Libby: I’m going to be going live very shortly with Jess Shaile’s from the Ideal marketing team and we’re going to be talking about some changes that have been made in her business in the last year and how things have been going and how everything’s been affected by the pandemic. Jess is someone I know quite well, so looking forward to having this this chat with her.
Jess: Yeah, a very productive morning already. You know, when just after midday and it feels like I’ve been working for a day – when you’ve got an eight hour day in before midday.
Libby: It’s good when you do that. My husband went to his factory in Wales today, and so he was up at half past five or something. So I’ve been away that long as well. I feel like I’ve got lots done, but I’m slightly surprised that it is only half past 12.
Jess: It makes up for the days where you do go “where has the day gone?” I think that’s one of the benefits of working remotely or hopefully in the longer term, the impact that people can follow their own rhythms.
Libby: I agree completely. I think that’s something that’s hugely important. I think that’s something that we’re kind of going to be talking a bit more about today. Do you want to just do a quick intro?
Jess: Absolutely. Well, I’m Jessica Shiels and I run the Ideal Marketing Company. We’re a full-service agency, and we start by understanding what our client’s business objectives are and then creating a marketing strategy that lines up with that. Whether that means, email marketing, social media, websites, PR all sorts. We have specialists in each area, but we do try and always connect with the business objectives for our clients.
Libby: It’s interesting because on paper it sounds as if our business is the same, marketing. But I think whilst there’s going to be some crossover, we actually couldn’t be further apart in terms of who we like to work with, who are ideal customer is and the overall services that we that we offer.
I think that perhaps is a bit of a misconception about, well, I guess a lot of businesses, but certainly marketing. It’s just “oh well she does marketing, he does marketing”. But within that, there are ten different areas of expertise, I would say, in specialism, certainly.
Jess: I think some of my best referral partners are people who are in marketing or maybe even in competition technically. But we understand the nuances and the differences between the services that we offer and who would best to offer that, too. I think it can create confusion, though, for the people who are confused about marketing anyway and then think where do I go?
Libby: I guess that’s down to us to be crystal clear in what we’re putting across to basically practise what we preach. Right, isn’t it? So, yeah.
Jess: For them is what if they’re like, well, this is what I’m looking for, to be able to say that actually I know Libby will be better for you or anybody else.
Libby: Absolutely. I have to say, my corporate days now are kind of done so it’s quite good to have somebody like you who can who can offer those services to people that, you know, just it’s not my bag. I want to work with owners, people like myself, small businesses and make a difference to an individual rather than a company. It’s good that we’re able to work in tandem and not go oh she’s a competitor.
Jess: I think also because only it’s a fellow marketer that’s really going to understand the problems that we experience in marketing. You know frustrations about how it’s valued, which is I think it always an issue. I think this past year might have changed actually. I’ve seen attitudes change but it’s nice to be able to talk to other marketers about what’s going on and attitudes. That’s really helpful. I’m not sure if there’s another industry where we can actually be quite so friendly with other marketers.
Libby: I guess the technical services like solicitors and accountants and those kind of things, the very specialist areas. I would have thought that they have networks in the same way because they’ll be so specialist, particularly solicitors will be so focussed on, I don’t know, conveyancing or employment law or divorce or whatever that actually they can offer general advice, which we can offer general advice. But if you want a specialist in Google Adverts, don’t talk to me is what I would say.
I get asked about it all the time and so much over the years and I just say, no, it’s just not something I’ve ever delved too deeply in. I’m certainly not an expert on it. I understand how it works and I can help you with the overarching theory of it. But no, I’m not going to do anything you know.
Jess: It’s particularly interesting because you do social media advertising. For a lot of people from the outside, those are similar. But once you get into the finer details. It’s interesting what you’re saying about working with people who run their own business – I was speaking with someone about finding meaning in business yesterday. When you are working with individuals, the point about marketing or the meaning with marketing is that you make a difference, you help make someone’s dreams come true by enabling them to do the thing and get the customers that they want and building their business. That’s great when you’re close to it. So in your position, you get to see that, don’t you?
Libby: Yeah. It’s ten years this year since I started my business life. I’ve tried all avenues really. It is for me the thing that really matters to my business. What you’ve just said, what kind of lights your fire and it all is just seeing someone being able to make a change and them saying, oh yeah. To me that is it’s just brilliant.
