It's six months since I began my business and already I have notched up so many experiences and added to my set of skills while supporting many businesses to get the most from their marketing.
Working as a self-employed marketing advisor is different to working for the same business day after day. The ability to adjust and show sensitivity to the individual needs of your clients is an art requiring adoption and development pretty quickly, and I have been delighted that so many of my clients have written reviews that describe how I have quickly gained an understanding of their business and their needs.
When a project is complete, for me the most important thing is to know that I have left behind a workable plan that a small business can take forward and feel empowered that they have direction to develop and be creative with their own marketing. Learning and empowerment are the two most important aspects to give businesses a chance to grow through more effective marketing.
My approach is simple and my tools easy to use. The fundamentals of marketing are to communicate, developing a business story that gives stand-out and resonates with the target market.
Being true and honest to your business and to your customers will deliver longevity. People are too clever, and we are too discerning in this world of more and more choice, so marketing is not about pulling the wool over your customers' eyes or using smoke and mirrors to deceive, it's about saying it as it is, in a manner that engages with your target market.
I hope that my straightforward and honest approach continues to bring me business and that I can go on helping business owners feel that they can take forward what's special about them and share it!
A run-down of my best bits...so far
I live ten minutes from the Scottish border and one of my pleasures is to be in a position, on my door-step, to work with businesses in both Scotland and England. I have worked with clients in Carlisle, the Lake District and the Eden Valley as a recognised advisor with Cumbria Chamber of Commerce. Project work with the Chamber has given me a variety of businesses in hospitality, tourism and retail as well as a few unusual clients such as a veterinary practice and a sports equipment developer. Highlights have been helping businesses realise brand identity to help them develop all areas of their business activity and marketing; as well as developing marketing plans for businesses to access much needed funding for larger development projects.
On a personal level, I have been working on my own marketing. I launched my business during Dumfries & Galloway Business Week. The prelude to that was a social media campaign and local PR. I was delighted to receive so many positive comments during that busy week of networking events and from that I also scooped up two projects. At the same time I targeted tourism industry magazines and gained some super coverage - great for the ego too!
After all that flattery, I did enter a lull before business really began to come my way, and that was a scary time. A time of self-doubt but out the other end, 6 months later, I now know that I can make being-your-own-boss work for me.
I am a marketeer who can, in my view, turn her hand to any business sector but I am more than happy to be labelled as a specialist in tourism and hospitality. I have over 25 years of experience in this sector and one of my delights is to offer my services to my own region's tourism profile. Working with Visit South West Scotland, a membership group made up of the tourism industry and Dumfries & Galloway Council enables me to contribute towards this beautiful part of Scotland, awaiting discovery by many.
A top highlight of my first 6 months will be attending VisitScotland EXPO, the Scottish tourism industry's not to miss event. My 21st attendance at this event, I will be flying the flag for Visit South West Scotland and the other Dumfries & Galloway stand holders there.
My fondest client to work with so far is The Devil's Porridge Museum. It's a superb museum, of very high standards but that is not the reason why. The Devil's Porridge is run mainly by volunteers and I was one of those volunteers around 21 years ago. As a single parent, with sales and marketing experience but no qualifications and with a need to re-enter the job market, I was studying with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and to complement my study I worked with the museum, back then housed within a church, rather than the now state-of-the-art modern building, developing their early marketing activity.
All these years later, I was commissioned by the board of directors to develop business from the coach travel market. The project culminated in a training workshop for the team just last week to prepare them for their first VisitScotland EXPO. They are all set and prepared to convey the essence of what visitors experience at The Devil's Porridge Museum and how the team can glean the information they need to know from the buyers.
Top Tips for a Trade Show...
I have attended a countless number of travel trade shows and many consumer events. The key thing to remember is that every aspect of your stand reflects your brand. There's no need to spend a fortune on your stand display, in my view, but of course it needs to look smart. Pop ups will do. They are versatile and easy to transport and set up. Design them cleverly and you can use them separately for various uses.
What is the single most important aspect of your stand? The people. I have seen too often the most expensive stand with the least interested stand staff you could ever imagine. You invest a lot to attend an event, the presentation of your stand and the marketing collateral but often businesses forget about the people. Do they know what the purpose of the event is; what they need to communicate; the information you need them to glean and what about the preparation and follow-up? Who is doing what and how? Planning and preparation are required.
Say what you need to say in a succinct and engaging way. At a show your key objective is to reach out to as many relevant individuals as you can so working out a 'script' that conveys who you are and what you do that is relevant to the audience is the priority of your stand team's communication. Delivering this efficiently is your goal to ensure that time is spent with as many buyers as possible. Again, preparing for that is essential.
Pre and Post-show communication is an extension to the event itself, but no less important. You can heighten visibility through effective communication prior to the event, ensuring a more effective show presence and post-event to maintain and nurture the good engagement you have developed during the show. A strategy to plan for effective communication is essential.
Shows and events, giving you face-to-face opportunity to engage with your customers are a great way to build brand awareness, develop customer knowledge and competitor intelligence as well as generating actual business!
What do the next six months have in store? Well that's the beauty or the burden of being self-employed. Who knows? Projects are bubbling away, and I am looking forward to commissions already in the pipeline. The world is my oyster and I look forward to more exciting times with new clients, learning as I go and sharing my skills and knowledge, tailoring to meet the needs of my clients, giving them the confidence to take control of their business development and marketing communication.