This week for my Parents in Business series I am delighted to be featuring Barney who created his own Digital Marketing Consultancy; Bluebell Digital. Having worked at Google for 7 years acquiring many skills such as Google Adwords, Barney has applied all these skills and knowledge to his business today, which is to help small and medium sized companies in South England with their Digital Marketing. Now that Barney is no longer at the mercy of Southern Railway he gets to see his family a lot more, which is one of the plus points of running your own business.
His top tips are vital for anyone wishing to set up their own business, not just in the digital marketing area. You need to keep the pipeline full, network, meet people and keep your brand and business out there. Talking to people is just as important as doing the work behind the screen. Take a read of Barney’s journey to setting up Bluebell Digital below…
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
My background is that I worked for Google for 7 years from 2005. At Google I was an Account Manager in Sales and looked after the business of major advertisers such as Vodafone, Dell, Apple, Three and Disney. At Google, I naturally learned all about Google products such as Google Ads (AdWords), YouTube, mobile and display advertising. I spent time at the Mountain View headquarters, as well as a month with the equivalent US team in the New York office. After Google, I set up my own digital marketing consultancy called Bluebell Digital which is based from home in East Grinstead, West Sussex. My clients are small and medium-sized businesses across Sussex, Surrey, Kent and London. I have been lucky enough to work with quite a few interesting start-up companies, as well as working with companies abroad in Europe and the US. I also worked in the industry before Google, so have been working in digital marketing for nearly 20 years, which is a long time for quite a young sector.
I cover all the typical digital marketing disciplines including Google, Ads, SEO, Social Media (both paid campaigns and management of accounts), Analytics and Training. I also do a lot of writing for the Web from journalism in national newspapers to blogs, white papers, research, case studies and interviews. https://www.
I like working for myself, because I like to be independent and be my own boss and I can arrange my working hours how I wish. The downsides are that working from home can be a bit lonely and I miss the team ethos of a place like Google. Also, I have to wholly rely on myself and there aren’t too many people to fall back on, if I have any issues or problems. Having said that I do have a great network of friends and colleagues that I can call on, when I have a very thorny issue. I also work with partner companies for related services that I can’t offer such as Web Design, photography, video production and graphic design. Holidays don’t really happen for me fully, as I am often doing a bit of social media first thing before we all go to the beach or checking on client campaigns in the evening. A good Internet connection is a must for my time away.
How do you balance the business around your family and childcare?
When I first started, we lived in a smaller semi-detached house and it was quite difficult to work when the kids came home around 3pm. They were also a bit younger and noisier than they are now, so I would often start early and then pretty much down tools around 4pm. It was definitely a good idea to schedule any calls before that coming home from school hour otherwise it was too stressful. Soon enough, I moved into a small office in town, which I shared with a few others and it was nice to have a bit more company during the day. I also did some co-working in the early days for a day a week in Brighton.
After a few years, when I was doing well, I decided I could move back home, because we had moved into a much bigger place and the kids were now teenagers and a little more amenable to being quiet, when I needed them to be for work. We all had a lot more personal space, so it made this move much easier. The good thing is that since I have left the corporate world I no longer have to commute daily and only go up to London 3 or 4 times a month. This means I have a less stressful life and am not subject to the whims of Southern Railway. Also, I see a lot more of my family now. When the kids were younger, I would be leaving home at 7.20 am and not get home to 7.20 at night, when they would be off to bed within an hour or so of me getting back. I really didn’t like to miss so much time with them, although it was lovely to have them meet me at the station or run to the door to greet me “Daddy, Daddy”
Since setting up your business what’s been your biggest success to date?
I don’t have one big moment of success, because a lot of digital marketing campaigns or activities are very incremental in how they provide “success” to the client and it doesn’t necessarily crystallise in one clearly definable moment of time. I would say my success in the business has been in having some really good long term relationships with clients with some companies having been with me since the very start of my business almost 6 years ago. I like to build strong communication and transparency with people and I hope they will want to work with me over the long term, as I drive good results for their business online. Digital marketing is very measurable, so hopefully I can get the results that they need in terms of sales and leads or awareness and we can work together in an ongoing fashion.
Having said that, I do also do fixed length projects and clients may come back to me for multiple projects over a few years. It just depends on the work, budgets and what kind of help they need. My sweet spot is helping people who have a lack of time, lack of a particular digital expertise or that just want a bit of extra help, but don’t want to hire a whole new employee. I can fill in with a number of hours a week to help a marketing manager, director or CEO / Owner out with digital.
What are your top tip for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
My advice to budding entrepreneurs is the age-old follow your passions. To get a business going, you are going to have to do some hard yards, especially in the beginning, so you do have to want to do it. Stick to your strengths and experience, so you are credible in your marketplace, but don’t be afraid to try out new things and broaden your experience where you can via training or taking on new projects. I found I was doing work for clients, that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about when I started, but they asked me to take on certain projects, so I just went with it and that was a great way to widen my portfolio of services. Training is a good example of this. I have run quite a few training courses on social media and Google Ads, as well as analytics, which is not something I thought about when I started. It is also good to have quite a few different revenue streams, so you are not too reliant on one client or one type of service. I do classical digital marketing work, but I also do training and I also write for clients. This keeps things fresh and means that you have some insurance if one area starts to dry up a bit.
Final advice would be that you have to keep the pipeline full, as my former sales bosses would say. So this means that you need to keep networking or doing whatever it is that brings you new business, even when you feel you can’t take on anything else. This is because as soon as you stop trying to grow and sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour, things will very slowly start to slide and before you know it, you will have lost a few clients and you will be needing to find new business urgently. If you keep in touch with your network, go to events and keep talking to people and having meetings and calls, then you keep your brand out there and generating new leads and business. Don’t doo too much business development though, because you need time in the office to do the work you generate. It is a fine balance between work and sales.
Social media can also be a way to keep your business fresh and in the back of people’s minds for when they might need you. Also, don’t give up – I have had new clients sign up with me, a full two or three years after I first started helping or talking to them about doing something online with me. Be helpful, accessible and try to solve problems for clients with any writing you do for the business. Think about SEO for your content too. Finally, I would say that your customers are almost certainly online and using their mobile phones, so think about where you might find them – which social media platform or would they be searching on Google for your service or product? Would they be looking on phones, desktops or tablets or all three? Is your Website really showcasing your business effectively and is it still a current design with good content? Who is my typical or dream customer? What content can I create to attract them? Bluebell Digital can help you answer these questions and drive new customers to your business with trackable, efficient digital media and content.
To find out more about Barney and Bluebell Digital you can visit the website or Twitter. Or you can join his private Facebook Group for Digital Marketing Advice and Tips.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Baby Cup, Vanessa Fisher PR, and AMWRAP.