A watercooler moment with Mike Flynn, CEO of digital media agency Fast Web Media
In a nutshell, what does Fast Web Media do?
Fast Web Media is a data- and technology-driven marketing company. What we’re about is delivering real results: increased targeted traffic, conversions and of course, most importantly, actual sales. The way we do that is by specialising in search marketing, particularly in search engine optimisation, technical development, social and mobile.
Where did the idea for Fast Web Media come from?
I guess it came from the fact that we were pushing water uphill. I genuinely believe we had ideas ahead of the time. We were looking at doing vertical search engines; we did one called Megasoccer Search and it really was very difficult, it was very hard work. So I decided to analyse what we did best. We found that what we were doing very well was search engine optimisation as part of a bigger group building search engines.
When did you start up?
Almost at the dawn of the internet. 1995.
How has it gone so far?
Originally, it was all about Premier League websites; the Premier League didn’t have one and neither did any of the other clubs. One by one, of course, all of the clubs did and then finally the Premier League did. The company that you see now was reinvented in 2008 and I completed a management buyout from Microsoft in 2009, eighteen months later.
The last five years have certainly been very exciting. We’ve won many awards for our work, for our clients, as well as for our own brand because we've actually been developing our own brand and increased turnover and profits fourfold within that time-frame.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest decision was to sell our football website to Sportech Plc because that’s what the company was originally set up for and whilst it was the main focus, over time it became less and less important profit-wise. It pulled a few heartstrings but selling it completely refocused everybody in the business.
How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Within our marketplace, there are two key ways that we differentiate ourselves. One is we were part of a search company that was bought by Microsoft and therefore we are now the only company globally offering search engine marketing services that were part of a search engine company. We have an inside track.
The second area which I think is pretty important is our Innovation Factory – it’s a team within our offices in Manchester that develops our own brands. Weatherfit, WhoLooked, BIGprofile are three that we’ve done in the last 18 months and we’re working on a number more marketing game-changers as well.
What has been the best decision you have made to-date?
Probably setting up the Innovation Factory because what it’s done is it has allowed us to forge a way forward, giving us a real cutting-edge versus the next agency. We have our own leading-edge brands that deliver bottom-line for our clients.
Where do you see the business in 12 months’ time?
I see the business developing in two ways. One is consolidation and organic growth within the agency side of the business and, secondly, I see a new big profit centre within our Innovation Factory for brands that we’re producing ourselves. So we will be a brand-owner as well as an agency. It’s a very rosy outlook for 2014, but we're obviously not going to be complacent. In fact, we’ve doubled the resources within our Innovation Factory for projects that we’re working on ready for next year.
If you had one piece of advice for entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Make sure you’ve got a team of passionate people around you who believe in what you’re doing, and do it with confidence. Put yourself out a bit and make a lot of noise in the marketplace.