer communications: if you are a B2B business, write to your existing customers and prospects inviting them to the exhibition/your stand. Provide them with free entrance tickets as appropriate.
  4. Dress code: depends on your industry/business/culture, wear suits, branded t-shirts, name tags, etc.


  1. Fellow exhibitors: remember they may be potential customers! Talk to them and ask what exhibitions work well for them. They are a treasure of knowledge and experience.
  2. Be passionate. Enjoy yourself. Make friends.
  3. Pep in your step: always stand ready to engage with people. Sitting at the stand is a big No No! Get in shape in advance by getting sufficient sleep and enjoy a healthy energy diet.
  4. Engage: some people are naturally shy and may avoid your stand or walk by with eyes averted. You have to be active. Stand out in the aisle. Say hello. Draw people in with a leaflet or an engaging question. Most people love it when you give them time and needed information.
  5. Interesting product demo: this is always a winner (live or on video). Help customers to dream and think ‘Yes, this is for me!’.
  6. Special prices: visitors nowadays expect special reduced prices for exhibitions, fairs, etc. Don’t disappoint them. Make sure there is a price list on display.
  7. Eyes, ears, and mind wide open: observe what’s happening, what’s working, and what’s not working. Learn, change, and do better.
  8. Build an email list: visitors love to leave their name and email address if there is a prize on offer. It could be your own product or something attractive (e.g. tickets for an event or a weekend away).

Post-event review

  1. Follow up: with all new contacts and on all promises made – within a few days.
  2. Email list: if you collected a list, your first communication should be within a week. Its focus should be to thank, to educate, to entertain, and not a hard sell. At the end, you could perhaps extend the special exhibition prices for a limited period, as an exclusive offer.
  3. Learn: talk to your colleagues. Talk to yourself. Compare all the outcomes with the initial written objectives – level of engagement, size of email list, revenue, costs, insights, important new contacts. What worked for you? What didn’t? How can you improve the next event?

Best wishes for your future success!

About the author

Richard Mc Manus Cara Mara Seaweed baths New Frontiers alumnus

Richard Mc Manus

New Frontiers participant, Richard Mc Manus, is the founder of luxury seaweed bath brand Cara Mara. A veteran of the manufacturing and export industry, Richard is passionate about health and wellness, and has developed a seaweed product that can be enjoyed from the comfort and tranquillity of one’s own home… [Read Richard’s profile]

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WKI Developing your Market Attack Plan - in four steps New Frontiers

Developing your market attack plan in four steps

WKI Developing your Market Attack Plan - in four steps New Frontiers

So you’ve completed your market research and analysis. You’ve found a great opportunity to exploit. The solution you have will give you an edge over other approaches and will offer real value to the client. You’ve spent the last couple of months building out the team of advisors and have some friends who’ve agreed to help you with branding, marketing, helping to write a business plan or to get the financials together…

Everything looks great – you’ll definitely need 10 people on board within the next few years to support the €1 million turnover you’ve set as your year three target, especially as you’ll enter foreign markets towards the end of year two. Sound familiar?

But have you created your market attack plan? Have you set out credible steps along the journey that you will need to take to achieve your goals? Over the past few years I’ve coached some of our Phase 2 participants to develop this plan. I use a commercialisation tool developed by WKI to structure the sessions.

WKI Commercialisation methodology

Step 1

We begin by reviewing the participant’s proposed target segments. We also look at the customer profile for each segment (who will use it, who will buy it, how they will use it, what the buy decision is, what motivates the user and what motivates the buyer, etc.). These have been identified by market research conducted to date and have been ranked into an ordered list of segments to target.

Step 2

We then discuss lead customers; these are early adopters who should be willing and eager to try a new idea even if it is in development. You are looking for someone who will collaborate with you to test, suggest, and mould your early stage idea into a customer-ready product for later stage customers.

A question to ask: are the lead customers from our identified target segments? If not, why not? If we can’t get someone from our target segment who will try our solution then has our market research been correct to date? Have we really identified the correct market? It may seem obvious but it does happen that the promoter has profiled a market opportunity in great detail yet introduces clients from different segments without clear reasoning. This can lead to a loss of credibility in the proposal, i.e. does the promoter really know who the customer is?

