This year Block Design is celebrating 20 years in the design industry, a huge milestone for us! I now proudly lead a team of seven creatives, each integral to design and production. We're all united in navigating turbulent times ahead, perhaps our most challenging to date. So I'd like to share a few things I've learnt during the last two decades in business, to hopefully help towards keeping us all focussed for the months ahead.

Tip 1: Play To Your Strengths

Over our 20 years in business our marketing strategy has changed dramatically. For a long time we were competing directly with large companies, we felt the need to appear bigger than we actually were to keep up. Now the big companies are pretending to be small, niche and creative businesses. You ARE a small, niche and creative business! So embrace it!

Tip 2: Don’t Skimp on Photography

When we started Block Design, the creative companies who were based in London had a huge advantage, with access to resources hard to come by outside of the city. These days your creative business can thrive from any location. We’re in Cornwall enjoying a fantastic lifestyle, and crucially experiencing far lower overheads. So there's no excuse for skimping on photography! Your customers have become highly trained in recognising and mis-trusting a company with bad images. It's also important to put time into planning the styling of your shoot, get that Pinterest board going and realise exactly what it is your trying to achieve before the camera starts clicking. We have been very lucky to find a local photographer who we love to work with. Matt Jessop has been shooting our products for over 8 years now! Check out his website mattjessop.com.

Tip 3: Be Authentic

Your customers have developed finely tuned bullshit barometers! Market to them with authenticity and integrity.

Tip 4: Create a Brand Manual

This has been crucial for our business. We first created a brand manual 9 years ago and we revise it annually. Our manual reminds us of our values, who our customer is and how we want to be perceived. It keeps us on track with every decision made within the business, from product to communication.

The first brand manual took weeks to do, with much discussion behind each element. But this was vital at the start to ensure that we were all in agreement of the right direction for our business. The annual revision of the manual is a much more rapid process, simply updating where needed to ensure that we stay relevant and on trend. The annual revision meeting keeps us on track and gets any questions of direction answered there and then so that we can get on with being creative for the rest of the year!

Tip 5: Write a Business Plan

Many creative business have fantastic products but fail because of poor business planning and strategy. You need a business plan (ours is only 5 pages long but it keeps us on track) and a cashflow forecast, this is essential even if you are cash rich, it makes it easy to pivot in times like this.

So I hope these tips have been helpful! I'm very happy to expand further on any of the points above, simply email me on tara@blockdesign.co.uk and we can arrange a time to talk further.