Turning a crisis into an opportunity; key client highlights of 2023

There’s no denying that 2023 has been a challenging year on many levels for businesses. Thriving in an unpredictable economy can be challenging, but with the right strategies, businesses can not only navigate the challenges more effectively but also thrive.

At Sharp Minds we tend to think outside the box and look for ways to turn a crisis into an opportunity. This has been the case for many of our clients for whom we introduced tactical PR and marketing strategies to boost brand awareness, protect brand reputation and help continue to drive revenue, despite volatile markets. As we all begin the countdown to Christmas, Sharp Minds reflects on 2023 and some of the key highlights for our clients.

55Plus: Rebranding and strategic marketing and PR to meet national ambitions

Background: This year the equity release market contracted hugely, 450 specialist brokers lost their jobs, and the big brokers abandoned business plans, halted marketing, and shrank operations. Despite one of the most challenging years for the equity release market, later life lending specialists 55Plus were one of only a handful of companies that not only survived the past 12 months but grew in size and turnover. This year Sharp Minds implemented a mature marketing and communications strategy at the beginning of the year to help the company navigate the difficult market and turn a market in crisis into an opportunity for 55Plus.

Rebrand: Our starting point was a complete rebrand for 55Plus with a new website to build a more mature and dynamic brand that reflects its national ambitions, captures more clients and appeals to introducers.

Tactical PR: The relaunch was followed by a carefully targeted and tactical PR campaign in the national press, with 55Plus becoming the leading authority on later life lending, helping to educate the general public about the benefits of equity release. This included multiple stories in The Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Express and a front-page story in the Sunday Telegraph. The PR success was picked up and praised by the Equity Release Council.

Employer brand: Building a more modern brand  and boosting brand awareness helped to attract an additional 16 advisors, enabling the company to meet its goal of going national.

Strategic digital marketing to clients and introducers: Sharp Minds built a strategy for 55Plus to have a more targeted and collaborative way of working with its clients/introducers and provide initiatives for feedback. This included a fortnightly newsletter sent out to introducers, helping to improve engagement and feedback. Two blogs a month to help educate its introducers and clients on equity release and reactive/proactive social media strategy to improve customer engagement and service. 55Plus has also begun analytic deep dives to make sure content is personalised and being shared with introducers to improve and enhance 55Plus’s referral network.

Award success: 55Plus was a finalist in the Mortgage Introducer Awards last month and is also in the running to win the Equity Release Awards in January.

Dootrix: Helping a start-up transition to a mid-size business

Background: Dootrix, a national tech cloud disrupter, had a relatively unknown brand despite having built successful long-term partnerships with household names, such as Confused.com, Gridserve and Heathrow. The company wanted to progress its reputation from a start-up to an established, medium-sized business and brought in Sharp Minds to help towards the end of 2022.

Strategic messaging and communications review: Sharp Minds immediately conducted a thorough communications and messaging review, helping to align messaging with desired new direction of travel. We then implemented and aligned marketing and PR strategies to showcase Dootrix’s key points of difference and help establish the brand as a disruptor, outpacing global tech giants. Sharp Minds helped develop the key messaging for the business as specialists tackling the complex challenges of innovative organisations.

Tactical PR: A tactical PR campaign around Dootrix’s work with GRIDSERVE, whereby the firm built a powerful data platform that allows it to process information and take payment in seconds for EV charging sessions across the country, generated more than 16 articles across the UK. This catapulted the brand into the media for the first time, receiving praise and recognition within the cloud industry. Dootrix also implemented a new board and COO after a 74% surge in revenue, which was featured in 6 articles in the tech press.

Award success: Building brand awareness and the right messaging has helped support Dootrix on its upward trajectory and the firm was a finalist for the Tech Business of the Year Award in the prestigious Lloyds Bank British Business Excellence Awards 2023, a testament to its resilience, innovative spirit, and entrepreneurial acumen.

Loch Associates Group: Increasing brand credibility through PR

Background: Whilst having received accolades and recognition within the legal sector, law and HR business Loch Associates Group was an unknown brand nationally, despite having a strong team of dedicated solicitors. The company wanted to progress its reputation from being a law firm, to a multi-service Law and HR medium-sized business. Earlier this year Sharp Minds was appointed immediately following a corporate rebranding.

Media strategy: An internal and external audit was carried out as part of the discovery process, as well as a thorough SWOT and competitor analysis. This was followed by the design and implementation of a clear media strategy to promote the new branding and the corporate division of the law practice.

Media roadshow: A tier-one and trade media roadshow was conducted to highlight new and updated messaging that reflected Loch Associate Group’s new direction, building active relationships with leading business, national and regional press in Kent, Sussex and London.

Expert messaging matrix: A leadership team was formed as go-to commentators on relevant topics, to share media responsibility away from the founder.

Media coverage: Over 70 media articles were generated in the past 12 months, including tier-one publications, such as The Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph.

