Marketing Rule of Thirds Webinar

By: Richard Michie

People love three choices, there’s something in the human psyche that loves threes. And marketing is no different. On this interactive webinar, which we ran with Ioana Jago of Iventum, our CEO Richard Michie and Ioana discussed their three rules of marketing and how you can apply them to your own business whether you are a freelancer or a growing business.

We covered a lot off in our hour, so feel free to jump to the sections which you feel are the most pertinent to you. We’ve also had the whole session transcribed and placed that below the video.

Richard Michie:

This is our Marketing Rule of Thirds webinar with me. If anyone doesn’t know me, my name is Richard Michie. I’m the owner of The Marketing Optimist. And Ioana Jago, who is the owner of IVENTUM. So without further ado, I’m going to hand over to Ioana just to introduce herself.

Ioana Jago:

Hi everyone. I’m based in the UK, just in case we have members of the audience who are dialing in internationally. But originally I am from Transylvania. So I arrived here via Bucharest and via Tokyo and via Frankfurt. But this is my home today. And the purpose of the session and the purpose of me teaming up with Richard today was really to share some of our learnings and some of our approaches that have proven to work in our entrepreneurial journey. I started building up my business a year ago in Earnest.  And I know Richard has been doing this for a little bit longer, probably six years. And I think what we all have in common is the fact that when we started, we were unknown quantities and we had perhaps one follower and that one follower was us following the business and believing in the business.

Ioana Jago:

So today is all about being really, really candid and sharing with you some of the outlook, some of the building blocks we’ve put in place for our personal brands and for our growth stories, and also share some practical tips and take some questions that you might have. So I’ll be aiming to talk for no longer than 10 minutes. Richard will take over and then we’ll have a good chunk of time at the end to really discuss and talk real business and how we can make things happen. So I hope that works for everyone. I put together a very small handful of slides just because they demonstrate my thinking. And I think they will act as visual prompts for our discussions later on. So I think we’re good to go.

So key question here, building your brand. We can go straight in, Richard, with the next slide. Okay. So branding. I mean, millions of books have been written, and this is not a book. It’s more a question of asking ourselves. Recognizing that perception is reality. And recognizing that the digitalization of work has prompted us to exist in a more vibrant way, in a more connected way online. Therefore, particularly a generation that is a naturally digital native is probably at a natural disadvantage in the digital space. So we have either a bit of catching up to do or a mindset shift. That means that suddenly we become more visible online, we activate our skills, we activate our connections, we activate our thinking digitally in the absence of face to face networking.

Traditionally you would go to a conference, you were schmoozing, you would go for after-work drinks, you would do so much social face to face stuff, which is currently no longer happening or no longer happening to the same extent. So my complete passion and belief is that we really need to energize how we behave and gain that confidence to take the first step, right to the first post, share the first piece and slice of your thinking online. Because in the absence of this sharing and this digital visibility, you achieve an absence of your presence, your professional persona and your personal brand.

So I listed down three questions. What happens when you Google your business name? If your name is your business, that’s also a good exercise, but you can also say, “Okay, I set up Arctic Consulting.” What happens when you Google Arctic Consulting? And then the next question is, are you satisfied with your digital image? And your digital image span is not just your logo of course, it’s your digital presence across absolutely all the digital channels.

And the key thing to look out for here is, are you present on all the right channels? Do you have a consistent presence across all these channels? And the third point actually is, is there any digital debris that you may need to clear out? Because historically, we’ve all started to use the internet when we did, I think I started in 1998. And you will have things like photos with your mander name or photos from your younger self. You will have old logos that probably have been superseded. You will have statements that have expired. So it’s as much being aware of what you put out there 21st century as being aware of the debris that you need to remove.

And then fundamentally, the third point is action related is, what are you doing today to help your target notice you? What’s your strategy? How are you going to market? So these are just points for reflection. I can’t offer a full answer, but it’s just points for reflection. And of course, we all have work to do there. I think we’re good to go to the next one, Richard. Okay.

Some of you may have seen this slide already. It’s integral to really my thinking and my approach. I want to say for the rest of my life, really, which is a bold thing to say, it’s the mindset and the outlook. The mindset I’ve seen way too much, way, way, way too much hesitation around me. So I will always approach things with an expert mindset and I will always favour action. This doesn’t mean that I jump at action without giving due thought, but after 20 years as a professional, and I can see we have quite a mature audience here today, I would challenge everyone to say, if you’ve been doing something, you’ve been reasonably successful in your profession for 20 years, why is it that you still hesitate to put your thinking out there?

Why is it that you have that self-doubt that holds you back? Because this is one of the biggest, biggest, biggest things I keep hearing from everyone. Is my voice right? Do my voice and my thinking carry any weight? And I would say drop that imposter syndrome and just adopt the expert mindset. You’re not an expert at everything, but what you are very good at, believe in yourself and start to communicate with that mindset. And the second point is the global outlook. You might be based, I’m personally at the moment based in Warwickshire. I’ve been based in amazing cities, but right now I’m in Warwickshire in a very, very happy place and completely, completely unknown overrun by sheep rather than by humans where I am in Shipston.

