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The Press Effect

One Startup. No Secrets. Start at the beginning.

“Hey, can you order another 912 bottles please?”

I was slightly annoyed. Just a week ago Casey and I talked about getting a grip on our inventory. Clearly he didn’t get the message because he had somehow lost track of at least half of our last 912 bottles, which arrived less than two weeks ago.

“Case, what happened to the bottles you just got!?”

“They’re all accounted for, we’re pacing to run out again next week.”

It turns out Casey wasn’t the one missing something. I was. In my efforts to keep up with the influx of orders, I didn’t realize how much product we’ve been selling.

In August we sold 165 bottles of spicy honey. In September that number grew over 500% to more than 840 bottles. So, what was the magic?

Simply, it was press. We received numerous press hits that were both good quality AND relevant. We knew from day 1 that selling spicy honey, a product and category most people had never heard of, would be a game of awareness. Since people don’t know about it, they aren’t searching for it, so surely they won’t buy it. And while press isn’t the only way to generate awareness, it certainly packs the best punch of low-cost + impact.

But to get press, the press needed to know about us. So we were back to the awareness problem. We knew we have a killer (and pretty) product and a great story – things important to getting product coverage – and agreed we needed to get that first piece of relevant press to jump-start awareness and get the snowball rolling. That’s where good ole fashioned networking and hard work came in. Casey began with his personal network, and kept following the leads:

  • When a key food influencer commented on his friend’s Instagram post featuring Bees Knees, he immediately sent that person a sample and personal email through an intro from his Instafriend
  • He heard from one of our retail partners that a food mag editor bought a bottle, so he painstakingly found a way to contact that editor
  • He used a friend's friend's friend to get a handful of bottles into the office of a popular food blog in the hopes he could get them hooked on the product 

Once we had a relevant contact, we followed our simple press plan:

Press Plan

1.  Build a Relationship: we’re not asking for anything. Instead we’re trying to connect with people who might benefit from knowing about our story and our product. If nothing comes of our interaction, at least one more person is aware and could be a potential customer. This might begin with following them on Twitter, reading and sharing some of their work, and creating a genuine connection whenever possible.

2.  Help Them Do Their Job: Journalists are people too. They have busy lives, deadlines and too much work without enough time time. Instead of hoping they will come up with a great story featuring our Spicy Honey, we decided to offer up a number of ideas, including photos and copy, for a story that might intrigue their audience, whenever possible. (For example, to get in front of Huckberry’s audience we pitched four different stories, and they were interested in one, which resulted in this amazing piece . We supplied the photos and copy, making it their job easier.)

3.  Track & Measure: We want as much interaction with influencers as possible. But we also want to be be profitable, so we need to know the success rates and cost of giving away sample bottles and spending time on outreach. We’re now tracking all our outreach, contacts and published press on Zoho – an easy to use CRM tool that’s free for the first 3 users in any company. As we have new products, updates or ideas to pitch, Zoho will make it easier to target the right people in our network.

And then the fun began:

Grubstreet published a fantastic 800 word story pitting Bees Knees against Mike’s Hot Honey

Followed by

feature on Uncrate's homepage

Followed by

A lovely writeup from the kitchn

Followed by

You get the point :)

Not only was the increase in awareness driving sales, it was also driving additional press opportunities – the plan was working!

Relevant Press

But this wasn’t our first major press. In fact, we received some of our highest traffic when Business Insider reposted an article I authored recounting our 30-day launch and the lessons learned. But that Business Insider traffic resulted in JUST. TWO. ORDERS. It makes sense; the BI reader isn’t reading with the intent to discover a new product of buy something interesting.

The Uncrate reader, on the other hand, is looking for something interesting to buy. The Grubstreet reader is interested in discovering new and interesting food and restaurants. These outlets represent relevant press for MixedMade.

However, we’re attempting to remain open in considering which less-obvious outlets might also have relevant audiences. For example, in the successful launch of Soma Water Filter, Mike Del Ponte was surprised to learn that was their number one source of traffic, a site they had likely never heard of.

Predicting The Future

The boost in awareness, combined with Casey’s excellent outreach, has led to some significant press opportunities due to hit in the upcoming months. As we were barely able to keep up with the influx of orders in September, we’re left wondering how to prepare for a possibly massive number of orders in November and December. I’m sure we’ll come up with something. At least, I hope so.


Haven't tried our Bees Knees Spicy Honey yet? Go ahead, order a bottle or two. We're so confident you'll love it, we'll give your money back if you're unhappy for any reason.

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