Week 1: Follow my journey as I start a marketing agency
About 16 months ago my husband and I were walking our dogs and discussing what I was going to do with my career. I was working in a digital/customer experience agency and while I loved the work, the hours were crazy and I didn’t agree with some of the practices that I saw.
“You know it’s always been my plan to have my own business,” I said to him. He supports my choices but he is much more conservative when it comes to a steady income and taking risks.
It took a couple of weeks of walking around the park with my husband and dogs discussing my next steps but eventually, he agreed I should give it a go.
I was in the middle of some customer mapping workshops at the agency I worked at and couldn’t leave the client in the lurch so I decided to resign two weeks later, the Tuesday after Easter Monday. There were several amazing clients I was working with, so I gave an extra month’s notice so I could wrap up those projects.
Of course, I never like to do anything the easy way, I was also pregnant when I left the agency. Cue a few weeks panic as I wasn’t sure I could make it work, and surely I would be better off with a steady income. But luckily for me, I fell into some consulting/freelance opportunities that would tide me over until the baby was born.
Before the baby arrived I used every spare moment to get organised. Amidst the craziness of getting pregnant, leaving a job, doing some consulting projects, setting up the early stages of a business, we also decided to buy a house. Life was busy but that is the way I like it.
Fast forward 12 months
I have done a couple of small projects since my son was born, and have been working on some other ideas but now is the time to get serious.
I’ve been so lucky to spend the last 8 months with my son watching him grow, learn and change a little bit more each day into the person he’s going to be. But I didn’t magically lose my drive and ambitious just because I had a child. I firmly believe that people should make the choices that suit them and their family, but I want my son to see that his mother is ambitious and works hard at what she loves.
I’ve decided to document how I build my business from scratch to keep me accountable and help others grow their businesses. I’ve Googled, and read loads of business books to see how others start services-based businesses such as marketing agencies or business consultancies, and there is a lot of great information out there, but I’ve never found exactly what I was looking for. I work in marketing, and I have over 15 years of experience so I thought I would talk about the strategies and tactics that I try, the results, the steps I take, and how I go about building my business.
Also, I think this will get me out of my comfort zone. It is very easy to stay hidden and not put yourself out there because of fear but I know to be successful I need to get over that fear.
I see people start businesses and they put in 15 + hour days but I don’t have that luxury so I have to be extremely targeted on what I spend time on. Having a kid with no job is also expensive so I have very little start-up capital so I’ll need to be frugal.
While I am starting, until I have clients, my son will be home with me. But I will plan my time around his schedule. He sleeps for about 3-4 hours per day, he has 1-2 hours per day where he is happy to play by himself and he goes to bed at 7 pm so I have between 6-8 hours per day to work in my business. Luckily I am exceptional at time management.
My downtime will be the time spent with my son, the walks I take my dogs on and also the 30 mins I spend alone reading the bath (until I have an attack of guilt about water usage). No one said it’d be easy, but what worth doing is anyway. I am sure there’ll plenty of days that don’t go to plan and I’ll need to be flexible but that skill set is required for running a business anyway. Once I have clients to work with, I’ll have care for my son as needed.
So where am I today
I am not entirely starting from nothing because I have been working on my business for the last 12ish months so it is worth doing a quick update of what I have done so far:
- I have a business name. I chose The Outliers because outlier means:
“a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set”.
And while I am starting a marketing agency, like thousands have before me, I want to be different from all the agencies out there. I want businesses to feel like I am in an internal marketing person, rather than an external person that they are never quite sure if they can trust. My goal is not to win awards in marketing award shows but to win more sales for the businesses I work with and help them connect better with their customers.
- I have created a basic logo, I am sure designers out there would cringe but until I am earning money I need to do almost everything myself. Also, I am always telling businesses don’t want until you have perfection, launch something and then iterate to improve.
- I also have a website, it needs more work but I am making good progress on getting the content loaded and updated.
- I am working on six customer marketing steps that include downloadable guides and templates. The idea is that businesses can follow all 6 steps and by the end will have a digital marketing strategy they have created and are starting to implement. Of course, I hope that by providing useful information businesses will come to me if they need any assistance with implementing or on any digital projects in the future.
- I have done a couple of proposals for some smaller projects, but I didn’t really follow up on them. I love pitching to new clients, not because I love sales and I don’t have an aggressive way of selling but more because I love hearing business problems and understanding how I can help. I believe in over providing and servicing clients while providing excellent results so that is how I’ll continue to work.
- I have put some thought into my service offering. I am going to continue to offer consulting strategic work in customer experience and digital marketing but I am also offering managed email plans. One for basic email marketing which is the complete strategy and setup plus ongoing email marketing, and the second I am also offering a marketing automation / CRM option which includes behavioural journey based emails. Again it includes all of the strategy, setup and ongoing management.
- I plan to work with small and medium-sized businesses using Campaign Monitor and Mail Chimp to start. A lot of small and mid-sized businesses can’t afford to hire a functional digital/customer experience marketing manager and that’s where I’ll come in. For less than what it costs in salary per year to hire a junior, full-time marketing employee, I’ll provide the service. I have over 15 years experience so businesses will be getting an expert at a fraction of the cost.
Nothing is perfect at this stage, but I want to get started so I don’t waste too much time developing the perfect website or the perfect service offering. I always tell others you’re better off trying something before investing heavily in it to see if it has legs to stand on.
What you’ll learn
I’m going to outline overall of the marketing and business growth activities that I do in detail on this blog, I’ll blog at the end of each week, post on a Monday and show what has worked and what has failed. I plan to fail quickly and learn from my mistakes.
Next week I’ll be working on:
- How I am designing back-end processes to give MY clients a great customer experience.
- Using market research to determine which industries and clients I should target.
- Setting up my lead capture and email marketing. I’ll start with a welcome program for anyone who signs up.
What I’ve learnt so far
I think when starting a business it is very easy to get caught up on the wrong things. You spend tonnes of time and money on making a nice website, creating content, starting social media accounts and a lot of other things that aren’t necessary in the early days. And it is easy to get caught up in wanting these things to be perfect before you launch them to the world, but in reality, you can’t just build something online and expect people to flock to it. In the early days, you’re better off validating your idea by trying to get someone to pay for it.
Say for example you’re starting an online store selling dresses, can you try selling some of your designs at local markets or on an existing marketplace like Etsy or eBay? That was you know if there is interest before spending a lot of money on dresses you may not be able to sell.
For a marketing agency, it’s key to get out and network so you can start meeting clients, at the moment getting out to business events it’s not going to be easy for me so I have to be clever and look for other ways to find clients. After next week and I know who I am targeting, I’ll start crafting targeted and personalised emails showing how I can help.
So I have learned that when it comes to growing my business, don’t over-invest in things that aren’t necessary. When it comes to my website good enough, is good enough. I need to focus my efforts on getting my first client so I can start getting results for clients and cash flow for my business.
So here it goes, I have given myself 180 days, just short of 26 weeks, to get my business up and running. I’ll be trying different marketing strategies to generate leads and I’ll show the results as I go. It’s a little nerve-wracking because I need to put myself out there a lot more to sell myself, my skills, and my business but I think getting out of my comfort zone is the only way I am going to succeed.
Email subscriber list: 108
Web traffic: 7
Wow, they are some scarily low numbers. There’s a lot of work to do, but luckily I love a challenge.
Want to join me on my journey?
I’ll post here each Monday but you can be the first to receive each update in your inbox by signing up below.