Meet Soliman, the founder and CEO of UK tea company Charbrew. Now in its second year, the brand has gone international, appearing on supermarket shelves as far afield as the US. Soliman looks into his tea leaves to tell us what lies in store for the business.
Sum your business up in a sentence
Charbrew is a quality tea brand offering innovative and unique blends to a curious and adventurous younger market.
What's the business model?
Identifying and catering to a modern palate in a traditional market. High standards and quality ingredients with minimal margin.
Who are your competitors?
Teapigs and Twinings are other experimental brands but we have a different edge in that we use real, whole pieces of fruit to give a distinct fresh-tasting flavour.
What's your USP?
Quality and innovation. We are always coming up with new, untried flavours and use only eco-friendly biodegradable mesh tea pyramids and whole ingredients to produce a rich, full taste and aroma.
How have you funded it so far?
I have put a lot of my own money into the business as well as help from the bank: acquiring an overdraft has helped my business to grow.
Where did the idea come from?
Poor prospects after the recession ignited a drive in me to be self-reliant and resourceful. I had a natural interest in trade and as a keen consumer of tea and coffee, I noticed a gap in the market for something different.
What's the smartest thing you've done so far
Single-handedly securing listings in major national and international retail outlets in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and USA.
What's the stupidest?
Throwing money down the drain with a simple miscalculation of stock.
Where are you going to be in 12 months' time?
A widely available and recognisable supermarket shelf brand, synonymous with quality with an innovative, expansive product offering.
Novelty stunts can give a whole new dimension to a press release - but you need to be willing to take a risk. Doing something bizarre takes creative flair, but if it really is something that makes people go 'Wow!', you can get great media coverage.
Relatively new startup Sweemo, a site that allows users to bid for various experiences, did this to great effect by offering users the chance to bid to hit its CEO around the face with a huge salmon. They got extensive media coverage before the event, and then got nice exposure from the video too - around 200,000 views at the time of writing this guide.
Another business was recently featured in the Sun for having a work therapist in for the day who encouraged them all to spend the day naked in the office - earning them coverage in the UK's biggest selling newspaper.
Make sure your stunt is related to your business, and in line with brand values and image.
Thinking up great publicity stunts comes naturally to only a lucky few - don't force it if you don't have any ideas or are shy about an idea, as they usually require a fair amount of bravado (=courage).
You can decide to have a give-away day where you offer free services for the day, or a no pollution day where you use no electrical power, or a 50s-themes day, or something similar that aligns with your business image, if you'd prefer a more toned-down publicity stunt.
Do you have any ideas for a media stunt that your business could use?
If you're doing your own PR, you need to know how to get journalists to take notice of your business.
What journalists are looking for
- First off, you need to understand what makes news news. If you know what makes journalists tick, you'll be a lot closer to giving them a story they can use.
- Needs to involve something unusual, rare or unexpected.
- Must be a very recent occurrence, or there have been a new development. Old news is not news!
- Quotes make a story: make sure someone can give comments or further detail on the story.
- Rags to riches (=poverty to wealth) stories or unexpected changes in life direction are good - an ex-City banker who suddenly decided he wanted to run a Caribbean market food stall recently got a lot of coverage because his change of direction brought a smile to people's faces.
- Any socially-aware or environmental angle to your business is hot news right now - but don't stretch the truth (=lie a little). No one's going to write about you because you've decided to buy an eco-friendly boiler and recycle your paper - it needs to be bigger than that.
- A completely new, highly innovative (=original, new, different) or whacky (=unusual, crazy) product should fare well if it's interesting to the public.
- If you're targeting local press, you need a strong local angle - either that your business is rejuvenating (=renewing) or benefiting the community in some way.
- Awards won at a national level also often warrant stories in local papers.
- Everybody loves the underdog (=the little guy, the one not expected to win). If you can position yourself as a new upstart set to compete with huge, multinational companies, people will warm to you - if you get it right without seeming cocky (=overly confident) or unrealistically hopeful, that is. Think of Richard Branson in his early years.
How can you get your business in the press?
Definition: A public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments
Think of a press release as your ticket to publicity--one that can get your company coverage in publications or on TV and radio stations. Editors and reporters get hundreds of press releases a day, so how can you make yours stand out?
First, be sure you have a reason for sending a press release. A grand opening, a new product or a special event are all good reasons.
