Interview with Kopi Founder Philip Wilkinson

fresh coffee from kopi coffee
Fresh Coffee Addict and Kopi Founder, Philip Wilkinson

One of my passions in life is great coffee, I am a self confessed caffeine addict and around 50% of the time run on its energy. At the start of the year I heard about a new “coffee club” called Kopi.

Kopi source amazing gourmet speciality coffee’s from around the world. Each month Kopi deliver to your door a bag of that months speciality coffee for you to love and enjoy, they always taste and smell amazing. Recently, I sat down to talk with the co-founder of Kopi, Philip Wilkinson.

Philip has an amazing history, he has founded several great companies, including Kelkoo. He has worked across many industries from sport to food & drink and has always made the company a success.

Over the years you’ve founded a good number of projects and seen them become successes. How have you seen marketing techniques change over the years?

The first marketing I remember using was creating display ads and running them through banner exchange networks where multiple sites would put ads across each other through a broker.  There were also online loyalty programs like Beenz if anyone is old enough to remember that.   This was about 1998 I think.

From there, when I was doing Kelkoo we were also adding PPC to the mix in the early days and then were one of the first companies to really understand SEO and what it was becoming.  We had a huge first mover advantage for many years and effectively arbitraged SEO traffic into paid clicks to our partners.

Since then all these online channels have matured and been joined by the social channels, friend referrals, and so forth – there’s a massive amount to choose from in the mix these days and as more people bundle in – the channel gets more and more expensive.

Fundamentally though, the real opportunities are when you have created a great product that people will talk about and when you identify marketing channels that have really gone mainstream or been fully exploited yet.

The companies you’ve founded have been across industries from sports to food & drink, which is the most challenging market to succeed in?

Well, the ones I’ve founded have all been on eCommerce as that’s been a key passion.  I remember sitting down one day and working out where I wanted to focus and thought “I love the internet and I love shopping” – so that’s perfect!

The most challenging has always been when physical products are involved.   Price comparison was easy looking back on things..  being a real merchant and having products in stock, creating a supply chain, and dealing with the laughable Royal Mail system is a real challenge and time sink.   Things that are seasonal too.  In sport, a change in weather pattern can throw your entire stock purchase out the window.

At Kopi you do some great things to promote your company using social media, can you tell us a little about your community and how you use it to market your company?

We could be doing a lot more but with a small team, it’s all about being honest, personal and responsive.  Helping to engage with people not just to help them but ask for their help in return in knowing what to do better and what they want.

What’s really interesting to note is that most non-tech / media people are not using social media a lot to interact with businesses.  I’d say 80%+ of our customers don’t even look at twitter or facebook.

If you could give the readers one bit of advice on how to promote your company online what would it be?

It completely depends on who you are, what you’re doing and how much money you have.   What I would say is that you first need to build a great product that people want and focus heavily on customer service.  That in itself can give you a great foundation to build on.

Whats the biggest thing you’ve learnt over the years when it comes to online marketing?

Really just constantly about how little i know and how much I have to keep learning.  Each area is constantly evolving and improving which is a testament to the people who specialise in those fields and are at the forefront.   It’s a full time job just keeping on top of SEO for example or even email marketing campaigns.

Due to this, it’s completely the opposite of an investment portfolio where they tell you to spread your risk.  For me, online marketing is focussing on a few key channels at a time and doing them really well before proceeding.

What do you see changing in the online market place in the next few months or years?

In terms of categories ./ verticals – the food and drink vertical  is really starting to enter the “battleground” in terms of people shopping online.  Everyone is fighting it out over fashion, home and garden, and luxury items right now and more and more people are shopping for these online.  Food and drink bought online is still only 8% and has a massive amount of growth ahead of it.  It’s the reason I moved into the fresh coffee business and later into loose leaf tea.

What we really all need to be doing is working out where to arbitrage marketing channels into sales – finding those underutilised channels at any given point in time where you can buy cheaper traffic.  Groupon did this to great effect with Facebook Ads when they first came out.  We just need to find out the next one and jump on it quickly before everyone else finds out.

Many of the SEOAndy readers are either from small businesses or start ups and like you are founders, what advice would you give them to help them on their way to success?

I hope this isn’t too corny but I’ve always admired two quotes…

1:    “Just Try” (Nike i think)

and

2: remember that everything around you has been built by people no smarter than you – Steve Jobs

Basically, the best thing you can do is give it a go and remember that you can change things with enough effort and tenacity.   You’re a sheep or a wolf – always remember that!

Finally, Where can people find you online?

You can find amazing fresh and rare coffee online at Kopi (www.kopi.co.uk) of course to help you through those difficult nights.  You can email me through that.

Also I’m on twitter as @PJWilkinson

I would like to take this chance to just add my thanks to Philip for his time in answering these questions, and the many other questions I’ve had over the years. Also I’d like to with Philip and his team the best of luck and wish them continuing success over the coming months and years.

If you have any questions for Philip, please leave a comment below.

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