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Joanna Davila
A few days ago Joanna Davila posted an update  ::: “LinkedIn has changed my life!”

At the time of writing this blog it’s received 79 comments and 107 likes

We knew the background to this post as we’d worked with Joanna Davilla previously and knew how her activity on LinkedIn had led to an £180,000 order. What we didn’t know until this interview was that orders of this size and magnitude had become a regular occurrence because of LinkedIn

So now it’s time to tell Joanna’s story from the NHS to working in the family business and absolutely smashing LinkedIn

Q: Joanna, we’re here to talk about about how LinkedIn has changed your life. But I want you to tell our readers about life before LinkedIn because I think it will relate to many of our readers who didn’t study marketing. Life before LinkedIn for you was the NHS – please tell us about what you were doing till last year and what your day to day life was like

Life was very different, much more routined and time pressured. The usual morning routine with 3 kids, dropping them at the school bus then off to work as radiographer in a busy Manchester hospital.

I could be assigned to any one of three areas. A&E, general X-ray or theatre. Many people don’t know that radiographers go to theatre during operations and use X-rays to guide surgeons in many types of cases, such as endoscopy, urology and orthopaedics.

Some days can be run of the mill minor injuries while others can be quite emotionally taxing. For instance, I arrived at work the morning after the Manchester bomb totally unaware of what had happened. At first it was a ghost town and I was the only radiographer in the department. Half the team had been called in over night or volunteered, others were in theatre with the victims of the blast. Over the following days I met a number of the victims, it was an emotional time for everyone.

In A&E X-ray you never know what’s coming through the door. The victim of a car accident, violent crime, a dementia patient or a child. You use your training, skill and compassion to put that patient at ease while crucially obtaining the best X-rays possible. A patient’s diagnosis and subsequently their overall health outcome is reliant on good medical imaging.

Work as a radiographer can be physically exhausting with no sitting apart from 30 minutes lunch. After a days work I’d rush home, make dinner for the family and be in bed and asleep by 8pm.

Q: So your husband asked you to be a brand advocate for the business, Rockford, with no marketing experience. How nervous were you?
That’s a great question, had I known then how little I actually knew about brand advocacy, marketing in general and the scope of the role I would have been much more nervous to take it on. Let’s just say I was naive.

However, the fact is Rockford was doing these unbelievable projects like Facebook’s new offices and Battersea Power Station and no one was shouting about it. For years the business had survived solely on word of mouth and our existing customer base. That’s not say it wasn’t working or growing, but it was at a snails pace and I wanted to up the ante.

I thought to myself, any marketing is better than none. After careful research it wasn’t long until I had a very clear vision of how I wanted to push the business forward.

Q: Please Tell us about the business just so our readers can set the scene. What does the business do and who are the businesses customers?

This may take me a while…essentially Rockford is a stone company but we cover many facets of the stone industry which is quite unique. I’m sure most people know but stone includes materials such as granite, marble, limestone, quartz, slate and travertine.

Our customer base is varied but is essentially anyone involved the construction industry both commercial or residential , such as interior designers, contractors, house builders, landscapers, self builders, tilers, tile shops, kitchen showrooms, developers etc…

There are two parts to our company, Stock sales and bespoke. We have a 46,000 square foot warehouse and 3 acre yard in Middlewich, Cheshire. Three quarters of the warehouse and half the yard is filled with stone tiles and paving imported from 27 countries. Containers arrive daily with exotic stone from around the globe.

The other part of our warehouse is taken up by our factory. We have a state of art CNC workstation and bridge saw with a new 5 axis CNC waterjet cutter planned. We have onsite stone masons polishing and finishing kitchen worktops, vanities, fireplaces, ornate staircases, ballusters and architectural masonry.

We also manufacture abroad for larger scale commercial projects, like a city centre granite paving project, known as streetscape, a shopping centre or a hotel.

Some projects are complex and may require a mixture of Stock sales, in house fabrication as well as manufacturing abroad. Each project requires a large degree of project management and quality control.

Q: You said you dabbled with Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn – before realising LinkedIn was the platform for you. How long did the dabbling phase take and what was your biggest mistake in this time?
At first I would religiously post the same content to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linken In. It didn’t take long to realise each platform required a different style of post and interaction.

Nowadays I still use Instagram and Facebook regularly. I’m not entirely sure if Instagram does much, but the pictures look very pretty.

Facebook seems to be our loyal customers anyway and a company page is very impersonal. Growing the company page seems to be a laborious and long process. I used paid Facebook ads for a while but as we are predominantly B2B I felt it wasn’t the right place to spend the budget.

Twitter was a total waste of time, despite having a good following in numbers there was simply no interaction with my tweets. I gave it a good few months and just gave up. It just seems like a noisy place to be. Great if you want to know who Donald Trump has offended or what Kim Kardashian had eaten for breakfast but I didn’t feel it was a platform that was helpful for us.

LinkedIn on the other hand was totally different. It’s personal, it’s building genuine relationships. I can’t help being an open and honest person and that comes across in my posts. I’m not a sales person by any means.

