Episode 8 'Choosing an Agency' Season 2
Episode 8 of Choosing an Agency out now.
In the latest episode, Alex speaks to Sue Keogh. She is the founder of digital marketing agency Sookio which she started after a decade of producing content for BBC Radio 2, Yahoo, Aol, Magic FM and ITV.com.
Sue advises clients about how to get their briefs right, and how to smoothly run a campaign, as well as sharing her perspective on how to approach pitches, budgets, awards and values. Sue also spoke about what Sookio is doing to improve access to the agency space for young people and diversify it.
Episode eight, series two transcript
Alex Holliman: Hello, and welcome to choosing an agency. My name is Alex, founder of agency climbing trees. And I’m here to talk about how to get the right agency to grow your business. I’m joined today by Sue Keogh from Sookie.
Sue Keogh: Hi.
Alex Holliman: So for people that are just meeting me for the first time, could you share a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Sue Keogh: So as you say, I’m Sue from Sookio. And my agency is based in Cambridge, we’ve been going since 2008. And we focus very much on content. So that’s content strategy. We do a lot of content training as well. So upskilling in house teams, and then the content creation that goes with all of this. So video, social media campaigns, copywriting, animation, all that sort of thing.
Alex Holliman: Oh, wow, what were you doing prior to that?
Sue Keogh: Well, my background is quite, quite interesting. So I started out in radio, so working for an indie who do specialist music productions for radio two, mostly. And then I went straight from that to ITV where I was project manager, and then went freelance as a homepage editor for Yahoo and AOL, worked for magic FM, all sorts of people like that. So going freelance, I picked up so much work with all these people then saying to me, Oh, hang on, you know about Twitter, can you manage our social media campaigns? And, you know, oh, you seem to know about web content. So can you write our web copy, and, and so gradually developed into business and an agency from there. So that’s why, because my background is so strong and content and content for, for good reasons, you know, so not just to not purely commercial, but you know, to make good content that really has a lasting impact on people, then that’s what kind of flows through our agency and our general way of doing things. So yeah, it’s good content is at the heart of what we do. And I, I mean, that in a very genuine way, not the sort of thing that people put on their websites all the time saying, whatever is at the heart of what we do.
Alex Holliman: No, absolutely. That makes sense. And so you used to work on the Yahoo homepage?
Sue Keogh: That’s right. Yeah, yeah. So it was a really good kind of training ground for me in terms of coming up with good quality content in a short space of time with quite tight parameters around it. So as an example, the day of the London bombings, then I was working that day, and the whole Yahoo team got sent home, everyone had to just walk home, because public transport was down. And so I was working remotely, and really, breastfeeding babies, well, multitasking. And you, my role was to pick from all these stories coming in for stories that would be in this kind of carousel on the homepage, and write the copy to go with it and make sure the picture was accurate. And make sure it was all up to date. And, you know, and so I’d be doing that for, you know, that was a particularly vivid example of what I was doing. But it was also covering the World Cup, getting up at six o’clock in the morning, trying to decipher the ashes, action that had happened overnight in Australia and trying to, you know, put that in three tiny lines of text. So it was a really good training ground for me in writing. Yeah, really good quality, and also accurate content in quite, quite tight parameters.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, that ability to distil and remove words is not for me in and of itself, isn’t it?
Sue Keogh: Yeah, definitely. And you find yourself using lots of short words, because longer ones are going to push things over on to the next line, and it doesn’t fit. And, you know, really learning about what makes people click and and how maybe just changing one or two words in a short sentence can really have quite a big difference on whether people are interested in the content or not. So, so yeah, it was a really good, really interesting time, you know, really kind of set the, I don’t know, set the scene for what I was going to go on to do next.
Alex Holliman: Perfect. So then what is it that you do on a day to day basis over at Sookio?
