Smooth and supple strategies

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, probiotic skincare brand AMPERNA® has not only survived, but thrived.

Kiri Yanchenko founded skincare brand AMPERNA® five years ago. We talked to Kiri about her strategies behind marketing the brand in the enterprise’s different phases. Firstly, getting the initial message out as a start-up. Then, refining and expanding the marketing as the business matures and heads into a growth trajectory. And finally – and most pertinently in the current climate – keeping existing customers on board and looking for new ones during an economic downturn of the sort we are experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic.

ISB: Please tell us briefly about your motivation for founding AMPERNA®, and what the business does.

KY: AMPERNA® is an active probiotic skincare brand, our products are manufactured in Australia. The range is for everybody, even people with the most sensitive skin as I have sensitive skin myself.

I have been through a challenging time with pustular acne and perioral dermatitis in the past; I now have more healthy skin due to a combination of diet, mindfulness and exercise and changes to my skincare regime. My belief in holistic skin health started when I was trying to heal after being extremely ill; I used an anti-inflammatory diet to help me get better as well as taking zinc and probiotic supplements. Trying to help my own skin led to the discovery of topical probiotics and I decided to start the brand to help others.

“I had a fair idea about how I would market AMPERNA® as I had done industry research, and I found a gap in the market.”

ISB: How did you go about getting the message out about the business when it was in its start-up phase?

KY: Before we launched, I had a solid business plan and brand strategy already. I had a fair idea about how I would market AMPERNA® as I had done industry research, and I found a gap in the market and found our USP – a very niche target audience. I did a lot of work on target personas.

At launch we hired a PR agency for six months, to get us media coverage. We sold (and still sell) directly on Instagram and Facebook; however, we also sold indirectly through DM and linking to our website as well.

The main tactics we used, and still use, on social media are: video posts and video stories that are educational/share our news or relevant info; great content that fits our five themes (created in our strategy sessions) that has thoughtful messages or responds to customers’ and followers’ interests/interactions; healthy recipes or DIY tips; giveaways with like-minded businesses; sharing our news/events; and keeping up a constant dialogue with our followers.

ISB: And how has your marketing strategy evolved as the business has become established and grown?

KY: As we’ve grown, we’ve moved more of the marketing back in-house. When we first launched, we had hired a PR agency to perform our marketing function for us, but as we grew we became more familiar with our business and marketing personas so we determined it much more effective performing these functions ourselves. We have run Google Ads from the start but as our revenue grew, we had more money to spend on online advertising so had video ads produced and focused on Facebook ads as well. This has seen some really strong returns for us.

ISB: I understand you have just added three new products to your range: firstly, why did you make the decision to expand your offering at a time when so many businesses are struggling with the pandemic?

KY: COVID has actually had the opposite effect on us and has helped grow our business. As the majority of our sales are direct to consumers from our online store, and with the massive shift of everyone purchasing online due to lockdowns, it has really helped grow our business. We had always planned on expanding the range; however, the increased sales meant we had the capital to perform this much sooner that we’d planned.

A lot more people are also experiencing skin concerns due to increased stress brought on by the situation. Plus, with increased mask wearing and mandatory mask wearing in some places, I have seen an increase in skin issues. We’ve had an increase in sales because of this and we have also had an increase in Telehealth Holistic Skin Coaching bookings.

ISB: And how has COVID impacted the way you have gone about marketing the new products?

KY: We have increased Adwords advertising, started increasing our Facebook advertising and changed the wording on a few pages to really talk to the current situation. For this everything has to be linked to Google analytics and we always keep a close eye on keyword trends. For example, telehealth services started to trend as everyone was staying home, so we changed our Holistic Skin Coaching service to be a Telehealth Holistic Skin Coaching service. We changed the text in our advertising to reflect this, too. Our Facebook ads campaign became focused on retargeting to remind people to finish their website purchases. So far this has all been working for us.

This story first appeared in issue 30 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine