Rachel and Shawn started Standard Spoon to encourage people to embrace the beauty of making cocktails in a way that’s available to everyone. “Anyone can be a cocktail hero,” they say.
“We’re not snobs about it,” Rachel told me when I interviewed her for the Diamond + Branch blog about implementing the practices she learned at our marketing bootcamp. “The point is to make craft cocktails accessible to people at home and demystify something that seems like an inaccessible thing. At the end of the day we just want you to get started doing something that will bring you joy the way it brings us joy.”
But starting a business isn’t all whiskey and ginger, especially if you don’t know how you’re approaching marketing. And no you can’t just ignore it. Just take it from Rachel — strategic marketing set her family-run small business on the trajectory for scalable success (and entrepreneurial sanity, too).
When Standard Spoon was just starting, what were the early marketing challenges you faced?
Standard Spoon got started on Kickstarter, so that was the only platform Shawn and I used to keep in touch with our audiences! We had no mailing list, no social media, and definitely no marketing plan. We didn’t know what we were doing but one thing was clear — if we were going to have a successful business, we would have to figure out how to communicate with our people outside of Kickstarter.
The world was your oyster! Where did you start?
The first few years of business, we made the same mistake that many first-time entrepreneurs make; we left marketing strategy on the backburner and focused on product development.
We would email people once a year or post on social media once every few months with an update. We didn’t realize this was backwards until we were in the thick of it.
Eventually, we realized we needed to answer two questions:
- Who are we talking to?
- What are we trying to say?
We knew many of those things internally already. We had a good brand identity and a pretty defined sense of our values and our customers. We just didn’t know where or how to begin implementing a strategy around that.
What did you learn that changed the way you approached your business?
Lindsay and I were both presenting at Startup Week San Diego the same year. While Shawn and I had gotten really good at doing crowdfunding campaigns, we knew we were missing an intentional marketing approach for our business. I was there to solve that problem, and it all came together in terms of this deployable model that puts your many different pieces together in a cohesive way when I went to Lindsay’s workshop, “Getting Your Launch Marketing Sh*t Together.”
I took a ridiculous number of notes and decided on the spot to do a workshop with Shawn on her material. I just said, “Okay, I’m going to implement this.”
So I planned some workshops and Shawn and I scheduled a three-day work retreat. (Laughs) At the time we had a two-year old daughter, so it was really hard to find the time but somehow we did because we knew it was important.
For those three days, Shawn and I focused on a product we were a few months away from launching, a product called the Napier Jigger on our website. We dove in deep. We wrote down our marketing personas. We identified our key messages and the sub messages. We completed an audience journey-mapping workshop. We did a gap analysis between the channels and the actions we were asking our people to take. We created a persona-based targeted marketing content spreadsheet to plan a rollout of social media and blog content. We identified new channels to take action.
In a nutshell, we defined who we are and who we’re talking to in a way that was extremely useful.
What happened when you got back from your retreat?
Then we had to implement it. (Laughs) The implementation part was challenging for me because I had this beautiful architecture but I didn’t have any time or anyone to delegate to. I also had one big, immovable deadline — the birth of my second child.
After my son was born, I decided I needed to surround myself with accountability and get out of this isolating, working-at-home-with-a-baby environment. Cue my second run-in with Lindsay.
Yes! (Laughs) Lindsay came to speak to our business accelerator cohort at the Jacobs Center, and all I could think was how great the timing was. I pulled out all my tools and we chatted about my enthusiastic application of materials. She loved the strategy, and pointed out that it seemed too complicated for the stage of business we were in.
She encouraged us to narrow our personas, messages, and channels down to a manageable size, prioritizing where we can have the most impact. That was a game changer.
What are you doing now? What are you learning?
I’m finally in the process of bringing someone on to write content for the blog, our email marketing, and our social media. As someone who has built this brand from the ground up and done everything in house, there’s a lot of fear of delegating that responsibility. At least I can tell this person, “I have defined audience personas and messages for how our brand speaks.” That’s hugely important. I wish I had learned I needed to delegate earlier.
We’re still learning so much about our audiences. In the beginning, our target personas were people who got super nerdy about cocktails — like us. They would look at our tools, like the jigger, and know exactly what it is because they’re professional bartenders and cocktail enthusiasts. Now we’re realizing that, beyond that core group, there’s a lot of education that has to happen around cocktails — and it’s not enough to just talk about our products. It has to be paired with education. This is how we talk to the people who know that they love cocktails and are fascinated with cocktail craft, but don’t know how to bring that experience into their home.
What would you tell other small businesses / entrepreneurs about digital marketing?
It’s so tempting to pursue all the different audiences, channels, messages, and content ideas for your product that you can possibly think of. I encourage anyone who is going through this to focus and narrow down as much as possible. You may feel like you’re leaving people out, but I’ve found the amount of effort to launch a full-scale strategy like that at the beginning isn’t sustainable.
For example, our customers are people who make cocktails. We also know barware is often used in the barista coffee space. The temptation is to create content to market to baristas and the craft coffee audience, but craft coffee nerds are a tertiary persona. They exist in our audience, but they’re not one of the primary four audiences we have.