Sue Keogh: So me as the founder or as a as a business? Well, me as the founder, I’m very well, it’s interesting. One of my colleagues says to me, I need to get out of the engine room and focus on steering the ship, you know, because it’s, this is what I’m always trying to do focus on a strategy, where we’re going, look at which services we need to develop, which ones maybe we need to prune. But then so as well as the bigger picture stuff. At the moment, for example, we’ve expanded over the pandemic periods. So we started off with six and a half people, we’ve come out the other side with 10. So things like onboarding, and making sure that people are really bedded in. So I’m doing quite a lot of that at the moment. While also just always looking for ways to make us more, more efficient ways that we can automate things, ways that we can centralise what we’re doing ways that we can report an activity. So I suppose my role is it’s business development. It’s refining things, it’s motivation. It’s looking for ways to improve things. And yeah, just kind of keeping things always moving forward.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely. I think we’ve been in a similar sort of place to you where we’ve sort of grown in size and so what got us to six or seven people pre pandemic, and now we’re at 12. Those systems and processes are needing some support and sort of retrofitting of sort of proper sort of HR systems onboarding. We’ve got internal project management software that we’re doing, because it’s done okay, up to now, but to go on the next part of our sort of journey, something stronger, more stable will definitely help us.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, it’s just always a work in progress, isn’t it? You know, always I think sometimes it’s a bit like plastic surgery. So you focus on getting one bit fixed. And then you think you’d be happy then But then you think no, no, no, no, no, no, no, we need to improve our workflow, or now we need to improve our onboarding process or now let’s fix that. Let’s try that different tool. So yeah, it’s always a work in progress.
Alex Holliman: Perfect. So this podcast saying very much around trying to help clients get more from their agency relationships. And so in your mind, what can be done to improve the quality of work that a client gets from an agency?
Sue Keogh: When I think it’s all it’s all in the, we think about pre-production a lot, and not just in video terms. So we think about it in terms of copywriting or social media campaigns and how you set them up. So we always feel that the more time you spend on the planning and briefing process right at the beginning, then the better result, you get out the other end. So if you can really drill down about what the the clients goals are, and objectives, and work out the timeline, and who’s going to be delivering what and what, what, you know, it’s an overused expression, but what success looks like what people actually want, the more time you spend on that, then the better is the other end. So yeah, that’s what I’d say they’re really spend time at the beginning, defining what we want to achieve. And then that’s yeah, that’s how to get the better work.
Alex Holliman: And that makes absolute sense. And there’s an acronym, which is wholly inappropriate that I can’t use now. The better quality put in at the beginning of a project, the better quality you’ll get at the end.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And some of that is around just having given yourself enough time. So I know you’re going to ask me about the briefing process and all that kind of thing today. And what makes my heart leap, you know, is when someone comes to us, and they say, right, well, here’s our budget. And here’s what we want to achieve. And we say, okay, so when are you looking to start? And we’ll sort of joke and say, you know, sure, we wanted to start yesterday kind of thing. But sometimes people say no, we want to just get a few more things lined up, and then two minutes time, so they know, that when, when, when people are giving themselves time as well, you kind of you just get this sense that okay, everything’s gonna work really, really well. Whereas sometimes when someone comes to us and says, Okay, right, well, we worry about strategy, we just need to get started. Can we start next Wednesday, and you just you just know that give it maybe six weeks time, we’re going to be having some difficult conversations, because something will have gone, gone awry. And even though we say right, can we just just pause? Let’s just pause, let’s just just really get everything mapped out properly. And you just get this sense that if the people want to really dive in, hit the ground running without any of that prep around it. You just know. something’s gonna go wrong along the way, somewhere.
Alex Holliman: Yeah, it’s like running into a burning house or something if you’d have to.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Alex Holliman: And so then what would be your best sort of bits of advice for clients to have a campaign to run really smoothly?
Sue Keogh: Well, I think definitely having the the briefing where we start with a briefing form itself, which is going to ask all of those questions around it. So what the objectives are, because sometimes people come to us and say, I want to run a Facebook campaign, for example. Whereas what I’m interested to know is what do they want to achieve? Because actually, even though they’re thinking at the moment, they’re gonna go that way, we might go more of a wiggly route around or we might suggest video or, or something else. So I think to have to have things that really mapped out in his briefing form, and ask all those extra questions. Maybe people don’t think to volunteer themselves, because they’ve come into us for our expertise. You know, if they had the expertise in house, and they wouldn’t need us, it’s a bit like, you know, I might ask someone to come and fit a kitchen for me, and I can’t do that. So I go to them for their expertise. So yeah, really, a really clear brief is so important
Alex Holliman: And do you think that people respond to that briefing form very well or are quite sort of forced, I mean, sort of populating it with information?
