Introduction and Interview by David Wagstaff
This interview with Madeleine is part of a series of articles from entrepreneurs, compiled with the goal of providing other business owners and soon-to-be business owners with a realistic view of what it takes to run a business and some of the challenges commonly faced.
I met Madeleine as she asked to join the Entrepreneur’s Network, just at the time we were beginning this series on the entrepreneurial journey. As I mentioned in previous articles, I read profile introductions and sometimes much of their bio as they join our group. When I read Madeleine’s, what caught my attention was that she said she was going to write a captivating sales script, but then decided people would not read it. It was an interesting point and had me wonder if I’m one of the few who actually reads these things. Might be good to get some dialogue on this article. Do you read the introduction people write or am I the only one?
I went on to write that she does creative writing as part of her role in her agency. That led me to think about how she might be able to contribute to these articles. Long story short, we explored that, but ultimately decided it wasn’t the right fit for right now – who knows in the future. I asked if she would like to write her story, and she did.
In her story, there is much I can relate to and I suspect many other entrepreneurs will as well.
Yes, I too had a lemonade stand and loved to sell, earn income and meet people. In junior high school, I had a thriving candy business, selling over 100 pieces on an average day.
I like the honesty of the challenge as well. For many new businesses, learning how to attract new clients is a major challenge. Actually, I feel it is one of the most important and critical challenges, especially in the early stages of a business, and am surprised more owners have not listed that as their primary challenge.
Businesses can obviously have other challenges, such as bad financial decisions, or not understanding cash flow, poor leadership skills, and so much more. If you don’t have customers, you can’t have a business. If you have customers, but struggle with financial, accounting, operations or other challenges, I know these are challenges we can solve through our small business financial consulting services. In marketing, I have seen customers quickly spend too much money and simply not get any results.
I like Madeleine’s strategies to overcome her challenges as well.
From Lemonade to Digital Agency: How I Learned to Target the Right Customers
Interview by David Wagstaff
1) What led you to become an entrepreneur?
I’ve always been “entrepreneurial,” I just didn’t know that was the word for it.
Growing up, I had all kinds of schemes to earn money, from decorating people’s pencils in class to selling lemonade in the neighborhood. I even specifically set up my stand next to the houses under construction because I knew the workers were hot and would want refreshing lemonade. Little did I know, that was the first time that I was marketing my products to a target customer.
In college, I saw my first self-payday when I rented out my apartment on Airbnb. I quickly learned that there was some serious money to be made by sleeping on my friend’s couch and having a family stay at my place on a football weekend. I was making more out my apartment two days a week than I saw from any job I’d ever had. That’s when I realized that there was something to this “self-employed” thing. I started reading as many business and personal development books as possible and began learning as much as I could about starting my own company.
2) A brief description of your business and what are your aspirations for it?
Almost a year ago, I started Scalar Agency. It is a digital marketing company that specializes in content creation, including both graphic design and writing. I work with growing startups to help them reach millennial audiences. My goal with Scalar Agency is to help business owners leverage technology to reach new heights.
3) What were some of your biggest challenges along the way?
When I first started out, I was not successful. There were a couple of things that I did wrong – I didn’t take the right approach to client acquisition and I didn’t work with a specific niche market.
My employment background was in sales at a huge, established marketing agency. At the beginning of Scalar Agency, I started trying to acquire clients with the same sales approach that they took. I sent out thousands of emails per month and hammered the phones. Unfortunately, no results were showing, and it was starting to look bleak.
4) Have you overcome the challenges? If so how?
Showing my value and that the services that I provide are needed. Being a woman within the business world is also a challenge. As a creative selling my services to businesses, I noticed that numbers often trump experience and communication with potential clients.
5) Have you overcome the challenges? If so how?
It wasn’t until I decided to change my methods from sales-oriented to marketing-oriented that I began to see improvement.
It should have been obvious to me from the start. I mean, I have a marketing company, so I should have known that marketing was the answer. But I was too busy focusing on what was working for another company, that I wasn’t even practicing what I preached to my own prospects. There is no alternative to actually building brand awareness and credibility. Only when I started posting and engaging regularly on all social media platforms and shifted my focus to sharing knowledge, not funneling prospects into a sale, did things start to change.
Another switch that I needed to make was to pick one niche customer segment to work with and learn everything that I could about their needs. I decided that startups were the best companies for me to work with, since they are typically very motivated to achieve massive company growth and understand the importance of digital marketing.
Some things that I have done that work very well are releasing different types of content for my business and personal brand. I’ve learned firsthand that it’s not just about posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram. By including a variety of content, I’ve been able to reach new audiences on each platform. This has allowed me to grow my brand awareness and, most importantly, show that I actually know what I’m talking about. Credibility is key because digital marketing is such a saturated industry, so this is invaluable. Like I mentioned, when I decided that I needed to find a niche customer segment, I knew that I had to learn everything about them that I could. How did I do this? By creating The Smart Startup Podcast to interview startup founders.
This has allowed me to speak directly with successful founders and learn firsthand about their needs and what drives them in business. The insights that I have gained from these conversations has really helped me reach new levels with Scalar Agency. By understanding my customer on a deeper level, I’m able to help them reach their goals so much easier. Incorporating audio content via podcasting is an extremely simple thing to do as well. I created my podcast using Achor.fm, which is an awesome way to instantly record and release podcasts to all major platforms at once (like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts). Some of my clients have started guest featuring on other podcasts and creating their own, and it has helped them grow their brand awareness tremendously as well.
Medium is huge right now. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a new platform for writers to share their articles and read others. It creates a great place to connect with other writers and reach an entirely new audience. I write articles on Medium and LinkedIn and try to write guest posts whenever possible. This has proven to be an amazing way to build rapport quickly with my network. For B2B, articles are one of the best means possible for sharing knowledge with your audience.
6) What have you learned and what would you like to share with other entrepreneurs?
If I could pass on any information, it would be this: learn exactly who your customer is and learn everything about them. Then, give them the information that they’re looking for.
You need to know who your customer is. Having a niche contact that you’re looking to work with is the best way to curate content that shares value. Know what they need, what they like, what platforms they use, and how they like to consume their content. Doing this lets you incorporate market research into your strategy, so you’re actually building credibility with the right people, on the platform that they’re going to see it.