Digital Minds: 60 seconds with I Spy’s Jim Brigden

Digital Thought Leaders

Jim%20Brigden.JPGIndustry veteran Jim Brigden is reknown for taking The Search Works from a £1m to £100m turnover business in just 3 years. Now working at I Spy Marketing, Jim talks to Danny Meadows-Klue about the growth of mobile, why marketers should treasure product reviews and the perils of embarrassing Facebook photos…

How does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?
I Spy constantly strives to break the boundaries of what can be achieved through digital marketing. We call this Uptimisation. We lead the UK market in paid search, natural search and social media - and we work with clients to increase their conversion rates. We guarantee that we will deliver an outstanding return on investment.

How did you get into the digital sector?
I first built a website in 1996 but the less said about that the better! But in 1999 I joined the dotcom boom and built a full e-commerce site as Sales and Marketing director at image100. We sold royalty free stock photography online. Great business with a great website. We shifted a lot of product.

What's most impressed you recently and why?
The search engines. I know it’s the core of what we do, but every day I am impressed with the volume of sales we deliver for our clients through Google and other search engines - and at a great ROI. Even after 11 years working in search marketing the results still stagger me. And it’s still growing.

What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?
Three letter acronyms and sales people not asking enough questions to determine requirements. And the over reliance on powerpoint generally.

What’s over hyped and under hyped right now?- and why?
Over - hyped = Twitter. I am afraid I just don't get it, although I think I’m alone. The rest of I Spy think that I am a dinosaur because of my reluctance to tweet.
Under hyped = getting the fundamentals right. Too many clients think their search marketing is really working for them – most results that I see are mediocre at best.

What was the 'ah!' moment for you - the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business?
At image100 I vividly remember spending £50 on in 1999. Our clicks cost one US cent each and for every 10 clicks we sold a product! At a great margin!! It was like we were printing money!!!! At that point I knew I had to get involved in search engine marketing - within a few weeks I joined as UK Sales Director.

Many senior directors still just don't get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?
Senior directors that don't get digital are a dying breed. You can't be a competent Director of a UK business for long if you can't grasp the growth and importance of all things digital. I avoid working with clients who don't get digital - but I'll work with their more savvy successors! However, a well balanced financial model with great projected returns normally does the trick – especially if there are performance guarantees in place.

What's different in the formula for creating successful teams / companies / products in the digital space?
I don't think there is a difference between getting a digital business rolling and a classic industry business. A good team is a good team. But a super team has to have a clear goal to work towards that all team members opt into. I'm lucky to have worked with 3 outstanding digital teams - at Overture, at the IMW Group (The Search Works and The Technology Works) and now at I Spy.

What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
I firmly believe that if you can't measure something you can't manage it. The beauty of digital marketing is you can measure just about everything - that depends on selecting the appropriate tracking technology and then having it implemented correctly. I am still amazed that so many clients get this so badly wrong. Every time I Spy audit a client's analytics package we find the most basic of mistakes that has been usually been running for years. It makes me cry, frankly.

If you could go back in time to a key 'digital moment', where and when would it be – and why?
I was there at the birth of search marketing in Europe and I feel privileged to have been so - I can't think of any other event that digital event excites me more.

Where do you spend your time most online, and why?
I spend most of my time online dealing with a plague of email - honestly why do people insist on sending so many? Email is without doubt the work of the devil. If I can get away from email, Google and various trade sites I do love to look at Golf course review/travel sites. I'm currently planning a trip to Donegal in north west Ireland so you’ll find my browser history littered with pubs, trails, country hotels and a few hundred travel routes.

What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?
This year will be the year where mobile search and advertising starts to deliver. Mind you I have made that prediction at least twice. But this is the year, it simply has to be real. Search is essential, the mobile web has arrived, location based services are mushrooming up like Apps in a digital agency: I can feel it in my bones....

Social media that creates value: If applicable, what’s the role for consumers in creating content and value in your sector?
User reviews should be treasured by clients as it should feed their product development process. I am also convinced that the bigger the volume and the more positive the product reviews the better your search listings will become – and that will drive a business’s sales.

Who should own digital strategies in an organisation (brand/marketing director, agency, technology team, CEO, operations director) and why?
Digital should be a priority for every business - so that means it should be driven by the CEO - and collectively owned at board level. If you’re a CEO reading this then, yep, I’m talking to you. Leadership has never been more critical, and while change may always feel uncomfortable (and techie change a bit geeky too) this is absolutely the core of your agenda. If everyone buys into a digital future then the results should be transformational.

What’s will be mainstreaming by this time next year?
This time next year clients will be looking to cut cost out of their business by better using social media platforms to manage customer complaints and feedback.

And any final words of advice to people developing their own digital careers?
If you are looking to get into digital and make a success of it my advice is ask intelligent questions, listen, think, respond quickly and work bloody hard. If you're smart, lucky and hard working you will go far. And don't put anything embarrassing on Facebook etc - you never know who might see it.

My Digital Journey

Jim Brigden

Age: 41


I Spy Marketing

· GoTo/ Overture/ Yahoo Northern European sales Director 2000-2004

· CEO The Search Works and a Director of The Technology Works 2004-2007

· Group MD TradeDoubler UK and The Search works Europe 2007-2008

· CEO I Spy 2009 – present

Jim Brigden manages entrepreuniral businesses that help clients get outstanding results from digital marketing. He has managed over 500 digital marketing professionals in the UK, Europe and Japan and has worked with many of the world’s leading digital clients across all sectors.

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