I’ve worked with hundreds of corporates over the years. It can be incredibly good for the business and get brilliant results for that. But for me personally, I don’t find it satisfying. I guess that’s because I’m a teacher at heart. What about this last year then, big old changes in your business? Let’s talk about that.
Jess: Yeah, I think the probably the biggest changes that we have made is the move to permanent remote work. I think we would still have been remote working now anyway. But that’s not going to change when we’re allowed to work in a premises or want to do. It’s proved to us that we can do it. I think it’s something that as an individual, I always would have preferred to do. I took over the marketing company in January 2019. With that comes set standards and ways of working and lovely premises as well – really nice premises. That that was a big shift for us to make that. But it was one opportunity that we never would have asked for, we never would have asked to find out that remote working does work for us.
Libby: Do you think partly as well it was that we’re all told this is how you build your business. You get the office, you get the staff, you do this, you do that and that’s the model. Nobody maybe teaches you how to be self-employed. So that’s what you follow and saying, actually, do you know what, maybe I want to do things a bit differently. It’s very brave.
Jess: Yeah, well, I remember meeting somebody who had been running a remote agency for five years before any of this. I was jealous and I thought, that’s interesting, when you pay attention to that feeling. Oh, that’s interesting. That’s wrong. I agree with you. I think you know, try and have as many staff as possible. Success looks like is a premises, staff and everything else.
You’ve spoken about the evolution of your business over time, around the responsibility and everything else. I think that’s one of the things that we will also change. It’s forced me to review the structure of our business, what we have internally, what we outsource. At the moment, for example, we have a team member in Pakistan who does work for us and we communicate really well. We’ve got the team who happen to be actually quite local to here, but they could be anywhere. I’m recruiting at the moment.
Libby: Something that Jess mentioned that actually that I don’t really share very often is that I when I started my business, I worked on my own for, I don’t know, maybe 18 months or something. Then I got an office because that’s what you’re told to do. Then I’ve got a staff member because that’s what you’re told to do. Then I ended up with four staff members. For a few years, the business was great turnover, great, all of that, but it wasn’t making me happy at all, so I made the decision to get rid of all my staff and to give up my office and move back home. I’ve been working that way for I think four or five years now.
I was just explaining Jess, what you said about the changes I’ve made in my business, because it’s not something that I really talk about that often. I look back now and I just think God, making that decision to change the structure. Not so much. Get rid of the office. I mean, yes, that’s it.
There’s a kind of status thing with that. But to get rid of my team, to make people who were my friends redundant was. Yeah, it was a horrible.
Jess: Brave and difficult, but for the right reasons, because we’re told that this is what success looks like. This is what happiness. I did have quite a few people where we were relinquishing the office and sorting it all out. I knew that things were being said, or the suggestion that things weren’t going very well. It was important that I came out with a statement proactively, to say this is actually a decision that we’re making which will actually, if anything, make us more agile, more flexible and able to perform better. There’s a perception, isn’t there, around shoulds.
Libby: I mean, I think that’s probably changed now. We are a full 12 months into lockdown periods and remote working is absolutely the norm. I don’t think now people care as much, but I think it’s not that long since you relinquished your office is it?
Libby: I mean, I know you’ve been working remotely that whole time. I think as time goes by, fewer and fewer people will actually return to the office and it will just be the norm.
So how does it feel now? You’ve done all that. How do you feel? How does the team feel and how is it all working?
Jess: It’s strange that on a day-to-day basis it didn’t immediately make any difference, so we now remote permanently. The next day was exactly the same as the day before. But it does mean that I have to take more responsibility and be proactive about keeping the team. I think it’s an attitude and the situation that we were thrown into and had to adapt too quickly. I need to make proper provisions, for example, I was looking through all the contracts and policies that we’ve got in place that offer remote working situation to protect those and manage expectations, but also making sure that we as a team are connect effectively.
It does feel like maintaining the culture of a company can be really hard if you don’t have those touch points.
