“It’s important to get content out there. It doesn’t need to be studio quality – it’s about building a positive impression.”
Carlene Jackson, CEO at Cloud9 Insight, spent much of the pandemic speaking to brand and marketing experts for the Marketing Decanted for SMEs podcast. One of her guests was LUKE QUILTER, CEO of Sleeping Giant Media. They discussed the emergence of virtual brands and how businesses can strengthen theirs in a post-COVID world.
Carlene Jackson: Tell us a little about who you are and what you do.
Luke Quilter: I run a marketing company called Sleeping Giant Media and our main focus is getting relevant traffic to our clients via paid search SEO and social media tactics. I’ve also been helping businesses overcome any new difficulties that they’re facing as a result of changing customer habits and behaviours caused by the pandemic. So yeah, all very exciting stuff!
CJ: What is your superpower or specialism in terms of what you and your company do?
LQ: Superpower? I’m not sure I’m as qualified as that. For us, it’s about teaching our clients the technical depth of both SEO and social media in an understandable way, then the client has those skills too and can develop them. So I’m going to say that’s our superpower, being able to provide technical techniques and customer service, really well.
Check out Episode 4 of our Marketing Decanted for SMEs podcast with Luke Quilter.
CJ: So, one of the things that we are having conversations about in the office at the moment is the pressure of being virtually perfect. A lot of meetings are done online now and we are all suddenly finding ourselves thrust in front of a camera. I know you have been working with clients on improving virtual communications – how important is that?
LQ: Being forced by the pandemic to use technology to communicate was very daunting. But we’ve found it can be beneficial. We can cut back on travelling time and even though back-to-back Zoom calls can be tiring, they can also be very productive. I think the issue for most clients is that they were forced into virtual communications by Covid and weren’t prepared. They just were expected to turn on their cameras and mics and to get started.
Now we can see that this trend is here to stay, we need to step back and prepare ourselves again. Things like our offices – we spent a lot of time making them look really appealing to visitors but we now we need to focus more on what people see in the background of our Zoom calls. We need to be thinking about lighting and good quality microphones as well as camera angles, we don’t want people to just see up our nostrils or the top of our heads. This isn’t just an IT thing, it’s relevant to a company’s brand.
CJ: Another thing we have been doing at Cloud9 is understanding how we all come across as individuals and how we can be seen more as thought leaders. What are your thoughts on personal branding?
LQ: Covid has accelerated the trend of people wanting to see each other’s faces in business and now people don’t want to deal with faceless corporations. After all: people buy from people. So personal branding and leadership are really powerful things to be focusing on, particularly in the B2B space. When we talk about social media, it’s important not just to think about your company’s page, it’s about thinking about all of your employees on an individual level. You need to teach them how to build their own personal brand on their social media to move forward in their careers and to build on the relationships they have with their clients. That is invaluable and the reach that your combined employees have on social media, as opposed to that of your company’s page, shouldn’t be underestimated.
CJ: You work across a lot of different social media platforms but what’s your preference or where do you think is the best place to start?
LQ: The classic answer to this question is: it depends on your customers and clients are using. Your decisions should always be driven by their behaviour. In the B2B space, I would say LinkedIn has come on leaps and bounds. They now have a live facility and they are constantly upgrading their algorithms and functionalities. It’s moving away from just being about recruitment and has much more of a standard social media platform feel to it. There’s a lot more image and video content and the user stats have gone up.
I do think a majority of the users aren’t using it to its full capacity, though, so there is still a long way to go with it. In the B2C space, obviously there’s Facebook and Instagram. Instagram is very good for the more visual products but both are very well established and growing. Over the pandemic, there was a 45% increase in social media use so it’s important we stay on track with it, I think it’s going to continue to play a huge part in marketing in the next year.
CJ: My husband uses YouTube for absolutely everything – what’s your view of it?
LQ: YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, second to Google, so it’s very important to have content out there. It doesn’t need to be perfect or studio quality – it’s really just about building that positive impression. We run a weekly live video broadcast at 4.30pm on a Wednesday on exactly that principle. It started as a Google Hangout where people could just join if they wanted and now it’s broadcasted live on YouTube and Facebook. It started off quite simply with basic tech but now we’re much more confident with it and it’s really developed. The point is to just start, then improve as you go along.
CJ: How can we improve trust between customers and businesses?
LQ: A big thing is reviews. They need to be up to date and timely, say somewhere has 2,050 reviews but none of them are less than a year old. The customer has no idea what this place is like post-pandemic, in the eyes of someone who is clinically vulnerable that could be a big thing. Perhaps they want to get their hair cut but they’re not sure that their barber is using full PPE now and it doesn’t say on the website or the reviews, so now they’ve just lost a customer. Reviews allow people to be able to see that they’re going to be treated well and that translates into trust. Make sure you ask for them, maybe it’s better for you to ask your clients in person or over social media. Either way, make sure it happens.
CJ: Do you think the economic turmoil that came with the pandemic caused businesses to rethink how they are investing in marketing?
LQ: Yes, certainly. We are a multi-sector company so we see a huge variety of clients but in some businesses marketing investment has just stopped completely. During the lockdowns, the travel sector was obviously hugely impacted so some lost their budgets and just stopped marketing. Obviously, the idea is if you carry on through it you’re going to come out stronger on the other side – but sometimes that’s just not possible. There’s also Brexit to think about so there really are some unknowns heading into next year and people are going to be a lot more cautious. There are, of course, people and businesses that have done well out of Covid. Maybe they’re better off because they’ve saved in other areas so for some the next year could be amazing.
CJ: With that in mind, what would your top tips be for a business owner emerging out of the other side of this who wants to start thinking about marketing more seriously?
LQ: If you’re looking to get your name out there quickly and you have a limited budget, I would suggest some level of paid search. The idea behind that is obviously people go to Google as a customer already, searching for a product or a solution. By paying to have your website or your company up there in the search results, they are going to go to you to solve their problem or buy your product. You’re getting customers this way that are almost self-qualifying. If you are trying to launch a product that no one has heard of you want to look more at social media investment. Bearing in mind that this tactic should sit right at the top of your marketing funnel and your aim should not be conversion but to raise overall awareness of your brand or product.
CJ: What are your recommendations for business books?
LQ: I love this question. There’s a book called Good to Great by Jim Collins that I would definitely recommend and then also Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. That’s one of my favourites. I would go with anything motivational right now to help us get through the next year as it’s going to be a tough one. We can use this time as an opportunity to take stock of everything in our lives and what we’ve learned.
CJ: Fantastic advice. Maybe we need to start a gratitude journal?
LQ: Yes, in the office, when we are allowed to go in, we have a ‘gratitude wall’ that we fill out. We started it last year to combat ‘Blue Monday’ which is meant to be the most depressing day of the year. So this year we are all hoping there’s lots and lots of things to be grateful for.
Follow Luke here on LinkedIn.