Make your business special

Q: I’m an avid follower of Virgin
inventions as well as a marketer. How do I improve my sales? I sell life
insurance and would like to build a company from scratch.

Maina Gachanjah, Kenya

A: The key to improving sales is to
make sure your business or product stands out in the marketplace. We have
always tried to ensure that Virgin products are innovative, that they offer
good value and that there’s a great attitude about service. When you have those
basics right, you need to make sure people know about your business: Too many
great businesses remain “well-kept” secrets for too long and never get the
attention they need to grow and thrive.

Make sure your advertising, your
public relations and your general marketing are direct and believable. They
also need character. From the early days of Virgin we always looked to
surprise, entertain and sometimes shock people with our advertising. One reason
was that we had lower marketing budgets than most of our rivals. Another was
that we always felt we were the newcomers – the underdogs. In music, this
approach was easier than in some other businesses, since we had edgier bands
and were willing to take risks on acts that others were not.

For our fledgling airline business –
a totally new area for Virgin, and one where people wanted to know we were
going to survive and be safe – the approach was a bigger risk. Still, we needed
to get the best bang for our buck, so we used me to make the headlines with stunts
and stories. We also made sure our advertisements were funny and
attention-grabbing. It worked. Immediately we created a character for the
airline that was cheeky and irreverent. We have used this tone for many of our
businesses ever since.

Of course, cheek and fun are not
appropriate to all industries. We used a very different approach in the early
advertisements for our financial services. Those messages were memorable for
their directness. They were very hard-hitting. To win people’s trust, we emphasized
our transparency and openness. We also came up with great products, like our
“One Account” – a checking and a mortgage account rolled into one – to ensure
that we built sales and customers quickly.

Q: What are the key considerations
for a new participant entering the market where a lot of sharks are swimming
and holding their areas?

Gerda Stokmane, Latvia

A: A new business must be well
thought through and have a clear service, product or plan. You should be able
to demonstrate a real difference to the existing ‘’sharks“ early on and keep
driving that message home to your potential customers. At Virgin, we look for
markets where the customers are not well-served by the dominant player and
where we can make a difference with a well-priced service – one that usually
has a bit of edge.

Our airline businesses are a prime
example of swimming with sharks. Look at Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Blue and
Virgin America. All compete against much bigger rivals and hold their own
pretty well. The Virgin three have distinct character, great products, cheeky
advertising and loyal customers. Virgin America has been named ‘’best domestic
airline“ twice in a row by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine, thanks to
its modern planes, excellent service and fabulous crew. This is a winning
formula that allows a new player to thrive and survive in even the most
fiercely competitive markets. 

Richard Branson is the founder of the
Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin
Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at
www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at
twitter.com/richardbranson. To learn more about the Virgin Group:
www.virgin.com.

Our airline businesses are a prime
example of swimming with sharks. Look at Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Blue and
Virgin America. All compete against much bigger rivals and hold their own
pretty well.

Comments are closed.