websites and personal branding

Successful Business Websites & Personal Branding With Jamie Barr & McGuirk

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In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Jamie Barr from creative agency Seven52 about creating and branding websites – whilst, Lee also talks to Kristina McGuirk from KComms about the importance of Personal Branding.

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Interview with Jamie Barr & Kristina McGuirk at Unity Radio – The Real Sound of the City.


Lee: This is the Logros Show in association with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. This afternoon I’m also joined by Jamie Barr from the creative agency called Seven52 . Good afternoon Jamie. How are you today?

Jamie: Very well thanks, yourself?

Lee: Very well. As I said earlier catching up with Kristina, we were talking about personal branding. The reason we’ve invited yourself in today is, because we we’re talking now about if you own a business and you have a website, you design and brand websites. So could you tell us a little bit more about what your agency does please?

Jamie: So our mission is to ignite the brand potential of our clients through branding, web design and marketing. So we work with clients right from product conception all the way through to delivery and create a long lasting relationship with them.

Lee: And with websites they are aimed also at creating sales often. How does a good branded or designed website improve sales please?

Jamie: In my opinion there’s three main ways in which branding affects sales. Firstly it sets your business apart. So it creates visibility and awareness which makes your business more unique and memorable, therefore increasing sales. Secondly I feel that it creates trust through consistency. Customers only recommend brands that they trust and one of the biggest considerations for that is consistency. So if you’ve got a carefully constructed branding strategy and strict guidelines that’s going to create consistency. Finally I think it builds and maintains loyalty. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying before that it’s cheaper to get past customers to purchase again than it is to find new customers. Not only is that more affordable but it’s also much easier to achieve through the creation of trust through branding.

Customers only recommend brands that they trust and one of the biggest considerations for that is consistency. So if you’ve got a carefully constructed branding strategy and strict guidelines that’s going to create consistency.   – Jamie Barr, Seven52.

Lee: You’ve worked with a range of different businesses across Manchester. What are some of the impacts that you’ve had? So for everybody listening, you know, we’ve just talked about that’s the how, why you should have a good website in terms of branding and design, but then when you look at what’s actually the impact of that, what are some of the case studies that you’ve done?

Jamie: I think one of our best case studies is for a recent project that we have completed for a company actually based in Dubai. They are a luxury yacht charter called Dubai Key. First of all it was great to get this project. We beat off competition from some massive international agencies. The fact that J & J that own it put their faith in a much smaller agency from Altrincham was a great plus for us. Since they launched the new site, it’s completely elevated their digital presence. It’s provided a more compelling user experience and in turn engagements have gone through the roof. They’ve come back to us saying they’ve they’ve never been so busy and this is before we even start the SEO campaign. So literally just through design and development their business has increased massively in terms of sales.

Lee: So if the guys are listening are you going to give them a shout out?

Jamie: A great shout out for anyone going on holiday to Dubai Key!

Lee: You said your agency is based in Altrincham. Just tell us a little bit more about the agency Jamie.

Jamie: The agency is Seven52. The company is split into three different sections. We’ve got the branding side of the business so that looks after everything from your logo, typographies, brand guidelines. We, then do the print collaterals so say you are a restaurant that would be your menus. If you were a letting agency, your brochures and then we go onto the website design side of things where we specialise in WordPress sites. We do e-commerce sites, we shopify as well. Finally the marketing side of the business looks after digital marketing, your social media and everything that side of it.

Lee: We are also joined by Kristina McGuirk from K Comms who owns an entrepreneur agency. We are going to be talking about personal branding, Good afternoon Kristina. You are going to describe what a good personal brand looks like, so let’s go for it.

Kristina: I talked to you before about Michelle Obama being a great example case study of what a great personal brand looks like. There’s a bit more theory behind it in my opinion. What I tend to do with my clients is split it into three components which is around being seen, being heard and connecting. So you’ve got being seen which is around always becoming a personal PR and marketing machine for yourself. That’s around visibility so making sure you are being seen in the right locations, you are commenting on the right activity that’s relevant to the perception that you want to put out there. Being heard is around consistency and messaging so one of the biggest things that people do wrong when it comes to personal branding is not being authentic and not being true to themselves. They try to be a bit of everything to everybody which tends to fail over a longer period of time. I think it’s really important to have consistency and storytelling as well. Lastly it’s around connecting so it’s around your emotions, feelings and how you are building long lasting relationships whether that be through the digital world or face to face.

