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Leeds agency Boutique on plans to “speed up” growth, agency partnerships and consultancy focus

Simon Bollon - Boutique 2

The founder and Managing Director of Leeds agency Boutique detailed his plans to accelerate the growth of the company, why agency collaboration is key and the agency’s marketing model.

Boutique, which was founded in 2012 by Simon Bollon, works across media buying and planning, digital marketing and PR, supported by a strategic consultancy offering with recent client wins including Hammonds Furniture, Naturo Pet Food, Vegan society and abnormal, a health and nutrition company.

“We’ve done between 15% to 20% growth year on year for the last four years but we’re wanting to speed up that growth,” Bollon told Prolific North, on his future goals for the agency.

He added that the agency is on track to achieve £3m income in 2022, which is up from £1.6m in 2021.

In a bid to push fowards with his growth plans, he is on the hunt to hire a marketing director to ensure the agency is more “focused and targeted on who it is that we’re trying to talk to”.

Looking at other larger regional agencies, he pointed how they have “heritage and scale” with a high level of awareness – whereas Boutique is “smaller” and therefore it is difficult for the agency “to have the same level of awareness”.

“We’ve been a little bit reserved in how we talk about ourselves and how we raise our own voice and I think we need to change that.

“We have a really strong proposition of working from performance marketing to brand and it’s a proposition more and more in demand,” he explained.

The new marketing director will form part of the agency’s plans to look at “doubling” its growth figures each year, he said, which is “very much about new business”.

Around 30% of the agency’s new business comes from agency partnerships, he explained, by collaborating on projects such as guiding a brand through the next stage of its development.

“We’re wanting to grow more partnerships and have more collaboration,” he said.

On why he views agency partnerships as important, he explained how prospective clients are increasingly wanting “shorter lines of communication, quicker action, more strategic thinking from agencies”.

This is partly because brands and clients no longer “want to be fighting with loads of different agencies”.

“I think clients are moving back towards a smaller number of agencies with greater strategic focus which ties into our proposition. We can give agnostic advice because we work across all of those disciplines.”

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Hybrid working and building the team

With a headcount of 25 staff, the agency will soon be a team of 30. 

He highlighted how the agency has only had three employees leave the business in three years despite the “great resignation” many businesses have encountered, due to Covid-19. 

With five vacancies currently available at the company, and a graduate intake commencing in April, several new roles will be based across the marketing and growth departments as the agency focuses on accelerating its growth.

From the agency’s office in the heart of Leeds, the existing team now work in the office two days a week after adopting a hybrid working policy, which he said works best for the agency.

“Because we have multiple services we need to get teams together for that collaboration piece and for the creativity and strategic thinking around accounts.

“We think that’s what is going to work for us, getting everybody together. It has made a difference that there’s been a real buzz in the office.

“We’ve been able to do things socially and just build back some of that togetherness across the team,” he added.

As with most companies, the impact of remote working though the pandemic has led to teams “drifting apart slightly” especially with different teams working across different projects in media, digital and PR.

“It felt like now is the right time to bring everybody back together again and it has been really important for employee engagement,” he said.

Boutique office in Leeds.
Boutique office in Leeds.

DISCO model and working at a “strategic consultancy level”

The agency has its own marketing model called DISCO, which aims to address the evolution of the marketing world by tracing the customer journey through Data, Insight, Strategy, Channel and Outcomes.

“We take clients through the traditional channels of media, digital and PR. We work with a lot of brands to help them identify where best to invest their marketing spend across those channels,” he said.

The agency works with brands to “enter new territories” such as taking “ecommerce brands into new areas such as television advertising or offline advertising”.

With some of the agency’s clients such as French Bedroom Company and its recent appointment on jewellery brand Astrid and Miyu, he detailed how there is only so much they can do in the “digital space before they hit that glass ceiling”.

The challenge when working with a brand is ensuring there is a consistent level of awareness, which he believes traditional media advertising gives “reach and scale much easier and much quicker, with greater potential than digital”.

“There’s also the positive brand association that you get with offline advertising such as TV as well.” 

Alongside the agency’s DISCO model, he said Boutique is moving towards embracing more of a consultancy-driven offering through collaborating with fellow agencies and clients.

“The area of focus for us is working with more clients at that strategic consultancy level,” he said.

While agencies typically struggle to charge for strategic and consultancy-driven advice, he explained how he is seeing more clients seeking this service just as much as the “actual delivery of work”.

“We are getting more clients talking to us about paying us for the consultancy work.

“They are paying us for this strategic work because they want that agnostic view, they want that second opinion from somebody that’s not their agency,” he said.

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