Step 3

So, having identified the lead customer we next set out what initiatives will be undertaken to advance the idea down the path to market. Each initiative should reflect the stage of development of the solution as well as the commercial roll out. That is why I usually have one or two lead-in steps such as demonstrator stage, prototype stage, before introducing the second and third target segments and beyond moving towards category leadership. Especially when working with start-ups. I also find that the first session specs out the first couple of development steps only. The promoters tend to need a break at this point as for further stages it becomes too vague or harder to define concrete initiatives and measures of success.

Step 4

Profile the risks. All plans have an element of risk associated with them, it is both natural and expected. Stakeholders will want to know that you are aware of potential risks and have prepared a plan to mitigate them should they occur. For early-stage businesses risks associated with technical, market, financial and people should be considered with each stage of the company’s proposed development.  These should also be summarised on the market attack plan.

Market Attack PlanSo what? Who cares? Why you?

Let’s work through an example of what a market attack plan may look like:

Stage – Demonstrator Timing: Month 1 & 2

Major initiative:

  • Update promoter’s LinkedIn profile and purchase premium package for 2 months
  • Build mock-up demonstrator using MarvelApp, CAD, Animation, etc.
  • Get 4 – 5 meetings with potential lead customers to review

Measure of success:

  • 2 customers agree to pilot a prototype


  • Unable to secure demonstration meetings


  • In-house resources, travel costs and LinkedIn Premium only

Funded bBy:

  • Promoter’s funds

Stage – Prototype Timing: Months 3 to 6

Major initiative:

  • Agree framework for prototype stage with lead customers
  • Develop working prototype – to agreed limited features/command set
  • Company formation

Measure of success:

  • 1 – 2 customers agree to purchase
  • 2 – 3 new customers agree to pilot


  • Unable to secure sufficient funding


  • In-house resources and travel costs
  • Outsourced tech development – €20- 30K

Funded by:

  • LEO Feasibility Funding / New Frontiers stipend
  • Innovation voucher – for algorithm generation
  • Promoter’s funds & friends/angels

Stage – Market Entry Timing: Months 6 to 18

Major initiative:

  • Secure incubation tenancy
  • Hire CTO and first in-house developer
  • Sales and Marketing hires x 2
  • On-board the first 2 customers
  • Invest in CRM package
  • Complete technical development
  • Attend 1 – 3 national exhibitions and secure speaking slots
  • Start Next Round funding process

Measure of success:

  • Customer income secured – €200k
  • 2 – 3 new customers signed each quarter
  • First segment 2 customers acquired
  • CE Marking, Safety and Compliance certifications secured


  • Delays on-boarding key hires
  • Development overruns
  • Delays securing sufficient funding
  • New entrants


  • €400K funding requirement (18 months runway)

Funded by:

  • EI Competitive Start Funding
  • EI HPSU Funding
  • Irish VC Funding Delta/Kernel, etc.

Why is this approach important?

There are a number of reasons to use this approach:

  1. For the promoter, it helps break down into manageable steps the road to market entry. It also helps non-financial founders align the sales and marketing, operations and financial requirements of the business for stage of development – which is great when producing three year cash flow projections.
  2. For team members, it provides them with clarity as to what the outcome from each stage of development is. It can also help them see where the business is headed.
  3. For the business plan reader, it summarises what resources are required at each stage and what the output will be in terms of headcount (support agency focus) or monetary gains (investor focus).

So give it a go. You’ll be surprised how easy it can be and what a difference this simple tool can make to developing your company’s market entry strategy.

About the author

Garrett-Duffy-New-FrontiersGarrett Duffy

Garrett is the New Frontiers Programme Manager at Dundalk Institute of Technology, and a WKI Certified Coach. He has a background in engineering and has lectured in information systems, computer applications and new venture creation. He has been the Enterprise Development Manager at DkIT’s Regional Development Centre since 2007… [Read Garrett’s profile]

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Value Proposition and Channel to Market New Frontiers

Value proposition and channel to market

Value Proposition and Channel to Market New Frontiers

We all know that setting up a new business is almost always an uncertain journey, one that can bring enormous swings, from exhilaration one day to doubt and fear the next. There are many reasons why we subject ourselves to this stress – creating a job for ourselves, escaping dull or unsuitable work, a bad boss, or just the simple desire for increased wealth. After all, who would not wish to achieve financial independence?

