There’s no disguising the fact that it’s been tough throughout the pandemic, advertising and marketing budgets were the first line for many businesses to cut, but we’ve been able to stay strong as we have a diverse range of publications that we work with.
All our publishers and their publications have been able to survive the COVID period and are looking to developing their titles further, as we now move into this new ‘normal’ living with the pandemic period.
The second part of our business is ‘Local Lifestyle’ magazine which we launched into Tunbridge Wells in 2020, at the end of the first lockdown. We expected that to be the end of COVID, we didn’t know we had another eighteen months to go! Despite the economy and the obvious difficulties that many local businesses faced we’ve gone from strength to strength which has been fantastic. So much so, last year we launched a second ‘Local Lifestyle’ title covering East Kent, based in Canterbury which has increased our readership and has been beneficial for some of the businesses that sit halfway between the two areas.
People love our editorial – there’s a whole host of magazines that drop through peoples letterboxes every single month, each one of them serves its own purpose, but I get told time and time again that people look for ours to read every month. We are not a directory; if directory reading was a way for local businesses to advertise, we would still have the Yellow Pages being the size it previously was.
The challenge for all businesses is getting their brand in front of their target audience at the right time, and we do that – we introduce companies into the households of thousands of people across Tunbridge Wells every single month, and allow brand recognition to build trust and awareness so that when that reader enters the buying circle they respond to your brand.
For example ; If you know you need a new tyre, you can google all the tyre fitters in Tunbridge Wells, but it’s about being ahead of that process and being recognised. You may find ten different tyre fitters on google but you’ll respond to the one that you’ve seen month in and month out in the magazine because you’ll know and trust that brand.
That is the purpose of ‘Local Lifestyle’ getting in front of people when they maybe a sub-conscious buyer and keeping that brand recognition going.
But whilst the power of print can not be underestimated it’s important that people have a multi-media approach, they must have a website and they must be present on social media, and they also need to be trusted and recognised. Everybody that advertises with us gets mentioned on our social media channels, we’ve worked hard over the last year to grow the followings, so people trust our printed products as well as our brand on social media. It’s exciting that we can extend our advertising reach from print to online.
We are also really excited to announce that we now offer social media management. As a small business owner, I know that you must be consistent on social media, you must post a minimum of two to three times a week. If you visit a business’s Facebook page or Instagram account and they haven’t posted for three weeks, you start to ask questions; are they still in existence? are they still trading? Or there’s a blast of content and then nothing for a few weeks, it’s not a good way to portray your business, so we help with that. We realise how time consuming it is for a business to do it right, so we now offer that as a service; writing content, following people, sharing content, making sure the business owners social media channels are all taken care of, so they don’t have to worry about the consistent time it takes them. It’s important and sits nicely alongside their print advertising and we’re delighted that we can now offer that service for the first time.
We are also working with an energy broker to help small businesses guide themselves through the massive energy price hikes that we’ve been seeing recently, it’s a powerful string to our offerings being able to offer this support by someone our clients can trust.
When I set up ‘Local Lifestyle’ I wanted to help small businesses in Tunbridge Wells to reach new audiences and that’s what we are continuing to do, both through print and now online with social media.”
David Hobden, Space Marketing March 2022
“The concept behind Local Lifestyle TW magazine developed after I was approached by a magazine franchising company, they produced local magazines in a very generic manner – all celebrities and recipes with a local cover on them. The idea was appealing but when I looked at it in more detail, I just knew we could do it much better and make local matter! Which is what we’ve set out to do with this magazine, making sure it is local, it reflects our area and the people reading it and making purchasing decisions from it, with good local content.
I have a background in local media, having worked for the Courier newspaper group for 20 years, developing a good amount of contacts, so we’ve pulled together what I consider to be the best. We’ve got Sarah Hamilton-Walker, who is a great editor, Lisa Tobin, a great designer both with strong local media backgrounds. After sitting down for a couple of hours, playing with ideas we came up with Local Lifestyle. It was launched in October 2020, not the easiest time to launch a new magazine into the market, but we’ve done it and are really trying to support local businesses. It’s an A5 magazine, delivered free of charge through 6,000 letter boxes across Tunbridge Wells and available from various pickup points. We work closely with the TN card and share the same philosophy, which is if businesses are going to survive and thrive after this pandemic, then we all have a part to play in supporting local. There’s some research that says around 60 percent of your time is spent within 6 to 7 miles of your house, in the last 12 months I would argue that percentage is probably more like 90 percent of your time. If anything good has come out of this pandemic, it is perhaps the renewed sense of community, the desire to support local independent traders, and therefore I think there is a strong future for a quality local magazine. We’ve not set out to charge a fortune for advertising rates, obviously we are a business and have to charge, but we’ve tried to make the prices affordable and sensible, with distribution targeted to the right households and the magazine being available electronically and supported by our Facebook and Instagram pages as well, we really do deliver a great audience for our advertisers.
