E173: Thomas Atkins

Humanise Your Business Through Visual Content To Build Your Brand And Connect With Your Customers

thomas atkins black and white headshot

eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

When price isn’t the deciding factor, what is?

The emotional connection a customer has with your brand. People want to support businesses that share similar values and beliefs to them. So, if you can humanise your brand and showcase what you stand for, you’ll have a better chance of retaining your customers. 

In a world of rising acquisition costs, building a brand has never been so important. It’s time to listen to Tommy to find out how you can humanise your brand to grow your business. 

And no, chucking a 20% discount at them every two weeks simply won’t cut it. 

eCom@One Presents:

Thomas Atkins 

Brand vs Marketing, what’s the difference? In this episode, Richard Hill is joined by the Founder of Identity Agency, Thomas Atkins. He delves deep into the process of branding, how you need to constantly adapt to stay relevant and the importance of creating touch points that resonate with your customers.

Identity Agency works with brands to help them grow online with a consistent brand image. As a Business Owner, Thomas is very much aware of the challenges of running a company. In this honest and frank discussion, he shares how he handles loneliness and his mental health.

Listen to find out how to stand out in a crowded marketplace, develop customer service strategies that delight customers and how work life balance is a myth. It’s time to humanise your brand and connect with your customers at a deeper level.

Topics Covered

00:00 – How and why Thomas entered the world of branding 

04:49 – Navigating uncertainty as an Agency Owner

07:29 – The importance of branding 

10:23 – How to differentiate your brand in a competitive marketplace

14:23 – Humanising business through visual content improves consumer connection and differentiation

17:57 – Consistency across brand touch points is crucial for success. It’s easy to neglect maintenance and updates in the excitement of a rebrand or new website

21:08 – eCommerce Owners must invest in strong customer service to compete with tech giants like Amazon

24:59 – Advocates for branding as foundation for growth and marketing

28:45 – Network with diverse Business Owners for support and friendship to alleviate stress

32:15 – Business Owner suggests happy work-life blend over balance for personal satisfaction and adaptation to individual needs

33:18 – Learning to balance work and personal life is important

36:44 – Seeking talented designer to lead and grow their own department within business

40:19 – Book recommendation 

Richard Hill [00:00:04]:
Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of e cover one. Welcome to episode 173. In this episode, we have Tommy Atkins, founder of Identity Agency. We chat all things brand. The distinct difference between branding and marketing, pretty obvious for some, butI know quite a lot
of you get this wrong or get a little bit confused when we focus on branding and when you and what you need to focus on with your branding. Why focusing on brand building is so important in eCommerce, probably more than most industries. How many stores out there that look very, very similar? And by investing in your brand, your branding, and certain things that you may not think are branding will really Elevate you and help you stand out. And then we dive into dealing with loneliness, which is not really a topic that's been spoken about so much, but Running a business can be quite challenging times. We talk about the difficulties and the loneliness of running your own business and some of the things that Tommy does, Some great ideas in there about dealing with some of those more challenging times, and I will see so much more in this one. If you enjoyed this episode, which I'm sure you will, Please hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you're listening to this podcast now. Let's head over to this fantastic episode. Welcome to the show.

Richard Hill [00:01:18]:
Tell me, how are you doing?

Thomas Atkins [00:01:20]
Yeah. I'm really good. Thanks. Thanks for having me on. Yeah. It's a podcast that I've listened to quite a lot. I I'm genuinely excited to be here. Well, that's great to hear.

Richard Hill [00:01:27]:
That's great to hear. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I think before we get into the nitty gritty, it'd be great to introduce yourself And, tell us a story, about sort of your sort of a history of starting the agency and building it into what it is now.

Thomas Atkins [oo:01:49] Yeah. Sure. I think it's a it's definitely a a a different story. So my name's Tommy. I run Identity Agency. We're a creative agency based in Lincoln. So we're a small small start up, really.

Richard Hill [00:01:54]:
I've been going about two and a half years. I Started the business as as you were alluding to, while I was at university. So I went to uni quite late. I left school when I was 17. Didn't know what I wanted to do. Ended up working as a joinery apprentice. I don't know. Different.

Richard Hill [00:02:13]:
And as you can probably tell from, I don't really suit the construction site. I'm far too feminine. I like having, yeah, soft hands. Manicures? Yeah. Exactly. So, that didn't work out. And when I was there, that really gave me the sort of oomph to think, what do I wanna do in life? And I I didn't know, but I decided to go back to college and do my a levels to kind of, you know, push myself further down the education path to try and I'll give myself the best sort of chance of a, you know, a decent life as I could really. So I went to college, which is where I originally did law, then I decided to study that Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:02:52]:
And while I was there, I had a friend in my 1st year of uni who was a graphic designer. And at at this point, I didn't have any graphic design experience at all. But as a lot of people do at uni have been my attendance wasn't brillt. Wasn't it wasn't terrible, but instead of My