Libby: I think you’re absolutely right. Even if it’s once a week, everybody has to get together and have a bit of a chat and a catch up, you know, Monday morning, Friday evening, Friday afternoon, whenever you do it. I think that would the toughest thing, particularly when you’ve got your own personalities and you’re working on your own projects as well. You might need a bit of communication, but largely you do that and you do that and then we’ll reconvene at the end.
So, yeah, the communication has become much more important. But again, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I mean, it’s good that we are conscious that we need to keep more in touch with our colleagues and co-workers.
Jess: Things like purposeful contact. We always talk about ongoing clients and projects every Monday morning anyway. I think I’ve intentionally been shooting the breeze a bit more in those meetings because we haven’t got the water cooler kind of situations.
Libby: Yeah. That’s definitely what can be missing. Just the kind of what did you see last night on telly. It’s that kind of stuff that is hard to keep going and mustn’t be forced. I think really there should be a space for it. But if it’s so everybody let’s have a get together and talk about what we did last night, that’s just the most awful thing that could possibly happen.
It’s that kind of staged fun. We can schedule in some fun between six and seven.
Jess: I mean, everybody did get a group out of my cat, sat in front of my screen this morning. I think it would be good for me to get into the habit. I think it’s more it can be easy for me, probably as a self-confessed introvert anyways. I’m quite happy to work away. If I’m wanting to create a culture, then I do have to intentionally check in with people.
Libby: Yeah, I think you’re right. I would completely agree with that. I’m also a self-confessed introvert and could happily spend well and have done really in the last 12 months, three weeks, just not seeing anybody or talking to anyone other than my husband, my mum on the phone and being quite happy with that.
You have to kind of think, oh, hang on a minute is there an outside world? Particularly if you’ve got a team, then like you say making those opportunities for people to be able to talk and connect is really important. Yeah, definitely.
Jess: It might feel like a conscious effort at first, but it becomes genuinely enjoyable. This is the thing – the actual interactions are genuinely enjoyable. I’ve just got to make sure that I do it myself. I could go all day not talking to somebody, and then I notice my mood declining and it’s only upon reflection, I think it’s because I haven’t spoken to anyone apart from my cat today, or anyone who can actually respond to you with anything other than feed me. It’s also looking after my mental health. That kind of interaction is important. That’s probably the main difference. What I was saying before I lost the signal was that we’re recruiting at the moment and need we’re looking to into an apprentice. It doesn’t need to be someone who’s in a 40-minute driving radius of Market Harbour.
We suddenly have more options, flexibility and agility as a company because now that we’re remote. Yeah, fair enough, like got the cost of an office. But it’s not really just about that. It means that the money can be invested into other things that you can do instead. Re-channel but also that we can work with a team that could the best talent might not be from Market Harborough.
Libby: There is this huge pool now isn’t it. Yeah that’s great. I hadn’t really thought about it like that but they could be living in Aberdeen and it wouldn’t make any difference. The same for clients. I’ve always worked remotely with clients – I have clients in Australia, in Dubai and in America and all over the place. I’ve kind of always done that.
I think a lot of other small businesses perhaps realising that because we can work like this, it actually makes things much bigger and better. The geographical boundaries don’t really apply anymore, which is great. Great opportunity, I would say.
What would you say has been the biggest change to the marketing that you do for your own business because of your work in marketing, but we market ourselves as well?
What’s been the biggest change? You already mentioned about having to communicate and not damage limitation, but things that were being said about you relinquishing your office? What have you changed in the last year?
Jess: I think like a lot of companies. We’ve seen that communication needs to be moved online because that’s where people are communicating. So yes, we are marketing company, so we should be walking the walk. I think that’s a shift that a lot of companies have seen. We also have tried to communicate more or kind of reflect our brand. One, I suppose the benefits that we wouldn’t have asked for of this whole period is going back to the drawing board, looking at who we are.
Exactly. And social media and all the things that we’re doing, not just being a box ticking exercise, which I think you hear with a lot of a lot of companies. What’s the phrase the cobbler’s children often have the worst children.
Libby: Absolutely. I mean, I’m as guilty as anyone over the years of just go right yet done. Tick, tick, tick. But actually, I mean, that’s just not what I teach people. It’s not what I do now either. And it makes a massive difference, doesn’t it?
Jess: Oh, this marketing malarky actually works.
