To understand more about the impact of COVID-19 on our clients and the local Brighton community, we have decided to ask them some questions.
This week, we caught up with Jason Woodford, CEO at SiteVisibility in Brighton. SiteVisibility is a marketing agency that offers services in SEO, PPC, Analytics and Online PR and they are also the founders of popular SEO conference, Brighton SEO.
- When did COVID-19 affect your business and was it immediate or gradual?
Compared to the last recession of 2008/10, the COVID-19 induced recession arrived quickly. It started to affect some of our customers in January 2020, initially amongst travel and event sector clients with business operations in China. It was incredible how quickly the negative momentum built through late February into early March when local businesses started making redundancies. Amongst our clients we had:
• Event companies unable to run their events
• Travel businesses experiencing negative revenue where refunds exceed bookings
• Retailers unable to open or stock their stores
• Manufacturers unable to source parts, forcing factory shutdowns
At SiteVisibility, our planning started pretty superficially with hand sanitiser being purchased for the office in early Feb, however this rapidly escalated into an IT systems audit in late Feb, a full homeworking trial in early March and by 13th March, before the lockdown, the whole team was settled working from home.
We are lucky in that our business has the infrastructure, culture and processes / systems in place to operate (some would say better) with a dispersed team if needed. The biggest impact on SiteVisibility was actually the knock on impact of COVID-19 on our clients’ own businesses.
- How did you communicate this impact with your team and clients?
I think we were relatively pro-active and transparent with our communications with face to face, phone and email briefings to the team whilst clients were personally informed and kept updated by their account managers.
- What decisions have you had to take in respect of your business?
The decisions we’ve taken at SiteVisibility have been guided by our priorities which are to:
1. Actively help our clients to reduce risk and find opportunity
2. Keep our team safe, productive and focussed
3. Mobilise our partner network
4. Refocus all sales / marketing activities on thought leadership, current clients and newly identified growth sectors
5. Eliminate unnecessary costs
6. Collect cash and reforecast cost/revenue weekly
- Have you accessed or will you be accessing any of the Government support schemes and grants?
Yes, although we were not eligible for Business rates relief / Small Business Grants fund because our office rateable value is too high. We have accessed VAT payment deferral, CJRS and we are in the midst of applying for a CBILS loan all of which will help to reduce any potential future cashflow risks.
- Do you think the Government support goes far enough?
Probably not, but there is no doubt the Gov’t has tried extremely hard to create imaginative and generous support packages for business and charities. I’m impressed, particularly with how quickly they responded to feedback and lobbying from Wired Sussex amongst others re helping freelancers and other groups overlooked by the main support measures.
- What effect will this pandemic have your business in the long term?
Well I’m sure we will be paying much more tax into the future, both as businesses as well as individuals. Our client mix will probably evolve and I’m pretty certain we won’t have such a large office on our fixed overheads once the leasehold expires.
- Do you have a crisis management plan now in place?
I don’t think our plan is fit for purpose and so we’ve agreed to get one updated and written down.
- What decisions are being made now for when you are able to get back up and running?
We’ve never not been up and running but we have spare capacity and our sales pipeline has evaporated due to the downturn in general business confidence. We’ve written to staff and clients to say that we’ll continue to work from home until at least the end of May however I’m certain that at least some of us will continue to work from home.
We are investing time and effort to help our clients get back up and running with digital strategy reviews taking place to help re-focus their marketing efforts on the different opportunities presented by the changed business environment we all observe.
- How do you think the business landscape will change in Brighton?
Brighton’s economy, built as it is on leisure, public service and digital businesses was comparatively resilient through the banking crisis in 2008. It’s also highly entrepreneurial and well connected, being supported by great organisations such as Wired Sussex, MDHub and the Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce. Local leisure, language education and travel businesses will inevitably suffer until a reliable vaccine is developed however I’m confident that this crisis will birth many new businesses who will quickly absorb any surplus of talent and capital. I do worry for and hope the City’s important and diverse food and beverage sector manage to innovate their offer and survive through to the other side.
- What tips can you give other businesses currently going through the crisis?
I have 5 tips for businesses hoping to get through this crisis:
1. Make a plan and keep it updated
2. Communicate your situation openly and honestly, especially with clients and staff
3. Help your clients to find opportunities and reduce their risks
4. Focus on revenue generation opportunities
5. DON’T STOP MARKETING
Author: Jason Woodford, CEO @ SiteVisibility
T- 01273 733433
Date Published: 18 May 2020