Coffee N5 Podcast - Claire McCormack

Episode 81 – Coffee N.5 –  Finding New Markets as a Growing Beauty Brand with Claire McCormack

Welcome to another episode of Coffee N5 Podcast! It’s a pleasure to have Claire McCormack here with us. 

Claire McCormack is a senior editor at the digital publication Beauty Independent, covering the beauty, wellness, and personal care industries. She is also a thought leader, writer, and speaker on beauty and wellness business, trends, and consumer behavior, with deep expertise in the sexual wellness consumer goods market. Claire has an MBA in Management and Marketing from Fordham University. She wants to create healthy spaces for beauty, wellness, and sexual wellness brands. 

Today on the podcast, host Lara Schmoisman chats with Claire about her love for helping new products and brands find new markets through PR and trade shows. 

Claire shares specifically why she got into Beauty Independent and her strides in interviewing brands who don’t have all the money for PR but want to get new markets. 

She also shares her experiences from an editor’s perspective on how a brand prepares for a trade show. She shares the process of preparing for before and during the trade show and how to follow up with buyers after a trade show. 

Furthermore, Claire shares the joys and struggles of helping brands and how brands can get featured on Beauty Independent.

If you’ve been trying to reach new markets with your growing brand and win lots of buyers and customers at trade shows, this is your sure bet. Click, play and take great notes.

What you’ll learn:

  • Recommendations for a new brand to get ready for a trade show.
  • The best ways to follow up with buyers after a trade show.
  • How brands can get featured on Beauty Independent.

Connect with Claire McCormack through her  Instagram and her LinkedIn

Follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

 Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

Twitter: @LaraSchmoismanFollow Business Forward on Facebook and Instagram

Go back to the homepage

Lara Schmoisman  0:05
This is Coffee N5. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee N5. And while I’m here sipping away, I was thinking about those days that I was teaching digital media media for the fashion industry. And, of course, even though I love the fashion industry, I had to do some learning myself. And one of the things that I realized is that the fashion industry was one of the most affected by the digital world, the even the seasons of the beauty industry had to change because everything was happening so fast, before launching of new products, or launching of new lines will take time, and the press will have their times for their beautiful profiles and the new seasons. And then people will sell it then when the digital world started and everything started to be so fast. People wanted now the one the product product now they could wait so much. So this happened that a lot of our retailers had to start ordering more, because they didn’t know what will happen. And if you have a short, a small startup, you might not have enough. And then it’s a problem because you’re not making your customers happy. Today, I’m super, super excited, because I invited Claire McCormack. She is the Senior Editor of beauty independent, which is a publication that I constantly follow, because are the new trends and new products. She’s always featuring them. And she’s helping these new products to chase the new markets. And so welcome, Claire.

Claire McCormack  2:01
Hi. So happy to be here.

Lara Schmoisman  2:03
So how did you get into this in the independent beauty business?

Claire McCormack  2:10
I started when I got my MBA I out of that program launched a luxury beauty e commerce and content site called Travel beauty. And it was through travel beauty, and I was also doing some freelance writing for The Huffington Post at the time. And one of the things I wrote about was indie beauty Expo, which was a trade show only for independent brands, you needed to be at least 51% owned by the founder, the individual, like you could have some outside investment but needed to be owned by the founder. And so I wrote about indie beauty Expo and the company was growing very fast. And Julia, right, one of the co founders said, I want you to come on board. And I did and it’s been gangbusters ever since. And what we launched in 2017. So individually Expo launched as a company in 2015. I joined in 2016. And then basically from when I started and then 2017, we debuted duty independence. And it really grew out of working so closely with these beauty entrepreneurs because again, that’s those are the only people that exhibited on our shows, we worked so closely with them. And we really got to see all the pain points that beauty entrepreneurs have the specific ones that especially then in 2017, were not really addressed in a lot of the media. They weren’t talked about. There’s there’s launching at like, you know, 4000 Walmart doors, but then the people that were out our shows wanted to talk about, okay, well what if I’m watching at like to credo beauty stores, or you know, instead of instead of raising like a $50 million round, like, what if I’m looking to raise like a million or $500,000 round, there was this big whitespace there. And so we came in to bring that kind of news to that consumer. And it was definitely a big whitespace because we grew really rapidly and have continued to expand our coverage and who we speak to so we don’t just do beauty, we do beauty, wellness, personal care, and that now includes like even beverages. I personally love sexual wellness. And so bringing those entrepreneurs, those founders, the kind of information that they need the news, but then also more deep educational, educational content, like how to raise funding and value your business that a lot of entrepreneurs need because a lot of people that come into the space have never been in beauty before or never launched their own company before. There’s a lot of There’s a lot you don’t know. And so

