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.

Working from home...

Make your space an Oasis

With the rise in the cost of living, individuals starting families later in life and the challenge of striking a work life balance many females are setting up their own businesses and opting to work from home. Companies still have reservations surrounding ‘telecommuting’. But for educated working Mums this presents an opportunity to ‘have it all’.

I set up my business after the arrival of my first son (Icon is an anagram of his name Nico). I looked into office space initially but decided that working from home would work best for me allowing me to keep my overheads low and pass these cost savings on to my clients.

As a working Mum being home-based has many advantages, popping a load of washing in whilst working, being home to receive deliveries, being home for ‘workmen’ not to mention fitting around my children’s school and nursery schedules. That said it does come with disadvantages. Working as a sole trader can be a lonely time (the prospect of cold-calling strikes fear in me to my very core). Although I have a team of freelancers that I can utilise it’s difficult to keep motivated when you don’t have a regular team around.

Over the last couple of years I have learnt a great deal about home-based working. Here are some helpful tips for fellow entrepreneurs;

1.       Make sure you have a designated space to work

It’s easy to lose focus when working from home and to become distracted by chores. Having an area set aside to work means you are entering into your office space just like going into work.

2.       Make a to do list

It may sound obvious but having a list of jobs that need to be completed each day and crossing them off is like giving yourself a pat on the back at the end of the day.

3.       Don’t forget to take a break

I tend to be at my desk each day by 8:45 and can easily become engrossed in a task. By making sure you take a break you can keep your productivity at a premium. I have a hula hoop at the side of my desk to use when work gets too much.

4.       Make your space an Oasis

Just like you would when going into the office it’s important to make sure that your workspace is inviting. I have a selection of photos on my desk and even a potted plant to ensure that my workspace is as appealing as possible.

5.       Find a good radio station

Listening to the radio is a friendly companion I have a selection of digital stations which I listen to which keep me focused depending on what work I have on. A dance station if I’m busy a bit of jazz if I’m feeling stressed music is a powerful medium.

6.       Make sure you network

Finding new business opportunities can be difficult when you’re home-based so it’s wise to broaden your network. Most towns have a networking organisation and the government business helplines can also provide details of networking events in your area. It’s good to have a reason to look business-like as working from home you can dictate your own dress code.

So there it is my tips on how to survive the home-working jungle. If you’ve recently established a new business and need some help to get it off the ground feel free to speak to me about your Business Development opportunities by calling 01625 533102.

Perception is deception…

What’s in a name?

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet “said Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But what really is in a name? Well in Wilmslow the difference between an apartment and a flat could start at £100k.

That’s the thing as I was once told “perception is deception” it was on the first proper date with my now husband. This always sounded peculiar to me but as I’ve got older this saying really has gained huge significance.

You can gain a lot of wisdom from speaking to people young, old, black, white any creed or religion, footballers, hairdressers etc. everyone has a piece of wisdom which is useful. That was why I loved working at Gusto in Alderley Edge and Knutsford.

East Cheshire Hospice Fundraiser. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

Meeting and mixing with people from lots of different backgrounds gave me a significant insight into life. This was a time pre-recession (and before the smoking ban) where people were much happier and relaxed. I’m yet to find any significant data on the effects of e-cigarettes but anecdotally I was told that doctors are saying they’re 95% less damaging to your health than a cigarette.

When you walk the streets many people do smoke them but I suspect there is some reluctance to smoking them until the full facts are presented. We don’t want to be told that things are safe and further down the line find out that they’re not, we’ve been there before.

The government’s policy of raising taxes on cigarettes has worked as people have started to look for cheaper alternatives.  So back to Gusto;

When I worked as a Business Development Manager for Living Ventures I once turned George Osbourne away for a table. There was a massive queue of people waiting and there was physically no tables free anywhere. The way he approached me suggested that he was in a rush so I thought there was no point lying as he’d get more agitated than he already was.  It was just before the General Election and I’ll never forget a customer approached me afterwards and asked me;

Suzanne Neville dresses. Credit: Slice of Pie Designs

“Do you know who that is? It’s the future Chancellor of the Exchequer!”