Libby: Having a strategy and stuff works. Yeah, but it’s it does make a huge difference. Again, I think that is something that’s almost been borne out of this year, we’re happy to see people like this from home.
It doesn’t diminish the power of what’s being said at all. I think that kind of accessibility to people is now becoming the norm, whereas before it was like their doing some videos or having to do the shiny corporate videos, but actually being a bit more relatable.
Jess: But you get that human side and relatable side, which I think is easier to trust and grow the whole know, like and trust thing that marketing could be preparing somebody from a sales situation.
We get more authentic view and that authenticity is acceptable as well. It feels like the world has moved on. It’s access to also then support what people are doing at the same time. There’s this kind of emerging.
Libby: I agree with you. It’ll be interesting to see how big a company adapt and deal with the change, because for us small businesses its quite easy. It takes a shift, like you say, a different paradigm and also a different level of confidence that’s required, but bigger company. I just I wonder if the shiny corporate face will, to a certain extent become a thing of the past, because we’re distrustful of it.
You know, anyone can create a corporate video or shiny stuff that’s edited until it’s blue in the face. Only people who have real confidence in what they’re saying could do stuff like this as well.
Jess: I think the perfect example of that was the social media posts that we got at the beginning of the of lockdown. Where are the CEOs were emailing us and sending posts to say that they’re there for us. There was this perfect kind of merging or some genius out there edited together. All of these beige videos of generic companies saying that they’re there and they all kind of merged and yeah the response was not positive, they would have been better to send out nothing at all. It lacked authenticity.
Libby: It just seems a bit kind of vacuous, doesn’t it? I thought the virtue signalling and all that we care. We care. But you’re going to be on hold for an hour and a half because actually we don’t care about our staff and we haven’t got enough of them. It’s just nonsense, you know. It doesn’t help the cause.
Jess: I believe what you do not what you say.
Libby: Absolutely. How do you use social media for your own marketing in your business?
Jess: Going back to the drawing board and kind of reviewing. As you know I’m a massive fan of personas and understanding your audience. This year has been opportunity for us to go and have a look at what our personas care about at different points and maybe their relationship with us and how we can provide guides and support. We use social media to communicate at different points for different people and but also to hopefully build trust with that audience. It’s a combination of the testimonials to hopefully build a relationship with us and experience resources and guides that are free and give a taste of what we know about and what we can do as a way of demonstrating expertise and authority.
I suppose the main things we do in social media is a brand building activity that we don’t expect to see a big conversion rate or something. But we do know that it contributes to the conversion rate when it happens. You know, if someone’s got an idea of what we stand for.
Libby: It’s another touch point, isn’t it? Particularly for you when you’re looking to work with the slightly bigger businesses, not huge businesses. Your slightly bigger SMEs. It’s multiple touch points and that is one of them. Also, like you say, demonstrating that you are there and you practise what you preach. You know, all this kind of stuff, for me is very different because it is the first point of contact and often the last point before purchase is social media. It is different because I work with small, very small, micro businesses. One-man bands and that kind of thing. It’s interesting how two on the surface, similar businesses like ours, actually, as we’ve already said, are wildly different, but how we use tools differently and how they are at different stages throughout our customer journey. I find that absolutely fascinating.
Jess: I yeah, I suppose psychology of the whole, I think ours is probably more an initial touch point and then there’s probably quite a few more interactions that we have before a sale.
There’s almost a taller pipeline for us. Obviously the social media will carry on coming into it after we’ve had a meeting discuss the proposal and all that. Whereas you’re saying it’s probably, a shorter funnel potentially. It is interesting. But we’ve also been building social media into, it’s not a standalone part of our content anymore.
Libby: That’s good.
Jess: That can be a problem a lot of companies where social media is a silo that’s separate from the guides that are on a website and the blogs – we’ve combined those areas and all that’s definitely the plan moving forward. That’s something that we’re rolling out as well with clients. So everything works together.
Libby: Yeah. That’s something I get asked if I do, social media management. When I first started my business, that’s how I ran my business. Social media was a whole different ball game ten years ago. That’s something that I always say to people when they ask about that is that it needs to be if you do choose to outsource that’s your decision, but it needs to be completely cohesive with everything else that’s done.
