An introduction to marketing consultant Nat Sharp
Frequent asked questions from small businesses
What is Sharp Thinking about?
I started Sharp Thinking 3 years ago with a vision to provide practical marketing planning support for small businesses across Kent & Sussex.
A decade ago I moved to Tunbridge Wells, believing deeply I could take my skills and use them to help small independent businesses that didn't have marketing departments or access to any marketing experts.
I’ve never looked back and it has been highly rewarding and enjoyable.
What experience do you have?
I've a real passion for marketing, grounded in a 20+ career based in London where I worked both in advertising agencies as well as in-house for brands like BA and Vodafone, as well as tiny startups.
I’m a well-rounded marketer with experience across all elements of marketing from brand marketing, lead generation, thought leadership and creating social media strategies. In fact, I created the first ever social media strategy for Vodafone Enterprise in the UK a decade ago which is still going strong.
My particular expertise and flair is for business to business marketing. I find it to be more targeted and analytical, meaning I can measure the real impact of marketing.
What does a marketing consultant do?
As a marketing consultant, I provide impartial business planning advice to provide focus, direction and structure. Much of my time is spent undertaking marketing reviews and developing marketing strategy and plans, delving into data and research to spot trends and make recommendations. Without this, you're simply making things up and will either go down the wrong path, or you'll have a generic strategy which isn't tailored enough to your business and achieving your objectives.
Clients often come to me with 2 scenarios:
They have either never engaged in marketing before and been reliant on business development and referrals and don't know where to start.
Or, they have dabbled with a bit of everything, it becomes labour intensive and they have no idea whether their marketing is working or not. Consequently, they're overwhelmed and want a clear roadmap for the year and beyond.
What does a marketing strategy contain?
A marketing strategy tends to start with an audit of your business and market. From this, you can identify key insights which form the basis of the strategy. Targeting then follows so we can tightly define your audience, creating audience personas and if required develop a prospect list. Clients are often anxious about excluding groups of customers and start with a very broad ideal customer. However, the more defined you can be, the better.
Before looking at the execution plan or channels, I'll spend some time looking at your brand, defining your USP and key messages. Without this, you'll end up with a generic message which won't necessarily resonate or stand out from your competitors.
This is supported with business and marketing objectives and an execution plan where we look at how and when you'll bring your brand to market, how much should be invested and define what success looks like.
And what about a marketing plan?
Although “plan” and “strategy” are often used interchangeably, they mean two different things, and they’re both equally important.
A marketing strategy is a broad look at who you need to market to and what you hope to achieve. Your marketing plan is where you use the goals and objectives outlined in the marketing strategy to plan out exactly what you will do to promote your business - or the 'how' and 'when'.
Often businesses fast track to their marketing plan without focusing on the more time consuming complex parts – the 'what', 'why' and 'who'. Businesses require both and I rarely work on just a strategy or plan.
Who are your clients?
My clients vary from startups to well-established family-run businesses operating in healthcare, construction, manufacturing and retail.
Most recently, I’ve started working with businesses in London too. Lockdown has broken down geographical boundaries and Zoom has become my new best friend!
Lockdown has been my busiest time and I got to work with 6 new clients either because they needed to diversify, streamline or digitize their marketing.
What does it cost to work with a marketing consultant?
Costs vary enormously from client to client and project to project, dependent on your needs and budget. Marketing strategies vary from £2k for a straightforward strategy to £10k for a more complex business requiring multiple strategies for different markets and a new brand positioning.
I’ve started offering marketing coaching too to offer more flexibility and clients normally pay a monthly retainer for the number of days they would like support.
What do you do outside of work?
Giving back is important to me and putting my skills to good use. Where I can I work as a mentor with The Kent Foundation and assist with marketing for our school PTA.
Running has been my release over the last year and I hope to complete my first half marathon this summer if it goes ahead.
What would your number 1 tip be for small businesses at the moment?
My number 1 tip right now would be to divert resources into your website and deliver a brilliant online experience regardless of what sector you’re in, and, spend every spare minute learning and implementing SEO.
Always think ahead. Never standstill.
And what about the future?
I'm optimistic about this year and small businesses bouncing back once we get through spring and the vaccine has been fully rolled out - it is has got to get better right?
I've been fortunate enough to witness some really positive results for my clients in recent months and the market does seem to be slowly picking up.
Interested in learning more about how Sharp Thinking have worked with small businesses?
Have a read of the latest case studies. See how we provided marketing mentoring, created a brand and marketing strategy for a new business to business brand and helped a construction business move into new markets with a marketing plan.
Don't forget to connect with us on social media too!