Should I…? Find out which conversation made her ask this, resulting in a pivotal moment for business owner and marketer Jenny Procter
Let us introduce you to Jenny Procter, a marketing consultant and self-proclaimed introvert.
Jenny writes PR and communications for B2B clients and has her own podcast show, and she discusses issues around running her own business as an entrepreneur.
Jenny says she much prefers to be host than guest but, in this episode, Jenny shares her love for conversation and how powerful it can be with connecting to your audience.
Listen and connect with Jenny here:
In Jenny’s pivotal moment we hear an age-old dilemma – Should I? Should she what…?!
Making Conversations Count – Episode 4
November 11th 2020
Wendy Harris & Jenny Procter, Bondfield Marketing
00:01:29: Wendy’s and Jenny’s shared values
00:02:27: The importance of conversation in Jenny’s work
00:03:36: Conversational communications
00:05:28: Jenny’s pivotal moment
00:08:48: Working for yourself – the initial challenges
00:10:34: A difficult year!
00:13:01: Final thoughts
Wendy Harris: Welcome to another episode of Making Conversations Count. Today, I have the lovely Jenny Procter with me.
Jenny Procter: Hello, Wendy, how are you?
Wendy Harris: I’m fine thank you. Tell us a little bit about who you are and how we first met?
Jenny Procter: Well, I am a marketing consultant. I run Bondfield Marketing and I’ve done that for about eight years; and we met, I think, initially through a conversation on LinkedIn. So, I was building my business; I was thinking I really need to be getting out to more networking events; I’d spent a period kind of juggling home and family; and, I was ready to move my business on a little bit.
There was an event going on quite close to me and I thought, I don’t know anybody who’s going to that event, and I think you’d said you were going to the same event; and it turned out, didn’t it, that we lived about two minutes’ walk from each other? So, you were doing your thing in your end of the village and I was doing my thing and my end of the village, and we arranged to go to the event together. And, I think you picked me up; I was stood on the street corner, which is a little dodgier than it sounds!
Wendy Harris: Yes! How bizarre that there was a fellow marketeer of sorts literally two minutes’ walk from me and that because of the safety of the village that we lived in, that we could say, “Oh, I’ll just meet you on the corner and I’ll be in my little black car; if I beep the horn to you, you’ll know it’s me!”
Jenny Procter: And you did, and we went from there. And, in about the 10/15 minutes it took us to get to the event, I think we realised that we were going to get on, didn’t we?
Wendy Harris: Absolutely. And, it’s just those first impressions, isn’t it, that always count and they stay with you? To think that I would be talking to you about picking you up on a street corner on a podcast; if we’d have said that two years ago, we would have thought we were both completely bonkers.
That conversation, then going to the networking, we came away with fairly similar opinions on how that network was run and I don’t think either of us really returned. But, that sort of cemented the values that we shared?
Jenny Procter: Yes. We’re quite different; we have different kind of complementary skills, don’t we, and personality-wise, I think we’re quite different, but we do both like to achieve results for our clients, we both like to work with interesting clients, so we do complement each other very well.
And, I think you’re right; I think we came away from that event thinking that wasn’t necessarily the best place for us. But, we found other networking events, other forums, where we kind of achieved quite a lot more and made some good connections together, I think, haven’t we?
Wendy Harris: Definitely. And of course, when it comes to making conversations count, having those shared values really does ripple through into everything that you do, doesn’t it? So, in terms of your sort of daily role as a marketeer and strategist, how important are conversations and communication for what you do?
Jenny Procter: I mean, it’s absolutely the heart of everything, isn’t it? It’s the business relationships that you build and it’s the work that you do together. I also think it’s very important to get to know your client and your associates, your colleagues, on a personal level as well; and, I think those clients that I work with the best are those that I can have those conversations about weekends and families and holidays.
And those, over the years, where I’ve still got to build a relationship are those who don’t seem to have time for that, I’m not going to call it “small talk”, because I think those are important conversations too. So, I think getting to know your client and then getting to know their business, you can only do that by engaging with them in conversation.
I always try to create marketing strategies that fit a business, rather than going with a prescribed solution, so I ask lots of questions and I listen intently to the answers, and I think that’s a big part of making conversations that count.
Wendy Harris: I think, what I love about communication that I see that you produce, it’s very conversational, even if that’s like a social media post, or content articles, email templates, any of those things. Although it is with a business focus, it is conversational to the person that’s going to be receiving it and reading it; so, it’s like you’re having a conversation off the page?
