This blog is part of our campaign to showcase our diverse and talented alumni members. We have partnered with That Works For Me who connect brands to flexible freelancers so if you think any of our alumni could support you with your marketing efforts visit our Hire page here.
Maria studied on our Advanced Diploma in 2016 like many alumni members joining us when her daughter started school. She now runs Four31 Digital, an award winning social media and Facebook ads consultancy which she set up shortly after completing the course.
“I'm Maria. I'm 50 and live in Kingsbridge in sunny (or not!) South Devon. I am married with a 9 year old daughter. Before having my daughter, I gained three degrees including an MBA and spent 10 years in the drinks industry, travelling the world, as well as having senior roles in food & drink and professional services. My career culminated in becoming a CEO of a law firm. However, I was made redundant after maternity leave, which was a horrific experience, and was looking for a way to get back into work that was stimulating but didn't involve a 2 hour commute each day to the nearest city and enabled me to be there for the school run and school events. Especially in a very rural area, that combination proved to be really challenging and then I came across Digital Mums in 2015.
Maria studied with us expecting to build up a portfolio of freelance social media clients but she ended up with so much more building up an agency offering organic social media consultancy, outsourcing, training and mentoring and specialising in work with businesses across the world in the food & drink, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses. In 2019 she levelled up her experience in Facebook advertising strategy to add paid social to her portfolio. Her agency, Four31 Digital, won the Marketing & PR Excellence category of the Venus Awards Devon & Cornwall in 2019 as well as being shortlisted as a finalist in two more awards.
“I set up my business in 2017, initially doing freelance social media for small clients such as a charity and a community pub. Later that year, we won a contract with a local authority to run social media for a European-funded project for three months before picking up a second project in 2018 and we haven’t looked back. I now speak on panels about social media and am completing a training qualification. I could never have foreseen the amazing opportunities that would come out of the course four years ago.”
We asked Maria what her clients are worrying about right now and what advice she shares with them via her network on LinkedIn.
- Without a doubt the biggest concerns right now are related to the wider dynamics they are operating in. There is so much uncertainty around Brexit with regards to consumer demand and regulatory changes coming into effect. And obviously given we work with those in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industries the current Coronavirus pandemic is causing huge strains and preoccupying all senior leaders. Just one impact of this is having to reduce marketing budgets so my focus is on how we can help them to get an effective return on investment with less spend.
- My main pieces of advice always starting with knowing your customer. Businesses always need to be really clear on who they are targeting and have very clear ideal customer avatars/persona in mind before attempting any marketing activity. It is critical for a brand to be where their target customers are speaking directly to them in their language, addressing their pain points and sharing content that resonates with them. Ultimately getting this right has the biggest impact around whether they will buy from you and this is true for organic activity and paid social ads. It’s also better to have a couple of platforms that are performing well for you than several that are not. Think about focusing on Facebook and Instagram if you are a B2C business and LinkedIn and Twitter if you are B2B. Do not spread yourself too thin.
- I always have to remind brands that organic social media is a marathon not a sprint. Businesses need to be posting and engaging consistently for several months before they can expect to see a return in whatever social media goal they have. Be patient and show up consistently. Also supplement this organic activity with paid activity.
Life has changed dramatically for Maria, going from the CEO of a law firm to running her own social media agency. We were curious how her daily life differs.
“No two days are the same now. I could be running a workshop, designing an ad campaign for a client, planning a panel appearance or scheduling content. Even all in one day! To have control of my working life and to be able to prioritise the things that are important to me i.e. my family is a gamechanger. I really enjoy working in social media and the fact that no two days are the same with platforms that change every day, keeping me on my toes. I think that I have the best of all worlds!”
You can hire Maria’s agency here https://four31digital.com