A few weeks ago, I interviewed designer Arlene Battishill President & CEO of ScooterGirls, Inc. Arlene has made riding gear that is stylish and chic, as opposed to the stereotypical "motorcycle babe" look. Beyond the innovation of her designs, and her style savvy, Arlene has been savvy in her use of Social Media to market her brand. In a world where many designers still don't have a Twitter ID, Arlene has built a strong and loyal online Twitter community. Her followers use her Twitter community to find out where they can find and buy her GoGoGear designs.
She proudly tells me a recent story about how one of her Twitter messages (Tweets) turned into a sale. Arelene says, "I saw a posting on Twitter from a woman who has been following us for almost a year now. She lives in an RV and has been traveling all over the country for the past year and just today, was in Minneapolis and went in to our dealer there and bought one of our jackets. She's been waiting to arrive in a place on her travels where there was a retailer with our jackets. Today, she walked in and bought a jacket and sent me a Tweet about it and said she LOVES LOVES LOVES the jacket! The power of Twitter!!!" It is this kind of Twitter relay system that tells followers where they can find GoGoGear wear, and when new shipments are coming in. As a small business owner, Arlene has found Social Media a necessary and profitable tool in her marketing arsenal. Following is more of my interview with her. Arlene prepped the way for her website release and product launch by using Twitter to tell her story. Talk about a successful "soft launch." This is zero-budget marketing at its finest.
Q. When I heard you speak at LA Fashion Group, I was excited to hear you talk about your Twitter following and your use of Social Media as a marketing tool. You have a really loyal following! How did you start that?
A. I became familiar with Twitter in the Summer 2009 and started Tweeting under the name @LAScooterGirls. We didn't have a logo, a name or more than a landing page for our website and, in fact, only had a couple of jacket samples at the time but were very clear about what we were doing. I knew women motorcycle and scooter riders were skeptical about the possibility that fashion and protective wear could be combined successfully, so we very quietly started Tweeting that this new line was coming.
We started following anyone with the word "motorcycle' or "scooter" in their Twitter profile and immediately started picking up followers. We strategically used our Twitter profile to describe our product and our website address. This was very effective in getting people's attention. For many people, they put personal information in their profile, but we knew we only had one "click" to get a person's attention, so we crafted a profile that was sure to get their attention and that's what ultimately happened.
I was Tweeting non-stop for about three months before our actual website went live, including my entire trip throughout China hunting for a manufacturer, so we picked up a lot of followers because our existing followers were telling other people about this global adventure we were on. It became like a travelogue for everyone.
Our website went live in September 2009 while I was on a plane. When we landed, I had so many Tweets and Facebook entries, voicemails and e-mails all because we had cultivated this following in advance and now they saw what we were talking about. I had people calling me saying "Arlene, I knew it was going to be good, but I NEVER expected THIS!" It was absolutely thrilling and these were all Twitter followers. From there, they did the work for us. They started sending out RT (Retweets) to their own followers and we continued to pick up more followers. The momentum continues to this day. The "Twitter-verse" has been the most important marketing tool we've used and the best money we've never spent.
It should also be noted that our Twitter followers are now our customers. They have bought jackets from our retailers, bought them direct from us, referred friends to buy jackets. In fact, I Tweeted that the jackets were arriving on a particular day to a couple of our retailers and some of our followers were at the door and bought jackets right out of the boxes. Needless to say, we have a very active and loyal customer base on Twitter!
Another thing is that our Twitter followers are very protective of us, our product and our brand. They are very invested in our product and us as people. Our "voice" on Twitter is very personal and people become invested in people they care about. My voice has been very evident on Twitter and it was amazing during November 2009 when I was in China for an extended period and not home for Thanksgiving. I received so many Tweets from people who knew I was overseas during the holidays, with one even Tweeting "someone's homesick..." It brought tears to my eyes because I knew they could tell how hard it was to be overseas for the holidays.
From a technical perspective, our Twitter followers are the first to give us feedback on what does or doesn't work or suggest something they need. I'll float an idea out and get instant feedback. That information helps us in our design and engineering process. This was the case when we started receiving tweets from guys who asked us when we were going to make Men's jackets. As a result, we will have our Men's jacket line in stores by Fall this year. In addition, we'll pick up on Tweets from completely unrelated people who are Tweeting about something happening in the market which enables us to pivot when we need if we think we're on the right or wrong track about something.
We've also gotten recommendations from international followers overseas who suggest places we might sell our product. It is nearly impossible to get this kind of targeted access without spending a lot of money so our use of Twitter as our main source for marketing has been extremely important and productive for us.
Q. Do you use other Social Media tools? I know you have a blog on your website.
A. We have a blog on our website and are also making use of Facebook. We haven't had the need to use www.foursquare.com or other GPS based sites because of the nature of our product, brand and means of selling our jackets. Plus, there isn't anything else out there like what we're doing that would warrant us posting information on the cool things that we've seen or where we are, but if we had a different type of product, we'd be making extensive use of these media, which could still happen in the future.
We have placed Facebook ads in all of the cities where we have retailers and it's been very productive for us. We have the statistics on the number of click throughs to our website and our retailers have told us that people have come in looking for the jackets because they've seen the Facebook ads. In fact, we have even received inquiries from prospective retailers as a result of those ads.
We also use Google Alerts and www.addictomatic.com to see what people are saying about our brand and also for what our competitors are doing. It's amazing to see how much and what is out there and most important, we can immediately respond to anything that might need to be addressed. This enables us to have great customer satisfaction among our buyers. They know we're listening (or reading!).
We've also had a number of bloggers write about us, worldwide, and as a result, our exposure has increased significantly. They write something and their entire readership suddenly becomes aware of us, something we couldn't otherwise achieve without spending a significant amount of money. This happened back in February when a Blogger wrote just a paragraph about our line and the next day, I was inundated with requests from Australia because the Blog was specific to the Australian market.
Far and away, the Social Media we've used has enabled us to build our brand and leverage the exponential characteristics of Social Media, meaning, "I tell you, you tell ten people, they tell a hundred". Without a doubt, the multiplier effect of social media, especially Twitter, can have a profound impact on a brand.
Q. Where can we buy GOGO GEAR Scooter Girl's styles, other than your website? Are there deals for regular customers? :)
A. Our retailers are listed on our website (www.scooter-girls.com) and we're launching a new eCommerce site, www.GoGoGearLA.com, where you'll be able to buy not only GoGo Gear but other fashion and motorcycle/scooter related products that we think have a lot of potential. We know how hard it is to launch a line and sometimes a designer just needs a place to get some exposure for their product, so we're trying to help with that.
As for deals for regular customers, we have somewhat of a different customer base where most people buy only one protective jacket and wear it as their primary jacket. As a result, we won't have repeat buyers to the extent a fashion brand might, but given how new we are, that could still change in the future. Also, we have our jackets priced so attractively considering they are technical garments, a lot of people have actually asked us why they don't cost more. We have always wanted to have accessible pricing for our jackets so we think we're right in line with where we should be and our sales support that thinking.
Follow Mary Hall on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Recessionista