A key element of brand development is finding a way to make your company stand out from its competition. We spoke to Alex Curtis of The Lead Engine – a digital marketing agency that helps clients find high-quality leads that convert to sales – and found out why startups should prioritise people and embrace their differences.

“Observe the masses and do the opposite” is a quote that I once read in a book by James Caan from Dragons’ Den. It really struck a chord with me and, funnily enough, it has become a sentence that resonates with me and my business, The Lead Engine.

It all started in 2013 with me, Alex, the founder of the Lead Engine. The rest has snowballed beyond anything I could have ever imagined (in a good way). I’ve worked in digital marketing since 2004 and have been in jobs for agencies in the past where I wasn’t convinced that the process was entirely working for clients. I wanted to help people build their business, not watch them burn a hole in their budget over processes that are not producing results.

So I decided to take a leap of faith and off I went on my venture. And I’m so glad that I did.

The result was The Lead Engine, a now thriving digital marketing agency that helps clients from any industry see more high-quality leads that can potentially convert to sales. The most common areas we work in are: financial services, home improvements, product manufacturing, software, B2B service providing and online subscriptions.

As a digital marketing agency, we know how difficult it can be to stand out from the crowd. But we’ve managed to devise a foolproof process that works for us and that we can apply to every one of our clients. It all started with observing what every other digital marketing agency was doing, then going against the grain and doing the opposite. Which is when we discovered that it actually worked!

Don’t be afraid to be different

Stereotypically, being different is often viewed as a bad thing. But in our case, it's been one of our great successes and we would encourage anyone looking to start a business to do the same. In positioning ourselves against our competitors, we looked at the kind of agencies that we didn’t want to be and found that they were utilising garish, bright colours and used all sorts of weird and not-so-wonderful names. They also had a strong tendency to boast about all the things that they could do, but often missed out on some vital information that people would really want to know.

We took a long hard look in the mirror and questioned what those nonsensical names and methods have to say about a business. The reality is, not a lot. Anyone can have a bizarre name and boast about themselves. So we did the opposite. Our name isn’t funky, it's functional. Our colours, purple and white, aren’t in your face, but they are enough to be remembered. Another thing we do totally differently to standard digital marketing agencies is not talk about what we do.

It seems like a scary thought. You want people to use your product or service, so surely it makes sense to bombard them with all the good things that you do, right? Wrong. People want to know what you can do for THEM and what it means for THEM.

Stop bragging, no one wants to hear it

It sounds brutal, but honestly, no one cares what you do. People just want to know what it means for them and what they can get out of it. So the moment you stop banging on about all your pros and start letting people know how you can actually benefit them, the better. You’ll start to see better results.

People buy from people

Another tool that many companies do not utilise enough is one that is unique to your business… yourself. People like to do business with people. While you might feel slightly embarrassed or narcissistic about having your face plastered all over your website, it actually works. We are the proof. Since making my face famous on our website and producing videos talking to a camera, our sales have increased tenfold.

We’re a service brand and people buy our service because they like us and trust us. That’s because of our people. My face is the brand and as we’re growing, we’re slowly introducing our people more and more. It also helps that we have a memorable colour scheme and icon that’s coupled with our people. The ‘branding colours’ are consistent but, ultimately, it’s the people that are remembered. #TeamGoals.

Start remarketing

Remarketing is an invaluable tool that won’t cost the earth. On average, we spend about £3 a day on Facebook remarketing and it’s secured our last six clients. It's unlikely that someone is going to do business with you on their first visit They are going to want to conduct research and they are going to need time to think about it, so all hope is not lost.  Remarketing is there to remind people about you; to remind them that they need you.

For us, this is practising what we preach, but it also works for our clients. This is a motto we firmly believe in. If we aren’t doing it, why should our clients do it?

Practice what you preach

We’re an advertising company, so our ads are super-targeted and we spend our budget in the same way as our clients would. If we’re not willing to invest in advertising then we shouldn’t expect our clients to do the same. And that’s exactly what they’ll be thinking. The same logic applies to other industries too.

Say, for example, you are a logo designer. If your logos aren’t original, no one is going to want to come to do business with you. The same applies to window cleaners: you better have the cleanest windows, otherwise clients won’t take you seriously.

All too often the mechanic has the least reliable car and the painter and decorator has an unfinished home, because we focus all our attention on our customers and not ourselves.

The customer is king, but you must MAKE the time and effort for your own brand if you want it to be successful. You must practice what you preach (or sell).

Spend more time listening

On the topic of making time and effort, there’s another way to really stand out from your competitors: spend more time listening than talking. That’s where a lot of us go wrong in communication with our friends and loved ones, and the same applies to our customers. Do not underestimate the value of listening to customers talk about their bad experiences with other businesses, as you can pick up on their downfalls and start doing the things they don’t.

All too often, we have customers telling us how the digital marketing agencies they dealt with in the past “didn’t have a clear plan”.  Or that they always say “they have to research keywords” and end up using a whole load of other jargon that doesn’t mean anything to the customers. However, again, we do the opposite. We take note of the things that other digital marketing agencies are doing wrong, which allows us to capitalise on their mistakes. It seems like more effort, but it isn’t really and it pays off.

Leave no room for grey areas

We have a tried and tested process that we can apply to any client and we know it works. You could say we like to keep it simple. We pick areas we have experience in, such as financial services, and we can explain with ease how we’ll work and what processes we will use from day one, ensuring there are no grey areas. We aren’t desperate for business and we only genuinely want to help people that we know we can help. Additionally, we aren’t going to promise the world and not deliver. We focus on the targets that matter, which reduces our customers’ cost per sale. We’ll only promise what’s achievable and we’ll bend over backwards so that we deliver it.

We hope you have learnt something from this article and if you want to find out more, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Alex Curtis

The information contained in this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice on any matter. Use of this website is at users own risk and is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship between Virgin StartUp and any user. Information displayed on this website is provided “as is” and Virgin StartUp does not provide any express or implied warranty or representation concerning the information, including but not limited to the accuracy or appropriateness of the information. Virgin StartUp recommend that users seek their own legal advice before taking (or refraining from) taking any action and do not accept any liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the information displayed on this website to the fullest extent permitted by law.