Thomas Atkins [00:03:11]:
son is listening to this. Yeah. If you are,

Richard Hill [00:03:13]:
going to classes are really important. I school every day, son. I definitely recommend it's gonna be a long podcast. Thursday morning because Wednesday nights are normally £2 a pint. But So, anyway, I was attending all my classes. And, one of the things that I did, was play a lot of kind of computer games. I'm generally quite nerdy. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:03:34]:
There's a lot of agency on his eye, I think. Out of playing Rocket League, which is, for anyone who doesn't know, kind of football with cars. And, me and my friend branded a team. So we created all the merch for it. We created, yeah. So things like, jerseys, and hoodies, and mugs, and pens, and and Everything. Yeah. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:03:53]:
And at the end of that, I sort of stepped back and thought, oh my god. This could be a business. This is great. And he was a bit unsure, but he agreed to it. He he didn't wanna do it for for long, which he made clear from the start, and for we worked together on maybe 5 or 6 projects. So I'd go out. I'd use LinkedIn to reach out to people, particularly in law and then around law. So it was, you know, barristers.

Richard Hill [00:04:17]:
It was barristers' chambers, Solicitors Practices. The first one we did was a legal recruitment company. And with them, I think they gave us I I think it was probably 400 quid to do, you know, the foundational branding really for the for the whole business. So it was it was business cards, email banners, You name it. We we did it. We split the cash. And when that came in, it felt like £1,000,000. Well, as a student, £400? That's That's got a lot of, nights out.

Richard Hill [00:04:49]:
I think so. I think you forget kind of how hard you used to have to physically work for money because I worked at Subway as well. I'd I worked at Domino's, and and there was just like a a whole new ballgame where, you know, I could use my mind Yeah. And then kind of manage something to, Cash. It was a game changer, and I I sort of worked throughout uni to really make it reality by the time I came to the end of my, course. But at the end of my course was COVID, which had kind of other Yeah. But, stuck it out, made it work ish just by the skin of my teeth. I run out of cash, Went into debt, and the only way I could carry on was that my dad gave me, a few £1,000 to really revitalize my finances and keep going.

Richard Hill [00:05:31]:
Yeah. I'd have been So, obviously, since

Thomas Atkins [00:05:32]:
I left uni, so, obviously, got a taste for it during uni, and, obviously, did some projects, quite a few projects, got known locally, and I and and And then obviously left uni and then went all in with the agency. Yes.

Richard Hill [00:05:45]:
Maybe foolishly so, I think, because I didn't have any Real retainers. Yeah. And that would be my advice. You know? I know, obviously, the audience for this isn't, you know, start up bonus, but Oh, on brand new starts, but I think that's something that I always kind of advise people now when I'm talking to them as yeah. Just at least weigh up the pros and cons of of going all in because it's great because it gives you the motivation to make it work. But if it doesn't look like gonna work you in too deep and Hold on. Take your time. I would say that's no.

Richard Hill [00:06:13]:
Most people listening as as owners of their stores.

Thomas Atkins [00:06:15]:
You know? They they've gone through that, transition of, oh, you know, we're gonna maybe try and sell

Richard Hill [00:06:20]:
a couple of bits on eBay,

Thomas Atkins [00:06:22]:
you know, and they're working full time, you know, and or we need to sell a couple of these things a month and that or a week. So they put things on Some of the other channels, eBay, Amazon, etcetera, but to eBay, it's a lot easier, I think. The next thing you know, they've got half

Richard Hill [00:06:35]:
a garage full, Going from

Thomas Atkins [00:06:36]:
a bedroom full to half a garage full, and then they're working full time, but then that transition is then stopping the full time work or reducing that full time work I'm going, you know, semi all in, but obviously trying to balance the bills depending on and obviously, if you're living at home with your parents, it's very different to having A wife and 2 kids and a mortgage and a car and, you know, they're different. But most people listening, as owners, I think, will have gone through that journey As as I have as every business owner has of, oh, you know, an idea. But ultimately,

Richard Hill [00:07:08]:
you know, when you build that brand Where you build that business, you need to then, which is what we'll come to, you know, focus on the branding, you know, and the brand side of things, which obviously is what you're focused on now, Primarily. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. We we have a sort of core of services, really. It's all all brand brand first and brand and and design led. So we do sort of graphic design web. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:07:29]:
As I was saying before, not a lot in eCom, not a lot in ecom, but in general around the space Yeah. And then, video and social. And I think, Yeah. It all kind of links together. I know one one of the things that you maybe wanted to talk about was kind of the distinction there between, well, what's brand and what's marketing. And Yeah. That For people that haven't either invested in it before or prioritized it before, can for some people be a silly question, but for some people be a, you know, a really serious question. Where are the boundaries, and what do I really need to invest in first? I think, in general, brand is kind of the foundation, and then marketing is is going out to to to get customers.

Richard Hill [00:08:05]:
So, branding is the overall impression that People have when they think or or think about or see your business for the first time. Whereas marketing is all about pushing that Brand out there Yeah. For people to to get new customers. So it's either customers right now, for instance, you know, like PPC, Or it's customers later, so things like lead magnets. And I know, obviously, your agency does, things like webinars and things like that. So it's not necessarily to to get customers right now, but Yep. At some point in the future. So that all falls into the marketing camp.