Second, make sure your press release is targeted for the publication or broadcast you're sending it to. The editor of Road & Track is not going to be interested in the baby pacifier you invented
To ensure readability, your press release should follow the standard format: typed, double-spaced, on white letterhead with a contact person's name, title, company, address and phone number in the upper right-hand corner. Below this information, put a brief, eye-catching headline in bold type. A dateline--for example, "Los Angeles, California, April 10, 2006"--follows, leading into the first sentence of the release.
Limit your press release to one or two pages at most. It should be just long enough to cover the six basic elements: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Don't embellish (=decorate, exaggerate) or hype (=build up, sell) the information. Remember, you are not writing the article; you are merely providing the information. Pay close attention to grammar and spelling.
If you have the money to invest, you may want to send out a press kit. (See next blog entry!)
Does your company ever send out press releases? For what reason?
Definition: A podcast is a pre-recorded audio program that's posted to a website and is made available for download so people can listen to them on personal computers or mobile devices.
Podcasting takes its name from Apple's popular iPod line of products, but it isn't limited only to iPod owners and listeners. What distinguishes a podcast from other types of audio products on the internet is that a podcaster can solicit (=ask for, request) subscriptions from listeners, so that when new podcasts are released, they can automatically be delivered, or fed, to a subscriber's computer or mobile device. Usually, the podcast features an audio show with new episodes that are fed to your computer either sporadically (sometimes, at irregular intervals) or at planned intervals, such as daily or weekly. Just like the old radio serials of the 1930s and 40s, this format encourages listeners to subscribe (=sign up so you can get every show) so they can find out "what happens next."
As long as you listen to podcasts only on your computer (the vast majority of podcast subscribers do), you don't need any special software other than the audio player, such as a Windows Media Player or RealPlayer, you already have on your computer. But if you want to subscribe to a podcast feed, you'll need to install "podcatcher" software on your computer. The most popular podcatcher software is iTunes.
Do you ever listen to podcasts? For what purpose?
Definition: A comprehensive package of information outlining a company's products and services most frequently sent to members of the press
A press kit--also called a media kit--is a prepared package of information you can send out to anyone looking for more information on your company. Most commonly, it's sent to members of the press.
As you grow, you may come to the attention of local or national media and need a way to quickly and completely communicate key facts about your company. A complete press kit contains the following:
1. A brief company biography. This should be a one- or two-page summary of what you do and what makes you special. It should be a quick reference guide to your organization and include your full company name, address and contact information, mission statement (=a statement defining your business purpose), organizational structure, products and services, locations, number of employees, and relevant financial information.
2. Short biographies of senior management. Each one will include full name, title, education, professional affiliations (=involvement with professional or community groups) and awards, family and community involvement and awards. A paragraph or two per person should be sufficient.
3. A sheet of testimonials with comments from customers. You may also include awards and citations (=certifications).
4. Reprints of newspaper and magazine articles, printouts of Web sites and references to television and radio shows your company has been mentioned in. Articles and media exposure lend tremendous credibility to your company.
5. Photos of products, people, facilities or other important parts of your company. This will help put a face on your company.
6. Something to put it all in. Make it something like a pocket folder with your logo on the cover.
Does your company have a press kit? What’s in it? When is it used?
1. Know the customer or decision maker for your product. For example, if you are a developer of Hawaiian time share condominiums, it would probably be better to avoid soliciting people that already live in Hawaii.
2. Every direct communication should include an offer or incentive for the customer to buy your product/service, such as a discount or a free gift.
3. Be clear. What is your product? What are its benefits? Why does your audience need it? Where does the reader sign up, and by when? If your readers are confused, they will not buy. Use short sentences, bullet points, and headlines.
4. Using different type styles such as bold, underline and ALL CAPITAL letters can be used to draw your reader's eye to key messages. Consider highlighting your offer, call to action, and response date.
5. Call to Action. The bottom line with any direct mail piece is to get your reader to take action. Tell them what you want them to do, and don’t be shy about repeating it.
6. Multi-Wave Mailings. Send various emails approximately 1-4 weeks apart to make people see and comprehend them.
7. Creating Tracking Measures. Use promotion codes and/or coupons can help you determine to what extent your efforts were successful. Ask your customer to mention the coupon or read a promotion code when they take advantage of your offer.