The entrepreneurial rollercoaster

The chance to create something from nothing, to see an idea in your head develop and work, either in the form of a new service or new product, is incredibly motivating and, when successful, enormously satisfying. “I did it my way” as the song goes. This is the entrepreneurial rollercoaster of business startups. Managing these emotions is important if we want to banish doubt and remain upbeat, confident and committed to our project.

Managing the bad days

While in the set-up stage of my first venture, a tourism business, a very well respected and established player in the market from Sligo declared that he would ‘eat his hat’ if my business worked in Co Laois! This was at my first trade fair in Germany and, for a 23 year old, this was massively undermining and stuck with me.

We need a coat of armor to protect us on bad days like this or to silence natural self-doubt and banish the demons. Luckily, this coat of armor can be built by using solid ‘good business practice’ at the earliest stage in the venture.

The well-known business writer, Joan Margeratta, ventured that you can distil any business down to two key foundational elements – value proposition and channel to market. This rings true in my experience. Yes, there are many other elements that we need and will need in time, but, to start with, these two elements are critical. Properly validated, they constitute solid business practice that will give you confidence and ensure you are more likely to succeed. It is also something that investors will demand if you are seeking finance pre- revenue.

Value proposition and channel to market

The best way for me to explain what I think is required in terms of validating a value proposition and a channel to market is through explaining the process I went through in developing and bringing to market a new domestic kitchen vacuum – Sweepovac.

By way of context, it took a subsequent four years of product development and market entry to get initial traction. That’s four years of uncertainty, challenges and obstacles. I definitely needed a thick coat of armor to get me through this, to give me the conviction to persevere!


This validation process was simple common sense really. First, we created the cheapest simplest prototype version possible of something that looked and acted like the finished product. We then tested it on end users – homeowners. We set up with this prototype for 3 days in 3 different retail settings – a hardware shop, a kitchen showroom and an electrical retailer spread across rural and urban centers. Over the three days we surveyed 100 people with a 15 question form using a Likert scale. This showed that 87% of people were positive and liked the product. A critical takeaway was, however, that within this group of 17% who absolutely ‘got it’ and were very enthusiastic, 13% had no interest.

Channel to market

Next, I needed to test the channel to market to see if we could deliver the product in the right retail environment, at the right price and at the right time.

I interviewed 20 kitchen retailers, some with retail chains, and the three largest distributors to these retailers. For each group, I had a different questionnaire that set out to establish their interest, their willingness to take on the proposed product and their views on pricing and margin structure.

The results showed that 70% would display, but with varying levels of enthusiasm and that the expected price should be between €90 and €220.

The result

I drew two key conclusions. The first was that 17%, and possibly more, of kitchen buyers would potentially purchase the product if it was presented in the right retail environment, at the right price and at the right time. The second was that there was enough interest among retailers and distributors to ensure that we could present it in the right environment at the right time. I also had strong guidance that I needed to get the manufacturing price down based on the feedback on the retail prices.

Key takeaway

Attempting to launch a new startup is usually, if not always, high risk with dramatic ups and downs. My key message is this: early and solid validation of your value proposition and your channel to market gives you a far greater chance of success and a coat of armour to help weather the process. It will allow you to focus on delivering, on problem solving and help stop you doubting the road you have chosen or second guessing yourself.

It takes bravery to launch a new start up or transform an existing business, it is usually if not always high risk with dramatic ups and downs. Mentoring has given me a wonderful opportunity to meet great people, to learn, to share and to to be part of their journey.

With regards to the gentleman from Sligo, I never had the opportunity to present him with his hat and some salt. The tourism business ran successfully for 13 years, was sold as a going concern in 2005 and still operates today.

