Room 301 Podcast S2 03: Taking the Advantage: Growth Marketing for Startups and Small Businesses

Posted on: May 17, 2024


Pete Bingham


Rob Twells joins TDM’s Paid Media Account Manager Lewis Hall and Brand Growth Lead Pete Bingham to explore how elevating visibility, attracting customers, and fostering growth for startups and small businesses requires nuance, cost-effective tactics and strategic decision-making to strike the right balance between growth and sustainability.

Drawing from their experiences, we'll discuss all the common challenges and strategies associated with a fledgling business, sharing real-life examples to help you uncover the right signs and opportunities for your business to expand.

Grab yourself a cuppa and a biscuit... welcome to Room 301!

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Podcast Transcription

Rob Twells


Welcome back to Room 301. Thank you all for joining us. I am joined by two of my colleagues today. So one of those is Lewis Hall. One of those is Peter Bingham. So Lewis you want to introduce yourself first?

 Lewis Hall


Yeah. Cool. So, um, yeah, I mean, I'm a paid media guy. I, uh, I've been working agency side now for about four or so years. Um, started dabbling in pretty much everything, um, when I first started agency and then sort of took to pay as the, the route for me. Um, and. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Cool.

 Rob Twells


 Thank you. And Pete?

 Pete Bingham


OK, yeah. So I've been at the Digital Maze and one of the, uh, brands that they, uh, own, uh, Boom for coming up to ten years now, uh, started out. Yeah, I know, wow, um. Start as a designer content creator and slowly, sort of steadily worked my way through quite a lot of the disciplines in digital marketing, uh, to the position I am in now, which is, uh, growth marketing lead. So I look after our various brands: Frogspark, Boom, and obviously The Digital Maze, etc., etc. their marketing, social media, lead generation, uh, running the podcast and events and whatnot. So yeah, that's me in a nutshell.

 Rob Twells


Brilliant. Thank you both. So today we're going to be talking about digital marketing for startups and new businesses specifically. So anybody who's just starting a business or is in the first couple of years, business owners or even part of the marketing function of those sorts of businesses, I think this will be perfect for you. there's lots of lots of takeaways we hope to give you on this podcast. So yeah, I'm gonna run through some questions at the end of the podcast. We have our “Room 301 Challenge”, which is well worth sticking around for. Um, so without further ado, I'm going to jump into the first question, which is what would you say are some of the key challenges that startups and small businesses face in digital marketing and, you know, comparing to an established business?

 Lewis Hall


I think the first thing really that, like, stands out to me is. And this can go any industry, right. If let's I'm going to use like gym clothing brands as an example because Gymshark is always like a comparison one. But new businesses in that field, um, they look up to Gymshark and go, okay, this is this massive powerhouse. How are they doing their marketing, how they position themselves. But like the problem they have versus Gymshark is: Gymshark has been around for I don't know how like over ten years. It's so established. The way they position themselves is very brand orientated. It's kind of like Nike and Adidas where they're not really looking for like direct response necessarily. It's more eyes, brand visibility, and that's pretty much how their marketing for the most part, is. Whereas these small businesses, they can't really approach it the same way because if they're brand new, I mean, they wouldn't be known at all. Um, and yeah, they just can't position themselves as a brand awareness focused because they haven't got the cash flow, they haven't got the cash to sustain that. And also they really need to focus on direct response and getting sales through the door, new customer acquisition and things like that. Um, and again I use the Gymshark example. But again, it can I feel like it could be applied to like any industry, to be fair. Um, but I feel like, yeah, that's probably like the biggest bottleneck I see, um, comparing like a new startup to an established brand. I don't know what you guys think. If you've got a different take or…

 Pete Bingham


No I think. I think that's it, isn't it? I mean, um, you've got your longevity on the side of the big business. And when we talk about digital marketing, um, you've got to think these domains could have been around for, you know, 20 odd years, um, uh, especially with some of the bigger businesses. So they've got more established business.

They've got time on their side, haven't they? So, um, you know, the domain authority and their backlink profile. If you want to get technical, you know, it's going to be far more advanced. They'll have put so much more work into it. And you're starting from nothing. Uh, you know, you are battling against it, you know, time effectively. Um, so they've already spent all of that time and effort getting to that stage and, their website authority, um, is, is already at a stage where you want to be in, you know, as soon as possible, which is, you know, next to impossible. Um.

You look at what Google is doing at the moment, there's been quite a lot of chatter, uh, in the SEO community on social and whatnot about Google favouring big business. Uh, so you look at, you know, you search for almost anything today and you see the same names coming up time and time again for articles. You know, uh, you've got your Forbes type sites coming up And, uh, you know, it was the subject of quite a well read article: small businesses, real humans writing reviews and whatnot. And they're seeing their space in the SERPs, you know, wiped out by these bigger names, doing something simple, similar, similar. Sorry. But, um, using, um, AI or basically, you know, paid placement for these things. So you are fighting against a bigger machine, uh, and bigger corporations have been doing a long time. And the trust and authority that these can command, uh, in the SERPs. So, yeah, that but a bit more technical. Yeah.

