Content case study: from launch to ideal client in six weeks

Sonja Jefferson

Yoke is a new design studio. Run by Jay Bigford and Alister Wynn here at Spike Island, the company is six weeks old today and it’s looking like a runaway success. In just six weeks they have landed their dream client, have just about all the work they can handle with a stream of good leads coming in – and all this without having to resort to ‘cold calling’ too.

Yoke have their launch and marketing strategy absolutely right. Here is their story:

The Cornerstones of YOKE’s Marketing Strategy:
– A clear, honest, positive mission that runs through all that they do
– A targeted, niche approach with absolute certainty of who they want to do business with
– A beautifully designed website with valuable content at its heart
– Writing and sharing relevant articles on topics close to both their own and target clients’ hearts
– Building relationships through Twitter
– A web strategy that’s wider than their website

Sonja: “What is the big idea behind Yoke?”

Jay: “We are both experienced freelance designers, with a background working for digital agencies on web design projects for global brands. Alister and I been friends for 12 years and from the start it was clear that we shared the same goals and values. We have always loved design but we wanted to do more than just earn our keep: we want to make a difference too.

We launched Yoke so we can offer our services to people or organisations we think are really trying to do something positive for our planet.  Often these organisations don’t have big budgets for online marketing services. Our aim is to take our knowledge and skills and help their causes by giving them the digital tools they require, at a significantly lower rate than that of a large agency. We really want to help.

Sonja: “How did you come up with your launch ideas?”

Jay: “We thought long and hard about how to start our studio. Many people who do so take a client with them and build their company off that relationship. We couldn’t do that: many of the clients we’d worked for previously didn’t fit our selective work ethic.  Our policy is to collaborate with those who are contributing towards positive change in the world.  We looked at the design companies who inspired us.  Their websites were way more than just beautiful portfolio sites – they talked about more than just design; they seemed to write a lot, sharing their expertise in the widest sense.  We decided to do the same but take it one step further.  We write about subjects that interest us on a personal and professional level which we feel helps us connect with our clients.  We wanted to prove our ideas without being smug or judgmental. Content and tone were absolutely key.

Sonja: “Tell us about the steps you have taken so far.”

Jay: “Our first step was to get our website right. We couldn’t launch the company without it. We paid close attention to design, layout/usability, content and wording – they all had to work together to provide the right platform for our business. We wanted a site people learn from and start conversations, not just a portfolio site.

We had a clear idea of the organisations we wanted to help. Our next step was to write articles and reports on subjects close to their hearts (for example one on using social media for social good, another on trends in online grocery shopping). We wanted to show that we understood their issues, and give them something useful to think about.

Before we started we thought we might have to cold call to make contact. We weren’t looking forward to this I can tell you! We noticed that many of them were on Twitter. What has really surprised us is that just by connecting with them on Twitter and swapping news and our reports was enough to get their interest. The ‘Twitter handshake’ is amazingly powerful – you get a totally different response to a cold email or call. You can really build relationships via Twitter.  You have to make sure you get your bio just right: this gets delivered to their inbox and can make all the difference.

The other thing that has worked well was to get our site up on design inspiration sites across the web. I put us on one or two and had a great response. It’s gone viral – we’re now on 20-30 sites!  We’ve landed a couple of really interesting projects in the States this way. We’ve just won the ‘site of the day’ award on a fantastic site called awwwards.com. We were up against loads of other sites and reviewed by an international panel of judges. Part of the prize is getting featured in a book they produce. It just doesn’t get better from a marketing point of view.

Sonja: “What success have you had to date?”

Jay: “We thought we’d have to do a lot of free work for small companies to get to where we are now, but three weeks in and we are working with our dream client – The Sustainable Restaurant Association – on a really important campaign to reduce food waste in restaurants.  The campaign has been endorsed by the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and other chefs and celebrities, so will make a big impact. We have created the identity for the campaign as well as delivering a cutting-edge responsive website that is optimised for mobile use.

We have also landed two jobs in the States working with online marketing agency Thoughtlead.  After discovering our site on design award sites Thoughtlead got in contact: they shared similar goals and ethics to us as well as loving our style and design.  We are really overjoyed that people are actually connecting to our message and contacting because we have shared beliefs.  This has far exceeded our expectations.

We have now got a steady stream of work coming in and are feeling good about the fact that we can turn down work that doesn’t fit our market and ethics.  We have turned away at least eight projects so far because they don’t fit with our values. We now have six projects booked in, not bad for six weeks after launch!

Sonja: “What advice would you give others looking to launch a new business?”

Jay: Stay positive and play to your strengths. There is no point trying to sell yourself as something you are not.  The main reason for us starting the business was because we had something valuable to add to the discussion, a voice worth hearing. It is important to find your voice and give it a defined tone that people can relate to. The content of our site was key: images can only say so much and we really want to start discussions, change behavior and influence change – hopefully by people engaging in our writing we may achieve this. I would also recommend treating everyone you work with amazingly, it helps your business reputation and also makes people happy which is what it’s all about!

Alister: Specialise in a sector and create a connection with your market that is personal.  At Yoke we believe strongly in sustainability and working towards a better future.  This comes across in our work and people connect with this: it’s why they get in contact.

Sonja: Thanks very much Jay and Alister. What a fantastic start! We love the idea behind Yoke and we think your marketing approach is just right. We’d like to award you this month’s Valuable Content Award for your beautifully designed, content rich website with a sound message at its heart.


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