Richard Hill [00:08:43]:
And I think that It's also worth noting that brand isn't a logo, and that's the first thing that people think of. They think, I need some some branding. That's this is really, really common, I think, for for us as agencies here in the creative spaces. I need some branding. Can I have a a new logo? Or, you know, is is it the business card? And it's it's not any particular thing, and I think, you know, I'm a creative 2, at heart. I I do a a vast amount of the design in the business still. Yeah. And it's easy to sort of Get caught up in it and think that, you know, the things that we're delivering there is the branding.

Richard Hill [00:09:20]:
It's not. The branding is the culmination of all of these little touch points.

Thomas Atkins [00:09:26]:
No. I think that's great. I think, you know, it's all too common that a a store will start, you know, and they may be using a template when we go to ecommerce stores. They've gone, oh, This template, you know, there's lots of the well known, resources for your $99 or whatever it may be. You know, a lot of our listeners will have gone through that Process of getting a nice template. But then that doesn't differentiate you. You've got a nice template, but anybody with $99 or a half half a Sense can can sort of go get that template. It looks okay, you know, and you put your colorway on it.

Thomas Atkins [00:09:58]:
But, obviously, building your own brand, You know, that's, where I think the you start to get a bit more serious as a business than an eCom store. You know, when you may be hitting that, It's hard to say, but half a 1000000, 1000000 pound turnover point we got so far. But every industry, no matter what you're in, is quite a crowded space. There's a standout. You know, why would you say it's so important to focus on brand?

Richard Hill [00:10:23]:
Yeah. I think you've you've almost kind of Taking the conversation where where I I'd want to take it to answer that question. So you said it's it's a really crowded space. I think ecommerce in particular is It's very, very crowded, and you think the effort that, you know, your clients will go to to try and differentiate themselves to To make people convert at the end of the day because, you know, especially in festive periods, for instance, but Yeah. Almost, yeah, for consumers and and people's Christmas lists, Some you're you're putting in so much effort. You just had Black Friday where your energy's been drained, and you've really, really tried to capture these customers. So When branding is all about that overall impression, you need to make sure that when a customer arrives at your store, That that impression that you're giving to them is the right one. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:11:09]:
Because especially if you're spending, you know, you're spending 1,000 and 1,000 of pounds on, You know, PPC ads, for instance, to get people to your store. Then when they arrive, if they don't trust your brand Yeah. And your business, They're not gonna put an order in. I just think it's very easy to track how much money, you know, it is costing you to for For acquisition, and how much you're spending to to get a customer, I think the problem is and why people neglect it a little bit is it's often not that easy to see how much you've lost because your brand tangible, is it? I think, right, we need to spend you know, somebody goes to right. We're gonna spend R10 on

Thomas Atkins [00:11:47]:
the brand. Oh, hang on a minute.

Richard Hill [00:11:49]:
Yeah. You know? Yeah. Yeah.

Thomas Atkins [00:11:50]:
You know, but, you know, I'm a I mean, I'm a I'm completely sold, you know, obviously, from my from this chair and my standpoint. But I think I think it I I think when you hit certain plateaus or certain turnover numbers in a business, or the problem it always depends on

Richard Hill [00:12:06]:
the type of industry.

Thomas Atkins [00:12:07]:
But I just think in reality, you've gotta stand out, and you gotta look professional. So, you know, the, like, the moment you walked into our business, for me, that's when our brand starts. You know, you walked in our door, And it's like, oh, you get an impression. Yeah. You got an impression of our business. And I think when you go to an eCom store, you know, literally, You've seen, in theory, you know, potentially a, you know, Google Ad, which is the start of the brand. You're not even on

Richard Hill [00:12:31]:
the website yet, but the way that's crafted, the words that are used, The

Thomas Atkins [00:12:35]:
the the angle, whether it's, you know, professional, fun, you know, the tone, and then you land on the side. God. Bloody awful. Oh, one

Richard Hill [00:12:44]:
of us looks okay. And no doubt you've looked at loads of other sites. So, I mean, let's put it in the In the shoes of a,

Thomas Atkins [00:12:53]:
you know, eCom store that's listed now, what are some very specific tactics that they can do on their sites, Brand wise, that's related to branding to really stand

Richard Hill [00:13:03]:
out. Yeah. I think it obviously depends where people are landing. And I don't think there's any kind of easy answer. I think, you know, really, I think to use what Carrie Anne said on the the podcast that came out about podcasting. Yeah. In marketing, really, it depends. But it it does depend on, you know, what you're you're what you're wanting to get across.

