I read with interest (and slight horror) last week an article about online retailer ASOS who had left bulldog clips in a photograph of a dress they were selling online. The clips had been used to make the dress fit better on the model and were clearly meant to have been edited out for the final shot, the error was spotted by an eagle eyed Twitter user who brought it to the brand’s attention. ASOS responded to say “ We’re sorry to hear the clips are showing in the picture, we’ll now raise this with our specialist team” which seemed a little like when my six year old apologises for something to be honest, he’s not genuinely sorry but he is sorry I caught him out.
The photograph appearing online as it did is a cock up no doubt about that, and when it comes to ensuring this sort of thing doesn’t happen there’s likely a marketing department, agency or variety of the two receiving a bit of flack about that right now but it’s also about the subsequent response and ensuring everyone is responsible for brand. Mistakes happen, but how your business responds when things go wrong, how those people on the front line represent your brand at that moment is incredibly important and in this case that half hearted response could be construed as a representation of how the brand as a whole feels about its’ customers. Not to mention the fact it blindly ignores other questions from customers about why the clips were there in the first place and why the garments need to be altered at all.
Branding is a long term investment and challenge and goes far behind beautiful visuals, brand is about every touchpoint with an organisation from the first to the last and it’s something which must be instilled in the people who represent your business from the start. The most successful businesses are ones led by brand and which have invested in developing their people in such a way that every customer interaction provides a consistent brand experience.
ASOS has recently been in the press having announced a policy of banning customers who serially return clothes, since the ‘bulldog clip’ debacle customers have been quick to point out that serial returns may not be necessary if the clothes weren’t adjusted to show a different fit, in the first place it’s also interesting to note that ASOS shares dropped 37% in December 2018, perhaps a good indicator that it’s time to get back to basics when it comes to brand and customer experience.
We work with our clients to develop beautiful brands, inside and out. Want to learn more get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a couple of months since I waved goodbye to my permanent full time job and plunged into the world of freelance marketing - well I say plunged it was more of a measured step, I’m not really one of life’s risk takers but it’s fair to say even though this move was well thought out there is still an element of risk and the unknown when starting out by yourself. And so now I’m just over two months into my business journey I wanted to share just four things I’ve learned and which I hope might encourage anyone considering starting their own business to make the leap.
My pipeline needs to stay full
Ok, so I knew this anyway, I wasn’t coming into this with no business knowledge but I was still surprised at how many leads just didn’t work out, particularly as they came to me relatively easily once I’d shared the news about my business with my network I spent the first week or so just following up leads and enquiries, which was a great start but of course they didn’t all end up as clients, there was a point where my pipeline was so full that I had the thought that I couldn’t possibly fulfil all that work should it all come in. I’ve realised now that’s a great place to be in.
I’ve been amazed by the people around me
I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by and have the support of a fantastic family but beyond that I have been amazed by the support which has come from people in my professional network. The positive reactions of so many people and messages of support when I announced I was going it alone were such a confidence boost right at the start and since then I’ve been overwhelmed by support, from people I have worked with for a short time, people i worked with for years and people I don’t know that well, all of whom are all pushing work opportunities my way, sharing my social media posts and generally supporting my business, I’m genuinely amazed by it and hugely grateful.
My ‘black book’ of contacts is priceless
Sure, when I’ve moved from job to job in the past it hasn’t been the most fun transferring all my contacts every time, in fact it is downright boring but over the years that contact list has grown and grown and now it’s full of journalists, photographers, videographers, events people. podcast producers, web developers and pretty much anyone you could need as a marketer and I’ve called on quite a few of them already in the past couple of months. As an in-house marketer I always focused on how valuable a trusted supplier can be for a business but this is even more true now I’m going it alone having people I can trust to deliver client work alongside me really is priceless.
I’m really proud
My last point and perhaps the biggest one for me, is that I’m immensely proud of my business and the work it does and whilst I knew I’d be happy with my choice to go it alone , the sense of pride I feel has been surprising. It’s a strange feeling because if you’d asked me in almost any role I’d had before I’d have probably said the same thing, that I was proud of the work I did and the results I achieved for the business that employed me but now I’m proud in a completely different way, I’m proud of the work I do for my clients and how that quality work represents me as a business, I’m proud of my clients and what they’re achieving and I’m proud that as a business I only work with clients whose businesses I believe in and whose values match my own.
and that’s it, just some learnings from a couple of months in, no regrets and full of excitement for what’s next for my business.
Looking for no nonsense strategic SME marketing for your business head get in touch email@example.com for more info or an informal chat.
Truth be told I fell into Marketing more than 10 years ago, I was working for a business with no real marketing function in place but with a boss who saw something in me and who gave me my first real ‘marketing’ role - luckily for me, he was right and I’ve been in my sweet spot ever since.
I’ve been really fortunate to work in some great businesses and marketing teams where I’ve been able to develop my passion for aligning vision to strategy and delivery but I’ve also seen the challenges first hand for SME businesses in getting effective marketing off the ground and keeping things moving, budgets and resources can be tight, those in the business are often too busy getting on with the day to day running to truly focus on marketing and even if the business is in a position to really invest in marketing support, it can be hard to know exactly what’s needed.
I’ve seen the frustrations of SMEs who’ve made the wrong decisions or had their fingers burnt on costly marketing activity and I just don’t think it should be that hard because, for every business I’ve seen hit the challenges and face the frustrations,I’ve also seen the impact that putting an effective marketing strategy in place and delivering it can have on a small business.
