Transcription Episode 1: Who the hell are we?

We use AI to record and transcribe our podcasts, so while we give it a whizz through to make sure there's nothing shockingly wrong, the below is our verbatim conversation so it might get a little odd to read in places...

Speakers:

Richard Johnson, Greg Simpson, David Coghlan

David Coghlan  00:05
Hi, everybody. My name is David Coghlan. Welcome to the first of the Inspired Marketing Group podcasts. I'm joined by my business partner, Richard. 

 

Richard Johnson  00:16
Hello. 

 

David Coghlan  00:17
And we thought it might be a bit weird if we were going to interview ourselves for our first podcast. So what we've done is we've enlisted the help of a tame, former journalist who's switched over to the dark side of PR, Greg Simpson from Press for Attention. Thank you, Greg, and welcome. 

 

Greg Simpson  00:36
Morning.

 

David Coghlan  00:37
So Greg's, gonna do the dirty work of asking the questions and trying to make us sound interesting. So I'll hand over to you...

 

Greg Simpson  00:45
Thanks for that. No pressure, so I'll be in the Paxman role today guys, if you're okay with that? Before I get started on some of the questions, I had looked through the website, obviously in a fair bit of detail, Richard, I've got a very pressing question to ask you, which you don't talk about a lot. 

 

Greg Simpson  01:00
Scoring at Wembley. Tell me more.

 

Richard Johnson  01:04
Ha ha ha no, I don't talk about that, AT ALL. Yeah, that was what, 2010 when I was working for Eon, we sponsored the FA Cup for a set period of time, and we got this opportunity every year to play at Wembley. And basically, I said to the corporate director at that time. 

 

Richard Johnson  01:23
"I don't mind organizing this, but there's one condition." 

 

Richard Johnson  01:26
"What's the condition, then?" 

 

Richard Johnson  01:28
So I said, "I'm playing." pretty much that was it. And yeah, a boyhood dream came true. And yeah, I don't mention it whatsoever, but I will send you the videos, of me scoring and I think my Facebook profile is of me actually scoring at Wembley. So yeah, don't talk about it at all.

 

Greg Simpson  01:44
Dave is there anything you want to disclose? 400 metre badge?

 

David Coghlan  01:49
Yeah, I think I did my 400 meter. Definitely did my 200 meter. I was, yeah, my towel was adorned with swimming badges and i've also got my cycling proficiency as well. So you know, I can do a triathlon almost, although I'm shockingly bad at running.

 

Richard Johnson  02:05
And bit of a DJ...

David Coghlan  02:07
Yes, yes! My study is actually more spacious now because I've moved my records into another part of the house. But yeah, I used to used to do that, that was good fun in bars and clubs and stuff, I did a bit of radio DJing as well. That was my dream from University. But obviously, everybody wants to be a DJ and then after a few years of not becoming a superstar, I figured I should probably go and get a job. And that's where I kind of fell sideways into marketing.

 

Richard Johnson  02:39
Not that it's a competition, but you had a dream but didn't achieve it, but I did...

 

David Coghlan  02:43
Ha ha ha! There's still time Richard. There's still time. 

 

Greg Simpson  02:49
I can exclusively reveal I actually turned down the chance to appear for Manchester United at Old Trafford. 

 

Richard Johnson  02:54
Wow, there you go, get that on LinkedIn! 

 

Greg Simpson  02:57
Technically, technically, it was a supporters group asked me to play and it was live on Sky. And I didn't fancy it. 

 

David Coghlan  03:04
No way!

 

Greg Simpson  03:05
Yeah, seriously, chickened out. So from cycling proficiency to marketing proficiency. How did your careers evolve? Where did you start? How did you get to your most recent roles in house and where you are today?

 

David Coghlan  03:20
I'll go first, because mine's probably more meandering the Richards. So like I said, I wanted to be a radio DJ or a superstar DJ that didn't work out. I've played squash all my life as well, so I used to play squash when I was a little kid. When I first moved to Nottingham, I went and joined Nottingham Squash Club, and I was lying on the floor, actually, of the club completely done in. And there was a notice on the wall saying 'Assistant Manager wanted', and I thought, 'I can do that, I need a job and I play squash so business and pleasure.' So I did that. 

