I'd like to introduce you to Maria Sururr an online marketer and owner of Clearcut Digital Marketing who has a passion for helping small business owners unleash the power of the web to drive leads and sales. One day she sent me a tweet asking about my business lifestyle shoots, as she was interested in updating her social media profile with new images. This was a new experience for me as my clients often come either through word of mouth or other social media sites.
This connection with Maria wasn't just about photography. But beyond the photoshoot it was a time for us as business women to encourage one another. Maria gave me such insight into her life/business which I'm sure is going to help other's. She's put together a resource for small business owners to help them with their branding.
Below is Maria's Interview with me ‐ so get your notebook out for the nuggets she shared in the "About Branding" section! C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits C More Vision Photography - Business Lifestyle & Portraits
Name | Maria Sururr
Owner of? www.clearcutdigitalmarketing.com
Works in London and abroad
You contact me via Twitter to book a "Business Lifestyle Photoshoot" with me... what did you want the images specifically for? I was rebranding, so wanted the images for my website (currently under construction), social media profiles and posts amongst other marketing elements.
What do you enjoy most about your job? Working with other small business owners. I've recently launched a new 10-week online marketing coaching programme for small businesses and it has really made me enjoy what I do even more!
As a small business owner, how do you structure your days? I'm a pure 'essentialist'! I really focus on achieving three things a day that I think provide the biggest positive impact to my business and the work I do for my clients. I plan my week out on Sundays and anything that comes out of left field, I ask myself does this need to be done straight away? Will it have a big positive impact? Why does it need to be done and is now the best time? This has helped hugely in getting more out of my day. I also outsource some work (like admin), so it allows me to focus on what I am really good at. Plus I am a huge fan of automation, so, of course, I've invested in some tools to help me save so much time.
What tools do you find indispensable for accomplishing tasks? I can't live without my social media scheduling tool, Google apps for business and peopleperhour.com (I work with many freelancers on that site). These two others aren't tools, but an extension of my 'virtual office'. My content writer and my virtual assistant. They both help me save so much time that I can invest in other parts of my business.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now? I would have automated and outsourced a lot earlier. Small business owners have a tendency to want to do everything themselves, to save time and money. However, in the end, you don't end up doing either. My business mentor told me when you get a bit more money, invest in getting some help. If you can't afford to hire people then outsource and invest in technology to help make your business more efficient.
What are your favourite books or movies on your topic? All Seth Godin books for marketing are my favourite. I'm a sucker for self-help books, especially those that talk about positive thinking. Business books (especially about efficiency) Getting things done by David Allen, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Essentialism by Greg McKeown (his book saved my business life) and much more. I'm not great at picking favourites. I also love getting lost in fiction. It helps to feed the creative part of me I still cling onto.
How do you balance work and family demands? When I started my business, I wrote down everything I wanted the business to allow me to do. The biggest thing was for it to look after me. I refused to be a slave to it, or what was the point. I might as well have stayed in my corporate job. So I make time. I don't work long hours, I don't work all weekend. I structure my day so I can get the most from it during the week. I also have other projects that enable me to bring in residual income, so I don't become that small business owner that is constantly working to meet financial commitments. I set up my business to be flexible and provide the lifestyle I wanted to have. I take on freelance work, sometimes I take a contract on for a few months then I take time off. With my recent coaching service, it gives me even more time to be flexible and as well as truly love what I do and I am really focusing my energy on that now. Plus the benefit of having an online business is that I can work anywhere in the world. Only recently I was in Portugal planning my wedding and I had to work, but I got to look out at an amazing view of the sea. I know it will change once we have children, but I will always aim to keep a really good work life balance.
