This week’s ISB Q&A has a specific focus on marketing for start-ups. Julia Simmonds, a qualified pharmacist, founded Itchy Baby Co in 2015 and, thanks to a sustained and carefully-planned marketing strategy, has since helped over 35,000 Australians with eczema. Julia was voted in the top 20 in this year’s Top People in eCommerce in Australia awards.
ISB: What was the driving force behind the founding of Itchy Baby Co?
JS: A few years ago was a deeply challenging period in my life when I was battling practically and emotionally with my baby boy’s severe eczema. Feeling drained and exhausted after an eczema flare up which resulted in a hospital admission and a huge amount of guilt for not being able to help my baby boy, I set out to leverage my knowledge and education as a pharmacist to develop a natural skincare routine to help my son.
ISB: How did you first market the business?
JS: Itchy baby co. was first introduced into the market through Facebook. Having set up a Facebook page we began to try a few different ads which had limited success but enough exposure to reach some customers. The business started to gain traction when one of our first customers posted a testimonial on our page and we then boosted this post. From there our social credibility and consumer confidence in what we were offering grew. As it started from such personal circumstances I wanted to embed not only my story, but that of everyone with skin conditions, into the heart of our business, developing relationships with our community based on the common ground of living through challenging circumstances.
ISB: And did you have a specific marketing budget when you first started?
JS: We started with a general rule that our marketing spend would be 10 per cent of our revenue. This was enough to get us into the market and start growing. We could have spent more at the time for more rapid growth, but didn’t want to stretch ourselves too far too early as our processes and operations were still being constantly worked on and improved.
ISB: Which tools worked for you in terms of that initial marketing push?
JS: We kept it so simple. From the beginning we have used WordPress for our website content, Mailchimp for customer communication, Hootsuite for our socials, and Google analytics to understand where our customers were coming from and how we could better their experience with us.
ISB: How has your marketing changed as the business has grown?
JS: The number of channels we market through has increased, we now spend across four eCommerce channels. The type of marketing we are using is also much more targeted now that we can use three years’ experience of communication with our customers. We are also quicker to change and adapt our marketing if we aren’t getting a good initial response and new versions or strategies are rapidly implemented and results monitored.
ISB: And finally, what are your top marketing tips for start-ups and SMEs?
JS: If a marketing channel is working for you prioritise it. I’m not saying ignore all other channels, but at this point in time your customers are responding well to that channel, invest more into it and see what happens. Our business got off the ground with Facebook, and prioritising this channel because it was working for us served as well to grow our community and attain social credibility and brand awareness. If a channel is working well it is usually because at this moment, that’s where your customers are and how they like being engaged with – so make use of it while the opportunity is there.
Marketing is very two-way relationship between you and your potential and existing customers. Finding ways to listen to what is being said about your business is so much easier today with social media, get amongst it. Start-ups and SMEs we have such a great advantage of being able to adapt and work with consumers to do things differently.