But my outlook is global. When I communicate, I communicate to a global audience. I want to connect and relate to people all over the world because the barriers the moment you are digitally are 100% no longer there. So just be mindful of that. You might be thinking that actually, I just want to do business with people I’ve met over the years from the UK. But the reality is if you put yourself out there, you might be surprised by the fantastic opportunities. Initially, perhaps in the English speaking markets, which is completely fine. But later on, you might see that extraction even in non-native English speaking markets around the world. Next slide please, Richard.

Yes, please. I’m just trying to keep the pace. Okay. I tried to tie in with the marketing ‘rules of three’. And the rule of three’s only present in our lives way beyond marketing. But fundamentally, just a nice graphic to remind everyone what’s the anatomy of your brand. Again, personal brand, business brand. Fundamentally, you will start with an identity, a visual identity. And that you will decline over a number of different channels and tools. So you will have your logo and your tagline and your website if you wish to have one. Digital brochure, if that’s of importance to you, the LinkedIn company page, your tone of voice, font, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This is your visual identity. And you’re the custodian of that visual identity.

Then you’re looking at reputation, which is much, much, much harder to achieve. And fundamentally, my outlook there is being a trusted expert. That builds your reputation and visibility. You want to be on the radar for your buyers and your target. We can go to the next slide, which talks about the three building blocks of your brand. I keep things very simple because I feel this is impactful and I can work with clarity. I start always with brand hygiene and a lot of the things I mentioned already cover brand hygiene. Just doing an audit of your digital image, removing the debris, making sure you have crystal clear clarity of what your brand stands for. And it’s consistently deployed across all channels and impact of course. Then you’re moving on to the next building block, which is credibility. It involves thought leadership, it involves communicating with an authentic voice and it involves developing and earning a reputation for excellence.

And fundamentally, the third block, which is growth, businesses. I want to make here a quick introduction to sustainability. Sustainability is a big concept and it can be off-putting. But fundamentally the number one principle of sustainability is economic sustainability. In other words, you need to be able, in order to exist as a business, you need to be able to generate sufficient revenue to stand on your feet. And that is the fundamental number one United Nations sustainable development goal, economic sustainability then comes social sustainability and thirdly comes environmental sustainability. So the key point there, you are not a business, unless you’re actually profitable, growing or earning money. Then you can be good with your supply chain. Then you can be great with mitigating your impact on the environment.

So coming back to growth, this is the direct consequence of doing building block one, brand hygiene, and building block two, thought leadership and earning credibility really, really well. Growth comes organically, naturally, seamlessly if you do the first two things really, really well, really consistently over a period of time. And we’re good to jump to the next one, please. Okay. Your brand roadmap. I mean, there’s six blocks here, but I split them in three plus three. You’re looking at everything starts with your personal story. And I think I spend about 10 years of my career feeling like I don’t have a personal story or my personal story is very wonky. And now I’ve actually got to a state where I really, really, really embraced a very weird and squiggly and wonderful journey that I’ve been on up to this point. It’s literally, I started my career as a tour guide in Transylvania, hosting Japanese tourists and English and French and Israeli tourists all across Romania. And then I moved to Tokyo and then I moved and I did global marketing comms and then I moved to London and I did sales and marketing.

And after working for myself for a few years, I ended up in Frankfurt. After the experience in Frankfurt, I came back, set up my own business. This is my story. And I’ve really, really embraced it. And I really, really am proud of it. And I feel like that is the starting point for my brand. I’ve embraced my personal story with ups and downs, and there have been tons of downs. Trust me. Okay. So start with your personal story, write it down. What is it that… Where have you been? What makes you, you? And the key message here, there’s only one of you globally. Everyone else is taken, might as well be yourself. So just be yourself, accept that. Develop your visual identity. That’s a straightforward service proposition.

So I call these first three blocks the internal blocks because this is where you talk to yourself and figure things out and you have direct control over your story of course, your identity and the service proposition. A service proposition requires a lot of work. It’s taken me, I would say, a good year to come up with a menu of services. And I’ll talk about this more in a minute. But I really, really, really think it’s so important to have an off shelf, clear cut menu similar to the one you would get if you go to a barber or to a hairdresser. It’s very straightforward. A, B, C, D, E. These are the off-the-shelf, clear cut services. It takes a hell of lot of thought and effort and reiteration to get to that stage. Okay.