 

David Coghlan  03:50
That was pretty cool, not for profit, SME business, obviously, business and pleasure. So you know, do some work then go and play squash it was great. But as a small business, like most small businesses, no people, no money. However, my remit was responsible for getting new members through the door making some money. So without any people and without any money, how am I going to do that? So that's when I started to learn marketing at a very basic level out of necessity. I got alright at that and then thought I quite enjoy it, so I went and did a CIM course in the evenings. Then I started presenting to the board each month about how the sales were going and the activity I was doing. Then the FD of the Squash Club took me to one side and said "You're doing a pretty good job here Dave, I'm setting up a consultancy, wondering if you fancied coming in and leading on the marketing side?" 

 

David Coghlan  04:42
"Yes, brilliant!" 

 

David Coghlan  04:42
So I jumped ship, became self employed, all the terror that that involves, the roller coaster of am I going to make enough money to pay the mortgage each month? Which was hairy, but was an invaluable lesson. 

 

David Coghlan  04:57
I did that for a couple of years, then I managed to get a job in corporate land at Experian, which was, again, totally different. But something I really wanted to do because I'd done the SME stuff most of my life and I wanted to see how marketing was done in a corporate environment. So I joined Experian, spent three years there, and that's actually where I met Richard, so that was my first introduction to Richard, Richard was my boss at the time. We did some good stuff and I was eventually awarded the b2b marketer of the Year for Experian UK, which was pretty cool. It's on my CV and the award is on my shelf just up there, still. 

 

David Coghlan  05:40
So then I left there, I was headhunted for a VC backed FinTech based in Nottingham, called OpenWrks, where I was brought in to head up marketing and acquisitions for them. It was a really early stage business, I think I was employee 11. 

 

David Coghlan  05:55
Like I say, Equity Backed, so we had some money to go and try some stuff and in the four years I spent there, we pivoted that business model five times. So test, learn, validate, again, unbelievable learning curve, and that's become the foundational of how I approach stuff in terms of, learning quickly, failing fast and then moving on and iterating. 

 

David Coghlan  06:17
Then it was while I was working there that I bumped into Richard, I think in Tesco in Nottingham. 

 

David Coghlan  06:25
"What are you doing here?" 

 

David Coghlan  06:26
"I'm working next door at Robin Hood energy." 

 

David Coghlan  06:30
"Oh, we should have a chat." So then, Richard, as he himself, said he started courting me to come and join him at Robin Hood. And obviously, having worked with Richard before, really enjoyed it, we did some really brilliant stuff and it was a great opportunity to step sideways into a different industry into the energy sector. 

 

David Coghlan  06:52
So yeah, I went to join Richard at Robin Hood. Robin Hood has a great business, great concept, I think that didn't quite fulfil its ambitions. I think that the complexity and challenging nature of the energy industry, eventually paid for that business. But again, Richard and I did some amazing work and the team there, we really, really performed well. I think we did as well as we possibly could have, in quite difficult circumstances. 

 

David Coghlan  07:29
But that got Richard and I talking about what do we do next? And we really enjoyed working together, we've done some great stuff, so we both, I think Richard texted me, but I was writing out the same text at the same time saying, "Hey, why don't we start a business together doing marketing?" So that's where we are today. 

 

David Coghlan  07:49
So that's my journey. Richard's is a little bit more formal. Mines all over the shop.

 

Greg Simpson  07:55
Energy is the key theme Richard and that seems to be the case with you as well?

 

Richard Johnson07:58
Yeah. So I think that's the theme, I carved out a career in marketing but based on strategic moves. Going back to university, I did a business degree, which covered everything from law, economics, finance, HR and marketing was obviously some of those modules and I really enjoyed the marketing side of it. I'm a sucker for marketing. I get sucked into all the latest tech, all of that stuff and  I really see the power of it. So I really enjoyed those modules, graduated from university, but as many people have the issue, I just couldn't actually get a role in marketing. So I joined a finance company in Nottingham and then was quite strategic in what I was doing. I tried to align myself to the sales and marketing team, did a bit of a secondment over there to work out how they were selling into all of their retail stores. But again, it was quite a small company  so it didn't at that time go anywhere in terms of me get into marketing. 

