Graduating with an award and a digital marketing business

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.

A happy customer

A happy customer

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.

Andrew Dobson

What Goliath can learn from David

In Business Schools all over the country and beyond we tend to focus on large and often multinational corporations, and the overarching focus on providing shareholders with the greatest possible return on investment has been identified as one potential contributor to the 2008 financial crisis (see for example https://www.forbes.com/sites/shawnoconnor/2013/05/15/the-responsibility-of-business-schools-in-training-ethical-leaders-2/#3102f64960bd). 

My current research leads to conversations with barbers, microbrewers, tattoo artists, baristas, tailors, street artists and denim heads who are participating in the resurgence of traditional trades rather than CEOs of multinational corporations. These entrepreneurs all have two things in common and that is the importance of having a trade and a purpose that goes beyond only making a living. They all refer to their colleagues as an integral part to their success, and they don’t define themselves as managers or leaders, but as master brewers or floor sweepers. They have an identity, authenticity and presence that go way beyond any suit and tie.

Talking with these individuals I am becoming more and more convinced that Goliath has much to learn from David. Whilst David believes in success with and through his people, Goliath too often believes in success despite of his people. Whilst David is acknowledging individual contributions, Goliath is often referring to staff as replaceable overheads. Whilst David is focusing on providing the best possible service or product, Goliath is more concerned about often meaningless and short term KPIs. Whilst David’s eye is on securing sustainable organisational success, Goliath’s is on personal short term success, sometimes at the cost of his very own existence.

Yes, David also needs to be successful and make a living, but he has a whole different approach to doing so which I believe Goliath can learn from.

Professor Rune Todnem By
@Prof_RuneTBy

Enterprise training for 50 somethings and over

Are you aged 50 or over and are you thinking about setting up your own business? Or maybe you just fancy exploring a few ideas and getting some training?

Do you have a hobby or interest in an area you could turn into a business? Do you want a better work-life balance? Are you unemployed, facing redundancy or looking for a change? If the answer to any of these questions is yes then sign up now to this exciting new training course with the Business School at Staffordshire University.

We are offering you the opportunity to participate in a free face to face and online learning course that has been developed through identifying the needs of older workers. Through coaching, mentoring and training provided you will potentially be able to develop the entrepreneurial and enterprising knowledge and skills necessary to set up your own business.

Older woman facing camera behind flowers

We will look at areas such as how to obtain finance for your business and assess its viability. We even look at how to come up with a business idea in the first place, and once you know what you want to do we then guide you through the process of how to set it up. We help you to identify who your customers will be and how to promote your product to them. For those of you who feel you lack confidence we look at how to overcome some of the obstacles and barriers to ensure success.

The first of these courses will commence on 7th November 2017 and will include approximately 40 hours of face to face and online learning over a period of 1-3 months. The training is flexible so that you can choose to study the areas that best suit your needs. Following the training you will be signposted to a range of mentoring and support in the development of your business.

To register your interest in the course, please complete the application form using one of the links below. If you have completed the downloadable application form, please return it to Tom Ward at t.ward@staffs.ac.uk or the postal address detailed on the form. Should you require further information or a hard copy of the form, you can e-mail Tom or contact him on 01782 294902.

Online application form

Downloadable application form

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