Waterlodge: Strategy support and marketing to grow partnerships

Background: An innovate start-up founded five years ago, Waterlodge have grown their portfolio over the past two years to broaden their reach in the holiday park and marina industry sector and to individual customers interested in floating accommodation on inland waterways or coastal marinas. The brand is leading the way with its luxury floating lodges, and throughout 2023 gained new Partnerships with the likes of the largest Marina owner, AquaVista, as well as Liverpool Marina and Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners. With further partnerships in the pipeline and a busy exhibition and trade fair calendar, Waterlodge continue to use Sharp Minds as an extension to their business for help with their marketing strategy and tactical marketing and PR campaigns.

Marketing strategy: This year, Waterlodge were facing an increasingly difficult market, due to the general UK economic situation. They have continued to adapt their portfolio to appeal to the UK staycation market, offering innovative options that need communicating to a niche industry and consumer market. Sharp Minds reviewed past activity and produced a strategic marketing and PR plan that can be implemented into next year to leverage Waterlodge as an industry leader and specialist in their field.  

Exhibition support: Ongoing advertising review and advice given, plus exhibition support material for product or stand display and marketing literature, adapted and/or developed for new ranges at several large shows in the UK and Ireland, such as Ireland on the Water, Boatlife 2023 and the Southampton International Boat Show 2023. Advising on lead generation and post-show marketing.

Tactical marketing: An ongoing monthly tactical marketing communication plan is created and executed by Sharp Minds through e-newsletters, social media and supported by a robust SEO strategy. Ad-hoc communications were created to promote new partnerships, the two AirBNBs at Yarmouth Harbour and for advertising opportunities.  

Award success: Waterlodge was a finalist at the New Forest Brilliance in Business Awards 2023, for the Royal Lymington Yacht Club Award for Marine and Maritime, selected for their commitment to excellence, innovation and sustainability within the New Forest economy.

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds Communications offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing, and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Greater London.

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Tips for creating a website that will deliver on your business objectives

When the time comes for you to create or refresh your business’ website, it can be quite the task. With so many elements to decide on, sometimes the original objectives can be lost – this can result in a website which doesn’t serve your business’ needs which can be a costly mistake to make.

So, here we have some tips on how to identify your main objectives, and then optimise your website for those chosen business objectives. By remaining focussed on the overarching aim of your new website, you ensure the investment of time and money is worth it – read on to find out more.

Objectives are key

Objectives can help keep a business focussed, and remaining focussed when building a business is key, as there are many plates to spin. Determining your wider business objectives prior to building a website is a great way to ensure the new website serves your business in the best way possible, and this synergy is what will propel your business to the next level.

So how do you define your objectives? A great way to start is by making sure they are SMART:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Realistic

Timely

By following the above rules, your objectives will be hugely beneficial when applied to both your planning and practice within your business. From these newly set objectives, you can start to consider how your website might contribute to them. For instance, if you want to increase your online sales by 40%, you may want to look into how the User Experience (UX) could influence a higher rate of sales, either through upselling or specific tools at different stages of the customer journey.  

What purpose does a website serve?

Websites can have many different functions, depending on the type of business you have. For example, for many, their website is the main way customers can purchase products, but for a service led company their website is a digital shopfront, a place for perspective clients to peruse their services and gather information. However, there are a few main functions which a website should fulfil – regardless of the industry you are in.

  • Visibility: A website is an online presence for your business. A place for people to find you, from wherever they may be in the world.
  • Availability: By creating a website you make your product or service available to people. A channel by which they can buy your product or access your services is vital to any business. Becoming accessible to a wider audience is key to the growth of your business.
  • Engagement: A successful website is a place where your customers/ clients and perspective customers/ clients can get to know your business, and understand your ethos, values and brand better.
  • Build relationships: With the right website design you can both market your services or products to your audience as well as interacting with them. A great website can help build other channels for marketing such as newsletters and blogs, allowing you to build on your brand even further and offer your audience more than just a blurb on your business.
  • Money maker: Ultimately, a website is another marketing tool. Likely your most important one. By ticking all of the above boxes and optimising SEO and the User Experience, your website will generate incoming sales and turn visitors into customers.

Designing your perfect website

With clear objectives for your business as a whole, now is the time to discuss with your website designer how the new website can support those objectives. Here are some examples of how your website can support your objectives:

  • Increase inbound sales = Improve leads: include content designed to boost your standing in search engines. In addition to this, a regularly updated blog page with SEO optimised content will further boost your chances of appearing high in Google searches.
  • Increase average value of sale = optimise UX for upselling: discuss with your designer how you can lead customers to purchasing more of your product or service through savvy UX and a smooth customer journey.
  • Increase database = ensure there is a data capture form: if you want to expand your reach through weekly or monthly newsletter or targeted direct mail a data capture tool is a great element to incorporate. But remember, you want to be offering value to your website visitors to encourage them to sign up, so content is key!

A thoughtfully designed website can take a lot of time and expertise, but the investment is worth your while. A website which is fully optimised to help you reach your wider business objectives is a priceless tool and one that will guarantee a ROI. If you start to lose sight of your initial objectives and find yourself cutting corners your business is bound to suffer in the long run. So, if you want strategic advice on how to build the best website for your business, a team that can help you stay on track, get in touch with Sharp Minds Communications.  

Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing, and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey, and Greater London.

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