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How to market your business in a digital age. An Elephant story.

6 min read

Back to Blog

6 min read

How to market your business in a digital age. An Elephant story.

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Marketing on 10th April 2017 10:00 am

My name is Phil Birss. I am a Co-founder and the Managing Director of Elephant Digital. We are a digital marketing agency based in Liverpool.

Phil Birss - Managing Director at Elephant Digital (Digital Marketing Agency Liverpool)

Founded in April 2014, Elephant Digital is a brand, web and digital marketing agency based at Liverpool Science Park. Our mission is to make an impact on the world through the delivery of world-class marketing, technology and design.

When my business partner Rob Findlay and I started Elephant Digital, we had a simple plan. Build a sustainable digital marketing agency that we would be proud to call our own, and wherever possible, avoid the mistakes of other marketing companies we had worked with over the last 10 years.

Growing as quickly as we have in our first three years has brought with it some exciting times as well as some hard-earned business lessons. This article is my reflection on our attempt to build the foundations of a world-class marketing business.

Lesson #1 – A good brand is an evolving brand

A successful business is one that is constantly growing and evolving to meet the needs of its customers. As your business develops, so too must your company’s brand, and if your current brand no longer reflects your business aspirations it is time for a change.

As Elephant Digital grew we challenged ourselves to win larger and more complex projects, often much bigger than a business of our size should have been looking at. This story will be a familiar one for many businesses, knowing as we do that to grow we need to push the boundaries of what we are capable of.

Although we had belief in our ability, our brand did not match the expectations of our potential customers at the time. Now in our third year we understand much better the level of time and investment needed to make sure our brand reflects the company we are aspiring to be.

Our brand has been redeveloped twice since we launched the company, with a new version due for release summer this year. Redeveloping your brand is a delicate balance between retaining the brand equity you have created, and ensuring it reflects the long-term aspirations of the business.

The most important lesson we have learnt is that our customers need to understand the deeper meaning behind our brand. We need to tell an engaging story to help people understand why they should work with us. Telling your story is at the heart of what makes a strong brand.

A well-told brand story also acts as a guide and motivator for your staff. After all, your staff are the ones living the brand everyday and demonstrating your company values to the world.

Lesson #2 – Don’t save costs at all costs

Economic uncertainty can breed doubt and hesitation as business owners struggle with justifying marketing spend, and marketers look to wrestle away budget from other key areas of the business.

In a post-recession world, with US presidential elections, Brexit and the shifting sands of the wider political and economic landscape, the need for consistent marketing is more fundamental than ever

As a start-up business, our marketing budget was almost non-existent. With only a black book of contacts and our willingness to beat the streets, we won our first few clients. It took us nearly 2 years before we felt sufficiently confident enough to assign and spend a fixed monthly budget on marketing.

This is a curious confession for a company who regularly challenges its clients on the importance of a consistent investment in marketing. The harsh realities of the startup world were a sobering lesson to me and Rob as we struggled, like everyone, to balance cash-flow with investing in the future of the business.

During our third year, we played with our marketing budget, nudging it up and down to see if we could save on costs and still receive the same volume and quality of leads. The simple answer was no, our business was no different to any other. We now invest consistently every month in the marketing and brand development of Elephant Digital.

Lesson #3 – Team, team, team

A great team is the foundation of any successful business and the catalyst for future growth and prosperity. Operating in a service-based industry, as Elephant does, the need to grow and nurture a talented and highly motivated team has probably been our most difficult challenge.

Outgrowing Rob’s back bedroom after just 3 months by bringing in our first employee was an early sign that staffing was going to be an high priority issue for the business. Granted our first staff member was my partner Jo, we still quickly realised that good people were to be the foundation of our business.

By the end of our first year we took on our first ‘official’ member of staff, a bright and talented apprentice called Rebecca. Rebecca learnt the basics of surviving in digital marketing agency world and we are proud to say she is now one of our trusted team of web designers.

Rebecca is a great example of how culture fit is one of the most important aspects of the hiring process. Since our early days we have followed a simple three step rule for hiring great people:

  • Can they do the job we need them do? Do they have the skills and experience?
  • Are they on-brand for Elephant Digital? Will they fit in with our culture?
  • At the end of a tough week are they still happy to come out for a drink with the team?

Being great at your job should be a prerequisite when applying for any company with aspirations, but the ability to work within a small, close-knit team and celebrate both the ups and downs, are hallmarks of a great employee in the making.

Elephant Digital Team (Oct 16)

What’s next for Elephant?

Our first three years in business have been a challenging, exciting and incredibly rewarding experience. We have welcomed lots of fantastic new clients and said goodbye to some who were not a good match for us, as is the way of the world.

Over the coming months and years’ we will continue to push the limits of what we are capable of, as people and as a business. We are constantly striving to become a business capable of delivering a world-class service for our customers, and with a fair wind and lots of hard work we are determined to succeed.

If you would like to work with us at Elephant Digital, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to help.

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