 

Richard Johnson  09:03
At that point I moved to what was Powergen, which is obviously now Eon. The reason I moved was, it was a project management role, which is a core discipline of marketing, but it was implementing projects which the marketing team would deliver. So I would implement a price change which the marketing team lead on, but I would do it for the customer service element and make sure that the customer service teams were all up to speed and engaged. So I was working for , but not working as part of the marketing department. 

 

Richard Johnson  09:34
My big break came probably 37,000 feet above, I'm guessing Leeds at that point maybe? I was flying from Nottingham to Glasgow, with the head of marketing at Eon to implement a price change, at that point we had an  outsourced team in Glasgow and what I didn't realize at that point was I was actually being interviewed for a role but I didn't know it. I still talk to her now and actually, I was being 'pummelled' for want of a better word on the plane, in terms of trying to tease out my marketing experience. By the end of the week, up in Tannochside, She was like, I've got a role if you want to apply for it. So that was my first big break, actually achieved my first ever title as campaign manager for Eon. For that, and I've said it on the profile online, I'm forever, forever grateful. Eon opened me up to a world of opportunities from acquisitions to mergers, I lead on the purchase of economy power and migrating that back into the Eon base. We won't talk about Wembley, but again, worked on the sponsorships and did a stint at Eon which was circa 10 years, to the point where I was a senior campaign manager, pretty much doing everything for their business and we had a great team there as well. 

 

Richard Johnson  11:00
At that point, I moved to British Gas. I think British Gas, were seeing Eon taking a lot of market share from their business division. And they went on a bit of a crusade where they took a lot of the experienced people from Eon to British Gas to replicate what we did there. But again, that was going from small budgets to multi-million pound budgets. It was a bit more of a digital element there, it was working for a big brand, it was working for commercial boiler installs as well as energy. So quite a diverse role. 

 

Richard Johnson  11:37
I was at British Gas for just of two years and I left as head of base marketing for the business division. And I think at that time, I took a decision that I'd worked in energy for near on probably 13, out of my 15/16 years of working experience and I didn't want to be institutionalized. I didn't want to be just that energy marketeer. I needed to get something else on my CV to be able advance further in life. 

 

Richard Johnson  12:11
I really hate it when people ask the question of "oh, you work in energy. Are there any transferable skills you can put into into this industry?" 

 

Richard Johnson  12:20
For me marketing is marketing, it's the same principles it's just a different audience.  And actually, Dave talked about it. I took Dave into an energy business, he had no energy experience. But actually, that's what I really love about bringing people in because they look at it from an SME point of view, or from a different point of view. They ask 'What about this?' and it just opens your eyes more. So a bugbear of mine but yeah, so I left to join Experian. As Dave talked about first time I met Dave there, worked for Experian for three years and then was headhunted to join a Arriva.

 

Richard Johnson  12:53
And this was a massive step up for me in 2015, where I became a registered director of 4 of Arrivas PLC companies. responsible for 3000 employees across 20 different locations. Looking after the marketing element of that as the marketing director, but also having that responsibility of running a business and actually caring about engineering and MOT's and everything which goes in terms of e.g. drug testing for HR and all of that. You have to care about that. And you really wanted to care about that as a director because you were liable for it, but it really opened my eyes that I love marketing, I love running a business and it helped to get to where we are today. I guess, after three years, I was traveling a lot. I have a young family I was travelling upto Sunderland, spending days, weeks in Sunderland at a time and not really seeing my family. And Arriva was a bit more of a b2c environment and my background prior to that was all B2B. 

