Female Founder Spotlight: Helen Darlington On 10 Steps To Improve Your Business Brand

Female Founder Spotlight: Helen Darlington On 10 Steps To Improve Your Business Brand

Griselda Togobo CEO of Forwardladies.com spoke to FL member, Helen Darlington founder of Woven marketing agency about how we can leverage the power of branding and digital marketing to grow our businesses. 

A transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, follows.

Griselda

Hi, this is Griselda from ForwardLadies.com and welcome to our monthly female founder’s meetups. This month, we have the lovely Helen Darlington, founder of Woven’s marketing agency, sharing her marketing expertise.

Helen

Thanks for inviting me, Griselda.

Griselda

Fabulous. So, Helen, tell us about yourself and your business.

Helen

As you’ve already mentioned, I’m the founder and director of Woven. We are a brand engagement agency, and we predominantly work with ambitious design lead brands in the luxury sector to help them engage more deeply with our audience.

Griselda

Was there a particular reason why you went for the luxury sector?

Helen

It’s one of the most challenging, most luxury brands have an eye for design, and design is essential to us. We have a solid technical and digital background, and we marry that with our creative strength. So that appeals to the luxury sector. And why I say it’s one of the most challenging because they have high net worth and ultra-high net worth as clients, and they’re typically some of the most private people. Although it is more complicated, it is also more fulfilling because you apply a lot more skills.

Griselda

I find it interesting that you say the luxury brands are known for appreciating design. We should all be using the power of branding a lot more and applying it to our marketing. I find that many small businesses, myself included, sometimes don’t take branding too seriously; we are pretty happy to slap together and hope it works. What advice would you give us?

Helen

If you think about where we are now, many of us have lost the opportunity to meet face to face with business connections. A video call is about as close as it gets at the moment. The chemistry of our video call isn’t quite as good as being in the same room, and you’re not quite able to read the signals of the people you’re meeting. Many businesses are relying even more heavily on digital than they were even just 12 months ago. So, on top of that, and there are competitors everywhere offering similar services or similar products, you need to cut through the noise. So regardless of whether you are a luxury brand or a small start-up, you should consider all touchpoints, no matter whether online or offline, in the real or virtual, as a strong brand experience and extension.

So, think about defining your values?

Do you understand your brand archetype, the personality of the brand?

Do you have a clear and consistent tone of voice?

Do you offer a distinct proposition that sets you apart from your competition?

Is it something that you can sum up in one sentence? Because being honest, if the answer to any of those is no, then there’s a good chance that your prospective audience, your team members, your existing clients may not fully connect with your brand.

A competitor could sway them away.

Griselda

I think what you said is so true because we’ve all been forced to become digital businesses overnight. And there is a risk that our offerings will start to look the same without having a solid brand. So, what you’re saying is that the look and feel, values, and language are what will set us apart.

So, what advice would you give to help people merge their values with the businesses value? Should they be one of the same? Or should you try and keep them separate?

Helen

That’s a fascinating question because it depends on what you plan for the future. But I think as the founder, it’s your business, you’re at the core of that business, and it really should marry with your values. You should clearly define them and understand what your values are. It is all well and good to have a sense of them, but if you document your values, it can become something that you can keep referring back to, and you can enhance and change your values as you change as a human being.

Griselda

If I wanted to start this process, what are the ten steps I can follow to improve my brand?

Helen

1.         Step one – Be authentic and start with your why.

2.         Step two – understand your audience.

3.         Step three – Don’t just think about sales.

4.         People don’t buy features and benefits.

5.         Be consistent.

6.         Think digital-first.

7.         Listen to your audience.

8.         Think one-to-many sales.

9.         Aim to create raving fans and loyal advocates of your brand.

10.       Become a service innovator.

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Griselda

Thank you for that excellent ten steps. Very insightful and practical.

So, I’m a self-taught marketeer because once you start your own business, you go on this journey to learn how to market yourself or your business will fail.

I’ve used marketing agency, branding agencies, PR agencies, and I always return to doing things my way and getting better results. Especially the content creation process, because I find that they tend to lose my voice. What advice would you give for maintaining consistency of voice?