Richard Hill [00:13:23]:
So for instance, if You are selling skateboards, let's say, in your target market is, you know, kind of hit skaters. And and the first thing that they they see when they come over is, like you said, a $49 Shopify template with just photos of the skateboards and you can convert. Then are they gonna want to buy as much as if, You know, for instance, you had a a a fully tailored landing page where you land on it, and then there's video of the skateboard action and the kind of people, and, you know, for instance, It's the kind of friendship huddles in the skate park at night where people are sat down and chatting. Is what are you getting people to buy into? Because I think For a lot of eCommerce, probably the easiest way that they can think about branding is it's not really that they're getting people to buy the product, but really they're getting them to buy into The business and the brand and buy into the product. So I think it it really does depend. Obviously, the touch points are are massive. I think, Especially with websites, try and incorporate video for sure because Yep. I think Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:14:23]:
That, you know, it humanizes what you do, and I think that's that's almost always a good thing as the humans because people buy people. I know that that's often thrown around in kind of business to business context, but I think, You know, especially for business to consumer, if you can see people, either using the products, enjoying the product, or the kind of people who use that product are featured there, it it's a lot easier for you to connect with it as a consumer. And, actually, maybe this is for me, and it's not just, you know, a product that I need to serve a purpose. It's something that, You know, I really want to buy, and I want to keep and and shout about, which I think is is what eCom store owners need as a real differentiator, isn't it, that example, whereas it's not So easy for the other 60 skateboard, e eCom stores to go and shoot video. They've got a tool up potentially with a video producer and, You know, the video equipment and all the tech that goes with it, whether they buy it themselves for 1,000 or they hire somebody in for 1,000. You know? So that straight away, you know, your level of content in in that example, you know, is

Thomas Atkins [00:15:23]:
in the top. You know? The 2 or 3 that are using video or using, you know, whether that's user generated content that they're incorporating that might have video that's been created from the users, which would be great in that example, actually, wouldn't it?

Richard Hill [00:15:35]:
Yeah. Because, obviously, it's a great Product, you know, and seeing that product been used by the different people. Yeah. Yeah. It's trying to stand out, isn't it? Which I think, you know, going back to probably a couple of questions ago, really, is that's most things, isn't it?

Thomas Atkins [00:15:50]:
I think in most, you know, as agency owners, you know, standing out, getting Tension in your niche, but as an eCom store owner, you know, it's just so crowded, isn't it? What are maybe some of the Mistakes you see people making when they're trying to stand out with their branding or just with their branding as a whole.

Richard Hill [00:16:07]:
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Thomas Atkins [00:16:21]:
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Thomas Atkins [00:16:29]:
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Thomas Atkins [00:16:39]:
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Richard Hill [00:16:47]:
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Thomas Atkins [00:16:53]:
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Richard Hill [00:17:01]:
to the episode. Branding works when it's consistent. I think the biggest mistake that, you know, I've seen in in some of our clients and some of our prospects is that They think there's, you know, almost a magic button fix. I think early, you said, you know, for instance, if you're investing £10,000 into branding, so to use that figure so, you know, to to keep the consistency there, £10,000 on a logo, which, you know, some of the Boutique agencies could could quite easily easily charge. That's it's not gonna do you. So if you have that £10,000, then think about how are you going to spend it So that as many touch points as possible are covered. So for instance, it could be, let's say, 1500 to 2,000 for the initial initial kind of Brand deliverables of a logo, a business card, and an email banner, but then you might put 4,000 into video, which can be then used across the website. And I think don't fall into the trap of thinking everything needs to be perfect.

Richard Hill [00:17:57]:
It definitely doesn't need to be perfect, but it it does need to be consistent. And then there are things like, you know, thinking about sales documentation. Obviously, a website's another one, but just as many touch points as possible. Because it's almost like a a house of cards where if one part of this brand foundation that you're trying to build looks wrong Or doesn't align with your customers or was in the wrong wrong tone of voice or or whatever it is. If it's not there, then the whole thing will kind of come crashing down whether You realize it or not, and I think it's very, very easy for business owners to neglect it because they have a fun, shiny A rebranding project, for instance, and a fun shiny website, but then who's maintaining the website? Who's adding to the website? Who's making more, general materials. So for instance, you start offering new project, new products, then do you want new sales documentation to Accompany them. Mhmm. And is is trying to think of how can you build in from the start when you start investing in this.

Richard Hill [00:18:57]:
How can you build in a long term plan? Maybe instead of spending that 10,000 all in one go, spend 5,000 at the start, and then over the year, break the other, You know, for £400 a month, get some general support off either a part time employee or, freelance or, you know, an an agency.

Thomas Atkins [00:19:15]:
I guess that that that made me think of you know, so there's brand in terms of the, you know, the look and feel of different assets, but then There's the brand in terms of the way that your team operates day to day with, you know, an inquirer that comes in, the way that they pack the box, The impression that you give on of every single touch point, which is not designing something, it's not it's not creating a physical thing, but you're Creating an emotional experience, which I think is

Richard Hill [00:19:44]:
an absolute, you know, delighting. You know, as you know, there's various various things we could, You know, cliches we could throw

Thomas Atkins [00:19:51]:
in here, but, you know, delighting and then retaining those clients, not just

Richard Hill [00:19:57]:
because you've got a nice logo. It's the simplest form. Obviously, that's not branding, but that's an element, of course. But having an amazing experience,

Thomas Atkins [00:20:05]:
you know, I think that that is an area that, Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:20:08]:
Again, you can really stand out for potentially not a lot. You know? So, you know, just one of my clients comes to mind. This is just a silly silly simple, but really cool thing he does. He puts little packet of Skittles in every order. It's doing thousands of orders a month, you know, thousands of orders a month, plus a little bit of Skittles in.

