After 20 years working in search marketing and various media agencies for a variety of retail brands, Steve Pritchard launched It Works Media in 2012.
Initially starting out as a Leeds-based SEO consultancy, the company has since expanded its services to include content, digital PR and SEO, working with big brands including BrewDog and Go Compare.
From how he first entered the industry to the highs and lows of the agency world, Pritchard shares his career journey and advice…
How did you first get into your industry?
Purely by accident to be honest. I left school in 1997 and began work in admin and telesales, and worked in timeshare sales in the Canary Islands in 2004.
I came back home in April 2004 and saw a small job advert for a PPC account executive in a small PPC agency. I didn’t know what PPC was, so after some research I thought it might be interesting, and I haven’t looked back since.
The small agency was one of the pioneers of automated bid management software, and I spent three to four years training many agencies across Europe on how to use the software and how to develop profitable campaigns.
What do you love about your job?
I have never stopped learning. From the early days of PPC, SEO, web development and now content marketing and digital PR, I learn something new every day and that has helped to keep me interested for nearly 20 years.
My day-to-day role as an agency owner is less hands-on than it used to be, but my team are awesome and far more skilled than I ever could be so I tend to develop the strategy and then get out of their way nowadays.
The strategy development role allows me to work really closely with the client to understand their needs. This provides additional variety to my role as no client is ever the same.
Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?
Over 20 years I have worked with some of the best people in the industry, both in terms of clients and colleagues across various agencies, so I can’t think of one particular person, as there have been so many who have helped or inspired me.
In terms of what inspires me, that’s relatively easy – the whole point of me setting up the agency was to support my family better than I could working for an agency. The ability to be flexible in how I work and what I work on has allowed me to spend more time with my two daughters than ever before. That is my inspiration!
What are the biggest challenges about your job?
Keeping the work interesting, by that I mean having a diverse client base covering different sectors, so my team can stay engaged and excited about new projects.
It can be very easy to get pigeonholed as a finance or travel only agency, especially as we have a wealth of experience in both sectors. However, as an employer, I want to provide the team with a variety of different projects across different sectors.
Our new business strategy continues to evolve so we can work with new and exciting clients and sectors.
What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?
Patience is a fundamental skill of the job, whether it’s developing an SEO strategy, or a digital PR campaign, the results won’t be seen for many months after, so you need to be patient and always look at the long-term benefit.
A sense of humour is also important. As there are going to be people and industry changes that are going to infuriate you, being able to laugh at yourself and the situation will help to keep you focused.
What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?
I earned £13,000 per year as a PPC executive, but I had no experience or qualifications and this was the average salary where I lived. I would expect anyone with the same to start at least £18,000 which should rise to about £22-24,000 after 12 months. But this is really depending on whether you go agency or client side as salaries vary depending on route taken.
What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?
The difficulty with digital marketing is that what is taught in university is likely to be out of date by the time they graduate, so I believe it should be less about formal qualifications and more about life experience and the person’s aptitude to learn on the job.
I’m a great advocate for modern apprenticeships as I didn’t have any formal qualifications, I was just lucky enough to be interested in digital marketing.
What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?
If you are looking to get into search marketing then focus on content or social media, nowadays technology has evolved where many channels are being optimised automatically therefore require little human input.
But content and social media is still about human interaction and personal connections between brands and their customers. Get into these channels and you are likely to have a strong and rewarding career.
Plus, whatever your marketing path, remember to be kind to people and have a sense of humour. You will be working with all kinds of people so it’s important to be open-minded and patient, which will ultimately benefit your work.
Or become a computer programmer focused on machine learning and you can rule the world!