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Case Study: How New Media Helped a Rural UK Mail Order Company Go Nationwide, Global

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Company: Wiggly Wigglers
Contact: Heather Gorringe, Managing Director at Wiggly Wigglers
Location: Blakemere, Herefordshire, UK
Industry: Home and Garden, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: 17

Quick Read:

Wiggly Wigglers is a natural-gardening retail company descended from a farm in the countryside between England and Wales. Its products are not high-tech, but its marketing certainly is.

In fact, largely due to Wiggly Wigglers' use of new media to build a stable and successful business, it was recognized by Dell as the No. 1 small business in the United Kingdom in this year's Small Business Excellence Awards—and has made it to the finals of the global award.

Staring in 2005, Wiggly Wigglers Managing Director Heather Gorringe all but abandoned traditional marketing and instead took up a podcast, a blog, a wiki catalog, an e-newsletter, and social media outlets such as Facebook and YouTube.


The company has since reduced its annual marketing costs from over £100,000 to less than £3,000, all the while expanding its customer base and building international brand recognition.

Challenge:

Wiggly Wigglers specializes in natural gardening products such as composting kits, meal worms, English flowers, and native hedges.

"We sell products that gardeners may not know that they want," said Gorringe. "No one is going to wake up in the morning and think, 'Ah-ha, I really do need to be composting my kitchen waste using worms.'"

The company's early challenge lay not only in generating demand for such products but also in building a customer base beyond its immediate area, since it resides in a village of just over 60 people in England's rural West Midlands.

To that end, in 1995 it became one of the first mail order companies in the United Kingdom to incorporate e-commerce. "It's essential that we embrace new technology," Gorringe said. "If we didn't do that, we simply wouldn't have any customers."

Still, e-commerce wasn't enough. The company was spending more than £100,000 a year in marketing with direct mail, print advertising, and its catalog, but sales weren't adding up. The company accountant even suggested that it might be time to give up.

But Gorringe was confident in the company's product offerings and felt she simply needed to connect with people and share her enthusiasm. In 2005, she set out on a new campaign to engage people in a bold attempt to both increase leads and decrease marketing spend.

Campaign:

To generate awareness, Web traffic, and community, Wiggly Wigglers launched the following, all of which linked to the company's Web site:

  • A podcast: Every Thursday morning, Gorringe records a program covering an array of gardening- and farm-related topics, with frequent references to the company Web site. Gorringe shares her passion, provides detailed information with all the crucial points intact (which, she noted, were often edited out when she had submitted to media interviews), and address many overlooked topics that listeners may not be able to hear about elsewhere.

The podcasts are available on iTunes and the Wiggly Wigglers Web site (where they are also archived); feed addresses are also made available for users to cut and paste into podcatcher (feed aggregator) software.

To help generate additional interest in the podcasts, Gorringe has included celebrity interviews, and she often asks for user reviews on iTunes.

  • A blog: Blog posts are written several times weekly by a Wiggly Wigglers staff member. The blog plays off of the podcast and includes tips, seasonal commentary, and industry and company news. Readers have the option of forwarding a post to a friend and clicking through to the podcast, company Web site, and online retail shop.

Readers and other bloggers are urged to comment and contribute to the blog, and their comments are often included in the podcast. Staff members also visit and comment on other blogs.

  • A wiki: The company initiated a wiki to create its latest catalog, encouraging bloggers and others to contribute to the product-selection process. The wiki been effective in generating exposure, since bloggers often relay to their own readers their experiences with the wiki or the products they reviewed or selected.
  • A Facebook group: A group was established on the social-networking site for users to ask questions, join in forums, and post photos.
  • A YouTube channel: The channel includes videos from the podcast, how-to demonstrations, ads, and other videos about the company.
  • An e-newsletter: The Wiggl-e-news is sent out twice a month and reminds readers to revisit the company Web site.

For advertising, the company now spends around £2,000 annually on Google AdWords and less than £1,000 on Facebook ads and other media.

It also conducts a good amount of traditional PR work to encourage journalists to write about the company; it has contributed content to select media and has made two podcasts in partnership with major UK magazines.

Results:

  • An estimated 50,000 Web site visitors and close to 700,000 pageviews per month
  • An average of 40,000 regular podcast listeners, and up to 100,000 listens each month for the company's top 15 podcasts combined.
  • More than 60 reviews on iTunes, 99% of which are 5 stars
  • 849 members in the Wiggly Wigglers Facebook group
  • Over 10,000 video views on the Wiggly Wigglers YouTube channel
  • 43,000 e-newsletter subscribers
  • A 97%+ reduction in advertising costs
  • Higher Google rankings due to blog and podcast content
  • Increased online sales that now account for 50% of the company's total sales

The online campaign has also helped Wiggly Wigglers establish broader, even global reach. The company now has more than 90,000 customers, including some in the US and New Zealand.

Gorringe's podcasts have also been noted by media outlets such as The San Francisco Chronicle, and she has received speaking invitations from India and New York.

Lessons Learned:

Instead of money, Gorringe says, she is "spending time, effort, ingenuity and having genuine conversations with people," and this has resulted in a campaign that is not only low-cost but also more long-term.

The podcast has been particularly effective. "It's not only the short-term gain; people still go right back to podcast number one and work their way through. The longevity of this form of marketing, in my opinion, is unique," she said.

Among the steps that Wiggly Wigglers took to make its new media initiatives, such as the podcast, successful:

  • Establishing credibility: Although the Wiggly Wigglers name is lighthearted in nature, the company aim has always been "to ensure that our Web site was not a joke and always delivered lots of useful information," said Gorringe. This was also carried through to the podcast and other media. For example, Gorringe was able to build a strong reputation for her podcast by addressing rarely covered but important issues, interviewing celebrities, generating press coverage and working in connection with major UK magazines, and earning 5-star reviews on iTunes.
  • Creating community: Particularly through the podcast, blog, and Facebook group, Wiggly Wigglers has built a following of people with similar interests and provided them an outlet to interact with the company as well as each other. "This enables us to keep that conversation going with people who can then help us learn what they need, and what they want, to keep their gardens going," Gorringe said.
  • Further fostering participation: Gorringe doesn't wait for users to rate her podcast, comment on the company blog, or contribute to the wiki catalogue; she asks them directly, and thanks them when they do, by reading the comments and reviews over the podcast. She and other staff also make the effort to visit and comment on other blogs so that those bloggers are more likely to respond in kind.

Related Links:

Note: In 2007, Wiggly Wigglers' turnover was £2.6 million.


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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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Comments

  • by Harvey Ramer Tue Sep 30, 2008 via web

    This is great! It's wonderful to hear about companies successfully redefining their marketing strategy around the web, and doing it well enough to thrive.

    More of these please.

  • by Ruth Seeley Tue Sep 30, 2008 via web

    Kimberly - thank you - this is exactly the kind of case study for which I've been searching in vain for several months now, instead of the vague, 'so and so's business has grown through using Facebook.' We needed the how, and you've just provided it.

  • by Niklas Wed Oct 1, 2008 via web

    Good case study - Though I think it might be a little bit misleading when you are talking about decreasing annual marketing costs from 100.000 to 3.000... OK - thats in the marketing account, but the big question is how many more hours of marketing input is required to wright, record, answer questions etc. Time should never be considered as "free of charge".

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