Sue Keogh: Well, I think it varies. And this is another thing that we find out as well about how people like to communicate and be communicated with. So some people say, Oh, we’ve got time for that. But what they do like doing is having a really lovely phone call about it, or we get them in and have more of a workshop. So we like to find out and that’s a good point for clients as well. You know, tell the agency how you like to be communicated with. Some people just want to sit there and send emails late at night when I’ve got a bit more time to think other people just want to hop on Zoom. So that’s, yeah, I think that’s That’s a really important part of the whole process being successful is communing, communicating with people in the right way.
Alex Holliman: Perfect. And then the whole pre-production piece for you. That’s critically important?
Sue Keogh: I would say. So yeah. And it also helps stop scope creep. So in fact, we’ve got as situation at the moment, which is, despite our best intentions, has gone a bit like that, because some other people have, have now become involved who weren’t there at the beginning. And their expectations are completely different to what ours are. But the good thing is that, and I was doing this just before our chat just now, I went right back to the original email to see, Well, hang on, what did they come to us? What did they actually want in the first place? So yeah, so the more that you’ve got mapped out at the beginning, to say, this is what we’re going to deliver. Also, this is what we’re not delivering, you know, the more that helps towards the success of the, of the project.
Alex Holliman: So Sue what project or piece of work are you most proud of?
Sue Keogh: There’s so much. I think, one not necessarily client work. But there’s a thing that we’ve done for two years now called agency bootcamp, which is a week of remote work experience, which we we’ve done online both years, you know, so the idea came about because of the pandemic. And me generally getting a bit of a bee in my bonnet about it was around the time when the A Levels came out. And it was a massive, you know, sort of fiasco about the way that was handled. And also, I’m a bit grumpy about unpaid internships, I think they’re very bad for the industry. And also, I could see a lot of opportunities for work experience being taken away from Young from younger people as a result of the pandemic. And someone came to me and said, she was asking for work experience, and I was thinking, how are we going to do this, you know, it’s going to be a bit boring, her just sitting on Zoom, watching us typing or whatever. And then I thought, well, actually, by the time we come up with something useful and valuable for one person, whatever format we come up with, then actually, let’s turn this into an opportunity. And we can help loads of people. So it’s amazing. So two years in a row, it was a week each time, and we had little spotlights on team members. So learn what a copywriter is, learn what strategist is. We had these creative challenges. So some of them wrote blog posts they did, they pitched us an idea for creative promo, lots of things like that, where they could actually try try different things out and get something valuable for their portfolio at the end, and then a careers day as well, to sort of teach them about jargon. You know, what, what are the? What’s the language that people speak in marketing agencies, if you know what I mean? So all that sort of stuff that people would never tell you, because they don’t even think think about it. So yeah, so it’s really good. I was just so proud to have done this and to have helped, we did about 20-25 people each time, and different backgrounds. One girl was in Sierra Leone, in the one that we did just, that just happened in August. So every time it rains, the internet stopped for her. So a dad had to go out and buy some sort of Wi Fi transmitter thing. And so it’s genuinely helped people get into the industry and get quite good jobs, who, you know, maybe maybe wouldn’t have had the opportunities? I don’t know. So, yeah, so I’m really, really proud of that.
Alex Holliman: Oh, fantastic. And that sort of impact. So to be able to impact 50 lives in quite a meaningful way and give them exactly understanding.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah. Because I’ve been to the occasional industry event. And it’s just been, you know, I can think of a couple of clear examples where it’s been a roomful of white women, all beautifully spoken, all working as account managers for Nike or whatever, all with absolutely no idea why, what they’re, why they’re there, or they’re just kind of rocked up in the industry through some internship programme. And I’m thinking, this isn’t very good at it, you know, how are we going to create good quality campaigns and content, if the people that are putting them together, all look the same, and think the same, and all have exactly the same background. So it was my tiny, tiny little way of, of, you know, creating a bit of positive change, really. So it’s so nice to see that all these people have got jobs. You know, some some of them, I’m not going to take full credit. But yeah, it’s definitely contributed.
