Mum’s the Word for Business Success

It may only be in its first trimester, but 2019 is already a boom year for ex-radio presenter and mum-of-two, Kiesha Humphreys who is celebrating her fourth year at the helm of Icon Marketing Communications Ltd. In that time, Icon, a specialist marketing consultancy based in Wilmslow, has been responsible for a number of SME business success stories across Cheshire and Manchester.

Kiesha Humphreys  Photo credit: Senem Peace Photography

Kiesha Humphreys

Photo credit: Senem Peace Photography

Kiesha explains; “I set up the business after the birth of my first son, and Icon is an anagram of his name, Nico. I’d been working at a senior level at a large advertising agency in Manchester, and while I was on maternity leave it struck me that there is a gap in the market for a reasonably priced and flexible marketing resource, in the area.”

Kiesha has first-hand experience of smaller businesses approaching large agencies and being put off by the cost. She says, “Bigger organisations can be a bit intimidating to smaller businesses – especially when they only need a one-off marketing facility or a bespoke marketing service.”

While larger organisations often don’t see the immediate potential in helping businesses when they’re starting out or are at the ‘expansion phase’, Kiesha seizes the opportunity to put her big agency knowledge and international marketing expertise to the test.

“For the past 15 years I’ve worked in the UK and South East Asia. In this time, I’ve seen the communications climate change dramatically – and it still is changing, year on year”.

In tandem with her ‘day’ job as a Business Development Manager for upmarket restaurant chain, Gusto, Kiesha honed her communications skills as a regular Radio Presenter for Cheshire’s Silk 106.9, BBC Radio Manchester and Capital (formerly Galaxy 102). It meant she had her finger on the pulse of all kinds of media. “I’m a natural-born communicator,” she says, “I was increasingly drawn to digital channels and I could see that the major draw of digital is its level of accountability and significant ROI”.

Photo credit: Jonathan Farber

Photo credit: Jonathan Farber

As well as running Icon, Kiesha has spent the last year completing her Google Ads certifications and working on SEO projects with a number of clients.

Kiesha continues; “There is still a need for an integrated marketing communications strategy to support and strengthen the digital aspect, including PR, events and traditional print and radio advertising”.

Kiesha says; “While we’re based in Wilmslow, we often work from The Workspace in Handforth, a beautiful co-worker environment that has flexible terms – it’s great for businesses who want to collaborate. We work with businesses of all sizes to provide one-off support or ongoing marketing management (across the mix) in and around Manchester and Cheshire. We create tailor made packages in line with our clients’ budgets or we can offer bespoke solutions to suit their needs.”

The Workspace Handforth Meeting Room  Photo credit: Compton Harry Photography

The Workspace Handforth Meeting Room

Photo credit: Compton Harry Photography

It’s not every day a company can benefit from marketing experience of the kind Icon can deliver, without the international agency price tag. With so many success stories under her belt – and plenty more waiting to happen, Kiesha is more than happy to spread the good news.

For more information visit www.iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk .

To celebrate its fourth year. Icon Marketing Communications Ltd is offering all readers a 1 hour complimentary marketing consultation. For more details, please contact Kiesha on kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or call 07979940526.

The Workspace can be contacted on 01625 522209 or via email info@theworkspace.uk

For more information visit www.theworkspace.uk.

The Death of the High street – when is cheap too cheap!

The proliferation of the internet has meant you can buy almost everything you need online. This is an ideal scenario for time poor and inevitably cash rich individuals however it comes at a cost. I must admit I do my weekly food shop online and have done ever since the birth of my first son. However, in recent months I have become disillusioned by the poor-quality fruit and vegetables and the larger than desired portions which means high wastage. Not to mention heavily packaged items such as meat and some fruits.

If you pick your own fruit, vegetables and meats you’re likely to pick the best of the crop and exactly the right amount. I’ve recently stopped ordering my fruit, vegetables and meat from my online retailer and have decided to source them from a local greengrocer and a farm shop respectively. Here lies the problem though there are hardly any butchers or greengrocers near where I live. We’ve created a country where it is not profitable to operate these businesses as too many of us opt for convenience.

The growth of courier services has meant you can buy many items online and in some cases, receive it the next day. I’ve even received deliveries from Amazon on a Sunday (originally the day of rest).

**Updated**: I actually received a delivery today on Easter Sunday.

The possibilities are endless in my opinion Tim Berners-Lee has created a beast. But with development comes many complex issues the Royal Mail for example (the original delivery service) has seen a drop-in profit, in November 2017 BBC News reported; “Royal Mail shares have fallen after the company reported lower profits and increased its target for cost savings.

Its shares slid 7.6% to their lowest level since March, and the company was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, the UK's main share index.” Source. The drop-in profits was blamed on fewer people sending letters and why would you when emails are far more convenient and instantaneous. But the service the Royal Mail provides is personal you often see the same postman ours even says hello when I see him on his rounds. What can be more personal than someone you don’t know who knows where you live?

