When Clare Yarwood-White opened her first bridal jewellery business in 2003 she wanted to create an aspirational brand that brides could connect with on a personal level – something that was clearly missing from the non-branded, imported jewellery she saw in her local bridal stores. Noticing this clear trend towards a more bespoke and personalised wedding service propelled her brand, Yarwood-White to success.
After 9 years, and with two small children, Clare decided to sell the business to focus on family, but before long her entrepreneurial side led her to opening branding & marketing consultancy Opal & Co. Focusing on small clients with big dreams, Clare and her team are not only marketing and branding experts, but their experience on the other side of the wedding industry give them the insight and understanding of the small business struggles we wedding solopreneurs face.
WHY DID YOU START YOUR BUSINESS & WHAT DID YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE?
I started a wedding jewellery business called Yarwood-White back in 2003. My timing was lucky. E-commerce was in its infancy, the craft movement was still to hit the big time, and there was a lot of unbranded, imported jewellery in boutiques that left brides with nothing to connect with. There was a clear opportunity to create an accessible but aspirational jewellery brand, and a relatively open playing field online, so I went for it.
After 9 successful and happy years building the Yarwood-White brand and getting to know the wedding industry, I sold the business to spend more time with my two small boys. I didn’t sit still for long and after a few years of consulting, in 2016 I launched Opal & Co – the branding and marketing consultancy I wished I could have hired when I was running Yarwood-White.
My research showed that it is surprisingly difficult for small but ambitious wedding businesses to get high quality marketing support in a user-friendly package – where do you find someone who understands your business and your industry?
With Opal & Co I want to emulate that wonderful sense of community and support that I received from the wedding industry when I started Yarwood-White. We take away the pain of reactive, chaotic and time-consuming marketing activity and our small team of specialists acts like a virtual marketing department.
Branding, PR, copywriting and social media planning are all popular services. We have also styled photoshoots, compiled lookbooks and project managed tradeshows. Opal & Co is a reassuring oasis of calm and reason in a somewhat frenzied marketing world!
What was it that attracted you to work in the wedding industry?
The short hours and the high pay, right? Ha! Seriously though, it was the opportunity to express my creativity, the sense of theatre, the privilege of being involved in someone’s big day, the warm and friendly people and the ripples of happiness created by a job done well.
I spent my early career working for a global media agency which was exciting but, well, big, so when I made the move into weddings I loved the agility of managing a small business, and being able to make instant, high-impact changes.
Why do you think most small business owners in our industry struggle with marketing themselves?
Three main reasons:
- Because it’s not their core competency. They come into the business because they make the most mouth-melting cakes, or can design dream-come-true dresses, and understandably this is where their focus lies. It’s simply not viable to grow a business and be good at everything along the way, so marketing can be the ball that gets dropped in the juggle.
- Sometimes when you are very close to your business, it’s hard to see it objectively and the things that really need tweaking get overlooked. And, honestly, no-one will tell you what they don’t like about your business because they won’t want to hurt your feelings, so you may never know!
- Selling yourself can feel very uncomfortable to some people, especially if you aren’t clear what to say. This point applies equally whether you are talking to brides at a wedding show, cold-calling a journalist or writing copy for your website or facebook page. Modesty takes over and we fail to communicate the best bits about ourself.
This month we’re not just talking about connecting with clients, but finding the right ones! How do you help brands define their dream client?
We would profile a brand’s dream client in terms of budget, style, location, personality, and demographics, and also review the type of clients or projects that the brand would prefer to avoid.
But this only one side of the story: in order to attract a dream client you have to know what your dream business looks like. This is what we call the Brand Blueprint: the vision for your brand, the principles it is built on, what makes you special and crucially, why this matters to your dream client.
Dream clients and dream businesses go hand in hand, and when the fit is right, that’s when the magic happens!
How important is branding when trying to connect with clients?
It’s vital. You may have noticed that it is a fiercely competitive market out there: businesses are having to fight like mad for their share of the market and branding is the secret weapon.
There’s so much that’s wonderful about most businesses. The mix of talent, the creativity, the dedication, and the unique personality are all key selling points, but if the message is muddled, faded or going off at a tangent you are missing a trick.
By crystallising the vision for your brand, being brave and chucking out anything that is diluting your message, you can fall in love with your business again. In turn, your clients can see exactly what makes your business perfect for them.
In a crowded market, it can be hard to get your brand noticed. How can wedding professionals stand out when contacting press and influencers?
To stop journalists and bloggers hitting delete your photos have to be awesome.
Keep emails concise and clear; no clever or ambiguous email subjects or rambling life stories.
Have one clear message and get to the point – whether it’s the launch of a new service or product, an idea for a point of view article, a real wedding or a styled shoot. Be clear what you are asking for and do it in just a few sentences.
Does social media matter? How can brands create an engaged social media following that converts into enquiries and bookings?
Yes it matters, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s better to manage one or two networks really well, than four or five badly. Be pragmatic about the resources you have available.
Then it all comes back to the strategy for the brand – knowing why you are using social media and what you want to achieve. One of the biggest causes of social media angst is not knowing what to post. If you spend time planning a schedule of content that communicates the core elements of your brand promise, it takes all the headaches away.
To get engagement you have to be authentic to your brand. If you are an innovative, creative brand, then you post surprising, quirky content. If you are a premium brand, you post slick, high quality images. Beware: authentic rarely means posting photos of you drinking wine in your onesie!
Are there any practical tips (apps, programs or systems) you would recommend for managing your own marketing & PR?
Mailchimp is fabulous for creating good looking, mobile friendly email campaigns (a must). And of course I can’t be without the Google Analytics app for keeping track of marketing metrics. The Opal & Co team uses Trello and Slack for remote working, to plan campaigns, manage contacts, to do lists, track PR coverage and more. We are very organised!
Photography: Table settings courtesy of One Stylish Day