Streamlion Consulting has been helping business owners to find the financing and funding they need to succeed for eight years now, securing its clients more than £11 million to date. With such momentum, founder and MD Helen Steel decided in 2021 that it was time to look at the next stage of growth. “The business was doing really well, but I realised the only thing it wasn’t doing well was marketing” she recalled.
She retained Your Marketing Department to support her after hearing numerous recommendations about its founder Sophie Davies. She said “I had heard several people saying how good Sophie was at strategy. I know all too well that there are many people out there who talk about strategy yet can only really deploy against a plan. I needed a definitively strategic marketing advisor.”
Finding the path forward
Helen felt comfortable with her choice at the very first meeting, she remembered: “I began to feel the benefit of strategic capabilities in our very first engagement. It was a really good experience.”
After listening hard and asking many questions, YMD went away to begin its foundation work. A few weeks later, Helen discovered just how much this had entailed. “They came back with so much research that was pertinent to the business, it was impressive. From a standing start to ‘wow, look at this’ – it was a great strategy that made me feel excited about my business. By doing this research and thinking, the team had had come up with a pathway to the marketing strategy I needed.”
Helen sets the bar high on strategy. She explained: “Clients have often shared marketing strategies they’ve had done, and I know instantly that most of them aren’t really a strategy – a plan, perhaps. A strategy needs a laser-like focus, to outline what you really should concentrate on and how you will work.”
Seeing the business through the eyes of a marketing expert helped bring fresh perspective, she continued: “Normally when you think about your business, it’s just the way it is. But this was truly cool. It’s so rare to see a truly competent and well-done strategy – and this was fantastic.”
Shining light on opportunity
Now Helen had a strategy around which a plan could be constructed to take the business forward. One of the most important things that it clarified was the audience opportunity.
Throughout its existence, Streamlion had been hugely effective in helping entrepreneurs from ethnic and minority communities to find funding and, in the process, built up an active referral network within those communities.
“In the new strategy, YMD properly focused in on the potential of this audience” Helen explained. “The detailed research, including speaking to my referral partners, all pointed at the fact I should make the British ethnic minority entrepreneur my primary audience. I knew I enjoyed working with people from different cultures and ethnicities, and was doing so more and more – but somehow, I had never thought of making this the main focus of my time and energy. It was a real ‘eureka’ moment.”
Your Marketing Department had shone a light on something that Helen had almost overlooked: “Every business has a core competency, and of course mine was around financial strategy and funding – but it has others too, which can be the basis for growth. Knowing how to support the BME entrepreneur audience was one of my core competencies and a differentiator in the marketplace. They made me sit up and realise the real core strength of my business.”
Planning practical steps
Helen now had a clearer direction for the business, as well as the marketing. The next challenge was to take action. “We needed a plan to support the strategy and some activity resources, so I engaged Your Marketing Department on a retainer to support the communications and day to day marketing, with a plan of monthly activities.”
One early activity was to support Helen as she reshaped the website content to introduce the wider team and clarify service propositions. The YMD team took over writing the blog and generating LinkedIn posts that would enhance Helen’s personal and business visibility and credibility.
Helen explained: “We do quite a lot of expert content, based on my experience, complemented by other content like topical articles and customer success case studies. Showcasing these on LinkedIn is important as it is where people look when they are referred to me.”
Presenting the real picture
Your Marketing Department also filled in a gap in the content toolbox, by emphasising the key role of imagery in bringing marketing messages alive. Helen recalled that “They told me carefully that my photographs were not doing me any favours at all – and actually, I agreed.”
Helen is certain that the investment of time and effort was worth it. She said, “YMD organised a proper photoshoot with opportunities for my photographer and I to visit some clients and entrepreneurial locations like markets, food stores, hospitality venues and convenience stores, because that is where my clients work.”
She was not only happy with the photographic outcomes but could see how they enhanced the new communications activities: “We now have an image bank that is accurate and really speaks to my audience, with lots of photographs of me chatting to my clients. We use these on our LinkedIn posts and on the blog, and they show me and the business in a real and authentic way.”
Reviving database potential
Streamlion had built a valuable database over the previous eight years. Although it had never used it in any significant way, YMD immediately saw it as a valuable asset. Helen reflected that “They were quite right in pointing out that it was bonkers to capture all this data into a CRM and then do nothing with it – and recommended that we should email the database at least once a month.”
The database needed a little TLC, so the team cleansed and corrected it before setting up a platform for email marketing. Helen could see quickly that this was a good move: “It’s so much better now – now all my referral partners get a monthly newsletter email each, while clients get another. Our communications have elevated from zero to reminding them about me every single month.”
Streamlion now has an established and dependable channel to its audience of happy clients and referral partners. The value has been evident in the results that have begun to emerge, she noted. “The database mailings have been incredibly successful. They achieve astonishing open rates because every recipient knows me or has worked with me. They trust me, so when I give them tidbits of advice about their business or movements in the economy, they listen. We’ve generated several additional referrals for business simply by accessing the database.”
Further database marketing and outbound email campaigns are on the communications plan for 2024.
Communications makes the world go around
While working together, Helen and the YMD team established a strong routine, with clear approval processes and frequent communication. Helen said: “Things are all much clearer now. I have a dashboard for visibility, and I receive regular monthly updates about any activity.”
However, in a fast-changing financial business, things don’t stay the same for long. Helen has an established record of adapting her services to offer clients the best options available and continues to do so. “Almost every time we speak, I tell YMD about a new idea – and the response is always positive. We just keep returning to the strategy and evaluating the effect on our demographics.”
The strength of the marketing strategy is evident in the fact that it doesn’t need to change.
Helen is now expanding her services to embrace business grant funding, but she acknowledges that “the key values from the original marketing strategy are exactly the same. Our success in supporting our audience will come from the same expert quality of work and laser-like focus, no matter the complexity of the paperwork.” In fact, the marketing research revealed that businesses will often see out several different types of funding, not just one – so Helen is also folding this into her future service strategies.
Investing for future value
Because securing business finance is a very transactional business that leads to a clear outcome each time, it was a challenge for Helen to see the value of marketing emerge over time. She reflected that “I feel a real sense of relief now that marketing is under control. Marketing is a very different mindset for me, as you need to invest upfront, and inevitably wonder whether it is working when you don’t see immediate returns. I’m definitely seeing the value as I’ve seen the rewards grow, such as the success of our emails or when people I’ve not heard from in years are now getting in touch via LinkedIn.”
Helen is facing a changing market with confidence that she has the right strategy and support in place. She said: “I’m so proud of the business that Sophie described in the original marketing strategy. And I’m so pleased to have found the right partner – I needed someone who would stand up to me. YMD is strongly honest, super supportive and dependable, and never afraid to stand their ground.”
The relationship is stable enough to weather any changes and has already gone through several phases. Helen explained “I have been evolving the business over the past few months, so we’ve paused some of the day-to-day work – but they have always stayed available and even done some work in the interim, using spare capacity.”
“Marketing strategy means supporting the whole journey, not just the times of extreme growth – and Sophie and the YMD team have been there for me throughout,” she concluded.