Lewis Hall


I feel like, as well, like, these big businesses. Like, obviously they've been around for so many years that they know what works for them and they've obviously found like an angle on the market that has helped them scale to whatever point they're at. Whereas like the startups and new businesses, if they're looking at digital marketing, there is so much like flashing lights everywhere you look LinkedIn, YouTube, any social media about digital marketing, how to do this, how to do that, this hack, this strategy. And I feel like sometimes these companies, or these small businesses just get overwhelmed with what to do, when to do it, how to execute something as well. Um, you know, a lot of these like, hacks and things often like lead magnets, right. Um, for, for certain things or courses or whatever. But yeah, I think, um, they often get like, blinded really by so much stuff.

 Pete Bingham


The temptation is to, to try and compete on every level. And it's, it's not it's not something that can you can do, uh, you know, you really have to think about specialising, um, as soon as possible if you're not doing it already and sort of try and grow from that point of view, as opposed to try and try and do everything that, you know, the bigger businesses have budget resources and like, say, longevity behind them on that.

 Lewis Hall


Yeah. I mean, the budget one's good because it's like they have they have a lot of testing ability. They can try things and if it doesn't work, they can just sort of cross it off the box and move on to the next thing. Whereas small business was to try that like they could that could just cripple them and lose a lot of the cash. And that could be really like devastating on that front as well. Uh, yeah,

Rob Twells


Yeh that makes sense. So with all that in mind, then, um. What advantages does a small business have over a bigger business? 3s

Pete Bingham


Well, I mean, there are a few, um, they obviously you are facing the mountain. Uh, and all the resources and brands are these brands have. But I think, um, one of the things that, I mean, I've written a blog, I've actually written a blog post about this quite recently, uh, which we'll link to, um, I'm sure in the article that accompanies a blog, uh, the podcast. But, um, something I noticed was that a lot of, a lot of the, the sort of startups and small business can really lean into their authenticity and their sort of human side and, um, in a way that the big brands like to do, but have to spend a lot of money and resources doing. And it doesn't often. It does sometimes, but doesn't often come across as authentic. Um, so, you know, you, you can do certain things as a smaller startup, new business. That big business just wouldn't, wouldn't even consider just because it would either be perceived as inauthentic or it costs a lot of money in order to achieve, um, there's things like, you know, just showing more of your human side. So, you know, getting on social media and just being a point of contact, a familiar face that you just wouldn't get with a bigger business. You know, you don't see Jeff Bezos, you know, answering, you know, um, Amazon queries or talking directly to customers online. Um, and you wouldn't expect it. Similarly, you know, if you've got a problem or something with a big business, you wouldn't expect to be able to get to the head honcho and say, you know, I've got a problem here and you know, I need it fixing whatever. Whereas with small businesses you can almost leverage that authenticity and access to those, those sort of key people in the business. And that's that's something you can really lean into either on social or, you know, just being more contactable or responding, um, responding to reviews and, and to comments and listening to feedback more, you can just be more authentic and more genuine, um, with your responses. And I think that's something that big businesses just can't do it. After a certain point, it just becomes prohibitive to them.

 Lewis Hall


Yeah. I think, um, I mean, I kind of it kind of feeds into what you said, really. I think there's too much sign off in a big business. There's very corporate, very structured. You have to go to this person who signs off to this person did it. And it's very hard to launch something. For example, um, whereas a small business can the pivot so fast every week they can pivot, they can change angle. They can be reactive in the market as well, which I do think is a massive thing. For example, things like TikTok trends, you know, they come and go. If you're a small business and you're sort of in a good niche with a with like these TikTok trends and you can fit into that, you can just smash that very, very quickly within a couple of weeks. The trends there, whereas a big business might have so much sign off by the time you've come around to going, okay, we can launch this video, it's gone, this trend is done, and people were moved on to the next thing. Um, so I think on that aspect as well, on that front, it's pretty important to be able to be very agile and, and pivot the strategy. Um, yeah.

 Pete Bingham


I mean, yeah, I think as well you sort of said like, you know, just developing that niche, knowing, knowing where you can, uh, sort of double down on, on, on what, you know, and, and something that you can, you know, you can deliver better than your competitors, especially the big competitors, is good. You know, um, I mean, you know, going back to Amazon again, don't forget they started with books, didn't they? Um, and, you know, they doubled down on that and they, they became the place to buy books. And then they expanded into this, you know, behemoth of whatever they are now. But again, I think it's important to not just put all your, um, eggs in one basket. Whilst it is important to specialise in niche, it's important that you don't just have what some sort of one, one avenue for, for like visibility and leads and whatever. So you can't just rely on SEO, you can't just rely on social media. You sort of have to spread yourself a little bit thin and try out a few of the things. And that agility definitely plays into that. That's something that you can definitely pursue as a smaller business.

