A lifelong small business addict, Lauren Hamilton spent the first 10 years of her career working in advertising, but always longed to be her own boss. As a Media Communications graduate – and the child of self-employed parents – she has long known that action, inspiration and drive are what small businesses need to compete, not pie charts and statistics.
After retraining in digital branding a decade ago, Lauren freelanced for a broad range of clients before opening the doors of Digital Narrative, a consultancy which helps small businesses compete online with intelligent, insightful strategies and communications.
Today, Digital Narrative team pride themselves on being able to operate on budgets of any size to deliver a digital presence which tells their clients stories as they want to be heard, dramatically increasing their visibility.
Lauren is passionate about sharing her knowledge to empower other business owners to take charge of their online presence, with confidence and clarity.
How did you start out as a marketer?
I studied communications, and initially worked in media sales and business development for a decade. As I approached my 30’s and started thinking about having kid’s, I realised the role I was in was incompatible to how I wanted to parent, and retrained in digital marketing. Since then, I’ve been self-employed – a mixture of longer term contracts and freelance projects – for a huge range of clients.
Looking back what is your hardest struggle when it came to delivering results?
The changing nature of the game is the biggest challenge, and working with very small budgets. There is a lot you can achieve with a small marketing budget but you need to be very patient, because the less you spend, the longer it usually takes to get there.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
My first freelance client after leaving corporate life was Shepherd’s Artisan Bakehouse, and I helped project manage their rebrand and the building of their website along with a developer. They’re still a client today, and I now handle all digital marketing requirements for them from SEO to social media and paid digital campaigns.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
I work exclusively with small businesses, and when I deliver a high-achieving campaign or succeed in optimising their site so that they’re ranking highly, I know I’m changing their lives – and their families – directly for the better. Working previously with bit multi-nationals, there’s just not that sense of immediate action and helping a business which is someone’s dream, which supports their families.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
I would hire a staff member earlier than I did. Even just casually, for one day or so per week really allows you time to focus on growing your business, not on just working in it. And I wouldn’t feel I needed to ‘walk before I could crawl’. It’s fine to be small, to earn a decent income without becoming an overnight millionaire, and to stay local. When the time comes and your efforts are rewarded, you’ll grow to the size that’s right for you then. But at the start, at least, it’s fine and normal to be small and to feel insignificant. You just have to remember that all businesses start that way.
How is your typical work day structured?
I work school hours, 5 days per week so I only start at 9.30am, after a good strong coffee. I work like a maniac from then til 3pm, not even always stopping for lunch, then I collect the kiddo’s, take care of them til about 8pm and then do another hour or two to respond to afternoon emails. I try to do my ‘thinking’ work – crafting strategies, doing complex analysis, writing beautiful copy – in the morning when I’m fresh, and easier, less focused work later in the day when I’m tired.
You’ve been tasked with redesigning the company’s brand strategy from the ground up. Walk us through your process.
All brand strategy needs to begin with intense focus on your intended audience, and gaining insight into what THEY want, what makes your offering compelling to them, and how it meets their needs (or solves their problem) in a way no other brand can. Everything flows from strong consumer insight, and a humble understanding of where you fit within your target customer’s lives.
Can you tell us about a past situation where you had to juggle multiple projects with competing deadlines?
This happens almost every week, and the key is to delegate to trusted staff members or fellow freelancers. It’s a great practice as a freelancer to know several other people with complimentary skillsets to your own, who you can engage to help on a project if you find yourself swamped.
What recently-developed marketing strategy, technique or tool interests you the most right now?
I’ve just been through Yoast Local SEO training which was interesting, I’m going to now go over my clients websites again with a fine tooth comb and focus on nailing all of the aspects mentioned in this course. Many of them are part and parcel of basic optimisation, but it’s a new way to be thorough and focus more locally for bricks and mortar clients.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
Subscribe to newsletters and attend online webinars, training courses and talks when something new (or a fresh way of looking at something old) emerges.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
I’ve worked on one client’s website for 6 years, and about three years ago they asked me to focus on their Google rankings for a list of 10 keywords. Within 12 months, we were ranking for 7/10 of those terms on page 1 and now, it’s 9/10. This has had a profound impact on their business in terms of inbound enquiries, PR opportunities and the growth of their database. Recently, we launched a second online ordering site using Shopify for this client to cope with COVID19 lockdown here in Australia, and the strong SEO and high daily views from the original WordPress site facilitated the traffic and awareness needed to make this crucial sales channel a success.
What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?
Don’t ever think everyone knows everything. With the rapid pace of change in digital marketing, it’s impossible to be 100% up to date on all aspects, all of the time, and pretending to be will only create issues. Instead, surround yourself with a network of professionals who are guru’s in their own specialty areas, to supplement your own knowledge and ensure all angles are covered for your clients.
And be patient. With smaller clients especially, it may take many months to achieve their goals, so managing expectations and persevering with projects is key.