How do you decide on your PR approach?

Light bulbDid you read ‘People buy from people’ by Wendy Shand? The article was full of great tips from Wendy’s experience with promoting TotstoTravel. Sarah Sadler is the Managing Director of Boxhouse Publishing, and founder of the Organised Mum range of clever calendars and home stationery. She has very different views on good business promotion, and here she shares what’s worked for her.

I have absolutely no interest on spending my time getting my face printed on the back side of a bus or anywhere else for that matter.  I’ve never entered a business award, been invited to the palace or to Downing Street.  I don’t do business networking and haven’t joined the chamber of commerce.  Being in a magazine where the focus is on me rather than on my products is of no interest to me.

I’m not saying I’ve not tried it because I have.  I found myself (and the children) in some chat / women’s weekly magazine and it was not an exercise that I wish to repeat. As well as being embarrassing it didn’t sell many products and that to me is the crux of the matter.  If it had led to me selling many thousands of calendars or dairies I would grudgingly accept my new role as a business pin up.  Over the years lots of people have tried to persuade me but it didn’t stack up financially because my time has a price attached to it and there was not a good enough return.

My core business strategy is to put money at the forefront of all business decisions.  If I’m not going to make any profit selling my products to someone I won’t do it.  Similarly if I don’t think that something I’m spending my time doing will increase or improve my business financially I won’t do it either. The business doesn’t exist as a vehicle to raise my self-confidence, make me admired / envied by others or any other “self” activities.  I’m there to turn a profit and feed my children.

Wendy Shand believes that people buy from people, even on the internet.  She might be right and they always say that the About Us page on a website is the second most visited page.  But our success has been driven by being product led.  Interesting products, new features, new designs keeping things fresh new and interesting without pricing them too highly.  Focusing on the points of difference between us and standard products, listening to ideas and trying to incorporate them into new products, and making sure they’re seen by as many people as possible.

This promote yourself idea has several other downsides too – it can ostracise people who decide you’re not like them – Johnnie Boden’s a great example.  Plus people want to deal with only you – Lynne Franks named her business after herself and built it around herself but people felt snubbed if they didn’t deal directly with her.  Plus there’s the problem of selling a business that has been shaped around you – no one is going to feel that they’re able to sustain the business without its key feature – look at Money Saving Expert – Martin Lewis has sold it for incredible amounts of money but how much less would he have sold it for had he not agreed to stick around for several years.

The business is now approaching its 10th year, it’s growing every year we’re expanding into new markets and getting new contracts whilst all the time ensuring that customers still feel that we provide great customer service and great products at a fair price.  I also like to ensure that it’s a happy and interesting place to work for both myself, my husband and staff.

I once met a chap who agreed with me on my thinking about profit first but the difference was that he stripped all the joy out of his business and had no love for the products he was selling or felt positive about making customers happy.  Please don’t think that I am advocating that style of business ownership.  I believe that a joy for your business makes a business succeed and once you’ve lost it you ought to give up.  But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make a profit or indeed feel embarrassed about it.

I think my advice would be to trust your instinct.  If it doesn’t seem the right thing for you don’t do it.  It hasn’t affected my business so if you don’t want to put your face on the packaging, don’t feel you absolutely have to!

Sarah Sadler is the Managing Director of Boxhouse Publishing Ltd., Home of the Organised Mum, Made by Me and All in a Row ranges

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