Lara Schmoisman  5:02
that I love that the first thing that you mentioned was this expo, because it’s a big part of what you have to do as luncheon, business to be in expos, trade shows and all that I would love for you to explain a little bit of syrup of this because I there, I found that a lot of people, new entrepreneurs, they think that because they have a line, they just put put it online and make a shopping cart. And that’s it, you’re in business.

Claire McCormack  5:32
Yeah, a few years ago, that might have been true that you can just launch or launch a website and do some social ads. And you would be good to go if the product looked good, especially if it looked good online. But that has rapidly shifted, because they all have that type of advertising. So what you would need to, to really get your brand and your website in front of people has gotten so so so expensive. And so for a bootstrap brand, a brand that does not have VC funding behind it or just doesn’t have access to millions and millions of dollars growing that way is not, it’s not going to work anymore, you’re just not going to get in front of the people that you need. You need to get physically IRL in front of people and trade shows are great for that. Obviously, the past two years of the pandemic, it’s been, you know, we had to stop our trade shows cold turkey, and whether or not we’ll bring them back. We don’t know. But it’s still trade shows are such an amazing place to meet. Retailers which again, so if we look at the fact that like, no brand is really going to be just direct to consumer anymore. All everyone’s now talking about, okay, you need to be omni channel omni channel, right? So where do you meet the buyers? So you can get into those channels, you meet them at trade shows? And

Lara Schmoisman  7:00
I mean, the trade show is part of this one of the channels?

Claire McCormack  7:04
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, like we, for a while we even had a consumer night at our trade shows, then we turned it into just just trade so it would be buyers and press. And that’s the other important part of trade shows is is meeting those key editors and press people that can cover your brand’s press placements are not a magic pill, but they can certainly I know that, you know, there can be that press placement that just does work some magic for a brand because press begets more press. buyers find you through press right. So there is a hopefully this happy Domino.

Lara Schmoisman  7:49
Yeah, it’s a happy domino effect. And you want to have that. And that’s all it takes on what we always say about strategy. And that’s why I created my company just to give this omni channel experience to new brands and to help them to set up things, right, because there’s ways to set up things right. And that of like, we were talking offline, that this does not guarantee success, success, but at least it guarantees you that you won’t fail for silly reason. Yes. Yeah. Like, for example, I was talking the other day, a new client, that actually I was taking over their coupon Facebook ads. And when I go in, I don’t want to say who they were using or what doesn’t matter. But I see that the audience was completely wrong. And they were showing up. I mean, my client was based in one city from another end of the United States was getting it so that’s a waste of money.

Claire McCormack  8:54
Yes. Yeah, it’s expensive now, so go, you know, those are not cheap dollars. Those eyeballs that are that they were paying to get to their site are not cheap. And like you said, if it’s not who you want, or who is going to end up doing a purchasing whatever that purchase, they look like. Yeah, that’s so it’s a shame.