And the next building blocks for your brand roadmap would be defining your ideal client. You absolutely can’t be in the market for everyone. You can’t be problem-solving for absolutely everyone. So fundamentally ask yourself, particularly if you’re a smaller business and maybe sometimes even a solopreneur, who would you ideally like to work with? That’s such an important question because it just means that A) you are focused and B) you will say elegantly no to opportunities that don’t fit you. To give you an example, just the other day, I’ve been approached to work on a project which involved live event delivery, and it involved working with a tobacco company. And if you know what’s your ideal client persona, it’s very easy to make the right decision.

Key channels. Again, when you start as a team of one with one follower and one subscriber and one big fan, yourself, you can’t be fantastic and you can’t be present on every single channel. It’s humanly impossible. You will fail. So in my case, I’ve taken the approach of mastering one channel and one channel alone. And before I even had the website, I made a decision to be incredibly visible, progressively so on LinkedIn. And then I eventually developed a website and then I linked my Twitter to my LinkedIn. And then I developed my Instagram. And then I even created the tiny YouTube, which has six followers today, subscribers. So that’s my journey so far. But I’m sharing this with honesty because I realize I can only be present and do a good job consistently on one single channel. And my choice, given my interest, my ideal client was actually LinkedIn. It might not be the right channel for you, but I mention it. The key outtake is to choose your channel(s) wisely.

And then finally, it’s about your story, your messaging, your content. And that’s a whole new topic.

Okay, we’re coming to the end of me talking. I just wanted to share with you one example of a service proposition. So I decided I was going be in the market for service professionals, entrepreneurs and world-class thinkers. These were going to be my clients. Within that, I was going to offer personal branding under the umbrella of project you. I was going to work on the digital transformation of your personal brand. I was going to look at purpose and sustainability for your personal brand. Productivity, which is a huge passion point of mine and the introduction of a Japanese concept, which is called the JIKO PR and that is the PR of self. I’ve experienced this concept when I was studying in Hirosaki, Northern Japan. And it stayed with me. And I think it’s a very clever concept. It’s self-promotion but through the means of PR.

And fundamentally, I was going to lead the way with vision and strategy for my clients, but also I would be supporting them with practical solution delivery, effectively making things happen. So that’s how I’ve organized myself, my thinking and my service proposition. And of course, I do have the hairdresser/barber shopping list or menu as well. And if we can jump to the next slide, Richard. I think, yeah, just key learnings. I’m pausing for a second to give everyone a chance to read, but fundamentally we need to recognize that we are a brand when we are present digitally.

Ideally, we would want to a develop reputation for excellence, be best in class. There is a lovely little poem, Be The Best. If you can’t be a tree, be the best little bush by the side of the tree. So just be best in class. And remember, this is a point that Richard will echo as well, I think, in his short talk, remember that growth is relationship-based and relationships are based on trust. So I think with this, over to you, Richard.

Russell Harvey:

Hi, sorry. It took me a moment to just think. Apologies if I mispronounce the Japanese, but can you just tell us a bit more about, is it the JINCO? JIKO?


Yeah. The JIKO PR. So the JIKO PR, it’s difficult actually to even Google it because you need to Google it in the Japanese language. So literally type it. But I think if you type JIKO and then PR there will be some content coming up. I was a student and I was looking for a little bit of work in Japan. This is literally the year 2000. And at the time I was introduced to this concept, JIKO PR, which involved preparing a CV based on a template that the Japanese use methodically across the nation. So I had to go to the newsagent or to the post office and buy a template for my CV. And I also had to take a photo and I had to put a photo on my CV. This was 20, right? And I had to write the CV, of course, in Japanese, within every single little building block.

So effectively it’s a very dynamic visual business card, but always what I took away from that was the concept of the photo and the concept that you have to put yourself out there. So the next step was really taking this CV, Japanese style CV, [foreign language 00:20:08], I think it’s called. You take it with you and you take it to job fairs. So effectively, here comes Ioana in Tokyo. And I even went to Boston because it was a Japanese company fair in the United States. What was exciting was that I could actually interview in English, which felt a little bit more natural. So I travelled to Tokyo and did some of these huge job fairs with my little pile of CVs, with my little photos. And literally knocked on doors and stood in queues to be interviewed and try to understand one many times going to be solving the problems of Fujitsu, the next minute how I’m going to literally set Panasonic on fire. The next minute, how do I actually connect with Bloomberg? And so on, there were non-Japanese companies as well.

So the concept of JIKO PR was investing in your personal PR, in owning your story and knocking on doors and actually making things happen. The way I interpret it today is actually creating a PR plan. So I would be looking at connecting with magazines, editors and looking at potentially becoming a contributor really; a contributor to a number of magazines that are in your target. So specifically in my case, I’ve started to approach a number of magazines rather than saying hey… I said, of course, “Hey, I’d like to contribute an opinion piece on a topic that is of my core competence.” And the second thing I’ve done, I’ve presented them with a media card saying, “Look, this is me. You’ve got a high res image. You have a quick video. You have a quick introduction on me and I am ready to be printed and to be published and to be everywhere,” point one. And point two, here are a couple of articles that demonstrate my thinking speculatively. So effectively I’m giving them free content and I’m making it incredibly easy for them to actually start to publish.


