When John and Tobias were employee and boss, they never imagined they’d start a business together. “It’s lucky because we complement each other, we’re opposites,” says Tobias, Co-Founder of Somebody Digital, and John (the other Co-Founder) agrees.
“When we started out, I brought a lot of the technical marketing experience, especially around Paid Media, and Tobias brought a lot of the clients,” he says, reflecting on the last ten years of agency life. “Our values are very aligned, but we bring totally different perspectives to this venture.”
Reflecting on the last ten years
Somebody Digital, now in its tenth year, was founded in 2013 by John Wilkes and Tobias la Cour as a London-based Digital Agency. “We were fortunate when we started out,” says Tobias, “because the company I was working at agreed to join us as one of our first clients, so we didn’t have to start from scratch. That was kind of our first big break.”
Going off to start a business comes with a mix of emotions, and a range of challenges, as John and Tobias soon discovered. “When you’re an employee, working in a normal job, you have highs and lows. When you’re running a business, your highs are incredibly high, and your lows are incredibly low,” says Tobias.
“When it’s just you on your own, it’s ok. But suddenly we had all these employees who were dependent on us. That makes the stakes a lot higher,” adds John.
Hiring and firing: Finding the right team
At the ten-year mark, Somebody Digital now employs world-class specialists from around the globe, with teams in Scotland, Slovakia, France, Spain, The US and South Africa, amongst others. But when they began, they learned the hard lesson of cheap labour.
“I definitely think that’s one of our biggest lessons,” says John. “I remember it clearly, at the start we probably hired people slightly less experienced than we needed, and sometimes we lost clients because of that. I remember getting to a point where we had to take a step back, and a step aside, and decide to spend more to get rockstars. That’s when we hired Cristiano (Somebody Digital’s current Director of Digital Operations), and since then we’ve built an incredible team.”
Hoops and Hurdles
Before the age of remote working, Somebody Digital was already allowing their new-found rockstar employees to work wherever they found themselves in the world. “We ended up hiring internationally because we were working on an international campaign and needed native language speakers,” says Tobias. But this began a journey to hire employees from across the globe.
“One of the biggest challenges to this was learning to build a culture for our company when everyone was working remotely,” notes John, “But I think we’re doing a pretty good job of figuring it out.”
And then, during these successes, COVID hit.
“It was a terrifying time, for everyone,” says Tobias. The business had a lot of clients working in ticketing and events, whose revenue streams came to a standstill during hard lockdown.
This meant that Somebody Digital had to make some difficult decisions for the business and its clients.
“It was a really scary time for everyone, and no one knew when it would end,” says Tobias. “There was a temptation to say to clients, ‘Listen, we’ve got a piece of paper with your signature on it that says you’re going to pay us money every month, so we can pause activities, but we can’t pause billing.’ Or we could decide to put our clients first and pause invoicing during this time of crisis, which is what we chose to do. Even though no one knew if we’d survive this or not.”
And taking this higher ground led to many clients returning when the world began to find its feet… and more.
The Return of the Clients
Somebody Digital now not only has a staff presence across the world but has expanded offerings to international clients too. In particular, the agency has gained some noteworthy healthcare and tech clients in America.
“Look, talking amongst friends, we’ve had some bad clients,” laughs John, “but at this point, we’ve got some really great clients.”
Tobias agrees, “It’s great working with clients who are brave enough to trust us to be the experts when it comes to their marketing efforts. Who partner with us and take leaps of faith with us.”
Where to next?
Now that the business has built a team of rockstar staff members, survived COVID and completed global domination, what is next?
The business has recently undergone a rebrand, ahead of its tenth anniversary, but it’s much more than just a facelift. “We’re offering clients more than we’ve ever been able to, thanks to our wide set of skills amongst our team,” notes John.
From conversion rate optimisation to technical SEO work and digital strategies, the business has grown from just being paid media professionals to offering the entire gambit of digital marketing services, along with now integrating the newest marketing innovation, AI.
“If we’ve learned anything over the last ten years, it’s that as a business, we’re going to continue to learn and evolve and grow,” says Tobias. “Agency life is one hell of a ride,” agrees John. Onwards and upwards, as they say.
Read more about what Somebody Digital specialises in.