About the author

Henry Fingleton Sweepovac New Frontiers
Henry Fingleton

Henry Fingleton is an Enterprise Ireland mentor and the founder of Sweepovac. In total, he is responsible for six startup companies, which has given him a  thorough understanding of the entrepreneurial process. This insight helps him develop and apply appropriate business strategies… [Read Henry’s profile]

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Business strategy why it matters and how to do it

Business strategy: why it matters and how to do it

Business strategy why it matters and how to do it

Years ago, when the internet was in its infancy, I was part of a study group that developed a business plan for Intergift, an online shop that would sell books, CDs and other ‘gifts’, complete with reminders for birthdays, anniversaries. Sounds familiar? A year later, Jeff Bezos would start a company called Amazon in his garage.

The point is that loads of people have a great idea. It’s the people who make a decision to prioritise and act on the idea – and then stay with it – who reap the rewards. We did actually set up a company and made some attempts to get something off the ground. However, looking back, what prevented us delivering on a great idea was not dedicating enough time to it and not setting ourselves any goals or action plan, which all resulting in us just not doing it.

Why strategy?

The starting point for a lot of organisations is that people are too busy working away at an operational level making day-to-day things happen. Sometimes, people think they have a common understanding of where the organisation is going, but often – with some probing – it becomes clear that they don’t. Often, ideas about what the organisation might do to support growth are floating around and are either not acted upon at all, or are acted on in an ad hoc way, depending on the forcefulness of the originator of the idea. The development of a proper strategy has the effect of facilitating a common understanding of where the organisation is going, how it’s going to get there and what goals and action are required to make that happen. A lovely analogy I’ve seen is that of a magnet lining all the iron filings up to point in the same direction.

There are various schools of thought on how important goal-setting is in achieving results. Some argue that if you have a strong vision, everything else will fall into place; others, to varying degrees, argue for the necessity of setting goals and developing action plans to deliver those goals. While I’ve no doubt that people have achieved amazing things through vision alone, setting goals and developing action plans generally provides focus and yields better and faster results.

What do you want?

Consider how you would answer the following questions:

  • What’s your organisation’s VISION?
    That is, what change do you want to see in the world?
  • What’s your MISSION?
    In other words, what is your role in that change?
  • What’s your TOP LEVEL GOAL?
    What is your more specific, measurable, time-bound goal?
  • What STRATEGY are you going to pursue to deliver on that mission?
    What strategic objectives will you set to support that overall strategy? What actions are necessary and when? Who else needs to be involved? How will you measure success?

What’s important to you?

But before embarking on any of this, it’s important to ensure that what you’re setting out to do is in harmony with your values.

Values are principles, standards or qualities we hold to be important. Those cited frequently include integrity, innovation, and family… however, there are a whole host of possibilities, for example: money, success, freedom and loyalty. There is no point in pursuing a mission or goal that conflicts with your organisational values as, eventually, something will give, so it is very important to spend some time identifying values upfront. For example, if conservation or environmental protection is a priority for your organisation, then pursuing goals that conflict with these will not sit well and is unlikely to be successful.

How to build a strategy – the process

Once you’ve defined your values, you can work your way through the process shown, determining your vision and your mission, as defined above. For example, your vision may be that the expected standard of coffee in Ireland would be the same as that in New Zealand and your mission may be to be recognised as the best local cafe(s) in Ireland. Then, it helps to step back and do some analysis, both of the context and of your organisation. What’s the environment like? What forces are at play? What are the key success factors for the industry? How well do you perform versus your competitors? A gap analysis will highlight the knowledge, skills and resources that will help you get from A to B, but also the constraints within which you may have to operate.

There are some great tools to help analysis and understanding of your organisation, for example, a simple SWOT analysis, Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas, and the ‘Prevailing Logic’ tool.

Next, step back again and take some time to generate some ideas for possible goals and actions that will help you achieve your mission. Again, there are lots of possible approaches, but good old-fashioned brainstorming with a pen and some post-its is still very effective.