Alex Holliman: And I think sometimes with being intentional in those kinds of endeavours is really, really important, because I know for us, and we’re based in North Essex, Essex is tremendously White County, North Essex even more so if you go over 10-15 mile radius of our office. That is not such a diverse population. So recruitment has been really, really tricky, but I think one thing the pandemic has given us is the ability to almost break the link between where we’re physically recruiting people from and the office. Yeah, we’ve tried to be a lot more intentional in that kind of stuff. So but we’ve got a Revenue website built at the moment and there’s some bits and pieces we’re doing with regards to careers and CV applications. So we have blind CVs we have no identifying features for gender or ethnicity, we’re going to have our job descriptions, we’re gonna have to permanently open job descriptions with a level amongst them. And we’re gonna have those analysed semantically to try and make sure that they’re not. So I’m a bloke. So if I’m writing a job description, it’s gonna be quite blokey. And so to try and take that stripped those elements out and make it a little bit more neutral from that perspective,
Sue Keogh: That was interesting, because I did a similar process when I was hiring recently. And so I put put the jobs back through one of those, you know, filter things that that tells you whether you’re using feminine or masculine language. And then I realised, yeah, I was using more more sort of feminine language and, and the role was for a project manager. And I was using, I think I said the word supportive about three times, you know, supportive environment, and I thinking, I don’t want support, I don’t want to get that across, you know, I want someone who’s a bit more of a ballbreaker. So when it’s going to really, really take these projects by by the corners, and really not be afraid of difficult conversations. So I stripped out a lot of the more, you know, in inverted commas, feminine language that talked about all of that and made it a bit more, I put in words about strategic and operations, and all of that which, which returned by this the system more masculine. But that’s what I wanted in the role, you know, when someone to turn up who’s, who is really going to be quite strict and tough and not afraid of difficult conversations. So yeah, it made quite a difference.
Alex Holliman: Awesome. So when you what are the factors that you’ve seen included in some of the best briefs that you’ve had?
Sue Keogh: Well, I think people that take the time to really fill it out really clearly. And to show yeah, the objective, so what they want to achieve. And then if they tell you other useful things, like another campaign, they’ve seen that they really like, or I’m quite interested to see what people don’t like as well, you know, so. So what are those words that you don’t want to include? There was a client of ours, who really hated the word bespoke, for example, because he felt it was overused. So I really like it when people, they’ve had a look at their competitors, they’ve had a look at, well, what else is out there? And they’re able to say, Okay, well, we want to be distinct from that, for these reasons, you know, how can you help us do it? So yeah, people have got clear objectives, they’ve had a look around to see what everyone else is up to. There’s an element of trust, you know, that they, they, they’re coming to us, because they want our expertise, they trust us to do well. But then they also can tell us the, the parameters that we’re working in, and I’ve got to be honest, I do love it when someone’s got a budget, and says, it says quite clearly, and not, not everybody knows exactly what they want to spend, you know, but for us, when there is maybe a clear marketing budget, and you know, right, you’ve got 20 grand to work with, then that also, it’s one of those sort of nice positive signs, actually, everything else is organised in place. And, you know, so for us as a business, if people haven’t got too much of an emotional connection to the money, actually, that can be quite a positive sign, rather than someone who’s whose mortgage, you know, depends on it. But yeah, so in a brief objectives, what the competition is up to play a sign of the budget, you know, all those signs that show that this is going to be a really well organised company to work with, just makes it easy for us to get good results.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely, we have it with the budgeting side of things. So whether I am spending money on behalf of the agency, or we’re proposing to a client sometimes to not have a budget, it’s an impossible task to be able to work out whether they’re a good fit for you as a company, because our ambition isn’t to be the cheapest, we provide a really good service. We work very, very hard on behalf of our clients. But without a budget, you can’t really inform this is what our strategy is going to be and these are the tactics that we would actually practically recommend you use.
Sue Keogh: Yes. I mean, no, there was one instance recently recently where they said, Oh, we don’t know what the budget is, just just tell us what you think would be the best approach. So we said, oh, really, you’re sure you haven’t got you know, an ideal budget? And I said, No, no, just you know, tell us what you think is best. So then we put this proposal together that had had a podcast series in it and it had video and it had you know, all of these things that are quite expensive in a way but you can also you can make them as you know the price on them as high or lows as is needed. So a podcast for example, if you’re going out and about interviewing lots of people in different locations, that’s going to be different to just like me and you talking just just now. So it’s very difficult and then when it came back, when we got back they followed up with us then we lost out to someone else and we said well you know you got any feedback and I said our budget was too high. Do you think oh but if you’d have said you know if we knew it was either up to five grand or if it was up to 50 grand then give you come back with something more tailored. It’s like having a right ingredients for the recipe.