 

Richard Johnson  14:00
An opportunity came up with Robin Hood Energy where it was primarily b2c, with a bit of b2b in there, but actually owning sales channels as well. So I was looking after acquisition and marketing. So I took that opportunity, it was probably the ethos and the opportunity to work in sales and marketing was the only reason I'd ever go back into the energy industry. And I was honest about that. So worked in Robin Hood for two years prior to the purchase by British Gas, which is deeply ironic when I was working with my old team at British Gas to actually migrate customers over and ultimately make myself redundant. It was a bit of a weird situation, but everyone was very grown up and professional about it. And it was great to talk to them all again and see how they had progressed. And as Dave said, I won't touch on it too much. But we were chatting and I realized that I love the variety. I love helping businesses. I'm honest in my profile as well, i get a bit bored when things are working really well. I love to go into a business, that's got a problem, get it working, turn it round and have that buzz and then move on and move on and move on. That coupled with working with Dave, this the third time now and without a doubt the best person I've ever worked with, it all just felt right, in the middle of a pandemic too...

 

David Coghlan  15:18
Yea, the whole country is on its knees Let's start a new business!

 

Richard Johnson  15:25
Exactly

 

Greg Simpson  15:27
I started in 2008.

 

David Coghlan  15:29
Yeah. Oh, nice. Yeah.

 

Greg Simpson  15:31
On April Fool's Day, I might add. Which gives me opportunities of headlines. We're talking, I can feel it and we're talking about energy, your energy and your love of marketing. Richard I was looking on your profile again, outside of Wembley, and you use a phrase that you get twiddly thumbs. 

 

Richard Johnson  15:48
Yeah. 

 

Greg Simpson  15:48
When marketing is sort of seen as a top table discussion. 

 

Richard Johnson  15:52
Yeah. 

 

Greg Simpson  15:52
And it's been at a senior level could you explain a little bit more about that.

 

Richard Johnson  15:56
Yeah. So it's interesting, actually. So a lot of businesses which I've actually joined, they've had a marketing function, but they're not really... so take Arriva for argument's sake. Marketing was never a director level position. And I joined it as a director level position. But it was the first time it had been a director level position. So you've obviously got to fight for your voice and you've got really prove your worth. 

 

Richard Johnson  16:21
I guess what I've always done, Experian was very good at drilling that into me to be fair, in terms of metrics and real return on investment. That's all we used to talk about. But that's not a negative statement at all. When I joined Robin Hood there were no metrics in terms of sales or website hits, we were doing activity, but where were the core measurable analytics? Where was the 'I've spent this and I've delivered that?' The levers and leading indicators that show what you're doing? 

 

Richard Johnson  16:59
I love that feeling of dropping into a business and going, 'Oh, my God, I can't even justify my role here!' There's nothing I can do to say right, actually, we've done this and delivered that. It's real hard work. But I love to build a team up which can deliver that, to have metrics which really drive your experience and have an impact on the business. 

 

Richard Johnson  17:32
But if I'm honest, the twiddling thumb bit comes into that once I've got there and it's all working really well, but I get the twiddling thumbs on the fact that it's just working. I'm a bit like that at home, my wife is paranoid about my DIY. She'll say 'Are you doing another plug?' And i'm like yea yea, there's nothing else to do. It works like that in my marketing career. If I'm just reporting, 'yeah, this is going up, that's going up, great, sales going up'. It becomes a bit boring to me. 

 

Richard Johnson  18:06
I love that situation where, we are nowhere, right how do I get us to the top. And once we're there, I think it is an opportunity to hand it over to somebody to run the day to day business and go on and try and do it for another business. And I guess that's where the Inspired Marketing Group comes in. We can do that. How we work in terms of, 'Done For You' or 'Done With You' really fits into the fact that we can get it there and then we can just hand it off to the in house teams or whoever to deliver. So yeah, totally thumbs definitely.

 

Greg Simpson  18:39
So twiddly thumbs to the colouring in department Dave. That's the phrase you've used, you are so much more than the colouring in department. And where did the idea come from? To set up the new company? Where'd it come from and why did you do it?

 

David Coghlan  18:55
So I'm gonna go back. My personal opinion, is I hate the clock watching, nine to five, got to be at your desk. That is not how, in my view, 90% of businesses in the UK today or for the last 5/10 years, could operate. We live in the knowledge economy, we're not at machines making which widgets anymore. Something that used to get right up my nose, throughout my career is when somebody gets told off for walking in at five past nine, but no account for the fact that they're there until half, six, seven o'clock at night. The metric of time for me is is wrong. So that's a fundamental thing. 

