Can you describe the marketing problem you were having before you discovered Working Knowledge?
I’m the business owner of a lettings company specialising in professional house shares in West London. Being a small company, I was acting as not only CEO but also as Chief Marketing Officer. Most of my time was taken up with operational duties – managing digital advertising, coming up with the creative ideas and then implementing them. I was the whole marketing department in one. This part of my role was vitally important because without it we get no sales – almost 100% of our sales happen online. Because I didn’t have enough time, I was cutting corners and the problem manifested itself in our occupancy level. 100% occupancy is what we were aiming for but I was struggling to keep it above 90%. We were just treading water. I needed help to get things done. Also, even though I do have lots of marketing experience, I needed help understanding how the digital world sat together and so there was a strategic element I felt was missing..and as it has transpired we were missing quite a few bits!
Our apprentice has added over £50,000 of value and because the marketing has been taken care of, we’ve been able to add another house.
Why did you turn to Working Knowledge to fix your marketing problem?
I knew we had a problem but I didn’t know how to solve it. We couldn’t afford to go out and get a digital marketing guru and I didn’t think it was appropriate either. I wasn’t actively looking for someone but I was thinking about it. Then, I had a serendipitous conversation with Dom Monkhouse (who has multiple apprentices within the Working Knowledge Digital Marketing academy) who introduced me to Working Knowledge. He explained what his apprentice had done with them and I was really impressed with Dom’s digital marketing. After our conversation, I ordered the Watertight Marketing book that night. As soon as I read it I knew this was what I was looking for.
Why choose an apprentice?
I remember in the 90s dealing with a government apprenticeship on the YPS scheme at a company I worked at. They just used to send people who didn’t even know what they were there for. So I have had a bit of a traumatic experience but thankfully the world has moved on since then. This apprenticeship model is so different. Apprentices are applying what they learn on the job. It’s not like going back to school, it’s about applying marketing tactics and strategy that will give us ROI. Also, I can see how this route helps us train and retain really good team players. The low cost of the training made this programme attractive to me – I didn’t have to spend too much time working through budgets to decide that we were going to get a ROI.
Our competitors will be wondering how we can do all of this stuff and it’s because our engine is more efficient
You asked Working Knowledge to recruit new talent – how did that go?
We are a small company and when you go through a small company evolution, as we have, a lot of the time the recruitment strategy is – who’s around? Who’s available? And it’s a really bad strategy for hiring people. It’s important to have a proper recruitment strategy, irrespective of the size of the company.
The recruitment process that Jo Trendall ran was very robust. I’ve worked in big corporates for many years and compared to many recruitment campaigns I’ve seen there, it was impressive and thorough. We were so impressed with how much thought that each candidate had put into the exercise. It was an affirmation that what we were doing here at West London Homes was a good thing and that came through in the recruitment process as the candidates heard that as well.
By the time I got involved in the shortlist at the end, Working Knowledge had chosen four really good candidates. Any of them would have done well, but Connor was the stand-out guy for us.
So your apprentice Connor has been with you for about 10 weeks now, can you take me to the moment where you thought – “yes this is going to work!”
The main portal that we advertise through is Spare Room and we need to be on it all the time to make sure that we are visible – now Connor takes care of that.
One of the moments I realised this was going to help solve our problems was when we handed Connor the responsibility of the dashboard. He presented back to us with ease at our morning huddles and he’s got really great insights!
I remember there was a day when we had a blip in the data and Connor pinpointed what had gone wrong. I realised that if our apprentice hadn’t had been here, then we would not be able to find the answer to that – and it could have cost us! I don’t even think about this side of the business now I just know it is done – I don’t need to even check on him.
Then finally, there was a moment where I woke up and thought – you know what, I’ve got more time and space in my life now! I could feel that my mind was lifting out of the weeds into strategic thinking and decision-making. This is what it gave me – the ability to think about the big picture and SEE the big picture.
It gives me confidence to know we’re installing the right strategy into our company.
Has your apprentice given you a return on investment?
The net effect is that our occupancy levels have gone up and this is because we have had the right insights and been able to adjust our marketing message. Since Connor has been with us, our sales have gone up. He’s added over £50,000 of value and because the marketing has been taken care of, we’ve been able to add another house .
We are in a competitive market and it can be difficult to differentiate – in order to keep prices competitive you have to have operational efficiency. A digital marketing apprentice gives us operational efficiency and that’s a hidden differentiator. Our competitors will be wondering how we can do all of this stuff and it’s because our engine is more efficient.
How has joining our digital marketing training programme made you feel about the future?
It’s nice to have someone young onboard who is new into the working world and is excited and I like working with him. From a business perspective, as a CEO I am reassured I have done the right thing and gives me confidence to be bolder in what we are doing. It gives me confidence to know we’re installing the right strategy into our company.