In terms of advertising the Royal Mail leafleting remains the only way to ensure 100% penetration to any given area when leafleting. This can be crucial if you’re looking to target apartment owners or homes in rural locations.

Other courier services have often left my packages in unsecured places just so they can get to the next drop even when I’m in. The pressure to fit in several deliveries in a narrow time-slot means they often don’t have time for unnecessary small talk or at times even ensuring you've physically received your item. We’ve all heard stories of packages being left in a ‘safe place’ by a courier such as a wheelie bin. I recently received an expensive order of wine which was left in the porch of my block of apartments.

The same can be said for internet shopping yes, it is cheaper and more convenient but it does come at a cost. I recently bought a brand-new swimming costume from eBay it was much cheaper than other ones I’d seen and was exactly what I was looking for so I happily ordered it – what could possibly go wrong? It wasn’t until it arrived that I realised it was shipped from China. Unfortunately, it was far too big so I’ve ended up sending it back at a cost of £7.72! This is bad economics on an item which cost just over £10. If only I’d visited a local store they would be grateful for my business and I could physically see/try on the item with returning it if needed much more straightforward.

High street stores suffer from many setbacks expensive rents, business rates, poor parking for customers, out of town one stop shops to name a few. However, we should support local businesses. After all, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it. I am passionate about supporting local businesses and have a large toolkit of ideas to create the desired results for local ventures. If you’d like to have an informal chat, please feel free to get in touch kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102

Bad Reviews

In today’s modern age there are so many ways to share news both good and bad. With news outlets now available online it’s much more difficult to eradicate bad news. Before visiting a restaurant, I always check their reviews one or two bad reviews can be taken with a pinch of salt but several negative reviews with a running theme will make me think twice about visiting. The easiest way to avoid bad PR is to not do anything wrong however this is much easier said than done. Our freedom of speech and ability to write bad reviews on Facebook, TripAdvisor, Google+ etc. can be a thorn in the side for any business to consumer enterprise.

Credit: Compton Harry Photography, Flavour of Jamaica

Credit: Compton Harry Photography, Flavour of Jamaica

Writing a negative review about a restaurant, attraction or shop can be done in minutes and left for all eternity on the world-wide web. People often find it easier to leave feedback in this way rather than speaking to the proprietor directly. B2C enterprises rely on their staff to be successful but we don’t always get things right. So many mitigating circumstances contribute to a positive customer experience. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to get things right.

So how do you combat a bad review? I’ve had countless discussions with clients on what to do with a bad review. The best way to turnaround a bad review is to acknowledge it and engage with your customer. This doesn’t mean entering into a heated debate after all the customer is always right. Instead invite your customer back and ensure they have a positive experience. One which they wish to share with friends and family.

Ignoring a bad review aggravates the reviewer and sends out a message to others reading it that the reviewer is right and that you don’t care about your customers. Some of my most loyal customers at Gusto where people who had previously left a negative review or provided feedback to the restaurant. Listening to your customers and dealing with negative reviews are the best way to build a loyal customer base. B2C business development is reliant on word of mouth so what better way to grow your business than using your customers.

If you would like to have a chat about your business development opportunities, feel free to get in touch kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102.

Good Customer Service

Not so long ago I spent 4 years working for the late Tim Bacon the founder of Living Ventures a group of restaurants and bars including Gusto and the Living Room. I learnt a great deal, his Core Manual is one of his greatest legacies almost biblical!

In it Tim teaches you how to give excellent customer service and at the root of his teaching is that the customer is always right. Many people couldn’t understand why a degree educated person would want to work in a restaurant with the long unsociable hours and relatively low pay. I never explained to customers that I was a Business Development Manager and that there was much more going on behind the scenes, they just viewed me as a host (well what’s in a name?). Those 4 years taught me so much about providing good service, dealing with difficult customers (sometimes drunk) as well as creating a welcoming environment. A fellow hospitality worker once said that ‘hospitality should be made a national service’. I really couldn’t agree more.

Unfortunately, this has made my expectations very high and I find it quite frustrating when I don’t receive the same good customer service from other business to consumer enterprises it’s not hard to get it right just put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re dealing with and ask yourself what would you expect? In many other countries i.e. America hospitality is viewed as a career whereas over here many view it as a stop gap.