Lara Schmoisman  9:22
I want to do a game with you here. I want to play that we’re gonna have a new brand here. Let’s call that x brand. And I will get my recommendation from marketing to get ready for a trade show. And then you’re going to give you a recommendation on what to do on a trade show and how you utilize that time. So my recommendation from broad and marketing is that you need to be super rugged, that you need to know who’s your target audience have beautiful packaging, have your booth all the banners, everything people your brand need to remember us always my I am a sister You need to be informative, entertaining, memorable and actionable. Yes. So you really need to have all these things. So you’re gonna, what are you going to give away? We want people that you’re going to be remember, don’t give that flyer that everyone has that’s boring. Be outside of the box, give something that you want to make you memorable. Yeah. And make connections get in a way that people they’re gonna give you their email address. Make sure you have a way to follow up. Because yes, it’s a lot of work to do trade shows. Yes, I did. From the press point of view. I did ask marketing, I do both sides. And believe me, you’re gonna need a long nap after we can have a trade show for a few days. So

Claire McCormack  10:49
absolutely. It’s very, I’m naturally introverted. It’s very draining. So you want to self care is a big part of it, making sure you’re getting rests, if that’s something that really saps your energy.

Lara Schmoisman  11:01
Yeah. So make sure that you have your power, what bars they are on that drinks. But also, don’t rely on your memory. Take note recording, whatever it takes, get mailing lists, get business cards from everyone. Yep. But get away that you can follow up. Okay, that was for me, what about your term,

Claire McCormack  11:25
your elevator pitch. So think about a tradeshow there are hundreds to 1000s of different booths set the person who’s coming to your booth, just assume that they’ve already been literally just in the past hour to a dozen other people like you. So again, to your point of standing out, you want the booth to look beautiful, that’s a given. And that doesn’t mean like spending a ton of money. There’s there’s creative ways to make it look really beautiful and colorful. But what is like in those first few critical seconds, what are you saying to that person that’s going to grab their attention and want them to engage with you and be engaged with you. So not just talk to you, but actually really be hanging on every word. And I think a lot of a lot of brands go wrong and not having that elevator pitch for their brand, just well Hone. So when someone comes up, you’re able to say like, Hey, you know, do you like do you know, the benefits of coochie? All or whatever it is, that’s not you know, that’s an example. But knowing how to grab someone hooked them in those first few seconds in a way, again, you don’t want to be used car sales money, you know, you want it to be authentic, but know what you’re going to say. And so when I come out to your booth, it’s like, oh, okay, like, let’s talk about that. And as far as giving away, I always err on the side of at least Deluxe samples, I understand full size products to give away maybe very expensive. I think that just waste wise and also product wise the sachets like the really little sample packets usually don’t work. Well, I can’t really get a feeling of like very with you. Yeah, like what I can’t get a feeling of like what a product really isn’t what it really does from that. And I think they’re like wasteful as well. So again, I really have a lot of sympathy for the fact that it’s expensive. You’re giving away a lot of products. And that’s one of the reasons why trade shows can be so expensive. And certainly when you’re looking at trade shows you want to work that into the budget. It’s not just the efficiency. And on the marketing

Lara Schmoisman  13:39
standpoint, I always say you can give many sizes.

Claire McCormack  13:42
Yeah, let’s package it right. Yes,

Lara Schmoisman  13:46
that’s what will make the difference. Or for example, I gonna show you because I have it here. I don’t do business cards. I do

Claire McCormack  13:57
chapstick. Oh, that’s great.

Lara Schmoisman  14:00
So when I go to a meeting, I go, Oh, you can put one of this. This is something people will use because it’s a good quality also. Or you can put the hand cream if you that’s a brand or something that people really want to put in your pocket in their drawer. And it’s memorable because people will use that and they will they’re in the back of their brain.

Claire McCormack  14:22
For sure, yeah. Any way that you can stand out is is important. Yeah, putting your because you get so many cards at a trade show. Oh my goodness.

Lara Schmoisman  14:32
And try not to be salesy on the spot if someone wants to buy completely fine, but otherwise I use those spaces to bond with people. Yes. Talk about the dog mate. Make yourself a note. I talk about the dog that the name was nuclear. And then in the follow up let’s talk about the follow up. i How After you took that little mini vacation after the trade show, remember, buyers also need that little vacation. It was intense for them. It was really busy. Yeah. And they got so much information. So you want to give us a few days? Not too long. But how long would you say that is a good time to

Claire McCormack  15:24
wait? Definitely a few days, I think it also depends on what day of the week the trade show is. So I would say within a week depends depending on how the conversation went. So just as you said, if you’re making notes of your conversations, and there are people that you can tell with like a really hot lead, that those are good to the top of your, your, your priority lists that you want to make sure you’re staying top of mind. So within a yes, like five days, I would say is a good time to follow up. But really like hey, again,

Lara Schmoisman  16:02
then use your email or your phone and pick up notes. Use the notes, if you remember that you talked about nopi because you have that note, make a comment about Snoopy. So yes, Announcer If you were talking about him with about him and not someone else, make it personal Make it count, because every relationship with the buyer can make it a racket.

