11 tips to grow your brand BIG

In her previous post, Janie Bartlett CEO of My Best Friend is a Bag spoke about starting up an online business in the fashion industry. This second post focuses on using social media to make your brand BIG and more practical start-up tips.

Leaders in Heels: What are your the most important learnings from using social media as a marketing tool?

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Janie Bartlett: For an online business it’s all about Social Media Marketing.  I use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube.   I have been spreading my efforts across all touchpoints but have also discovered the following for a new online business.

  1. The importance of SEO – My wonderful sister Lindsay Lewis is an SEO consultant based in Sydney.  She optimised my website and has been my SEO advisor.
  2. Facebook – I have realised the importance of Facebook and have just hired a Facebook Specialist company to really get this happening for me.   My plan is to not only get my Business page ‘Like” numbers up but to really improve my engagement levels.  Once both of these numbers have improved, I will explore Facebook as a shopping channel as well as my website store.
  3. Bloggers – I had a plan to start my own blog and down the track I might, however in the meantime, there are some fabulous business and fashion bloggers out there.  Because my marketing budget is almost non-existent I have been doing promotions with them where I give them a bag to use and critique and another bag to giveaway through their blog as a promotion.  This has proved to be a great way to get the brand out there.
  4. Business women’s networking groups.  Another great way to reach my target of working women.

It all takes time however and when you’re small and doing everything yourself, you soon realise that you need to spend money hiring experts in order to make money in sales and give you time to run all the other aspects of your business.

LiH: Do you think someone young and inexperienced could be successful in launching their own brand? What would be your tips for start-ups in your area?

JB: My history in advertising has taught me the necessity of having a clearly defined brand and a clearly defined target audience.

The name My Best Friend is a Bag came straight out of the brand DNA.  We initially started with the obvious need in Australia for stylish, practical and affordable business bags and accessories.  We knew from personal experience that when women find a great bag they love and treasure it.  Women carry their lives in their handbags; they therefore know all its secrets.  You keep your handbag close by your side.  It’s a true reflection of who you are.  And just like a best friend, it’s not just how it looks, it’s what’s inside that counts.   We also appreciate that you can’t take yourself too seriously.   Your best friends and the ones that make you laugh so we like to keep a sense of humour in our designs (our gorgeous unexpected bag linings for example) and our communications.

Once we had the name, the positioning statement “beautiful, practical bags and accessories for busy working women” and the tone of voice, everything that we say and do must be a reflection of that.

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We know we can’t be all things to all women.We are business bags and accessories. That’s what we do and what we will continue to do.

We know we can’t be all things to all women.  We don’t want to compete in the fashion handbag category – there are enough people doing that really well.  We are business bags and accessories. That’s what we do and what we will continue to do.

Tips for starting a new business

My tips for starting a new business are no different to any that you will read on any good business site.

  1. You need a business plan and a great, user friendly accountant.  I’ve also hired a wonderful bookkeeper who comes once a month and keeps me up to date with all the Government and Taxation requirements.
  2. The paper work that both the Government and your bank require will drive you crazy.  But filling out the endless forms and answering the endless questions make you really examine your plans.
  3. If you don’t have a marketing background then you need to get some good basic marketing advice to establish your brand and set your brand parameters in place.  It keeps you disciplined as you develop your product and your communications.
  4. Get relevant experience in the area you want your business to exist in.   Work in the area, identify what that business’s strengths and weaknesses are.  What you can offer that no one else is doing.  If you aren’t passionate about it, don’t do it.  You have to live and breath it 24 hours a day.
  5. Be prepared to work hard.  When you own your own business you don’t get to go home at night without a backward glance!
  6. My best piece of advice if you are interested in starting a fashion business.  Join  the TFIA.  The Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia.  It’s the best money I’ve spent.  Their workshops and mentoring opportunities have been invaluable to me.  Unfortunately I only discovered them after our first disasters in India.  If I had been a member from the beginning I would never have made the mistakes I did.
  7. Finally, I just want to give credit to my family members.  My husband’s second job is now the production manager of My Best Friend is a Bag.  I don’t think he ever saw himself working in the handbag business, he’s a documentary cameraman, but his attention to detail and extraordinary patience make him the ideal person to stand on the factory floor and check every bag!  My sister has done all her SEO work for me as a love job!  She does have a bag in every colour but nothing beats being paid! My first husband Mike Bollen, who happens to be a Creative Director and owner of Helsinki Communications has done all my creative work – brochures, postcards, photography. My son Angus Bollen who has inherited his father’s creative abilities has also helped me creatively with design and creative advice. This has really kept my marketing expenses to a minimum.