 

David Coghlan  19:48
Then, when I was at OpenWrks, because it was venture backed, they had a portfolio of companies of around 20 or 30 in their group and what they used to do each year was create something called BC build. They'd get a cohort of future leaders together from all around the portfolio and then they would take that cohort of 20 odd people through a process to come up with a business idea, pitch the concept to partners and anything that had legs, they would back. There are businesses that are being backed by these guys for millions of pounds to develop it into a business. So, my pitch as part of that was a distributed agency. It was a marketing agency with people all over the place centralized around a platform. Businesses could say 'I need this' or 'I've got this requirement' and then from the pool of experts, which could be anywhere in the UK or globally, the team would assemble around the client, everybody gets paid for their time for doing the job, the client pays just to have that thing done then the team dissolves after the project is complete. So that was three or four years ago. At the time the guys that assessed it, one being Dan Cobley who's the former MD of Google he gave me some good feedback in terms of it's a good concept, there's probably something there, but actually it's not very defensible, anybody could do it. Business will still want in house teams, and blah, blah, blah. So I kind of parked it, but it was still nagging away in my head that actually, there's no reason why that business model shouldn't work. 

 

David Coghlan  21:30
So what happened obviously last year in 2020, was almost attitude caught up with technology. So when the pandemic hits in March and basically the whole of the country was locked down and everybody was sent to work from home. Robinhood Energy is a prime example. A utilities business, 150 person call centre and a mindset amongst management that actually those those people can't work from home. Richard and I, we had laptops and we can work from home, we're marketing so we could maybe do that once a week. But if you work in a call centre, you've got to be at a desk, got to be with your team. So when COVID hit, in the space of three weeks, 300 people, including 150 person call centre went from being 100% desk based in an office to 100% remote working from home. Inevitably, there were teething troubles. But after that, for all intents and purposes, the business functioned exactly as it had before from home. And everybody loved it. 

 

David Coghlan  22:42
People didn't want to go back to the office, because they could take the kids to school, I can take my kids to school now, I can go for a run, even stupid stuff, like I can load up the washing machine, I can do those jobs, I can take an Amazon delivery. From a lifestyle perspective it's amazing. And obviously, I'm not commuting. I'm not commuting to work I'm not commuting back, I'm saving on petrol and saving on life. I'm a sucker for a Pret lunch, I'm saving a flipping fortune on Pret. So all of these things are combining. 

 

David Coghlan  23:12
Richard and I bumped into the CFO of Robin Hood in a coffee shop. And Richard said to him, 'If I'd said to you, I can save the business half a million quid.' 

 

David Coghlan  23:24
He would have said 'Oh, yeah, brilliant! How do we do that, what do we do?' 

 

David Coghlan  23:27
'Make everyone work from home and close the offices.' 

 

David Coghlan  23:29
You'd have been told to leave, get out you idiot! But now, that's a very viable option. So I think the reason that launching a new business in a pandemic, or the economic environment, all of this horribleness that has gone around it, it's perfect for our business model because everybody, both businesses and employees have all now realized that actually, they can work from home, people are productive, they're still delivering value, they can get more time with their family, they can enjoy their lives a bit more and they can still do a great job. And businesses are saving money on overheads on business costs, on energy costs, on all of the associated costs. 

 

David Coghlan  24:18
You know t's not perfect for everybody. And I'm not saying that everybody should work from home. I'm desperate to go and have a coffee or catch up. I haven't seen Richard for six months, so it's definitely a mix. But I think where our model comes into its own is that you can go and handpick experts, you can pick the best person to do a very specific job for you and you're not limited to Nottingham or the East Midlands or the UK. If you want somebody that does something very specific and they're based in San Diego, you can go and get that person and they can deliver that value to you, regardless of where they are. We've got one of our partners moving to Tokyo. 

 

David Coghlan  25:01
So it's actually really going to unlock the economy to make it global. We're really excited. And I think it's that sort of coming together of attitude technology and societal change, which we hope is really positive for our business model, but actually really positive for a lot of businesses.