Jenny Procter: Yeah, and you can see that in the results actually. Sometimes you receive emails, or you see social media posts, and they’re very kind of informal and chatty and you think, hmm, is that like me? But actually, when I’ve tried both ways, you know, I have some very corporate clients and sometimes it’s appropriate to find a very corporate voice.
But, when you try the corporate voice versus the conversational, the conversational is always the one that does better, you know. People open more emails or they click through on the social media posts, or whatever. So, it’s not just a good way to do business; it’s the way to do business that gets the results, I think. And you can see that, however you evaluate the different forms of communication.
Wendy Harris: Just taking somebody’s observation over a situation and being able to chat about that, when it is a one-way street in written communication, is an art in itself, isn’t it?
Jenny Procter: Yes, but people buy from people, don’t they, and I say this a lot, all the time, to different clients. Even if it’s a very formal business or a very corporate business, people are still buying from people. We like to connect with people, so I think that needs to come through in your communication.
Wendy Harris: And, I think you do that very effectively, Jenny.
Jenny Procter: Oh, thanks.
Wendy Harris: And, you can pay me later, but I’m not just saying that!
Jenny Procter: Yeah, good to hear!
Wendy Harris: Really appreciate you coming in and being my guest on this podcast. I’ve asked every guest to think of one conversation that was a pivotal moment in their life that created a turning point in some way, shape or form. So, I’m going to come to that now, Jenny, and ask you to tell me all about that pivotal moment?
Jenny Procter: It was a really interesting one to think about when you asked me to come on the podcast, because so many conversations, so many of the important conversations in life are the personal ones, aren’t they? They’re about relationships, or our children or our families, and I want to talk about work a little bit more. And, it took me right back to 2002, actually, a long way back.
I was 29 and I was working as a communications manager in an organisation in the gas industry, and I’d spent my twenties in in-house roles; I’d worked organising events; I’d worked for the rail industry in a press officer role; but I had a kind of hankering to work for myself. I don’t know where that came from, because nobody in my family is an entrepreneur; nobody in my family works in sales; they’re all kind of public sector, straight, proper jobs, if you like.
But, I was chatting to the printer that I used in that job, who in herself was a very interesting lady. She’d been a solicitor and had become a printer, even if that’s not an obvious career move in anybody’s book, and I’d not done a lot with print in jobs prior to that. So, I did my usual thing, which was to ask lots of questions and learn what I needed to know to be good at that part of my job. But, we got on very well and I remember saying to her, “I’m quite interested in working for myself”.
She ran her own business, so she was a good person to talk to. And, I had a feeling that the best way to do that was to work in an agency, to kind of go and work in another business, to work for somebody else, and to learn how to run my own business. And the conversation that stuck out from that, and she kind of looked at me, I mean kindly, you know; she didn’t look at me like I’d lost my mind, and said, “Actually, Jenny, the way to learn about working for yourself is to work for yourself”,
I was like, “Oh, yes”, and the penny dropped! And, it took a little while from there, and it was about another 8-12 months before I actually handed in my resignation, but that conversation meant I handed in my resignation from a full-time, safe, paid job to go and work for myself which, I guess you take the risks at that age, 29, 30, when you’ve not got children, particularly.
So, I took the leap and I spent the next four or five years working for myself because somebody had said, at the right moment, they’d given me the confidence and given me the permission almost, to go off and to set up the business, and that was tremendously helpful later on when I was back in a corporate job, which I really didn’t enjoy and I was struggling with the whole work-life balance, you know, small child, trying to do a full-time job. And, because I had worked for myself before, I knew I could do it again.
So, that initial conversation with Alice not only gave me the confidence to work for myself at that point, but it gave me that skill to come back to later on in my career when I properly needed that kind of more flexible working arrangement. So, yeah, I don’t know if Alice knows that she was quite that instrumental in making a big life decision, but it took my career in a whole different way and I’ve spent at least half my career now working for myself, as opposed to working for somebody else, which suits me very nicely.
Wendy Harris: Well, thank you, Alice, for those words of wisdom, really, isn’t it?
Jenny Procter: Yeah.
Wendy Harris: Because, when you think, the only way that you can find out if you can work for yourself is to work for yourself, not only are you working for yourself, but on yourself, because you’re finding out about yourself. Had you have gone and worked for an agency to try and copy, rinse, repeat, you could have actually been taking bad habits that were somebody else’s, into somebody new and wonderful and taint that?
