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The “Fruit of the Month” club is so last decade. The newest and most delicious club? The Pig of the Month Club created by CEO Lea Richards! Pig of the Month is a nationwide mail order barbecue company that was founded in late 2010. It serves homemade, all natural barbecue meats, sauces, and sides and sends them – fully cooked – nationwide.
The Pig of the Month club not only sells directly to consumer, but has an extensive wholesale side of the business. In 6 months they have grown from 0 accounts to 26 retail locations and 11 online locations.
Can you tell us about your personal background and how it led you to creating The Pig of the Month Club?
I started out in finance and hated every minute of it. So, I quit my high profile job on Wall Street and moved back to my home town of Dayton, Ohio. I found myself looking for a Father’s Day gift one day and thought since my dad LOVES ribs, I would order the best barbecue from some famous place and have it shipped here. Well, it got here and it was just okay. Couple that with my life long love of cooking and BBQ and a lack of prospective employment – and an idea was born.
You mentioned to us that you started out on a shoe string budget and have been able to grow it quite substantially without a lot of money spent on marketing/PR. Can you share your secrets to getting free PR with our readers?
– Utilize sites/applications like Help a Reporter Out (HARO), radioguestlist.com, and reporterconnection.com. Tools like these are literally not only free, but instead of you seeking out journalists/reporters/media outlets, they come to you! If you are not using these sites you are missing out on an incredible resource.
-Reach out to bloggers in your niche! Do a quick Google keyword search using industry terms and see what blogs come up. Take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with their site and then e-mail them your pitch. Make sure to address them personally by first name and then simply tell them why they should cover your company. Follow up in a week if they haven’t replied.
-One of the best pieces of advice in PR and getting noticed was to send your info/product/ideas to the CEO of a company via Fed
Why? It gets noticed.Whether it’s a big company where your package is logged in,or a small firm–overnight deliveries make a bigger impact to decision makers.They cause a second look.Then,it’s up to you to follow up. If I ever need to make a big splash, I send materials Fed X.
-Look at your newspaper everyday! Find relevant ways you can contribute to a story. I saw that a young boy had been badly burned from an exploding gas bbq, so I pitched my newspaper asking to write a piece on grilling safely in the summer. They loved it and it turned into a weekly column. If you are a locksmith and there has been a rash of break-ins in your area, pitch how to secure your house. Think of how your business/expertise correlates to current events (don’t pitch your product!). Know the difference between an ad and a news spot.
-Get on Twitter! Follow the people that you want to get noticed by. RT and reply to their tweets and build a relationship with them. Eventually you will be able to CC: @ their name when you have something relevant to tweet. They will take notice and if they’re interested will usually contact you or RT for you. Take that as a sign it’s okay to message or e-mail them and pitch a story.
You are expanding into avenues you didn’t originally consider, like grill classes and collaborative cookbooks. How did these new opportunities present themselves and how do you sort the good ideas from the bad?
Those opportunities presented themselves from actively participating in social media and using the tips above. I grew my contacts via LinkedIn and tried to make good connections and suggestions for them before I ever asked for anything. That way when I did come asking for a favor or introduction, they were more than happy to oblige. Same goes for reporter connections. I make it a point to stay in contact and feed the journalists who have covered us in the past new story tips (not necessarily about my product), so when we do have a newsworthy item that reporter much more likely to cover it or recommend us for other opportunities.
You need to focus on the brand and the image you want your company to portray. I got approached by a company that does all natural fruit jams that wanted to partner up and make a fruit jam BBQ sauce. I took a look at our brand and what we stand for and quickly realized it wouldn’t have been the right direction for us. Write down where you want to be in 5-10 bullet points and hang it on the wall. Refer to it constantly.
In states like Kansas and Texas where BBQ is king people may be hesitant to try a BBQ from Dayton, OH. How do you sell your products to these traditional BBQ obsessed areas?
We actually tackled that problem by ordering some ribs from some famous places in Texas, KC, and Memphis and doing a blind taste off video – Pepsi challenge style. If you’re confident enough in your product (which you absolutely should be!) the best way to get customers from your competition is to take the competition on head on.
Getting your products in whole sale for a new company is not an easy task. How were you able to grow to 26 accounts in only 6 months?
A lot of sampling and a lot of e-mails!
We started by asking our customers via social media where they would like to see our products. We then took their advice and went to the grocery managers of those stores, told them that so and so wanted to see our product on their shelves and would they mind trying a sample. After that it was just a matter of following up and answering questions until they felt comfortable enough to carry our product.
My advice is to listen to any tips, comments, or hints you get from store managers when trying to sell your product. They might comment on packaging, cost, etc – listen to whatever they say objectively and if it makes sense then change it.
What would be your dream for Pig of the Month club in 5 years?
We would like to grow our brand and be the premier destination for gourmet mail order food. We would also like to see our sauces in stores nationwide, as well as seeing our bbq meats being sold in stadiums, shops, and similar placed nationwide. Continuing to grow into relevant markets is also a big priority, so look for a POTM cookbook, grill tools, grill classes, and anything else we think would work out well!
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