and how we apply them in our own business
When my brother and I started our digital marketing agency, Sparro, in 2013, we were very confident in the direction we wanted to take in our business and our work. We wanted to take on the best qualities of all of the businesses we’d worked with, while avoiding the worst aspects of agencies that we’d been exposed to.
Having worked at Appliances Online for a combined five years, the culture and practices of the group had made a big mark on us, and continues to be a benchmark for the type of business we are building. Here are five ways our time there has helped to shape our own business.
1. ‘Go the extra mile’ for customers
The Appliances Online values are so key to their business that they’re plastered around the office and repeated daily. But it’s not an empty mantra – this is a company that has previously hired a crane to lower a fridge into someone’s house so they could fulfil an order.
In our business we often work well outside of the scope of our retainers. We’ve fixed site hacks for paid search clients, and written press releases for SEO clients. We don’t claim to be experts in every channel, but if we’re asked to help and we can add value, we’re always available.
The result is that clients see us as an extension of their marketing teams, and regularly seek our opinion on their wider marketing and business. We typically don’t charge for this, as we see this as part of the value we offer our clients.
2. There’s a right time to be a small and large business
Winning Group employ several hundred people, but the idea of being a ‘small business’ is very much fixed in the company psyche. The CEO makes himself highly available for any staff member to reach him, while whole departments will often wake up at dawn to cook a breakfast BBQ for the warehouse staff.
On the other hand, they’re a company with a highly-experienced management team, board and quite effective processes.
While Sparro is a much smaller team, we’ve always tried to take the best aspects of large businesses – quarterly staff reviews, and internal processes and formalities, for example – and balance these alongside small business values: putting staff and their families first, and being agile and quick to adapt to change.
3. The right way to pitch services
I probably received one cold call or email pitch a day at Appliances Online and very quickly learnt how not to sell.
Most of the sales calls I took were along the same lines: can I have 30 minutes of your time? Can I book a meeting? Can I show you our deck on improving sales through cross-channel sales automation and programmatic learning?
These conversations were invariably about them and what they wanted, or had, and were packed with buzzwords. They rarely offered value, or made any contextual reference to our business.
At Sparro we do very little cold calling, as most clients are referred by colleagues or invite us to pitch, but when we do we are very conscious of offering actual value. We mostly only reach out when we have a specific idea for a client, or notice a gap in their marketing. We don’t try to protect our ‘IP’ but believe that ideas are free and that the right client will have foresight to implement concepts with the team that generated them.
4. Hire for character, not skills
Early-on in the Appliances Online days I was led to understand that new staff would turn up without actual roles assigned to them, both due to growth and the company culture.
John Winning would find them somewhere to start and move them across divisions until they found a place that suited them. I recently visited and found several of my ex-colleagues in different divisions than when I had left: staff that were excelling in their positions and loved the company.
The secret here, I think, is to hire for character, not skills. While this isn’t true for all roles – if you need a developer, for example – it definitely makes sense for a business like ours where skills are learnt on the job and the ability to solve problems is more important than knowing your way around Google Analytics, initially.
The result – for both of our businesses – are cohesive, positive and loyal staff who have been given confidence and a chance to learn and grow. Our first two hires are still in the business and I believe this was the same for Appliances Online for many years.
5. Encourage multi-skilled staff and company transparency
The greater play in moving staff between divisions, cross-department events and a strong focus on internal communications is to generate a sense of community and respect across the whole business, and not just departments.
In our own business we focus on developing multi-skilled staff and ensuring everyone’s aware of each client and channel that we work in. Our copywriters are learning SEO and PPC strategy, for example, to greater understand the context of their work and our business. We encourage all staff to become involved in any project or client that interests them, even if well outside their remit.
We also practice this in the way we deal with clients. Our staff regularly spend time in the Webjet and DNSW offices to understand processes and the stakeholders, while we put a lot of effort into knowing our clients’ greater businesses and where our work fits in.
More by Morris Bryant
Sparro has picked the award for Innovator of the Year at the Bing Partner Awards overnight in Seattle, USA, for their in-house AI bidding solution.Continue reading b
Sparro and REMI won the award following the creation of an AI bidding platform for use on the Webjet paid search account.Continue reading b
SEO expert Michael Sparkes has been appointed to the newly-created role of SEO Lead, managing all key clients and the existing team.Continue reading b
Sparro have picked up 2 of the 5 AUNZ Google Premier Partner Awards in the Shopping Innovation and Mobile Innovation categories.Continue reading b
We’ve found a new swag partner and kitted up for winter. Grab a notebook and shirt next time you see us!Continue reading b
We’re regularly sharing feedback with Google on the AdWords console, and here are a few of our top feature requests.Continue reading b
1. You will be able to bid separately for mobile, tablet and desktop (again) Advertiers will soon be able to set bid adjustments for all three device types. Enhanced Campaigns ended this function when they launched in 2013 and grouped desktop and tablet bidding, and it’s a welcome change. For Advertisers, this means far greater […]Continue reading b
Facebook have been fairly aggressive in claiming a greater share of ad spend over the last few years; particularly reinventing their ad units for Mobile and to be more native to their platform. One of the most interesting ad units they’ve released in some time are the new Lead Ads. These ads allow users to enter […]Continue reading b
Bringing in 2016 with some fresh faces, Sparro have won four new digital accounts with SurfStitch, GUESS Australia, National Hearing Care and Bay Audiology (NZ). Working across digital marketing, partner outreach and paid search accounts, Sparro is looking forward to establishing great working relationship with the four exciting brands and helping them further cement their online […]Continue reading b
The most important question in our business, and maybe yours too, is often the question that’s most overlooked for its simplicity and because the answer is so commonly assumed. Here it is: What is the objective? Companies, businesses and individuals without an objective are like Twitter – there’s noise, activity and some level of assumed […]Continue reading b
Today I pulled down our site TheDealer.com.au – a daily deals aggregator that Cameron, Ruben and myself built way back in 2011. As a challenge, we designed, coded and had the site live sending daily deals emails within 6 weeks; integrated with a dozen or so of the largest deals sites at the time – […]Continue reading b
Park outside the door Our Father would get you a park right outside the door of any busy event. He’d drive past crowds of people walking to the Easter Show from where they’d parked, streets away, and he’d tell us – they all think there’s no parking right outside, but you watch this. His theory […]Continue reading b
Mobile’s been a hot topic for a few years now, and it always seems to be ‘just about’ to take over. There’s no doubt it’s not going away and presents huge opportunities for any business, but is an app the right way to get in front of mobile users? In most cases, we don’t think so.Continue reading b