Alex Holliman: Sometimes on the client side of things, there’s a nervousness. If I say I’ve got 10 pounds a month, the agency will just dial everything up to that purpose of delivering the objectives. Whereas sometimes, if you’ve got a budget of 10,000 pounds a month, but you can actually achieve that with 7000 pounds a month, I’m not sure how many agencies would say, the 7000 pounds a month and not just think what we can get next to take bandwidth revenue.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think there is that feeling maybe from clients that we’re not trying to catch them out. But yeah, so the budget is 10,000. And then so if miraculously, you know, our costs come out at 9995? You know, how did that happen? So but it’s not about doing that. It’s more thinking. Yeah, what have you got to play with? What What can you achieve here, because so many say it’s a video, for example, but like podcasting, there’s so many ways that you can, you couldn really make it simple. And very, I don’t want to say cheap, you know, like a low budget. Or there’s so many extra things you can do, you can add more graphics, and you can have multiple locations, and you can have more music and animation and, and stuff. So it’s more like that. But yeah, so for me, if there is quite a clear budget, then that’s, that’s always a good sign for me, because then you can just get the get the money conversation out of the way, and then move on to talking about the fun stuff,
Alex Holliman: Absolutely, and with with us, part of the budget stuff that we have is we will advocate for spend with Google or Facebook or LinkedIn or wherever. And so the bottom line costs can really, really expensive, but the majority of that is actually going through to the media owner, so
Sue Keogh: Yeah, exactly. You’ve got to make that quite clear. Yes, because we’ve had a few issues around that at the moment that it’s not that people don’t necessarily realise upfront that that’s an additional cost to what they’re paying us. So I think it’s really important. I mean, I say what we want from clients, but it’s really important for us to manage expectations for them. So to say these things like, okay, these are our management costs, the ad spend is separate, you will be billed directly by Facebook for this, you know, and these are when we’ll be invoicing you. And we find as well, in the same way as, okay, these are expectations from clients brief, we need to have a process where we manage expectations for them. So we’ve got better at that lately, as well, we’ve just put together a page, which is sookio.com/hello. And on that, it just tells you lots of all the different bits you need to know, including other things like we’ve got a plant referral scheme. So if you recommend us to someone, and then you know, we get some business out of it, then we’ll send you a nice plant and bits and bobs like that we’ve got a thing we do called Sookio sharpener, which is a monthly session just for clients, only clients, no one else, where we talk about trends and insights. And you know, so it’s all that sort of stuff, make sure they know, not just about the project itself, but all the other nice little bits that come with working with Sookio. So yeah, onboarding, for the team, for clients, all of that stuff is really important.
Alex Holliman: So in terms of do you, as an agency, do you use? Do you participate in pitches?
Sue Keogh: We do we do to an extent, we don’t do a lot of it, to be honest.
Alex Holliman: And what sort of advice would you give a client that is asking for a pitch?
Sue Keogh: Actually, I’ll tell you one thing, it’s put me off pitches. And that’s quite a few years ago, when this guy said in quite a sort of an airy manner, I said, Oh, and then we’ll get you all to come down to London for a beauty parade. And, you know, and I thought, wow, that’s, that’s a really, you know, these things take a long time to put together. And it felt very much like he was, yeah, looking forward to the process of having a lineup of people that he could just sort of choose from. And that did kind of put me off to an extent. So I’m a bit more, I do a bit of due diligence, due diligence, before saying yes, because I know, they take a long time to prepare. And sometimes if you don’t know fully what the what the client wants, or you know, even things like the format of the pitch, then you can feel a bit like you’re wasting your time, or sometimes, you know, you know full well, they’ve already decided who they’re going with. And they just need to make it the numbers. However, we’ve also had quite a few successes. You know, there’s one time where they said to us, oh, just give us ballpark figures on the quote. And so I sent a fairly sort of quite meat and potatoes looking quote over to be honest, because I was really busy, and didn’t have time to do anything more pretty, but then sort of won them over and the pitch itself. And in fact, they ended up dividing the work between us another agency, and then the current people didn’t get anything at all. So so I’m drifting off in the original question, but I’m, yeah, I really give it some thought as to whether we will pitch or not because we get a lot of business from from referrals and from ongoing clients. And so I really think quite acutely as to what our chances are of winning the work before I go, go ahead and actually do it.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely. And I think you’re right, I think so my background work in quite large media agencies is they will have specific teams whose roles are just pitch us, that’s all they do, they’ll put in like people from the actual technical delivery teams. And that’s all they do. They just pitch, they will have a run down, we hope to get one out of three, one out of four that kind of thing. So that kind of level, I think it makes sense because you can deploy the business capital and staff to actually deliver them. But for a small enterprise, we know we’re on the smaller side of things to take one, two or three people out of delivering client work into a pitch for something where like you say it’s sometimes the motives of a pitch. If it is a beauty parade, or there’s just something where they just want to go through procurement to make sure the incumbent stays that thing, the cost to a small business like us is phenomenal.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. And it can leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth sometimes. Me knows, I’m part of the agency collective membership organisation, and someone was saying on the Slack channel the other day that they he didn’t know whether to go for this pitch or not. And they were I think there were 10 agencies being asked to pitch. And I think in well, as well as it being a bit of a waste of time for him. He’s got the time and client side to to sit through 10 pitches, and give the feedback and, and assess them all. And you know, what a waste of time for everybody. Because you only want one. Don’t want everybody do you?