It’s now time to define your top level goal – what’s a time-bound, measurable goal you can set yourself in pursuit of your mission? For example, you may decide that you will open your first cafe in Dublin in one year’s time, or that you will have X cafes with a specific profit in 3 years’ time. What’s your strategy to get there – i.e. how are you going to get there? Set yourself five or six smaller strategic objectives – they might be concerned with finance, sourcing of premises, hiring good staff, barista training, roasting training, sourcing of equipment, sourcing of beans – the key is that they, together, will deliver your top level goal and that they are measurable and time-bound.

This is also the time to agree on what you’re NOT going to do. There may well be fantastic ideas generated at the brainstorming phase that have to be parked – the team will have to prioritise and agree what is feasible within agreed resource constraints; what needs to be increased, reduced and eliminated in order to create. No organisation has infinite resources and in order to effectively pursue agreed strategic objectives, it is essential that resources do not get pulled six months down the line to work on someone’s latest hobby horse. Unless, of course, there is an agreed change in strategy.

Action plan

Referring back to the ideas generated during your brainstorming, define the actions necessary to deliver on each of your 5-6 Strategic Objectives.  You can download a template to help you organise the action items under each strategic objective from my website. What’s important is that you have the resources to pursue the actions and that you set yourself targets and milestones. It’s also advisable to decide on a small number of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that measure how well you’re doing on a month-by-month basis. The downloadable template can be used as a live document to track progress and KPIs.

It’s worth spending a bit of time at this stage considering the risks to your plan and working out some contingency plans.


As many have said before me, “…the only sure thing is change,” so there’s nothing surer than the fact that your plan will require adapting at some stage. In fact, being flexible and being able to respond to changing circumstances is a strength, so periodic review of your plan is important, not just to ensure that you are on track but to ensure that what you’re pursuing and what you’re doing are still relevant.

New Frontiers -Business strategy process - Mary Carroll

Maintaining action

The biggest challenge many organisations face is implementation. All too often, they get sucked back into spending all their time on day-to-day operational issues. Dedicating the required resources, accountability and periodic review of the strategic action plan is absolutely critical – otherwise the strategy document will just gather dust on a shelf.

One of the big advantages of determining your mission, setting strategic objectives and detailing an action plan is that all actions should lead back to your mission. Having an action plan allows you to question whether what you’re doing right now is going to bring you closer to your mission. If not, why are you doing it?

About the author

Mary Carroll New Frontiers

Mary Carroll

Mary Carroll is a business strategist and coach with over 25 years’ experience in design engineering, management consulting and business development. She is also an Enterprise Ireland mentor… [Read Mary’s profile]

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New Frontiers Business expansion scaling your startup

Business expansion: scaling your startup

New Frontier s Business expansion scaling your startup

Any small company that has tried to expand will tell you that it’s a tricky business! Expansion – whether it’s increasing the number of staff, adding new product lines or more retail locations – brings an array of potential problems and headaches.

The risks of scaling your business are real, and they are as problematic for young startups as they are for large, established companies. But, in identifying the risks, you can work out solutions, learn from others who have faced the same challenges, and become more confident in forging on with your business expansion plans and strategies.

For my own startup, the Irish Biltong Company, our expansion plans are continually growing as new markets present themselves to us. I’ve found that the key is to identify the correct markets and grow in that direction. Here are my top tips for successfully growing your startup:

Maintain a healthy balance

Some business owners (and I was of this frame of mind for a while) think that business expansion is not going to affect their family life, their health, or their personal finances; and that they can be separated from the ongoing pressures of growing the business. Well, I have found that this is definitely not the case! One major change I have made in recent times is to safeguard myself against poor health by getting regular exercise, eating well and spending quality time (vs. quantity time) with family members. This is as important as anything else.

Prepare the whole team for growth

Business growth and expansion brings pressures to your daily systems, and your current structure and team may not have had the time or experience to get geared up for increased production or services due to a sudden growth in demand for your product. Our team had to increase production rapidly to cope with the influx of new sales over a short period of time. Luckily, we were prepared for this potential growth from the beginning and had production capacity schedules to call on and put into action. The team were motivated to deal with this quick growth and it was all hands on deck!