Thomas Atkins [00:20:24]:
I know the people that put handwritten notes in every order. Obviously, using some tech to sort of handwrite them, but just that, you know, as part of the brand, part of sort of giving the extra, the way that you answer, customer service emails. You know, if there is a challenge or an issue with an order, that's an opportunity to really stand out, I think, You know, and get in front of our client and turn them from maybe a, you know, maybe a potential real bad situation if there's been a big issue with delivery And turn them into an absolute obsessive fan because you've gone over. And then maybe the the owner has driven to that customer with their box of coffee that they bought. They said, oh, I'm so sorry. Like, that's the guy that owns the firm. You know? They sort of what would you say to that? They're those sort of, delight moments that companies can do.

Richard Hill [00:21:08]:
Yeah. I I think it's it's probably not, I I don't know if you'd look at it. Is is it a a necessary, or or is it an optional? I think I think the eCom owners probably can't afford to neglect those opportunities, because you gotta think who are you competing with, and, you know, eCom Stores, you know, competing with the giants of the tech world, where they have strong brands. Like, Amazon, for instance, has the, you know, the strong customer service brand. So if if you're gonna give, you know, shoddy customer service, then people aren't gonna buy from you again. And I think it only takes that 1 disgruntled person to leave that 1 disgruntled review, which then stops somebody buying. Mhmm. So the question is, you know, can can you can you afford not to? And I think, like you said, there are there are so many different things people can can think about investing, and I think it all starts obviously with We're planning to to, again, see the touch points of the brand, like like the packaging, like the thank you notes, and then just see, again, for your budget And I'm balancing the time depending on the scale of the business and who's in it, is is what can you do.

Richard Hill [00:22:13]:
But I think if you go that little bit extra For customers, then they're well more likely to, yeah, want to buy from you again. And I think it's the things that they're not purchasing that they appreciate the most. So like The Skittles. As they expect, the let's say, let's go back to skateboard. I don't know if if people aren't looking at the video of this. I'm not a skateboarder. I'm I'm far from it. I, I I haven't got the silence.

Richard Hill [00:22:36]:
Well, you told I saw you skateboard. Yeah. Right. I think I took my kids about 14 years ago, I skateboarded, and I think I might have actually stood on water.

Thomas Atkins [00:22:44]:
Grabbed the rail. That was my limit.

Richard Hill [00:22:46]:
So let's use let's I see his knee pads as the Okay. Knee pads. Yeah. Definitely. So so if you're selling knee pads, then people expect those knee pads when they arrive To, you know, to be knee pads and to be well packed and chipped on time and the rest of it. That's all a given Yeah. You're ordering. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:23:04]:
But what they might not be expecting is, yeah, the good luck on your skateboard, you know, handwritten note or whatever it is, or let us know how to top 10 on or tips to not Use the kneepads too much by staying on your skateboard. Yeah. Exactly. So it's those it's those extra things I think that wows us. What could we do? We could

Thomas Atkins [00:23:20]:
do a QR code, scan the QR code, Funny video of

Richard Hill [00:23:24]:
of you staying on your skateboard or the owner of the skateboard company falling off onto his lovely, what do you

Thomas Atkins [00:23:29]:
call them, pads, kneepads? I was gonna say Shin Pads then.

Richard Hill [00:23:32]:
That's a whole different game. It depends how how bad you are. I'd recommend from what you're saying to Shin Pads as well, I think. Okay. So, yeah, those touch points to make up the brand, I

Thomas Atkins [00:23:40]:
think, Yeah. The guys that are listening now, what are some things that you can do? Obviously, eCom has given you

Richard Hill [00:23:46]:
a few ideas there. But some simple things that some are really low cost.

Thomas Atkins [00:23:50]:
You know, the way that you're packaging, the way that you're adding in different information into packaging, you know, we talk about it a lot, but, Obviously, we've just come out of a very busy season, you know, Black Friday, Christmas, New Year, etcetera. A lot of pack no. Most households have had however many packages. Think of the packages that you've had. Some of them are just brown box, really poor experience. You open

Richard Hill [00:24:10]:
that box. There's nothing in it. Other other thing that you ordered in another box or The guys that, you know, invest in maybe personalized packaging that says, hey, Tommy. As you open the box, you know, it's personalized and printed. That's all part of

Thomas Atkins [00:24:22]:
the brand. It's all part of that story. And I think oh, I think it's absolutely key. You know? Something we've sort of doubled down with the podcast.

Richard Hill [00:24:30]:
A lot of different events that we're running in our business for eCom Stores. It's just so crowded as

Thomas Atkins [00:24:34]:
it is in any industry. So if you're not investing in your brand you know? So let's say There's a few

Richard Hill [00:24:40]:
people saying, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. They're listening like, whatever. You know? We've got a new template. We but we'll put a new logo on. You know, I think we're we're doing enough.

Thomas Atkins [00:24:50]:
Because I see I see guys doing 10,000,000 quid a year, and they refuse to really listen to this side of things on the branding. Well, you know, what would you say to them?

