20 May Essex Marketing Agency – Meet our MD!
Meet our MD: Sarah Kauter talks about building her Essex Marketing Agency.
What do your day-to-day tasks involve as Managing Director of VerriBerri?
I’m often found working on the company accounts or answering queries from clients and suppliers. I have to keep on top of all the important, but time consuming, admin for the business, like ensuring policies are up to date. I spend a large chunk of my time keeping our website updated, which in itself is a full-time job, but my core marketing knowledge started with SEO training and content, so I like to set some time aside each week to stay familiar with the latest algorithm changes and trends.
The rest of my day is spent on business development, whether that’s working on LinkedIn and making valuable connections, taking calls with prospective clients or creating project proposals, there is always plenty to do!
Why did you start your business? Who/what inspired you?
I was unfortunately made redundant during the 2009 recession; so my hand was forced slightly into considering my career options. I was looking for a role I was passionate about; but that was flexible enough for me to be available as a parent as this was very shortly before the birth of my first child, Hannah. I have three now, so it was a great move both personally and professionally.
My father already ran his own business so he helped me take the leap into starting my own! He was apprehensive at first, social media and digital marketing were relatively new terms that most people didn’t understand, let alone my dad! He kept asking, ‘how are you going to sell fresh air?’ but once I explained my concept, I soon won him over. I wanted to provide businesses, large and small, with accessible marketing services under one roof. At the time, few agencies in the county could offer that and as a result, VerriBerri was born!
What are you most proud of as a business owner?
I am proud of building a work environment that supports people. Throughout my twenties, I had worked in places that would give me serious ‘Sunday blues’ knowing I had to go to work the next morning. I was determined not to have that feeling attached to my business for any of my employees. You are only as strong as your team and when they are happy, their contributions to the company will reflect that. It’s why we introduced 4-day work weeks, bi-monthly employee rewards and quarterly team building activities, to keep morale high and the business flourishing.
What top tips would you give a new business owner starting up?
Market your business from the outset – so many people assume marketing has to be an expensive outlay. Part of the reason I set up our Essex marketing agency, is so that packages were accessible to even the smallest start-ups. There is no point spending all this time setting up your business, if you don’t shout about what you’re doing and build a name for yourself!
Learn to switch off – you need to prepare for the fact that if you’re running your own business, for the first two to three years, your life feels like it is revolving around this company! Be sure to get plenty of sleep so that you don’t burn out.
Manage your expectations – Even if you have masses of experience in a particular industry from years of working for other companies, going it alone is a totally different kettle of fish. Building your business, reputation and brand from scratch takes time and effort; try not to be too hard on yourself if you’re not turning a profit in the first year or two. I think this is one of the biggest things to highlight to people.
Get a good accountant – don’t muddle through in an attempt to save money. You always cause yourself more problems in the long run!
How has marketing & PR evolved since you began VerriBerri?
Massively. In the early days, even those that claimed they knew how to get results from social media, likely didn’t! It was so new and we were all learning.
Facebook was huge back then and Twitter, and now Instagram has taken over. Email marketing has certainly changed for the better, in my opinion. The introduction of the GDPR regulations, although daunting to navigate for many businesses, actually regulated company activity and made the marketing process fairer and more targeted.
People certainly invest more into their websites nowadays than they ever did, and rightly so!
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have been less afraid of self-promotion and not under-valued the services we were providing.
I think every business might under-price for fear of going without work when they are starting out, say ‘yes’ to projects that aren’t quite the right fit or make a loss by spending too long on small-budget projects because you’re passionate. It’s a lesson you learn, and as a result, our strategies, scopes and client planning are all water-tight now.
I also started a five-year business plan for our Essex marketing agency a number of years ago to keep us on track. It’s a fantastic document and business development tool that I wish I’d started earlier. It is something I would advise all new businesses to take the time to do and keep revisiting it as your business evolves!
You’ve been running a successful business for over a decade, how do you see VerriBerri developing in the next 10 years?
Our plan is to more than double in size. There are also plans for various office locations as we expand, so we can service other areas of the county more effectively. I am conscious of not losing the personal sense of community that makes VerriBerri the company it is. While the projects may grow more grand and the offices larger, I believe your brand values should always remain the same!