Past, present, future blog – Gareth Robinson, GLR Digital

The Past, Present and Future blog looks at life before, during and after coronavirus. It considers what marketing and communication strategies are being deployed, how businesses are reacting and what they plan to do next. The series was created by The Word Association, an established PR and marketing agency based in Fife.

Gareth Robinson runs a digital marketing and web design consultancy in Hereford. Dealing in the currency of web design, Google Ads, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and digital analysis, he is at the forefront of the online revolution and, despite coronavirus, business is growing.


Gareth Robinson, GLR Digital, 15/06/20, 11:15pm

Past – How were things at the start of the year?

“At the start of the year, things were pretty normal. It was business as usual looking for potential clients that don’t have websites fit for purpose or have websites but don’t market them in the right way. These are the kind of businesses I look for in a local radius of around 30-40 miles so I can meet them face-to-face. You often find smaller businesses prefer a personal approach. Then there’s the other side where you’re bidding on projects which could be based anywhere. There are different forums out there from which you can purchase leads that give you an idea of what the business is looking for so you can develop a pitch. At the start of 2020, we were working on these projects in a completely normal way – there wasn’t really anything different between 2019 and 2020.”

Past – Were there any recurring trends in what people wanted to achieve in 2020?

“In digital, every year there are a few buzz words knocking around. This year, there was nothing specific – it was more about how much people were willing to invest in it. In the last few years, video content has been huge and this year was showing even more growth. The way google ranks its algorithms heavily focuses on video content. In content production, people were moving increasingly towards video and thinking more about the quality of the production. We’re also seeing a move away from landscape to portrait production so that videos are fit for purpose on social media channels meaning you’re not having to flip your phone. Another big trend has been voice-activated searches because of high mobile usage and the home speaker market such as Alexa and Siri. People are asking questions to search engines so we have to find ways to adapt websites or apps to build in that voice functionality.”


Present – When did coronavirus first impact your business?

“It was around the middle of March when the government gave the first indication of a central lockdown; that’s when a lot of companies started to worry and that’s when I started receiving a lot of calls. In the first instance, the calls were from companies wanting to turn everything off and save their budget. It was my job to say that if they did switch everything off, they would have absolutely nothing when things started to resume and life returned to normal. We didn’t know how long this would last – it could have been for a couple of weeks or a few months and you want some warm leads or a bit of a customer base for when things reopen otherwise you’ll just be standing still. So 90% of the businesses I work with saw the benefit of that approach. Some reduced their budgets, some kept it business as usual. A lot of it was trying to fine-tune the messaging or what the approach was. For instance, if you’re a hospitality venue, you would adapt the messaging to look further into the year or into 2021. If you’re an online retailer, you might look to divert your budget away from more traditional marketing methods to pushing sales online.”

Present – With the calls coming in, how did this affect your business?

“I am very fortunate that lockdown has actually increased my business, not necessarily from my existing client base because that was mostly a case of carrying on as usual. A couple of my clients increased my workload, but most of the additional work was new and that’s because a lot of businesses were not prepared for a shutdown. They didn’t have a website that was fit for purpose; for selling online or providing home-delivery, or click-and-collect services. They hadn’t done enough marketing beyond their local radius to drive sales on a wider scale. A lot of the new work was driving Google Ads and Google Shopping campaigns or creating functionality to allow clients to sell online.”

Present – So people were homing in on on-line sales?

“Yes, with physical shops shut, it was very difficult for them to shift their product. You can use social media to get some brand awareness and generate enquiries, but you really need a website that takes online sales and offers facilities like home delivery. That’s how most people were looking to adapt their websites. Most clients test the waters on Amazon or eBay but Google Shopping is still very much under-used and has lots of potential. I’ve had strong performing campaigns run on this channel during lockdown with some high returns on advertising spend.”


Future – How will coronavirus affect what your clients require in the future?

“With businesses opening, I don’t think people will be flocking back to the streets. I think there will undoubtedly be a requirement for a continued online presence, whether that encompasses a website redesign with e-commerce or paid campaigns to drive a wider audience. A lot of people have noticed their existing customer base is close to home, but there’s an awful big market out there and a lot of customers elsewhere. One of my clients focussed on the B2B market in the leisure sector which is currently shutdown, they had to adapt what they did over the lockdown period. We designed and developed a new website aimed at the consumer market and started running a paid campaign to sell their product to the home market. They’ve really benefited from that. In fact, it really surprised them how strong the market was for their products so they’re looking to buy more stock to keep this moving once lockdown is over because the sales have been so good.”

Future – How will coronavirus change the way you operate?

“I don’t think it will change how I operate as I essentially offer a service that doesn’t really have any boundaries. Myself and my team can work remotely anywhere in the world. It doesn’t matter if things are opened or closed – all of my work tends to be online. It does, however, make me think about the kind of businesses I am looking to help. One thing I have found over the last three months is that 90% of my clients have one or two main objectives – they want to sell products or generate leads online. As long as you have channels and an audience to satisfy those objectives, then there’s always going to be work.”

– Ends –

With over 10 years working in digital marketing environments for B2B and B2C companies on a national and global stage, Gareth Robinson has built up a wealth of knowledge working in competitive industries including: luxury retail, automotive, energy, digital agencies and construction.

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