Richard Hill [00:24:59]:
I'd you know, I I think I'm I'm a realist. And, you know, I I have conversations with people all the time that'll Propose a project or think they need a project when they might not. And, you know, there is a small chance that actually but what they have might be working for them now, but the point is that, You know, there are glass ceilings in front of all businesses, and yet you might with what you have, you'll be able to grow to a point. But it's how do you speed up that growth? How do you retain that growth? And how do you increase the, you know, the ceiling of where you're going to be able to grow to? And I think, You know, I'm I'm I'm here obviously as a big advocate for branding, but I'm, you know, I'm not here to to convince anybody that they need to do it if if they really Don't think they do. I mean, but what what you will find is that if the brand's working right, And there's a there's a strategy in place that, you know, identifies and and, you know, it's a great thought experiment when you you do go back to branding is to go back to basics of, You know, who are you as a business, and why do people buy? But then who buys as well? And I think when you go through that process, just that process alone is, I think, invaluable for a lot of business owners. But then when you go through and create all the materials and and touch on, like we said, all all of these touch points, that What you'll have at the end will be something that will be able to, you know, last a a decent amount of time, and I think branding needs to be refreshed constantly, and and consistently. But what you'll have is is a platform really to grow from. And I think, we we spoke earlier, and I I said that I think branding's the foundation for Good marketing.

Richard Hill [00:26:38]:
And and I think what you will find, and obviously, you you'll be able to to touch on this as well, is is that if the brand's right, The marketing will be a lot easier because you don't have to try and sell as much in the marketing. You're just kinda raising the awareness so that when people do land, they already know exactly why they should buy. Yeah. They can see it. And I think if you're having to try and convince somebody, you know, all the time and incessantly that this is the thing you need to buy for your problem. Mhmm. And you really educate them and, you know, really ram it down their throats so they'll buy it. You've wasted a lot of money.

Richard Hill [00:27:12]:
Yeah. So the other one, you just set it up so they knew they should buy it when they first saw it. So I think if you're with us, You know, what budget have you allocated this year to brand? You know, and what have you got under brand To focus on, couple of thoughts there if you ever think about. So change your pace, Tommy. I think we're gonna go to so So a lot of our listeners will be running their own business. You know, the marketers, business owners, they will be, you know, solopreneur, You know, different sized businesses, but ultimately running a business, you know, can be a lonely place. You know, I run my business and then and Some days can be quite challenging. You know, how do you manage sort of running your own business as a solopreneur? Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:28:00]:
I think it's difficult. It's Unsexy, unglamorous, and lonely, for sure. I think, Especially in the early days, very lonely because you take the step to start your own business, and we we spoke earlier kind of about that transition. But You sort of go from being excited to almost doomed, potentially. You feel like, oh my god. Why did I do this? And And and I think, you know, the harsh reality is that, you know, a lot of people probably that you want to care about it, don't because this is your thing. No one's gonna buy into it as much as you. I think it's difficult When you first start taking on staff and you realize, you know what? Why don't you care as much as I do? Well, it's because it's not theirs.

Richard Hill [00:28:45]:
So it's really difficult. I think it can be made a lot less lonely with the people that you surround yourself with. So I'd say my biggest A piece of advice there would be make friends with other business owners, and and not just business owners in a similar boat to you, but, you know, established business owners. If you're Not a start up and you feel that, you know, you you you've been established for a number of years, then still make friends with the the start up Business owners because they'll be able to teach you something too, and I think it's I managed to find a was a support network, not People that, you know, I go to when I'm stressed, but, I mean, I feel less stressed because I have the network. Mhmm. And it's it's not, you know, Almost a a business network, but more of just a circle of friends. Yeah. Because people in general are friends with people that are similar To them and when you have all the same problems, and no matter what industry you're in, as well, you have the same stresses.

Richard Hill [00:29:39]:
So by being around people like that, Just in general, it it gives you a much better Well mental space, I I think, to I think that's going to be all alone.

Thomas Atkins [00:29:50]:
Great advice, Tommy. I I think, having a chat with people, you know, whether that's in your business, in your niche, or just, maybe similar, couple of steps behind you, 3

Richard Hill [00:29:59]:
or 4 steps in front

Thomas Atkins [00:30:00]:
of you. You know, you you then fill, sort of just puts a pin pin in a few things, get a few different opinions, few different ideas. Like, it can be, Especially this industry, you know, it's, you know, hiding behind the PC potentially or Mac depending on where you go.

Richard Hill [00:30:19]:
It can be quite, you know, more I guess, if you go back, you know, pre into that, you know, you'd be You'd be in a big retail store, and you'd be a lot of people around you, you know, or you'd be in the factory, you know, running a factory, or if you're a business owner sort of thing, And you got people here all the time. Whereas this game, you know, a lot of people really come store, you know, depending on the site, you know, if you can, obviously, you can run it from your laptop or, you know, obviously, you You've got 20,000 square feet. You're in and out of that warehouse. You've got different teams and whatnot. You may be bouncing off, but it can be, I would say, more lonely than, You know, 25 years ago, I'm running a business. I haven't got really facts around that, but I

Thomas Atkins [00:30:57]:
I was sort of, yeah, having those conversations, You know, having a good peer group, getting involved in the sort of whether that's the local different business, things that are local, the more national things that are in your industry. Yeah. So

Richard Hill [00:31:12]:
what are maybe you know, I think that's great sort of touching

Thomas Atkins [00:31:16]:
on that. That's some of

Richard Hill [00:31:17]:
the things that maybe don't get spoken about as a business owner. You know, do

Thomas Atkins [00:31:20]:
you think, what are some of the other difficulties that some of our listeners might, relate to That just doesn't really get spoken about.

