Do you have a curious mind? Are you looking for something new to listen to? Do you want to get inside the minds of Cranfield alumni?

Alumni Matters is produced by the Cranfield alumni team. In each three-episode miniseries you'll hear from Cranfield alumni from all disciplines, who will share ideas and insights that can help you in your career, organisation, or personal development. 

Each episode is under half an hour long, so download it and listen on your commute or daily walk, and if you enjoyed the content please share it on your social media channels.

Alumni Matters with Margaret Sherer (MBA 2011)

 Margaret Sherer After moving to the UK from the US to study for her MBA at Cranfield School of Management, Margaret Sherer left the world of big tech to become a solopreneur, taking a leap to set up her own digital marketing agency. In this podcast miniseries, we spoke to Margaret about her journey and experiences of becoming an entrepreneur – from the importance of managing risks and creating your own personal advisory board, to the key advice she would give to would-be entrepreneurs. We also discussed the challenges and opportunities that Covid-19 has presented for the marketing industry, the future of digital marketing and the importance of truly knowing your audience in order to be successful.

Episode 1: Taking a leap and managing risks: the journey to becoming a solopreneur
Episode 2: Entrepreneurship and nurturing growth
Episode 3: Marketing in a crisis and the future of the digital marketing industry

Listen now below, or download to take the episodes with you.


Episode 1: Taking a leap and managing risks: the journey to becoming a solopreneur

  • Managing your fear and de-risking it – as a solopreneur, create a community of people you can speak to in order to break the loop of decision-making and de-risk it before that escalation of anxiety happens. Ask yourself ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and work back from there. Gathering information is key to make things feel less risky, and less scary – the more information you have the more it becomes a case of ‘let’s just try it and see what happens.’
  • Know your own boundaries when it comes to what you see as risky. If you have an idea, talk it through and do the research – think about what you’re offering and why. This will help you to gather the information you need to make taking that first step less scary.
  • Finding your feet: the internal conflict of re-defining your identity, your measures of success and your boundaries. It’s important to acknowledge the need for flexibility.
  • When it comes to decision-making – give yourself time to feel your emotions, rather than acting immediately. Turn your emotional response into rational data information to inform your response, and allow you to problem-solve and compromise.
  • Taking a leap and going it alone, doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Create your own advisory board – have people you can talk things through with, set yourself up with an “accountability buddy” to set goals and see them through. As a solopreneur, find ways to make it feel like you’re not doing it by yourself –within your network, create a community with people that are rooting for your company.
  • Really know your numbers: when you’re talking to other entrepreneurs, or potential investors knowing your numbers is key. What are your overheads? What is your pipeline? How do these numbers fit in to the overall picture?
  • Understand that you might have to be willing to adjust your initial vision – things happen that aren’t necessarily a reflection on you. Take the opportunity to find the right fit, changing your plans or adjusting them, creating a second stream or pivoting doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your plans and dreams.

Episode 2: Entrepreneurship and nurturing growth

  • Choosing your team. Part of being an entrepreneur is you get to pick who you want to work with – you want to work with smart people who can get things done. It’s important to identify scenarios where you can upskill people, and invest the time in training them so that they can grow into what you hope them to be.
  • The value of mentoring for solopreneurs and entrepreneurs – both as a mentee and a mentor. You can have a clear vision, but it can be difficult to break that down to identify what the right steps are to move forward. Having mentors to talk things through with is valuable to have someone who is on your side and can help you to look at things differently. Mentoring somebody else, you can hear yourself say things to other people and it helps you to realise that perhaps you should be taking a moment to implement that advice too.
  • Break the “big vision” goal down into subsets to help you identify the small steps that feed into achieving that one big goal. It’s easy to get fixated on just that big goal, rather than acknowledging the smaller goals you have already ticked off along the way.
  • Make sure you’re not always looking at the next mountain. Take the time to look at the mountain you’ve already climbed up. It’s a grounding exercise to help you see that the baby steps matter. Take your goal, break it down – and celebrate it.
  • The key activities for entrepreneurs to invest their time in right now: assess your cash flow, identify organic collaboration opportunities for additional exposure, really get to know your audience and don’t forget to slow down, create your strategy and ensure every action is within that strategy.

