When Carlo Lowdon arrived for a pitch meeting with Australia Post, he was wearing boardshorts and felt unconvinced that the conversation would go anywhere.
Lowdon was pitching his sticker business, Postcode Stickers, and he’d been trying find a way in with the mail carrier for years.
“I went and pitched at them [to stock my stickers] five or six years ago, and I just didn’t end up hitting the right contact person,” he tells SmartCompany.
The radio silence from his first pitch meant he was more than surprised when the retail arm of the postal service contacted him five years later, asking to stock his products.
“They just came to me and said, ‘we want to stock it’. I went in there in my boardshorts,” he says.
The beachy image fit with the image of his product, however, and the meeting ultimately resulted in the Postcode Stickers brand securing a deal to sell products through 300 Australia Post stores.
Lowdon is hoping to ride the wave of consumers’ affection for the hyper local with his bumper sticker products: customisable stickers designed for punters to place on the back of their vehicles to signify the suburb they’re from.
Growing up in the Victorian surf town of Torquay, Lowdon says he grew up waving at “every car that went past”, but now the speed with which people trade up rides, and the distances they travel, it’s hard to recognise when someone else if from your community.
“I guess it’s just a friendly thing,” he says of the stickers.
“There’s so little about communities these days, and I like that friendly small town atmosphere.”
Finding a market
Postcode Stickers, which Lowdon founded alongside his Australian souvenirs business, e3products, is hoping for a big boost from selling through Australia Post, having already sold 10,000 units of the stickers, which retail for $6 each, over the past year.
Lowdon founded the sticker business in 2005, when it first went by the name “Coastal Stickas”. “I always try to be cool, but maybe too cool, it wasn’t so great for search [engines],” Lowdon says.
Over the past 12 years of developing souvenir businesses, Lowdon says there are two key takeaways for success that come to mind.
The first is deciding whether there is a market for products. Lowdon admits some people “hate” stickers, so when trying to decide whether he should extend his sticker offering to all Australian postcodes, he had to do the legwork to discover whether enough people would buy them.
What resulted was traditional market research: the brand surveyed a range of car parks at train stations and airports across Sydney and Melbourne, marking down when a vehicle had a sticker on the back, and whether it was likely the owner had bought the sticker themselves.
“Twenty percent of cars had gone out and purchased a sticker — whether its a footy club, purchasing a membership, a “My Family” sticker, or an “Australian” sticker,” Lowdon says.
Given the number of people clearly invested in sticker culture, Lowdon says the opportunity was clear — and he wants to be a market-leader.
“I’d love it to become the next ‘My family’, the next trend in stickers,” he says.
With ambitions that large, Lowdon says his experience shows you should never take no for an answer when trying to grow your idea.
Australia Post was ultimately charmed by the product, but when Lowdon pitched initially, he’d assumed there was no interest.
“I couldn’t get to the right person, it was such a big organisation,” he says of his first pitch attempt.
The experience is a reminder to not just pitch to the leader of the marketing department when trying to form a partnership, but to reach out to as many people as possible to spread the message of your brand.
“Don’t just sell things to the top of the marketing department, sell to all, talk to everyone,” Lowdon says.