Social Media and Sausages
by Jo Shaer, on September 22, 2014
Episode 2 of Series 3 of Alex Polizzi's The Fixer introduced us to Social Media and sausages.
Hecks was a small business with big dreams. They had failed once before in another incarnation when a merger went wrong and they lost an incredibly successful sausage business. But now they were at it again with a new recipe sausage and a new brand. Heck. But no one really knew what Heck meant in relation to sausages. And they didn't feel that they needed to explain it on their labelling. In fact, Debbie explained: "It was one of those moments where you say ‘what the heck, let’s start again’."
They now had one major deal with Tesco which was up for renewal and left them extremely exposed if the plug was pulled.
Identifying issues with brand perception
Alex took them to Tesco to see where their brand was on the shelves and the Tesco representative explained that customers were confused by the brand. They had something which many of the bigger producers didn't have - a family-run business using locally sourced ingredients. They had provenance but they were not shouting about it on the front of their label. It was agreed that some stickers need to be designed which could highlight these important sales points.
Alex also explained to them that they were missing a vital piece of advertising by not using social media to promote their sausages and their brand. In the face of some resistance, she took them down to a London agency who devised a campaign involving June 23rd - the national day of happiness and sausages smiles, as well as the sausage roll, where people would film themselves doing 'a roll'.
Understanding the finances of your business
But again it came back to businesses not knowing their numbers. The Heck sausages used a specially made pack of seasoning which cost a lot of money. Experimenting on their kitchen table, they were able to produce a sausage that tasted even better but included less seasoning. This simple change allowed them to save £160k per year. For the first time ever, they made a profit that month. Only £1500 but very different to the £20k that they had previously been losing.
More importantly,a taste test at Asda's special food testing establishment voted the new recipe even better than the previous version.
Employing your children in the family business
One of the other issues highlighted was the problems of family businesses employing their children in senior management positions at a very early age when they have no experience. Ellie was just 18 and the Marketing Manager. She got up late and was very quiet in any meetings that she was asked to attend but her parents kept making excuses for her, even though they clearly found her behaviour quite exasperating.
Her older brother was the Sales Director. Alex arranged a big meeting for them to discuss the supply of their sausages to the canteen at a local college. The two youngsters took along two types of their sausages. When the catering manager said no to the more expensive version, they failed to draw his attention to the cheaper model. Because they did not know the prices!
It was quite shocking.
At the end of the programme, Ellie was going out to find another job doing something related to marketing so she could learn some skills to bring back to the business. Her brother had retained his role but was now pulling his finger out and being a proper asset to his parents' efforts.
We saw orders starting to roll in from other supermarkets, Booths and Asda amongst them.
Things were looking up for Hecks' sausages and it has been interesting to look at their social media pages to see the progress.
Indeed, as I write this post, there are reports in the media that the firm have acquired £1m from a private growth fund as a result of being on the programme.