Giveaway – Closed

Janie Bartlett has kindly offered A Truffle Leather Laptop Sleeve valued at $130 to giveaway from the latest My Best Friend is a Bag collection.

Truffle Laptop Sleeve  giveaway

To enter simply complete the entry form below. Giveaway is open only for residents of Australia 18 years old or over. Entries close on 12th July 2013 12:00 am -Sydney time.

– Closed –


50 replies on “11 tips to grow your brand BIG

  • Sharon Fawcett

    At work social media doesn’t affect my life at all, but when I’m home I find it very distracting and it eats into time which could otherwise be productive. I’m working hard at limiting my time doing such things.

  • Pouya

    Social media forms a big portion of most of peoples daily life. I used to devote large sum of my time to social media, but lately I have found it to be time consuming, and mainly a waste of time. Hence decided to reduce the time I spend on social media significantly to address this time to other important events in life.

  • Shu-Hua Chao

    Facebook is actually a great social networking and marketing tool…I interact with my friends online quite regularly, and also keep up to date about the brands (beauty, fashion, health) on FB!

  • Prue

    I use social media everyday. It’s a Godsend for promoting, but it can be a Devil for a someone’s personal life. I hate to thing what it is going to be like in 5 years time. Once something makes it’s way onto the internet, it is there FOREVER! Words of wisdom to live by in this technological day and age.

  • Jennifer

    Social media doesn’t affect my life at all at the moment. I don’t follow anyone on twitter. I have a Facebook page that I don’t update and never look at. I am puzzled by the need for people to comment on tv shows as we are watching them. Are they not missing what is happening in the moment that they are tweeting. It is not recommended it be used for my work although I can see this changing in the future. In 5 years time, social media will be unrecognisable and I cannot begin to imagine how it will look.

  • Nicole

    Social Media is a key part of my life, helping me network and seamlessly connect online and build off-line relationships. Whether it be Facebook, Twitter, G+ or any of the other emerging platforms, social is the way of the future and will allow us to maintain relationships in an increasingly global and chaotic world. In 5 years time I have no doubt we will all be completely immersed in social media – Facebook and Twitter might no longer rein supreme but there will be not-yet-invented platforms available for us to stay in touch.

  • Allison

    In 5 years I think that social media will have transformed into more ‘social’ than ‘business’ than what it is today. Already it appears to be denigrating into ‘fun stuff’ such as memes’ and random photos. I think that business has overestimated the use of social media to connect with customers and instead I tend to see more and more customers using it to whinge rather than compliment. It will always have a place but it will be in a new context.

  • Mikaela Cowan

    Social media affects my life dramatically. I use it everyday. I use it to catch up with old friends especially those interstate.

  • Peiting

    Social Media is my source of sanity. When things are going haywire or not as planned, I find comfort in kicking back with a quick scroll through what my family, friends and even Kim Kardashian are doing at the moment!

  • Lynda k

    I am totally thick in the head when it comes to the mechanics of social media. I have been putting a whole lot of female and mother and baby products all over my husband’s Facebook page. My son-in-law thought he had gone a little strange. Do have my own page but I don’t know how to tell which one I am sending things to. Friend asked me the other day if I had a page as she wanted to ‘friend’ me. I told her I don’t have friends but all that’s changed now. My friend of 46 years is now my true Facebook friend.

  • Sarah

    Social Media is a massive part of my personal and work life. Facebook allows me to connect with friends and family, while also promoting my business to potential clients, I think social media is here to stay as it influences so many people’s day to day lives.

