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Read MCL Marketing chronicle her thoughts on building and sustaining a profitable, competitive business 

Blue Skies

December 1, 2016

This week, I decided to set up my own Marketing Consultancy, specifically supporting small businesses.  I believe that many small business owners are brilliant in their skill, but don't necessarily have the support network easily available to them when their business needs launching, or is facing a challenge such as new legislation, a competitor threat, or even simply a change in customer demand.


So in my blog, I'll cover my own business set up, launch and the first few months of trading - in this hope that this becomes a useful tool for all small business, regardless of discipline or industry.

First things first

December 2, 2016

Ok, so I decided to set up a Marketing Consultancy - now what?  The list of tasks is endless - however first and foremost - before I launch headfirst into designing services that I want to offer, I have to take a step back and make sure the idea for my business really is valid.    


Firstly, what gaps are there in my target market.  I've decided initially that I want to work with small businesses, in my home town Newark.  Therefore, I need to determine who I will be in competition with and what do they offer - and how will my offering be different; and I need to ensure there enough small businesses in Newark to use my services.  These are two very important steps and should never be overlooked - because without a source of differentiation, and potential customer base, my business dreams will be rather short-lived! 


Having established the competitors, and the opportunities, then I need to think about how I can make money from my business.  I'm fortunate that I need very little investment to set up a Marketing Consultancy - and therefore I'm not requesting a business loan.  However, that doesn't mean I shouldn't create a business plan... Ugh, paperwork.      

Preparing the business plan

December 5, 2016

No business can survive without the right financial planning, right from the start.  Knowing what you need to charge for your products or services to not only ensure you can cover your overheads and make a profit is vital, however at the same time, you have to know what your customers would be willing to pay.  If you do need to ask for bank finance, then your business plan will need to stand up to some serious financial rigour.    


There are a lot of resources available online to help prepare a business case, I found the advice provided by the Princes' Trust very useful, however do make sure you check out several before embarking on the template plan which works for you.  Even of you don't need bank finance to make your venture a reality, you should still create a business plan, and have someone look over it.  A missed opportunity, or an overlooked challenge is better identified before you launch! 


Business name

What's in a name?

December 6, 2016

Next for me - what do I want my consultancy to be called.  I really want something clever and witty, however I soon discover there are a lot of clever and witty marketing consultancies set up before me - so all of my preferred names have already been taken!  


Aside from not wanting to get caught out breaching someone else's copyright, this also means any associated web URL's aren't available.


I choose to make my business a limited company right from the start - not everyone wants to do this, but because I want to be a B2B service provider, it made sense for me.  However, even if you're not planning to set up a limited company, the Companies House website is a brilliant resource to help you determine the names which are, and aren't not available.

Secondly, one of the domain registration services are good for helping ensure your business name can have a website.  


So my perfect business name wasn't  available.  When this happens, it's time to be really creative - I need to come up with something unique, witty, clever - and which describes my business perfectly.  Right, after three... one two three... GO - be creative!!


Ugh. Hang on - it's not actually that easy...


Well, at this point I've decided my business is called MCL Marketing Consultancy Limited - I guess I could change it in the future if I wanted to, but in the meantime, I think it should be called what it is, because:


I'm Molly Chesney-Lawrence (well, Lawrence is my partner's surname - a girl can hope!) 

I'm a Marketing Consultant

It'll be a Limited company


I have an idea that I could start making MCL "clever and witty" simply by using the initials in a series of service descriptions - such as  Making Content Lively; or Motivating, Coaching, Leading.  We'll see - in the meantime, MCL Marketing Consultancy Limited isn't already a business, and MCL-Marketing.co.uk is available - and that's good enough for me, for now.  After all, I'm setting up a small marketing consultancy - I'm not the next Tesco... 


(Incidentally whose founder Jack Cohen came up with the 'catchy' brand name from the initials of his Tea Supplier - Thomas Edward Stockwell and the first few letters of his own surname!).  So my message is - don't stress about a name too much, simply:


Make sure the name you want is available

Make sure you can buy the domain to go with it

And then Google it - just to make sure you won't have any unhelpful associations! 


And it could be as simple as that.


Because customers (both businesses and individuals) buy a brand promise, they're looking for genuine proposition, a solution that fixes their problem - not a name.  What you offer is undoubtedly more important than what you're called.

Becoming a Director

December 8, 2016

Now I had a name, I had to secure it asap.  