Keep an eye on cash flow

Cash flow is critical to successful expansion, as new timings of payables and receivables can cause financial strain. When expanding and increasing production, it is really important that the daily cash flow is strictly monitored to insure that your company can maintain its daily out. Cash is king – we’ve all heard this saying and it is more true today than ever before, especially for a small business expanding. A healthy profit may look nice on your financial statements, but if capital expenditures or extending credit terms are draining your cash, you won’t be able to stay in business for long.  Too often, small business owners fail to focus enough on cash flow generation. For small businesses, handling business accounting and taxes may be within the capabilities of the business owners, but professional help is usually a good idea. Getting assistance with managing cash and the bookkeeping can allow you to excel when others are calling it quits.

Think about customer service

When focusing on growth and rushing to meet a rise in demand, customer service can sometimes slip. As a company who prides itself on customer service levels it was crucial that we ensured the continuing level of service to our loyal customers whilst bringing new customers on board. Smartphones, social media, texting, email, Twitter and other communication channels are making it easy for businesses and individuals to get their messages out. Figuring out the right marketing channels is key for businesses to be successful in the future. These channels are equally valuable when it comes to customer service.

We quickly identified that our key customers were avid users of Twitter and Instagram. By running polls and asking for feedback from our followers, we were able to identify what new aspects of our existing products these customers wanted. Identifying what our customers want and doing a better job of giving it to them has made all the difference in our expansion and planning for the future.

Take employees with you

Employees can become uneasy about change. From the beginning of our business, we shared our vision of growth with our employees. We stirred in them the passion for growth and productivity that we needed to push forward and develop our products. We identified and made the need for change well-known throughout the business. We also facilitated ownership of this change by involving employees in the planning and implementation processes. We encouraged them to offer suggestions of solutions to problems that arose from our scaling activities. We gave genuine regard to the concerns of our employees, and we put procedures in place to monitor the effects of change.

There’s no one way to scale a business, but by ensuring you have the right vision and culture in place, backed by strong procedures, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success. Strong leadership is important, but so it taking your team and your customer base along with you. Our business is growing and, as a team, so are we!

About the author

Noreen DoyleIrish Biltong - Noreen Doyle - New Frontiers

Noreen Doyle is a New Frontiers past participant, and the co-founder and CEO of Irish Biltong Co. The company produces an award-winning, 100% Irish, gourmet beef snack that is a favourite of sportspeople and nutrition experts around the country… [Read Noreen’s profile]

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becoming an expert in your field new frontiers advice

Startup PR: increasing awareness and becoming an expert

becoming an expert in your field new frontiers advice

For new businesses, raising brand awareness is the key to building a community of fans and driving sales. A good way to do this is to highlight the expertise of the founder or co-founders with public appearances and authoritative content. 

When I started Mummy Cooks, there was no such thing as a ‘weaning expert’ in Ireland. By virtue of being the first person to start talking about this topic, I became the weaning and feeding expert – initially for Eumom and then for MummyPages. I also became the weaning expert for the Pregnancy & Baby fair; talking at events in Dublin, Belfast and Cork.

In order to promote my fledgling business, I started to work on my PR. I have a friend who helps me write up my press releases, and then I contact the various media contacts myself to see if they’re interested in the story. This personal touch goes a long way. I’ve also found it useful to reach out to mums in the media – I send my products to new mums and they almost always feature me in their magazine or paper.

Getting on television

I’ve also been able to get some appearances on TV, which has been incredibly helpful to the brand. My daughter and I appeared on a few slots on Ireland Am, and then on RTE’s Today. Often, openings like these are down to luck, and being in the right place at the right time. However, it’s also about creating these opportunities and putting yourself out there. In my case, the RTE appearance came about because I was producing online content for the RTE Food website. We were filming a video for this, which the Today show producer saw, and he asked if I would come to Cork to cook on the show.

Being on TV wasn’t something I had ever thought about, or in fact wanted to do, but when it can drive traffic to your website you soon lose the nerves! Becoming an expert in a particular area means that you have to be confident when speaking about the topic. Contact the media and let them know that you are prepared to write about your subject area, or go on TV. Don’t be shy!