Episode 3: Marketing in a crisis and the future of the digital marketing industry

Marketing during the Covid-19 crisis and connecting with your audience:

  • Demonstrating care for your audience has been, and will be, key. An empathetic reach out to let your audience know what they can expect from you is an opportunity to reconnect, reinforce and reset.
  • Caring about your audience means giving love to your existing community, and encouraging them to come back into it – building that relationship where they become ‘fans’ of your company. It’s important to know where they are, what they need from you and how they want to communicate. Focus not just on getting new people into the pipeline, but also really taking care of the community that has already bought into your services.
  • Covid-19 has created a real opportunity for smaller companies because people are more accepting of raw images and content – they are going through it too and everyone understands the situation. It’s a chance to start communicating in a new platform that you might have been afraid to do so before because you thought you didn’t have the budget – there’s an opportunity to start in a scrappier way now and people are very accepting of that.
  • Covid-19 has sparked a big rise in entrepreneurship. The companies that Cittadina are working with now are brand new companies. People have taken time to activate the ideas they’ve had in the background. The pandemic proves how little control we have, so people are taking control for themselves.

The longer-term future of digital marketing – relationship building, personalisation, collaboration:

  • With the impending removal of Cookies by Google, it’s going to be about collaborations – a possible return to the internet of 15 years ago and working with blogs and websites who truly understand the audience that are coming to their site. It could end up being a step back from the programmatic world of buying your remarketing, and having to do more relationship building. It could force brands to set up insights for their own community – building that audience intelligence to know what the collaborations and insights that they’re going to really need to invest in are.
  • It will be slightly more blind – testing things out and learning as people travel around the internet – where are they going and how can you be there when they arrive? It will be important to know the value of your product, the value of your audience and look at how to connect them in different places online.
  • Setting KPIs: Define what success means to you, and use that as your key metric. Whether it’s driving traffic to your website, growing your following, registering for a webinar. Set out what success is and then you can build micro KPIs around that.

Marketing your own businesses – as a marketing solopreneur:

  • Being a solopreneur means a difficult balance of working in the business, and on the business.
  • Relationships and relationship building are important – going back to the community to find out what service they’re looking for, and how often they want to hear from.
  • As a marketing entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to test things out for yourself – you can do things on your own social media channels, for example, as test to learn from and to take the insights back to customers.

The one top tip for digital marketers:

  • avoid siloes and look at the bigger picture. Working in digital marketing today, you can become very siloed into one element and one expertise. Think about how you can take a step back and see your specific expertise as part of the bigger picture of the marketing landscape. Think about who’s upstream, who’s downstream and how you are connecting.

Margaret Sherer bio

Margaret Sherer (MBA 2011), Founder and CEO, Cittadina Marketing

Margaret spent nearly a decade at Microsoft and Google (wrapped around an MBA at Cranfield) bringing digital marketing to life through rich campaigns and storytelling. She founded Cittadina Marketing, the one stop shop for digital marketing, where she now helps marketers create strategic, impactful marketing campaigns and guides small business owners through digital marketing best practices and frameworks through her Growth Champion programme.  

When not working with clients, Margaret is a guest lecturer at Cranfield, University of Greenwich and Westminster Business School. She sits on the Employers Advisory board at University of Westminster and is a member of the f:entrepreneur #ialso100 2020 list. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, good food, good laughs and championing women to achieve their goals.

Get in contact with Margaret via email.

Additional resources

Find out more about Cittadina Marketing's digital marketing and content workshops, helping businesses to create a strategic go-to-market three of six month content plan.