Claire McCormack  16:28
Yes, absolutely.

Lara Schmoisman  16:31
So, um, what happened? If they don’t answer?

Claire McCormack  16:36
This is a great question. And you obviously want to follow up and give it a few days, I don’t I mean, following up twice, I would say is probably a good limit, at least for the near future. I deal with this a lot. As with with President as an editor and getting a lot of, I literally get 300 emails a day, if not more. And so there’s a lot of follow up in there. And I couldn’t, I just cannot get back to every single person. And so how you handle the follow up is also you know, keep it short, sweet and respectful. And then a second follow up. Sometimes some people get a little snippy in the follow up, I don’t I don’t recommend

Lara Schmoisman  17:28
that you say that. You could never make it personal. Because even know what’s in the other person’s plate. I mean, I

Claire McCormack  17:36
300 emails, I get a day and night,

Lara Schmoisman  17:38
you don’t know how many emails I used to be the person who answer every single email, and even people who will send me selling thick trying to sell me things say, thank you so much that I’m not interested at this time, I got to a point that I cannot do it. I really don’t have the time. If I get accumulate all the time, I just cannot. So I had to stop receiving email, answer an email. So don’t take it personal. And if they’re interested, they will get back to you. I will give them as you said, two, up to two follow ups after the show and see what happened. Otherwise, I will never burn a bridge. But I will make notes. We also you have an Excel file or table Trello whatever you want. Yep. And that you put out I keep track of the data you send them. This is your business and you can not forget this is really important for you. Who do you talk to? What was the feedback? And maybe an answer the answer, but because in then in five months, depends, every industry is a little different. You want to keep in touch, or you’re gonna said that see them in the next ratio. Even if you are not an event or in the tradeshow. You might see them around in the tradeshow. So say hey, how are you remember me?

Claire McCormack  18:58
Yep, yeah. So you want to keep it. You want to keep it always polite. And it’s also against speaking as an editor, you may email me or your PR may email me about something follow up. I’m not writing about it now. But then three months from now, I may be writing a story and I always say put the key words about your product or your brand in your email, because I’ll search my inbox retinol I’ll just search my inbox for written all right to see all the emails I’ve gotten that that has to do with right now. And then I’m going through those emails to see okay, who can I use as a source for my story? And so it’s I love that I have those emails. That’s why I never delete emails. I don’t almost never delete them either. Like unless it’s like a sales like spammy thing, but I never delete them because I want to be able to like three months from now go back and be like, Oh, I couldn’t write about this brand new But this is the perfect opportunity. It started by a doctor, let me get her expert opinion on this boom.

Lara Schmoisman  20:07
Yeah, that’s what it is. That’s why you never burn bridges in this industry.

Claire McCormack  20:11
Yeah. Because if I go back and I see an interaction, and they were, like, weird or something, I’m like, Okay, well, I have hundreds of other emails, I can easily go to the person who was always gracious with me understanding.

Lara Schmoisman  20:25
I mean, I mean, we are busy that I don’t want to deal with toxic, toxic people. Yeah. Are they don’t follow directions, directions are really important. Even if you’re are asking for a question in an article. That’s something that I want jump right in now and it’ll be an interview is when someone asks you a question. There’s a reason for that question. So answer that question. Yes. Don’t talk about what you want.

