This week’s Small Business Star is Richard Heyes, Hiscox customer and managing director of Manchester-based digital marketing agency Tecmark. The company’s services are rooted in content marketing and SEO, working with clients such as BUPA, Sony and Paramount. After twenty-plus years’ of experience in sales and account management, Heyes founded the company in 2008.

Turn a shared passion into a business

I knew my co-founder, Kevin Jones, from a previous business and it was our talking about generating inbound leads at great length that led him to start a career in SEO. A couple of years into his career change we got back together, but this time with the benefit of Kevin’s two years’ experience in SEO. He talked to me about its benefits and it was clear that we were both still passionate about technology and marketing.

At that point we spotted a gap in the market. With the big agencies serving hefty retainers but doing the work very well and the very cheap SEO providers not serving customers well at all, we thought there was an opportunity to specialise in competitive SEO. So we decided to set-up.

We utilised the economic climate in unlikely ways

It was actually right in the middle of the recession that we decided to launch. In 2007, we started planning. But, feeling that we needed a considerable amount of time to think about who we were going to target as well as with what and how we were going to scale the business, it was in 2008 that we had our proper launch.

The reason we thought it was good timing, despite the recession, was the belief that if handled correctly we could get smaller brands to punch way above their weight. We went on to prove this very idea by 2009, with a number of companies outranking big brands.

Because of the recession, when budgets were being tightened everywhere, we felt there was an opportunity to serve those companies particularly well.

Staying several steps ahead of the game

We serve three distinct tiers, and have a solid understanding of each, which is what we believe makes us unique. Our strategy will vary greatly from corporate clients through to SMEs. Another of our USPs lies in our capability, where we combine expertise with the commercial edge it takes to get results with content marketing.

We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of new developments. We were very early in getting involved in content marketing, well before Google’s Penguin updates. We recruited content people before the old link building techniques looked less likely to be effective.

We were also very early to work in mobile-friendly web development. We were starting to work on multi-screen solutions way back in 2009, when mobile traffic represented only 1% of all internet traffic.

A cleverer, more integrated approach to marketing

Because the world’s moved on, traditional marketing now blends with digital in a lot of ways. It’s one and the same. You can’t have a marketing campaign now without digital; it’s just not possible.

But you’ve always got to think differently, regardless of what sector you’re in. Blindly banging out emails or cold calling people doesn’t work any more. You’ve got to be more targeted, do a lot more research and get out there and build relationships either digitally or in the real world.

Because our capability is stronger than it’s ever been, we’re going to focus more heavily on supporting in-house teams. We’ve got huge growth plans and the growth rate is increasing month on month.

Keeping a finger on the pulse is vital

When it comes to thinking of risks for our future business, changes that are out of our control is the biggest factor. Although we’ve been able to stay one step ahead all along the line, we’re at the mercy of search engines. As you build capability in and around content, you’ve also got to have one eye on whether it’s becoming any less effective and be generating ideas for the next big thing.

Rewards aren’t always monetary

Our greatest success as a company is our people. About 64% of our current staff came into the company with relatively limited or no previous industry experience. Seeing them become prominent people within the industry is the thing that gives me the most satisfaction.

Staying true to the culture of the business

Controlling where the demand is coming from has been one of our biggest challenges to date. When we got high demand for app development a few years back, we instinctively just followed it and ran with it. So much so that we got to a point where 50% of our turnover was coming from that area. After that, we realised that it had fundamentally changed the culture of the business. We’d let the market control us, rather than doing it the other way round. We’ve learned a lot from that and we’re now stronger because we’ve taken back control.

With this in mind, I’d say to any new business starters – build a strong culture. You’ve got to stay true to your values. It might sound like a cliché, but one of the things I’ve learned is that you can’t just chase money. You’ve got to stay true to the purpose of the business.

Find out more about Richard Heyes and Tecmark by visiting: www.tecmark.co.uk

For more advice and insight from business owners, visit our Small Business Stars hub