I knew exactly who he was, that was my job to be well informed but that didn’t mean I could magic up a table. That’s the thing even though I was only on the face of it a host there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to make things happen as Tim Bacon (former Living Ventures Managing Director) always used to say it’s the ‘swan theory’.  Tim was great at making celebrities feel special and he built his empire up from exactly that. I’ll never forget the time that the 50% sale was on and Wayne Rooney came in for a meal. He used a 50% voucher and people didn’t stop talking about it there was even an article in a national paper (we got sent some fan-mail from his biggest fan!) But why should he pay more when everyone else is paying half price?

Many restaurants have cottoned on to the same idea and in January everyone expects to eat half price. It used to be busier than Christmas which is insane when you think about it.

Nowadays, lots of restaurants allow dogs in but at this time Tim always said “no dogs allowed”. Funny really one day Roberto Mancini former Man City manager came in with his whole family including his family dog. I spoke to them and apologised that they wouldn’t be able to have a table but they refused to leave the dog outside and so I set up a giant table outside for them and put the outside heaters on. It was a cold evening in fact I think it was winter if I remember rightly.

 The whole family ate happily outside including the dog, who I did some lamb chops for. Hilarious really when you think about it. As Orange once said in their marketing campaign “It’s good to talk”. “A problem shared is a problem halved”.  I could rattle out hundreds of other clichés but they are true. It was nice to make people feel they could talk sometimes that's all we need to feel better.

When did we stop being so caring? The pressure we put ourselves under now to succeed is unbearable. You want to do better than the generation previous but there is a whole generation of young people that this country has failed. It’s time we got back to basics. Walking our children to school rather than rushing around in expensive cars congesting the roads. Tim always used to say if you’re running late pull over make a phone call and carry on your journey. That’s the thing there’s nothing wrong with being late sometimes, safety should always come first.

I read in the Guardian on Friday that “The NHS prescribed a record number of antidepressants last year, fuelling an upward trend that has seen the number of pills given to patients more than double over the past decade” (Guardian, Friday 30 June 2017). The headline was “Antidepressant prescriptions on NHS at a record high” the whole country is stressed out and looking for someone to blame. Minimum wage staff having to deal with an irate customer who forgot to bring a carrier bag. I was told by a member of staff at a national supermarket that a woman left her entire weekly shop because she was so annoyed she had to pay for her carrier bags. It feels as though the whole country is angry and agitated but who do you blame?

This is when pack mentality kicks in and you pick someone different to yourself of course. It’s no good blaming one of your own kind that would be far too difficult. By blaming someone else we have failed to embrace our multi-culturalism in this country. People always thought I was the host “the hostess with the most-ess" but what they called me didn’t matter so long as I got the job done.

If you want to talk about your Business Development opportunities feel free to get in touch 01625 533102.

 

 

We’ve still ‘Gotta Have Faith’

I wrote this blog some time ago, I edited it following the death of Irish republican Martin McGuiness (former First Minister of Northern Ireland) and ultimately decided to delete it. As my ex-boss of Silk 106.9 told me stay clear of politics and religion some very sound advice but following last week's terrible attack at the Manchester Arena it felt appropriate to speak out.

I visited Northern Ireland in 1998 as part of my English Literature studies. Seeing this beautiful country with my own eyes that I’d heard so much about growing up and visiting Stormont Castle was an experience I’ll never forget.  Although I was only 16 I do recall the Manchester bomb on the Arndale Centre it was a major event in my home town. There was a 90-minute warning which meant there was a chance to evacuate the area however there were still some injuries but no deaths. The Arndale Centre was rebuilt and is even bigger and better than it was before.

