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Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Mastering the mom market, one label at a time Add to ...

For many businesses, connecting with moms has long been one of the toughest – but most important – goals out there. So when I heard about the success of Hamilton-based Mabel’s Labels, I was intrigued.

To put it simply: Mabel’s Labels makes durable, affordable labels for the stuff kids lose.

Started by four moms out of the basement of a house seven years ago, the company now operates out of a 7,500-square-foot office and production facility, it employs 30 full-time staff members, and it sells about 50 per cent of its products south of the border. In 2009, Mabel’s Labels reported $4-million in revenue.

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As far as I’m concerned, co-founder Julie Cole and her partners are the prime example of a small company that has mastered the mom market.

Ms. Cole says she and her partners were early adopters of social media - their Facebook, Twitter and blogging activities continue to drive the company forward. But if we take a step back from the actual tactics, what they’ve done is connect in a meaningful way with their target audience.

But connecting wasn’t terribly difficult, Ms. Cole admits. After all, she and her partners are moms like the ones they sell their products to.

“Our actual market is people that are just like us. The fact of the matter is we live amongst our market. We all have kids. We’re going to gymnastics and ballet classes, and we’re talking to moms every day. We’re really entrenched in the community.”

Ms. Cole says she has observed an interesting shift over the years in the way that moms talk to each other.

“What has been going on in the playground and what has been happening in the parks, has taken up another location – and it’s online,” she explains. “It is incredible to see. Before, mom might have been at home all day with the kids, and that could be isolating. Now, she can pop on her laptop and she has a community.”

Sure, moms have taken up the web as a way to talk to other moms, but specifically, many seek to receive support and feedback, and do product research – and this has affected the way they want companies to communicate with them, Ms. Cole notes.

“Moms want to feel listened to. They want their feedback appreciated and they want excellent, exceptional customer service,” she says, adding that a mother’s product feedback is often emotionally tied to her experiences with her children – and it is especially important that marketers understand that fact.

Ms. Cole shares her insight into the mom market with audiences all over North America – she has spoken at everything from small local events for professional moms, to the 140 Characters Conference in Los Angeles, to BlissDom Canada in Toronto.

“Public speaking is a great way of connecting with people,” Ms. Cole says. “But it is also smart marketing, in the sense that it is a way of positioning yourself as an expert … and word just gets around.”

Indeed, word does get around. Just this month, Mabel’s Labels was mentioned in Forbes, and earlier this week Ms. Cole was interviewed by Fox Business. The company receives incredible word-of-mouth advertising, hosts a thriving online community, and it has a strong reputation for good products.

Ms. Cole has valuable insight into the mom market, but really, this hasn’t only been about tactics and strategy – she genuinely cares and connects with her audience. “So much of everything we do is based on feedback, focus groups, talking to people, listening to blog and Facebook fan comments, and just being really active and having those lines open.

“You have to be authentic,” Ms. Cole adds. “Have a consistent voice. Don’t push out your products - engage in conversation … You have to genuinely be interested.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.

 
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