 Lewis Hall


 Yeah. The favorite word of the minutes omni channel. Right.

Rob Twells


You touched on earlier, Lewis, about the need. For experimentation. Um, I mean, first of all, why is experimentation, uh, important? And to, you know, again, we've touched on it, the lack of budget that a small business might see, uh, can, uh, I suppose it can make experimentation difficult. Can't, because you need sufficient budget to, to fail with, so to speak. How do you balance, how do you balance sort of using proven strategies and experimentation with a limited budget? And again, why is it so important to experiment in your marketing?

 Lewis Hall


Would you be talking about a brand new businesses? Never really done any marketing or a business. It's still small, but they've found some success with certain channels and they want to test something different or go on the channel.

 Rob Twells


Yeah, yeah. Well, I think, I think the typical listener of this podcast will be somewhat established 6 to 12 months, got some proven strategies under their belt. And I think if we focus on them, I think we'll get a much, much well rounded answer.

Lewis Hall


Yeah. I think um, well provide I'm going to sort of go down the, the paid ad for it, I suppose if you're if you're having success with Google ads, for example, you're seeing great growth, but it's not as rapid as you want allocated sort of 15 to 20% of a, of a marketing budget, in my personal opinion, to testing new ideas, testing new channels, testing, creative testing all these different things is probably a good balance of you're still growing, you're still keeping retaining customers, you're still finding new customers and business. But you have freed up a little bit of budget to test and develop new channels, grow omnichannel.

And for example, it could even be organic, social. Um, it's really, really a big thing that a lot of small businesses don't necessarily take advantage of as probably like they have it probably a better opportunity on organic social, simply because they haven't got all the sign off required to launch all these videos, try different angles and things like that. Um, yeah, that's I'd say really like 15, 20% of a of a marketing budget to, to testing new things is, is quite reasonable.

And like I said, you're still growing. Okay. You might not have all of the 100% budget going towards one channel that you know that works. But what happens if Google ads? Breaks. For some reason, issues can't go down, account suspensions, products get disapproved, these things happen. And, um. But if you've got all your eggs in that one basket, like that's it for a bit, right? If you've kind of lost all all new growth. So I do think it's really important to diversify. And as well I guess a flipside, a more recent thing with Facebook. A lot of people are struggling with Facebook at the minute. Meta ads in 2024 have been up and down, lacking in consistency. So all of these brands that only spend on Facebook. But they should have probably tested a bit of TikTok. That's a really, really popular trend at the moment. Maybe invest in Google adds a bit of brand brand growth there as well. Um, just sort of build a foundation for yourself on a few different platforms once you've found something that works, in my opinion, is, uh, is really, really important.

 Rob Twells


 No, I agree with that totally. Any thoughts from you, Pete, on that?

 Pete Bingham


I absolutely agree with everything that's been said. To be honest, I think you want to make sure that you are trying to carve out 15 to 20% are on, uh, experimentation, I think actually. Uh, I mean, Lewis touched on it as well. I think it's actually a lot easier for smaller businesses to experiment because they don't really have the weight of a brand behind them. So it's not just the red tape, it's a you have to do this in a certain way when you're a big brand, you have to follow the brand guidelines. This is our tone of voice. Um, this is our spokesperson. You know, this is the these are the contracts we have in place, and this is how we have to deliver it, where you can be a bit more loose and a bit more: well, let's try this out. It doesn't work. I mean, nobody's going to really remember unless it goes. Well. Um, so I think you can have a lot more fun, which helps with experimentation. You know, you can be a bit more creative. And I think that you can find the right brand voice. So I think that's important. And I also think like you can start small with experimentation. You don't need to jump to anything big. I wouldn't say start, you know, start jumping into massive digital PR campaigns or anything. But you know, there's things like simple things like A/B testing and, you know, trying out a small platform on a, on a small scale. Um, just seeing where the market trend is and just having a little go dipping your toe. And like I say, if it doesn't work, you know, if something if there's a massive car crash like Apple's recent iPad launch with where they crushed a load of creative instruments and things like that, no one's going to notice if you're small, so you can be a bit freer, um, to, to try new things out. So I would say if you can afford it, try and reserve that sort of 20%, um, marketing budget. But, you know, start small and, and really try and find your brand voice and the things that also that works within your capacity and budgets. You know, if you can deliver things within, within your team without having to outsource them, whatever. And you find, you know, you may have people within your team that become brilliant spokesperson for you, for your team, or you know, that creative resource that you can deliver in-house. It's just about, you know, trying things out and not being scared to fail. Um, no, no one will see, no one will see if, uh, if you do and, you know, you can't really carve out a niche unless you try some experimentation, you can't, you know, you can't find that, um, specialism without a bit of experimentation because you can't just follow the herd. You have to try something different if you want to succeed.

