All start-ups make mistakes, and we’ve made our fair share. I’m sure anyone reading this will recognise some from their own experiences:
1. We paid too little for our website, and too much for our business cards.
2. We spent too much time marketing, and too little time selling.
3. We pitched our prices too low in the early days.
But I want to talk today about a really good business decision we made. It was a good business decision for two reasons. Firstly it had a very positive effect on our exposure and our sales. Secondly, it forced us to swallow our pride and take some constructive advice and criticism.
Our marketing strategy is based around our story: we work with men and women in London to help them approach strangers they find attractive. It’s a story that’s quite appealing to the press, so we spend a lot of time pitching to newspapers and magazines.
We had some good success initially, but we felt sure that we weren’t quite getting all the interest we could be. So we decided to bring a PR consultant on board, a lady named Clair.
It was a tough decision. When you’re a new company, you have to make sure every pound you spend is going to pay its way. Would that money have been better of going on pay-per-click? On a website freshen-up? On some traditional advertising?
As it happens, it was the best money we spent all year. Clair helped us mainly with our press release, which we soon realised had been written in a rather cold, formal tone. Clair must us read all our copy out loud, and we were soon cringing at the bits which were stuffy or filled with jargon. Once the press release had been tweaked, it was far more engaging and approachable; the response rate doubled once we’d made the changes.
It was quite hard for us to take advice on our press release and our website copy. We’d felt our writing was one of our great strengths as a business, but we needed that outside opinion to show us where we’d been going wrong. I’d been writing stories and articles as if there were university essays; Clair showed us that we needed to be able to talk to people informally, while still remaining professional.
So never be afraid to bring in qualified outside opinion. When you’re totally immersed in your own business you can sometimes struggle to see how you’re coming across to your readers/listeners/clients.
You may also find that you’re doing things a certain way, simply because that’s what worked last year, or the year before. A fresh pair of eyes can make sure that your current strategy is the best thing for right now.
And lay your ego aside when you get the advice. I found listening to criticism of the way I wrote was very difficult. But, I have to admit, the way we sell ourselves now – and the way we tell our story – is more fun, more approachable and more successful.
[Guest article by Alex Chubb, director of The London School of Attraction Ltd]