Five years ago we opened the doors on Nuera Marketing for the first time. For the most part, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s already been five years, but this last year was, well, a little longer than most. It quickly became about survival and then finding a way to thrive through the turbulence. Today, we’re proud to say we did just that.
I’ve written a blog on each of our previous anniversaries and most of them focused on us–where we’ve been, what we’re doing, where we’re going, etc. They were all well received so I was naturally prepared to go that route again. I drafted an outline for our 5th anniversary blog and was ready to start writing but then I stopped because I realized something super important! I realized that you don’t really care about that and–a big marketing reminder for myself here–it wouldn’t really bring you a lot of value. That’s not because you’re some horrible person and don’t care about anyone but yourself but let’s be honest, you very appropriately care far more about your own company than you do about ours. With that in mind, I decided instead to share five business lessons learned through our first five years in business that will hopefully serve you in your own business journey.
Lesson One: Know Who Your Customers Are
I’ve written a lot over the past five years about how critical it is to know your audience when building a brand but thinking more broadly, it’s equally important to intimately understand who your customers are from a business perspective. It’s from that view that I’d recommend you focus most of your early energy on figuring out who your ideal customers are and how you can better serve and deliver for them. Through our first year in business, we learned this lesson the hard way by encountering a few clients who were really bad fits for us. Those experiences hurt our ability to establish workflows, learn how to work together as a team, and ultimately deliver for those clients. Thankfully, we also connected with quite a few ideal clients during that time who are still working with us today, but we’d have saved ourselves a lot of time, energy, and growing pains had we started with this mindset. Being mindful of this early on will not only inform your marketing, sales, and customer service efforts but also help shape your company culture in a healthy direction for years to come.
Lesson Two: Know What You’re Really Selling
Fitting that our second lesson here would align with something I shared on our agency’s second anniversary, but as you market and sell to your ideal customers, you should know what you’re really selling. Theodore Levitt summarized this nicely when he said, “Kodak sells film, but they don’t advertise film, they advertise memories.” While Nuera might sell creative, website design, digital marketing, and social media management services, what our clients are really hoping to buy from us is growth. That’s their desired future state, that’s what we’re selling, and that’s ultimately how we measure the success of our work. Think about your products and then think about why your customer might buy them. What is their desired future state? That’s what you’re really selling.
Lesson Three: Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing
No matter the size of the company, every team has experienced the highs and lows of various growth stages, and when things feel low at Nuera, our team has learned to get back to “the main thing.” At your brand’s core lives the main reason you’re doing what you do, and that reason serves as a compass to guide your decisions, define your unique value, and shape your approach–it’s for all intents and purposes the main thing. That’s what we’re talking about here, and on the heels of a complicated growth year at Nuera, we revisited our main thing on our third anniversary in a big way–by rebranding our agency.
Having spent the bulk of my career on the client-side of the marketing industry, I’d experienced a lot of the same pain points working with different agencies, so when we founded Nuera, we talked a lot about that and decided we’d build it with a client-side perspective. At a glance that meant our perspective in everything we do as a business–from pricing, process, and project management to sales, service, and solutions–should always come from putting ourselves in our clients’ shoes. It also meant alleviating many of the pain points that come from working with traditional agencies and zeroing in on that perfect balance point where working for the client’s audience meets working with the client. We’d started losing sight of that after getting bogged down in lots of new client business in our third year but by revisiting and emphasizing it as a part of our core brand, we kept the main thing the main thing and are still doing so today. Next time you find yourself bogged down in your own business, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing then recenter on it so that you can be sure it’s the main thing driving how you work.
Lesson Four: Take Care of Your Team
Workplace stress is consistently cited amongst the top stressors in the majority of people’s lives. Our work is of course almost always going to include stress but it doesn’t have to run amok. As someone tackling challenges in everything from sales and marketing to operations, finance, and customer service, it can become easy to take for granted the one thing that’ll help make all those other things a little less challenging: your team. Whether it’s establishing clear, agreed-upon expectations through clear communication or remaining committed to creating a mindful culture of respect and gratitude, we have the power to remove unnecessary stressors and make a difference in the lives of all team members. That starts with leadership but everyone can do it. This isn’t just about culture and results, it’s about being human and even in the worst of situations, contributing to a better day, week, month, year and future for everyone who’s invested in building alongside you. I needed this reminder in a big way last summer and we all need it from time to time, but as they say: take care of your team and your team will take care of you.
Lesson Five: Be Responsive To Change
Speaking of lessons learned last year I’ll start by quoting Charles Darwin. “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” I wrote about strengthening your brand through crisis last June and without ever actually using the phrase, being responsive to change was behind every point I shared. As I think back on this past year–and invariably wonder how the months and year ahead can still try and surprise us–I take great comfort in knowing that when the shit hit the proverbial fan, our team was agile and responsive to change. Never have we really seen the unique values of our work shine through as brightly as we did over the past year and while it was certainly a great challenge, it also reinforced who we are, why we are, and how we work. When the pandemic came, many of us felt powerless for the first time in a long time. We had no way of knowing how long we’d need to survive to outlast it or whether we’d be able to just power through it. Remember that when your next challenge comes around–it might not be one you can mow down or outsmart, it might require you to take a step back, recognize change, and evolve with it.
So to summarize: know who your customers are, know what you’re really selling, keep the main thing the main thing, take care of your team, and be responsive to change. Be mindful of these five business lessons in your own professional journey and I promise you good things will follow. Now as I get back to it here (the next five years won’t happen on their own!), I want to acknowledge that we wouldn’t be here without so many people so I want to close by expressing our most sincere thanks to everyone who’s supported us–whether you’ve hired us, worked with us, sent us a referral, or helped further our brand on social media, thank you!
About the Author
As president and co-founder, Joe is responsible for the development, execution, and success of client and company initiatives. With >20 years of brand and leadership experience, nothing puts a smile on his face like helping clients outperform their goals.
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