Welcome to our founder lessons series.
This week, Charlie Terry, CEO & Founder of CEEK Marketing shares why and how he launched a digital marketing consultancy business and their biggest success factors.
Tell us about CEEK
CEEK is a digital marketing consultancy headquartered in London. We work with incredible brands that typically outsource their marketing to our team in its entirety. Our consultant specialise in specific areas such as social media marketing, influencer marketing and content creation, whether that be photo video written content for blogs or SEO optimised website copy. We are Google Partners, managing the ongoing search engine optimisation and paid initiatives on Google for growing brands.
Why and how did you start your company?
We initially started CEEK Marketing as a hospitality focused agency working with some incredible brands such as 3 michelin star The Ledbury, Joe Allen Covent Garden and Radisson Edwardian hotels, for whom we launched Peter Street Kitchen in Manchester back in 2018 with it winning ‘Best Luxury Restaurant in the UK’ the year following. At this point, we were in the midst of opening sister restaurant, Bloomsbury Street Kitchen in London, it was an incredible launch with a powerful influencer marketing campaign. It was the fastest restaurant in it’s category to hit number 1 on Trip Advisor I have ever witnessed.
After just under a year, specifically looking at the hospitality space, we started to diversify into other industries, primarily due to client recommendations and second,due to the team’s true passion to learn and expand into other areas of the digital marketing field. E-commerce was the first sector that grew alongside interior design, professional services and luxury consumer brands.
We started to attract new talent into the team and actually worked from client restaurants, bars and nightclubs, jumping around the city on a daily basis. Obviously this meant plenty of free food and some great coffee but once we hit 5 staff, we knew it was time to take the leap and moved into our HQ in London – Victoria.
After a year in our new office we had outgrown it and we decided to move into a larger space in Victoria. Our current HQ is a really impressive space, where we have the pleasure to share the building with partner platform Google. The office is over the road from Victoria station which gives us quick access to an hour trip to our second office we opened in my hometown of Brighton.
The Brighton office has allowed us to have a a local presence with our clients on the south coast. Although our primary client base remains in London, we have had the chance to expand not just across the UK but also internationally over the last years with clients in NYC, Spain, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.
We are currently servicing clients in a variety of new sectors across the globe and are currently running pay-per-click campaigns on Google in over 10 countries. For example, we’ve got a company based in the South of France who are currently targeting customers across the UK, France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium and are moving further afield.
What has been your biggest success factors
The main reason for our success is primarily down to the quality of individuals in the team and their unconditional passion for marketing and the digital space. We’ve been really lucky with some of the talent we have acquired over the years with multiple members of staff who have been with us from the very start. Luckily, we have a really low attrition rate and we’ve really managed to hold on to talented people.
One of the things that differentiates us from our competition is our community of clients. We have had multiple instances over the last half a year where clients in completely different industry sectors have been servicing each other due to our introduction. It’s extremely rewarding to be in a position where you can give back to a loyal client not just on a digital marketing front but also with a simple business introduction.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running the company
With our biggest asset being people, it’s really difficult to find great individuals that fit in with the CEEK culture. We’re extremely particular about the type of profile that we hire and the interview processes can be quite long as a result. When we come across someone that fits our culture, we tend to stay in touch over a longer period of time to asses suitability over a longer period. On multiple occasions we’ve actually found that some of our best suppliers, who we keep pretty busy, actually end up coming to work for us internally in the long run. CEEK is always on the lookout for talented and passionate people, i’m extremely proud of all of the team from interns to management.
On a personal level I would probably say maintaining your health and wellbeing as a founder is a huge challenge. At times, having time away and getting your head out of the campaigns that you’re currently running really helps you to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes that’s simply what differentiates a good campaign and a great campaign.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t realise that they’re actually skirting on the edge of burnout and this could have serious consequences not just for themselves but for their team.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
The market of course is also important, but from experience I believe that you don’t know a market properly until you’ve really been in the trenches for some time. Making assumptions too early about market conditions or making predictions about how the market is going to change is quite evidently a mistake, you can never really tell what’s going to happen whether that be on economic terms or in specific market areas. In fact, making assumptions too early could definitely lead to what is known as “analysis paralysis” and opportunities can be missed.
My advice there is that there’s no better way to learn a market than to actually be operating and being a practitioner day-to-day.
The right products and services are key however what’s most important is the ability to always iterate and be open to learning and improving your products and services over time. Quite honestly, a lot of the services that we provided three years ago that are now obsolete. The digital space moves fast, we certainly need to stay innovative. Constant learning and improvement can really give you an edge over the competition.
The team is certainly at the heart of everything we do and we’re often considered an in-house resource to our client partners as a service, seamlessly becoming part of their team and their “work family”. No doubt, the most important asset is definitely the right team.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
The first key point if you’re looking to start your own business or work within a start-up, especially if you’re in a leadership position, is to really know where your limitations are. Ensure you’ve got an amazing team around you and that they shine in the areas that you’re deficient.
Also ensure all of the different areas in your back office are in order, whether that be finance and accountancy, HR back office, legal etc. Knowing your limitations is crucial, as will save you time in the long run.
As a leader you have to consistently test yourself, in the same manner you would do it with your products and new services, you need to do it with yourself. Make yourself feel uncomfortable, challenge your knowledge. There’s so many resources depending on your area of expertise, the key is to soak up as much information as possible; speak to the leaders in the industry, go to conferences, seminars, online courses and just absorb as much information as you can about your industry.
Lastly, if you’re chasing the startup dream, I’d say one of the biggest tools you can learn, is to learn how to say ‘no’. Some of the projects that we decline as an agency, I am as proud of as the ones we take on. As a start-up, it’s very difficult to pick and choose your clients, as revenue is king, but you just have to invest your time wisely. Intense focus coupled with learning to say ‘no’ can be a huge factor in long-term business success.