Can you take us through the process of getting your business off the ground? My way was slightly different from most businesses, and partly the norm for some that work in my industry. I left my corporate well-paid job and jumped straight into contracting. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to work for another corporate company again. Contracting allowed me to be a bit more flexible
Can you take us through the process of a client booking you? It is very simple if a client wants to book a place on my coaching programme they fill in an online form and book a time for a call to explore opportunities of working together straight away (http://bit.ly/ccdmcoachingcall). For my online marketing services, I offer a free 30-minute consultation call and again they can book this straight away and then we take it from there (in case you want to book: http://bit.ly/ccdmfreecall). Most of my work has come through the latter method or referrals from people and projects I've worked on before. I always make it clear that there isn't any obligation for people to work with me. I can't stand people that put on the sales pressure and I don't work that way.
Do you work with a team? I work with a team of specialist freelancers for certain areas and of course my VA and content writer.
Before your photography session with me did you have any concerns? How did the session really go? I don't really consider myself photogenic, hence most of my pics I make silly faces. But that wasn't going to work for this project. So I was concerned that I wouldn't come across well, feel silly and struggle to take direction. But it went great. Considering it was the hottest day of the year! I had a lot of fun, I felt really relaxed and I got some really great shots.
If you were to recommend us to your best friend, what would you say? I already have! I said you're a specialist in business lifestyle photography, great to work with and I'll be working with you again!
Branding is more than just a good-looking logo and fancy tagline. It is a promise to your customers, telling them exactly what to expect from your products or service, who you are and what you do. There is a very good reason why large companies invest millions into a brand/rebrand (think Apple), and why it is an important step that small business owners should not overlook.
Creating a strong brand presence, will not only create an emotional attachment with your customers, but can become a powerful commercial asset within its own right.
With so many small businesses around, your brand is key to help you stand out from your competitors. How can you get started? These 5 tips will put you well on your way to creating a brand that can help put you above the rest.
1) Define your brand
A lot of small business owners miss this step. Before you make any changes, really take the time to define who you are, what you want your brand to stand for and why you do what you do. It is all about having a clear sense of purpose, and making sure that this is reflected in your brand visually, verbally and within your business culture.
2) Have a clear and simple message
Get straight to the point. Most of your customers won’t have the time to understand the nitty details of your product and services. They want to know how your business can benefit them and fast. If that doesn’t come across quickly in your brand messages, well quite frankly, they will just move on to a competitor that communicates this better. Once you’ve hooked them in, then you can talk about the features your service or product offers.
3) Don’t underestimate the power of you
Amy Porterfield is a great example of this. She uses personal branding to sell her services. Her customers buy into her and what she stands for. That’s the power of personality branding. Facebook do the same thing with Mark Zuckerburg, but in a very different way. The point I am trying to make is, behind every company there is a face. Customers also buy into the person, through a simple emotional connection that can help you turn a prospect into a loyal customer. So don’t be afraid to incorporate your personality into your branding.
4) Don’t skimp
Being a small business owner myself, I know that budgets can be stretched. We often get into the mind-set of doing things the cheapest way possible. Most of the time it means doing it ourselves, or worse paying for a bad job based on the price sounding great to us (cheap). However, no one wants to have a logo or website that looks like its been rushed, or quite frankly just crap.
Remember, how your brand looks visually is just as important, as the message your trying to communicate. So invest in a professional photographer to get the right photos, a good graphic to get that professional logo and get the job done properly the first time around. It doesn’t mean you have to pay over the odds. There are many sites to help find good freelancers to work with, or use social media to find people. That’s how I found Cmorevision and I have absolutely no regrets!
5) Communicate your brand
Now you’ve got a great brand story, message and good looking materials ready to go you need to tell customers about it. Never assume that everyone knows or remembers what your brand stands for. That is where marketing comes into play. It helps you to remind them time and time again, until it begins sticking. You basically have to own your potential customers. ‘How do I do that’ I hear you ask. You probably already do a lot of this already:
The list is a lot longer, but you get the gist. You have to build the brand once you’ve created it, just like Nike and Apple did. Then slowly but surely you’ll get customers that will keep coming back to you for more.
Maria Sururr is an online marketer and owner of Clearcut Digital Marketing with a passion for helping small business owners unleash the power of the web to drive leads and sales. Get her tips, tricks and hacks on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
– Inspirational stories of creatives and their business adventures.