 Lewis Hall


Another quick point to add to that as well. I think smaller businesses have. You don't necessarily need to invest a huge amount into like trying different things because to move the needle, I guess it's a small. You only need to see a small difference to go, okay, this is something worth investing more in. Whereas these massive businesses, because they generate such a huge amount of revenue from so many different channels, it's so hard to keep track of where things come from, where sales or leads have come from. You don't actually know if these tests that you're doing necessarily have resulted in a positive outcome, whereas as a smaller business, you kind of know where you're getting your current lead flow from your sales from is it organic? Is it social? Is it paid? And then from that point, if you test something new and you see an uptick in in revenue in sales and lead flow, then you can kind of point that to the direction of, okay, this test was a positive thing. Let's like dissect this a bit more and hopefully invest more into this, grow this new test out and experiment. And um, yeah, I think that's another way to sort of about another advantage really, to be honest.

 Rob Twells


I mean, one thing I see as well is, um, businesses don't spend enough time in the experiment either, so they sort of disregard it too quickly. Maybe they haven't got somebody involved with an expert in that field, therefore they don't have the right level of data or it's just not worked because it's not been implemented correctly. So I think if you are going to experiment, I think my opinion is at least try and employ somebody who is clued up in that area to perform that test for you, to make sure you're getting the output and accurate output, I suppose.

Lewis Hall


Yeah I agree. That's a really good point. I think, um, a lot of the time these tests happen, but it's not a 100% go in the test. It's like, oh yeah, whatever. We'll throw 10% effort at this test. Exactly a week later, it's like, oh, we've seen nothing. That's it cuts it. Like I agree. That's a really good point. Never try it again. Never

Rob Twells


You know, we're a full service agency. So I, I often speak to people who want SEO or they want PPC and they'll, they'll tell me, ah, we tried that. It didn't work. It's like, well, hey, when did you try it? I said, oh, seven years ago. And B, how long did you try it for? Well, we tried SEO for for two weeks and it didn't work. That one. Who did it for you? Oh, Susan. From accounts.

 Pete Bingham


 Leave Susan out of it!

 Rob Twells


 Uh, so, yeah, I think if you're going to do it, try and do it properly. I know that that incurs costs. And we're talking about small business today, but, um, but yeah, it's important that you try and do it properly. So I suppose the lack of experimentation could be one of the biggest mistakes we see small businesses make from a marketing perspective, are there any other, uh, mistakes that you sort of constantly see?

Lewis Hall


 So guys, I think. I think I said. I know most things really that I personally feel like is is a is a big front on, on a marketing, um, area. But yeah, I don't know if you've got anything else to add or. 2s

Peter Bingham


Some mistakes. I think one of them probably is like we have already covered. It is trying to do too much and not specialize in trying to copy what the big boys are doing. You know, um, another one is trying to grow too soon or, you know, grow your processes, your internal processes or systems, you know, a pace that just doesn't match growth. So, you know, it might be hiring team members for a vanity project or something, or investing a tool or process that is just, you know, maybe to advanced or too costly or whatever at that stage.

And I think a lot of that comes down to maybe hiring the right people early enough. And we talked about this just a second ago. You know, where, you know, you need to make sure you've got the experts working on certain things, experiments and whatever and sort of and maybe knowing when to outsource to an agency or creative or whatever. And it is a very fine line, especially when you've got smaller budgets of knowing, um, when it's time to grow and when you know, to invest in that new process or whether you'll just do that and then it'll just absolutely, you know, it's just we're just too early or maybe even too late. It's just that knowing when to grow and when, when is too soon is something.

And that can be also for strategies and things like that. It's like, when is it a good time to start something like digital PR? Um, you know, you know, if you if you're up against websites that have thousands and millions of backlinks, you know, it can be very tempting to think, well, we need we need some backlinks. Uh, um, how can you how can you approach that on a level that is, you know, sustainable and achievable with your team? Instead of going, well, they employed this massive agency or whatever. And they've, they've suggested that we, we spend ten grand a month on, on digital PR or whatever. It's like, that's not going to be sustainable. But there are approaches, there are strategies, there are tactics that you can use. So I think it's just that knowing at what pace to roll things out, um, to sort of accompany growth at, at the right pace is, is a mistake. I think we've seen a few times, um, along the way. Certainly I have.

 Lewis Hall


Yeah I think the higher end point is, is really key. Like a lot of people might go, okay, we need this person in house, this person has this person house. But at that point you've spent all of your cash reserves on just hires where really, like you said, you could have looked at freelancer, you could have looked at agencies for like a growth point of view to take a lot of the stuff under their wing. Um, yeah. Good point.

 Rob Twells


Makes sense. I mean, something that the, uh, myself and you'll speak about, particularly the wider PPC team, is scaling and scaling budgets. Are there any sort of triggers that you look for? Uh, and this is particularly in regards to sort of paid out sort of Google Ads, Instagram, Facebook, so on and so forth. Are there any sort of triggers that you look for that you know, particularly small business owners, they are hesitant to invest more in marketing, even if it's working. It's sort of additional overhead is quite a scary thing for a small business owner. So are there any triggers that you look for that allow a business owner to feel more comfortable increasing their budget and whatnot?

