Social Media Strategies with Wiggly Wigglers

I met Heather Gorringe, founder of Wiggly Wigglers, at the Endeavor Entrepreneurs Summit last month. She explained to me the multiple social media tools they use to drive sales of gardening products. Heather founded Wiggly Wigglers in 1990 as a mail order catalogue company. Because they are located in rural England, not close to their customers spread throughout the UK, they rely on technology to generate interest in their products.

I met Heather Gorringe, founder of Wiggly Wigglers, at the Endeavor Entrepreneurs Summit last month.  She explained to me the multiple social media tools they use to drive sales of gardening products.  Heather founded Wiggly Wigglers in 1990 as a mail order catalogue company.  Because they are located in rural England, not close to their customers spread throughout the UK, they rely on technology to generate interest in their products.

Many of the strategies Heather uses at Wiggly Wigglers are actually common strategy patterns that can be applied to any business.(1)  The patterns she used are introduce a new player to the game (also referred to as ally with a partner outside your market), apply indirect influence over your customers, sacrifice one battle to win a bigger battle, and link multiple strategies.

Wiggly Wigglers’ customer base is located in England, but their Facebook fan page has people from all over the world.  How does this benefit Wiggly Wigglers?  Heather explained an Englishgarden is more glamorous in the United States than in England, as a result people from California, for example, are more enthusiastic about English gardening than people in England.  The enthusiasm of the global community in Wiggly Wigglers Facebook discussion section generates interest among local gardeners and leads to sales locally.  This is an example of introducing a new player to the game, English gardening enthusiasts located outside of England were not part of the UK market for gardening supplies.

Another example of this strategy outside of social media is Miami’s bid to get a Major League Soccer team.  Marcelo Claure, a local cell phone magnate, teamed with FC Barcelona to present the case for a Major League Soccer team in Miami.  By bringing in an established soccer organization Marcelo gained instant credibility for his bid.  When looking into a new strategy for your business, ask yourself what piece you could introduce to the game to tilt the situation in your favor.   Who could you ally with outside your market?

Some of Wiggly Wigglers’ goods are perishable, so Heather tweets discounts to encourage customers to buy these items before they expire.  While Wiggly Wigglers gives up the full price on these goods, they make sales that would be lost otherwise when the goods perished.   The strategy can be described as sacrificing one battle, full price, to win a bigger battle, total sales revenue.  When thinking about the big picture, increasing annual revenue and maximizing profit for example, it can be helpful to determine battles your business is losing and redeploy resources to other areas that lead to winning battles elsewhere.  Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, cut about ¾ of the projects in progress, and refocused the company on a few initiatives.  The company went from unprofitable to profitable within a year and since the introduction of the iPod the stock price soared.

Heather described to me an instance when a customer complained about Wiggly Wigglers on Twitter while she was off line.  By the time she returned online a number of Wiggly Wiggler customers had come to the company’s defense with stories of their positive experiences and effectively neutralized the complaint.  This is a positive externality of running a Twitter account, customers become customer service representatives.  It is also an example of the benefit of building a community online, Wiggle Wigglers indirectly influenced one customer through the community they built.  Which touches on another issue, how can companies measure the return from investing in a social media marketing campaign?  What is the dollar value of neutralizing a customer complaint online?  What is the cost savings of another customer performing the role of customer service?  For digital marketing professionals, how can this be incorporated into a pitch for their services?

Another way to bring new players to the game is with crowd sourcing.  Wiggly Wigglers uses a wiki to develop their catalogue which gets their customers involved in the product selection process.  It is a way to do market research by helping to determine which products their customers are interested in purchasing.

Wiggly Wigglers won the Dell Small Business Excellence Award in 2008 for their web 2.0 marketing initiatives. They linked a number of social media strategies for their online strategy using Facebook, Twitter, and wiki’s.  The result was an 80% reduction in their marketing budget.

(1) See “The Way of Innovation, Master the Five Elements of Change to Reinvent Your Products, Services, and Organization,” and “Hide A Dagger Behind a Smile,” by Kaihan Krippendorf for more frequently used patterns of strategy.