Small business owners know better than most the immense challenges that come with starting an enterprise. From logo design to the Instagram algorithm, it's a minefield that can leave even the most savvy entrepreneurs perplexed...
That’s why it pays to bring in the experts. Not only to take a load off your own shoulders, but to create an unforgettable brand that receives the coverage and results it deserves. Confused about where to start? Enter Delilah Creative. Helping their clients to create digital strategies and a web presence that will deliver real results – while minimising the time, effort and money required to make it happen – they are experts in helping brands to succeed. (And have worked with one of our all-time favourites, The Paradise Catcher.) Founded by media expert and seasoned entrepreneur Hester Aba, Delilah Creative is based in both New York and Singapore, and it’s safe to say they’ve made their mark on the industry. We spoke to Hester about Delilah, and grilled her on all her tips for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. Do you have your notebook ready? Because she shared some game-changers. Find out more about Delilah Creative | Photography by Yumi Matsuo
When you’re starting a business and are overloaded with bills, it’s tempting to take the easier (read: cheaper) way out when it comes to marketing and design. Whether it’s a ‘friend’s niece who’s a whiz on Instagram’ or an inexpensive offshore provider, what can go wrong with this approach?!
You’ve probably heard the expression, “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur”. In the long run, investing upfront in your business in professional services is going to help your business grow more quickly, and save embarrassing missteps. That doesn’t mean you can’t be savvy about your budget, because you totally can! It’s really all about being strategic about how you allocate your resources, and your branding and website are the places where you really want to punch above your weight. There’s a tendency for women entrepreneurs to under-value their time, being happy to pour endless working hours into their businesses, but not being willing to invest actual dollar amounts, whereas investing some money upfront will pay off down the road.
For women who have started on a shoestring and are now ready to take their business to the next level with professional marketing and design – where should they start?
I think it’s important to identify the pieces of your business that you can’t do yourself, or feel uncomfortable with, and focus there. For most of our clients, that’s their website design, but it might be that you’re uncomfortable networking and need to find someone who can help to sell on behalf of your business, or that you want to launch a blog or an e-newsletter and need a copywriter to create blog posts for you. Once you’ve identified the area where you need help, either ask around to find someone by word of mouth, or find someone who you think is killing it in that area, and pick their brains on who is helping them, or find someone whose work you really love and reach out to see if they can help you.
Talk to us about brand personalities. Does every brand have one? When starting a business, how can we go about developing a brand personality and ensuring its consistency?
Yes – every brand has its own unique personality, just like people do, and it’s worth doing the work upfront to really nail this aspect of your business. We love to ask questions like, “If your brand were a fictional character, who would it be?” to get our clients to look at their brand as a walking, talking, breathing organism. We create Brand Style Guides for all our clients, which pinpoint the colours, fonts and imagery style that fits their brand, and encourage them to extend this across all of their brand’s touch-points, from their invoices to their Instagram.
What type of results can be achieved with a professional approach to digital?
You can attract the kind of customers and clients you’d love to serve and make more money. Simple really!
What are your top three digital tips for women who are launching their own business?
- You NEED to have a website. Even if it’s just a landing page with your contact details. It’s not optional in 2019, it’s mandatory.
- Don’t kill yourself to keep up with your competition. The digital world can feel overwhelming and like you need to do ALL the things, like all the social media platforms, newsletters, blogging, sales funnels, networking etc. etc. It’s better to do one thing really well than spread yourself too thin.
- Focus on your processes. Make sure everything about your business that your clients or customers touch works really well, and is a pleasure to deal with. Invest in a proposal signing software or create a client FAQs page on your website. It’s likely that there are other people who do the same thing as you, so make the customer experience your point of difference.
What brands do you think are doing really well in creating a meaningful relationship with their consumers?
