HairyBaby.com founder on building your brand online as an SME

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As part of our Smarter Living for Business series, we're bringing businesses simple ideas to make their business better through insights and industry research from some of the country's most influential leaders and thinkers.

This week we caught up with Daragh Murphy, founder of Electric Ireland customer Hairy Baby Clothing Company, about how Irish SME's should build their brand online.

Daragh Murphy set up Hairy Baby in 2005, with the aim of producing uniquely Irish versions of the pop culture based t-shirts he’d begun collecting during his days as a DJ. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength, and won multiple awards for their inventive social media presence, including Best eCommerce Website at the Irish Web Awards 2011 and the Dot.ie Net Visionary Award for Most Creative Use of Social Media for Business in 2012.

They also were the 2015 recipient of the Social Media Award for Best Use of Facebook by a Small Business. This is what he’s learned from over a decade of building a brand online.

Know your business

"There are a few basics that people need to get right. Take care of them first and the rest will follow. Of the mistakes that small businesses make when they’re starting out, not fully understanding what your brand is about is one of the main ones. Know what your business is and concentrate on that. If you make cupcakes, be known for making fantastic cupcakes.

If you get those basic things right, and you can define your direction, then it’s time to get online and get on social media. I cannot think of a single business that can’t benefit from being on social media. But get the basics right first."

Keep it personal

"On social media, what’s most important to me is to produce your own content. This is my company. I’ve started it, I’ve grown it, so naturally I feel the voice of Hairy Baby or the tone of Hairy Baby is me. And I’m the only one who can relay that to the customer. I try and do it on a one-to-one basis and imagine I’m talking straight to that person. Even though it’s Facebook, and I could be talking to an audience of 50,000 people, I always imagine that it’s one person and I try to speak directly to them."

Stay engaged

"Customer engagement is very important to us. If I pick Facebook as an example, I can look at our Facebook Page now and I can see our response time is eight minutes. People don’t have time to wait around for a reply. Somebody might post on our Twitter or Facebook page where they might be having an issue with making a purchase on our website. For example, you don’t want to be waiting 24 hours for somebody to come back and tell you that’s a zero not an ‘O’ in the t-shirt design.

They’re on the shop now, they want to purchase now, and they’re having an issue. You need to be on top of that and get back to them immediately. We’ll always reply to people straight away."

E-commerce, spending money online

You don’t have to spend a lot

"Papers and magazines will hate me for it, but I think deciding not to advertise through traditional print media and putting those finances into concentrated ads for the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter has been much better for us.

We know how the money is being spent then and we know what kind of a return we’re getting for it. For us as an online business, that’s key. We have zero marketing budget for traditional print media and we’ve been like that now for about three years.

We don’t spend a penny on paper ads or magazine ads. It just isn’t possible for us to calculate a return on it. Everything we do is digital, and that’s how important it is for us."

Design is key

"Design is massively important to us. We concentrate so hard on it. We have a colour palette that belongs to us, the pantones are ours, our logo belongs to us and we created the font for it.The imagery that we use throughout all of our platforms has a style to it as well, so the brand becomes familiar to people and they can relate to it.

Define the guidelines for what your logo is, the colours that make it up, and the font if you have one. But don’t over-complicate your logo. Keep it clean and simple, and make sure it reflects what your brand is about."

Don’t be afraid to collaborate

"I’ve had to make a few tough decisions over the years. I make no secret of the fact that we hit fairly hard times around 2010/2011 and we had to make some very, very tough decisions to get through that.

I had to examine all of my costs, strip things down, while remaining true to my product. Those decisions helped us turn it around. I also aligned myself with some very similar brands like Father Ted, which helped reinforce our brand as well. There are like-minded businesses out there and if you can do something together that helps both brands, don’t be afraid to do it. But they have to complement each other.

Are you just starting out? Electric Ireland gives preferential rates to Start-Up customers just like Hairy Baby Clothing Company to help them get their business off the ground. Fill out a request a callback form and a member of our sales team will get back to you with your very own tailored price plan.

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