Helen

That’s a great question. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be difficult if you have brand guidelines. A brand guideline document doesn’t have to be extensive, but it needs to detail the values of the business’s personality, the tone of voice, and how you want the company to communicate. If that is all documented and approved by you, then that’s something that you can give to an agency for them to replicate that same tone of voice to represent you.

So, if you have that one document that you can give out to any agency representing you, they have something like a mini-Bible to call on.

Griselda

As a business leader, you say you have two roles – to innovate and to market? Talk me through why you say that and how we can do more of that.

Helen

If a business has two functions, so just marketing and innovation, if you think about it. Marketing drives everything, understanding your audience, their challenges and desires. You innovate for your audience. Everything else is operational in the business.

Griselda

We’ve talked about branding and listening. All I’m interested in is the results.  Will this help me get from A to B? So, can you share with us how you can use your brand to grow your business and how you’ve done that?

Helen

Well, firstly, you need a plan. So, you need to identify and define your brand, as we’ve already discussed. Once you have that, you need to put it to the test. You need to find out where your audience lives online, what type of content they consume, and on what channels, and you can use social listening and search engine optimisation to work out the basics.

Then produce a content plan that provides valuable content to answer the questions that your audience is asking. The principles are entirely the same regardless of business size, and in many circumstances, being smaller means that you can be far more agile and effect change more rapidly.

So, if you’ve got you, you’ve got your brand, you’ve got your brand personality, understand how you’re going to communicate to people and defined who your audience is where they live online. Using social listening search engine optimisation through techniques discussed, you’ve understood the questions your audience is asking and the type of information they’re looking for. All you then really need to do is deliver that content. So, listen to your audience, provide them with what they need from you, and be where they are, and give the best possible service so that when they do reach out to you, the rest of the lead nurturing process is frictionless.

Griselda

So, tell me a bit about that content creation process because that is the one thing that I think a lot of small businesses get overwhelmed over. It can feel quite overwhelming. You have to blog; you have to do social media; you have to be on LinkedIn. And now there is, what was the new one and clubhouse? Instagram? Where do you start?

Helen

You need to know who your audience are, where they live online, when they want to consume your brand’s content? The majority I would have suggested without research, will live on LinkedIn for professional service businesses. You don’t need to be across every channel; you need to focus on the media that will reach the majority of your audience at a time. And when they’re in the frame of mind, that is most suitable to consume your content .

Griselda

 If you’re not on LinkedIn, you should be on LinkedIn. I cannot tell you the amount of business from large corporates that I get from LinkedIn. LinkedIn is about posting every day, like the way the other platforms are. It’s just when you have something to say that you say you say well, and it hits the right note all the time. So, if you’re not on LinkedIn, you should consider it.

Helen

It doesn’t have to be your content either. It could be somebody else’s content that you’ve consumed, but you’ve got a thought about it, and a piece of information that would help your audience. So, it doesn’t always have to be you writing content and long-form. You could use video content as well. That’s super engaging on LinkedIn.

Griselda

With limited resources, if they were to spend on marketing now, considering all that is happening, with the world changed, where should they spend your money?

Helen

They should ensure that they have a strong brand. That is fundamentally the first thing that they should do because if they don’t, they will be posting out content that might be a little bit disjointed. After all, it has one tone of voice one day, depending on how they’re feeling, and another style of voice another day. So really hone the brand.  Understand who the audience is, who is it that you’re targeting? Who do you want to work with? Find out where they are? Where do they live online? What channels do they consume content on? As I’ve mentioned, I use social listening and search engine optimisation techniques to understand the types of questions that people are asking. Once you’ve done that, you can then produce content yourself to answer those questions.

And you become a knowledgeable person, somebody that’s helping them.

Griselda

Thank you so much for such an excellent session, Helen. You’ve shared so many practical insights. I know I will be referring to this interview as we plan out our marketing at FL.

Find out more about Helen Darlington and connect with her HERE. If you want to host one of our monthly Premium Members meet-ups or join us for networking, coaching and advice – become our Premium member today (FREE 14 days trial available).

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