You can’t just say to whoever, oh, do my social media for me. It’s got to be part of a cohesive strategy and it’s got to work in tandem with everything. Everything that you said, I completely agree with – the branding has got to be the same. The language has got to be the same. It’s got to be on the same theme as any guides or blogs or anything that you’ve read.
Yeah. I think people sometimes perhaps don’t see it. They see it as a standalone thing and not as part of the bigger mix.
Jess: I think social media could often be given to the junior. You know, it’s almost seen as inferior when actually it can be the brand building or touch point that the businesses really see on a daily basis for your company. It’s also this misunderstanding that all marketing must provide conversions. There’s this point where social media, digital marketing, obviously we have got measurements on it. But ultimately, what we very rarely see is high conversion rates with organic social media because it’s a brand building activity. That’s the point. Somebody thinks of you when they come to make a decision about the service or product that you offer. I don’t think social media is being respected or given as much time as it should and that’s because you don’t see massive conversion rates.
Libby: Well, it’s depends who your customer base is and what you’re doing. Certainly, for corporate. You’re absolutely right. It’s interesting. You may well get the same thing. I certainly had over the years, we’ve have had some really big companies who have outsourced their social media to me and when I used to do it as an agency, they would say we did a brilliant job, get the results that they wanted and and they said, all right, yes, thanks we will do it ourselves now. Alright then – you look a few weeks later of course there’s been three posts and nothing has happened. You just think, well, you can’t do it yourself because you’re not the expert. So why would you suddenly think that you’re the expert? Because you see the experts getting results doesn’t make you an expert. I know you must see the same thing.
Jess: That’s exactly the kind of frustration that marketers – when I was saying the things that we deal with it’s probably not being all the job not being respected, that’s a perfect example of it. I’ve seen how to do this. I can probably do it now.
Libby: I know. To be fair, as a marketer they are probably the worst at it, right I watched a YouTube video, now I’ve learnt it all. But it’s only because of all the years of experience and training and everything that you can pick things up, you understand. Shortcuts to things because of everything that is built up. If someone else tries to watch the same YouTube video and learn, it just doesn’t make sense at all. Everything has to be taken in context, I think.
Jess: I mean, ultimately with marketing we have to be conceptually digital, we have to be continuously learning. Often the reason is there aren’t any standards that have been written – some of it is learning on the job. Some of it is finding whatever we can. You’d never find that with financial finance, industry or legal. There are these really strict guidelines, understandably and rightly so, medical as well. But we can feel like we’re making it up as we go along. But there isn’t an alternative, really. You’ve got to keep testing things, trying them out, see what works.
Libby: And stuff changes. You know, the platforms themselves change. When I first in 2009 ran my first workshops on Facebook and Twitter. It was a lovely place then you could put one post on Facebook and make a few thousand pounds overnight. It does not work like that anymore. Having longevity experience is great because there’s so many things you pick up along the way. That in itself doesn’t mean that today’s world is like the world that it used to be. Continuous learning is essential when you’re doing anything like this. What would you say about the last year – have you found it stressful? Has it been fun?
Jess: Both. You’ve see me at different points throughout this year. I think it’s been a roller coaster, not knowing what the future will hold and having to adapt, make some difficult decisions along the way as well. I think ultimately. I have enjoyed parts of it. I think the thing with running a company is that the pendulum swings so far in two different directions they couldn’t be so much further. Sometimes in the same day.
Libby: I was going to say in the space of an hour.
Jess: Yes, between, I’m really proud of what we’re doing, I feel really confident about the future, this is brilliant. To oh my God, what’s going to happen? How do I deal with this? You just get through it. I think you also get more faith and confidence – well, I’ve been through these extremes and I just stretch. Ultimately, I’m left with a feeling that we can deal with whatever comes next. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and it’s annoying but unfortunately, I do think it’s true.
Libby: I think you’re probably right. I guess your over overarching feeling must be actually you must be quite proud of yourself, of everything you’ve been through. There’s lots of stuff personally that you will have to deal with, like everybody has this year but to still to have made those big decisions in your business, to still be here, to still be successful, still be getting new clients, serving existing clients – it’s pretty good.
