How to Grow A Creative Business In The Next 12 Months – A Guide

Growing a small business in the next 12 months?….your time starts now. Don’t mind that corona virus caper.

When major global brand names and high street retailers such as Primark (or Penneys as it’s known in Ireland) have seen their turnover go from 650 million euro per month to zero, you’d wonder what chance small to medium enterprises have of emerging from the ashes of the pandemic to develop their own propositions.

Perhaps this is one of the scenarios when small really is beautiful.

All is not lost people. And read on especially if you are in the fashion space.

Even in the best of times entrepreneurs still have to believe and keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.

In good times, entrepreneurs can have a crisis of confidence and we are told there is never a good time to start a business.

We at thebusinessy.news have received a suitable shot in the arm from London about the months ahead from a boutique agency helping creatives bring their vision to corporate life.

The agency is Alinea, based in Londons beautiful Royal Exchange.

London’s Royal Exchange, where Alinea corporate offices are located for their boutique corporate and legal services Pic supplied.

Successful designers, in business or the arts, are great conjurors. Alinea is a latin term for “a new train of thought” and the company provides consultancy services on the intersect of culture, law and economics, working with entrepreneurs and SMEs to advise on brand strategy and intellectual property, vertical agreements, company structuring, finance and international trade, and offer a fresh perspective. 

In article written for Businessy, co-founder and director Holly Jade O’Leary has accepted the challenge to address how to grow a small business within the next 12 months.

Here are Holly’s top tips for making it big.

Iga Wowski Harriet Russel Charli Fletcher Courtnie Blair models for Adelina Rusu AW20 runway backstage at Alinea The Royal Exchange
Iga Wowski, Harriet Russel, Charli Fletcher, Courtnie Blair – models for Adelina Rusu AW20 runway backstage at Alinea, The Royal Exchange Pic supplied.

‘Whilst many companies have placed employees on furloughed leave, the small enterprises which demonstrate resilience may emerge from the crisis with a revitalised approach to managing staff, CRM and digital practices says Holly.

Remote working

For CEOs managing remote working, companies are advised to plan ahead, develop scenarios and enable strategy planning across foreseeable time frames; 1 – 7 days, fortnightly, monthly, quarterly, and within one to two years. Anticipating what clients may require, what the infrastructure of the business, internally may require internally, allocation of tasks, and managing external relationships with suppliers and stakeholders is vital to maintain communications and leadership, and progress with confidence through this period of uncertainty. 

Decision making may require members of the team to collect information, to enable them to plan ahead. Mckinsey & Co suggest that a business should start with major projects examine the capital expenditure list, and organise into categories. The big strategic choices that underpin your business model could include: 

1.) A sustained price premium, avoid discounting to maximise value in a period of uncertainty – focusing on core attributes such as prestige quality, presentation and customer care.

2.) Digital escalation – social distancing has highlighted the importance of digital channels more than ever across the value chain and 

3.) Innovation imperative – to adapt to the restraints and mitigate the damaging impact of the pandemic, companies must introduce new tools and strategies across the supply chain. 

These, alongside company values will form the pillars of your business. The uncertainties faced by the virus: a global health pandemic, and the economic and public policy effects form the macro-economic landscape. For employees dealing with sensitive data, employers should consider precautionary measures regarding privacy, data protection and cyber security.

Under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a duty to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees at work; whether this is in the workplace, at home or elsewhere. In addition to this under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations at Work Act 1999, every employer is required to audit the amount of risk to which their employees are exposed at work. 

Whilst it is not going to be practical for employers to make home visits to oversee regulation 3, from a legal position, employers have the opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safeguarding employees wellbeing. 

The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has published a report Home Office, Mobile Office, which contains guidance on assessing the risks of working from home. In addition to management of physical risks, the remote working hazards extend to the psychological effects of working from home. Workers may find it difficult to adapt to working without social contact, which may effect efficiency or lead to workers feeling stressful or isolated. Equally employees may find themselves working longer than usual hours due to the lack of direct supervision. Practical arrangements such as providing a telephone line for work which switches to answerphone at the end of the day, good communications and regular formal meetings may reduce feelings of isolation and assist in monitoring the workflow.