I started the process a few days ago, but frustratingly the Companies House website wasn't playing ball.  That's when I decided to appoint an accountant to help me form the business - the firm I chose is a specialist working with Contractors, which is something which I may choose to do as part of the business.  Their set-up offer includes rental of an accountancy platform, unlimited telephony support/advice, filing of annual accounts and tax returns - as well as the original business set up.  This isn't going to be right for everyone, but I personally liked the fixed monthly fee service - because I know what I am paying for.  And I loved that it included the set up, so I could avoid Companies House myself!


I bought the domain name, and kept refreshing the Companies House business listing page to see the point when my own business was incorporated.  


As it happens, it was incredibly quick - just 48 hours!  At the time I was on my leaving lunch - right now, I'm still Head of Marketing for a business in Lincoln, but as of tomorrow, I'm a small business owner!  After a decade in the same job, I felt it was time for me to leave and set up on my own.  It was a bit of a 'now or never' moment.  My partner was incredibly supportive of my decision, even though it meant less money coming into the house.  


So, the moment 'it' happened - I'd just arrived at the restaurant for my leaving lunch.  I was saying goodbye to colleagues I care a great deal for, and at that moment I saw my name on the Companies House website - "Molly Chesney - Occupation: Director".  And at that moment I released, my future success is entirely in my own hands.  


I'm the director of a business - but I have no customers.  And without customers I can't sell anything.  And if I can't sell anything I can't invoice anyone.  And if I can't invoice anyone I can't get paid.... Time to think about building the business!

The sun rises on a new opportunity

December 9, 2016

My first day as director of my own company!  The dawn of a new era.


However sadly, I didn't see the sunrise today - my last day in the office co-incided with the annual staff Christmas party.  I think the more appropriate image would have been a paracetamol.  And coffee.


I ordered a McDonalds breakfast in bed and went back to sleep.


This is a one-off - tomorrow will be far more productive in my new role as a Director.  I promise.

Working on my website

December 10, 2016

Much of the day today has been spent developing the MCL Marketing website.  Whilst I may have been flippant about the importance of a name - web presence is vital.  As consumers we demand a web presence from almost every business, or service we ever want to use.  


Think about your own online habits, what do you search for, and on what device - and what do you find?


Everything from researching holidays, booking the car in for a service, checking the opening times of the local supermarket or finding a plumber.  Even something as simple as checking the parking tariff at the town centre pay and display - of and can I pay by card?  In business - your customer needs a 280mm basin for their en-suite - where can I get one and how much will it cost?  My usual print supplier has put their prices up - have paper prices really gone up, or can I change suppliers for a better deal...    The convenience of the web is something we've all become used to.  


But as the World Wide Web has made it easier for us to find out whatever we need to know, buy whatever we want - but we all have limited time, and many of us have had our fingers burned.  So now think about how often you've clicked away from a web page and started your search again, because the page took too long to load; they didn't have the product you wanted; prices weren't clear - or worse, the site looked "dodgy".


So as I work on my own website this weekend (as I promised myself, after the disastrous first day as a 'Director')  I continually remind myself that this website needs to be accessible, easy to navigate, mobile responsive, easy to find, easy on the eye, contents all of the information the user is looking for, easy to find... so much to consider - I'd best crack on!


So what makes you so special?  Finding your differentiator

December 12, 2016

The sad reality is that many small businesses fail with the first two years, some estimates are that could be as many as 50%.  But I would believe that many of those that do survive probably change direction, or refine their offering in order to stay afloat - this is natural.  However, rather than waiting until it's almost too late, now is the right time to take a stark look at your business idea and determine whether it really is all it's cracked up to be.  

If this sounds harsh - it's supposed to be.  

Because this reality check could be the best thing you do.


One of my earliest lessons as a marketing student was the worst place to be in business is the "undecided middle" - if you're neither the best, nor the cheapest - you're simply one of many competing in the same place, at the same time as others (especially if the others are better, or cheaper) then how are you going to survive?


I'm doing the same - as I build plans for MCL - what is going to make me more successful than all of the other marketing solutions out there?


Obviously, I'm planning on being the "best" - but as a service, this is hard to quantify up front.  So, whilst I want to be affordable, but I won't promise to be the cheapest - after all, a business could choose to employ a newly qualified marketing graduate looking for experience, willing to work for nothing!  Therefore, I'm going to be different.  I will offer a menu of fixed price services. I describe my solution as being an Affordable, Professional yet Highly Effective Part-Time Marketing Director.  I've noticed many agencies offer the 'end' solution - the bit of the job that the marketing executive does, the designer creates, or the copywriter writes - but for a fixed fee, MCL Marketing is the board-member who determines the strategy the Manager implements, the positioning the copywriter writes, and describes the vision the designer brings to life.  I've not found many of these out there, personally, and so I'm hoping this is my differentiator.  


What will yours be?  

Is image really important?

December 13, 2016

xx