 

Richard Johnson  25:24
I think that's the thing. The barriers have been forcibly removed. You talked to it earlier about, 'I've got to see my team'. Well you've not seen your senior team for a year, but they've been productive, they've delivered work, you've probably delivered some of the best results you've delivered. So that barrier has been forcibly removed. 

 

Richard Johnson  25:43
'Oh, but my team, if they work from home, I can't see them so therefore what gets measured gets done. They'll do no work!' 

 

Richard Johnson  25:52
Well, they've done work for the past year, everything has been forcibly removed to make this model work. And actually, we're never going to claim this, but it's actually more environmentally friendly as well. I'm not commuting, 500, 600 miles a week to go to an office, I'm commuting 200 yards across to, well 200 yards sounds... ha ha

 

David Coghlan  26:10
Ha ha ha! To the West Wing! 

 

Greg Simpson  26:13
Ha ha! Wow business has taken off guys!

 

Richard Johnson  26:16
Yeah.

 

David Coghlan  26:18
I think it was an interesting anecdote when we spoke to a potential client the other day who's UK based business had acquired another business based in New Zealand. Obviously, the team are all in New Zealand, and she said 'in any normal circumstance, onboarding a team or trying to manage a team from New Zealand would have blown your mind. But that now makes no difference. They're on Zoom! exactly the same as my team. So all I've done is I've gone right, well, I've got another 20 people, and they happen to be on a different time zone. But I'll have a call with them in the evenings, or I'll have a call them in the morning and just carry on as normal.

 

Greg Simpson  26:57
Yeah. And you were saying before, you know, you talk about presenteeism, and you know, railing against that it is about outcomes, really and what gets measured. To me, it's actually far easier to get outcomes when you are doing work like this, because you're not messing around, doing the usual stuff you would be doing in the traditional office. Being seen to be doing things, you are just getting on with tasks that are part of the wider project. 

 

Greg Simpson  27:24
Now Marketing is just creativity plus maths, right. So it does seem to lend itself very well to both your clients and also the experts that you're referring to. Do you see yourselves as kind of a, where is the quality check? Because there's experts everywhere, right? USA, Tokyo, Nottingham, Sheffield, Richards up in Sheffield. Where does that come in? Where do you come in in terms of the client and the expert, and making sure that people are who they say they are, they are as good as they say, and they are what your clients need.

 

David Coghlan  27:53
Sure, so the people that we work with, we've already got 20 people in our team, again, they're not employed, they're freelancers. They run their own businesses they are marketing experts in their own right, they've already got clients, they're already delivering value. They're already credible people. Some of those people we already know, we've worked with them in previous lives. Either where we've hired those people to work with us, or we've worked with them as colleagues. So that's the first tier. 

 

David Coghlan  28:20
But what we also do is we'll provide an entry interview. Somebody can apply to join the Inspired Marketing group, and then Rich and I will interview them. We'll say 'Hey, tell us about you? What have you done? Give us some examples of how you've succeeded? What industries you've worked in? What sectors, what's your specialisms? Richard and I have interviewed enough people in our time that we can hopefully sort out some of the chancers. But for most people that approach us, they're credible people and they are already doing good jobs. 

 

David Coghlan  29:04
The other more of a binary control is all of our people have to have professional indemnity insurance. Which if you're doing something off the side of your desk, or you're got a side hustle and you're trying to do some marketing in your bedroom, you're not really going to have that. So it's quite a binary filter. But the sorts of clients that we work with corporate, scale up, larger businesses, that is the sort of professionalism that they want. So you need to have invested at least that into your business as well. The other thing is, we're going to charge our freelancers to join us. So if you want to be part of our group, you need to pay a subscription. Now it's a nominal fee, 10 pounds a month. But what that does is you have to be committed. You have to say, 'I'm going to invest in business development' of which your subscription to the Inspired Marketing Group is one of your costs. But again, if you're not dedicated to your craft, in that you're not willing to pay the subscription and for your indemnity insurance, that does help us qualify. 