So just a quick follow up and I’m conscious of time. So from that sort of formula, is there a first question that you always get asked or is there a first answer that you’re supposed to give? They’ve got this information, but does the initial conversation always start the same way around somebody’s waiting to say actually, “So my key skill is, or my inside leg measurement is. Or my…”


Yeah. I think it always boils down to your USB, doesn’t it? Because they’re seeing from the receiving end, think about it. You’re in a little booth, in a big exhibition centre with queueing wannabe employees and work experience students. And fundamentally you need to screen them. So you need to stand out for the right reasons and say something, be so authentic in your story that you secure an opportunity.


So the opening line is pretty key. So it sounds like it’s slightly different or more than the classic elevator pitch. It feels like this is something more.

A little bit more, but I would say also visual. What struck me, I don’t think in the year 2000 CVs in Europe had photos, right? But in Japan there was the photo element and there was the concept that you had to give literally a piece of paper with your photo and your whole life story physically, hand it over to this big job fair. But anyway, happy to talk to you a bit more about that later on.


Knowing your customers, you need to know who they are and that’s not just the business, but that’s the whole industry. And then defining that down, starting with the whole industry you want to look at. Defining it down by businesses and businesses are going to come in all shapes and sizes, from one person bands, I think he said one-man bands, but I know that’s not the correct terminology. One person bands, solopreneurs.

Solopreneur is up to multimillion pound businesses. And you need to know where your market is because obviously if it’s just you, you’re probably going to really struggle to look after a multimillion-pound business. But also companies that only have one employee generally don’t have a lot of budgets. They want to bootstrap a lot of things. And that’s fine, but you need to understand that. And if you are going to work with a bootstrapper like that, that’s great. But you need to understand the kind of limitations on the support that you can give. It’s almost like a bit of a coaching job probably in terms of encouraging and helping them develop themselves rather than going, here’s a full-blown proposal that’s going to cost you £20-/30,000. They’re clearly not going to have that. So knowing your customers is about working out where’s your sweet spot, where are you’re going to work best. And that’s not necessarily something you’re going to have from day one.

Once you do have the industry and the businesses, it’s then about getting to know the actual people. So it’s about getting to know what they do, what makes them tick, what they want to achieve because every business has a pain point. And your solution is to fix that pain point. Everyone starts with a problem. This is a great example of use on Google, for example. So when somebody Googles, generally people don’t Google your business, and generally, people don’t Google necessarily what your service is. They’ve got a problem, and they need to fix that problem. So Google’s a great problem-solving area.

And I think that’s a change for how the industry works now is that it’s very much about solving problems rather than a service. People don’t get up in the morning and go, “I need a marketing service.” They get up in the morning and go, “I need more customers.” They go, “I need to make more,” I don’t know. “I need to get into new markets, et cetera.” They don’t necessarily wake up and go, “I know I need a social media campaign, or I know I need SEO.” That’s my job is when they come to me with an issue, my job is to kind of diagnose the issue and suggest what the correct roots are based on that.

It’s really important once you do know the business that you’re targeting, it’s who’s their competition? What’s the ecosystem that they work in? No company works in the bubble. They all have competitors. They all have new products. They all have new threats. They all have this massive ecosystem. And the better you can understand that ecosystem, the more chance you have of understanding them and winning their confidence, being able to do a better job once you have won them as a client. As marketers, that’s a huge part of our job. I’ve been speaking to those people recently and understanding a business as a marketer is really, really key. We are a service industry, so we can come and we can work on… Our clients include telecoms clients, we’ve got a carpet cleaning business Enviro Clean, we’ve got a company that sells really expensive trainers, et cetera.

So just from those three, we can’t possibly know every single part of our business inside and out. But our job is to get to the point where we understand it clearly enough so that we can do the marketing function of that. And I think that’s really key for any kind of business. You have to understand what effects your service can have on their business and how it can help. And that comes down to their pain points. So their pain points are they’re not productive enough, that they’re not making enough profit, that they are losing market share, that they’re a new business and they need to find brand new customers. You need to work out what their pain points are and how you can sort that out. Another key element is working at are the upcoming opportunities for them, things that they might not have thought about, but that you can add value to because apart from anything else, you are looking at the broader ecosystem. From a marketing point of view, this is how this works. You are looking at a broader ecosystem.

So for example, the rise of NFTs. And I’m not going to, for a second, try to explain what NFTs are on this call because I don’t think I can. But you will have come across… No doubt you will have heard the term NFT. That at the minute is a really strange bit of technology. It’s very well west at the moment. But further down the line, NFTs and the technology that’s around them at the moment will no doubt mature and develop and become something that affects everybody. I don’t know when that’ll be, it could be 10 years, it could be 15 years, it could be 20 years down the line until it’s mainstream. But if it’s getting so much traction at the moment, it will only continue to get traction and it will get easier, it will be more regulated, it will touch more elements of all businesses.