Claire McCormack  20:53
Yes, it’s very important to keep it. And if you and if it’s something that you don’t want to answer, just yet be very straight to say like, I’m not, I am not going to comment on that. A lot of times because we write about business will always ask financial questions, How much money did you raise? How much did you spend on this? How much did you spend to launch the brand? And you founders have varying degrees of comfort with divulging those types of facts understood, just be straight about it, just say, I’m not comfortable sharing that information. But and then sometimes, you know, if you’re not going to give me like actual revenue numbers, which I get it like a lot of people don’t, you can say, okay, but our year over year sales have increased x percentage, you know, so there’s, there’s something there that’s substantial that our readers will want to read without giving away any trade secrets.

Lara Schmoisman  21:55
Exactly. Because, as you were saying press is really important for a new brand. Yeah. So on how you get press. And those are the values that we were discussing. Before that someone who wants to start something you need to start a trial, like I said, with a strong branding, but also you need to have a budget for press. I know that there are they are because and everyone knows how I feel about this about the coaches are fake coaches, like they think I mean, they’re coaches for everything now. Oh, take my program. And I guarantee you that you will know how to do your own PR. Great. Yeah. I mean, I think that if you’re capable of running your company, probably you can learn PR, but then you’re not going to be finding your company because you’re doing VR. Yes, yeah. Yep. Well, it’s something you as a founder, as an owner of a brand, you need to understand what is your time more valuable.

Claire McCormack  22:54
And I think cultivating those relationships with key people. It just in general, so not when, when it’s not a new cycle time is also super important. I am always I always love to cover brands that I just have become friendly with the founders on social media, we follow each other on Twitter and like banter a ton. And then I find out that they’re launching something, and so happy to cover it and write about it. Because I have that rapport with them already. So that goes a long way. And that costs 0.0 dollar.

Lara Schmoisman  23:37
Absolutely is people that you’re gonna see around. So if people want to get featured in your magazine, how do they get to do that?

Claire McCormack  23:51
Definitely reach out to me via social media on Instagram and Twitter. A lot of people not as many people are on Twitter. It’s my favorite favorite social media platform. Instagram ad for most journalists. Yes. And I love it. And it will be again, it’s it’s word based. It’s text based. And so as a writer, of course, I really love it. But it’s also just the feeling of Twitter is a lot more. A lot more sarcasm. No one’s trying to pretend to have this perfect life like I feel like they do on Instagram.

Lara Schmoisman  24:24
I always say that I should have been British because I love that sarcasm and I love that that week. And again, like Twitter is a perfect way to do that.

Claire McCormack  24:37
Yeah. So great place to reach out to us. You can always email us and we because we want to be champions of independent and emerging brands. You don’t need to have PR obviously PR does a really great job and they’re able to send out big boxes and they have You know, they, they’re able to like send emails to dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of editors. But that personal touch if it’s straight from the founder, we love that we love to cover those brands. Because it’s, we want to we know how tough it is to launch a company. And we know how challenging it is. So if this is someone that is really bootstrapping their brand, and doesn’t have the funds to pay, however many $1,000 a month for PR, like, yeah, reach out to us, just make sure, I would say that you still have your ducks in a row. So one thing PR does really well for brands that brand founders may not know is knowing to have again, that elevator pitch but in written form, in the email saw

Lara Schmoisman  25:46
a media kit is really I was about to say, yeah, I gotta explain him better than me. So go for it.

Claire McCormack  25:52
Yeah. So like, send me the things that I need for story. If you go to a story on a website, you need beautiful imagery, a founder headshot, like all of those the priceless of the products, like all make sure all of that in that first email. So I don’t have to go back and forth with you, right?

Lara Schmoisman  26:10
No, no, I’m busy journalists. Most of the time. They don’t want to go back and forth, if they know cannot find everything. And they need to because they have deadlines. So yes, they don’t have the time to go back and forth, back and forth. So it’s great if you can send them all the information they need in one place.

Claire McCormack  26:26
Yeah, absolutely. And then that will give me the inspiration to look for more, we have beauty independence, very important to us. If we’re doing a full feature on a brand, like one article on one brand, we’ll always want to talk on the phone or on zoom with someone we don’t usually just do email back and forth. Because it’s important to us to get those those real live quotes, you know, so it’s not like a canned response via email. Those are good for different types of stories. But if we’re featuring or writing just about your brand, I’ll always want to get on the phone with you for 30 minutes or what have you. So we can I can really get to know you.

