What have you learned about marketing? Marketing in the real business world is more about being pragmatic than theoretical. I have learnt not to over-analyse—“paralysis by analysis”—and instead create lean marketing plans with clear business objectives. Make every decision by putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and be transparent and open in the way you communicate to the market and do business. Lastly, make sure you and your entire organisation understand your proposition and unique value. If you don’t understand it clearly, how can you articulate it succinctly to your customers?
What technology has most changed your approach to marketing your business? And how? Social media followed very closely by Google Analytics. Social media gets a lot of hype but as long as you have clear business objectives and desired outcomes from using social media it will work well for you. We use social media for everything from customer acquisition and concept awareness all the way through to resolving customer support issues online. Google Analytics allows us to better measure the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns in real time and adjust our marketing spend to what is most effective.
What’s been the key to your success? Surrounding myself with brilliant people. We have assembled amazing teams at Au Pair Link and My Food Bag and this has been critical for the success of both. Other than that, I would say it’s sheer hard work and determination. I am also really lucky to work with my husband on both businesses and sharing goals and objectives, both in our personal and business life, allows us to stay focused on the end goal.
What did you make of the hubbub over the My Food Bag launch? Few start-up businesses that have launched into the New Zealand market have caused such a media storm and we loved every minute of it. We were genuinely thrilled with the feedback from the people who trialled our product and provided feedback through forums such as Twitter and Facebook (#notanad). Many of those who trialled our product are now customers and dare I say (or at least hope) we will see more of this type of activity in the future.
What’s the biggest risk to your businesses? Au Pair Link is a government-funded home-based Early Childhood Education provider so it is really important that we work closely with the Ministry of Education to achieve the right outcomes for children and working parents. We have recently formed the Home Early Learning Organisation (HELO) with other leading home-based ECE providers to better communicate the benefits of home-based care and education for our young children. For My Food Bag, it is a different challenge. As a start-up we are still very much in operational mode and dealing with business as usual issues. We’re not very focused on the risks right now. Our key focus is just creating an amazing customer experience.
Where have you sought and found advice? Many years ago we used the Business Mentoring service, which we found really good at the time (and for the size of our business at that point). However, as our business grew we decided to assemble an advisory board with two non-executive directors, Lee Mathias and Theresa Gattung. This has been invaluable for Au Pair Link and ensured the direction of our company has continued to be challenged.
You’re juggling motherhood and running two businesses. How do you balance the two? We have an amazing au pair who makes our life a lot easier. For me, it’s mostly about the fact I miss [my son]terribly and suffer with maternal guilt. I do try to balance my days so I have at least five hours of quality time with him each day. Sometimes this means working into the early hours of the morning to get everything done.
Any advice for young entrepreneurs? Have a sound business idea, understand the competitive landscape and, when you decide to proceed, assemble an amazing team. I think 2013 is a great year to do business and while there are challenges going on around the world we need to push on, continue to challenge the norm and innovate.
Five things to know about Cecilia Robinson
Where were you born? Stockholm, Sweden.
Where do you call home? Auckland, New Zealand. I love this place and wouldn’t trade it for any location in the world.
What phone do you use? An iPhone 5 – haven’t fallen in-love just yet (but I am enjoying the camera).
What car do you drive? The mummy vehicle is a Mazda CX5 and our latest addition to the family is the new Mazda 6 Limited (and loving it).
What’s your one secret (but useless) talent? Having worked at a leisure park as a teen I am an expert at testing broken roller coasters (don’t ask me how).
- This story originally featured in the May/June edition of NZ Marketing.