6th Form trip to Stormont Castle

6th Form trip to Stormont Castle

The events of this week have left me feeling cold an attack on our youngest individuals just feels impossible to comprehend. I have many happy memories of visiting the Manchester Arena and have even saved tickets stubs from events I’d attended as a young teenager. Bizarrely I had woken up in the small hours of Tuesday morning and as we all do checked my phone and saw the news I felt compelled to find out more and sat watching the news for many hours listening to stories from people not just from Manchester but all around the country particularly the North. All week I’ve tuned into the news as more and more details of this tragedy unfolded. Through Facebook I have heard many, many, stories of people who were there. I was even talking to a lady at a networking event last week whose daughter was there I do hope she is okay.

Concert memrobilia

Concert memrobilia

I’ve read with shock some of the comments of my social media ‘friends’ who are expressing their feelings and felt quite distubed by some of what I’ve read. I understand people are angry/upset/bewildered etc. but this is not a time for us to divide it’s a time for us all to unite irrespective of what faith you have. Some comments about immigration policies have really struck home as both my parents are immigrants a word which has such negative connotations now but as I explained in my sticks and stones blog an immigrant by definition is “a person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently” Source

In my parents case and the majority of immigrants this is their home and they love it. I have moved to a foreign country with my work when I worked in Singapore as a Marketing Manager but I was an expatriate not an immigrant I was overwhelmed by the hospitality I was shown by Singaporeans the pride they had in their country and how multicultural it was I was very sorry to leave.

My degree in Media, Communication and Cultural Studies was a natural progression from my love of English Literature. Deciphering the hidden themes and messages in the works of Shakespeare, Keats and the seminal work of Brian Friel’s ‘Translations’ truly struck a natural chord with me. This interest in unravelling the subtle meanings in text has stayed with me. If we are what we eat the same can be said for the media, we ‘consume’. By media I’m talking in broad terms to include songs, magazines, movies, films, radio, TV shows, social media even the nursery rhymes we sing to our children.

BookTrust nursery rhymes

BookTrust nursery rhymes

Despite being a hit record I struggle to listen to Richard Ashcroft’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ as I find it upsetting – I think that is the intention as he’s writing about his father’s death. “The chorus, and title line, 'The Drugs Don't work, they just make you worse' has double meaning; the drugs being given to his father not working and seemingly making him worse, and the undesired effect of drugs being taken to block out the pain of losing your father.” Source. I always interpreted it to be about a friend who was receiving treatment for depression and died, that’s the beauty of art it’s open to interpretation and means different things to different people. Since the untimely death of George Michael  I have had his catchy pop tune ‘Faith’ stuck in my head. The opening chords on the church organ with religious connotations and the conflict in the lyrics – it’s very Northern Soul.

In ‘Faith’ George Michael explains his struggles with a partner someone he cares for but can’t be with. ‘Faith’ was released in 1987 however he wasn’t openly gay until 1998 when he came out during a CNN interview. In the interview, he explains that the songs he wrote prior to coming out were indeed about relationships with females with his later works he says they were about gay relationships. His choice to quietly get on with his now well publicised acts of philanthropy with no need to receive credit shows he did have faith in his life. What faith that was is immaterial.

Now I’m purposely skating around the contentious issue of religion even more so following Monday night's attack. But it’s true you do have to have faith however it manifests itself be it Yoga, Church, Meditation or Buddhism the list goes on and on quite simply Faith to treat other as you wish to be treated. With so many choices available we have the choice to pick a faith which most closely matches our idealisms. What unites all these things is the ability to have time for thoughtful reflection.

Have you ever seen a toddler throw a tantrum? They almost always go into the Yogic stance ‘child’s pose’ so over-whelmed by emotions that they don’t yet have the skills to communicate they go into a slightly meditative state. We are advised to put our children in time out if they misbehave. This gives them an opportunity to calm down and think about their actions. In today’s stressful world we could all probably do with taking some time out! Let us not confuse any religious belief with extremists which is “someone who has beliefs that most people think are unreasonable and unacceptable” Source this is a totally different thing.