Alex Holliman: and that sort of fear that almost it feels like it’s they’re just trying to look for a little bit of secret sauce from each individual company. Take that and go with one.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so, but yeah, I think from for the client, it’s really good to tell the agency, what format is needed. So sometimes, there was one recently they said, Can you just do a five minute intro, and then 20 minutes on this and 20 minutes on something else, you know, and actually, that was really useful. Because I’d, I don’t want to start a pitch off by going on about us for ages and ages. I want to get straight in and talk about the client and what we can do for them. But because they said they want that the beginning. Okay, fine, lovely. You know, that’s, that’s what you need. So I think the more they can tell us about what’s wanted and what’s expected, then the better quality, not quantity. Yeah, that’s a level of pitching we’re able to do,
Alex Holliman: Yeah the pitch will be in line with their expectations and give them what they want.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah. So yeah. So that that can be that can be good. But I try not to do them too often. To be honest.
Alex Holliman: I contact rejection, when they say that. What are the signs that an agency is going to be a good fit for a client?
Sue Keogh: Um, I think the communication, you know, so so when you, you get that sort of bond with people straightaway. So if you can see that both sides are a well a well organised, you know that both sides are going to have a good approach to managing the time and the deliverables. So the client has set out exactly what they need. They know what their objectives are, the agency is saying, That’s brilliant, you know, we can definitely do all of this, because So say, for us, it’s really nice and in proposals when we can say, We’re the right fit for you. And we know that genuinely because we can say, because we’ve worked in, let’s say it’s a life science company. We’ve worked in life sciences. And here’s some examples of work. And, oh, it’s a copywriting project, we’ve got a full time copywriter. So it’s really lovely when you’ve got that fit between project and agency. And we can say from a very genuine place, yes, we can do this. The thing that I will sometimes have a niggle about is when you know, you can do four fifths of a project. And you know, there’s a certain element where Oh, I don’t quite, you know, so you find yourself thinking, well, let’s just win the work. And then we’ll sort that out. We will. But you know, right here right now, I haven’t quite got that person on the team. And I need to talk to that Freelancer about it. So anyway, when you know that you’ve got the track record, everything is well organised, you’ve got the clear brief. It’s a sector that you’ve worked in a lot before. You’ve got a good rapport with, with the client, you know, yeah. Yeah, that’s all those signs make you think, Oh, good, right. It’s all gonna work out nicely.
Alex Holliman: And we had a very similar thing. So I think when I first started, I set up a WordPress website in 2010, that listed everything that I could do and had done. And we’ve distilled that and honed that down into two things now from 14. And with that focus, it just means that you can marry up your skills with the client sort of brief. So do you try and introduce your team to the client during their sort of initial conversations and pitch process?