I’m currently really loving the brand positioning of ThirdLove, a bra company based in the US right now, who I think are really succeeding in designing the kind of bras that women want to buy, showing their products on women of all shapes, sizes, colours and ages and display an amazing consistency of tone and visual branding. I also love The Wing, a coworking space designed for women. I work out of their Dumbo space in Brooklyn, and I just love their sense of humour from the signs in the bathrooms to the menus in their café, to their social media captions.
One of your own brand pillars is that ‘kindness is king’ – do you believe that nice girls can get the corner office?! (And have you seen it in practice!?)
We really believe that kindness makes the world go round, and we love forming mutually loving relationships with our clients! I think niceness or likeability in business is for some reason only a concept that applies to women. I don’t think men spend much time worrying about whether they’re perceived as “nice” or not!
How do you know when your brand needs a refresh?
When you feel a slight sense of unease or reluctance when you hand over your business card, or direct someone to your website. You should feel loud and proud to show off these things!
Tell us a little bit about Delilah Creative and what inspired the launch...
I co-founded a media company in Asia called Sassy Media Group in 2009, and after working in and on the business for 8 years, realised that I was constantly being asked for advice on branding and digital by the businesses we partnered with. I also felt the call to work creatively on other businesses than just my own, and had a background of in the design agency world before becoming an entrepreneur, so it felt like a natural step to create my own agency! I knew I wanted to create a business that worked for my lifestyle and that of my team members, offering flexible hours, remote working, and serving (mostly!) female-led businesses. It has been nearly three years since we launched now, and we’ve worked with some amazing brands while staying true to our original mission.
What’s the process like when a client comes on board to work with you?
We always start off with a call or in-person meeting wherever possible, as I think understanding our client’s business and goals in-depth is really important. We’re very process-driven, and we try to hold our clients’ hands every step of the way, as for most of our clients this is their first experience of working with an agency to create a branding or website, so we help them understand the kind of feedback that’s helpful, and how to assess what we’re presenting them with so they never feel lost or overwhelmed. We also assign “homework” in manageable chunks, and are ridiculously responsive on email!
You work across Singapore and Brooklyn, New York. How do the two markets differ?
Our North American clients are usually very comfortable with working with remote service providers and prefer to do all communications over email, whereas our Asian clients usually prefer phone calls and in person meetings. Because someone is online literally around the clock, we also help clients in Australia and Europe, and we love knowing that we’re truly global now!
So many women are juggling business with raising a family. How do you make the juggle work in your own family?
I feel like I operate as more of a metronome, swinging from one priority to the other, and often feeling like a total failure in one aspect or another! Now that my kids are a little bit older (6 and 8 years old) and there are so many mums in New York who work full-on corporate jobs and have less flexibility than I do, I remind myself that my kids will be fine if I am not always there to pick them up from school, or if we don’t manage family dinners more than once a week. I had to take a couple of months off from Delilah while my family relocated to New York, and thankfully our amazing team was able to pick up the slack while I did this. Now that we’re settled, I’m taking some time to put more focus on my professional life, and trying not to feel bad about that!
What are your top ‘mum hacks’ or organisational tips?
I have a nanny and couldn’t function without her. She’s my number one mum hack! Otherwise I’m obsessive about adding everything to my google calendar and actually checking it several times throughout the day. I also use 1Password which is amazing, because lost/forgotten passwords waste SO much time and working in tech means I’m constantly horrified by the kinds of passwords our clients use for super-important things. I highly recommend using 1Password or another password manager. There are a couple of hours you’ll need to invest to get set up with it, but you’ll never look back.
As a busy business woman and mother, how do you switch off?
I read a ton, and I waste a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on Instagram (I’m trying to get better!) and watching junky TV like Real Housewives and The Bachelor! Those shows are just like a nice warm bath for my brain.
What’s next for Delilah Creative?
We had such a huge year of change last year when I relocated to NYC that I’m hoping this year will just be one of creating awesome work that we’re proud to show off, and working with more wonderful clients around the world!