Welcome to the second installment of "7 Questions with…" — a short interview feature where I put the spotlight on a client or fellow business owner. Hopefully we'll learn a bit about them, their services, and some business & marketing advice along the way. This time around it's Tosh Lubek answering my questions.
7 Questions with Tosh Lubek
1) Who are you, and what do you do?
I'm Tosh Lubek and I run Tosh Lubek Productions, an audio and video production company based in South Ayrshire. My clients are based across Scotland with a few down in England and a handful in the Republic of Ireland. They are pretty varied in size and character ranging from the National Trust for Scotland to local garden centres, advertising and design agencies to local government and radio stations to the NHS, not to mention a few sole traders and small businesses. The bulk of what I do is writing/producing radio commercials and website videos but I have frequent forays into projects like producing children's audio books, sound design for dinosaur visitor attractions and video coverage of conferences and presentations.
2) When did you start the business?
I started my business in May in 2010 when the recession was at its peak. I had been made redundant after 28 years working in radio advertising but fortunately the skills I used within broadcasting could be applied outside of a radio station. In truth I am an accidental businessman, because my first thought was that I could use my knowledge and experience in lecturing but fate had other ideas. On my first day of unemployment I received a call from a company asking if I were available to make some commercials for them, after a meeting the next day they were signed-up as my first client and I'm pleased that I still do work for them.
3) What prompted you to start up this type of business?
I started a radio production company because I was an expert in the field, it's what I knew and what I am passionate about. I had spent 28 years working in Scottish commercial radio, writing advertising copy, producing in the studio, and in management. In my earlier days I even did a little presentation. Latterly I won national and international awards for my work and served as a judge for the New York Festivals international radio programming awards.
The video production side came about six months into my business life because two of my customers asked if I could make their website videos. I knew I could do it because when I worked in Aberdeen I was involved with the Access Channel at Aberdeen Cable (can you remember that far back when the UK had a brief love affair with cable TV?). By bringing together my radio broadcasting and production skills with experience of professional cable TV and a hobby of home video making the video side of the business has grown to equal that of the radio production side.
4) What do you think sets you apart?
Whether I am working on a radio advertising campaign or a client's web video my first priority is that it should get results for my client. I know many production companies and advertising agencies who treat their customers as a means to show off their writing and production skills and add to their showreel or portfolio. We all have an experience of seeing or hearing a great ad but not remembering what it was for. Although winning awards is exciting I always remember the ad or video has got to help my client's business. Now with more than 30 years of experience I know how to help my clients sell their product or service and do it cost effectively. I am also genuinely interested in my client's business because the more I understand about their business the higher the chance of delivering a commercial or video that works. Ultimately though, I try and put myself in the listeners or viewers shoes and write what they want to hear or see and not necessarily what my customer wants to say. No matter what you want to say about your business always remember the listener or viewer is only interested in one ting, "What's In It For Me?" Many years ago I had a customer, a car dealer, who wanted me to base his radio ad around his phone number because, "It's a really good phone number". When I asked him how many cars he had ever sold over the phone he admitted he had never sold one. Instead I wrote a script with a great offer that was available for a limited period and it helped him sell a dozen cars over the holiday weekend.
5) How do you market yourself?
Most of my work is in the B2B sector so traditional mass media is inappropriate for me, in fact when I did try it the only enquiries I got were from the competitor publications trying to sell me more advertising space. For me press advertising does not work but in contrast exhibiting at small business shows, posting videos to my Facebook page and word of mouth recommendations have all proved beneficial. I frequently ask my customers for video testimonials and share them on my website and social media. Furthermore, existing customers can be a great source of new customers if only you are brave enough to ask for a few leads. Don't forget those new leads are more likely to listen to your pitch if they know a friend of theirs is already doing business with you. Effectively it is a use of the psychological persuasion trick of "social proof".
6) Do you have any advice for other businesses?
Ask your customers for testimonials but be warned they will try and give you the best testimonial in the world because they like you and are thankful for the great job you just did for them. The trouble is what they think is a great testimonial is likely to be gushing, flattering and full of superlatives but lacking any substance and not a whole lot of use to you. Why? Because you wouldn't book me to make your next radio commercial just because someone said, Tosh Lubek makes really good commercials? But if the testimonial said, "the last radio campaign Tosh Lubek produced for us resulted in a 23% increase in sales", well that is going to make you stop and think about at least finding out a bit more about me. If you can get video testimonials that is brilliant (viewers can tell your customer is telling the truth from their body language) but if all you can get is a written testimonial make sure it is NOT an anonymous one otherwise customers will assume it is fictitious. Properly identify the person who wrote the testimonial and if possible show their photograph, it will increase the testimonial's credibility.
My only other advice is to reiterate thinking like your customer when it comes to marketing. All business owners naturally think their business is number one and everything about it is important. The shocking truth is your customers really don't care about you or your business unless it's something that benefits them or if you have really cracked your marketing and turned your business into a brand with devoted fans e.g. Apple. Remember your customer's mantra, "What's In It For Me".
7) What has your experience been working with Dark Flare Design?
I have been working with Dark Flare Design now for over four years. The first thing Iain Fergus did for me was give me a decent business card and logo. Like so many business new sole traders I didn't have much money to spend, or at least didn't want to spend much money, so I decided to use Vista Print for my business card and letterhead. The only trouble was that everyone at networking events recognised and commented on the distinctive business card dimensions and the popular design I had chosen. The final straw was when I went in to see a potential customer and she already had three other business cards with the same design as my business card. I will admit the service Vista Print offers is good but my brand risked becoming invisible because it wasn't unique. I then tried designing my own logo and business card because I would save on the cost of hiring a designer, and anyway how hard can this design thing be especially since I've got an A' Level in Art!
Have you spotted a pattern here? In an effort to save money I was wasting my time trying to do something I was neither trained for nor had any experience of doing but at least I now had a business card design that was unique and a size that everyone else expected. So far so good but I had forgotten that many people, myself included, like to write notes on the business cards they have been given but my business card was wall-to-wall shades of blue with not even a square millimetre of space for a ballpoint pen. That's when Dark Flare Design saved the day, Iain reminded me of the advice I give my own clients, to focus, de-clutter and understand what other people want from my business card. Furthermore, white space, like silence in radio ads, is not something to be feared. If you have seen my logo and business card you will know it does the job required, no more no less.
Potential clients see me as a credible supplier they can trust and that I am one of "them" and not someone who wants everything done on a shoestring. The irony is that I spent more time and money trying to save myself a bob or two than if I had got Iain to do everything from the start.
Since then Iain Fergus has designed and produced my leaflets and pop-up banners, always finding the best value printers for each job. In short, getting a professional saves me time and money especially since he had built in the capacity to evolve into my logo design so it can be adapted for uses I hadn't even thought of when I started the business. To sum up, using Iain from Dark Flare Design is not only affordable in the long term but very much so in the short term as well, in fact he really ought to put his prices up but don't tell him I said that!
Tosh's enthusiasm for the service he provides really shines through when you speak to him, and he's always a pleasure to deal with. His work is top notch, and he really understands the reasons why his clients require his services. I've been fortunate enough to work with Tosh on a number of client projects, and this insight into our client's goals is also extremely valuable.
Visit Tosh's YouTube channel to view some of his work, and be sure to check out his 5TopTips videos.
Do you have any advice you'd like to add? Has utilising customer testimonials helped your business?
If you'd like to share your thoughts, please leave a comment below, or contact me.
Thanks for reading!