Sue Keogh: Yeah, we’ve got quite a clear process, which is made easy now because there are more of us. So the general the initial conversation about the project is with either myself and our business development manager, but then it’s almost like passing the baton so we’ll get input internally from the creative team. So like the Head of Production And then we don’t necessarily bring him in until the work has actually been scoped out. And, and he’s got the green light. Because otherwise it can, we’ll say, with strategy, you can, if you bring in a strategy is too early, then you end up having a big strategy conversation before you’ve actually won to work. And then so when you go, did you get to that step? And you say, right, now we’re gonna have a strategy workshop, the client is then thinking, Yeah, but I’ve already told you all this as part of the, as part of the, you know, initial discussions. So yeah, it’s tends to start off with business development manager, and then project manager will set everything out. And you know, if I found the right person, she’s wonderful. So she’ll set everything out all the milestones, and the scope of work and all of that. And then it moves to actual delivery. So, and it’s so nice for me to see, to see us reaching that point. Now, as a business where we’ve got everything, we’ve got his workflow, really nicely mapped out, and people are called in for meetings at the right time. So it allows the head of production, for example, to focus on delivering client work that he’s actually been booked to do and not do too many sales meetings at the wrong the wrong time.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely. So it’s bringing in the right people at the right time.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, yeah. And sometimes, you know, to answer the question, like, sometimes we quickly call him in and say, oh, you know, we’re just talking this lovely guy here. You know, Matt, just just come in and meet this. This chap. And, yeah, brilliant. Right, lovely. Shake hands. Okay. Right, I’ll see you, you know, sort of further down the track kind of thing.
Alex Holliman: Yeah. Perfect. So for clients, do you ever get requests to speak to existing clients? So if you’re speaking to a new company, and they say to you, Oh, can we speak to some of your existing clients? Do you ever get those sorts of requests?
Sue Keogh: We do, we’ve had a bit of that recently, but mostly on official procurement in official procurement processes. So there’s one for a district council recently, and that had a proper, you know, tender process. And part of that we had to give references. So it does tend to be larger organisations that want it. And I mean, the thing is, we’ve got plenty of case studies on website, loads of testimonials. So we try and get testimonials wherever we can. So that hopefully gives a bit of proof as well. But if people do want to want to talk to current clients, then, you know, that’s totally fine. I think I’m also I’m quite protective of the people that we work with, as well. So I don’t want to keep on saying, you know, Claire, or Emma, you know, oh, yeah, just talk to Claire, at this particular company. Yeah, she’ll give you a reference. Because it’s, you know, it’s
Alex Holliman: Absolutely, absolutely, we tend to find we’re quite fortunate like you that we got a lot of get a lot of work through referral. And if it comes in network, the need for that sort of validation has already been done by dint of the network. And, like you say, it’s the stuff that comes out of network, the larger companies that will potentially seek that sort of assurance that you are good people, I guess.
Sue Keogh: Yeah. And sometimes, if it is part of a tendering process, then they might ask about our financials as well. So we’ve got to have a certain level of turnover, they might want a BIOS of the team as well. So processes like that are a lot more rigorous. And we don’t, we don’t really have that all the time. But it’s as we grow the business and take on larger, larger contracts, then I’d probably I’d expect a bit more of that, which is fine, you know, so I’m happy to be transparent about it. Whatever people want, really, but I also don’t want to keep on badgering current clients to say, Oh, can you give us a reference for something completely different? You don’t care about it? Because it’s a bit annoying for people.
Alex Holliman: Absolutely, absolutely. So for clients, how important are the awards that an agency has won?
Sue Keogh: Well, awards the, yeah, I’ve got to, awards the funny things, aren’t they? Because half of them are just pure vanity. And I get people hassling me all the time saying, Oh, you’ve won an award for digital impact, or whatever. And you think I didn’t even enter that. And they say, so to win this award, you have to pay 3000 pounds, and we’ll give you a write up in this magazine that no one’s ever read, you know, so you get sort of stuff like that, or there’s really credible stuff. So I think it is nice to see agencies that have won awards for the quality of the work in more credible awards ceremonies. I also like to see, I mean, it’s nice to see agencies winning awards for for their team, you know, being good people business, because you know that if they care about their people, then that’s going to filter through to the work as well. You know, so happy people, well organised company is always going to lead to better quality of work. I think if that’s all I’ve got to show though, so if I was a client picking an agency, then I’d probably want to see a bit more than just awards. And I’d almost be suspicious if that was all I had to shout about. So if it’s if the ratio is too high between awards and the actual examples of work on the website, then I’d think, what are they trying to hide? What are they trying to make up for here?
Alex Holliman: Yeah, no, I think I think you’re entirely right. And then that is sort of like a relevant sort of area to that. But how important are an agencies values? Because I think with with awards, and agency, the wins and enters credible awards, I feel generally, as a team will have a little bit more cohesive unity and sort of be going and stretching themselves to push on a little bit more, versus agencies that don’t have awards. So I think, psychologically, or something. And so, with regards to values, and that kind of stuff, how important are they to a client?