So being aware of opportunities like that is really key because then you can bring in your expertise to bear on things that are happening in and around the world that aren’t even necessarily have a bearing on their business today, but that will in the future or that could in the future.

This is kind of the key point of all marketing is understanding how to solve their problems. As I said, you need to understand their industry. You need to know how to solve a client’s problems, whether it is a problem that they’ve got to build a high rise building, or they’ve got to, I don’t know, get internet into strange places like Ukraine. So for example, this is an example that happened last week. So in the issues in Ukraine at the moment, one of the government heads tweeted Elon Musk and said, “Hey, all our internet’s done. What can you do?” Elon Musk replied the Tesla… I don’t know… The Starlink, that’s it, the name is Starlink. The Starlink satellites are now over Ukraine. So the fact that all the internet had gone down in Ukraine was then resolved by the fact that Elon Musk had solved their problem.

I mean, Elon Musk is not getting much out of that platform. He’s getting the publicity of the fact that he did that and he’s helping on a humanitarian cause. But he fixed their problem and that’s on the grand scale and all that. But if you can do that, customers love you being able to help with their problems. Another key element for us is we try our best to really, really understand the business. So yeah, we’re marketers, but we try our best to understand how is the marketing that we do going to affect their sales team? How is it going to affect their recruitment? How is it going to affect their financials?

That again is really key because you can just throw things out. Marketing is great for firing content out, but if it doesn’t fix those key business ends, it’s not really going to work. So yeah, the final point on that is really how can you solve their problems? If you can’t solve a problem, regardless of what your business is, they just move on. If you are just going to be a cost and it’s not fixing a problem, they just move on to the next issue. And my third point is be human. It’s really key to not put your customers in too much of an automated process. There’s a big push out there for everyone to have automation or all sorts of things. And automation’s great where it’s useful. So automated invoicing that just kind of goes out without the aim to raise an invoice every day is great. That stuff works.

But spend the time with your customers, get to know them as people. Get to know what they like, what makes them tick not just as a business person because that’s one part. But if you don’t know who they are and how they tick, you really need to build a relationship. For a long term business, you really need to get to know people and things like using social media are really good for that. They’re really good for making that first introduction. People put so much on social media that it’s really good you can find out whether people like golf or cricket or knitting or whatever else they like. But then you build that into conversations. So again, I’m a big believer in when we start a meeting, not just diving and going, “Bullet point one is this, that, and the other.” You spend time getting to know somebody, and I’m not saying you have to have a long chatty conversation, but be warm, be a person. As it says in that bullet point, treat customers like a human, not an invoice.

It’s really key as well to remember that not all customers are the same. Some customers you may get on a call and you may leave that call or get the impression that they’re really grumpy that day or that they’re really sharp or they’re off. Remember that they’ve got lives outside of what you are discussing with them. So they may have an issue at home. They may not be feeling very well. They may just have had an email just before you came on the call with them that they’ve just lost a large customer or that anything else could have happened. So be wary of that and make sure that you’re treating them in the way that they need to be. And it’s not just one size fits all operation. That’s really, really key.

And I guess the final point on that is regardless of the size of your business, remember that people buy from people. That will never ever change. So you can have all the websites you want in the world, you can do all the videos, et cetera, you can have all the automation, but people will buy from people. And if you treat people badly or deliver a poor service, people will remember that. On the other side, if you treat people well and you are fair and you’re understanding, you take the time to get to know them, people remember that too. And when people remember that kind of thing, that is probably the most powerful part of marketing really, because people then recommend you on and there is no better marketing than word of mouth. We can do all the social media and paid ads we like, but there’s nothing better than people saying, “Richard does really great marketing. If you need marketing, go to Richard.” And I’m grateful that people do say that quite a lot, which is good.

But yeah, remember that people buy from people.

For people who don’t know me. I’ve been in marketing for 25 years. I’ve not had as quite a globetrotting experience as Ioana has, I spent most of my time in Yorkshire. Although to be fair, I have visited Transylvania several times. I’ve been to Cluj quite a few times, and it’s a lovely, lovely city. If you ever get a chance to travel to Transylvania, then please do. So I started off my career in direct mail before the internet. So yeah, I spent a lot of time doing print and direct response ads and direct mail before moving into digital. And I had a many very career working in translation twice bizarrely working at Big Book, Direct Mail, a few marketing agencies, renewable energy before I started the Marketing Optimist in 2016. So this is our sixth year.

I know there are quite a few people in this call who have known me since the start and have supported me and helped me. I’m particularly looking at Natasha there who helped me from being in the NatWest Hub before that. So, yeah, so that’s me. So I guess we’ll just open the floor. If anybody has any questions or anything that’s come to light, just feel free to ask away.