Traditional Irish music

Traditional Irish music

The same can be said for Faith, in most faiths' there is an element of singing, singing allows you to express your emotions. Humming when you’re in a good mood or listening to a sad song when you feel down. Music is a powerful medium. I feel that George’s words have even more meaning considering last week’s terrible events we all need to have faith. Faith that we will get through this and come back stronger than before. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest condolences and thoughts to all affected by Monday nights terrible attrocity.

 kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or 01625 533102.

Privacy issues and the scourge of the loyalty scheme

Firstly, as I write this blog the irony has not escaped me a marketing professional complaining about loyalty schemes and privacy issues published on all my social media channels but that’s my choice. You’d be right to call me a hypocrite but please bear with me. There are two types of loyalty scheme the less sophisticated stamp collection where generally you don’t have to provide any personal details and the more complex credit card style ones where you ‘sign up’. I think Boots where the first to come up with a points scheme and there’s no escaping the fact it’s a good idea. Capturing data about your customers purchasing habits has limitless potential. I’m pretty sure the online ‘supermarkets’ I use send me specific deals based on my purchasing habits.

I don’t mind too much the basic loyalty schemes where you get a stamp each time you visit and get something free after a nominal number of stamps. I’m sensible enough to see the benefit of this. I also have no issue with the more complex ones in theory. It’s the way its collected that I probably have the biggest issue with I’ll explain more shortly. Most major and minor retailers have their own loyalty scheme and smaller businesses are also following suit. The fact is that everyone wants to get hold of your data. Your personal data is like gold dust to a retailer, restaurant, B2C or even B2B enterprise for that matter. Since setting up my business and utilising free listing I get several sales calls everyday selling me business related goods. Its got so bad that I tend not to answer the landline as I’m certain it’s a sales call – could I be missing out on a vital lead?

 I now have in my purse cards with John Lewis, M&S, Waitrose, Paperchase, Boots, Superdrug the list is endless. This is just the big hitters everyone wants to get a hold of your data.

Here’s why I find it so annoying;

1.       My purse is now so full of loyalty cards that I struggle to find my debit card quite an issue when you’re in a rush

2.       I have an unusual first name and my surname is not spelt the conventional way so lots of spelling out and repeating required – (not ideal when you’re in a rush)

3.       This issue is probably only specific to me as my husband always reminds me to use my “indoor voice” but I’ll admit I’m quite loud probably why I’d found myself drawn to the world of radio people often say I have a voice for radio. But when you need to verbally give out your name, email address and postal address in a busy store to sign up to their loyalty scheme and there’s a queue of people behind you I often decline for fear of others overhearing. It’s almost as bad as when you pay for something over the phone and the person you’re speaking to repeats back your card number.

Each loyalty scheme has its own merits but it’s just so overwhelming as a consumer. I never got around to activating my John Lewis card and I have spent a small fortune in there since becoming a mother. I suppose what I’m saying is that It comes back to the same problem time. I’ve singled out email here but text message campaigns can be equally annoying my local pizza takeaway which I ordered from once would text me every single Friday without fail with a special offer (probably the same one I got bored of reading it) there was no opt out option so after several months I had to call them to ask them to take me off their list. The DMA (Direct Marketing Association) has a code of conduct that must be adhered to for members but individuals don’t necessarily have access to this information.  When I worked at Space and Time Media we had to follow their guidance to the letter when handling data I learnt a lot during that time.

Of course, I understand the merits of all the above activity but if you get it wrong you risk alienating your customers so be wise about how you use your gold dust. So, there it is my feelings about loyalty schemes do you agree? I’m not saying don’t use them just be mindful of the fact that with information comes great power.

If you’d like to talk about any aspect of your marketing communications, feel free to get in touch kiesha@iconmarketingcommunications.co.uk or call 01625 533102.