Making an impact in a crowded sector is no easy ride, and the marketing agency world certainly doesn’t offer success on a plate.
There are more than 25,000 agencies operating in the UK ranging from small, niche to large full-service marketing (Eveleigh, 2020) and that statistic does not include the influence of the gig economy! A client’s choice of marketing agency is exhaustive, resulting in brand indifference, price sensitivity and often low satisfaction of service. HC Media Group’s founders Christopher Clowes and Joe Hamilton were certainly in for a challenge with what started as their part-time venture with no financial investment.
HC Media Group is a family run agency that specialises in digital marketing services such as digital strategy, website design, SEO, PPC, social media marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing and display as well as business coaching services.
In one year they have grown from £0 to being valued at £1m (5x Turnover) and been awarded the converted Best Digital Marketing Agency of the Year 2020 in the recent Awards by Media Innovation, as well as the Client Service Excellence Award.
Here we interview Chris and Joe on their journey to this point, discussing the key drivers of their success.
What motivated you both to start HC Media Group?
Chris: I spent a lot of time working in agencies where it was just a cash cow. People didn’t care about the clients at all, with just a ‘make sure that they pay’ ethos. I decided it wasn’t for me, and that clients deserved more. So we set up HC Media Group.
Joe: My personal motivation initially was to have a better quality of life and to eventually have the freedom to enjoy the benefits of a successful business.
Our business mission was to ensure we offered clients true value for their money. There are a number of agencies out there that do not care about the success of the client itself, they just tick a box and move on. We wanted to be different from the rest, and still believe today that our client’s success is OUR success. We really shout that and that is why we have exploded onto the market.
How did you get into marketing?
Joe: Chris is my son-in-law as well as business partner. He has a masters degree in marketing and has worked with several huge household name brands across the country.
He is excellent at what he does and his enthusiasm is infectious, so much so that I took a marketing course myself. Together with my experience as a regional manager and consultant to several businesses across the country and my passion for customer satisfaction it was the recipe for success!
What is your competitive advantage?
Chris: My background working with bluechips such as EE, Vodafone, Butlins, Ladbrokes, VISA, Clairins and Renault has been a huge influence in my approach to client accounts at HC Media Group.
Our unique selling point is that we are a risk free service. If a client runs a marketing campaign with us and they do not see results, they get there money back – simple! Eliminating the customer’s perceived risk is what makes them choose us over our many competitors.
What are your secrets to growth?
Joe: Customer education. We coach and share with our customers how our service works and we educate people in the art of organic marketing.
Our competition thought we were mad! Accusing us of giving away trade secrets that undermine our business and reduce contracts. In reality the opposite is true, by educating clients they understand the true value and opportunity of effective digital marketing and we build brand trust along the way.
Our clients in reality do not have the time to invest in effective strategy implementation (hence why they outsource in the first place) and acknowledge the need for it to be executed to a high standard therefore contract size remains.
What personality, work ethic and skills do you need to succeed?
Chris: You totally need a thick skin. You will encounter people that are only out to hurt your business as you are deemed as a competitor, but take it as a compliment. Keep going, keep smiling.
Joe: You cant take yourself too seriously. We all make mistakes and it’s important to remember this, how you resolve them is the important thing.
What advice would you give to any start up business?
Chris: Plan, Execute, Review.
It’s that simple. Your strategy (digital OR business) is like a satnav, it’s how you get to your end point. A satnav shows you the distance you will travel, the time it will take, a detailed instruction broken down to every turn, warnings about what is ahead and it lets you know when you have arrived. Follow these turns and you will reach you destination.
Joe: Exactly, decide on your goal, create your strategy and STICK TO IT, down to the very last detail. Put milestones into your strategy and celebrate every success!