Today is the 10th birthday of It Works Media, and I wanted to take a trip down memory lane by writing about how it all started, along with some of the pivotal milestones of our first decade.
Just like the MCU, our agency has shifted through several key phases, defined by significant changes in the team, approach and client projects.
It all started after a car crash. I was spending three hours each day commuting to Manchester while working for an agency as head of SEO, when, at 6:27 a.m. on the 29th of May 2012, an Audi A3 estate suddenly stopped in the fast lane. Unfortunately, I didn’t and went straight into the back of them. The VW Transporter behind me also wasn’t able to defy physics and rear-ended my car.
While waiting for a recovery vehicle, I just decided that the commute wasn’t worth the hassle. My daughter was two years old and I barely saw her during the week. Plus, I had always wanted to go freelance and was looking to push myself both in my work and in the additional skills needed to run a business.
So, after my notice period, OMOII Ltd (don’t ask about the name) was registered on the 10th of August 2012.
I had no savings, no backup and no clients to take with me, so I took on any work I could get – no matter how small. I worked with old agencies, colleagues and anyone who needed help with their SEO. For four years, I probably did five times as much work as I had done before for five times less money.
Key client wins:
- Anglo Liners – a road marking company that was our first-ever client and is still with us today. I built their website, wrote the content and even created the logo.
- Netmums – our first big client. I got in touch after my wife saw a Twitter post that said they were looking for an experienced SEO consultant. For two years, I worked with an amazing team to develop their SEO, content and outreach strategies, while fixing some of their big technical issues.
- TD Investing – an old client from my agency days, requiring my analytics and CRO expertise to help educate their development team. I worked with them at key stages of a new site rebuild across six months.
- giffgaff – initially requiring an SEO manager to cover maternity leave for three months, which was extended to six months. I worked closely with the key product owners to help develop an SEO strategy, improving organic traffic levels for their new mobile phone products.
Four years had quickly passed. My second daughter had arrived and I was finally making a decent living, but my skill set was primarily focused on technical SEO and analytics. Content was definitely not my thing, so expansion was needed. “I” needed to change to “we”…
It’s now 2016 and I needed to find a team I could trust, who required little direction and had the experience to get the job done while I was out of the office. It took a few attempts but we got there in the end.
We changed our name to ‘It Works Media Ltd’, as we now have a wealth of case studies to show that ‘it works’…
Employing people is an absolute minefield of admin, HMRC b&llocks and stress, but it allowed us to grow and improve our offering. Plus, it’s nice working with others.
We also needed a bigger office, one that was easy to get to and big enough so that we could have a breakout area and enough room to grow. The only issue was that it was bloody expensive, so instead of locating in the city centre like most normal people, I decided Armley was cheap.
This office looked amazing: it was a little quirky with a lot of history and had spectacular big windows. What it actually meant was you boiled in the summer and froze in the winter. There was no a/c and the toilets were disgusting. The next-door neighbour was a wanted criminal who happened to be a cage fighter; a lovely chap, but probably not someone I will be visiting in HMP Leeds any time soon.
We signed a five-year lease, so we made the best of what we had. We had pizza days, watched crappy TV while drinking beer and laughed at the quirks of the building.
Key client wins:
- giffgaff – our contract was extended from consultancy to full outreach agency support, requiring an aggressive digital PR campaign to improve brand awareness and links across all products
- BrewDog – a paid media campaign strategy and management to target US customers wishing to invest in the crowdfunding campaign
- icelolly.com – we developed and implemented a transparent SEO campaign, ensuring the site’s technical barriers were removed, with content developed to provide a more engaging story and outreach focused on link acquisition from top-tier publications
- Healing Holidays – our PPC and SEO management helped them to expand organic reach post-site migration, as well as project managing a new domain migration 12 months later
- Ramblers Walking Holidays – we provide SEO and CRO management, project managing a new website platform migration and rewriting the whole site’s content to provide a more authoritative yet engaging story
This is a pivotal phase in our story. We had many clients to work with, and while some projects were more challenging, we all loved working within travel. It’s January 2020; what could possibly go wrong?
Covid hit at a time when we had more travel clients than ever before. Looking back on things, this was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. We didn’t have a diverse enough client portfolio to weather this, and clients were (quite rightly) looking to us to help them.
Some left and others required us to adapt our strategy to focus on staycations, ensuring that when things opened up, they had a better organic presence than before the pandemic.
This was our biggest test: the team came together like never before and I was exceptionally proud of how we worked together in some of the most challenging of circumstances. We all worked from home, some of the team had to be placed on furlough, and unfortunately, we did have to make redundancies at the end of 2020.
I felt like I had failed and it wasn’t a great time for us, but we still achieved some big client wins.
Key client wins:
- Fonehouse – we delivered SEO management, utilising our experience from giffgaff to develop a transparent SEO campaign
- Beerhunter – the pubs are closed and Beerhunter needed our expertise to develop a multi-channel digital marketing campaign, covering SEO, PPC, paid social and digital PR
- F.Hinds – we provided CRO and content, focusing on improving the customer experience through the purchase funnel and developing a new content strategy for their blog to help expand social engagement
- GoCompare – we’ve developed a digital PR strategy to improve brand awareness and authority on the primary insurance products
The start of this phase was terrible and I honestly didn’t think we would make it to the end of 2021 – but we did. We had successfully diversified our client portfolio to weather the storm. The team was still working from home, but we were making it work.
It’s now 2022, GoCompare has extended their contract with us to cover the whole of 2022 and we have delivered some truly amazing results for them. We have lost some of the original team, but people move on and we now have a fantastic team who work really well with each other and the client.
We are back in the office 2-3 days per week. It’s proving a challenge to retain the “banter” through Slack, but it’s something we are working on. New business is on a break for a few months as we redevelop our approach and offering, but we are growing and have some truly impressive case studies to share.
We made it through 10 years of the most challenging events I have ever witnessed, we are stronger for our failures and our successes are more frequent. I’m truly proud of what we have accomplished and can’t wait to get started on the next 10 years.