8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis – 5. Leverage Social Networks

As we move into week 10 since the ‘lockdown’ restrictions were implemented, many business owners are still trying to figure out a way of working to ensure their business keeps running.

As I’ve outlined in my last few blogs, I’ve seen some great ways that businesses have re-invented themselves.

But for some businesses it’s not been an easy task, hence the reason for these blogs.

How Will You Re-Invent Your Business?

This article is number 5 in a series that I will be writing over the coming weeks to suggest different ways of re-inventing your business if Covid-19 is forcing you to have a rethink. In each article I will refer to businesses I personally know plus I will refer to the ultimate outcome of a business re-invention: a successful sale of the business.

I have also done some re-inventing in my business. Switching my peer group from a monthly half day meeting with breakfast butties to bi-weekly 2 hour virtual meetings supplemented by a tea, coffee and biscuit gift pack sent in the post! I have also set up a Free Virtual Peer group to support business owners for the period during lockdown. Check it out for a taster session.

The story of those business sales will be told by John Warrillow, the founder of the Value Builder system, through his podcast series, Built to Sell Radio. John has consolidated 8 of his ‘re-inventing’ podcasts into an eBook, 8 Ways To Re-Invent Yourself In A Crisis, available to download here.

So, what is the fifth way of re-inventing yourself?

This re-invention is something many of you probably do in a form already and have escalated in the few months of lockdown. Exploiting social media and social support to promote your product or services. But does it work for you?

I am a regular user of Linkedin (to grow and develop business relationships) and an occasional user of Facebook (mostly friend connections). I’m no social media guru. Since lockdown has kept us at home I have noticed a few things:

  • We are looking back at past times and sharing stories – you will have seen the social media posts about favourite music albums, books. Or simply sharing pictures from old events like holidays or gigs. Story-telling and reminiscing;
  • On the business side I have seen a lot of webinar invitations from a whole load of new experts. The cynic in me assumes many of these invites are trying to get me to buy something, do a course or subscribe to an advisory newsletter;
  • Still from a business point of view I have seen genuine offers of help and support going out on Linkedin and Facebook. Obviously, there is no expert advice on businesses dealing with this Covid-19 situation. I sense business owners want to hear what others are doing and share what is working, what decisions they made and how they see things in the short term at least. The common attitudes I have sensed have been openness, willingness to tell stories and looking to help.

The challenge for many small businesses in this lockdown / semi lockdown world is how to use social media to continue to promote and operate their business.

So the fifth way to re-invent yourself is…

Leverage social networks – get your content and connections online

That’s Nothing New…

‘Doing that’, I hear you say. ‘Been at it for years’. Fair enough, some of you will have built your business on the back of social media. In fact, some businesses are all about social media – training, marketing or being a social media ambassador, vlogger, etc.

But most SME business owners like you and me, aren’t like that. We talk to people, customers, go networking sometimes, have on and off periods of social media blogging but mainly get on with the job. We probably feel there could be more we should do but what? Read about Griffin Thall and you will pick up a few tips.

Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman, two Southern California friends traveling through Costa Rica on a post-college graduation trip in 2010, crossed paths with two bracelet artisans, Jorge and Joaquin, who were living in poverty.  Jorge and Joaquin made beautiful, colourful handmade bracelets that seemed to capture the essence of their journey.  Thall and Goodman asked the artisans to make 400 bracelets to take home with them.

Upon returning to San Diego, the partners got to work selling their bracelets. They built a simple website and took orders online. They promoted their lifestyle brand on social media and got well known influencers to wear their bracelets.

Over the next nine years, the partners-built Pura Vida into a $68 million company with supply continuing to come from Jorge and Joaquin who now employ more than 1,000 people. The amazing growth of Pura Vida culminated in a sale process which attracted 25 bidders in 2019. The two owners sold 75% of the business for $75 million in cash plus $22.5 million earn out – that’s about 9 times EBITDA!

What did they do with social media?

  • Firstly, they got a basic website up and a Facebook page;
  • Then, they gave away free bracelets to generate awareness and advocates of the products – lots of freebies. All the time telling the story of the artisans in Costa Rica;
  • They targeted their ideal customer – young student-types who would connect to the story of the business and were easily encouraged to share the story and the products on Facebook;
  • Over time, organic growth on Facebook declined and the guys had to be more creative with their marketing – transitioning to paid advertising on Facebook. Using influencers to take part in creative imagery on Facebook ads. Of course, sales grew from around the world;
  • When Facebook bought Instagram, the guys continued to create great images and posts that their followers shared and promoted. They story of the brand always took a prominent role in advertising.
  • Over time, the business grew its base of brand ambassadors, some of whom got paid for their work. Those ambassadors helped increase Pura Vida’s following.
  • Pura Vida created a novel subscription programme which offered loyal customers a new selection of bracelets and other goodies each month. At the time of the acquisition, Pura Vida had more than 15% of its revenue coming from recurring revenue.

The Raceskin Way

One business that is much smaller and closer to home for me is Raceskin, owned by Colin McNeill and his wife Jill Evans. Raceskin design and supply triathlon kit for triathlon clubs plus sell their own branded kit to individuals. So, it could be a Tri suit (Raceskin won Tri suit brand of the year 2018 in 220 magazine) or a wetsuit or a running vest. Colin is a mad keen triathlete himself – training and competing around Europe. He lives, breathes and sweats the brand. He knows everything there is to know about Tri kit and how it can make you faster in the water, on your bike or on your feet.

Colin’s customers are Tri clubs and individuals, effectively B2C so one part of his marketing strategy is similar to Pura Vida:

  • Colin attends Tri events to compete and promote his kit He’ll have a stand to let people see the kit. In fact, visitors to an outdoor swim site can hire his specialist Tri wetsuits and then buy one to take home;
  • Raceskin regularly shares posts and images from Tri events and races. Last year Colin shared a video of one of the brand ambassadors getting out of their Raceskin wetsuit in just a few seconds – every second counts in tri races!
  • He uses brand ambassadors, usually up and coming elite triathletes, to wear his kit and share their social media when training and competing in Raceskin kit. Some of the more influential ambassadors get kit for free. Equally the clubs share social posts when they are attending races.

Raceskin has been growing the number of Tri clubs it supplies. The Covid-19 has put growth on hold for the moment but Colin and Jill have stepped up to the challenge: designing and selling rainbow-design Tri kit to ‘Love the NHS’. For each item sold Raceskin contributes the profit to the NHS charities. Colin and Jill have also designed face masks with that Raceskin panache for design. This latter initiative is really personal to Colin and Jill – their eldest son, Noah, who is 9, has a very rare and severe lung condition. He lives with a tracheostomy and uses a ventilator to help him breathe, especially at night.

That’s when a brand is personal and passionate. Keep going Colin and Jill!

Griffin Thall was interviewed by John Warrillow, author of Built to Sell: Creating a business that can thrive without you. John is also the host of Built to Sell Radio, a regular podcast revealing the stories and advice of business owners who have sold their businesses. Listen to the full interview with John.

In my next article I will be introducing Aater Suleman who became an Amazon Web Services (AWS) specialist and grew it to the point where his business was bought out by a Fortune 500 giant.

In the meantime if you want to see what our peer group is all about register here.

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