We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the coming weeks we will interview some of these businesses and share some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Tamara Howard - from Tamara Howard Communications.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
TH: Having cut my teeth in the corporate world; working within some of the most dynamic, creative and vibrant award-winning marketing teams, I took the plunge to take my skills to the wider world and set up my own business. I did this in November 2019, jumping into the thick of it with my boutique Brand Agency - Tamara Howard Communications.
But...and none of us saw that but coming! Who knew what lay just around the corner for me. My business was fresh out of the gate, I was literally only trading a matter of months when the pandemic hit. Prior to that time, I was slowly starting to build up my name as a new business in the Drogheda area so my aim was to actively get out and engage with other business owners to grow my network and nurture contacts. I was still grappling with being a relative newcomer to the local business community and the initial pandemic snapback was a shock to the system.
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
TH: I had several clients whose work completely evaporated overnight, and the pipeline work that I was looking forward to made a similar dramatic exit stage left! It felt like, almost in the blink of an eye, I found myself looking at an empty 2020 projection. I am naturally pretty resilient so I thought to myself “Ok, Tamara, well that was a nice experiment...but...you’ve literally nothing to lose now so why don’t we give this another go?” I figured if this was the worst it could ever be then it was probably worth rolling up the sleeves and pushing a little harder.
I listened...hard! I watched what the market was doing and I paid attention. I also used the opportunity to sharpen my messaging, my positioning and ultimately how I communicated my own brand. I got some critical feedback and overhauled my website. Essentially, I grabbed the opportunity and I started afresh!
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
TH: During this period I launched our Marketing On Call service, which is a solution for businesses who want to keep their operations lean while having a full marketing team at their disposal. This means having a designer, social media strategist, digital SEO expert … whatever is needed, at your disposal. This has been really well-received as it’s completely flexible and the services selected are driven by my clients’ business requirements.
We call ourselves the Brand Agency With Soul, and we like to say that a brand without a soul is as useful as a bad tattoo. So during this crucial time, we worked with businesses to strategically define their own unique brand soul, using their digital channels to shine strongly in a noisy crowd. So, without a doubt, we have bolstered our digital capabilities and services to better support businesses that found themselves in need of a sophisticated digital solution in order to continue trading behind closed doors.
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
TH: In terms of financial supports, as a digital / marketing service provider, I was somewhat more limited in what was made available. I was extremely grateful to have benefitted from the Business Continuity Voucher, which allowed me to work with the stellar Miriam Simon. Her mentoring and guidance pulled the train back on the tracks at that crucial moment last April. It was like someone handed me a magnifying glass and gave me the laser strategic focus I needed.
I have also found the Drogheda & District Chamber to be absolutely irreplaceable as a business owner. My membership there is a firm non-negotiable now as I have benefited greatly from new connections and exposure. Additionally, I leaned into some personal business networks that became a pivotal part of my own growth. As business owners, it’s important to have spaces where we can be vulnerable without agenda or fear of repercussion. Those relationships have allowed me to gain a unique perspective on my own business.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
TH: I watch countries like Australia or New Zealand who have come through the eye of the storm and we can learn so much from their consumer behaviour or anecdotal stories. I can see that not everyone is emerging at the same rate, or at the same speed. Not everyone wants to jump back in with all guns blazing - even with the vaccine. It is going to take time, patience, probably a few more false starts, but we will get back to a place we are happy to call normal.
Ultimately, I think the game is there to be won by businesses who can incorporate different or unpredictable consumer attitudes by offering blended customer engagement services. An offline / online mix is going to be an important part of the shopping experience, and the challenge remains for businesses to capture and communicate their brand soul in all of their changing processes. It’s as important now as it has ever been to maintain brand values and allow your customers to fall in love with you! I’m really excited to see what vibrant innovations lie just around the corner for the brands who are actively listening to their customers.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
TH: I would encourage businesses to use this time to examine their brand values and take it a step beyond just a logo / tagline. Take out a pen & paper and sketch your brand as though it was a person. Who are they? What words do they use? Do they speak fast / slow? What clothes do they wear? How do they feel about politics? Where would they probably be seen having lunch? What kind of music do they listen to...or are they a podcast kinda person?! This exercise might uncover some interesting opportunities for new ways of expressing your brand soul and ultimately connecting with your customers.
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you @Drogheda & District Chamber.