The UK Search Marketing sector has a great reputation around the world for leadership and innovation as well as quality. Yet in the midst of a financial meltdown, I believe that a good old fashioned quality service will not go out of fashion.
But what underpins a reputation for quality, especially in the world of Search Marketing? When you “lift the hood” off your Search Agency, what is it that drives the consistency of service and reliability of results? Why is it so hard to find a quality assured Search Marketing service in the UK? What justifies a reputation for being a “leading search marketing agency”? The most employees? The highest revenue? The most profitable? The loudest marketing? Or the most satisfied customers?
It’s well documented that the world of SEO, PPC and Social Media could benefit from a better reputation for transparency and better quality service. Even before starting my own digital marketing agency in 2001 I’ve been amazed how easy it could be to fall for one’s own hype around being a quality business and that’s always concerned me. So in 2011 we asked the British Standards Institute (BSI) to audit our systems to the ISO 9001 standard and in November, I believe we became the only Search Agency in the NMA Top 30 which can offer Internet Marketing services which are accredited to the prestigious International ISO 9001 quality standard.
But achieving the quality standard didn’t come by chance, it was the result of a 2 year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Brighton which involved an investment of over £100k through the recent recession and resisting the constant temptation to re-allocate the investment elsewhere.
Before the KTP, the culture of the company was informal and lacked rigour or measurement and it was not clear who was responsible for each of the business processes. This led to problems such as re-work, lack of performance improvement and poor customer satisfaction. A cultural shift was achieved by involving employees in mapping the business processes and identifying who was responsible and accountable for each of them. Key achievements included:
Mapping of all company processes and KPIs identified:
- Responsibility and Accountability for all company processes mapped and documented in a “RACI” chart
- The development of new processes and systems to help improve the delivery of SEO, Social Media and Paid Search marketing campaigns for clients
- The development of a Quality Management Systems (QMS) using Wiki technology
- Demonstrable improvement in profitability of running client campaigns and the results achieved
- Cultural change and processes in place to make the rapid scaling of the business more achievable
Some of the tangible benefits we’ve experienced include:
- New starters are productive within weeks rather than months because they train themselves through the Wiki
- Greater ownership of quality and customer satisfaction within the production team has led to increased customer revenue per month.
- Greater transparency of individual capacity and productivity has allowed for a 39% increase in revenue per head from 2007 to 2010
- The “Productivity%” (the proportion of a consultants time which can be charged out to a client) has increased from below 60% to 85% during the period of the KTP.
- Improved profitability – gross profit % has increased from 37% in 2009 to 50% in 2011
Customer complaints have halved in 2011 compared to 2010
It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the on-going and relentless commitment of our team who are the SiteVisibility ThinkTank under the leadership of our Operations Manager Shirin Maurer. Each team member is able to post Wiki updates, and it’s this involvement and collaboration which moulds the team into the strong unit that it is.
Training our staff to be capable of achieving their very best underpins their self-confidence. That, combined with well-documented, and often tailored processes, means everyone throughout the business can take advantage of the latest best practice techniques and this culture of learning brings new starters up to speed at a faster pace – as evidenced by our third IIP re-accreditation during Summer 2011.
The ISO accreditation, Investors in People and our ongoing commitment to ensuring our staff receive the best training in the industry, means we are able to sustain and grow our business and those of our customers by providing an unmatched customer experience.