Since its inception in 2001, RedBalloon has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the front room of Naomi Simson’s home (CEO and founder). Ten years later the business is powered by a team of 46 RedBallooners and has been listed on BRW’s Fast list 6 years running (2004 – 2009).
We spoke with Naomi Simson regarding the importance of Market Research when entering into a new market with hardly any proven track record and how she went about building a well known Australian Icon.
Given that it was such a new concept, how important was it in the early stages to do market research?
There is a difference between doing market research and listening to customers. Market research is a science and it is analytical but when you are inventing an industry that nobody knows anything about, it’s a little bit hard to do research.
There were clear trends when we were starting, one was the internet, and secondly the conversations were getting louder and louder about too much clutter in the planet. Just listening to some of my friends and them not knowing what to get their husbands gave me a great insight into a possible need in the marketplace.
So by simply listening to the market, Internet trends and people’s needs we knew there was a market we could potentially create and grow.
How did you build a brand which most Australian are now familiar with?
Brand is created based on the relationship you create with individual people. The relationship is owned by our customers and therefore our brand is owned by our customers. It’s the feeling they have about your brand. Once you understand the essence of what your brand represents then you can really start to grow your business.
When did you start seeing the growth in your business?
Well, in the first year we did 300 in total gift packages, then in the second year we did 300 a month and our biggest month was at Christmas in the 3rd year where we did $156,000 in one month. It has taken a while for people to trust the brand but once it took off it went up exponentially.
In 2010 we shipped 300,000 gifts because more and more people started talking to each other about the essence of our brands.
Has social media played a huge role in your success as of late?
Yes, we do use social media and we use it as a listening tool. A lot of companies misconstrue it as a broadcasting tool and never really use it as a listening device.
It supports our notion of listening and responding. We have quite an active team constantly reviewing and looking at how we are talked about online. We are enjoying what we are learning from social media.
Where do you see things in 10 years in the business world?
Everything is going mobile, that was the vision that Apple had when I was there 20 years ago. This is just a reality now. I believe we will be completely mobile and I don’t think we will have as much office spaced employees.
There are obviously jobs where you will need to be physically at work, but there will continue to be a shift in remote office space.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to entrepreneurs who are in business or about to start their own business?
I would always ask someone who is thinking about getting into business, this very simple question: Why?
If there answer is to make money I tell them to go work in a job because they will make more money that way. If you are not clear about your sense of purpose you will be unsure as to what you are trying to align people to. The thing that gets me out of bed every morning is that I know I am changing gifting in Australia forever.