A Week in My Life: Sam Raife, Managing Director, Brand Ambition
Digital marketing agency Brand Ambition was launched during the UK lockdown by former Blueclaw SEO Lead Sam Raife.
The agency was founded alongside Raife's business partner and uncle Robin Hetherington, and provides SMEs with services across SEO, design, branding, PR and content. Its team of six works remotely, split between Leeds and Belfast, and has supported clients including Bauer Media and Neill Wine.
Raife has more than 10 years of experience in marketing, having also held roles at Enjoy Digital and Bewonder.
We found out what a week in his life looks like...
Contrary to the popular idiom I love Mondays. This Monday I’m working, but I alternate with my wife to look after my four-year-old every other Monday. It’s time that I never thought would be possible prior to starting Brand Ambition in 2020.
On a working Monday, like today, the team and I work from home, so it’s an early start of around 8am. I start every week the same; check and clear emails, have a quick scan over various SEO platforms like SEMrush, Ahrefs, Analytics and Adwords, then check our project management system to see where we are with the working week. I get more analysis done in the first hour of a day than at any other time. It’s uninterrupted thinking time and as a business owner it allows me to make quick, valuable decisions.
Then before I know it, it’s 9:30am and we go into a sprint review with the full agency. We spend around an hour every two weeks detailing and allocating all tasks for the next two weeks.
I really enjoy spending this time with our team. It’s nice to catch up after a weekend, check in and make sure everyone is in a good place heading into a new week. Once all the tasks are locked in, the deadlines are set, and the hours allocated it’s up to the team when they deliver them during the week and we simply start our working week.
This meeting runs for a little longer - it's coming up to a year since we opened and I’ve been working on some revised structure and strategy with my business partner and uncle, Robin, who is based in Belfast, and likes to tell a tale. We are planning things like updates to the website, social media launches, PR opportunities and a revised company vision for year two that allows us to really kick on.
Then a mixture of client calls, individual catch-ups with the team to give direction on their new workload, sales proposals and a lunch-time game of Pokémon with my son pretty much sees the day through.
Since starting Brand Ambition, at home, in the middle of a pandemic, I’ve been conscious of needing time out of the house, especially since my wife also works from home.
I was incredibly fortunate when a client offered me a desk in their office. Since then, as the team has grown, we’ve expanded and make use of a spare meeting room a couple of times a week. On this particular day, I’m in on my own, soaking up the atmosphere of working as part of their team.
I’m working with them on a couple of projects, but one in particular has me working with their execs to offer training and advice. We work together on creating an SEO strategy, which is then delivered by their internal team and supported by my team where required. I really enjoy the mentoring side of my role, both within the Brand Ambition team and with our clients. After being in the industry for more than 10 years, it’s nice to be able to pass on some of my knowledge.
Working with our client in this unique way is a collaborative process, which means they can take advantage of expertise without worrying about paying over the odds for delivery. You just don’t need someone with over 10 years' experience writing your meta descriptions for you, for example.
Towards the end of the day, I check in with the team, check our project management software and make sure everything is progressing. The team is great at working through the weekly tasks and keeping everything updated, but there is always a bit of admin to keep on top of everything.
I tend to work from home on a Wednesday. It gives me time to focus on getting through my own tasks. Today, I’m getting to focus on one of my favourite tasks, strategy and competitor analysis. This is the part of my role I’ve always enjoyed.
I tend to start with some pretty basic opportunity analysis; essentially I take everything a client is ranking for on SEMrush and identify the key pages that should be improved to see the biggest impact on rankings. I’ll then review metrics and perform competitor comparisons against elements such as page speed, the quality of the on-page content, the availability of snippets and the quality and quantity of the links of the ranking pages.
We subscribe to all the same software packages the larger agencies do, so we have access to all the same information they do, and the knowledge to set and deliver strategies against it. Once the analysis is completed, I’ll write up the task list and set it on our project management system with a few instructions, links to support pages and anything else that I feel we might need when tackling the issue. We have a couple of SEO execs in training, so we will have a talk through a priority list of the issues, get to work and then like most managers will quality check the work before it’s implemented.
We have one designated office day a week at the moment. We’ve all missed that interaction and as the MD of a growing company, I really notice much more creativity and communication of ideas on these days. We like to listen to CoolFM, Northern Ireland's most listened-to station in honour of Robin, who is the only one who can’t join us on these days as, as mentioned, he lives in Belfast.
He joins the morning sprint on Zoom, cast to the 60-inch screen, which always looks like we are being addressed by an evil overlord. It’s become one of those office jokes that gets made every week and everyone gives it the same polite level of laughter.
We utilise the chance to talk through PR campaign ideas and client strategy. We’re working on the development of a content campaign for one of our clients. The strategy has shown a gap in quality backlinks, alongside a gap in the way their services are explained across the website.
As a result, we’ve developed a campaign that means we should obtain PR coverage, but the additional content on the website will also lead to a better clarification to search engines on their expertise within the industry. I’m a big believer in creating campaigns that have multiple benefits, and we don’t take risks with our approach.
I’m not saying all our campaigns are a roaring success, but we create multiple opportunities for success and build contingency plans for our outbound marketing approach. The idea we settled on involves video, digital content creation, design and PR. It will take a couple of months to deliver, but we have all the capabilities to do that in-house and we will get to display our client in a way they’ve never tried before.
Another home day, which is great for the team as we have a 4pm finish. They get to start their weekend early and I get to pick up my son from nursery.
We perform a sprint review in the morning. This is where we do a complete review of how the sprint went. We cover every task and make sure everything is updated and that we are going to hit all promised milestones. We then ask three questions: What did we do well? What could we have done better? What one improvement can we take through to next week?
We finish the session with a bit of team embarrassment and self-congratulation by making each team member name the person that helped them the most. Everyone hates it, but we still do it because it’s important to acknowledge even the small wins. I’ll then spend the rest of the day finishing off tasks, writing or fleshing out a post for our blog, or stalking people on LinkedIn. Robin and I often finish the day with a beer over Zoom.
We take the time to discuss company direction, often informally and coming up with stupid ideas. We like to just have a laugh, throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks. It's a great way to finish off the week and means we often have a renewed passion and focus for the next week.