Yo, start-ups! Want customers?

The secrets of customer attraction and retention from entrepreneur and start-up guru, James Rix.

One of my favourite things about my job is the number of start-ups I get to be involved with. I often encourage the people behind these companies to come in and sit down with my team and I to talk us through the user journey, how they see their product or service sitting in the industry and how experiential marketing can help them achieve their goals.

It often becomes clear very early on that the way they think their target audience will react to face-to-face marketing and the way the audience actually react are very different. It’s a good job, then, that we are on hand to help our lovely start-up clients grow into medium sized companies – or in the case of the odd one or two, monsters.

There are certain rules of thumb I tell every start-up wanting to acquire new customers:

Get involved with the brand ambassadors

Want to know how I spot successful early stage start-ups versus the failures? I look at how they treat the brand ambassadors we will be putting out on the street on their behalf.

We offer start-up CEOs or founders the chance to come in and train the staff we’re going to deploy for them about their new product or service. This isn’t a profit making exercise for us – we do it at cost. The more our staff know about the start-up, the more they are exposed to the CEO or founder’s passion and belief in their new baby, the more likely they are to understand their mission and be able to pass this on to new potential customers and clients.

The truth is, the CEOs who put real effort into training our staff, who are going to function as their outreach teams, get better results from experiential marketing and, I truly believe, are more likely to succeed in building a business.

And that’s good for us, too; the more likely your start-up is to grow, the more we grow with your company.

The only thing that’s cheap is a budget

Cheap fliers, cheap t-shirts, cheap vouchers, cheap cheap cheap… Cheap is NOT key, no matter how much volume it may appear to drive. Picking the right target market in the right location then presenting your brand in the right image… that’s key. That’s real value.

The smallest changes can make the biggest difference, which is why we are always on hand to help our clients improve their campaigns. Small vouchers can double the results of flyering campaigns; outreach follow up being done the same day will hugely improve conversions; and staff looking appropriate, with the right clothing for the conditions, will mean the whole campaign comes across as a great experience.

If the price seems too good to be true, then it most certainly is.

Model and staffing agencies have not been allowed to pay models on a freelance basis to do promo work since HMRC changed its guidelines regarding promo work under the Supervision, Direction and control orders a while back. That means they have to include tax, NI, holiday and pension.

If you’re being charged £7, £8 or £9 an hour for staff, it might sound like a good idea; but it means someone somewhere is breaking the rules and possibly the law. That could mean fines or worse – and if the agency decides to fold rather than pay the bill, then HMRC will come after the client.

Promo staff need to be paid correctly and above board via a payroll service like ePayMe or via your in-house account team and not via self-employed – even if they have a UTR number.

I’m going home, it’s snowing…

It’s imperative to make sure you progress things in the right order and cover all the right bases. As we approach winter, it’s really important to be prepared for the weather.

Agencies won’t cancel campaigns you’ve booked and let staff down (or at least they shouldn’t) if it suddenly snows. While you cannot be prepared for Hurricane Trump, you can at least make sure you have a wet weather plan and that you print up some branded umbrellas or ponchos for your street ambassadors, which you can always use in the future even if you don’t need them for that campaign.

The first campaign is NEVER the best….

As with all things in life, the first campaign is unlikely to deliver the best results. There are always things and ways of improving, so long as you have thought about what success looks like and built in ways to measure what you achieve.

If you’re running ongoing regular work, like our bigger clients Deliveroo, Hello Fresh or Hassle, then make sure you take time out to measure the results and work with your agency to improve how you do each campaign.

Set up flyers and voucher codes, data capture or sampling campaigns with a clear way to measure results. Then measure them, work out what worked and what didn’t and if possible why and finally look to implement positive changes and do it all again.

One of the best things to do is run a post campaign de-brief with the street staff. I’m always surprised at some of the valuable information that comes from these debriefs by clients. After all, it’s the brand ambassadors who have just spent hours selling your business to thousands of people!

James Rix is the managing director and founder of StreetPR, which provides temporary brand ambassador staff for businesses like Deliveroo, Hello Fresh, Hassle.com, Zipcar and Gousto.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.