And a juice bar in a fruit tree: Boost
by Peter Switzer
Having a great product ready made for a well-primed market is the starting point for entrepreneurial success but a massive stumbling block can be the calibre of the marketing. Janine Allis’s success story called Boost is a benchmark for others when it comes to a communications and marketing strategy.
And Janine says much of the genius in their strategy comes from her husband and co-founder, Jeff Allis.
The Allis couple had the best of credentials to market their precious small business. Janine was ex-PR for Universal International Pictures and Jeff Allis was program director with a radio network. These were impeccable credentials for researching, understanding and tapping into a market. And hasn’t it shown?
“We sat down when we did a strategy meeting and thought what are we good at? What can we do?” Janine says. “And we thought we could take a company from nothing or a brand from nothing and actually grow it.
“We would take all the lessons we have learnt in the last eight years and make sure that someone else doesn’t have to learn them, which is quite valuable because as you know most new businesses actually fail.”
Their idea for a business, like many local success stories, came from overseas.
“My husband Jeff was in radio with the Australian Radio Network for years and he went over to a conference in LA and I went with him,” Janine recalls. “I was just after having my third child and I was on maternity leave from United International Pictures.
“When we were over there we saw the juice and smoothies category everywhere and there are a lot of players.”
She said the industry had been going for nine years so they had confidence that the industry had legs and it wasn’t a big fad that came and went.
As a point of difference with the US model, Janine says she wanted Boost to be more healthy and natural. The rest is history but what was the role of marketing and communications in this story and when did the plan to win over the market start?
“The communications plan started from day one,” Janine says emphatically. “It started on two levels.
“My level, which was how my brain worked and is – I’m a customer, what do I care about as a customer?”
She argues no retailer on the earth can guarantee great customer experience because they are dealing with humans, so she made sure from the outset that they were set up with an email address.
“Anyone at anytime could email me with an experience good, bad or ugly, so that was my communication,” she reveals. “Most people see communication as TV, radio, press but really we started our communication as one customer at a time.”
But that was not the only use they had for email when they started.
“Another thing we did from day one, …[was] we were getting people to join our ‘Vibe Club’,” she says. “We started a great database of fans and we made sure we didn’t bombard them with sales stuff, we bombarded them with health information, giveaways, fun stuff.
“It was really engaging they would come in and do a code word or sing an Elvis song and they would get a free smoothie – it was about tongue-in-cheek so the communication was all about making our customers smile.”
Janine believes Boost was made better from the emails that flowed from their communication strategy.
“I was very much into replying to emails and even now we reply to emails within 24 hours if there is a complaint and we actively work out why that complaint happened,” she explains. “And that’s fantastic because it is continually self-improving.”
At a higher level, Jeff Allis employed lateral thinking to leverage some extraordinary marketing and communications pay offs.
“My husband has an amazing marketing mind and instead of competitions being like every other competition our competitions have been unique to my husband’s mind,” she reveals. “We did a great communication, and this is the ultimate in communication, which was what’s your name game?”
It was so simple a concept but it worked like a million-dollar campaign.
“Basically if your name was Peter and Janine – everyday we had two names and listed them on the radio or in the stores – and if you were Peter or Janine you got a free smoothie,” she says. “What that did was every single Peter got a text or an email to get into Boost and so suddenly we were getting talk on the street where people would be saying, ‘hey Peter did you get a free smoothie from Boost?’ and there was all these new customers that had never tried us before it.”
That was radical thinking to get people communicating and talking about the Boost brand but this next one was out of the proverbial box.
“A fantastic concept from Jeff was we gave away a Boost franchise worth about $200,000,” Janine recalls. “We did a deal with the radio station and again because Jeff understands radio we maximised it so we made sure that we were their major promotion.
“It was very much like the television show The Apprentice – it was that type of promotion. There was something like ten thousand applications for it and we then did a Boost camp where we worked with them to teach them about business.”
The final came down to the best three people with a key and it created enormous promotion for Boost.
“What it did for us was that we had over $1 million worth of advertising on the radio and all the sales went up 20 per cent,” she says. “The sums on that showed it was a really cheap promotion for us and we didn’t pay any of the advertising for Boost because we gave away a store.”
The Boost founders have many strengths that explain their meteoric rise but their ability to tap into a market and get mass interest through innovative communications strategies are a powerful lesson for anyone in business.
The marketing academics call this sort of tapping into the populace as tribal marketing. Coincidentally, Tim Pethick, the founder of juice business Nudie, used a similar strategy to great effect.
Edward de Bono, in his book Marketing Without Money, underlined the importance of lateral thinking to explain great business builders. Janine and Jeff Allis not only think outside-the-box, as a communications team they are literally a pair out-of-the-box.
If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.
Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
Published on: Friday, January 06, 2012