During the lockdown, we’ve been talking to lots of different businesses about what their problems are. And there have honestly been lots of different problems & opportunities. We’ve had strategy opportunities. We’ve built e-commerce solutions. We’ve had lots of different businesses come to us with a variety of ideas for collaboration opportunities. But what’s been most important has been helping businesses owners, like you, focus on your core offering.
Internally, we’ve been talking a lot recently about focus. Thinking to ourselves, this is the kind of work that we want to be doing. This is what we specialise in, this is the kind of client we want to be serving. From that, we’ve actually improved our relationship with our current clients. And now there are more clients that are lined up to get involved with us.
Unfortunately, this can be really problematic. It happens a lot when small businesses first set up. When they’re in the early stages. There’s this focus, this necessity to create revenue as quickly as possible. When you need revenue so desperately, you’re likely to veer off your path quite quickly and easily. Suddenly you’ll do anything to chase that money.
We understand how tough it can be, especially in the beginning. We remember back in 2008 when we were in that position. Trying to get revenue in the early days of any venture is the hardest step. Signing your first customer is so important. Building the business to be strong enough so that you can support yourself is vital to allow you to carry on.
But there’s something worrying about the dilution of what you do. Not focusing necessarily on what you do very well, which ends up meaning that you kind of belittle your own brand and your own self-worth. By taking jobs that aren’t what you actually should be doing or should be specialising in, and doing them cheaper than anybody else’s because you desperately want that revenue to survive.
Focusing On The Core Offering
The problem is that people don’t know who you are or what you really do. “I don’t really know what she does, because, for me, they did a bit of this. And for you, they did a bit of that. And then actually a bit of something else for someone else”.
Suddenly people aren’t really sure what you do. For us as an agency, we’ve always stuck to digital. We’ve moved with the times and with the platforms as they have grown up or evolved. But everything we’ve done has always been about digital and social media marketing. We’ve stuck to the idea of putting the social back into social media. We want to help people understand the power of building communities through social media, creating content that people want to engage with. That is the bulk of what we do.
Even we are sometimes guilty of losing focus. We often go above and beyond to help our customers with varying different elements that fit into that pattern. Thankfully, as an agency, we’ve been around long enough, to have a decent reputation. People refer other people to us, with a clear understanding of who we are and what we do.
We had an example of this earlier this month. We had a call with a good friend, now a client, who spoke to somebody who needs a domain name, a simple website, a landing page and to get this offer out into the world. Her first reaction was “you should have a call with Chris”. We jumped on a call, and invariably, yes, we can help! That introduction feels great because it’s clear to everybody involved exactly who we are, what we do and what we offer.
What Happens When You Don’t Focus On The Core Offer?
Now imagine, if somebody gets in touch today and asks about printed flyers. If we say yes, whilst chasing revenue only, the chances are they’d recommend to a friend for creating flyers. That’s not something we do or want to do. It’s not our core offering. So ultimately, our core offering is being diluted.
Multiply that as many times as you wish. “Would you be able to do some merchandise t-shirts?” Each time we say yes, we create more and more people that think of us for completely different reasons. No one really knows exactly what we do, or don’t do.
It’s really important that people remember to focus on “I do X because people need X for A, B, C reasons. And that’s what I focus on”.
Saying No To Other Revenues
Don’t be scared of saying “No thanks” to other revenue. Yes, I know it’s scary. We’ve all been there. I’ve had to do it too. I founded Social INK in 2008, and within 3 weeks of launching, I watched Lehman Brothers collapse. The start of the worst financial crisis (ever noticed they’re all the worst until the next one?). Then in 2012, the same thing again. Then 2016 with the Brexit referendum, which hit our business very hard. It will always happen.
As soon as you start saying, and believing, “this is what we do, and this is how I want to make money” it starts to build itself. And it builds exponentially. To the point where you will get those referrals, for exactly what you do and exactly what you want to do. And with those introductions, you’re not talking about discounting prices, doing things for free or doing other things to chase revenue. Somebody’s coming to you, warm from a recommendation, that’s worth its weight in gold.
At that point, you can then say, “these are my prices, we’re not for everyone, but this is what we do, and this is how we work”.
Be You, Focus On Your Core Offer, Attract The Right Kind Of Clients
Being authentic, being who you are, and doing what you want to do, is hugely powerful. No one wants to work with the wrong kind of clients. We want great clients, who love what we do, value our service/product. Focusing on your core offering is one of the best ways to reinforce that.
What you do as an organisation is really important. If you rock up on all your videos dressed in a shirt, tie, suit, with big offices, etc and then when people actually meet you, you’re in T-shirt, shorts and you’re in a basement, there’s a disconnect. People won’t really understand who you are.
When we record The Social INK Show, people get a real insight into who we are. It’s a simple concept. James and I turn up, have a few topics in mind, and we just talk about things. We don’t try to over complicate things. We don’t use jargon or buzzwords to try and make us sound more important/intelligent. We don’t superimpose a picture of a Lamborghini as our backgrounds to try and make us seem richer.
Others do. You’ve seen them, you might not have known that’s what they were doing, but it is. They rent a Lamborghini and a big Airbnb to film content telling you about how rich they are now. That’s their way of trying to sell. To show off and make others believe they’re more successful than they actually are.
Do It Your Way
For us, it’s about being relaxed. Being our true selves. We’re laid back and we take a very collaborative approach with our clients. We want to create things outside of their (and our) comfort zones. We want to try experiments with our clients. And we want them to know exactly what kind of people we are before they even start considering working with us.
We don’t lock clients into massive contracts or anything like that. Most of the time, we don’t want any contracts in place with clients. They create a limiting force where people feel on edge, they’ve got to sign up, it’s too long a period. And what happens if? and what happens when?
We want to work with people that actually want to try and do something. Our approach is to help them by doing everything we can to make sure that they get those first results and they can see the impact that this can have for them. Ultimately, for us, it’s about building a long-term relationship based on trust and understanding.
When the first lockdowns happened in March, we emailed all of our clients to let them know we were tearing up all contracts. We didn’t want them to have to worry about anything. All we wanted was for them to know we were here, but that if their circumstances had changed, that was fine.
The Marmite Test
You can’t please everybody, and you shouldn’t want to. This year, more than ever, we’ve embraced the Marmite effect. You love it or hate it. We want to work with those that love us, and we’re ok with those that hate us choosing someone else. It’s or the best for everyone. (Think of the old breakup line, it’s not you, it’s me).
This year the world was turned upside down. For any of our clients that were hit hard, we changed our approach completely. We would have a weekly call with them to make sure that they were okay. Asking them what sort of things they were doing? And what were they going to try and do? We looked at ways they could adapt or change their business.
That’s the sort of people we want to work with. The ones that want to try and do something different. We’re not for everybody. If you want the high-level, professional suited and booted, overly complicated jargon and, you know, presenting 250-page PowerPoints you need to find someone else.
We’re not a Detica or Accenture. We’re a small business, with a small team, just like you. We’re real human beings, and we just want to work with people who get that. Working with small businesses who want to make something happen. Who want to see results. And most importantly, who are happy to get down and dirty, roll up their sleeves, put in some elbow grease. When everyone pitches in, you suddenly get results.
Check out the All About Digital Marketing podcast for more content like this every week. And, if you’d like to find out more about working with the Social INK team, book a free consultation and find out what we’re really like.