In the first few months I was finding my feet. I spent time connecting with our existing customer base and nurturing those relationships. I picked my connections carefully. Twice a day I would post a picture of a project we had done. Our portfolio is pretty impressive so I knew with the right connections we would make the impact I was hoping for. Before long I was getting genuine enquiries coming in every five minutes from some serious players in the construction world. The only problem was our estimation and sales team were begging me to put the brakes on… so I had to slow it down. We hired two more area sales managers and a project manager to cope with demand generated solely from LinkedIn enquiries and orders. If anyone asks me now does LinkedIn work the answer is unequivocally YES!

Q: What was the biggest shift in mindset you found from social media for friends and family … to social media for business
I rarely use my personal social media. Sometimes Facebook to say happy birthday to a friend or colleague and maybe some holiday snaps. I was never one for political discussions, commenting on friend’s posts or updating others of what I was doing minute by minute. I’m quite a shy person, I worry about saying the wrong thing. I certainly had never used Instagram or Twitter and had never heard of Snapchat or Vine.

However, using Social Media for business is a whole different ball game. I have somehow adopted a whole new persona. Its still me but I would say its the HD more confident, assertive version of myself. Perhaps it’s because my position empowers me or I know that being the shy girl who says nothing is not going to get me far as an advocate. So I say what I think, I have an opinion and I give a compliment where one is due.

On the other hand I’m wary about which posts I comment on as I have a position of responsibility. For instance, there was a post the other day that a good connection of mine wrote. I always support his work and vice versa but this time it was about how to steal your competitors business. In my industry your competitor can one day be your supplier and the next your customer. Maintaining good relationships within my industry is very important so I decided it was not in my company’s best interest to support the post. I had to explain to him politely my view.


Q: So you choose LinkedIn as your platform. What was your day to day LinkedIn and how long do you spend on it each day?
I probably spend far too long on it daily. If I have meetings or other things scheduled then I can be on it for maybe an hour in the morning and another hour at night. I could easily spend an entire day responding to queries and comments on my own own posts, liking and commenting on connections posts, accepting/ignoring connection requests and then there’s the messages. Some messages are order enquiries, sometimes a sales pitch. Today someone just wanted my advice. I was so genuinely touched by that. I always reply to them all pretty promptly, whatever it is.

Q: One of the reasons we’re chatting today is because one of your biggest orders you won on linkedin was for £180,000. How did that come about it?
Ah I think I told you that a while go when I first came to you for training. That’s right within the first week I had gained a £180,000 account. It was simply posting work we had done and the company were looking for a new supplier so timing was spot on. They came in that day, saw our set up and we have been working with them since on some fantastic projects. It certainly cemented the feeling within our whole team that I was certainly doing the right thing. In fact the whole vibe of the company changed and I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that landing those kind of accounts via LinkedIn had become a regular occurrence.

Q: As a business you’ve also increased staff and stock to cope with demand. And just in a year. Does this blow your mind how powerful LinkedIn is?
It’s been a snowball effect and I can’t take all the credit but LinkedIn has been the catalyst certainly. We’d known one of our new staff members a while before he joined, but for whatever reason he didn’t really know the full scope of our work. Through my posts on LinkedIn he got to know more about what we did. It came just at the right time as sales were growing.

I’m not entirely sure what I can give away but let’s say my brand advocacy on LinkedIn has led to an awful lot.

Q: Out of interest – what marketing activities would the business have done before LinkedIn?
Before LinkedIn our only marketing activities were email marketing which really came to a halt with the introduction of GDPR. It just became too confusing and risky to continue although it did bring in business weekly.

In years gone by we did print media, exhibitions and a past employee did use Twitter to promote the business several years ago but sporadically.

Q: So you had this social media success and I think this is important to mention you took courses on social media. 2 with us, a group workshop and a 121. Even with social media success would you say it’s important to take courses to improve your social media knowledge?
Oh definitely, I was just stabbing in the dark. The first time I sat in that room for the group workshop I was like a dear in the headlights.

I had been handed this huge task and didn’t know what it meant or what to do with it. It was a very informative workshop. Everyone in the room was a beginner like me except they hadn’t just been told “you are now expected to be a social media whizz within a few weeks”.

By the time I saw you for the one to one I already knew it was LinkedIn I was concentrating on. I wanted to know if I was heading in the right direction which you seemed to think I was, but you were able to show me stats and info I didn’t even know was there.

The most important advice you gave me was don’t just like your replies, engage and comment. That really makes all the difference. A comment is so much more powerful than a like.

Q: Would you say every business should be on LinkedIn or is it more relevant for some than others?
I’d say every individual who works for a business should be on LinkedIn. It’s about building relationships and networking between people and you can take that following with you, it’s not necessarily linked to the business.

I don’t see it being relevant for radiographers, nurses or doctors unless they do private or agency work. Similarly I don’t see how professions like teaching would benefit either but I could be totally wrong!

Q: Last 2 questions – what are the biggest mistakes you see people making on LinkedIn and what are your 3 Top Tips for LinkedIn Success?
The biggest mistakes I see is repeatedly posting the same sales pitch, making zero interaction with your connections, not replying to comments on your posts and just posting an external link and nothing else.

My three top tips are
1) It’s called social media for a reason, be social!
2) congratulate people, ask questions on their posts and be positive
3) Never ever respond to any negativity or trolling. If it’s the latter then delete & block.



We have a LinkedIn workshop on March 27th in Altrincham, South Manchester- more details here

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Alex McCann

Author Alex McCann

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