WiseChat profiles members of the WiseStamp community, featuring their business and expert advice for other small business owners and self-employed workers. Want to be featured in our next edition? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us about your business and expertise.
This year, our community welcomed 350,000 new users bringing it to a total of 8,000,000 users across 139 countries (see our Year End report). Our users come from a variety of industries from graphic design to real estate, education to photography and everything in between. We are always interested in what you—our community members—are doing and how your expertise and experience can help your fellow WiseStamp users.
This month, we spoke with Garett Southerton, owner of the New York City-based branding firm Garett Creative and an expert WiseStamp user, for his expert advice on how small businesses and entrepreneurs can build their branding and assets.
Please tell us a bit about your creative agency and why you decided to do focus on small businesses and startups?
Garett Creative is a creative agency that specializes in growing the brands of entrepreneurs and emerging small businesses through storytelling via unique visuals (logos, marketing material), strategies and website platforms. Up until this year, when I started Garett Creative, I was working with independent musicians and music festivals designing visuals, websites and marketing campaigns.
Although my work has been featured throughout the world, I wanted to make a difference and help others create viable brands out of their dream businesses, while providing for their families. I knew that with my years of branding and development experience, forming Garett Creative was the right decision and focusing on small businesses and entrepreneurs was the right market.
What do you most enjoy about working with small business owners and entrepreneurs? What are the advantages they have when it comes to creating their branding (or in general)?
I love the hustle and passion small business owners have. It fires me up and helps me to perform at my highest caliber. My clients make me feel like I’m part of their businesses, and I am 100 percent dedicated to their success. I have that same hustle and passion for my own business; when they thrive, I thrive.
The biggest advantage that small businesses have is that they relate to their target customer. Most small business owners set out to solve a specific problem that they themselves have experienced. They know who their ideal customer is because they were once their ideal customer. It’s crucial to understand your customer. You should know what they’re looking for, how they’d like to be spoken to, their budget, their lifestyle, etc. Use that to your advantage.
As a small business owner yourself, how do you market yourself? Which marketing activities have brought you the best results?
I give away tons of my knowledge for free via my email list, blog articles, Facebook groups and more. While free knowledge sharing is a great marketing strategy, it’s not my main motivation. I genuinely want others to succeed. I’m a firm believer of whatever you put into this world is what you get back in return.
People notice the value I deliver with my knowledge and want to work with me because I’ve already given them helpful advice and proven that I care about their success. That’s also how referrals have become the way my business thrives. The work and dedication I provide for my clients continuously bring in new projects.
We can see from your WiseStamp signature that you are a very passionate user! How did you discover WiseStamp and what has been your experience using it?
I discovered WiseStamp when one of my clients emailed me and I saw their new email signature. I thought it was super smooth so I immediately investigated. I signed up for WiseStamp when I found out that I could have my signature inserted into my emails automatically with dynamic properties such as my latest blog or tweet.
I’ve been thrilled with WiseStamp in my first year as a customer. The email signatures look amazing and improve my branding in emails. The results have been nothing but positive and clients often ask me where they can get their own.
As a design expert, what drew you to WiseStamp’s look?
The quality of templates WiseStamp uses is second to none. They’re attractive and look pixel perfect in every email I send—this is a huge deal! Often times you see businesses send you an email reply with a fuzzy, obnoxious image as their signature. That’s a big branding blunder (say that three times really fast!) because a low-quality image weakens the way potential customers perceive you (low-quality image, low-quality service).
When it comes to marketing, what is your advice to other small business owners looking to grow?
Authenticity is everything. Don’t do something because every other business does it. Everyone already knows that big businesses are doing and saying whatever they can just to get you to buy. Show your audience who you are and what your business stands for.
Here’s a quick example: A lot of agencies and consultants have implemented instant “welcome mats” that take over the whole screen when you load their website. The purpose of these “welcome mats” is to increase conversions like “join our newsletter” or “like us on Facebook.” They work but for the wrong reason: By covering your entire website with this call-to-action, you’re basically forcing your user to take the action in order to access your website. I do not recommend these for my clients, despite their frequent use, because I believe in quality over quantity. What good is a forced relationship versus an organically nurtured one? Plus, they’ll annoy your customer. No one wants to give you their email address right away anyway!
And what about branding? What’s your advice?
There are two major components for branding small businesses: Invest properly and be consistent. Don’t pour thousands of dollars into your branding until you have a proven concept. There’s no need to waste money on something that customers do not want. Make a small focus group, test your product, get feedback and revise for release.
Once you’re ready to scale it to the public, that’s when you should start investing in your branding. Customers don’t just buy products, they invest in brands and their offerings. If your business doesn’t look like it has its ducks in row, you’re going to find it much harder to convince customers to buy from you.
If you’re on a small budget, don’t spring for cookie cutter visuals, logos, website, marketing teams, etc. Instead, save until you can afford better quality. I promise it’ll go so much further when things look and work properly. Would you rather spend $50 and make $100 or spend $3k and make $10k? Once you start marketing your brand, you have to stick with it. Results don’t happen overnight, you need to keep hustling with the same passion on day 1,228 as you did on day one.