SMEs daunted by the task of both getting an internet presence and then maintaining it were a large part of founder Simon Heyes’ target market when he started last year specialising in travel and retail with services to increase revenues and customer numbers. Around one in four UK firms do not have a website and the cost generally from businesses’ failure to invest in online is estimated at £20 billion plus. Yet confronted with tricky, fast changing tech, demanding algorithms and time-consuming Insta this and Facebook that, it’s no wonder many traders with limited budgets shy away from the opportunities, says Heyes.
“But even if you do not conduct business online people expect to see you there these days,” he warns.
“Visibility, so you are among the first sites people see, is the foundation and that’s achieved with the right search (SEO) strategy. A good one can start converting customers within a week. We’ve helped companies compete with big hitters like Amazon and Booking.com.
“For smaller firms Google Ads is the quickest route to market. The correct cost- controlled plan incorporating social media and content marketing can bring a good return on investment.”
Heyes set up Novel after 14 years in digital marketing working for blue chip clients and saw how the sector was changing.
“Businesses don’t have the time and skills for what’s needed now to make the most of online. They need and are looking for specialists,” he adds.
“I’ve always favoured putting a face to a business, humanising the story, customers want that now more than ever. It also provides authenticity, vitally important as the tide of fake reviews grows.”
The agency, which employs four freelancers and shares a home with Heyes’ wife Claire Garner’s Interiors business in Hertfordshire, has got off to a flying start with 12 clients and a £100,000 forecast turnover for 2020.
Projects can be ongoing or one-offs that range from a flurry of social media for a florist to coincide with Mother’s Day to a new website for a local fencing contractor that has led to ground work commissions throughout the south-east. Work setting up and hosting new sites for smaller retailers wanting to build a new online presence are in the region of £5,000.
“This usually involves an audit of their site and recommendations for improvements across a couple of digital channels,” explains Heyes.
The continuing contracts where Novel works with the client on a monthly basis with monitored results cost closer to £30,000.
That kind of collaboration has transformed British ski clothing brand OOSC into a hot-selling, international retailer, helped shift its end of season stock with fun discount offers and improved payment processes.
Its predominantly younger customers now have more time to pay without increasing OOSC’s credit risk. Latest results show revenues have grown 130 per cent.
New commissions for bigger London-based projects will see Novel expand this year, take on more staff and Heyes develop his own pet project – technology for a new platform that links brands and bloggers.
Following a family bereavement he donates three per cent of client fees to the Meningitis Now charity.
“From the tech jargon and product feeds to payment providers and international sales taxes, we’re the experts,” he says. “We can make online work for every business.”