Erika Clegg: Three tips to turbo-charge your company

PUBLISHED: 10:44 27 January 2012

Erika Clegg of Spring

Erika Clegg of Spring


Want to grow your company, whatever the economic climate? A brand programme is a great place to start, even if you don’t want to change your logo. It forces companies to simplify their vision, shake out the business plan and clear a path to growth.

Erika Clegg

Erika launched the Southwold-based creative marketing agency Spring in 2006, and her position as business development and creative head of the agency saw it grow from nothing to a UK top 100 agency in just five years. She is a stickler for quality, results and creative open-mindedness and advocates that all Springers aspire to ‘be extraordinary’.

Erika also spearheads the agency’s CSR activities, writes for industry and regional publications, and is a board director of the New Anglia LEP. She lives in the countryside just outside Southwold with her children and husband, Spring’s Simon Hazelgrove.

I’d like to share some insider secrets about three early steps in one of our branding programmes. Take one of these steps, you’ll see a difference – all three are brand dynamite.

First, research.

The ultimate planner-to-creative alchemy was “Go to Work on an Egg”. This 1950s slogan, attributed to the author Fay Weldon, was reportedly found in a research document that accompanied the brief, whose proposition was: “Having an egg for breakfast is the best start to the working day.”

Research can be expensive, but even basic research reveals market need and underpins creative thinking.

Always be open-minded, and prepared to tear up the rulebook if your findings demand it.

We’re launching a client’s new product using a creative approch that grew from chats with the shopkeepers whose buy-in is essential to success.

From many conversations, a simple, clear strategy emerged, and from that, a great concept.

So get chatting – you’ll be amazed what you discover.

Second, positioning.

Chances are that what you do is not unique. But unless you can reduce competition, it’s hard to make a sale.

Good service and passion aren’t enough – you need demonstrable expertise.

Blair Enns, an authority on positioning, once shared with me a deceptively simple technique to make your company stand out, emphasising that stand out is the only fail-safe route to sales.

It’s a tough process to get right, but give it time.

The results are astonishing and applicable across all sectors.

Firstly, describe the one thing your company can do in its sleep.

We make/create/deliver [activity] for [market].

Now, take the activities and markets and stretch them.

This will show opportunities to develop your business credibly.

For example, “We make cakes for weddings.”

That could expand to: “We make sweet and savoury pastries for weddings and parties.”

Now, consider the expanded version – do you - could you - undertake what you’ve described?

Do you communicate this? Check Google. Are people looking for this?

Do you know 10 things about it that no-one else does? If the answer to any of these is no, go back to your ‘no brainer’ and review.

You can now articulate your claim in an elevator pitch. First, state your position and activity: “East Anglia’s leading baker of sweet and savoury pastries for weddings and parties.”

Then validate: “We work with [client type] event organisers and private clients to [activity] create beautiful cakes and [benefit] delight their guests.”

In a branding programme, this positioning statement can form the basis of your brief, underpinning all creative and channel proposals. But take it out of a branding context, and you have given your business a clear platform for growth and a quick sales intro.

If you find networking tricky, why not deconstruct the statement as an icebreaker? So if you’d made a Mike The Knight cake for a kids’ party you might say: “We make edible fire breathing dragons!”

Finally, embedded creativity.

Companies need a creative thinker at senior level.

If you’re global, you have the optimism and determination of the Far East and India to equal. If your market is local, you will still find competition snapping at your heels.

Creativity matched with financial good sense are key ingredients of success in a tough market. Creativity allows you to keep an open mind for opportunities, new markets, savings and actions that mark you out as special and different.

Some firms now have a ‘Director of Ideas’ but you could also crowdsource – why not install an ideas box in reception so everyone has a chance to pitch in their brainwaves?

Have the guts to be bold. Strategy is a non-negotiable but I strongly encourage creative barrier-smashing too. Remember Cadbury’s Gorilla? Not for you? Didn’t make sense? How would you feel if I told you that Cadbury’s revenues rose by 5 per cent that year?

Sometimes it takes a revolution to make a real impact, and there’s never been a better time than now.

Good luck with these exercises. They will be hard – and may reveal deeper organisational questions – but if you want to grow whatever the market they’re a great place to start. Let me know how it goes!

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