As a product designer engineer, I’m the first to admit sales and marketing was not my strong point! I started my business, Recoil Knee Pads, in 2013 after my Dad, a joiner, complained of problems with his knees.
At the age of 48, he’s been in the trades industry for the past 33 years, he’s an extremely skilled tradesman, but a lifetime in the trades has started to take its toll. He complained that the current knee pads for work he used, weren’t comfortable, and weren’t practical. He had tried numerous solutions of specialist knee pads for trades workers, but hadn’t found anything that answered his problems. Recoil was developed as a solution to my Dad’s kneeling problems. Through a patenting pending, double layer spring system, Recoil Knee Pads reduce pressure by up to 76%, and offers a more comfortable and practical kneeling solution.
As an engineer, I was very focussed on developing a product which most importantly works and secondly is manufacturing feasible. Branding, Sales, Marketing…these were terms that flew around from time to time – but not something I in all honesty paid much attention to. My aim was to develop a knee pad which worked for my Dad, a joiner!
For many start-ups in your first few months of set-up, let’s face it, you probably don’t have the cash to start spending on branding, marketing, sales etc! In reality, if you don’t have a product to sell at that point, then it’s common sense that you spend what money you do have on developing that product into something that you can start selling. I very much had this philosophy. However, if I have one piece of advice to give to any budding entrepreneurs, it’s this – don’t forget about your branding! In my opinion, aside from the product itself, the branding is the next most important thing.
I had created a high quality, premium product. It worked better than existing solutions – and it was scientifically proven. It was award winning – having won numerous nationwide start-up competitions. It was robust, sturdy and oozed quality – AND had the MADE IN SCOTLAND stamp! I was so proud of the product I had, and to me it was so evident of the benefits it could offer. The product was there…but the make-shift brand I had created over the years with a logo I made myself and packaging I created on Microsoft Word, just wasn’t cutting it.
It just wasn’t communicating that message I wanted to communicate. I’d show the product to people and tell them of the benefits, but I wasn’t getting that instant ‘WOW’ factor.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong. This is a knee pad that’s going to save the knees of millions of roofers, tilers, joiners, plumbers etc worldwide! Why weren’t people getting it? As an engineer, I ran back to the product and thought it must be that! I needed to modify it! But even with the changes in colour and shape that I made, I still wasn’t getting that ‘WOW’ I was striving for.
Then….I looked at the branding.
That was the turning point.
We approached Atom and Tom. We got a new logo, some new leaflets and pop-ups, new business cards, a new website, new packaging….and before we knew it, we had this really slick, high-tech brand identity that was communicating in the visual world all of these hard-proven facts that we had strived to create! Instead of chasing the leads and the customers, the table’s turned and customers were now stopping and looking at what we had!
Interestingly, the product wasn’t what was making them stop! It was the look, the feel, the charisma that this branding was communicating: ‘this is a high tech, quality solution, and trustworthy brand’. The next question they had was ‘ok, tell me more’.
If you’re a start-up entrepreneur. My advice to you would be this.
Get your product first. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be something you are proud of – in all honesty, no product that launches is perfect. The reason for that is our customers define perfection and until your customers have used your product then how can you know what you need to improve to achieve what they would define as perfection.
Get your minimum viable product, be proud of it, and then get it out there. In the lead up to that launch, look at your brand and make sure you have a brand that communicates what it is you want to achieve. In my opinion, your brand is what makes people stop and look in the window.
Once they’re looking in the window, this is where your product should be able to speak for itself. Your brand communicates the facts of what your product is about and capable of achieving and makes it easy for your customer. It should mean that once they handle the product they already know what benefits it brings. To many a start-up, it might seem an expensive process. But get it right, and you’ll make that return on investment in no time.
Victoria Hamilton is an award winning entrepreneur who started her company from the incubator hub University of Strathclyde's incubator hub. With entrepreneurial awards under her belt and an award winning product she is taking on the world of protective workwear. You can find out more about her product at https://recoilkneepads.com