Jenny Procter: And, I think the other point that she made, though, was there was no way you could go and work for an agency and then leave with all those contacts; that’s not allowed in business; that’s not good business practice. So, the only way you’re going to build something for yourself is to actually, genuinely go away and build it.
And, you’ve worked for yourself a long time, Wendy; those first few days, weeks, months, years sometimes, when you are building something like that for yourself, are really quite challenging and scary and you wonder where the work is going to come from. But, yeah, it was the making of me in many ways, to be able to build a career that suits you and is flexible and that you can focus on the things that you really enjoy doing; it’s been a hugely beneficial thing. So, yeah, it was an interesting one.
But, there are other conversations we have, as business owners, which you don’t always realise are going to be so significant. Sometimes the important ones are the casual conversations you have, the person you sit next to at an event, which I did about 12 months after that. Somebody I spoke to and we had a conversation about what she did in her work and what I did in my work; and that particular lady has been a client, on and off, for about the last 15 years.
So sometimes, the significant conversations are those very quiet ones that you don’t always realise how they’re going to develop. So, yeah, I think conversation is a fascinating subject for a podcast, actually, Wendy!
Wendy Harris: Oh, thank you. It was something that struck me that, as you touched on there, I’ve been working for myself for 15 years and it’s not my first business; this is my third business. So, it’s important to know that sometimes those decisions that you make don’t all work out, but the essence of everything that you learn will stand you in good stead for later on.
And, even though I’ve been working for myself for 15 years, 2008 saw the recession and the crisis in the financial markets that meant that everything in the business changed. It changed again a few years ago. We’ve now had a pandemic to contend with. There are constant challenges to running your own business, and there are always lessons to learn, aren’t there? It’s not all rosy, it’s not overnight success, and building a business does mean sometimes that you have to knock a wall down and make an extension?
Jenny Procter: Yes, nice analogy! Yes, and I think you’re right; whether it succeeds or whether it fails, that’s quite a harsh word, but however your business goes, you always learn something. I think it makes you more resilient, doesn’t it, and I have to say, this year particularly, I am so grateful for all those years I’ve experienced, because I think it’s been a challenging year to be running your own business, whatever the business is.
I feel I’ve come out of it stronger, because I’ve had more years to build that resilience. I know what works, I know what doesn’t work. I’ve been in a position before where I’ve faced quite challenging situations in the business, and I know you have too, so it’s been a difficult year. But, all that experience that we’ve both gained over the years has been tremendously helpful.
Wendy Harris: Yes. And, by having a situation like we experienced back in March, where every single industry and business was affected on every level, it’s been like a life or death experience, I think.
Jenny Procter: Oh, that’s quite deep; go on, explain that?
Wendy Harris: I kind of think that had this have not happened, would we have still been trundling, doing the same thing that we were doing in January, February and March; and for me, personally, quite possibly. But, what it’s allowed me to do is push past those things that have been in my way before, which was usually time to do things, and say, “No, it’s now or never. I’m going to do whatever my aspirations were”.
And if that means changing things and following things and getting excited about new things and learning new things; I mean, goodness me, podcasting is no easy feat, there’s lots to learn! But, that’s great, we should embrace those things. Without it happening, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I think that’s the same for a lot of people.
Jenny Procter: Yeah, I think it’s forced all of us to look at our businesses and to see what’s working, what’s not working, and in some cases to juggle that with teaching our small children; so, it’s been a character-building kind of a year, hasn’t it?!
Wendy Harris: I think we’ve had to send that bucket quite deep into the well. We’ve all surprised ourselves with just how that water just keeps giving, doesn’t it; we can sustain.
Jenny Procter: And particularly with both of us working in marketing, I think, working with clients, watching clients’ businesses changing and watching marketing techniques and tactics, both of us, I think, have had to adapt how we do things with clients, or adapt our advice to clients, because the working environment’s changed so much?
Wendy Harris: Yeah.
Jenny Procter: So, I think we maybe deserve a drink when we get to the end of the year, Wendy; I’ll let you stand me a drink, thanks!
Wendy Harris: First round’s on my, definitely! Jenny, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you as my guest today. I do hope it’s been useful for our listeners.
Jenny Procter: Thank you, Wendy.
Wendy Harris: Don’t forget to send me all your comments, share with your friends and stay subscribed so you don’t miss the next episode. Thank you for listening to Making Conversations Count.