Sue Keogh: I think they are important. You know, clients want to see that they’re working with good people. But I think sometimes they are, you can, you can talk about it too much. I mean, values are really important to us as a business. And, you know, like I was saying at the beginning, we like to create and develop content for good, good purposes. You know, we don’t want to just come up with any old rubbish. And as a team, we’ve got good, got strong values, and we’ll push back against clients sometimes. And so we don’t want to do it that way. Or that’s not ethical, for example. But I think at the end of the day, I mean, say you were hiring your booking window cleaner, or, you know, like I say, so and fitting your kitchen. Okay, you want to see that they’re a well run company that there is a decent chap that you’re working with. But you don’t really, that’s kind of all you need. Your main thing is to see that is this person going to do a good job. So I think for clients, yeah, they want a sense of that, that that is not not what’s going to necessarily win you the work. They’re still at the end of the day, going to want to see that you can do it well, that you’ve got a good track record, you can do it within their budget. So it’s one element, but I don’t think it’s the thing that’s necessarily going to push you over the line.
Alex Holliman: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So when it comes to pitching, what’s the coolest thing that you’ve ever done on a pitch?
Sue Keogh: Um, there was a, we were always trying to do something quirky, but there is a company we’re pitching to. It’s all to do with drones. So they they did qualifications for to learn how to fly drones and that kind of thing. And so the idea that we had we there’d be this pelican with a flashing, you know, like a policeman’s hat with a flashing light on it. And that would be sort of the most the motif for this whole campaign. So this Pelican would be flying around, and he’d be looking out for people who weren’t flying their drones safely and within the regulations. And so we bought in, we made a big cardboard cutout complete with flashing light. But we had it underneath a white sheet throughout the whole of the pitch. So it stood there a bit like if you had a check, if you had a check offs gun, that concept where if
Alex Holliman: I heard that for the first time two days ago.
Sue Keogh: Yeah, that happened to me as well, when someone told me about that the first time I suddenly kept on hearing it. But yeah, so if you’ve got a gun on stage, people are going to expect it to be fired, or something happened with this gun. So it’s like that with this. So we gave our business cards out and all that sort of thing. And, you know, did the pitch and explained what we could do. And the whole time this cardboard cutout was there under white sheet. And then so when we got to the bit where we explained about this Pelican and we pulled the sheet off, and there was this big, you know, sort of quite cartoonish Pelican with a big flashing blue sort of policeman’s light on it. And it was just really fun. We didn’t win the work, but it wasn’t they love that. But there are a few other elements that weren’t right. But yeah, that was a good one.
Alex Holliman: And so what, what agencies do we really admire at the moment?
Sue Keogh: Well, I’m we’re based in Cambridge, and there’s a really strong agency community around there, you know, you’d think, Oh, we’re all competitors. And we wouldn’t talk to each other. But I don’t know if it’s because we focus on content. So we kind of slot in alongside the others rather than necessarily competing. But, you know, I love seeing what everyone’s doing. We’ve got kiss and one space media and rubber cheese is near us. And studio 24 I mean, studio 24 are busy redesigning the W3C website, you know, who do the web standards, they’re doing some brilliant stuff in accessibility at the moment. So yeah, there’s lots of agencies out there doing doing brilliant work at the moment. And, and I think it’s just really nice to just keep on learning from each other. Because no one not not one, no one agency can do every single thing. You know, so I like seeing other agencies that are like us, who are curious and keep learning and sharing their learning. So yeah, so there isn’t any one that I would recommend. They’ve all got their sort of specialist areas, but I think look out for people that are that are hungry to keep on learning because the the industry is always changing, you know, the economy is always changing, everything around us is changing. So in an agency, you need someone that is always hungry to keep up with those trends. Because then for you as a client, they can condense that for you, and you can learn from them. So, yeah, it’s my answer to that is just look for a hungry one hungry to learn, rather than any one in particular I recommend.
Alex Holliman: Awesome. This has been great. Where can people find out more about you?
Sue Keogh: Sookio.com, so S O O K I O and we’re all over social media @sookio. We’ve also got a really good every month we send out two newsletters, so one that we call a blog blast behind the scenes, which is all our latest, we love sharing our learnings as well. So all of our latest workshops and webinars and blog posts and then letter from the editor, which is kind of industry insights from from me, so yeah, so if you go to the website, sookio.com you can sign up for that as well.
Alex Holliman: Awesome. Perfect. Thanks ever so much for joining me today.
Sue Keogh: Pleasure. Thank you.
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