10. When setting a budget, consider the following types of expenses: Mailing list, paper, printing, postage, (void if you’re using email, of course) cost of the offer, lettershop expenses such as merge/purge and mail sort, and any advertising agency or graphic artist fees.
11. The financial success for a campaign can be measured in many ways. Cost per new accounts (CPA) and return on investment (ROI) are two examples. To calculate a CPA, take your total program expenses and divide by the number of new accounts acquired. A simple ROI equation takes the total program expense minus the additional money generated as a direct result of the campaign.
Does your company ever use direct mail campaigns? Do you think they’re an effective way of advertising?
Definition: The search for potential customers or buyers
When it comes to drumming up (=finding, creating) new business, like anyone involved in sales, your first big challenge will be to reach the right individuals. To successfully find new prospects for your products and services, you'll need a hard-working prospecting program that reaches out to qualified prospects and moves them through the sales cycle from cold to warm to hot. Your program must incorporate a range of marketing tactics that, over time, bring prospects incrementally (=a bit at a time) closer to a decision to hire you.
Cold prospects are customers or organizations you've identified as well-qualified but that have little or no awareness of your company. They can be reached through advertising, public relations, cold calling (=calling without being solicited) and networking. Begin a campaign of magazine advertising to showcase your unique selling proposition, and set up an ongoing public relations program that targets the same publications. Also create a prospect list of qualified individuals or organizations, and support your marketing efforts with cold calling. To round out your efforts to reach cold prospects, begin networking within select groups where you're most likely to come into contact with members of your target audience (=the people or organizations you want to sell to).
Once you've begun calling on top prospects and leads from your advertising and PR programs start to roll in, you'll need to set up a database using contact management software. This will help you consistently maintain ongoing contact with warm prospects-companies and individuals with whom you've previously spoken or met. Initiate a direct-mail campaign (=emails to a list of your prospects) to make frequent contact with your database. And support the campaign with sales activities, including follow-up phone calls as well as meetings with prospects generated by your direct mail, advertising and public relations.
Hot prospects are the ones you've successfully moved through the first two stages of your sales cycle. When your marketing program has brought them to this point, you'll need to get personally involved to supply the "heat" to close sales.
What do you think are the best ways to move cold prospects to warm, and warm to hot?
What's in a name? If you're in business, the name of your company is probably one of your most valuable assets. An effective name is one that establishes a strong identity and describes the type of business you're conducting. It's the first impression the public will have of your growing company. Today, coming up with a good business name is more difficult than ever because many of the best names have already been trademarked, but it’s crucial to creating a memorable business image. The name you choose can make or break (=mean the success or failure of) your business!
Start by deciding what you want your name to communicate. To be most effective, your company name should reinforce the key elements of your business.
The more your name communicates to consumers, the less effort you must exert to explain it. Specific names make sense if you intend to stay in a narrow niche (=creating the same products in the same place) forever. However, if you have any ambitions (=plans, goals) of growing or expanding, you should find a name that's broad enough to accommodate your growth.
Descriptive names tell something concrete (=solid, real, tangible) about a business--what it does, where it's located and so on. Suggestive names are more abstract (=intangible, conceptual), and they focus on what the business is about. Would you like to convey quality? Convenience? Novelty?
- Choose a name that appeals not only to you, but also to the kind of customers you're trying to attract.
- To get customers to respond to your business on an emotional level, choose a comforting or familiar name that conjures up pleasant memories.
- Don't pick a name that's long or confusing.
- Stay away from cute puns that only you understand.
- Don't use the word "Inc." after your name unless your company is actually incorporated.
- Don't use the word "Enterprises" after your name; this term is often used by amateurs.
What do you think are some good business names? What else do you think is important when choosing a business name?
By attending business meetings, participants get a chance to learn new information and interact with peers and leaders in their field.
Create a great agenda.
The agenda should be focused on a single theme and not overwhelm (=be too much for) attendees.
Be sensitive to the calendar and clock.
Despite the best agenda, event attendees have preferences as to when they want to attend such programs and when they cannot.
- Attendees prefer morning schedules for seminars.
- Attendees prefer appreciation events immediately after work.
- Tuesdays and Thursdays are popular meeting days.
- Avoid holding meetings on Fridays if possible.
- Avoid scheduling meetings on holidays and the eve of holidays.
- Be sensitive to attendee travel requirements for the event.
Start on time and finish on time!
Identify a unique and convenient location.
