Insights from Valuable Content: The dynamic duo of marketing in Bristol

This month, it was my pleasure to talk to the dynamic duo of marketing in Bristol, Valuable Content. The powerhouse that is Sharon Tanton and Sonja Jefferson created an agency that inspires me daily, and wrote a brilliant book about content marketing. I wanted to understand how they grew their business, what they’d learned, and what insights they could share. Read on to find out more:

1.Tell us a bit about you, about your company and what makes you different?

We’re a two woman operation and we’re building a business based on teaching independent founders and owners how to create content that matters so they build businesses they love.

We’re big believers in the power of creating and sharing valuable content. This is the secret behind all good sales and marketing if you want to build trust and differentiate what you do. We help people work out what it is they want to say to the world and how to get the word out so they attract the right clients and grow.

What makes us different? We run a business school in a pub! ( I don’t know anyone else who is doing that, and it feels very Bristol. We definitely do things differently in this city.

We’ve recently have taken the teaching online and started a virtual programme too, for people who can’t make it to Bristol. We’re definitely the only Virtual Pub School!


2. What common mistakes do you see startups and SMEs making in your field?

In the field of content marketing, I’d say the biggest mistake people make is trying to market themselves without doing the strategic thinking first ( Just churning out any old ‘content’ won’t do you any good. For content marketing to work it needs to be purposeful and customer focused above anything else.

In the field of running a business I’d say the biggest mistake we see is not being niche enough. It’s a similar challenge to the content marketing one – who’s the customer and how am I uniquely placed to help them?


3. In a single sentence, tell us about the biggest challenge of your career to date.

Hard to write a single sentence as there have been so many challenges, and there are new ones every day, but if you will accept a very long sentence, I’d say our biggest challenge has been trying to run a project based (agency style) business and a fledgling teaching business side by side with only two people doing all the work. You have to focus!


4. How did you overcome this challenge?

We’re switching our focus to the teaching side. Sounds simple to say that but it’s taken a lot of heart-searching to make that decision. We’ve built a career so far on ‘doing content marketing’ for and with people – we’ve written books on it, it’s what people know us for, and we’ve worked with some amazing clients over the years – but we need to make a change and we’re so excited about the impact we can make for businesses through teaching. I wouldn’t say we’d overcome the challenge yet, but it feels really exciting to have made the decision.


5. What lessons did you learn?

So many lessons. How long have you got? Two women can’t run a happy and profitable business that’s looking in two directions at once. You’ve got to focus. Be clear about your goals. Be clear what you’re selling. Know your numbers. Be generous with your heart but fierce with your time. I wouldn’t say we’d mastered all those, but we are aware of them and trying hard to learn them!


6. Let’s get Lean. What single thing takes up the most time in your business?

In the past, the research and thinking we did on behalf of clients, and all the project management work that goes around that. From now on our time will be spent teaching the groups both online and offline, marketing the new business, and developing an online product.


7. How do you market your product or service?

By creating and sharing valuable content, of course! We write blogs and share them. We have an email newsletter where we share our best ideas with our community. Social media is important for us – Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are useful and we enjoy the connections we make. Talks and events are a great way of spreading the word and connecting with people and we’d like to do even more of them. We’re thinking about writing another book (watch this space)…..


8. What marketing challenges did you face at the start of your business?

Back when we started ‘content marketing’ wasn’t really a thing, so there was a challenge explaining what we did and the value of it. It’s better known now but the challenge is getting people to create meaningful, high quality content that resonates with the type of clients they really want to attract.


9. How did you overcome them?

Events overcame that challenge. It became clearer that buyers expectations were changing, that pretty much every purchase these days involves a web search, and that having a strong online presence is essential. You don’t have to sell the idea of digital marketing any more.


10. If there was one marketing piece of advice you could offer, what would it be?

Always write for one person. Write for one, help many.