The Business Owner: Simon Douglass, Curated Digital

The digital marketing group's founder talks organic growth, strategic goals and why being a small business is best...

The Business Owner: Simon Douglass, Curated Digital

Name: Simon Douglass
Company: Curated Digital
Founders: Simon Douglass
Location: Old Street, London
Proposition: Digital marketing company
Size: 8

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

We’re essentially a digital marketing agency but I don’t like the word agency, as I feel it has distrustful connotations – this probably comes from my seven years working at Google with agencies, and five years actually working for digital agencies.

Working agency side, I realised how political and how fragmented individual teams and disciplines were, which made it difficult to work together on projects – email sat in one corner, SEO in the other and social were on a different floor. We do digital marketing with an acquisition focus (i.e. driving a lead or a sale) – it’s focused on goals rather than individual marketing channels: instead, we take a budget and a client’s goal and use whatever channels can most effectively achieve that goal.

How did you finance your business?

From my life savings – £25,000 of my own money! Fortunately Curated was profitable from month one, so we have no debt.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Keeping everybody happy. I’m big on spending time with people – clients or staff members – they’re all so important and they all have different needs and drives. With a high amount of clients and a small team, it’s quite hard to keep everybody happy at the same time but I try to figure out a way of getting to everybody eventually and make sure they feel loved.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

As a digital marketing company, we have all of the online skills needed to attract new customers, i.e. SEO, PPC, content marketing, social marketing. Much of our success has been speaking at events, following that up with a blog post and seeding that socially.

We also wrote case studies showcasing client successes which have driven new customers to our service too, and we have been nominated for a couple of Guardian awards (start-up of the year and leader of the year) which helps

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

Google Drive,we run everything through Google enterprise apps: Google docs are fantastic for collaboration, enabling us to access docs simultaneously and from different locations. Drive is an awesome, virtual shared drive which is a better, more robust storage system than anything else I’ve ever used.

Also Yesware – it’s an email tracking and CRM tool which helps us understand how customers are interacting with the emails we sent out. It also allows emails to be scheduled, and can be configured to prompt you with an alert if an email hasn’t been responded to or followed up. It is essential for the business owner who has lots of different things to remember.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:

Transparent, creative, honest

What would you like the government to do for small business?

More tax breaks. It’s difficult to get up and running only to be hit with such a hefty bill for tax. In the early days, more should be done to support rather than take away from small business owners, something to encourage growth. If those companies go on to make lots of money, then they should pay premium, but not at the start – time is needed to grow.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

Andy Atalla, friend and former boss – heads up atom42, he taught me everything I know about digital.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

I don’t want to grow Curated into a big agency. I want to keep it a small collective of experts in their respective fields (SEO, PPC, Content, Social etc…) and for us to grow at our own pace, with clients and projects which we like, and which we want to work on.

In three years I would like to see Curated as a well-respected medium sided agency with a strong brand reputation, delivering amazing results for clients.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Make sure that we have good, solid strategies in place for our clients. It stops everybody (clients and staff) from going off on tangents, and we always have a document to refer to every time we meet and everytime we touch the account.

This also helps to organise and manage people’s time too. It doesn’t always work, but having that structure in place ensures we do as much as we can to maximise profit as much as we can.

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