Running your business in the cloud

For employers; clarity may be required in terms of how to oversee managerial tasks and encourage productivity, and KPI maintenance, and provide feedback. 

Business project management tools Slack and Asana enable teams to view and compare workflow, whereas video communication tools such as Zoom offers up to 50 hosts and 1000 participants, and Jitsi offers free pricing plans which integrate seamlessly with Slack.  Monday  is winner of Finance Online’s d winner of our Supreme SoftwareExpert’s Choice, and Great User Experience Award. Hubspot and Salesforce are widely recognised as leading CRM and business development database. Research according to the nature of your business and budget to find the best fit to integrate for your business.

How to market online for owner managers

With opportunities to host events limited, businesses are adapting to enhance their digital marketing practices. Marketing strategy may take the form of:

1.) PR

Connect with your target audience by featuring within product reviews, product education editorial and participating in competitions if you sell goods, and providing sector-relevant expertise if you provide services. Connect with the media using tools such a Response Source provides sector-relevant leads to contribute to articles where you can demonstrate your sector expertise. Sign up to them for a free one week trial. Many editors will use Twitter to post out editorial requests, follow journalists to ensure that you can provide them with useful content and pitch perfect. Subscribe to marketing journals which are relevant to your industry for opportunities to provide editorial leads, for example, for brands in the beauty and fashion sector, for instance; Diary Directory posts daily updates on media and influencers looking to review products.

2.) Social media – Instagram, Linked In, Twitter, and Facebook offer free channels to communicate to a sector specific and global audience. Integrate the core pillars of your brand, and intellectual property to generate unique, creative, educational and informative content for your audience, and engage on a personal basis, with authenticity and expertise. A survey conducted by (izea.com) outlined 66% of respondents were more likely to use social media within the CV-19 quarantine. Use tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite to schedule posts in advance, enabling you to project manage in advance, and coordinate the social media calendar in accordance with events relevant to your business.

3.) SEO

Optimise your ranking on Google by listing with multiple search engines and receiving regular customer generated content from your client base. Yell outline that the Google bots will explore through 50 public listed sites to search for your companies. As well as the obvious social media sites; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, these will include local directories (Scoot, iBegin), maps and satellite navigation providers (BMW, here), sector relevant sites (such as Apple Publishing, Trip Advisor), and local online press. Optimise your website by regularly updating articles and blogs, including keywords in headings and meta-descriptions, and ensuring that you provider relevant links and tags.

3.) Advertising

A study by Mckinsey & Co (2020) they identifies that 20% of online sales are driven by online marketing. Paid advertising will encompasses social media, digital marketing channels, editorial, radio and television. Agreements are used within the advertising industry cover framework service agreements, affiliate website marketing, celebrity endorsement, sponsorship and competitions and will be required to comply with the Committee of Advertising Practice rules. There are two pivotal legislative tools derived from EU law which address the Advertising industry. These are Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1277) (CPUTs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/1276), which is designed to protect consumers and businesses against misleading or unfair trading practices. Advertising can include standard ads, rich ads, dynamic ads, video pre-rolls, mobile ads, retargeted ads and social ads. Schedule a promotion using paid advertising on social media. Frame any paid promotions which you are scheduling online with PR and countdown activities within your social media. Alternative methods include the licensing of digital content

4.) Digital Customer Relationship Management

Use digital marketing and social media channels to optimise your outreach, and provide valuable social engagement material. CRM tools could include:

  • Virtual events – launch a new product online, the ‘see now, buy now’ experience with a personal and interactive format attracts a Gen Z and millennial audience.
  • Webinars – interview key people in your association or experts and invite your clients and business development contacts to attend.
  • Live stream – depending on the type of your business, there are many ways to engage an audience within directly selling to them. Host a meditation, a recipe, a floral arrangement, a cultural or educational seminar.
  • Personal advice and consultancy via video or telephone
  • Personalised emails and recommendations
  • Release of smaller, targeted selection of new products with customisable features.

