We first met Gil Kahana from ChattyFeet when he attended our Spark showcase event in 2015. Gil told us he felt that Design Council Spark was about helping people to take a bright idea, and turn it into something real and tangible. He left the event hoping to follow that example with his own business.
Since that meeting Gil has taken ChattyFeet to new heights of success. We recently caught up with him to understand which tips and tricks he had picked up over the years, and which he would recommend to up and coming businesses like our current Spark finalists.
Gil Kahana's top 5 guerrilla design tactics for young businesses
How can you grow your new business with a limited budget? Established brands have shinier photos, louder advertisements and can hire already-famous talent. But remember David and Goliath? Young businesses have an advantage because they can change and adapt quickly and, in this article, we’re going to discuss guerrilla tactics that you can use to grow your business without spending too much.
1. Using prototyping
Production involves minimum order quantities to make it a worthwhile venture for the producer. Imagine the tragedy of producing 500 items and finding out that they don’t sell or don’t work the way you thought they would. To avoid this situation, you can use a method called prototyping. Prototyping helps to test a product without having to produce it. When we started, we created a prototype by drawing a character on a pair of plain white socks. This helped us to understand what our socks would look like when someone is wearing them, and we could figure out where to position the design.
You don’t usually get everything right on the first attempt, so allowing time for testing and making changes is crucial. The ideal process is creating a simple prototype, testing it, making changes and repeating this process until you feel confident enough to produce your creation.
2. Defining achievable goals
Let’s imagine you’re starting a greetings card brand. Other brands already have hundreds of designs available. You might try to start with many designs, so you will appear more like them, but this can be a dangerous shortcut. When you launch, you will need time to evaluate which designs perform best. It will be much easier and cheaper to test a smaller number of designs. As a young business, your advantage is that you can test new designs quickly and adapt based on the performance. Our brand ChattyFeet, launched with only 4 designs, which was enough for testing the product and learning what to do next.
3. Getting the right amount of exposure to test the product
How do you know whether you have a good product or not? Your family and friends will be supportive and tell you how wonderful your product is, but it is the people you don’t know who will decide if it will survive. In order to test this, it’s a good idea to get exposure so you can find out how your product performs in the real world.
The first big exposure for ChattyFeet was on a website called fab.com where we sold more than a thousand pairs in just a few days. This helped us to understand that when we put our socks in front of the right audience, they sell. It gave us the motivation to continue because we saw the potential. When your product or service is ready after testing, find an opportunity to get exposure via a strong channel with a large audience. It will give you a great opportunity to learn from peoples’ reactions.
4. Finding people who care about what you do
You have just finished contacting everyone you know about your new business. So, who should you contact next? All your existing contacts are much more likely to react than a stranger, but could there be any other groups of people that are more likely to respond? We make illustrated socks and, perhaps unsurprisingly, many illustrators like our designs. What was less obvious was when we found out that puppeteers liked them too.
Try contacting different types of groups until you find the ones that respond better to your offering. In marketing, this technique is called ‘segmentation’ and it will help you to find people who care about what you do so that you can target the right audience.
5. Think beyond your own goals
We know it can take more than 5 years until a business is profitable. It takes time to build awareness so what can you do to make sure you survive until that stage? Think about what you do and who else can benefit from it. Let’s say you have a brand that sells owl-themed tea towels. In order to build your brand, you have solved problems that are relevant to many others so, during your mission to turn the owl tea towels into a household brand, you could get some extra cash by producing other types of tea towels for organisations that aren’t competing with you.
Try some of these tactics for your own ideas and hopefully it will help you to grow your business!
It all started with a funny idea: ‘What if your socks could have personalities of their own?’ That’s what we asked ourselves many years ago when our friends came over for lunch. Not everyone got it at first, but we had a vision and decided to give it a go. It was a challenging journey that included branding, product development, building an online shop, finding potential clients and getting featured online, newspapers and magazines.
Our first collection had four characters only and grew into 40 selling in 15 countries. We made it happen because we thought that Grownupland should be a bit more fun. We have artists, scientists, royals and other characters to bring playful moments into your day.
You can see them on chattyfeet.com, Tate Modern, The Science Museum and Barbican Centre just to name a few. Over our 5+ years of working on ChattyFeet, we have discovered some great insights about what it takes to build a brand. In this article, we have summarised the best guerrilla design tactics to help young businesses to overcome problems with a limited budget.
We started with socks, but our mission is to make the world a more chatty place in many different ways. We already have some mugs, pillow cases, badges and soon many other products joining the ChattyFeet family so stay tuned!
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