 Lewis Hall


Yeah, I think, um, I mean, I mean, a few things are backend stuff, like you can, you can sit in platform and you can look at the in platform numbers, but they're not necessarily 100% accurate. For example, Facebook ads, you can look in platform, you see XYZ sales. But if you look in the back end of your Shopify account, you might see half that or double that. So not being so focused on in platform metrics, obviously that's an important factor. But also looking at the wider business view, how have things looked over the like trend in 30 days or 90 days? Are we seeing things.

And I think really with um, with like product-based businesses, it's new customers like you could have a sustained amount of revenue, but if if all of that's returning customers, technically the business isn't growing at some point are realistically, the business is slowly bleeding out if you're not getting new any new customers. So the trends I look for is, is a slow uptick in new customer acquisition from a from a product based business for an if that's slowly trending up and it might not necessarily just from your channel. Your channel could be one factor in a massive cycle of the customer journey. Um, and if that's slowly trending up, in platform metrics look quite good as well. Obviously that's still important. Slowly start up taking budget. And I don't mean double it overnight. Right. That's that's ludicrous. Um, but you know, just set yourself test set yourself hypotheses. I think hypotheses are really important. So okay, for the next three months or the next quarter, we're going to increase budget by 20%. How does that look versus previous quarter? Are we still trending upwards in the right direction. And if new customers are trending up and you're still sustaining what your returning customers are, then that is business growth in a nutshell. And that's the that's the driving force really to start increasing spend again

 Rob Twells


 How scalable is it from a spend point of view in in relation to to paid ads. So if you're putting £1,000 in and you're getting a, uh, three times return to spend. If I doubled it, would I still get three times? Is it scalable

 Lewis Hall


Well, I mean, uh uh, I, I really depends on niche, right. And I think, um, yeah. If you're it's all product cost. It's how much? We'll use this again. It's like a product-based business, right? It's like, how much is it costing you to fulfill the product? A lot of small businesses don't actually know these numbers. I think that's one problem with them. So, you know, if you ask a company how much what's breakeven or how much do we need to make just to break even, they won't be able to tell you the answer or if they tell you the the product cost that they also know the shipping fees, the margins, the website hosting costs, all the apps on their website, all the softwares they use, the like, the the payment processing fees, things like that. It's like that's always missed. Um, so yeah, really knowing like true numbers about cogs and how much your product costs after shipping, after tax after that, everything. So you can keep a good like flow of cash and what your cash flow is looking like. Um, that's that's super, super important. Yeah. I think it like small spends like £1,000. Like if you could double that at three zero and I'd probably maintain A3X, whereas. Right. But if you're talking about scaling it to a hundred thousand, then no, probably not even going to see it.

Rob Twells


You ruined it at the last minute. That’s the dream though, if we could all do that, then we'd all be, um, very wealthy, I suppose, wouldn't we?

 Lewis Hall


Yeah, yeah, there wouldn't be any ups and downs. Just be a, like a straight, straight rocket up. That would be smooth sailing.

 Rob Twells


But,  um, again, something else I see from regularly talking to different business owners from, from to fair businesses from all different shapes and sizes is, you know, they start a new product or they start a new business and they kind of just think, right, I'm going to employ an agency to do marketing. Very, very loose brief. Who's your target market? So on and so forth. It leads me to leave me down this path of. Are there prerequisites before you market? What are the things that should be done before you even start investing in your marketing? Because we've been in this situation loads of times as an agency where a person creates a business and just says, go and go and get sales, but actually we need a lot more information. And the argument there to say that information shouldn't be gotten or provided by us unless we're employed to do it, of course. So what are the what are the prerequisites? What are the exercises that you would go through before you even put a penny into marketing to understand your you're making the most of your marketing spend once you start doing that.

 Lewis Hall


Do you want to go first Pete. I. I've got a few. I've got a few things, but, um. Yeah. I mean, I'll let you take the reins on this one,

 Pete Bingham


Obviously you need to know your market. Um, and you would hope that you would if you've sort of invested the time or whatever and have approached an agency. Um, and I think that's something that we've already touched on here is about knowing, knowing the capacity of your team and, you know, understanding your audience. Um, for example.

We've just talked about metrics and whatnot and knowing, um, and knowing what to look for and being a bit clouded by the, the scope of that sort of thing. So for me, it would be about knowing exactly what your business goals are and what you want to achieve and understanding, I mean, metrics is, you know, it's just a right we've achieved that, let's move on. It's more about, um, I'd say KPIs are probably a good a good tactic to use because, you know, you've got a bunch of quantifiable measures of performance over time. And I think just sort of having that insight coming to an agency and saying, this is what we're hoping to achieve and, you know, whether or not the agency agree with you and whatever, it is something else. But I think, you know, a specific objective like we want to increase leads by 20% this quarter or increase the subscribers to a newsletter by 2000 or whatever.