Select a venue (=location for the meeting) that is easy to get to, and where attendees will enjoy themselves.
Compile an appropriate guest list.
Successful meetings have a specific topic and target audience for that message. Don’t open the meeting to the masses – invite those who will benefit from and enjoy the event.
Invite, invite, invite.
One of the keys to achieving attendance to your meeting is by inviting people early, and continue reminding them about the event even if they have confirmed attendance. Call every guest on the phone to extend a personal invitation.
Establish a reputation for delivering excellent programs.
Everyone has attended good conferences and bad conferences, and the same holds true for seminars and other appreciation events. If people like the last even they attended, they’re more likely to attend the next.
Send follow up communications and thank attendees.
Because people attend meetings to gather new information, many attendees appreciate receiving additional handouts and materials that may have been referenced by presenters and other folks within your organization. It is an excellent opportunity to share that information with follow thank you messages to those who attended the event.
Golf - With about 27 million golfers in the U.S. alone, golf outings are among the most popular corporate events each year. You can have your own golf outing, or take in a PGA Tour.
Concerts and Performing Arts - In many cities around the world there's an outdoor concert series "in the park" with high quality pop, folk, blues, jazz, opera, orchestra and world music. They include seating, private tents, and options for private catered dining.
Cruises and Sailing - If you are located near water - an ocean, lake or river - chartering a private yacht or boat during the day or evening offers incredible relaxation and views. Hire a captain with a great personality, and a docent (=teacher, lecturer) to serve as guide and storyteller
Motor Speedway - NASCAR is known for having the most loyal fans. Motor speedways offer private entertainment for business events that includes suites, meeting facilities and catering options that really enhance the track experience.
In addition to taking your group to the most popular events and venues in town, there are countless other options to consider for planning a unique event, such as a private reception with exotic dining, music, and dance performances as a signature event at any of the following:
- Restaurant patio
- Art gallery and garden
- Museum or zoo
- Horse barn
- Botanic garden
Or, consider taking your group for a day to one of these planned group events:
- Team building retreat in the woods
- Fishing retreat
- Horseback riding
- Walking city tours
- Hiking and biking
- Off-road and jeep tour
What other ideas can you think of for corporate events? Which of these do you think are the most appropriate and/or innovative?
As you think about your new business, you must create a way to make your business stand out in the minds of potential customers/clients. And you must describe your products or services to make people want to come in and buy. You must create a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
The most important thing to remember about a USP is "benefits, not features." Focus on benefits to your potential customers, not the great features you think are really cool. The technical aspects of your products are great, but your customers are more concerned with whether the product or service is what they need or want.
For example, if you are selling shoes, don't describe the way they were made, talk about how they will make the customer feel sexy, or comfortable. Focus on:
- How the product/service will solve a problem
- How this will change the person
- How the product/service will improve the person's life
Some unique propositions that were pioneers (=the first) when they were introduced:
- Domino's Pizza: "You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less -- or it's free."
- FedEx: "When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight"
- M&M's: "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand"
- Wonder Bread: "Wonder Bread Helps Build Strong Bodies 12 Ways"
Creating a USP is one of the most difficult parts of a business plan, but one of the most important. You will need to keep working on getting it right, so you know how to market your products or services.
Does your business have an USP? What is it? If not, what could it be?
Work your social media and networking platforms (your blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) by posting information about your product or service and asking questions about your audience's needs. This gets the conversation going and creates more exposure for your business. The point is to keep your business on the minds of potential customers worldwide.
Transport your products
Your next step is to focus on logistics — transporting the product to where you will be selling it. By now, you have located customers who love your product, solidified (=finalized) the terms of the sale with them and established a means for getting paid. Now you must move it.
Hire a global freight forwarder who serves as an all-round transport agent for moving cargo (=any goods to be moved), typically from a factory door to another warehouse. Their service saves you a lot of time, effort and anxiety for a very reasonable fee. They take care of all shipping arrangements, which includes handling documentation, arranging insurance, and determining necessary licenses, permits, quotas, tariffs and restrictions (=country regulations), which can be one of the most complicated aspects of importing/exporting for a newbie international trader.
Provide great global customer service!
Speaks for itself. The relationship between you and your overseas customer shouldn't end when a sale is made. If anything, it requires more of your attention.
Have you ever considered starting an import/export business? What ideas do you think would be successful?
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