  • Annette Levy

    Social Media has helped me to find friends, to make special new friends, to be a friend, to come closer to friends, to go on virtual holidays with friends, to communicate with friends all over the world, and to understand friends more. ‘My Best Friend is a Bag’, would allow me to keep all these friends close by my side when going on business trips. Looks to me that such a bag, would attract the attention of many friends! Thank you for the opportunity!

  • Terri Ioannou

    I am a graphic designer researching how to move into surface pattern design after having been away from professional life for 6 years having kids. I have recently signed up to Twitter and Pinterest in an effort to discover what others in the industry around the world are doing. I am following them all on facebook and on their blogs if they ahve them in order to learn how they are marketing and branding themselves. I have joined group art sites like society6 to grow some confidence and have found myself caught up in a whole movement that even 3 months ago didn’t know existed. Social media is allowing me to meet, discover and follow individuals business lives and helping me formulate how I want to work, without even leaving my own home. Makes me wonder how business survived even 20 years ago. I haven’t taken my leap of faith yet but once I have formulated my plan, I reckon social media will be my key to success for sure.

  • carol roberts

    i think thre will be a next big thing in five yrs like you tube or facebook its just waiting to happen with new idea’s everyday surly there will be a new big thing in 5 yrs

  • Jacqui

    Social media is a crucial part of my business and personal life and my twin 12 year old’s lives! It is one of the ways we all communicate now. It helps us to connect with all the people in our lives.

  • Ilija Markovski

    Social media costs people a lot of money and companies draw in the high amounts of revenue, because consumers want to have the latest models of technology, therefore social media affects my life mostly everywhere.

  • aimee tatham

    all i can say is amazing :) oh and social media runs our life, its the way of life now when it comes to communication to dating to getting our news and simple things we used to do by writing a letter rather than a email or picking up the phone!

  • Judith Newton

    Social media is my favourite time-saving tool! Now I can connect with my family and friends, see what they’re up to, without having to squeeze in visits in my already too short and over-busy weekends! It has also given me a ‘blast from the past’ connecting with a couple of old boyfriends from the ’70s! (I think I’ve worn better than they have, but ofcourse they’d say it was the other way around!). I have even made a couple of good friends through social media without ever meeting them in person! I love social media and I would be lost without it! Can’t talk now, I’m off to tweet….. ; )

  • Dilan S

    I think in the next five years social media will become far more intrusive and dangerous, posing even more identification and privacy threats.

  • tasha

    These are some great tips. Love everything she had to say. I am working on building my team now and doing other things. She has given me some insight on where I need to hit.

  • Amanda @ Gourmanda

    Social media is a massive party of my life! As Gen Y, my phone and various sm apps are the last thing I look at before I go to sleep, and the first thing I check before I even get out of bed. My day job is all about creating online communities through social media (I work in marcomms) and it’s just integrated into every part of my life.

  • Kylie Buzinkic

    It makes me a bit sad at times. The other day I caught a train (first train I have caught in years) and I noticed that everyone but one person on a jam packed train was on their Iphone and for the most part on FB. I love FB for talking to friends and family you don’t get to see very often and for sharing photos and life events, but on this train I could not get one person to make eye contact with me. When I catch up with friends or relatives lately most of the time everyone is on FB. I’m torn between whether I like it or not. It has affected my life… I’m not sure it is for the best. It does have its pros though.

  • Kell Kelly

    Social Media makes my day easier yet is also terrible at distracting me from what I really need to do. I love that it has made keeping in contact and getting your name/brand out there so easy compared to previous years.

  • Maddison

    Social media is and will continue to be paramount – we are universally hard-wired to be social creatures, seeking extrinsic thought, beliefs, logic, intuition, ideas; invention, creating, information, knowledge; emotions, sensations, experience, behaviour.

    The astonishing possibilities of expanding our views and thought processes through communication is wildly bestowing, and extraordinary efficiency we create through online feedback & digital rapport allows a shift in time/location demands.

    An important note is it should be about building peoples worth and creating broader possibilities and acute stimulation, not tearing others down and devaluing your own merit.

  • RoxyandRoy

    I find social media a time sucker and a god send. I learn new things and go to new places each day but then I look up and hours have flown by. You need to be disciplined about it.