Lee: That’s pretty insightful, I like that! If everybody was to do a review looking on the ‘gram looking on twitter, if you were talking to someone about the top tips, the do’s, what would they be and also after that we’ll do a couple of don’ts. Let’s focus on Instagram – the hardest one.

Kristina: I’ll go back to authenticity because it’s really important to be upfront and honest. I think on Instagram there are a lot of fake images out there, people not being themselves. At the moment with Instagram people are starting to see through it. When it comes to having a personal brand unless you want to give that perception of perhaps not necessarily being real out there, if you are trying to be seen in a professional environment you need to think, what do I want someone within that environment to think of me?

When it comes to having a personal brand unless you want to give that perception of perhaps not necessarily being real out there, if you are trying to be seen in a professional environment you need to think, what do I want someone within that environment to think of me?– Kristina McGuirk, KComms

Lee: Now Jamie has been telling us about websites. He owns a creative agency in Altrincham and he’s going to tell us a little bit more about what, does a good website look like?

Jamie: I think there are five key elements you’ve got to take on board when you are trying to produce a good website. The first one is pick two or three base colours at most for your design. If you do any more than that it’s going to get confusing and complicated. Secondly make sure your imagery and graphics work well together. There’s nothing worse than imagery and graphics that don’t complement each other well. Fourth use a font that you are really happy with. Ask any designer out there and they are going to tell you that font is one of the most important things when you are doing leaflets, website design, any sort of creative. Don’t be scared of white space. There are a lot of people that when they see a white space and think how can we fill it? Don’t worry about that. If you’ve got a really powerful image, a really powerful sentence, a really powerful heading, having some white space behind that can really make it stand out and make it even clearer to the audience looking at it. Finally make sure everything is connected. We spoke earlier about how important consistency is across branding. It’s exactly the same with your website. When you are on the home page the about page is going to link into that, the contact page, everything’s going to look like it’s done by the same person with the same vision.

Lee: The next question I wanted to ask Jamie in terms of websites because I know how powerful they are in terms of drive and interaction. What would you say are the top dos?

Jamie: Absolutely at number one would be make sure your site is mobile optimised. How much of web usage do you think currently takes place on phones desktops Lee?

Lee: Loads!

Jamie: You are right. Over two thirds of web usage is now mobile. If your site is not mobile optimised you are ruling out two thirds of your potential customers.

Lee: What do you mean by optimising?

Jamie: Traditionally websites were made for desktop computers. As you are fully aware you if look on your laptop screen it’s a completely different dimension to that of your phone. Your website needs to be made so that when it’s viewed on a phone is changes. So the elements move and everything appears as it should on a phone. You go on to some websites and they are still appearing as they are on desktops. As you can imagine the fonts are too small and all the images are the wrong size.

Lee: Is it right that google now if your website isn’t mobile optimised you can get penalised by google?

Jamie: One hundred per cent. Google is beyond intelligent. Google to some extent is like an everyday customer. It acts in the same ways so if you’ve got broken links on your website Google is going to penalise you. If you’ve got images that aren’t showing google is going to penalise you. If your site is not optimised google is going to penalise you. Google is a very strict character!

Lee: So that’s one do, mobile optimisation. Next do please.

Jamie: Secondly is make it easy to navigate. We spoke about this earlier, when building a website almost think about your grandma using it or a child using it. You wouldn’t believe the amount of edgy e-commerce stores that falls into this trap where they make something that is so creative, it looks fantastic, but no-one can use it. So in effective what is it – pointless!

Lee: Okay that’s a great one and the next do?

Jamie: Kind of leading on from my last two really is just keep it very simple. Communicate your key messages , communicate your key products, your key images so you’ve got to know what you want to communicate when you set out doing that and don’t go off track.

Lee: Some great tips there if you’ve got a website and you are wondering how to improve it then check out the podcast that is coming. Also check out Jamie at Seven52 Altrincham. What about the don’ts? Everybody has got their own website and business so give us some quick don’ts.

Communicate your key messages , communicate your key products, your key images so you’ve got to know what you want to communicate when you set out doing that and don’t go off track. – Jamie Barr

Jamie: The most important one is do not make the users wait for content. Why is that? So when they go on to that page make sure your load time is quick. Listeners aren’t going to like this but unfortunately the bad news is you’ve all got the attention span less than that of a goldfish when it comes to internet usage! So goldfish has eight seconds longer attention span than all of us when we go on a website. So we’ve got to make that first impression. The first eight seconds count!