Blogging and content partnerships

I started writing blog posts about weaning and feeding young children, and we also started writing recipes. I saw an opportunity to share our content with other online content sites, so we partnered with media providers as a way to grow our brand without a huge marketing spend. I used my network to get an introduction to the content editor of RTE, and because she could see that we were already producing great content, she gave us a weekly slot on their website. They get our content, and in exchange we get links back to the website. We have nurtured similar partnerships with Xposé Parenting, MyDealDoc, SuperValu, MummyPages and GloHealth. We also recently took part in the Tesco Back to School campaign – creating recipes and food hacks for parents.

Increasing awareness of our brand does not lead to instant sales, and it has possibly been a slower road for us than if we had invested in direct marketing. But our hard work is now paying off, as we’ve been able to see with our recent food flask product launch… mums who had previously purchased from us or connected through our recipes have been buying this new product because they trust the brand. Sales since January have been really strong and we are now planning to launch other colours.

Engaging social media content

Social media is another place where you can build your reputation, and once again it’s about producing good quality content that’s helpful and raises awareness of your product. Here too, brand image is important, so on social media we pay attention to our message, language and image. We keep the way we write content consistent across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Each post is friendly and helpful and I always sign it myself. Because I’m a mum of two young children, customers know that I’ve experienced the same issues around weaning and food as they have, and that helps to build trust.

I get emails every day from other mums asking if I can help them. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, so it’s important to seek professional advice from a doctor or dietitian if the problem persists. However, there are tactics and improvements I can share with them that can help. Simple things, like asking someone else to feed the child so that they don’t pick up on mum’s stress, can have a huge impact. Sharing these insights with other mums is an important part of what our brand is about, and it’s a great way to build our community of loyal fans.

Our next step is creating videos to get our message out there and drive product sales. This has been a difficult step, mostly down to cost. We’ve been focusing on growing organically, and we don’t have a large marketing budget to call on. At first, we went for a budget option, but the videos weren’t really in line with our expectations. It’s crucial when you’re building brand reputation in this way that everything fits with the image you are creating, so I’m always thinking about the overall brand experience. We were recommended another video producer, and although this time the cost was higher, we’re really happy with the results. We’ve created a series of recipe videos that back up our core messaging about weaning and show how useful our products are. These will be great for brand awareness, and we can share them with our media partners.

Choose opportunities carefully

Becoming an expert and raising awareness is as much about what you don’t do as anything else. For instance, I was asked to become a brand ambassador for a company that had had some very bad press. While I would have been well paid for it, I knew that there wouldn’t have been any positives for the brand image I had spent a long time building, and luckily I declined. Listen to your gut and if it feels wrong, don’t do it!

Also, be careful not to associate yourself with too many brands. Make sure the companies you partner with are a good fit in terms of their ethos as well as their relevance to what you do. You should also consider whether they want to partner with you because they are thinking about moving into your space in the future – in these cases there’s no point you giving them a boost just so that they can take over your market share!

Obviously, some partnerships come with financial compensation, and some don’t… so when doing any free promotion for other brands, think about how you will be able to build on it for the benefit of your own brand. For instance, I’ve done talks at baby & toddler events, which I’m happy to do for free because I’m able to present my products to an interested audience, and the organisers also promote our business on social media.

It’s all a case of balance. Although I do events for free, it is important to make sure you are getting enough back – for instance, that the audience is large enough and you will get good PR from it. In the past, I wasn’t always as cautious. I agreed to do one event on the basis that there would be lots of people attending and I was likely to make plenty of sales. I interrupted a family holiday to travel to the event, only to find that just four people had turned up.

Becoming an expert in your field is about looking for, and being open to, opportunities to talk about your expert topic and share your experiences. You’ll need to work on your confidence and be prepared to put yourself out there, of course! And the other key element is to consider any channel, and balance any offers you get, to make sure the opportunity is of benefit to your brand.

About the author

Siobhan Berry MummyCooks New Frontiers alumnaSiobhan Berry

Siobhan is a New Frontiers alumna and the founder of Mummy Cooks. Her startup has developed a range of storage solutions to help with weaning, and provides practical and simple feeding advice and recipes for the parents of young children… [Read Siobhan’s profile]

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