It’s not necessarily a question, but to build upon people buy from people. So I’ve utilized Richard and the Marketing Optimist. And he’s brilliant. He’s done the things that he said as he got to know my business, got to know me, got to know my clients and what I was trying to do. So I can recommend him.


Thank you. I’ll pay you later, Russell.

Speaker 4:

Hi. I was just going to make a couple of observations really. I thought it was really interesting when Ioana was talking about really how to identify your sort of unique selling point. And it was related to what you have to do, Richard, whereas you have different clients and you kind of quickly have to understand your client. And I just thought that was quite an interesting observation how it was kind of the same message, but you probably have a bigger challenge because you have to do it with lots of people as opposed to us trying to market our individual selves. So I thought that was quite interesting. And referencing the growth of digital and how to use it, I thought was really interesting what Ioana again was saying. And I know obviously from experience with your training events and things, the importance of social and digital. And I think probably one of my biggest challenges apart from still being not fully skilled in that area, I have a much better understanding now. But sometimes it’s sort of my clients have got the digital literacy isn’t as you’d perhaps expect.

So particularly because I’m moving more into a specialism around accessibility and I just find it really interesting. I’ve been working and I find it fascinating. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ve been working with a group of people and we’ve got workshops put together with clients who would use easy read themselves. And it’s quite interesting how we’ve done that adaptation from face to face workshops to having to do them virtually and that kind of challenge. And for me, they were effectively my customers to understand what their needs and wants were. It’s just quite an interesting observation how often the client requiring the easy read document doesn’t understand that need or that requirement. So for example, they’ll have a website that is completely inaccessible to a lot of people. And we do find that when we produce something in plain English or easy read online digitally, it is really well accepted and used by people who don’t necessarily need them. It’s just, as I said, just observation.


I think that’s about your client understanding their client’s needs. And if there needs to be an easy read, then they need to adapt that and make a feature of that as well because attracts that will attract more clients to them because they’ve got the accessible materials that are required.

Speaker 4:

Exactly. Yeah.

Richard Michie:

Okay. And we have another Ioana. Am I saying your name correctly or is it pronounced differently?

Ioana 2:

No, no, it’s the same. Thank you both. Very, very valuable workshop. It’s been really, really amazing and I’ve made a ton of notes as well. I think it’s great. And I think everyone is very conscious that if you don’t have an online presence, you don’t exist in this day and age. When you’re trying to run your own business, we all know how busy and where you have to go next and everything that you have to do. And we all know that now we’ve got so many people that are doing this full time. Marketing in itself, it’s a full-time job. It’s another thing that you can take so… So I think it’s just that question of obviously to put yourself out there, to create a brand, to create trust, you have to be consistent.

Ioana Jago

I anticipated this question because I had to devise almost a formula for myself, recognizing that I was a team of one at the start. So the short answer is business development. I’ve spent almost six years in London doing global business development. So business development is a necessity all the time. You don’t go in business development mode when your pipeline is drying up and you don’t go in business development mode when you’re very busy. Someone told me the other day there’s no better time to business development than when you are actually busy. I take a view that business development should occupy 20% of your time every single week. And I don’t say every single day, but I would say it’s… Fundamentally, my schedule consists of 50% operational work, literally paid client work that keeps me going. 20% is business development. 20% is product development. How will I be fantastic? And how will I solve the problems of tomorrow if I don’t spend 20% of time innovating, refining, optimizing and literally those tiny, tiny tweaks that improve the positioning of my products against everything else that is in the marketplace?

So 50%, don’t be greedy. 50% pays the bills. If you’re really good at it and you’ve narrowed down your service proposition, 50% is more than plenty to pay the bills and help you grow and keep you motivated financially. So that’s the economic sustainability taken care of. 20% product development. 20% must, must, must always business development, 10% is admin or yoga or taking time off.


I was going to say what’s the 10% left.

Ioana Jago

So 10%. It’s not there to be encroached by everything else. 10% is the buffer you need to just be alive really. It’s the cartilage around your joints. Your… Yeah.


I think, Ioana, I think a really good point from that as well is in terms of getting your content out whatever it is, whether you are blogging, whether you’re videoing, whether you’re doing social media, whatever it is, make a plan. So many people come to their screens in the morning and go, “Oh, what am I going to write?” And so they struggle. So make a plan and have it scheduled. And a really neat little thing is to either… I mean, I do everything digitally, but the basic way is to have a little notebook or whenever you think of anything, whether something pops up, make a note of it, keep a record of it.

Ioana Jago

Absolutely. I use notes and voice memos. So I do power walks and whatever an idea hits me, or I see a blog, I screen grab it and then I circle the actual catchphrase or whatever little clever word sits with me, like deep work concept for instance lately. So I screengrab it, voice memo on the go, which you can do all the time, notes on your phone that integrates with everything and tagging and so on has been introduced as well. 100%. Yeah.


