You've heard that quote right? Is it better to be better, or better to be different?

Well after 2 years of running an agency and pretty much storming through our industry like a modern day penguin update - i’ve strongly come to the conclusion that it's better to be different. And that's our secret sauce at Rise at Seven. There's a million of things that we’ve got right (and wrong too of course) and in this blog post I’m going to list just 4 of them I think we've got right more than anything else.

1. Our proposition

So what is Rise at Sevens proposition?

Rewind to when I was writing the original Rise at Seven business plan. Writing down what I thought this industry was missing, what pissed me off everyday as I worked in SEO and others didnt understand, what I was passionate about bringing to the table that no one else had done before. Bringing creative and SEO together.

And no I don't mean just fancy engaging content marketing assets that sit on site to get links - I mean brand building, OOH, creative, social, influencer marketing. All of those things that got people to search in the first place. Those things that make people want a Maldives holiday, to buy the new iphone, or treat themselves to a new outfit.

Rise at Seven isn't an SEO agency. When we first launched, admittedly that's what we called ourselves. However, SEO agencies put their clients at the top of the SERPS for popular searches e.g "Maldives holidays"

Rise at Seven, on the other hand, gets people to WANT a "Maldives holiday" and puts our clients at the top for when they do.

I knew what I wanted to create when I launched this agency. I started to think about search differently.

2. Drivers vs Facilitators

There's drivers and facilitators. SEO is a facilitator. It's literally giving people what they want. But SEO lost sight of the driver, the reason why someone goes out and buys something in the first place.

In 2016, we saw something particularly interesting. It was the first year where UK brands spend more on search marketing than TV ad spots. Less people were driving. More facilitating.

There was a gap for an agency that helped brands rank when people searched, but also be there when they're not searching too. Getting them to want to search.

Social, PR, influencer Marketing, OOH, and creative are a huge part of SEO. Why? It gets people to search in the first place.

Brand + keyword is the holy grail. Getting more people to search for "Virgin holidays Maldives". And content is a huge part of that.

Content is already the most important part of SEO if you didn't already know. Both onsite and off. And should be one of your focuses now on. We recently pitched to a huge brand whose traffic was on the decline - their brand search had fallen off a cliff. Their branded rankings were also suffering - and although technical, onsite content and links would've helped, they also needed to drive more people to search for them.

It doesn't end at technical SEO, content or links. Brand is a huge part of our industry now and actually why Rise at Seven do so well.

If we're going to be PRs/creatives in SEO - we need to drive and facilitate.

3. Speed vs reactive

“When you work with the Rise at Seven team, it feels like you're trending 24/7” - something a client said last month!

Speed, passion, and reactive is a MASSIVE part of what we do right now. Brands are screaming out for help, because their inhouse teams are time poor and need the support to be able to move quicker.

I met 10+ agency owners in the weeks running up to launching Rise at Seven, sniffing out my competitors and getting a vibe for how they work. And admittedly, one of the things I noticed was consistent about most of the agencies I met - is slow pace. There was no sense of fire, speed, urgency. Lots of agencies that were content with the way things went. I felt they were not very agile, not built for change - and actually didn't like change too much overall. When the pandemic hit 6 months later, I could imagine this is the reason why so many agencies struggled. We had no choice but to move from planned to reactive strategies, and those that were agile … won!

From my past experience, I have always worked in fast paced, agile, environments. I just thought that was agency life. But I found it is only evident in some agencies - not all.

If you've ever met me, I talk at 100 miles an hour, I walk at 200 miles an hour and I work even faster too. I have an energy that may run out as soon as I hit my midlife point but right now, being the founder and CEO - i've set the pace and standard for getting shit done. Not working late nights and unpaid overtime type - but short sign off processes, dedicated reactive teams that say yes more than they say no, young people in senior positions that have confidence and “fuck it why not” attitudes over blockers and no sayers.

Focusing on speed is my priority and has been since launch. Amazon's start-up culture inspires me daily. Forever act like a start up and you will always grow.

A few things we've done to create speed:

  • Reactive marketing is huge right now. More and more businesses need not only planned but reactive activity and ideas and creativity isn't just the problem that businesses have - its time. PR, social, content marketing and even SEO - most industries are requiring a reactive strategy and what more than to build a reactive team. We have a dedicated team to being reactive from data, to PR, to creative and design - we now sell it as an add on to our services and for us it's one of our best performing services (and growing too).
  • Early Risers: our very own trends tool. There's a saying in business called first mover advantage. It's basically being the first to do something helps you win. For most brands, they would pay a lot of goddamn money to be the first. Whether that's to jump on product trends, know what users are looking to buy/book, customer behaviour and search trends. So we built our own tool called Early Risers. 7am every morning it tells us everything we need to know about our products, services and industries. For Pretty Little thing we know the top trending styles on Tiktok, what people are searching for and how Maya Jamas instagram post caused a surge in demand for leather trousers. For travel clients, we instantly know what destinations people are looking at based on breaking travel news, what caused that peak in Paris bookings and how customers behave during key events. It's instant, and we offer it out to clients.
  • Splitting the agency into squads. As we grew… we became very flat structured. Client work piled up and so did accountability. It was time to create agencies within the agency - squads, teamwork and collaboration. We now have a maximum of 5 people working on a project, a brainstorm or meeting at once. Too many cooks can slow the process- were all about speed and fast decision making. Smaller teams help that.
  • Hired. We've hired, hired and hired even more. You can't be fast without people. But people can actually make you slow. Hiring the right people, in the right positions is key. Look for “fuck it why not” people.

4. Cute the middleman - no account managers

We made a deal that when we launched the agency, we wouldn't ever introduce account management. Instead it's direct to the experts, strategists, creatives, and campaign managers. And communication is key here.

We REALLY do work as an extension to our clients teams, or that's where we work best anyway. Where brand, PR, digital and SEO are all involved in our work together. We don't just send a report to the seo or digital marketing managers, we create dashboards for the CMOs, opportunity analysis for the directors, brand reports and competitor landscape strategies too. We act like an addition to our clients in house teams because that's who we are. If you need us to work in your office, we will. In fact, my co-founder spent 6 months in the Missguided office (he loved fancy shoots and a fun office lifestyle for sure).

5. The media come to us

I've always wanted to create a business where making money and delivering results is easy. Where clients and press come to us. And I've achieved that. 100% of our leads are inbound for new business, meaning we don't ever go outbound. Actually I lie, I sent my first outbound linkedin DM the other day for a brand I REALLY want to work with. It worked, I've got a call with them this week. But the best bit about the strategy is, we created a process where media come to us for stories and content, data and insight or expert commentary.

With our dedicated data team, newsjacking, reactive, and campaigns - we now get daily messages from Tyla, Guardian, Heat mag and more requesting the next Rise at Seven campaign or comment as an exclusive. The media come to us for stories and data because we focused on helping them hit their KPIs. Social shareable stories, creative content, quick speed, thought leadership that's reliable and trustworthy, access to the experts.

By working with leading brands in Fashion, Travel, Finance and Automotive - it puts Rise at Seven in a position to get the press coverage over others. The media want stories from our clients.

All of the above was my plan from day one. It didn't happen by accident. It involves hiring certain personalities, rolling out specific processes, and working with specific clients and being super strict with it. Meaning - it's highly likely competitors can't just copy the way we do it.

Too many agencies look, sound and act the same right now. And it's time to be different.