By Andrew Dobson
My MSc in Digital Marketing Management at Staffordshire University includes the module ‘Managing a Digital Marketing Project’. This normally involves working with a company to create and implement a digital marketing strategy. I asked to take a different approach to the project and decided to create my own digital marketing agency: Track Digital Marketing. This, I reasoned, would allow me to develop my marketing and web design skills and gain an income by working with small businesses in Staffordshire.
Although I had not previously studied marketing, I felt optimistic that the skills I learned on the course and my previous experience in teaching English would provide me with the background needed to excel at digital marketing. However, the business management side of the project was something that I found more daunting.
Fortunately, Be Inspired at Staffordshire University offered business support in the way of training, a business grant and a mentor. I’ll be honest, when interviewed for the scheme I was sceptical about how much help they would actually provide (apart from the business grant). However, the combination of business training from Be Inspired, project management assistance from Professor Jon Fairburn, and business startup and digital marketing advice from my mentor Matt Clayton (owner of Build A UK Business) has been hugely beneficial.
After the initial setup of Track Digital Marketing I was ready for small businesses to queue up and bombard my email address with pleads for me to help them market themselves online. However, it only just occurred to me that my competition was vastly experienced at online marketing and probably had teams of experts in every digital marketing field. Whilst my knowledge and practical experience gleaned from the course made me an all-round professional marketer, I could not compete with huge established companies for the top Google searches. This left me with targeting a particular niche (small businesses in Staffordshire) and old-fashioned networking.
Luckily, I found that business owners (now including myself) love nothing more than telling everyone within a half-mile radius about their business. This is how Brereton Timber and I found each other: a good ol’ chin wag over a garden fence. To be more specific, a fence panel supplied and fitted by Edward Taylor from Brereton Timber.
Edward and business partner Craig Wardle had an expanding fence supplying and fitting business – amongst a variety of other services. However, their old website did not reflect their current success, and their marketing consisted mainly of a 13ft wooden bear with ‘Brereton Timber’ plastered on it.
After discussing Craig and Edward’s digital marketing options and painstakingly explaining ‘long-tail keywords’, we agreed to complete the following:
- An internal digital marketing and website audit.
- Competitive research into the marketing activities of their main competitors, both regional and national.
- Customer research and marketing preferences.
- A comprehensive search engine and mobile optimised e-commerce website.
- Keyword research and content marketing to bring customers in and guide them towards sales.
Although we are still in the process of designing the website and creating content, since we started working Brereton Timber’s online sales for July are higher than the rest of the year combined. The new website has a professional image befitting their professional work, has improved search engine rankings, and perhaps most importantly is customer-friendly.
Craig and Edward have expressed their gratitude in their own way (by promising me a free Christmas Tree in December) and had this to say: “Honestly, we can’t believe the change Track Digital Marketing has made to our business. Customers are always saying how good the website looks and we know that Andy is available anytime we have a query or want to change something on our website.” Despite their online success, Brereton Timber refuses to capture the Brereton Bear who continues to terrorise locals on the A50 between Holmes Chapel and Brereton.