The finance and accountancy sectors are not known for being enthusiastic about the marketing function. Advertising supremo, Rory Sutherland, goes so far as to say that talking to “a finance director about brand iconography is like going to a surgeon and suggesting that they trust to the healing power of the crystal.”

So when times get tough, an accountant’s default position can see them suggesting that clients simply cut their marketing spend. At Harlands we favour a different approach – we understand that there are times when it might be better to actually increase activity, all the better to weather any challenges.

Building a solid foundation

Getting your marketing right doesn’t have to mean big budgets. As with so many aspects of business, laying the right foundations is key. Developing a brand from which an effective marketing strategy can flow, starts with one fundamental:

Nail your story. Be clear about the why, what, who and how of your business.

Meet Illustrated Living

One of Harlands’ long-time clients, the lifestyle emporium, Illustrated Living, embodies this idea. Everything they do flows from their belief that people should “buy once and buy well.”

Established in 2009, the business has evolved from being a ‘kitchen-table’ enterprise selling via Amazon and eBay to having a couple of shops (Illustrated Living and Wishlist) and gallery space (the Atrium) in Truro’s Lemon Street Market, a new store in St Ives and an expanding online platform.

Chris and Rosie Houghton, the team behind Illustrated Living, have benefitted from having Harlands by their side from the early days. This relationship has enabled them to move quickly and confidently when opportunities have presented themselves. The financial agility we’ve been able to bestow on them chimes with their undoubted knack for anticipating future trends and is essential for stealing a march on competitors in the fast-paced world of design.

Staying true to their purpose

They may have come a long way from their early days but the founding premise of their business remains: They source items with a strong design aesthetic that are well-made, functional, interesting and ethically produced; things that they themselves would have in their home.

This approach, rooted in integrity, runs through all their operations. When they first moved into a physical retail space they took the time to learn about the psychology and practice of merchandising. And when they were looking to bolster their digital offering, they knew that investing in marketing would be vital to fuel success in this area. Chris enrolled on a digital marketing course to ensure that they themselves could shape, develop and control their own digital presence in a way that reflected their brand ethos.

Chris and Rosie view values-based storytelling as vital to their marketing – it’s helped them build a powerful brand. Their tips for adopting this approach centre on being crystal clear about who you’re talking to and understanding what motivates them to buy from you. In this way your marketing becomes a lot less focused on you and a lot more about them (your customers).

Better words, better numbers

Stories are, after all, how we humans navigate the world. The most effective number crunchers are the ones who aren’t afraid to tell a story, who know that narratives offer context and deliver something far more valuable than mere data.

As Illustrated Living’s accountants we’re well aware that our part in their success story has been about far more than just looking after their bottom line.

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