Whatever it is, I think KPIs are good because they have a bite size approach to measuring success. And I think if you can provide your agency or you know, your marketing team with these sort of, um. Like I said, bite size goals. You know, if we pass the criteria for this, it will lead to this. And I think that almost makes it a little less, um, you know, vacuous, like the giant cloud over your head and just provides more focus. Um, I think that's that's something I would definitely like to sort of, um, see from a client. Obviously, I've not done a lot of client-facing stuff for a while now because I’m, um, internal. Um, but definitely having that sort of clear set of goals and that bite size approach to if we can achieve this, then we'll achieve that.

And knowing what the the macro goals are as well as the larger ones, it is definitely something that. I think it's a good, good approach.

 Lewis Hall


Yeah I think yeah. I mean the, the KPI question or point is, is super, super key a lot of the time. Well I guess we've been on both sides of the coin, one potentially where people have come to an agency too early and others where they've come to an agency and seen, well, couldn't fulfill the orders quick enough because I'm not quick.

 Rob Twells


I wonder who you’re talking about Lewis?

 Lewis Hall


Yeah, yeah. So yeah, there's there's two sides, but I feel like yeah. If you again, it goes back to numbers, like if you could come to an agency with KPIs that are realistic, that you have actually got facts behind why those KPIs are set in place and you've not just pulled them from thin air. It's potentially a good time to look at an agency for help, because at the end of the day, if you don't know these numbers. The agency doesn't know how to help. The agency doesn't know where we are and where we need to get to. It's so difficult to work that out. Um, so yeah, I think really it goes down to numbers and another point really is well, is do you have the capability to help the agency for what you've essentially hired them to do? I think sometimes, um, small businesses go, okay, we've got we've seen a bit of growth.

Okay, we're going to hire an agency now, pay the agency to, to do XYZ. But the agency can't fulfill that service necessarily because they haven't got X, they haven't got Y, they haven't got KPIs, they haven't got goals, things like that. Um, and I think, you know, the problem with some small businesses and even large ones, to be honest, is they go to an agency and go, okay, it's like a tap. You paid agency. Bang. We're going to see the growth that we want. And it's not always the case because there's so much external things that could impact the business. And if you haven't been around long enough to see the ups and downs, to see trends, seasonal growth, things like that go into an agency before you've experienced that is probably not the best idea. Um, because again, if something goes bad because you've got a seasonal product, you point the finger at the agency. But this could just be. In the market. And again, if you've not been around long enough to to know these ups and downs, these trends, it's, it's one of those things that could be a, could be a problem. But yeah, there's definitely a point to go into an agency too early in in my opinion. Um, but yeah, like Pete said, it goes down to the numbers and KPIs as well.

Pete Bingham


Also your metrics can change and what is important to your business can change so quickly. Like we've talked about, you know, Google ads going down or, you know, even Google changing the way that search engines work has changed a lot of people's businesses. Some people lost businesses.

So you also need to know a lot about your own business and it as agencies, whilst we strive for that excellent relationship, we want to know everything. You know, we are sort of chopping and changing all the time as well. So we are moving on to different clients and whatever. So you know, if, if you, if you lose, for example, we look at client satisfaction and client retention within an agency that's, you know, part of what we do, you know, and if we lose clients, all of a sudden the focus shifts to new business. Whereas, you know, new business is something that we do. We look for all the time. We're always, um, uh, taking part in lead generation tactics and strategies or whatever.

But then the focus shifts and whatever and, you know, yes, you're flexible enough as a small business to do that, but you need to make sure that you that the agency that you're working with is aware of this, that and the other and how if something changes, you know, what, what have you tried, what haven't you tried. And we've talked about that as well.

So I mean, we have our own individual KPIs, uh, between teams and as wider business goals as well. So we can be quite quick to notice trends and issues and whatever. But, um, I think relying on, on metrics and not, you know, not being aware that change can happen rapidly is something that that needs more focus

Rob Twells


I mean, the, the classic things, you know, in terms of, you know, what to do before spending money on marketing or uh, is advisable, it's obviously around your audience who you were targeting. You know, who's your target market, who's your perfect customer, all that stuff. But one thing that I think is really important, and we've seen this more and more, especially as we going down. But we have a lot of e-commerce businesses, a lot of businesses that have products that, um, have supply chains and production costs and stuff like that.

What is the you know, how much are you prepared to pay for a customer or for a lead, what's your break even point? So on and so forth. And if we've got that figure and it it's not an easy figure to get a lot of the time. A lot of the time, it does take some quite sophisticated number crunching to understand how much you're prepared to acquire, to pay sorry, to acquire a new customer or a new lead. And that's really important. And I know Lewis in particular, in the paid advertising space, it's even more important there because, um, that forms the basis of our strategy. We know what you know, if we're creeping up to success, if it goes over a certain figure, we never need to pull back. So on and so forth. So yeah, that's really important.

