When running your own business, it can be more than a little difficult to put on the hat of being your own publicist. Who wants to toot their own horn? And PR has such a bad reputation of overselling and exaggerating, that many makers shy away from it. This is something entrepreneur Andreea Ayers is on a mission to fix. She's been giving lots of great advice to small businesses for years about how going about publicity in the right way really helped her business. We were lucky enough to have her share her thoughts with us!
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and your business.
A: I have been an entrepreneur for a long time and I became a full time entrepreneur in 2007 when I was pregnant with my first son. I launched an inspirational eco-friendly t-shirt line and over the course of four years I was able to get my t-shirts into over 300 stores and more than 200 media outlets. Other aspiring t-shirt entrepreneurs reached out to me asking me how I was able to grow my brand so quickly and at first I offered them free advice, but then they they started asking me if I could coach them privately and work with them one-on-one, which is when LaunchGrowJoy.com was born. I ended up selling my t-shirt business in 2011 so I can focus on coaching and consulting and I started working with entrepreneurs who had all types of products: fashion, jewelry, apparel, food, greeting cards, eco products, handmade products, bath & beauty products, baby & kids products and more. My main goal is to help entrepreneurs with a product line how to get their products in the media, in stores and how to run a successful ecommerce store.
Q: You are a serial entrepreneur who has started up a number of different businesses. What's been the secret to success across all of them?
A: I think the secret is that I acted quickly even though I didn't feel fully ready. So much of it when I first started was "learn as you go" and I didn't wait for everything to be perfect or to have it all figure out before I started. I also think that taking action and not waiting for stores or the media, for example, to reach out to me. Instead, I personally reached out to them myself and put my company and products out there. It was uncomfortable and scary at first because what if someone said NO - and there were a lot of NO's! But the secret was to keep going and keep following up because a NO is often a "not right now" - it doesn't mean "never." Too many entrepreneurs give up when they don't hear back or when they hear a NO, but you just have to not take things personally and keep going.
Q: You recently made decision to discontinue a new soap venture. I'm sure it was hard to halt something you were so passionate about. Can you talk about that business decision?
A: Yes, you can read all about it here http://www.launchgrowjoy.com/why-i-am-closing-my-business There were a few reasons, but the main one is that I was running two businesses at the same time and wanted to feel more focused, so I decided to close one of them. Having a soap business has been a dream of mine for a long time, so it was definitely a tough decision, but I didn't feel like I was able to give my soap business the attention it needed to really succeed.
Q: You credit publicity for a lot of your success. How has it helped?
A: Publicity is great because it's basically a free form of advertising and marketing. Having your products featured in magazines, on TV, on influential blogs and on celebrities, not only helps to increase brand awareness, but it also helps to drive more traffic to your online store, increase your sales, grow your social media presence and really get your product in front of your idea target customer. Most of the months that my products were featured in the media saw a lot more sales (sometimes double or even triple) the times when I didn't get any press mentions. I am glad I realized early on that it's possible to get your products in the media no matter how big or small your company is.
Q: Why should makers care about publicity?
A: Because publicity is a great way to build credibility and credibility is what leads to sales. Oftentimes influential bloggers and editors are basically vouching for your products and brand when they write about them and people love to buy things that their favorite magazine or blog recommends. There is a misconception that publicity is for big brands with big budgets or companies who are "in the know," but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The media love to discover new products, so if your brand is a good fit for their readers and their readers can buy your products online or in stores, then they will write about it. Makers shouldn't feel that they are "too small" to approach national publications or bloggers with a huge following. Everyone has to start somewhere and as long as you have a great product, a great story and great photos and branding, you can get publicity!
Q: You recently started (another business!) Get Media Happy. Can you explain what it's all about and how it can help makers?
A: Get Media Happy is all about saving makers and entrepreneurs time and money! I saw that from my own businesses publicity was what really helped me to succeed, but it took a lot of time and resources to make it happen. There's a lot of research that goes behind a pitch. After 5 years of getting over 300 media mentions (for my t-shirts and soaps), I discovered a formula that works and it's quite simple - find what stories magazines and bloggers are working on and who is working on that story and pitch your products/brand if they are a good fit. Before Get Media Happy, a maker had to get a hold of editorial calendars and spend hours researching contact information and deadline, but Get Media Happy makes it all happen - all you have to do is get access to our members area and search our editorial opportunities database and you'll get all the info you need: who is working on a story, what they are looking for and when their deadline is, so all you have to do is reach out to them via email to pitch your story. Get Media Happy takes a one hour process and turns it into a 3-5 minute one.
Q: What's the one thing makers should remember when approaching the press?
A: Makers should remember that the secret is in following up - the press might not respond the first time you reach out to them, but if you follow up with a gentle nudge or reminder, you're more likely to get a response. Also, press is not a one-time thing - it should be an ongoing strategy and the more you reach out to the media the more likely you are to get featured. Don't give up because publicity can happen with a little practice and some patience!