Yeah. So, yeah. So yeah, other Ioana, plan. Make a plan because otherwise you just be like, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” So if you’ve got a plan, you can go, “I’m doing that post on Tuesday because I spend my 20% time doing the planning and that post is going out on a Tuesday and away it goes.”

Ioana Jago

And, Richard, on that point, evergreen versus topical. A quick shelf life idea. So sometimes you’re reacting literally tennis ball. You’re reacting to something that’s really, really hot topical and that’s not going to be an evergreen idea. It’s just something that is a hot potato today or this week. That’s fine. That’s usually not planned because it just happens. And you have a point of view and you replied to that. Kaboom. Smash. Perfect. But the exciting thing is having your pipeline of evergreen ideas, something that doesn’t expire. Productivity tips, time management, just generic marketing ideas or whatever field you’re in that are evergreen. And the moment you have 20 of those in the pipeline, you will never be short of things to say on your social feeds.


Excellent. So we have another question from Sharon.


Yeah. Hi, just making sure I’m off mute. Yeah, no, I like all your points. I think it’s a very stimulating conversation. Ioana, when you were talking about product development, I think this is excellent because it’s about kind of keeping on top of, honing in on exactly what is your menu of offers. Because obviously when you’re like us and you have decades of experience, it’s trying to hone in on the things that you want to do, but also will be of value to your audiences and your customers and how you can make a business of it. But also, I like the idea of dedicating 20% of your time to this, but do you see insights being built into that 20%? Because for me, there’s a lot of reading out there. There’s a lot of understanding of how things are shifting with time because markets change, consumers change, the world changes and building and adapting your offer. We have to run at speed as well, don’t we? So what are your thoughts on that?


There’s always a huge investment in absorbing ideas and I have huge numbers of books and podcasts and everything else that I’m absorbing ideas, particularly when you’re a solopreneur. It has to be a way of life and that’s part of product development. But then if you read a whole book, fundamentally, a book distils usually to one or two or three core ideas and the TED Talk also distils to usually the title of the TED Talk. That is the talk. And then you can spend 15 or 20 minutes listening to that. So your skill is not absorbing the knowledge. Your skill is actually decanting that knowledge into a product that solves a problem. So I would say yes for sure absorb all this, but fundamentally put it to paper. And until you put it to paper or you digitally created your menu and road-tested it with a small network of contacts from a diverse perspective and diverse geolocation as well, you will not know how good you are.

Because it might make sense to you in your head because it’s the narrative you’re telling yourself, but you need to road test it. So that would be my trick. Catch the catchphrases. Don’t worry, look at the headline, do a bit of digging if you want, or if your time allows, but put it to paper and road test it globally with an inner circle of diverse professionals. And be prepared for harsh feedback. I’ve been there and it’s brutal because the people you respect and they come back and they’re like, “It makes no sense. I need this to be like this.” And it takes a lot of malleable thinking to actually say, “Okay, deep breath. Cool.” And I’m actually… I’m doing that myself at the moment with my services and it’s an invaluable exercise. I sleep easier every night because I’m closer to being excellent.


No, that’s good. And just to build on that, I think because if you are clear on what your service offering is, you distil that down to what that is. Then of course, when you’re doing all your search, you can distil all of that as well. You can collate and go, “Ah, that relates to these three things that I do or that one relates to that.” So because there’s so much content to get through, how do you focus your energies and thinking to make it something that you can work with and adapt with? But yeah, thank you. That’s great.


I’d also say listen to what how people perceive you because in your mind you could be a strategist. Well, how many people are in the market for strategy? Very few. And how long is a decision to commit to strategy buying? Huge, right? Because it’s a huge investment of time. So if you just listen to how people, “Oh, actually, Sharon I always thought of you as a person who’s excellent at dot, dot, dot.” And those dot, dot, dots box pop from your network, priceless. So I would definitely do a focus group or qualitative research within your network to see how you’re perceived. What do people think you’re actually pretty smashing at?


Excellent. Just to add to that, I would say that all those influences, all that information, I would always tamper that with being really wary of not getting design by committee. Or once you’ve gotten in back all this information and feedback, make your own mind because if you kind of go, “Well, this person said this and this person,” you’ll knock all the roof edges off things and then you won’t still go with your gut. It’s really important to get all that feedback. But then at the end, you are the person that makes a decision. Don’t make it so it’s a design by the committee because otherwise, it ends up in a mess.


Okay. So my question is really going on to the point where, Richard, you mentioned this problem-solving kind of big goal at the end of the day and that can differentiate one business to another, your solution to another one. But technically I think the challenge is that how much you wanted to go into perfection with the solution and at the same time you do everything else because like also how Ioana also mentioned about the speed, about your distribution of the clients, how much time you spend on business and product and all that and so on. And technically I think for me particularly the biggest problem is how I can maintain that balance.

