Set aside time for self-care. There’s only one of you. If you’re sick and unable to work, your business will likely suffer, and you may miss out on time with family as well. Taking care of your health and well-being is just as important as taking care of your family and tending to your business.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Shea, the Market Director, North America for Vistaprint, the leading online provider of marketing products and services to small businesses. Prior to that, she served as the Senior Manager for Customer Strategy, and Senior CRM Specialist. Erin never stops thinking of ways to help small businesses make the best first impression possible and pursue any opportunity with confidence.
Thank you for joining us Erin! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mom had a small business when I was growing up, so I was surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. She’s an artist and I saw how she created an opportunity for herself to share her craft and make a living doing what she loves. While she focused on the creative side of her business, the other aspects of running a business did not come as easily. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to working at a company like Vistaprint, where our driving force is helping small businesses find success through a customized and unified marketing experience. It takes an added burden off the shoulders of small business owners and allows them to focus on the things that truly make them happy.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t like labeling experiences as “mistakes.” Instead, I choose to look at them as learnings, or ways we can continually grow from customer feedback and interaction with our brand. Each of these experiences has a purpose if you look at it through the lens of learning and constant improvement.
In a previous position early in my career, I had an opportunity to make a large change based on some data that I received through our email analytics, which told our team that a percentage of our readership online preferred to interact with our content in Spanish, rather than English. Acting on this information, we began to send emails to this specified group in Spanish intending to interact with them in what we assumed was their preferred language based solely on the data we collected. Through customer feedback channels, we very quickly learned that this was not 100% accurate. It turns out, the customers enjoyed the flexibility of toggling between languages depending on the topic. Though the data suggested otherwise, this customer feedback allowed us a deeper understanding of their true preferences and taught me that decisions cannot be made based solely on presumed facts and figures. Qualitative information is just as important as quantitative and getting to know your customers is crucial. It’s not enough to understand what someone does. You have to ask why they’re doing it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes us stand out is our unwavering commitment to helping small business owners achieve their dreams. When a small business owner feels confident, they have the power to tackle any obstacle and seize any opportunity that comes their way. We have seen, time and again, how professional-looking branding and cohesive marketing materials give small business owners that vital confidence boost they need to put their best foot forward and take on the day.
A recent example of this is how we worked with Houston-based small business Carla Sue Greeting Cards and Gifts. Vistaprint designers worked with business owner Carla Lyles to develop some awesome looking signage and postcards that perfectly embody the spirit of her brand, which she then uses to encourage her customers to follow her business on social media and leave positive reviews. She wanted to upgrade the look and feel of her materials, but also wanted to retain the sassy, fun energy of her brand. Our experts helped her stand out by creating a design that is true to Carla Sue, but perfectly embodies who she is and the spirit of what her business delivers.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes; as a matter of fact, Vistaprint has just kicked off Micro Main Street, a nationwide celebration of small business owners and the impact they have on their communities. One of the ways Micro Main Street is showcasing businesses that serve the needs of individual communities is by giving them their very own main street. In June, we selected three small businesses owned by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and built them an amazing pop-up retail store in St. Louis the weekend of St. Louis PrideFest. The city was filled with more than 300,000 PrideFest attendees, and these three businesses, including Carla Sue, were right in the middle of all the activities happening downtown. This was an opportunity for them to put their merchandize directly in front of their target customer base, and to show off their newly redesigned marketing materials. All three of the businesses had an opportunity to meet online customers in real life, had a major increase in interest in their products from new customers, and made great new contacts for future business opportunities. Micro Main Street is on the move as we speak as we once again prepare to setup the storefronts at the end of August. This time, we’re shining a light on veteran-owned small businesses during Fleet Week in Los Angeles.
In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
Product Marketing — Is very direct and transactional; a means to an end. A customer has a need or a want that has to be fulfilled. You’re offering a specific product or service that meets that need. This quick ‘one-and-done’ interaction does not leave much space for expressing personality and building lasting connections.
Brand Marketing — This is the art of selling a feeling, an idea, a personality, a vibe, a lifestyle. You’re creating a larger connection for continued experiences between a customer and your brand. This tactic is intended for selling beyond the now. Showcasing your brand can meet needs beyond the immediate — establishing a tie to your customer for long into the future.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
In today’s global marketplace, consumers are looking to invest their buying power into something that feels bigger and more meaningful than fulfilling an immediate need. Investing in building a brand allows you to create a feeling and important connection that ensures your relevance in the lives of your customers for longer and more frequent interactions. When customers buy into your brand, they become advocates for your business — lending their credibility to your brand and amplifying your reach within like-minded groups.
Can you share 5 strategies that a small company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
● Two-way communication — Customers are your friends and advocates. Don’t be afraid to ask your customers their thoughts and opinions about your branding. This can help you determine if your core values and key messages are coming through in your current marketing materials. Do your customers have a clear understanding of who you are, what you do, and what makes you different from your competitors? Finding out how they heard about your business is also a valuable question to ask.
● Stay true to what you do in your core principles — Look for ways to share that with your customers. Make sure your brand comes through in everything that you do! Everything about the experience should look professional and demonstrate your brand and its purpose. Invest in marketing materials, both print and digital, that are both visually compelling and cohesive, as well as effectively communicate your story. If you are hosting an event, try incorporating your brand colors and messaging into decorating the space through signage as well as more traditional elements such as balloons and tablecloths.