Lee: That’s a metaphor for life first impressions count.

[Short break follows.]

Lee: Good afternoon Kristina, how you doing?

Kristina: Good thank you.

Lee: We are going to talk about what it’s like running your own business. I would like to say congratulations, I know you have set up KComms agency recently. How’s it going?

Kristina: It’s really good. It’s certainly very different. I come from quite a corporate background. I’ve always worked for a very big company so it’s definitely a transition to going out alone but I’m loving it.

Lee: Here at Unity Radio we’re always looking to give messages and inspiration to everybody listening. Obviously you’ve been working for someone else in a corporate environment and perhaps there are other people listening who are working for somebody it’s somebody listening, a younger person listentening in the car and thinking right I am going to be an entrepreneur rather than go to college. So when you were at the last stages of thinking, I’m going to do it, what would you say to someone who’s thinking of making that jump? What are the first steps they should take?

Kristina: I think the first step is having a bit of confidence in yourself. A lot of the time people lack a lot of self-belief. Actually that’s a huge part of the work I do with my clients as well which is just really believe in your idea, believe that you can achieve anything that you put your mind to . Also not being afraid of hard work is another one. I’m not suggesting everyone quit their very comfortable cushy job and set up a business. There’s obviously an element of research that needs to go into it and find out if you’ve got a market. Sometimes you’ve got to feel the fear and do it anyway! So from my experience just going for it and giving it a go – what have you got to lose?

Lee: What have been some of the challenges that you have had to overcome quickly?

Kristina: I think the biggest challenge for me has been independent working. I’ve always had a really big team around me who have supported me. I’ve had an amazing team around me and been really lucky. I suppose going it alone you find yourself trying to draw in a lot of favours from family and friends to help you out. My mum is also my finance director, my dad is my copywriter. It’s definitely a different world but if you’ve got a good support system around you then you can do it.

Lee: Do you utilise any networks for mentoring? I know a lot of people look for a mentor to guide them through as well?

Kristina: Yes definitely I’ve got a lot of very strong mentors, both male and female. I think what’s been really big for me and probably what’s really pushed me to do this is this year the Alison Rose review was released which is a piece of research that was done around some of the challenges facing women opening up businesses, or going into female entrepreneurship and so from my perspective with business there’s two angles to it. From one side I really want to focus on leading by example and showing that getting more female business leaders out there, that’s really important to me. Also actually seeing more female profiles from a personal branding perspective out there and really championing females in business and women in business. I’m really passionate about it across every level really.

Lee: On that question do you notice in terms of personal branding, any difference between the way men want to portray their personal brand the way women want to portray their personal brand?

Kristina: I can’t speak for everybody but from a couple of people I’ve spoken and people I work with, a lot of women traditionally have I suppose a default mode of underselling themselves . They find it quite difficult to really champion their achievements. They tend to think that being confident about their ability might be coming across as arrogant. Whereas traditionally, I can’t speak for everybody but certain males are a lot more confident in their own ability. So it’s just about really harnessing what you are good at and putting the right authentic story out there.

Lee: I understand you work with a lot of entrepreneurs and now you are becoming one yourself. I’m always interested in people’s views of what entrepreneurship is so a question for you. Complete this sentence: an entrepreneur is someone who…….

Kristina: I’m going to rephrase the sentence! I believe an entrepreneurship isn’t just a title. It’s a way of life and it’s also a way of being. So for every entrepreneur I know and now and in my own circumstances as well, it’s not something that, you wake up and wait until nine o’clock to start the day kind of world. You are living and breathing and sleeping it constantly and you are always looking for the next big thing.

Lee: Motivation is a big thing which drives a lot of entrepreneurs. In terms of keeping your motivation, obviously you’ve moved from working in a corporate environment to now working for yourself, which you have to maintain a certain level of motivation to keep you going. How do you stay motivated?

Kristina: I’m not going to lie there are some days that it’s quite difficult. The big thing for me is having a really strong support system around you. I’ve just got some amazing people in my life and anybody that I suppose has been negative, I’ve just removed from my circle. You just want to surround yourself with people that want to build you up and not pull you down. Definitely when I’m having a bad day, I just call somebody up or listen to a podcast or listen to somebody that inspires me and has a bit more belief in what I can do.