 Lewis Hall


Yeah. I mean, that's the knowing how much you want to pay for a lead or a customer is so, it's like probably the most important metric. And if you don't know that figure, it's not a bad thing necessarily. You might just be too early to understand how much you're willing to pay. So at that point, it's definitely avoid an agency, simply because they can't really help you grow if you can't give them that number. But if you do know that number, then they go that the door is open, right? But I think this really depends on niche. For example, if you're taking a supplement-based product or someone in the health and beauty where it's like really repeat purchases and lifetime value is is the most amount of money you're going to make of that customer the front end sale, you might break even or you might even slightly lose money.

If you have a KPI and it's all we need to be profitable on the first sale of a monthly subscription product, well, that might not be a reasonable goal. If you can break even on that first interaction with a new customer, that is a fantastic result, because you've had enough business to know that roughly people stay for three months, six months or whatever, and you can see whether the future forecasted revenue is going to come from, um, yeah, that's that's such an important metric that not enough. All right. Even honestly, larger businesses still don't actually know that figure. Like if you if you ask a lot of people, they wouldn't be able to give you it. Um, which I mean is a is a problem for a fully established business. But if you're just starting out trying to work that out, at least you're aware that that is something that you need to need to establish.

 Pete Bingham


Going back to what we talked about at the beginning, though, I suppose that's a great advantage that small businesses have, is that, you know, if they do have this information, they can communicate that with you very effectively and you can communicate back to them without having to go through layers of management. And who do I talk to and whatever. And I think you can have that much tighter relationship with an agency. Um, you know, if you've got a smaller team on some levels. Um, so I think that's absolutely key.

 Lewis Hall


I mean, again, I think to a certain extent, like I said, some established businesses don't know these numbers. So they're I'm going to use paid again. They're running paid. They don't really change budget. They have a set budget whatever. And they feel like they're growing because their top line is is improving. These newer, smaller businesses that understand these metrics, they know how much they can pay for a customer. They know, like forecasted revenue. They can be so aggressive on their scaling if if they know these numbers versus these bigger giants, that they probably don't have enough insight really into, like what the, the core metrics are and how much they can they could pay and what a new customer acquisition cost is and things like that, because they get stuck on our top line revenues growing well, but our new customers are falling. And that's why it doesn't happen often. But some of the smaller like newer, newer companies grow really, really rapid. And again, that's like a unicorn business. But it's because they understand all the fundamental numbers that equal business growth and success. So yeah, it's so important.

 Rob Twells


Cool. Well, before we wrap up and move on to the Room 301 Challenge, is there anything that you guys want to add that would a new business owner or somebody in the marketing function of a new business? Any any golden takeaways?

 Pete Bingham


Um, I would say there's a lot of lot of things you can control, especially as a small business that you have to learn. You know, you have to learn what these things are and improve. And again, that could come back to getting the right staff, the right processes, uh, understanding your products and whatever.

But also, I would really embrace your authenticity and the your ability to communicate with your users, your audience really effectively. So, you know, listen to customer pain points, um, uh, try to resolve them, keep them happy and whatever. And, you know, make sure your products and services exceed your customers’ expectations where possible, and keep an eye on the market for trends and changes.

You have the ability to be a little bit more agile and pivot and so on. Um, but just make sure that any sort of, uh, growth or change or in process or staff or product or whatever is appropriate to business and your growth aims, you can't try to do everything and compete on every single level.

 Lewis Hall


I'll sort of back your point up, actually about customer service because I think it's a hard thing to keep in house and is often the first thing that, like product based businesses, outsource because it's it just gets too much. But I think if you can hold on to that as much as you can, you like you said, you you really see the pain points, the struggles, the issues they've had when they've purchased from you, what things they've found good about your products, even if that's like looking at reviews or customer service emails or comments on your your Facebook and Instagram and TikTok accounts and social media like that is such invaluable information that, like, you won't really pay too much attention to if you start to outsource this. So in my personal opinion, hold on to that as long as you can until you are pulled every way and then you have to let it go. But um, yeah, I do think there's a valuable stuff there from, from your customers that you just won't necessarily see when you get too big as a, as a business.

 Rob Twells


Cool, brilliant. Lots of lots of good takeaways. And hopefully you guys listening, um, you know, can take a lot away from that and understand that as a small business, there are plenty of advantages. It's not you know, it's not something to be, to be scared of.

There's stuff that you can do that a big business may necessarily not be able to do. So yes, lots of good stuff. So before we wrap up, we're going to do the Room 301 Challenge. It's something we've newly introduced to series two.

And if you don't know already, uh, the 301 in our podcast name comes from an SEO term, a 301 redirect, which is actually a permanent redirect of one URL to another. It's sort of our SEO pros tell the search engines that the page is no longer available or it's moved, and to look somebody somewhere else instead.

 So we want to pose a thought experiment to our experts, in this case Pete and Lewis. So Pete, Lewis, I'm going to start with you. Uh, Pete, if you can get one thing in digital marketing so it ceases to exist, what would that be?

