Posted on May 03, 2023
How would you explain your business to someone who has no knowledge of it?
Sandford is a boutique PR and digital marketing agency that specialises in the architecture, interior design and luxury markets. We’re passionate storytellers of exceptional, thoughtful design, looking holistically at communications to ensure companies make maximum impact.
How long have you been in this business? And in other businesses?
I have worked in this industry for over 5 years but started my career as a digital project manager in large advertising agencies including McCann Erickson, MRM Worldwide, Digitas London and Publicis Worldwide where I worked for both consumer and b2b brands for over 10 years before taking a career break.
My colleague Katherine, who founded Sandford has worked in the industry for over 20 years both at larger agencies and in-house on the client-side.
Why did you choose it?
I have always been passionate about digital marketing and it has evolved drastically over the years. My father worked in the interior design industry for many years so I was naturally drawn to this career combining the two influences.
The design industries had long been wedded to traditional PR and communications and when Katherine and I started working together, we realised that both could actually sit alongside each other and be much more powerful when closely aligned. Rather than working in silos, the Sandford PR and Digital teams work side by side to ensure our clients maximise their communications and we found it provided a much clearer brand story.
How did you get started?
My initial experience was in large advertising agencies where I ran digital marketing projects for a wide and varied range of international clients from Nestlé and Visa to LG Europe and Hewlett Packard where I ran multi-national campaigns with their local markets. It taught to be agile in how I manage any client work and gave me a solid foundation on which to build my career.
My earliest memory of social media was working on a Twitter campaign for easyJet Holidays, working with the copywriting team to draft tweets! Back then Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn didn’t exist or were in their infancy so it was still very analogue in comparison to today’s fast-paced environment.
After a career break to have my family, I retrained to update my knowledge on the latest platforms which is where I met Katherine. Together, we saw the natural synergies and the rest is history.
How do you attract your clients?
We are lucky to work with some wonderful clients who have come to us through various channels. Over the last few years, whilst the majority of relationships have developed through word-of-mouth, we have also spent time investing in our wider digital marketing activities.
Working with Pink SEO as well as Beehive Green, we have completely refreshed our branding, our website and our SEO. Our work with Pink has improved our discoverability by those seeking expertise in the industry.
We have also created a newsletter which we took time to ensure added value and isn’t just a sales push. Our Journal provides industry insights and tips to help and support brands on their PR and digital marketing journeys and many have come to us having subscribed to this over the years too.
We have also brought in business development expertise to the business to ensure we are really responding to the needs of our potential clients by tailoring our support and services accordingly.
Can you describe your customers?
Our clients cover a wide range of areas within the creative industries. From architects and interior designers, to product manufacturers such as tile brands, bathroom brands and flooring, it allows us to have a really in-depth knowledge of the industry as a whole. Our clients are often their clients too which gives us important insights.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
The communications and design landscapes are constantly evolving and as a result, Sandford will continue to evolve too. We are passionate about the creative industries and feel there is still so much potential for brands to harness the power of marketing. Community and a sense of belonging will be essential to weave through all digital activity, rather than staying static. We want to help conversations happen with audiences so that they feel part of any brand’s journey.
Which things make you happy as a small business owner?
Katherine and I both love the ability to work as a close-knit team, one that works collaboratively together. It gives us the ability to shape plans for clients that are bespoke to their needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. It makes it a more dynamic place to work and share knowledge.
Which is your best-selling product or service and why do you think your clients love it so much?
Every brief we get is unique so there is never one service that overrides another. We can dial up support for PR or for digital as the clients need it.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Our love for the industry, our knowledge and our personal approach
Customer Retention: how do you keep your customers happy?
We run annual Customer Service Questionnaires (CSQs) to ensure we are still providing the high level of service they expect and need. We have monthly meetings and regular check-ins too to keep in touch with our clients and make sure they are happy.
Which challenges did and do you face, running your business?
Obviously the changing economic climate, particularly since the pandemic has affected the creative industries hugely. However, their adaptability and creativity in finding solutions within the community has been wonderful to see and be part of.
Is there any business lesson you learnt through experience that you wish you knew about earlier in life?
Good question! I think knowing that your career and business path is never linear and that drawing on the community and those around you to constantly learn and improve is fundamental to success. Don’t assume you know everything and don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something either.
How do you mantain a good work-life balance?
As someone working in social media, it’s a tricky balance to find! That ‘always on’ life is hard to escape these days. But having supportive colleagues and external interests like my family, pilates and more allows me to switch off and try and find that balance.
Which is your best strategy for time management?
Start life as a project manager 😉 I have grown up in the industry through planning projects and keeping on track so it’s part of my nature. But I always start the day with an action list and the team will tell you, I love a good spreadsheet and an organised inbox!