Posted: Wed 8th Dec 2021
Samar Fazil and Rabia Khan, co-founders of soapNskin, share a long history. The two women grew up around each other and entered adulthood as great friends. When in later life the opportunity arose for them to start a business, it seemed inevitable they’d do so together.
The decision came out of personal struggle. Samar was suffering with eczema and couldn’t find a suitable cream to alleviate the condition. Realising that many skincare items on the market contained synthetic ingredients that harmed her skin, Samar began making her own soaps and body butters and passed them along to Rabia to test.
Impressed, Rabia encouraged Samar to consider setting up a business to sell her goods. The idea for soapNskin was born.
At first, entrepreneurship was almost a pastime, as both women had careers and home lives.
Rabia had worked for British Airways as a financial analyst, then taken time out to raise a family. Samar too was a stay-at-home mother, having spent a decade in property management. But with the children at school and out of the house, Samar and Rabia had time to dedicate to their new business.
As with every new venture, there was lots of work to do. And as neither woman’s background lay in skincare, cosmetics or even self-employment, there was much to learn too.
But Samar and Rabia educated themselves and gradually established the beauty brand, until the time came to seek guidance on their digital marketing. At that point, they sought help from Google’s 1-to-1 Mentoring scheme.
“Predominantly our main focus was SEO,” Samar says. “We’d read into it and looked at blogs and keywords and the behind-the-scenes stuff that you almost forget you should be doing alongside the day-to-day running. But we realised we needed to go deeper in terms of things that would really help the business’s exposure.”
Recognising that soapNskin’s self-promotion to date had been rather ad hoc, the Google mentor began the session by setting out some digital marketing fundamentals.
He encouraged Rabia and Samar to ask basic questions about their goals and target audience, such as:
what types of customers are they serving?
where would they find them?
what do those people tend to do online?
how can they go about attracting them?
He then suggesting reviewing the business’s website and social media and try to capture data on engagement. Specifically, where visitors are coming from, when they’re visiting, and what they do once they land on those websites and platforms.
The mentor recommended that Samar and Rabia think of their website as a bricks-and-mortar store in order to more clearly understand their customers’ behaviour.
For Rabia and Samar, the ideas their mentor put forward during the session were something of an eye-opener.
“When we launched the business, we built the website and it looked great,” Samar says. “The photography was fantastic, the descriptions were lovely. But in terms of data, it wasn’t pulling anything in, and that was the trick we missed.
“It took us probably 18 months to understand and then implement these different tools on the back end. So now our digital marketing strategy is all about customer focus.
“It’s about who’s coming in, where are they coming in from. If they’re only getting to the shopping cart, why aren’t they buying? If they’re not moving beyond the first page, why not? It’s a lot of information to get your head around, but it’s never too late to start doing it.”
Rabia agrees. “The mentoring really helped us in terms of pinpointing where our traffic is coming and what we need to prioritise. We were writing blogs without realising they were pulling people in through keywords. By using Google Analytics, we were able to see what was bringing the traffic.
“Because as a small brand, we can’t afford to pay a lot towards advertising and getting in the top rankings. So it was these little tasks that you don’t actually put a lot of importance on that really opened our eyes.”
Both co-founders commend their mentoring sessions for allowing them to see their business from a different perspective and providing a sounding board for ideas.
“Although Samar and I have each other, we’re by no means experts,” Rabia says. “So it’s great to be able to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing. Who has that experience and has tried-and-tested actions for you to implement. It’s been a huge help.
“Just having someone talk through Google Analytics was fantastic. We were able to ask really specific questions that we’d probably have had to research to be able to find answers. But we had instantaneous answers there and then, during the session. That was so helpful.”
“There so much information out there that you can get lost,” Samar adds. “So having your mentor there can really help you decipher things, then work towards your goal. Because sometimes even we couldn’t say for certain what it was. In business, the goalposts do tend to shift so by continually unpacking and reviewing all the data, we can stay on top of everything.”
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