Just a thought…
Testing the limits
This year was an experiment. Myself and SplashMaps in the petri dish.
I’m probably not the only 40 something chap who found himself running his own business after a combination of of run-ins, frustrations and cut-backs. Well for me that was 7 years ago when I finally said goodbye to Ordnance Survey where I’d worked for 8 years. The latter 3 as Innovation Manager, a role where you’re paid to go against the status-quo. And if you’re good, you’ll get booted-out as your ideas & projects test the business beyond its elastic limit.
On leaving my consultancy ran well with a strong client base for the first 3 years, and it still does now, but when I decided to look at products rather than charge my time for other people’s projects, SplashMaps was born. It’s been an amazing experience to direct my passions toward a genuinely unique new product targeted at an enthusiastic market.
A growing business. A growing brand?
At the end of last year we were bouyed by a 20% increase in sales of SplashMaps, bourne of better Christmas marketing and our embracing of social media and a broader base of products. Our brand defining personalised weatherproof fabric maps were enjoying their second Christmas and represented 60% of sales. But I’d controversially made a highly commercial pitch at that years’ key note presentation for the British Cartographic Society. “Why spend your efforts making products on paper for £8 a piece, when people want to spend nearer £30 on something longer lasting and better quality?”. It was just a thought.
We won-over key brands like AtoZ, Harvey Maps and Harper Collins and we’re able then to add full country products, whole world products and iconic long distance trails and city maps to our portfolio.
The petri dish
So what to do differently in 2016? The shows we’d been taking part-in were having mixed results. Triathlon events led to great photos and super contacts, but little in the way of sales. Adventure races similarly. Folks came to run and get electrocuted. Not in the mood for buying. Again another list of contacts, but little else. The Outdoors show covered its costs, but we’d probably met all the best people we could there, so really no longer worth the hassle – have you ever had to manage a stand at the Excel? You’ve got to have a real need!
Just a thought…
My observation was that our products performed well in the muck and rain. But they excelled as gifts. Just a thought… but wouldn’t it be great if we played in the £8bn gift market? So this framed our 2016, and ended up boosting our year end revenues by 60%!
During the year I shared my observation and plans with BBC2’s Dragons’ Den. They didn’t want any part of it, but my pitch was more convincing to some of the 2 million people that watched. And by the end of the year our Black Friday campaign led to even more consumer business than in the week after a double dose of BBC coverage.
Entering the gift packaging market?
I shared this thought with others at trade fairs I attended, but didn’t have a stand at. This led to relationships like that with Lush, Lonely Planet and a deepening of our relationship with big brands like Harper Collins. So we’re now high class packaging for cosmetics as well as a must-have for the passionate outdoors folk. We’re tailoring our designs for major global roll-outs for clients and we’re gaining a significant export portfolio.
By September we had the confidence to attack the gift market directly with a stand at the Autumn Fair.
We opened our stand to our favourite partners, those that make value added products from our fabric maps, and we were helped with a few props by our supply partner, Ordnance Survey. It was a great show, directly gaining us 5 new retailers giving SplashMaps a physical presence throughout the country. It firmly established the brand in the gift space with a nomination for Gift of the Year 2017 from the gift buyers association.
So did the experiment work?
With brand new products selling to brand new customers, e.g. Ski maps and Lush knot wraps representing 30% of our revenue this year, it seems to have been a success.
So will we do the same next year? Just a thought… but doing the same things year on year is a recipe for failure. That’s the innovation manager speaking.
So perhaps 2017 will bring about a completely new direction… I hope you’ll be interested enough to join us for our best year yet!