Black Lab Digital

Digital Marketing Solutions Provider

Name James Starkey


Position in the company MD

Years with the company 4

Number of employees: 2



What was the most challenging experience since you started in 2017 and how did you overcome it?

Generating new business has probably been the trickiest on-going challenge. We initially overcame this by leveraging our networks and providing a service / solution that fitted with clients needs. We’re now at a phase where we need to develop a pipeline of work from ‘cold’ contacts that is probably likely to be another challenge.


Who is your ideal client and how can you best reach customers matching that profile?

We like working with SME’s, organisations large enough to require digital marketing services but are not large enough to have a dedicated marketing team. E-commerce clients or clients selling high value products are the ones we’re usually able to work well with and drive results. In regards to reaching them, we’re currently developing this solution now, as previously mentioned the business has grown based on our network and recommendations, we’re now implementing a process to allow us to target and reach out to those new potential clients.


Which new technologies are you currently investing in and why?

We’re investing more time and resources in reporting tools, looking internally we’ve seen that clients really value in-depth but digestible reports, however these are often extremely time consuming to create. We’re therefore now investing in solutions that aggregate data from various channels allowing us to comment on the data without spending hours compiling it.


I suspect that due to the current lockdown, eCommerce became an important part of any company.  What eCommerce strategies would you advise your clients?

Yes, we’ve seen our ecom clients fly during the period, specifically the ones that in the last few years have identified the potential and invested in their infrastructure both onsite and off-site.  Each client is different so the strategies have varied, some who have recently invested less, are now allowing us to guide them on updates and solutions to increase conversion rates and retain customers. While others who have better systems in place have allowed us to maintain and increase customer comms in how they’re handling the disruption and they’re ability to supply customers. In order to advise customers, particularly new ones, we take the time to understand their business to allow us to develop a strategy that meets their goals but will also drive good ROI. The general feeling at BLD is that those clients that have been digital switched on for the last few years have the most to benefit from the lock down while those who are coming into the market will be fighting harder than normal to gain traction in a busy market place.


How ready is your company to handle any coming shifts or industry-level disruptions, e.g. from AI?

AI is already present at some level in some of the work we do, we have previously leveraged chat bots whilst on certain parts of our PPC activity we allow for automated bidding. AI is something to be embraced but also so is the human touch in both how we deal with clients and also the potential it offers them in various guises. We’re open about our business model, we leverage our network of freelancers to help us build project teams with the right people in place to deliver a project. Most agencies either use a blend of in house team members and freelancers. We feel our model allows us to bring the correct knowledge base into a project. The shift to freelancing with many marketeers wanting increased flexibility has allowed us to have access to a wide variety of skilled suppliers. This model ensure we’re can access the best people in the market without being tied to full time paid staff, trying to shoehorn them onto projects, being transparent about this helps build trust with our clients.


Could you please explain a successful case study and how it can of encouragement to assist potential clients?

The Problem: AvailableCar had a Google PPC account that needed attention, years of various account managers had resulted in an account that was disjointed and inefficient. The client was unsure of how effectively the media spend was being utilised. While they knew it was driving some results, it was unclear how efficient the individual campaigns were working; the client wanted to regain control.


Black Lab Digital saw that the account needing stabilising, analysing and rebuilding. After a deep dive into the account, we developed a two-step approach to minimise disruption:


Step 1. Lean and Clean: By leveraging the existing account, we cut out any wastage without impacting business enquiries.


Step 2. Rebuild and refine: With step 1 complete, the account was wasting far less money but was still not correctly structured. To drive maximum performance for the client, we needed to structure the account based on the locations of the stores, the makes and models as well as implementing learnings from the ‘lean and clean account’. Breaking the down the account into manageable sections would allow for more in-depth analysis and further refinement. From this point, we could build a long term strategy based on data allowing us to grow out the pay per click activity where there is commercial viability


The Results: While never a cost-cutting exercise Black Lab Digital has managed to reduce account spend by over 50% and increased the performance of the account. By working closely with Available Car, goal completion, enquiries and duration on site have improved greatly. The activity has stretched to employ Bing Ads as well as create reactive campaigns based on external factors.


There seems to be a misconception that Pay Per Click advertising has to be expensive, while Available Car has a healthy budget the fact that over 50% of it was been wasted before BLD took over shows that it’s a case of working with the right people. A carefully developed strategy and a close relationship no matter on the size of budget allows us to develop results. From the outset with Available Car we knew they didn’t need to spend the budget that they were, convincing them of this and moving them away from their previous strategy took some convincing but when running over the numbers with them they bought into our plan and supported our move. While we could have charged a higher management feel based on their initial spend, we wanted to drive results and by cutting in drastically we created an account that worked far harder for them than ever before.


The industry is crowded, from large established companies to one-man band, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition?

We actively shy away from the term agency; we like to view ourselves somewhere between an agency and a consultancy. Like any ‘agency’ we can’t deliver all services internally, however, unlike most ‘agencies’ we’re honest and open that we use our network of specialists to help deliver the service or solution. Strategy, planning, some websites, social and PPC (other media activity too) are all delivered in house, but for projects that require other services we build the team around the project. We like to deliver value for clients, so not having rooms full of permanent developers or designers ensure our costs are realistic for the services we’re offering but also ensures the client knows that for their budget they’re getting the best developer or designer for that project. Finally, honesty and integrity is a key focus of ours, often a client thinks they need to spend X on a project but we recommend Y which is often less, this allows them to repurpose budget that will drive better value in the long term. In terms of working with our network of partners, we treat them how we want to be treated. We ensure they’re paid on time (or early) and make sure they have an input in the projects that they work with us on, we’re happy to take them to meetings and introduce them to clients.  


Every company nowadays has a website.  Which are the most common mistakes that companies do on their website and why are they doing it so wrong?

The amount of sites we see that are set to ‘do not index’ is surprising, however, the most common issue we see is bloated websites with large file sizes, this slows down the user experience especially on mobile. The good news is that it’s a relatively easy fix and one which can have a big impact on the site. We think the reason for this is that clients don’t understand that files or images need to be optimised before uploading to a site. A picture directly from a camera maybe 4mb and far from the 72dpi required by monitors, most clients seem to take a picture and upload it to the site. Over the course of a matter of weeks, a site quickly becomes bloated.