Because on one hand, I mean, I wanted to really spend a reasonable amount on the product, but in the same time doing, for example, all the marketing and all that and so on is just super time-consuming. And then you keep trying to keep yourself motivated, which sometimes is very difficult. But wherever you go, you keep hearing that do not worry about it. Just get it started. You keep going, you keep doing it. Yeah. You can keep doing it. But at the same time, it’s just maybe sometimes it’s just a little bit going beyond you. That’s how I felt that it’ll be very much easier if I would, let’s say another two, three people helping me just specifically on the products. So technically you outsource this work because you cannot equally spend enough time on everything at the same time.


I think a key takeaway from this sometimes can be, as you start off your question saying how about getting things right? Sometimes, things are better shipped and done than being perfect. So don’t focus on trying to get something perfect, get something to really, really good and then get it out there. And once it’s out there, you’ll then get feedback and feedback is really, really key. So doing lots of things is important and keeping doing them. But what is more important than actually doing them is measuring and seeing what the effect was. Because you can keep doing things. “Oh, I just keep doing this thing.” Whatever it is. If whatever you’re doing is getting you the result that you require, brilliant. Accelerate it, make it bigger, refine it, make it as best as you can.

But if the feedback you’re getting is… So let’s say, I don’t know, let’s say that you’re always posting on Facebook. Just an example. You’re always posting on Facebook and you’re determined to do it regularly. You’re posting regularly. You think you have a lot of content. But you’re getting absolutely nowhere with it. That’s the point that people get stuck on. Well, we always post on Facebook and they go, “Yeah, but it’s not working. So stop and reevaluate and maybe try something else or work out why it’s not working.” That feedback loop is what’s really, really key. But I would say rather than making something perfect, which is in a lot of people’s minds, make it perfect. Done is far better than perfect and not done. That will be my feedback. Ioana, did you have something to say?


One word and the word is no. Literally, you have to rationalize what you’re doing, simplify the service proposition, simplify the channels. And literally just something, maybe the tree has grown too big and you literally need to trim it. That’s another exercise where you take a day and you’re like, “Right, let’s look at everything; ecosystem that I’ve built. What are the branches that are no longer vibrant?” Cut. And that’s to go back to Richard could be activation on Facebook. It’s probably a dead branch. It’s not thriving. Cut. Trim. So fundamentally just sprinkling the brand and the ecosystem you’ve built and say no. I mean, fundamentally every single time you’ve engaged, you create a chain reaction of commitment, time drain, energy engagement, which takes away from potentially another focus. So being pretty ruthless at saying, “Actually, no, I’m not going to start that conversation because it takes too long and it digresses from what I’m trying to achieve today.”


Okay. That makes sense. That’s good advice. Yeah. Thank you for that.


Yeah. Well, so it was like. Well, it’s just something to think about. So yeah, Ioana, your sort of percentage of time you spend on things. And I know you didn’t exactly mean this, but if there’s only 10% of it is on yourself as a business owner, just my throwout comment to everybody is that’s probably not enough. As the resilience coach, more than 10%.


But Russell, depending on if I put it on a three-day working week or a four-day working week, we’re laughing, right?


We are. We are. Absolutely, we are laughing. Yeah.


It’s in the context of how much work you’ve committed to doing. 10% is probably adequate. And if your workday is 20 hours, then I can only feel sorry, because that is not sustainable. Yeah. It’s a lifestyle conversation. And I have thoughts on that as well. Start to engineer a run from the lifestyle you want to leave and the stamina and the health and the energy you obviously have.


You’re welcome. Well, thank you everybody for taking the time to join us. We really appreciate it. This session has been recorded and will be uploaded to YouTube later, so you’ll be able to watch it. But thank you very much. Really appreciate it. Have a good day, everybody.

Interested in speaking to The Optimists?

Right from the beginning of our time working with The Marketing Optimist, they’ve taken the time and effort to get to understand Sharp Consultancy as a business and not just a client. We’ve seen a huge increase in the effectiveness of our social media strategy, particularly on Linkedin and we’re delighted with the impact it’s had on the business.

Jamie Caulfield

Regional Director, Sharp Consultancy

It was a pleasure to work with The Marketing Optimist on this project. It felt like a true collaborative effort on the day and they made the interviewee's feel at ease whilst talking about their journey on our RISE programme. The final video was professional and engaging, we have received great feedback around the quality and creativity of the case study. Including the video in our presentation made it come to life, with real humans sharing their stories, so thank you to the Marketing Optimist!

Hannah Prole

Impact Manager, Better Connect Limited

Case Studies


Marketing for Local Government

Moresby Hall Hotel

Hotel Rebranding

Sharp Consultancy

B2B Social Media for recruitment

The Edit LDN

Managing advanced eCommerce SEO

Better Connect

Digital PR and video production for events

Tango Networks

Marketing support for a global telecoms business

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