If I have to call a business and get good customer service I’m actually amazed. Almost shocked if I get through directly to the person I need to speak to. Lansinoh are one such business I needed some replacement valves for my breast pump the lady who answered the call was able to deal with my query straightaway without having to pass me to another department. It made me think it doesn’t matter what communication method you use as long as you do it well. I recently had to speak to a large business who provide a wide range of electrical items let’s just say their name began with Sam and ended in ung. I was appalled by how poor their customer service was. Firstly, the line was very poor so it was difficult to hear them, they took me through their troubleshooting (basically) switch it off and on. When this didn’t resolve the issue they put me on hold for roughly 15 minutes until eventually my call was dropped. I called back only to have to go through the same process again and once again was put on hold for a further 10 minutes whilst the individual reviewed my notes. Finally, they deducted that my equipment (a sound bar) was faulty. I had called about the same issue a year ago and was made to feel quite foolish because my husband had removed the battery (I hadn’t checked before I called). On this occasion I was transferred to the supervisor who asked me over and over again if my problem was resolved, even though they knew it wasn’t.

As a parent you’re told to ‘praise good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour’ (not entirely sure which guru came up with this theory). I don’t agree with this theory. I do agree with praising good behaviour something I do loud and proud however, but bad behaviour should also be acknowledged. We shouldn’t insult the intelligence of our children by assuming they can’t understand right from wrong and this is why they should be punished. In the world of consumerism people don’t follow this rule (I’m as guilty as the next person). Giving feedback to a company is the only way to help them improve. Posting a negative review can be very damaging for a small businesses. So back to the electronics company there is an email address on their site where you can directly contact the CEO of the company surely he would care about the poor customer service I received? But I’ve received no response as of yet. I also tweeted their official twitter handle yet again no response.

You can be sympathetic to small companies not having the resource to be across all communication channels but a global business should be able to provide brilliant customer service. I am a big Gin fan and for Christmas I received a beautifully packaged bottle of Gin from the Gin Parlour with complementary bottles of tonic and beer matts it was a real treat. On their website they state in their FAQs

“WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A TELEPHONE NUMBER?

We are a small, 2.5 person, online company. We made the decision not to have a public phone number and instead embrace the various online methods of communication - email, live chat, Twitter and Facebook - because these enable us to provide a better, more reliable, level of customer service. We could put a phone number up but 9 times out of 10 you would have to leave a message for us to get back in touch with you. In our experience that frustrates people even more.

We know that some people see a phone number as a sign of a company’s validity and will not want to shop with us however we have been independently verified by our website security certificate provider and our independent review provider.”

This is a prime example of smart communications, you don’t need to be across every method of communication to give good customer service just pick a few and ensure you do them well.

kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk 01625 533102

Credit: Jonathan Farber

Credit: Jonathan Farber

The Birth of Icon Marketing Communications

As my first blog I thought the best place to start would be to talk about how and why I set up my own marketing communications consultancy.

I went to University in Leeds and studied a degree in Media, Communication and Cultural studies. It was quite a diverse course where we learnt about the practical side of media as well as theory. We did work placements in related industries I chose PR (I really wanted to do a placement at a radio station), but communication is communication. At Uni we were taught to analyse things and look for the hidden meaning in things. Such as the stereotypical roles used in Disney films like the jive talking smoking crows in Dumbo. There are many subtle messages in mainstream media like the constant barrage of negative programming such as ‘Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole’. ‘EastEnders’ depiction of Stacey’s battle with post-partum psychosis or even the late George Michael's lyrics in his hit tune Faith.  We can learn a lot from the media we consume both positive and negative.

Having spent several years working in marketing/advertising/business development and radio change was on the horizon when I fell pregnant with my first son Nico. During my maternity leave I threw myself into various projects not to mention Mums & Tots groups. But if I’m honest they weren’t my cup of tea and believe me there was always plenty of tea! The only class I felt was useful was Tiny Talk a baby sign language class. Where babies learn useful signs to communicate with their parents before they can speak. I remember going round the circle when we were asked how many signs our babies had done and my answer was always none (but who’s to say the other Mums were telling the truth?). Many months later and even now Nico does various signs for me and has even learnt more.

Anyway the maternity leave went by quickly and it was time to take on the dreaded commute on the M60 to Salford Quays. I knew it would be tough (husband often works abroad) but I wanted to keep my independence and small income once nursery fees where paid. The world of media and particular social media is constantly evolving so if you take time out for too long it’s a major setback. It was becoming challenging taking on the commute and with no work from home option available I regrettably handed in my notice. With the encouragement of my husband I decided to set up my own marketing communications consultancy. Thankfully since setting up I have learnt so much including how to build websites.

Working as a sole trader is a tough slog; finding new business, getting expensive contracts written up, paying for office space and dealing with late payers. A survey by the Federation of Small Business in March 2015 found that 43 per cent of firms have waited over 90 days beyond the agreed payment date before they got the money they were owed. Is it any wonder that so many small businesses fail?

The hardest thing of all was coming up with a name it took me long enough to agree on a name for my children this was going to be just as challenging. After weeks of shortlisting I finally settled on ‘Icon Marketing Communications’, Icon being an anagram of Nico.

Icon Marketing Communications is designed to help businesses just like mine, people with an idea that just needs promoting to the outside world to attract customers. If you’d like to discuss your marketing requirements, please feel free to get in touch kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102