I founded digital marketing agency Maratopia (then WSI Yorkshire) in 2003 – which, when I take two minutes to think about it, is both scary and reassuring.
It’s scary because in many ways 2003 seems like a lifetime ago, but reassuring since it’s a long-time in agency terms, so we must have been doing more than a few things right along the way.
My pre-agency experience is diverse, but always directed in one way or another towards innovations in digital tech, creativity and entrepreneurialism – disciplines which have remained lifelong passions.
I’ve turned my hand to helping some outstanding teams over the years, but here are a few highlights from my career so far:
Helping to grow Visual Communications Group (VCG) from a £250k per annum photo library to a £100m multi-media global group which was eventually snapped up by Getty Images.
The growth journey of VCG was propelled by acquisitions and rapid organisational transformation.I had run the production and content generation division and fostered an environment where some of the best stock photography in the business allowed our creatives to bring their visionary projects to reality.
Finally, I also managed and optimised the group’s technology and marketing processes to launch groundbreaking print catalogues and some of the earliest B2B e-commerce websites.
Moving on to head the European arm of AIM-listed ImageState, during an exciting era in which the industry was rapidly expanding and digitising.
The direction of travel was that film and duplicates were replaced by scanned images, digital cameras came to the fore, CD Roms saw paper catalogues destined for the dustbin, then truly globally trailblazing B2B websites and the proliferation of royalty-free images created a sea change in the sector.
Progressing to head up Internet Direct, which was then the largest independent online retailer of digital cameras, until it was sold to Pix Mania.
Thanks to the varied and vibrant career path, by the time I was considering branching out with my own agency, I’d run numerous B2B and B2C e-commerce companies and led in-house and agency teams working across the key digital marketing disciplines – including web development & design, SEO, Paid Search, Social Media and Analytics.
I’ve always been a hands-on leader, and through good and bad experiences with internal teams and agencies, I realised that existing agencies tended to be founded by either creatives or technical experts with polarized cultural outlooks and often, a lack of experience in the hard-won business skills which secure steady growth and sustainable success.
Realising that my background and philosophy could plug this gap in the market was the main motivator for setting up a customer-focused, holistic digital agency. So Maratopia was founded with a clear focus on empathically understanding how customers think, committing to transparently demonstrating ROI, and harnessing a blended creative and technical approach which achieves goals and enables outstanding customer experiences.
Because of my direct and deep prior experience in dealing with agencies, I could identify clients’ pain points, put myself in their shoes and translate technical jargon into Plain English so that it was easy to understand how our expert techniques and strategies could help any business excel and achieve outstanding results against agreed KPIs.
After 16 years and counting, Maratopia’s Mission is still to be ‘our clients’ most trusted partner’.
So staying true to the values that drove me to set up shop in the beginning, I’ve surrounded myself with a team of talented staff who are dedicated to strategic thinking that’s infused with technical creativity and sharing collaboratively with clients every step of the way – hence our mantra of ‘think, create, share’.
I’m still as excited to walk into the office today as I was in 2003 – and although the tech I work with has changed beyond belief in the intervening years, my motivation remains the same.