When their name is in the press or the phone rings with a new client who found that business through some form of marketing and that moment where a piece of planned marketing activity goes from vision to reality and delivers a real result into the business. That's what I’m passionate about. Working closely with a business, getting under its' skin, understanding what marketing can do to help that business grow and most importantly delivering it.
I truly believe marketing doesn’t have to be hard, or budget breaking, that it’s about working in partnership, providing the time and expertise that my clients need, at a realistic cost and only focusing on the marketing activity which results in benefit for the business.
And that’s why I do, what I do.
Looking for marketing support and don’t know where to start? I can help!
Let’s talk firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s usually a point for every SME business where marketing comes to the forefront of what the business is doing and forms part of the answer to where they want to be next. It’s around this time that businesses start to look at their options both in terms of marketing channels, activity and how they might deliver it.
Suddenly there’s a lot of questions to be answered and a quick trip down the rabbit hole which is Google searching will bring back a multitude of confusing options and solutions, brand strategies, content strategies, online advertising, investing in costly tools, hiring agencies or staff and more, it’s little wonder that many SMEs just put marketing back on the shelf for now or spend unwisely as a result.
Is it really that complicated?
The answer is no, but it's easy not to know where to start when you're unfamiliar with something, the good news is you know more than you think.
Here I share just 4 tips to get your marketing journey started, utilising the strengths that you have and knowledge at your disposal and which will introduce you and your business to marketing and help to inform your future decisions.
Position yourself as an expert
Because you are! but it’s of little use if you don’t tell anyone, a simple way to do this is to start a blog which demonstrates your expertise but remember you’re only interested in talking to your niche, those clients you really want to work with and who will want to work with you. Think about the clients you’ve already worked with, what problems did you solve for them? what questions did they come to you with? what do you get asked time and time again? get those thoughts on paper and share them. If you have a website you could create an extra section for blogging, if you don’t or your website doesn’t support that, utilise free options like a tumblr blog or LinkedIn Pulse.
There are tons of different types of content blogging, social media, video, speaking at events, I don’t for one second recommend you try and do them all at once, maybe you’ll never do some of them that’s fine. Choose one to begin with and do it really really well, don’t be drawn into thinking you need lots of expensive tools to create content either. You can film a video on your smartphone, edit it for free in iMovie and publish it for free on YouTube. The key is getting your content and expertise out there in front of your ideal client and not how much you spend on producing it.
Educate don’t network
I’ve got nothing against networking but I’m willing to bet you’re already doing that and the leads probably aren’t flying in? there’s nothing wrong with networking but here quality over quantity is key. Think about where your ideal clients are likely to be - that’s where you want to be too. Consider hosting events which demonstrate your expertise and offer something tangible to take away for your prospects and, don’t forget your existing network of contacts - because its easy for them to forget you! re-engage them with an update on what you’re doing now and the types of clients you’d like to be working with - you never know where your next referral might come from.
Use an expert - but only when you know what you want.
Whilst I’m not trying to do myself out of a job here, I’m a firm believer of dipping your toe in the water first, you can find an expert to do all of the above and more but before you do it’s worth getting familiar with marketing practices so that when the time comes to invest in expertise for any or all of your marketing needs you’ll be comfortable with what you want that person to do for your brand and business.
It’s a great place to be for you and the person coming into your business they’ll know where you need them to add value and be clear on priorities from the outset.
And finally, remember you’re in for the long haul, once you start, marketing never really stops and you won’t see results right away in the form of clients through the door or cash in the till but remain tightly focused on your ideal client, trust in what you are doing and you will see success.
Want to build your brand without blowing your budget, let’s talk email@example.com
It's a question I've asked many times during my career and it's usually in response to a statement like ' We should do some PR' or ' let's do an email marketing campaign' Marketers love ideas and people love to bring ideas to us, but just acting on ideas with no strategic direction is a risky course to take and particularly if you're an SME, large businesses tend to have both the resource and financial cushion to go off-piste but when budgets and time are considerably tighter business and marketing strategy have to work in partnership.
You'll already have a vision for your business offering a great product or service, standing out from your competitors and having satisfied customers or clients. As a result, you'll likely have some form of business strategy or goals you want to achieve but aligning marketing activity to these goals is often overlooked, and it's not because SMEs don't see the value in marketing but, rather that they're often too busy working in and running their business to really get to the core of what marketing activity will be best to achieve those goals,
But they know they need to be doing 'something'
This is where marketing activity usually just starts happening without much effect and it’s here that the ‘why’ question really needs to be answered and where strategy needs to be put in place.
Why do you want to do marketing activity at all? what are you trying to achieve in line with your wider business objectives as a result of that marketing activity? once you know the answers to those questions you can begin to address the different types of marketing and channels available and make educated and strategic decisions on how you’ll move your business forward through marketing efforts.
Asking why isn’t just for the beginning stages of your marketing journey, are you looking to introduce something new to your marketing efforts? Why? and if you don’t have the answer it’s time to revisit your strategy and ensure the activity being delivered is aligned to your overall business goals.
Your business and its' needs will evolve and your marketing strategy needs to support that so don’t be afraid to keep asking why.
Are you looking to introduce marketing to your business? Not sure where to start or how to align to overall business goals? Let's talk firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to hear more from us, and our clients? check us out on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.