In order for to best describe this story - I need to explain to you how I started my business. Long story short - I realised that when you start a business you need to go to ten different people marketing - wise. A designer, a web developer, a social media person, a printer etc.. so I thought surely I can create an agency which gives a full circle approach to the smaller guys and surely they will understand the value in having a skill set of ten instead of paying an admin person, an overseas graphic designer or a fresh uni graduate to do their marketing.. surely they would understand how being integrated will help cash flow. I had no idea how much business owners are set in their ways and how challenging it would be to educate them about the importance of getting marketing right in their business - but this post is for another day. Challenge accepted.
So.. after a long list of cool and not-so-cool names I read an article on the Harvard Business Review explaining what bees can teach you about business - leadership, innovation and efficiency. Bang! Marketing Bee was born.
After a few weeks I came up with the slogan 'We bring the buzz to your business' and a friend of mine who works for a branch of Saatchi and Saatchi was kind enough to spend hours working on our logo and nailing my vision. A few weeks later, I quit my corporate job and started working on the website and everything else.
At first due to the whole bee analogy - I wanted a black website. I worked relentlessly on the idea and proceeded to give the idea to the agency producing it for us. Four weeks later our black website was live.
So why did I scrap a brand new website within 6 months of being in business?
If it's expired - throw it out.
The initial investment was close to $1500 if I am not mistaken which is a fair bit when you have just quit your job and have a pile of invoices from the set up process collecting dust on your desk.
Why did I still do it?
1) Because money isn't everything - I wanted a website which reflected how we had evolved into a clean, fresh and slick brand. I didn't particularly care if I had to spend again and restart from scratch.
2) With the bee theme, we have been able to create something quite rare in the B2B space - we have created a brand with which our target market interacts. They send us honey jars, honeycomb, honey - related objects, bee cards and all sorts of things. For me having website reflecting these attributes was more important than how I felt. I didn't want to make it about me.
3) I was focused on creating remarkable branding - I wanted to walk the talk. Every tiny bit of branding in this business has to wow our clients or people in contact with it. If it's not remarkable today, I will do everything to make it remarkable tomorrow.
4) I like black.. in fact I love black but the business isn't about what I like or I don't like - it's about having our clients in mind first.
5) I realised that unless you are Blackberry - black decreases the time one spends on a site and doesn't help with conversion. Who said that? My Google analytics account did.
Lessons you can draw from my experience:
1) ' We can't afford it.' is no longer a good enough excuse if you want to be competitive. I never understood 'bottom line' mentality, a business solely driven by costs (which are ultimately tax deductible) will not survive in today's market.
2) Sorry to hurt your feelings but your business isn't about you and whether you really like pink or red. If you don't realise this early enough and you don't develop the capacity to be emotionally detached from certain things - you will drive customers away.
3) Business should be largely driven by data. Data should determine what you do and how you do it - how well you get your customers and how well you interact with them. Before you pick a name - do some research, before you get a logo - understand your brand proposition, before you get a website set out the goals you have and the customer path you want to create. Don't go cheap - there is so much rubbish out there due to an under- regulated industry : people who code in word, create logos in paint, set up your cards on Vista and more..
4) Focus on your business goals and if you are going in a direction which doesn't reflect what you set out to do - adjust your sails and be resilient.
5) Throw something out if it has killed its expiry date 2 years ago. Couple of scenarios : 1) you started in business a few years ago when Facebook didn't exist and everybody competed on price - do you really believe that the branding and website you got at the time still cut it? 2) You just started in business and you get a static website, generic branding and cheap printing - essentially you have no reputation, no clients and no capacity to send out personalised messages but you want to survive your first 6 months in business? I think that we need to stop and think about what we are doing a bit more.
Unfortunately when you first start out what we are taught is get the right accountant, save and save some more, cut corners and "get the structure right". This education process is flawed and inverted - the accounting part and the legal part are both crucial parts of running the business - they aren't the business itself - it's not what your customers see, as a customer I don't care if you are a proprietary limited or whatever. Does it make sense to have a business which doesn't deliver what the customer wants?