Lara Schmoisman  27:05
That’s great. And also remember, if you make it easier for the journalist or for the publisher, they want to get happy about this. And then they’re going to be more eager to feature all the products of your the future, if you’re easy to work with. That’s what they want.

Claire McCormack  27:25
Always, always yes.

Lara Schmoisman  27:27
Also, something that I always recommend to a margin brand is that you have to have a budget and side for gifting. Either to have gifting to give gifts to the media, there are a lot of media that they will not fit your product, if they don’t try it.

Claire McCormack  27:47
We go back and forth on this we try. Again, we’re very conscious of the fact that bootstrap brands do not have a ton of money to be giving us $1,000 worth of free products. However, there are so many brands we could write about. So we want to make sure that we’re writing about products that are really fantastic and best in class. So it is a title, we definitely don’t have to have product to write about a brand. And I would say that I turn I turned down most products that I get offered on I’m already on some PR mailing list. So like I get packages all the time, which I don’t even know are coming and that’s lovely. But we don’t need to have product. And that’s

Lara Schmoisman  28:40
great. But there are many other magazines, publishers influencers that they do. So you need to know that you have to have a budget available for that. Oh, yes,

Claire McCormack  28:49
absolutely. You have to have a budget and again. Yeah, like what does it look like and the unboxing and this is something that’s really been evolving.

Lara Schmoisman  29:01
And remember that the budget includes shipping?

Claire McCormack  29:05
Yes. Which can get very expensive.

Lara Schmoisman  29:08
Yes. I have actually one of my clients who was like I have they have practically away but can they pay for shipping? No, you can not ask to pay for shipping.

Claire McCormack  29:19
Yeah, no, no one’s paying for shipping. I don’t know what I was gonna say about the unboxing part of it is that like that. It’s kind of evolving, where there was a time when I’m boxing what you wanted to beautiful ceremony and it used to be fancy and all of this extra hoopla going on and now people are kind of moving towards, okay, we don’t just throw it in a box but we also want to be eco conscious, we want to have as little plastic and waste as possible. So finding that delicate balance of like making it a beautiful experience, but As as little

Lara Schmoisman  30:05
Okay, before we go, because I know that we took a lot of time and this is I think that one of our longest podcast ever, but I cannot stop talking to you because this is so exciting. I I want to ask you the same question I asked everyone, what else was that mistake in your career that you thought that oh man, I really screwed up. But from that screwed up, he learned so much that it was such a valuable experience. And that you can teach someone, and they can learn from your experience?

Claire McCormack  30:42
That’s such a tough question to answer without thinking about it beforehand. So just exploring options fully, I’ll say that there was someone early in my career that was like, Okay, call me reach out to me. You should, like, in a professional, like, it was very professional, like I, you know, we should talk about like, you coming to work for me. And I never reached out to him, because I was just like, what does he like? Why would he do that Mrs. incredibly successful person. And, and I think my again, I was like, just, less than a year out of college, I was very young, and I just kind of was maybe intimidated. And I didn’t reach out to him. And I, who knows what would have happened and like, I’m very happy with how my life has turned out. But you know, who knows what could have happened. And so I think that, know that when people approach you in that way, and reach out to you in that way, like explore it, don’t let those things don’t let those opportunities pass you by. Because you, you just never know. You never know.

Lara Schmoisman  31:55
Like my mother always says, if you don’t ask, your answer is a really no.

Claire McCormack  32:02
If you don’t at least have that conversation with those people. Yeah, and nothing could have come of it or something big could have but I’ll never know because I didn’t I just never called even though the person was like very clear with me again, I think my I was feeling very intimidated. And so I just didn’t take that step. So take those steps follow up with those people.

Lara Schmoisman  32:26
Thank you so much. Claire was such a pleasure talking to you. And to you guys. I’ll see you next week for more coffee number five.

Claire McCormack  32:34
Thank you so so much.

Lara Schmoisman  32:37
It was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao ciao.


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