INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Digital Services Industry
Robert Stoubos, Founder & CEO of Odyssey New Media Ltd tells us how they innovate in both the digital marketing world and the website development world.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Robert Stoubos: Fortunately, both myself and all of my family have been COVID-free during the entire lockdown period here in the UK. We are very grateful to have remained healthy and able to go about our daily lives as normally as possible.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Odyssey New Media.
Robert Stoubos: Since completing my BSc in Computer Science in 2005 I started working as an SEO manager at a small Birmingham-based company. After realizing I really enjoyed Digital Marketing, I moved to a much larger and experienced firm which gave me a lot of experience working on larger accounts. Example accounts included big blue-chip companies and international companies such as Nectar UK and Vonage US, Canada, and the UK. I also followed up that role by working in-house for a leading supplements manufacturer brand called BioCare which was a great experience and allowed me to gain experience in operations and psychology from a client perspective.
During my time as an employee, I founded Odyssey New Media in 2010 with a view to running my own agency in the future when the time was right.
Taking all my agency and in-house experience with me in 2013 I felt the time was right to drive my own agency Odyssey New Media forward full-time. I started consulting and managing clients literally as a bedroom start-up and then proceeded to develop and grow the company from there. Fast-forward to today, Odyssey New Media is a multi-award-winning agency, we have our own offices, 10+ staff, and 40+ regular digital marketing clients. Since 2017 we’ve also expanded our range of services beyond digital marketing services to include website and mobile app development.
How does Odyssey New Media innovate?
Robert Stoubos: Our company innovates by keeping a watchful eye on all of the latest developments in both the digital marketing world and the website development world.
Digital Marketing channels like SEO, Google AdWords, and Social Media are constantly evolving and offering new features to advertisers and as a result, we have to have our finger on the pulse so we can advise and implement effective strategies for our clients.
In addition, in 2021 we are also in the process of developing our own suite of digital marketing tools founded on our methodology and approach which currently gets great results. These could also later be promoted as monthly licensed SaaS software for other agencies, marketers, and companies; and could generate an additional revenue stream for our company.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Robert Stoubos: When the lockdown measures were implemented in March and April 2020 there was somewhat of an initial knee-jerk reaction by some of our clients. We wanted to be sensitive to any clients who had been affected and as a result, we offered a lot of our contracted clients’ discounts of up to 50% which they appreciated. I’m a believer that in business you have to be sensitive to market changes, especially when for some business marketing and development are sometimes seen as nice to not need to have when circumstances change.
As a result, we were able to keep many of our clients running and many have re-instated their pre-lockdown levels. In addition, we have seen an acceleration of digital and many companies look to invest to grow and invest in digital marketing and development where they wouldn’t have before.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Robert Stoubos: As I mentioned in my earlier answer, we had to be sensitive to clients who had been affected and as a result, we offered them generous discounts on their monthly fees and did whatever we could to help them get through the difficult initial lockdown periods.
In terms of lessons learned, we learned that being a ‘human’ company really pays dividends as many of our clients appreciated us doing whatever we could to help them and it’s really boosted our referrals and perception amongst our existing clients.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Robert Stoubos: From a COVID-19 safety perspective we’ve worked hard to adhere to all government guidelines which include safe working distancing within the office, staff home-working, readily available hand-gel dispensers, and wearing of masks when entering communal areas around the building. We have also utilized Zoom for staff and prospect calls exclusively to reduce client contact and we also use Microsoft Teams to communicate with staff who are home-working.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Robert Stoubos: Being in Birmingham which is the UK’s second city many other agencies could be considered our competitors. However, we’ve always preferred to focus on what we are doing and this has set us apart from all other competitors because we are original in our ideas, methodology, and approach to digital services.
In order to stay in the game, we aim to continue to innovate and to focus on results-driven websites and marketing which ultimately leads to our clients getting more traffic and sales; this usually results in long-term relationships that allow us to prosper and grow.
Your final thoughts?
Robert Stoubos: Overall, we would prefer COVID-19 and lockdown not to have been such a major event that has cost lives. From our business perspective, we have been able to adapt well and we’re grateful that we’ve been able to come out of the other side relatively unscathed financially and mentally. In addition, from a digital industry perspective in general it has meant start-up business owners and established companies have had to prioritize digital further and this has and will result in further increased digital investment for years to come.
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