  • Ritu

    Social media facilitates my relationships, career, learning and lifestyle. The portals allow me to engage and interact with the world in all aspects of my life. It gives me the knowledge-edge whilst keeping me entertained. It is filtered to suit me, and has taken over the role of an admin-assistant, researcher, advisor and agent.

    I particularly enjoy travelling and dining experiences with social media. I recently found myself in Washington, sorted my Facebook friends list via current city, and suddenly had a packed social calendar! So fabulous!

  • Amy Wise

    Facebook allows me to keep in touch with what is happening in my friend’s and family’s everyday lives. I like looking at photos and seeing what they are up to! I still feel connected to people even though I moved from the UK to Australia three years ago!

  • Shiki Ooms

    I use facebook to keep in touch with friends that i meet all over the world during my travels. It allows me to experience a whole new level of travel because i can easily meet up with friends in their home towns and get to see how they live at home.

  • Bec

    Right now social media doesn’t play a very big part in my life, but I know that will have to change if I ever hope to become a successful graphic designer (I’m currently studying). I see social media as a good thing, but don’t personally feel the urge to use it (except instagram because it focuses more on images than text-based communication).

  • Anna Couston

    For me, social media represents the power of innovation. Think back 10 years and you would’ve never heard of Facebook. Just like how the Internet took the world by storm, so has social media and interestingly, nowadays it’s difficult to escape it because we live our lives in it. Who knows what it will look like in 5 years’ time! Imagine telling someone back then that it was going to have the power of influence that it has today – they wouldn’t have believed you. It’s crazy yet exciting to think of the potential social media will have, or even if it will still be around or relevant!

  • Alysse Heiler

    Social Media allows me to connect with other mother’s out there and educate myself on how to be the best Mum that I can be

  • Carrissa

    Fantastic tips, it’s great to hear the details you often don’t get to know until you experience them!

  • Carrissa

    I love social media, it’s allowed me to connect with new people, old friends, business opportunities, and many many games of candy crush!

  • dana

    Social media is everything to my communication, connectivity and education. I can follow politics, my friends lives, be contactable by those who matter at any time! it takes the complication of the waiting game right out of life… and I’m not going to lie that having people feed my ego isn’t such a bad thing ;)

  • Kristine R.

    I use twitter and facebook every day to connect with friends and family and also attend twitter parties to learn about new products and technology.

  • Helen Fox

    Great tips about starting a business. I’ve been thinking of doing it for ages, but thinking isn’t the same as putting myself out there & do it for real.

  • Helen Fox

    Sorry got cut off. I have been dabbling in social media on & off, it has come a long way & it will continue to evolve. The question is, if in a few years time almost everyone has got Facebook, etc. would it create some sort of social media overloaded? It has already started, some people are quitting. There’s no denying the benefits of exposing your business on every media you can though.

  • Narelle Rock

    Social media can be a great outlet for advertising but it can also be detrimental if there is negativity or bullying.

  • Lu

    Social media helps me to connect with the people, products and brands that I care about. I use it to share and discover exciting new things every day!

  • jakki

    Social media will hopefully be more accepting of all people, and stop judging people by their looks etc.

  • Tayla

    Instagram and Facebook are synonymous with one word; Addiction. Social media has become societies Achilles heel, we are dependent on it to the point where we would trust the amount of ‘likes’ or ‘shares’ of a restaurant or beverage, rather then the good old fashioned recommendation from a friend. It is my guilty pleasure, rolling over in the morning to see who-is-where. It’s my way of sneaky bragging rights as I instagram a picture of my overseas adventures. Social media is a means of procrastination from university work, a continually changing world and most notably, will continue to invade lives!

  • Sudi Gowen

    I am on facebook but I don’t have the interest or time to go onto it or check it. People assume because I have facebook that I must check it daily or hourly and so assume that I must be up to date on their lives and news. Friends have posted mass updates on major events like engagements, births, deaths and other major celebrations and events in their lives and because I don’t check Facebook regularly they are upset that I don’t respond or have missed something. I feel upset that people can’t just tell you directly any more major news! What happened to calling someone up and saying “Guess what?! We got engaged” rather than reading about it on Facebook. While Social media can be a great tool, I think it is relied upon too much and it is assumed that just because info is out there that everyone must have access to it.

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