Jess: Yeah. It’s a lesson in really what matters, because going back to this idea of what success looks like actually isn’t the office, it’s the people behind it. It’s the skills and everything else that we offer. There is a there’s a feeling of pride. I think anybody who’s made it through should be proud. The people who haven’t, it’s not a reflection on you either. It’s just the world – I’ve seen some amazing business people, offer a lot of value and unfortunately the company hasn’t made it through. They’ve had to re-invent themselves.
Libby: That’s often industry dependent, though, isn’t it? There’s an awful lot of industries like marketing that are largely untouched by this. Not saying individual businesses but they’ve had to adapt and everything. But as an industry marketing is still is still needed. It’s been really horrible for a lot of business owners over the last year. But actually, everybody that I’ve spoken to on all these interviews, even when they’ve been closed for seven out of the last 12 months, there’s so much positivity because of that kind of shift in, how can I make the best of this? What can I do if I can’t be open? What could I learn? How can I be better? What makes me happy? Therefore, how should I change the business. It’s been incredibly positive, out of adversity, really.
Jess: I agree. If you watched an apocalypse movie or whatever you don’t see the clapping for the NHS, it’s kind of the end of the world. I don’t know that this is the end of the world. But, you know, Contagion and stuff like that, the overdramatised depicts. The positive side is the resilience of human nature, where we’re not losing and I know there have been riots and there have been some negative things that have happened, but there’s also been an awful lot of positivity and that’s not in those disaster movies. That’s a really positive side of human nature, how we do support each other, how we do appreciate what others are doing.
I was going to say is actually the you if you see Contagion or anything like that, there’s all this very dramatic and actually something that’s difficult. The most difficult part of it can be the loneliness, actually, the part the reason why those things aren’t shown in films is actually quite boring.
Libby: Yeah. They wouldn’t make a very good film, would it? Well, I haven’t left the house of 8 weeks here I am, it’s not a great film. I think for me, the thing that I’ve learnt this year is more about myself and what actually I want from life. I know you have mention that, but I think also knowing that it’s okay to do what you want to do and to say, well, it’s my business, I’m going to do it like this, sod the rest. This is what works for me and my family and all of that. I think personally, it’s given this year of having to step back, even though my business continues to run and all of that. Having to step back from life has given me real breathing space and a real confidence to steer things the way I want to steer them. What would you say has been your biggest lesson?
Jess: I think I agree with you. I think sometimes in some ways it’s justified some difficult decisions that I probably wouldn’t have made. Also some positive ones you know. As you know from the back story, but not everybody here will know, I took over the company and before it was set up in 2003 by Alastair Campbell, who is a well-known businessman in the area, and it was some really big shoes to be stepping in. He was so well known and respected and with all the wonderful things that came with buying the company and taking over. I also took on set ways of doing things.
Libby: You took on his legacy. Which is not your legacy.
Jess: So in some way, I always would have hoped that after time I might have made more of a take, not more ownership took ownership for everything, but, you know, printing like you. So my idea for the emotional ownership, rather the kind of legal. Yes.
Also because there is something that I want not just respect but also maintain because I agree with it. I agree with the values that’s why I worked there for as long as I have done. It’s actually forced me in some ways to make the decisions about what I want from the company that I might not have done. I feel like it is more my company now, which is just down to this is just my head and what’s going on for me.
There is nothing that anybody else has done, but I feel more like this is now the company that I probably always would have wanted to run. It wasn’t probably like that in January 2019. So that has kind of forced an evolution or revolution actually probably more quickly than I would have then I would have done otherwise.
Libby: You might not have actually done it because you keep doing the same until you’re forced to change it or until you’re brave enough to make the decision and, you know, yay for a pandemic for enabling you to do that.
Jess: Yes, I think the remote working is a perfect example of that, because at the end of the day, the team members, they signed up for a lovely premise, teamwork, working together. I wouldn’t have asked that of people just because it suits me that never would have happened. Being put in a situation where we were forced to undergo the change, it made it all. Reasonable to have those conversations. That’s a perfect example, I wouldn’t put that on anybody else.
Libby: I think that’s brilliant – it’s been great to great to talk to you today. We’ve had bits of these conversations a lot over the last year but actually, to kind of hear it all in one place about how the last years been in your journey and your business. What you did, what you do now and the kind of emotional impact of all of that has been – it’s been really fascinating. I thank you for being so candid and open and honest with your story.
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