 Pete Bingham


 I have been looking forward to this because I've heard the last few and I've come up with about 50 and it had to whittle it down. Um, and I didn't want to come on here and say I because it's AI, it's too broad an answer

 Rob Twells


 A whole 40 minutes about saying word…

Pete Bingham


 That's what I was going to say. Maybe we should just not have touched on it whatsoever. Um, no. AI can be extremely useful in loads of ways to make certain tasks easier, especially if you're on a budget, you know, a smaller team, whatever. So I'm not going to go with AI as such, but I'm not going with ChatGPT or anything like.

But um, what I would go with is the people who use AI badly. I'd like to get rid of those people because AI isn't inherently bad. Machine learning isn't inherently bad. All these things are are great. I mean, as an example, I'm a, uh, creative person. I started out my career as a designer and illustrator, and I really wish things like Midjourney didn't exist. Um, if you don't know what Midjourney is, it's generative AI. So you put in, “I want a picture of, you know, uh, whatever”. And it'll come up with it. It'll draw it in any style you like and whatever. Um, the problem is. It's everywhere now. It's been unleashed. And there's too many bad examples. You know, there's too many articles that have just been written by a ChatGPT. There are too many images online. You can't go on a stock image website now without being thrown a load of AI, and I can see it a mile off. Or maybe I've got a trained eye, whatever, and I'm sure it'll get better, but it is everywhere. And you know, it has had the effect of making the internet a poorer place, in my opinion. So. But it's not inherently bad. So I wouldn't put, you know, I wouldn't put, um. I wouldn't put AI into room 301, as it were. I would put the people that that that use it badly.

I think there was a there was a quote a while back and I've written it down here, so I remember it, but it was like “we invented AI to help creative people perform mundane tasks, but instead we've helped mundane people perform creative tasks”. So it's almost that, you know, anyone can do it. And I'm not. It's not precious design gatekeeping, by the way. It's not like, you know, I, I only as a designer can use it artfully or whatever, but it's just that we have entered ended up with, you know, an internet is absolutely chock full of crap.

And, um, I think it was the infamous Ian Malcolm from, uh, from Jurassic Park that said, uh, you know, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn't stop to think whether they should,” you know. So it's just that idea of like, yes, we can do it, but it doesn't mean you can just say, “write article”. There we go. Done. Bang it on on the website, etc. it doesn't mean you can fill, you know, um, your entire article with pictures created by a midjourney. It doesn't mean that we should, you know, create a new album by the Beatles. Um, you know, just because we can, you know, generative, create these things, you know, it's more about using it for, for, you know, to help out with stuff like that, you know, to, to, to use it in a way that enhances your own work or to perform the mundane tasks. So yeah, not I just the people that use it badly. There we go. I thought about that one didn’t I?

Rob Twells


 I did wonder why you wearing a Jurassic Park shirt?

Pete Bingham


 Yeah, absolutely.

Rob Twells


On purpose was it?.

Pete Bingham


Yeah, it was. You know me, I’m all about the show!

 Rob Twells


 Like it. Lewis, what, are you getting rid of mate?

 Lewis Hall


Uh, I a similar thing in terms of “people about something”. Uh, I'm just. I'm staying in my niche, in my lane: The paid stuff. People that believe that turning on a paid ad campaign is the solution to all business problems.

I wish it was like that because my job will be super, super easy, but there's just so much externally on the backend that result in a successful campaign and a lot, a lot of people. And I don't think this will ever stop. It's like, oh, can we just launch this campaign? It will get so much revenue, it will get so many leads for the door. And it's just not the case. You know, there's creative, there's the landing page, the offer, the product or service itself, the reviews of the business, things like that, the reputation the company has. Things like that back up a paid ad campaign and really sort of boost it in terms of how profitable and how successful it can be. Um, not to say that it can't. It can't do that. It definitely, definitely can be a success. It's just if these things are all in line, then you have a good person behind the paid account and a good strategy and structure. You're off to the races. But yeh the people that think just turning a campaign on is uh, is

 Pete Bingham


We just don't like people do we? We don't like dealing with people. I think it's that automation, isn't it? It's that idea that you can just click a button and it'll do it for you magically, and everything will be fine, and it'll be totally 100% optimised and, you know, but the reality is not that

 Rob Twells


I can't help but think that the people who use AI badly are also the same people that would think you can just…

 Lewis Hall


You know, you're probably not wrong

 Pete Bingham


 Shove them all in the Room 301!

 Lewis Hall


 The same people. Different, different uh, different issue.

Rob Twells


Well, look, I appreciate both of you guys. I appreciate both of you guys time some really good insights today. And we've put a group of people into Room 301 that should never have to get out again. So thank you all for listening. And we'll see you again soon.

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Pete Bingham

Head of Design & Content

My name’s Pete and I’ve been a designer for over 20 years, creating for web, print and more. I’ve written plenty of blog posts on the importance of good design, UX and creative content over the years. My other passions include walking in the Peaks, illustration and reading.

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