● Keep consistent branding elements — Invest in your look and feel. But keep in mind that “unified” doesn’t mean “uniform”.For example, don’t just design a logo and print it on all of your marketing materials; instead, use each new opportunity to express your brand in a new way. A unified look and feel means creating your own style guide to make all your materials feel cohesive, from business cards to packaging. That doesn’t mean that every instance of your logo and brand should be exact replicas of each other. To accomplish this, stick to the same general or complementary color palette as your logo. If you introduce new elements, make sure that they are conveying the same feeling as your logo, so your brand expression stays intact, and customers know that everything is coming from the same business.
● Stay professional, yet relatable — Be your brand. Your look and feel is not just visual; it has a voice as well. To identify your brand voice, consider your personality as well as that of your brand, and then get a sense of your customers — figure out who you’re selling to, what they care about, and how they’d like to be spoken to. A relatable tone of voice will make your brand feel trustworthy and encourage customers to continue their relationship with you. Once you find your brand’s authentic voice, make sure that it is consistent across all aspects of your business. That includes every interaction with your customers.
● Stand behind your product — Invest in customer service. Vistaprint polled 1,000 U.S. consumers regarding their thoughts and opinions of small businesses vs. large national chains, and found that 58% of consumers shop with small businesses because of “overall customer service.” To meet these expectations, it’s important to invest in creating the best customer experience possible at whatever level your budget allows. That can mean more training for employees, loyalty programs for repeat customers, a more personalized in-store or online experience, and much more.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
One Vistaprint customer who participated in our Micro Main Street in St. Louis is HelloPride, an inclusive babywear boutique that primarily sells online. The owners of HelloPride have created an unmistakable brand identity and a unified look across all aspects of their business. Every order of adorable baby onesies they package, each marketing material they create, and every pixel they publish online glows with their brand essence, which has caused buyers to stop and take notice. What’s particularly impressive about HelloPride is their attention to detail in the packaging of customer orders. Each item sent out to a customer comes wrapped in colorful rainbow paper and a thank-you note from the owners. HelloPride uses a positive, empowering-yet-playful tone to bring their brand to life. From order confirmations to personalized notes, HelloPride wants their customers to feel like family, which resonates well with their customer base. They want to make the unboxing of their merchandise feel truly special to the person receiving it, and they want to build a relationship with their customers that feels personal — like a conversation.
In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?
When setting out to measure the success of a brand-building campaign, it’s important to know that you’re playing the long-game with results that are not always immediately measurable. You’re first looking to measure awareness of who you are, and what you stand for. A successful campaign can do both. Get across who you are, what you offer, and why it matters. If a customer can reflect your core business purpose back to you with an understanding of what role you play in their lives, then you’ve successfully branded your business within your core audience.
What role does social media play in your branding efforts?
I see social media as a brand’s opportunity to have a direct connection to their key audience. No matter the size of a business, social media breaks down the barrier and allows for a brand to not just communicate their message, but to listen to their customers. This gives a brand the opportunity to be agile and make changes that continue to meet their customer’s needs. It also creates an additional level of familiarity between a consumer and your brand. Familiarity leads to trust and trust is what builds a longer-term relationship with continued sales.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Make sure you’re prioritizing your time based on the value something brings to your or your customers.
1. Create a schedule and stick to it. Late last year, we ran a survey with 500 U.S. small business owners and nearly half (43 percent) say they adapt their schedule/working hours to spend more time with their family. Forty-one percent say they specifically schedule family time — making appointments just as they do for their business. It is not always possible to keep to a schedule if your business has seasonal times when things are busier, or if the unexpected happens at home, such as a sick spouse or child, but having a routine and predictable schedule can help keep you calm and sane during those times.
2. Make a list. Check it twice. It may seem simple, but I have found this to be a really effective time-management tip. Creating a prioritized task list for work and home allows you to set achievable goals that keep you on task and allows you to feel accomplished at the end of each day. I mean, is there anything more fulfilling than crossing things off your to-do list?
3. Know your value. Your time as a business owner is important, and that gives it monetary value. You shouldn’t feel the need to discount your services. Understand your bottom line and don’t dip below when it doesn’t make sense. Discounts and favors for friends and family can add up quickly. So be judicious in how much you giveaway vs. how much you get in return.
4. Learn to say no — and ask for help. The power of knowing when and how to say “no” to unrealistic expectations in both your personal and professional life can save you a lot of time and hassle. Also, it’s important for entrepreneurs to realize that no one can do it all on their own. Develop a support system at home and at work that allows you to delegate tasks and take on only what you can handle.
5. Set aside time for self-care. There’s only one of you. If you’re sick and unable to work, your business will likely suffer, and you may miss out on time with family as well. Taking care of your health and well-being is just as important as taking care of your family and tending to your business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
My dream is to build a network of support that feeds the small business community. It would be some kind of mentoring program in which established business owners who have found some level of success can share what they’ve learned with entrepreneurs who are just starting out or have an interest in further pursuing their passion. I truly believe this could really spark change and encourage more people to step out on their own and create the small business they’ve only ever dreamed about.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, has said, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” — To me, this quote is about creating balance. As a small business owner, it’s important to prioritize and be laser-focused on what will bring value. Everything else should be moved down the list of priorities.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Reese Witherspoon. To me, she’s a great example of someone with a clear and consistent personal brand that shines through in everything that she does. She has found a way to diversify her interests among various successful business and personal ventures, all of which reflect her personal brand and encourage positivity. I find that completely inspiring.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.