Ellen Green, director of Blue Badge Company, on how appearing on national TV transformed her business
Last year I appeared in BBC Two’s hit show Dragons’ Den hoping to secure investment in Blue Badge Company
from a knowledgeable and well connected backer. I also knew it was a great way to generate broader interest in the company and get our name to a wider audience.
Everyone at Blue Badge Company hoped the show would boost sales and attract new customers but none of us were prepared for the avalanche of orders that came our way. After my ten-minute appearance on Dragons’ Den on 23rd
of August, Blue Badge Company received two months’ worth of orders in 24 hours. As the show aired, I watched Google Analytics in real time as the users on our site jumped from 10 to 2700. And while the show triggered a dramatic spike in sales in the immediate aftermath, we are still feeling its longer term effect. Our sales soared by 70% in the six months after Dragons’ Den compared with the same period the previous year. Dragons’ Den is just one part of this. Blue Badge Company designs and handcrafts stylish living aids and travel accessories, such as Blue Badge display wallets, lap trays and walking stick bags.
Disabled consumers now make up a fifth of the UK population – that’s nearly 12 million people, up from 10 million ten years ago – who, with their households, have a spending power of more than £200bn. Yet people often say Blue Badge Company is ‘niche’. A fifth of the population is a very large ‘niche’ and, with an ageing population and better healthcare, it is growing. The over-60s is the fastest expanding age group and the over-50s, who control over 75% of household wealth, will make up more than half of the population by 2030. My dream has always been to see our products stocked by all major retailers, bridging the gap between the disability and mainstream markets. The company has grown and diversified to offer a wider range of living aids but continues to create products that enhance people’s lives and say far more about the buyer’s personality than their disability. Many retailers are waking up to the fact their product ranges need to be more inclusive. But to try and make high street retailers aware of Blue Badge Company’s products I needed to get the brand talked about more widely. Rather than simply rely on the TV appearance as a quick publicity boost, we viewed it as an opportunity to raise our profile in the longer term.
Using the TV show as a hook we worked hard to secure wider ongoing media coverage, which included an interview on The Guardian Small Business Network. I was invited to speak on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about how we aim to create social and cultural change to help excluded groups not only into employment, but also by creating products that improve their everyday lives. My experience in The Den emphasised how important it is to have clear company values and stick to them. The Dragons were really interested in our commitment to creating jobs for people who find it more difficult to access employment. They made me realise how unique it is that more than 40% of our team is registered disabled or is a primary care giver. We also concentrated on generating stories and features to interest our local media and trade press in the months following Dragons’ Den to keep the momentum going, alongside building our social media profile to encourage more followers and traffic to our website. This has resulted in a huge amount of media coverage to date, even attracting prospective investors to get in touch offering support. Blue Badge Company saw a 169% increase in direct orders through its website in 2015 compared with 2014. Business people are often wary of publicity and question whether it actually converts into increased sales. Going on Dragons’ Den was always going to be a risk. You have no control over how it will be edited and you just have to pray that you come across favourably. In our case, we’ve been very fortunate and the numbers speak for themselves.
Since appearing on Dragons’ Den, our products have been stocked by Argos, Lloyds Pharmacy, Day Lewis Pharmacy and more independent shops. Blue Badge Company received a further boost when I appeared on another BBC Two show, Dragons’ Den: Pitches to Riches, in February. With presenter Richard Osman, I came face-to-face with my experience in the Den once again. Watching yourself on screen is not a comfortable experience but I can only look back on Dragons’ Den with positive feelings. The ‘Dragons’ Den effect’, as we’ve called it, has propelled Blue Badge Company to the next stage of growth. I may have left the Den empty handed, but Blue Badge Company has been reaping the rewards ever since. 5 Tips On How Best To Use A TV Appearance To Benefit Your Business:
- Go on the show with a clear strategy of what you want out of it and stick to it.
- Before appearing on the show, prepare and rehearse as much as possible. Get friends and family to watch your presentation and ask for honest feedback to help you improve it.
- Stay true to your core company values throughout, people will quickly realise if you are trying to be something you are not.
- Optimise exposure by informing your local press and using social media channels to post before, during and after your appearance.
- Be prepared for rejection and try to react positively even in the most negative situations. There is always a bright side!