Richard Hill [00:31:29]:
Yeah. I I genuinely love speaking about this side. I don't think, in general, the the struggles are Talked about enough. I think the biggest one for me is balance, and I I don't know what it means. Work life balance, I I, You know, I honestly think and I'd I'd be, you know, interested to to hear your take on this. I've asked a lot of people this this year. I don't think work life balance exists for Business owners. I I I could be wrong.

Richard Hill [00:31:57]:
So if you if you disagree, get in touch. I'd I'm I'm interested to, you know, hear Stories from people who've made it work. I actually spoke with, George The Apprentice a little bit. Yeah. Do you know Tim Campbell? Yeah. Judges. Yeah. So I I met him, a few weeks ago and and asked him about it.

Richard Hill [00:32:15]:
And he said, oh, this is the most helpful advice I've heard on it so far is that, As a business owner, don't strive for a work life balance because balance suggests that, you know, it needs to be equally weighted between family life and And and work life or personal life and and work life. We should really be looking for is a happy work life blend where, you know, they're kind of Woven between one another. And that, you know, it doesn't really mean anything in particular that but I think, you know, as a as a business owner, I think that People know when they need 1 of more or the other. I think I'm an obsessive worker, an addicted worker. I'm Really obsessed. I find it very, very generally generally and genuinely difficult to put the laptop down. It could be, you know, 11 PM on a Saturday evening, partner's watching TV. I'm working on the Yep.

Richard Hill [00:33:10]:
The the living room table. I Fold the laptop down, go and sit next to her, and then the laptop's looking. Then you're bored, and you

Thomas Atkins [00:33:16]:
get your laptop out again.

Richard Hill [00:33:18]:
If you're listening to this, Tommy, I, I love you lots. Not at all. Don't get bored of you one bit. But, no, I think it it is very difficult to to put that down. I think The the biggest thing I've learned this year, and I I don't think I I understood it as much last year, being fairly new into business was To know when to just flip the switch, because I think in general, my life is unbalanced. I'm happy with that because I I love the work. But I have to know when I Press the button and the scales just completely flip where, you know, work isn't my priority for a few days at all, and it's all family and all personal. And I think just knowing that that button is there is something that a lot people fall into the trap of forgetting, and it's easy to forget when you're busy.

Richard Hill [00:34:01]:
That's great advice, I think, because, obviously, Everyone listening is in a different, maybe, stage in their life, different stage in their business. Obviously, where you're

Thomas Atkins [00:34:10]:
setting something up, it's sort of, You know,

Richard Hill [00:34:12]:
gun honed nonstop, but even 10 years later, it could still be the same, if not even more

Thomas Atkins [00:34:16]:
of a pace. But in that balance changes depending on So priorities, things going on

Richard Hill [00:34:23]:
in your life, but I think you you gotta have things outside

Thomas Atkins [00:34:25]:
of work that sort of can just I think Having

Richard Hill [00:34:28]:
I think having time away from work mean then you become

Thomas Atkins [00:34:31]:
a lot more productive in work. So if

Richard Hill [00:34:34]:
you're just at all work, Sometimes it's all work, but it's maybe not that productive. So that extra 20 hours you did that week, maybe it was 20 hours of just been busy rather than being productive and focused.

Thomas Atkins [00:34:45]:
So having that time out, I think, is key here.

Richard Hill [00:34:48]:
Yeah. I think so. I think, you know, as a smaller business owner, those, you know, 20 hours of Not been as productive. You you know, you have a lot more stuff you need to do and that, you know, the book stops with you. So it can be really difficult to say no to those extra hours. I think I've, Yeah. I'm I'm I'm surely averaging over 70 hours a week week in, week out, and I have done for months months months. Mhmm.

Richard Hill [00:35:10]:
And there was adjustment getting here, but I feel The this is for me, this is the worst part. I feel really lazy if I with a set of less than 7 hour week sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah. And I feel lost. And that's something that, you know, that I need to work on, and I definitely doubt. But if you're happy doing that Yeah. Life is going well.

Richard Hill [00:35:30]:
Like, personal life. Yeah. Yeah. I have an amazing, amazing partner. Really supportive. You know? But also, you know, you you know me a little bit now. You won't you won't wanna spend any meaningful time with me on an evening, on a weekday. You know, let me work.

Richard Hill [00:35:43]:
You have to touch base at the weekends. But I I, you know, I have an amazing partner who is really supportive of me, and I think I wouldn't be able to do it without her for sure. But, yeah, it's it's something that, you know, I can't keep doing I can't do it for another 20 years. I can't do it for another 1. Well, fine. We'll get you

Thomas Atkins [00:35:59]:
back on in 5. That's for sure. Let's see. Give us an update. So what's next for our

Richard Hill [00:36:04]:
identity agency then? Exciting times, I think. I've realized that so the our model is I have a couple of part time employees, an army of 5 or 6, freelancers who work well between, typically, 2 5 days a week, depending on their skills and, you know, how how regularly, Generally, they want to work for us. I need, also right hand person. So I'm gonna look to hire those. Yes. It's been recorded, mid December, I'm hoping that by the end of Jan, well, that would be nice. Yep. End of Feb for sure.

