A couple of days ago Belinda Raji wrote a guest post for Natural Belle in which she highlighted some observations she had made about how British women, specifically black women in Britain, appear to be drawn to American brands rather than supporting homegrown small businesses. It was interesting reading some of the issues she has faced as a small business owner trying to make a dent in what is a very tough industry. Starting your own business is not easy, and if you are trying to bring quality product to the market it is a very expensive ordeal (I’ve tried it…and gave up quite quickly RIP Cotton Tree Naturals).
The main crux of her article was that she felt due to people not wanting to spend too much money they tended to lean towards the more established brands who are able to sell their product at a much cheaper price than she, and other small businesses are able to. I would agree with this, people will tend to spend less whenever they feel they can (the economy is rough yo!). However this isn’t the only reason I think people tend to go for the more popular brands. Companies like Entwine couture spring to mind, they are not exactly cheap but people seem to be willing to spend their money with them, even paying international shipping costs. Why is that?
A major factor I would say is marketing – a lot of the small business I know are not very good at marketing themselves. I know marketing can be costly but I think social media has made this much easier. Are you on twitter and Instagram building a community of people who are loyal to your brand? or do you use them sporadically, or maybe even not at all. As a consumer I know I am more likely to take a look at your brand if it is constantly coming up on my timeline. Even if I do not purchase anything, at least I will know about you and then I might be able to recommend you to someone else. As I’m not an expert you can read this response written by Brown Beauty for more on the marketing side and dealing with press.
One suggestion I would make is to show love to anyone who uses or talks about your product. Do regular searches for your brand to see what comes up. If someone has mentioned your brand drop them a message and engage with them. I think it’s these little things that make people not only like your product but also like the person behind the product, and if you can get them to do that they will tend to be more loyal to you and your brand.
As someone who is an avid watcher of YouTube videos, if you’re looking for someone to review a product I would suggest going for not only the ‘big names’ but also people who may not have huge numbers but are consistent vloggers. Reason being, if they like your product you will be able to almost guarantee that they will use it again and therefore their followers will keep hearing about you.
Finally, I think it’s also important to self reflect. There are a huge number of products being pushed at WoC at the moment, does yours stand out from the crowd? Say you have sent your product to a few people to review and blog about, but it isn’t translating into sales, these bloggers and vloggers are not going back and using your product. Could the reason be because what you are offering isn’t yielding the same result as ‘Product X’ from that large company. Maybe your product is on par with these companies, but yours is a few pounds more expensive. These could be factors affecting why some brands are not seeing success. I realise it’s not that easy to stand out from the crowd especially in such a market, but it is important to do that in some way. If it’s not by having a more superior product then it needs to be in the service or experience that you provide to your customers.
These are just my thoughts on what might be causing this current situation. Personally I am a supporter of British brands, I see it as a way of building up the community that I am a part of. I love me some Root2Tip and SheaButter Cottage is just everything, but this is a choice that I have made and I realise other people might not feel the same as me. In my opinion the onus here isn’t just on the businesses, because there are some great companies producing excellent products at a good price, but also on us, the consumer. As WoC we need to think about where our money is going because every time you hand money over to someone you are investing in that person or business. Where are you going to choose to invest?
PS: In her post Belinda mentioned the collective she started called United Kurls, take a look at their website to find out more about what these brands have to offer.