Today, I’m talking to Sian Holt, founder and managing director of Fudge Kitchen. It’s that fantastic high street shop you can’t pass without trying a piece of free fudge. It’s also the business that’s been around longer than you think, and it’s in part due to Sian’s background as a marketer, and her willingness to adapt to new practices, such as the creation of a fantastic Instagram channel.
I met Sian a few years ago, when I was editor in chief of a food industry website, so this episode is about discovering what her journey has been like in the intervening years in terms of company success and the changing role of media relations. What exactly is it like to run a successful confectionery business, and what part does media and marketing play in its success?
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01:16 Skip the intro. This is where the main conversation begins.
03:40 How did Fudge Kitchen start? Sian recounts the story of picking up from the train station an American friend of her parents, who just happened to know how to make fudge.
5:05 Sian mentions Geoffrey Thompson, who used to own Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and his initial influence on getting the first fudge shop up and running.
08:17 Sian is a member of the Institute of Directors, One of the hardest things in business, when you’re an SME,” she says, “is it’s quite lonely. It’s useful to have a chat with somebody else who’s going through the same things. It’s one of the great strengths of [the IoD].”
10:41 What did marketing look like when Sian started out in business? We talk about branding, communication and ‘customer engagement’: “It’s rubbish really. It just means you have to talk to your customers!” says Sian. “I’ve never been one for marketing speak, but that one is definitely rubbish.”
16:00 How modern marketing practices have been introduced to the business. The customer plays a big part! Instagram has played a big role in Fudge Kitchen’s most recent marketing success. It’s interesting to note that social media success starts at a local level, and often in-house, with the people working in the shops taking care of the social side of things themselves.
20:10 Mailshots? Who’s still doing them? Actually, they can still be quite effective as a marketing device, particularly as they are targeted.
22:00 What’s it like to be a public speaker. I mention a previous episode with Russell Anderson-Williams, and Sian talks about her natural journey into being able to speak in front of people.
23:48 It’s important to have passion about something. Sian describes how it’s important to listen, but also to ignore.
26:25 “The world is changing faster and faster,” says Sian. “So are consumers and what’s important to them. Your customers are virtually people you’re working with. Everything is so instant, interactive and reactive. The whole sea change is lapping at the shore. With millennials, there’s such a different approach – not just to communication, but to brand values. And with the [generation] following on … they’re even more concerned about provenance and story. Being an entrepreneur or a capitalist won’t buy it at all – you’ve got to be authentic.”