As to the future, well who knows, if the last twelve months has taught us anything, its that we can not know what’s around the corner, however, there’s every opportunity to add new editions in other towns and to grow the concept of Local Lifestyle. One thing is however certain and that’s we will stay loyal to the “local” model, making local more, putting local back at the heart of our community.
“I kind of stumbled on advertising, as a career by accident. When I left school, I had a Saturday job in WHSmith, which progressed into full time work, but, at the age of 20 I really needed to find a career and work out what I was going to do. I went for an interview with Cornhill insurance, I wanted to be a financial advisor – at the interview the guy said, I like you, I think you could do a good job for us, but you’re too young and you don’t have the experience. He told me to go and get a job with my local newspaper, specifically a sales job as they are the best sales trainers in in the industry, then come back and see me in 12 months. So off I went down to The Courier – I thought I can get a job there for 12 months then go and make my fortune in insurance.
I got the job at the Courier at the very bottom of the advertising department, doing telephone sales to private advertisers. I found that I just loved publishing and never really went anywhere else, for the next 20 years. I moved into trade sales, recruitment advertising, property advertising and started climbing the career ladder, within the newspaper group, became display manager, looking after the homebuyer as it was at that time, local people would remember that – 80 pages of houses for sale.
I continued to progress and eventually at about the age of 30 – 10 years after I joined, I was promoted to the position of advertisement director, then after a couple of years went into business development, and then into operations and became Operations Director for the southeast. Everything was going swimmingly, I kind of had my career path mapped out in my mind, where I would have ever made it, who knows but I knew where I wanted to be. But then the financial markets crashed. We spent a lot of time as a newspaper group and as a media group, talking about what would we do if we lost the property advertising? What would we do, if we lost motors advertising? recruitment advertising? We never actually discussed what we would do if we lost all three of them overnight.
When the bank’s crashed in 2008/2009 after it all settled down and the advertising returned, it was greatly reduced. There were lots of cutbacks, lots of changes and eventually the regional press side of the business, was sold. The new owners changed a lot of things, as they needed to in order to ensure the business would continue, but in so doing took the business that I loved in a direction that I didn’t feel comfortable with, and it was clear the time was right to leave the business and forge a new path.
I remembered that I was interested in pensions and mortgages previously, so I went away and trained – got my qualifications, so I am actually a qualified mortgage advisor. But I found the sector unfulfilling and for me personally I bit boring – it certainly was not where I wanted to develop my career.
I went to work for another local publisher on a freelance consultancy basis as distribution manager. I jumped at this opportunity as distribution was the only part of publishing I had not really had exposure to, I had sold and been a senior manager, I had editorial staff and photographers reporting to me, but being involved in getting the product into the hands of the readers was a new area of the industry. I did that for the best part of two years and was beginning to feel I needed more again.
I was asked by a recruitment agency that I was using to attend an interview here at Space Marketing, I nearly didn’t go. It was very much a case of, why would I want to go back to do telephone sales, something that I had done 25 years ago when I started my career on roughly the same package that I was on 25 years ago too. But I decided to go, and I remember having a conversation with the then owner Brian Shilling, who I got on really well with, but there was still part of me thinking, why am I even considering this role? I had a phone call the next day from the agency “Brian really liked you” they said, and would I be prepared to go and see him again and sign a non-disclosure agreement. I went back to see Brian, signed the NDA and he asked me if I wanted to buy the business! There was an interesting conversation that evening over the dinner table with my wife – there I was looking for a job that paid a steady income that kept us comfortable, to investing our savings into buying a business!
I joined Space Marketing in September 2018, always with a view of buying it, but also with a view of working in it for six months. I loved the atmosphere and the work. I also believe there is a huge potential in print advertising and whilst we sell sell digital, primarily we work with small independent publishers, on business to business, membership magazines and such like. I liked our situation, the locality, the staff, the titles we have in our portfolio. It all seemed to make sense and was exactly what I was looking for.
I had never purchased a business before, I had some great advice from Jonathan Parsons at BSR Bespoke Accountants and genuinely without Jonathan’s help and advice I don’t think I would have pulled it off, he was brilliant in guiding me all the way through. I also had some really sound advice from Nick Gabay form Thomson Snell & Passmore, who looked after the legal aspects for me. The deal was done on February 13th 2019 – almost one year ago.
For me owning and running a business is as much about a lifestyle choice as anything else. Like many other business owners, I could earn more, I’m sure over the short term, working for others but you don’t get the flexibility and freedom. I do a lot in the community with the Scouts, with the Cricket Club and football on top of my family life, and being able to juggle work, family and social activities is important to me. This gives me the best of everything, the opportunity to enjoy my work again whilst juggling family and social commitments means, whilst ensuring we deliver great results for our clients means the world too me and I cant imagine doing anything else now!