I believe an entrepreneurship isn’t just a title. It’s a way of life and it’s also a way of being. So for every entrepreneur I know and now and in my own circumstances as well, it’s not something that, you wake up and wait until nine o’clock to start the day kind of world. You are living and breathing and sleeping it constantly and you are always looking for the next big thing. – Kristina McGuirk

Lee: Jamie I’m going to ask some similar questions to yourself that I put to Kristina, in particular about running your own business. You employ, is it six or seven designers you’ve got?

Jamie: There is a team of six of us now.

Lee: From an employability perspective, for those listening who might want a job in design. Maybe you are at college, studying design or you may be in one job and looking for another or doing some training. What do you look for Jamie when you are taking on new designers please?

Jamie: It’s important to emphasise that every employer is going to look for something slightly different in employees. I’m going to split it down into three sections. The first thing that I look for when I go for a CV is people who are showing reliability, honesty and integrity. So you won’t believe this but the other day a CV comes through, the guy is twenty eight. He’s had twenty jobs. Now that’s showing to me someone that moves jobs every four, five, six months. Now we don’t want people like that within our company because we are going to spend three months to six months training someone up, and then they leave to go to another job. You want people that show commitment and spend a couple of years in a job and become part of your team, want to be part of your company and not just looking for the next pay check. Once they actually come for the interview, for me how a person acts is a massive part of how they are going to fit into our company. Its simple things like when they walk into a room do they shake your hand properly? Have they made an effort to find out about your company?

Lee: Let’s just pick that up. In your view what is the shake of the hand properly? Everybody has different ways in which they do that.

Jamie: Everybody has a slightly different way but somebody that has the confidence to walk into the room and when you are interviewing them, look you in the eye, and shake your hand.

Lee: Is it like a one second look in the eye!

Jamie: Well we’re not going to fall in love during the interview! It’s just someone that’s showing that they want to be there and are happy to be there.

Lee: Limp handshakes, they’re a no go! As soon as someone gives me a limp handshake, I’m like – see you later. Check out your handshake!

Jamie: Finally once we’ve satisfied those points we will get down to looking at their work portfolio. I always think you can teach someone new design tricks, new development techniques but we can’t teach someone to turn up at work on time. We can’t teach someone to want to be there.

Lee: Absolutely and let’s look at the questions I asked Kristina before. You’ve been in business quite a long period of time now. You’ve been an entrepreneur for a while. In your view an entrepreneur is someone who…..

Jamie: In my opinion an entrepreneur is someone who takes risks and responsibility for their actions.

Lee: What do they believe?

Jamie: They believe in themselves and they believe in the team around them. For me the main thing is they have got the resilience to get knocked down and get up time after time. Anyone that has ever run a business will tell you that the amount of times, no matter how hard you work, how hard you try, things are going to go wrong and you have got to be able to pick yourself up again, again and again.

Lee: It’s interesting, when you talk about resilience. When you hear stories of entrepreneurs who have been really successful, or whatever your definition of success is from a monetary and business perspective a lot of resilience comes from their backgrounds. They have obviously come from under privileged background and always had to fight to get through and that is where people build up a lot of resilience from the past.

Jamie: Hundred percent agree with you. Across the board if we all look at our past we learn more from the mistakes we make than from our successes. I look back on the business side and the money I’ve wasted and mistakes I’ve made. You look back and you think how could anyone be that stupid. But until you live those experiences you are not in a position to know that.

Lee: Absolutely. In terms of motivation, everybody is motivated differently. What about you Jamie? How do you stay motivated?

Jamie: I think my motivation is, from a young age mother always taught me that it’s important if you are going to do something, to do it properly. For me each day it’s trying to be better than the day before. Just getting better at everything that you do. When you lose that drive to keep improving that’s when it’s probably time to retire to a nice beach somewhere!

Lee: Right: Thank you very much Jamie. Thank you Kristina.

Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno

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  • Lee Dinsdale

    Lee has over 15 years of experience in professional services as an investment manager and private banker and, since 2014, as a social value entrepreneur. Lee is now an Accredited Coach, Master Practitioner in NLP and trained Hypnotherapist, and was recently awarded a distinction for his MBA.