When I first contemplated relocating to St. John’s from Ontario, about a year ago now, friends at home asked if I was crazy. I was packing up my two kids and heading east, moving in with a new love, and taking a new job.
New job, new house, new partner, new family, new province? I’ll admit it: I was a little anxious. I knew I needed to stay focused. During the next few months of preparation, two things kept me feeling grounded. One: I was assured by everyone I met that no place on earth is as friendly as Newfoundland and Labrador. I would never be lonely. And two: How could I resist the opportunity? How many single-mothers in their late thirties get to reinvent their lives so completely? The chance to pick up and move to an island in the North Atlantic was too good to pass up – even though it felt risky at the time.
When I sat down to think about writing a column on strategies for marketing Newfoundland and Labrador products to the mainland, I found the same three things at the forefront of my mind:
- Stay focused.
- Make friends.
- Embrace opportunity.
Turns out that setting your goals on a new market and making your home in a new place aren’t all that different. Here’s a set of tips to help you take your Newfoundland and Labrador product across Cabot Strait.
1. Stay Focused. The job of marketing your product doesn’t change much when you aim at a new customer base. Start by doing a lot of the same things you do right now in your existing market, but broaden your gaze.
Advertising? Sure, but keep it targeted. Instead of taking out ads in general publications, find ways to make your ad as relevant as possible. Do a little research and find out which publications already cater to people who may like your products. As an independent publisher, I was thrilled to learn that a literary magazine based in BC was planning an “East Coast” issue – and immediately took out a full-page ad.
What about branding opportunities? Look for trade shows and craft fairs that appeal to your client-base – and then set yourself apart by playing up the “import” angle. Highlight that difference! You don’t just sell Handmade Knits for Babies, you’ve got Handmade Knits for Babies from Paradise, Newfoundland and Labrador. Think about incorporating your Newfoundland and Labrador brand into your trade show displays and packaging. Whether it’s a simply-drawn map or a row of candy-coloured houses, symbols can go a long way to imprinting your brand in a buyer’s mind.
2. Make Friends. Here’s where social media really comes in handy. The top three social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I know others have already blogged about their specific uses, so I’ll keep this simple: Make friends far away. You’re not just looking for new clients, here. First and foremost, you’re looking for allies. A good place to start is with other women who run operations similar to yours. Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) works with regional partners across Canada that support women owned businesses. The Women’s Enterprise Centre provides a list of these organizations on their website. Another great resource is blogs for smaller, regional Women’s Entrepreneur Associations. Follow and friend as many similar businesses as you can – then engage with those contacts. You’ll find support, new ideas, new markets, and – eventually – new customers, too.
3. Embrace Opportunity. Moving to St. John’s may have been a calculated risk, but it was a risk all the same—and one that not every woman I know would have been willing to take. Take your venture into mainland sales one step at a time, and don’t be afraid of the inevitable growing pains. The first year of any new job is about learning: look at your market expansion as a “new job” within your existing framework. So the first time out at a new trade show or craft fair in a place you’ve never been is about exploration: How does my business fit in here? Who can I connect with? What is this audience looking for? How can I best respond to this market?
New growth is never a get-rich-quick scheme, but with some research, allies, and a focused strategy, your Newfoundland and Labrador-based company can find a new and engaged audience all over Canada. Bon voyage!
Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the Sales and Marketing Coordinator at Breakwater Books, an independent publishing house owned and operated by NLOWE member Rebecca Rose.