It’s the start of British Pie Week today. In spite of living near Melton Mowbray, the only pork pies that get eaten in my house are from Bray’s Cottage. I caught up with Sarah Pettegree, owner and pie maker extraordinaire, to talk about the role that content and social media has had to play in the success of the business.
For those who don’t know you and your pies, Sarah, tell us a bit about the history of Bray’s Cottage?
We really got started in February 2007, having done a few food fairs in the run-up to Christmas. I’d decided that I didn’t want to be going to Norwich or London, to other people’s grey offices and all the office politics. It turned out that corporate life was a really good boot camp for running a small business.
We met on Twitter, quite some ago now. Where did you start on social media and where are you most active?
I started out on Compuserve chatrooms, so quite some time ago! I was active on Flickr before I started the business, which helped me hone my photo skills. It was definitely a friendly place, about community.
What has the impact of social media been on your business?
Huge! It’s really hard to overestimate the positive impact. I couldn’t afford advertising, so it gave me a way to go out and find my people, my tribe if you like. It was, and still is, a great way to find advocates.
You blog quite regularly, what role does that play in your content?
Partly I do it for the creative writing. Largely its role is in supporting our SEO efforts, but I can also hang a tweet off it and Facebook posts.
I know many small business owners find it tricky to find the time to plan out their content. What’s your approach?
Not good! I could definitely be better at planning. My challenge is I really enjoy planning and creating content, and therefore don’t see it as work. That means I end up justifying myself to others, that I really am working. Or probably it means I’m justifying it to myself!
What’s your most successful social media channel from a business perspective?
It’s hard to track a lot of our business, as we still quite a lot of food events. A major part of our business is wholesale, and I’ve found Instagram sends quite a few retailers our way. It doesn’t really sell pork pies directly to consumers though.
How do you see the role of newsletters and emails in the mix of things?
I have two basic lists. One is for stockists, current, previous or otherwise. It tends to be the practical things like new flavours, order and delivery dates around things like Christmas and any activity coming up that they might want to feature. I do have a mail order and subscribers list, which I have to admit I hardly mail at all. I know I really should. Certainly when I talk to Tim Kinnaird of Macarons & More, he says that orders follow whenever he mails out to his list. I need to spend more time on this!
Who have you learnt most from in your approach to content and social media?
I’m a huge admirer of David Hieatt and the activity they do with Hiut Denim. I also highly recommend the Do Open book for if you’re getting going on newsletters. I just need to put the words into action.
What’s the key pieces of advice you’d pass onto other small business owners to get the most from their online content?
I think you need to get an intuitive understanding of the voice you want your business to have, but you’ve got to try and be you. Humanise the brand, and try not to just talk about the product, talk around the product. For example, I love where we’re based here in North Norfolk, the natural environment and wildlife, so I often write about that.
Being human will attract people towards you that have similar values to what you put out there. I set some brand values for social media, like not swearing, not being political, and not getting into fights. Generally, I manage to hold good to those!
And finally, support other people. It’s definitely not just about broadcasting. I always say “ask not what Twitter can do for you, what can you do on Twitter for others?” Don’t just keep trying to flog your stuff!
Some great advice from a great business owner. Now, do yourself a favour, get over to the Bray’s Cottage website and order the best darn pie for British Pie Week!