Within the lockdown conditions, customers are looking for brands to communicate meaningfully. Creative and personalised engagement through digital channels offer an opportunity to build a community and establish thought leadership within times of uncertainty. Invest in building your database, collecting information about your newly acquired leads to take them beyond the crisis. CRM has taken an increasingly important role, with tailored services driving sales. Identify and connect with your high value customers. 

5.) Reviews

Yell outline that “56% of people who have read reviews expect the most recent review to have been posted within the last month, and 73% of consumers are more likely to choose a business that has online reviews than a business that has none”. Recommendations from previous customers assist in establishing trust and credibility. Reach out to your customer base with a request to provide a Google review, or write a testimonial for your website.

6.) E-tail 

E-commerce provides stability, with the European market citing 59% increase in year on year e-commerce sales, as online engagement has intensified through the crisis. Google has announced changes to its Google Shopping platform. Google is now allowing any business owner that sells products online to list their products for free. Commencing 27 April, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers regardless of whether they advertise on Google. If necessary, re evaluate fulfilment and discuss options with your distribution partners, who may offer courtesy warehousing facilities.  

Supply and demand

Supply and demand forces throughout the COVID-19 crisis shape the force of the industry. The demand forces include the:

Duration of store closures; travel restrictions to non-EU countries affecting the supply of goods; 

Consumer sentiment; within an economic downturn, consumers are more likely to be budgeting, and many brands have to think with agility to optimise their marketing spend. 

Health concerns; such as physical distancing and hygiene practices are likely to continue beyond the store closures, and an overall channel shift to digital and e-commerce is likely to continue once lockdown measures have lifted. Supply forces to be managed include;

Inventory or service misalignment; retailers may have excess Spring Summer 2020 products, with creative thinking required, and levers to explore including a delayed selling time to SS2021, VIP gifts, personnel sale, increase of online distribution partners and wholesale channels, discounting and product promotions. For service providers, there is the potential that the core customer base may be experiencing an economic downturn, requiring the company to temporarily withdraw the key services provided, reflect on their company skillset, attributes and pillars, and responsively realign their commercial strategy to enter a new or secondary sector.

Rebound of production capacity; production in Italy is still fully halted, and is slowly progressing again in the East. Prices for airfreight from China and other countries are significantly higher than usual, and sea freight offer a lead times of 6 weeks door-to-door, which may require parties to adjust their contractual timeframes accordingly.

Wholesale closures; small wholesalers are likely to experience liquidity shortfalls and existential threats. The use of DTC channels may require an realignment of operations, but offer greater profit margins.

Case studies and advice

Alinea have recently worked with styling company Passage to Poise, founded by Women in Finance nominee and qualified stylist Rebecca Lilley. Passage to Poise was founded to provide confidence coaching and styling guidance to business men and women, across social engagements, promotional photoshoots, social media campaigns and corporate speakerships. Alinea advise Passage to Poise on brand strategy and intellectual property, and e-commerce agreements including a consultancy agreement which include terms regarding the transfer of intellectual property and licensing of digital content, designer agreements for e-commerce partners, and online terms and conditions and a legal disclaimer prior to the launch of her new website.

Rebecca, who is also a qualified lawyer and holds a MsC in Security Management has used the time to develop her relationships with brand partners including independent sustainable fashion platform Lone Design Club to distribute videos through them, host a once-a-week Styling and Spirituality webinar, discuss the social science behind Passage to Poise , and develop an interactive digital marketing strategy in association with influencers, editorial and international radio partners. Underlying the crisis, Kristilina Georgieva managing director of International Monetary Fund stated in a quotation from Victor Hugo

“Great perils have this beauty that they bring to life the fraternity of strangers” –closed the Confronting the Crisis, Priorities for the Global Economy broadcast, prior to the 14th April report with a quotation from Victor Hugo, outlining the exigencies of solidarity, courage, creativity and compassion to emerge from the crisis more resilient. Providing that the pandemic is contained, and the duration of the pandemic is closed by the end of 2020, the global economic is anticipated to rebound by 5.8% in 2021

For small business, at the crux of business operations lies the potential to define a profitable strategy which engages customers and builds a deeper, more sustainable relationship with them, whilst retaining the commercial imperative. 

Thanks Holly some really great points explored there!

Alinea co-founder and director Holly Jade O’Leary