Richard Hill [00:36:44]:
I need that person. So I want someone who's a, yeah, really talented designer to to lead the the team and and to sort of build their own. You know, we're we're very, very small, but to almost start building their own department within the business, I did that with copywriting. So now that's the kind of, you know, It's own thing that sits, you know, in between, obviously, design and social media, but as something I don't need to worry about. And I wanna stop worrying about design as much and And help to grow the business because I think the you know, when I'm running around like a busy fool, I'm, I'm doing the 10 pound jobs and sort of negating the £1,000 Yeah. Jobs. Yeah. So yeah.

Richard Hill [00:37:19]:
I thought

Thomas Atkins [00:37:19]:
I'm key hire at the beginning of the year.

Richard Hill [00:37:22]:
Yeah. And then free of your time to do To panic about how I'm gonna pay for it. I think, so, yeah, that's, yeah, to to to work on growing the business and Generating more leads, increase our capacity a little. Exciting times exciting times for you.

Thomas Atkins [00:37:37]:
I'm I've sort of watched your journey from afar. I guess not that Fire, you're like a

Richard Hill [00:37:40]:
mile from my office. So, so we'll, you know,

Thomas Atkins [00:37:44]:
I look forward to following your journey myself. Well, thank you

Richard Hill [00:37:46]:
so much for coming on the show. I'm allowed to end every episode with a book recommendation. You should have a book to recommend

Thomas Atkins [00:37:51]:
to our list. Anything you want, it can be branding. It can be You name it. It doesn't have to be anything to do

Richard Hill [00:37:56]:
with branding. It can be anything at all. Well, I'll give you 2 real quick ones then. Yeah. So first one, business book wise, I I read the Profit First recently, and that was a game changer Because we've been, you know, we're we're a baby business, really, sort of exiting trying to exit startup land. We're always poor in general. Living kind of month to month, I was the last person to be paid. Not I went from, you know, kinda May time all the way through to October without taking my full salary and my full my full salary.

Richard Hill [00:38:32]:
At The moment is £1,000 a month. So, you know, it was it was rough. But after reading that, it kind of completely flipped a switch in my head, where I think about money a lot differently. And I think the analogy in there that's you know, if if you find that you don't have cash in the bank and you're worrying about cash, which, You know, as as an eCom business, you you don't want to be, because, you know, it's a it's a cash intensive operation. Yeah. Read Profit First by Mike McCullough. It's Great book. Fiction wise.

Richard Hill [00:39:04]:
Okay. It's basically a kid's book. Alright. Cool. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I think there's something coming out that can be I I I don't wanna jinx it and say as big, But it feels like it could be. It's called Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, oh, which is about a load of kids. When I say kids book, I mean, you know, late teens.

Richard Hill [00:39:27]:
We'll go with teens. A lot of kids that go to, you know, an island That's just off the South Coast of the UK where they fly unicorns, and it sounds it's there's a lot more to it than that. But I think what's really unique about it, And and again, I said I was a geek earlier in my defense. What's really unique about that is that the whole world has been crafted a little bit like Harry Potter, where it's, You know, close enough to reality, and it's still setting here and now Yeah. In the UK. There's unicorns, but there's a whole different, yeah, Side of it going, our world within our world to live within the world. Yeah. It's all there.

Richard Hill [00:40:03]:
Really interesting. I think if you if you're into fantasy, Yeah. Either read that or listen to it. It's it's not a long book. There's 2 out at the moment. Yeah. This one's coming out, shortly. So is that one of your things then sitting reading Fancy for you.

Richard Hill [00:40:15]:
One of

Thomas Atkins [00:40:15]:
your sort of, when

Richard Hill [00:40:16]:
you're not work when you when you

Thomas Atkins [00:40:17]:
get the hour off a week.

Richard Hill [00:40:19]:
Well, I listen to a lot of audiobooks. So, and I'm driving, potentially, if I'm not listening to you know, and I'll plug this podcast again. I I listen to this, And then, yes, some other podcasts. And, yeah, I listen to audiobooks in bed, mainly Yeah. To try and I'll switch off because I think sometimes it gives my mind. It still keeps my mind going, but it's starting to be a me time. Yeah. Well, brilliant, Gerald.

Richard Hill [00:40:42]:
Thanks, Tommy. Thanks for calling on the show. Those that wanna find out more about you, more about identity agency, what's the best way to do that? Yeah. Either, connect with me, on LinkedIn, it's Thomas Atkins on LinkedIn or, yeah, visit our website. It's identityagency.co.uk. Fantastic.

Thomas Atkins [00:40:58]:
Thanks for calling another show.

Richard Hill [00:40:59]:
Thanks a lot. Yeah. Really enjoyed it If you enjoyed this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. You're always the 1st to know when

Thomas Atkins [00:41:11]:
a new episode is released. Have a fantastic day, and I'll see you on the next one.

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