Beco Pets Founder Offers 7 Lessons to Scale A Business Up Globally
Pet brand giant, BecoPets, has recently expanded to the US having achieved huge success becoming Great Britain’s biggest manufacturer of eco-friendy pet products. Beautiful bamboo food bowls, recycled plastic soft toys, degradable poop bags were high quality, innovative products that shook up an industry that hadn’t fully noticed that shoppers were willing to spend big on their pets.
With their US market already their fastest growing channel,we got the inside scoop from BecoPets co-Founder and Sales Director, George Bramble, to learn the marketing and sales tactics that helped them scale with success. He graciously shares 7 lessons about building a robust business including the approach they took to find new retailers, why sending samples can build critical relationships and the value of treating social media as a two way conversation.
Lesson #1: Place confidence in your insights about the audience
GB: Beco Pets was founded in 2009 by myself and my business partner Toby Massey. I studied geography and environmental sciences at university and Toby studied design with a focus on sustainable design. We were both brought up with pets and we saw that in the middle of a recession there was a great opportunity to create eco-friendly pet products that are accessible to all pet owners – products that were better for your pet and better for the environment at accessible prices. We were also confident that, despite launching the company in a recession, people would always spend money on their pets, and this bet paid off.
Lesson #2: The hardest part of building a trusted brand in the pet industry was the mindset
GB: I think when we started, the pet industry in the UK was quite conservative in its outlook on pet products. So when we arrived and said we were creating eco-friendly pet products, retailers found it hard to understand why their customers might want to buy eco-friendly pet products. So, in the nicest way, we had to educate them accordingly and winning credibility was all about creating great products that stood the test of time. We simply won our credibility by creating great products that were eco-friendly and had a strong story behind them. And ultimately we won credibility when retailers saw that Beco products sold well, and they re-ordered.
Lesson #3: Sending out samples seems like a gamble but can lead to confidence and re-orders
GB: The biggest risk we took was probably giving away two million free poop bags to thousands of retailers on the basis that if they sold those, customers would re-order. We put our trust in the product and thankfully it paid off. We have since seen fantastic multiple re-orders from those retailers and sales on our degradable Beco poop bags are growing at 30 per cent month on month. Why did we do it? Well, as well as it being a commercial decision to drive poop bag sales, we did it to promote responsible dog ownership. Here in the UK, as in the US, we believe it’s very important for dog owners walking their dogs in parks and other rural environments to pick up after their dogs. Unfortunately, not many people adhere to this, and when they do, in the past they have used non-degradable bags. We felt it was really important for us to be promoting an eco-friendly product.
Lesson #4: Retailers often react better to integrated outreach campaigns
GB: We had a three-pronged approach. Our first approach was to attend the two big US trade shows, Global Pet Expo and Superzoo. The next was to employ a fantastic team at Pet Product Innovations who got out on the road and visited retailers and gave out free samples. And thirdly we used an aggressive marketing campaign called Project Poop Bag, whereby we were giving out free degradable poop bags to retailers on the basis that, if they sold well, they would re-order other Beco products. And we are pleased to say that more often than not the products sell extremely well and people order up other Beco products within the range.
Lesson #5: Scaling a Business Takes Persistence
The US pet market is a very exciting market to be part of at the moment. It’s constantly evolving. There’s lots of innovation and fantastic brands growing that have real stories behind them. The US market has been fantastic for us because US pet owners are looking for natural, green toys and accessories with a strong story and thankfully Beco’s story of ‘better for your pet and better for the environment’ resonates with the US pet owning population. Having only recently launched in America, the US is now our fastest-growing market and we expect this growth to continue for a long time to come.
That said there were huge challenges. We found it incredibly hard to get into the US market. It took us the best part of four to five years to launch in the US, partly because it seemed that industry distributors felt that if a product wasn’t already in the US, it wasn’t worth looking at. But after a while, David Levy, from Pet Product Innovations, now our Master US Distributor, took a chance by agreeing to distribute Beco Pets products nationwide and thankfully has never looked back. Now that the products are available for sale in American retailers, we are seeing better sell-through rates than any other market in the world. Americans clearly love eco-friendly pet products, as displayed on our new US website.
Lesson #6: Stay focused on your differentiation
Originally what we found was that people were making eco-friendly products not just in the pet industry but also in other industries. But unfortunately the products looked brown and drab and often cost 30 per cent more. Now our philosophy was that the products had to look fantastic, with bright colours, and with beautiful packaging. The product had to stand up on its own two feet in terms of durability and functionality. And finally we decided if the product was of high quality, looked beautiful, was eco-friendly and was cost-comparative to the non eco-friendly, synthetic brands on the market, then we had a winner.
Lesson #7: Social media is vital – and it goes both ways
Social media is so important; it’s vital to engage with the end consumer. We take this very seriously and spend a huge amount of time developing our Facebook page. The answer to building a strong audience is to be constantly active on Facebook talking about things that pet owners are engaged in. It’s a two-way conversation. When we build our social media content, be it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, we always try to focus on having a strong brand presence. That might mean aesthetically pleasing design, or cute photos and videos of pets and some funny or witty captions.
We also like to run competitions, to encourage our community to get engaged and involved, and we invite them to share photos of their own pets to make them feel more included. They are an important part of our wider BecoPets ‘family’ and this community is very important to us. Other times, we might also celebrate little holidays that are overlooked and share other animal stories in the news.
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