 

David Coghlan  30:10
But then, once people are in the group, if we accept you, everybody starts at what we call our entry level which is Influencer. But then as you do great work, and this is based on client feedback, so when our clients tell us that 'this person is amazing, they've done an amazing job!' You move up our levels, and as you move up the levels, you earn more money. So you'll make more money, the better the work you do. And similarly, if we get feedback from a client that says, 'That wasn't very good' we can demote people back down those levels, or we can let them know it's not really working out for either of us. So sorry, we're gonna let you go.

 

Richard Johnson  30:49
There's an incentive there as well isn't there. Because obviously, as you move up the level when you get to the top level, which is an IMG Genius level, we've already built the foundations for vertical sector leading, profit share on the business etc. So the more you invest into it the more you're going to get out of it. And I think that drives a certain behaviour because we want to deliver quality work. And all of those at an Influencer level, Dave, and I will oversee that work as well. So there's always internal quality gates there, because it's our brand, it's our reputation which is at stake. And just to summarize what Dave said, the key point to me is that we can vouch for every person who is currently on our books at the moment, because we have either employed them directly worked with them or for them. And there's a real community sort of feel to it now. So we're not putting someone we've never met into a business. I've worked with them for two years, and they are quality at that thing.

 

Greg Simpson  32:02
Yeah. What is it you're trying to achieve? What's the big picture here? One year, three years, five years? 10?

 

Richard Johnson  32:10
Well, first, yeah, so there's a business objective and there's a personal objective into that. Jump in Dave if I say something, which is not aligned to yourself, but we want to help marketeers do the work they want to do and love. We've both been in, in house roles where things get loaded onto you which is not what you really want to do. So, you might for argument's sake be the marketing manager and then they need a bit of PR, so PR becomes part of your remit, but actually, I don't really like PR, I prefer digital marketing, or whatever that looks like. 

 

Richard Johnson  32:49
It goes back to the community a lot of the people we're working with have actually probably taken the side step out to create their own business in the niche they want to do, and the Inspired Marketing Group acts as a lead gen to their business. So we are trying to help marketers do more of what they want to do. We are trying to get them the wages which they deserve. We don't really negotiate on day rates. We'll ask them 'What do you charge?' And then we align projects to the day rate. So as an example, we've got designers, which are heavyweight, mediumweight and lightweight designers. And depending on the client's budget we may place different experience there, but ultimately offer that choice to to the end clients as well to say, 'We can get you someone at this price. But actually, for more experience and for that, you might want to be looking at paying this price.' So again, it helps businesses grow. I desperately love making businesses thrive and grow in the world. So we're trying to help that out. 

 

Richard Johnson  34:02
I know from personal experience, that recruitment is an absolute, wow, it takes so long. You are sometimes driven by I've got a budget, but I can't get the right person for that budget. So do I settle and get someone in my budget or do I not and do it myself? Or do I go back and ask for more budget and get the person I really want? This business is about getting our end clients the expertise and they only pay for it when they need it. 

 

Richard Johnson  34:33
So actually, you get the right person. Why wouldn't you do that? Why wouldn't you want the best person in your business at any given time? And then personally for me, I created it along with Dave, for it to be a lifestyle. The fact is that, I've commuted 300 miles a day in some experiences. That's not what I want to do. My time is much better spent elsewhere. At eight o'clock this morning I was sat doing work, normally I'd be in a car. And actually, if I want to pick the kids up at three o'clock today, I can do that. I can come back and do a bit of work in the evening. To me, it's about lifestyle, but ultimately helping businesses get the right talent at the right price and driving results. I don't know, your views Dave

 

David Coghlan  35:22
Yeah, I mean, we're really aligned. Whenever we talk about this sort of stuff, we always come out with the same sort of hyperbole. Helping people do more of the work they love, I want to do more of the work I love! I would much rather, if I can do work for clients, do the things that I really enjoy. But then I've got somebody virtually sitting next to me, as a part of the team to come in and do the stuff I don't enjoy. Happy Days. And they're getting paid, I'm getting paid, everybody's happy. And the client, like Richard says, they're getting the best people to do every single part of whatever they need. Personally I want to work with great people. I only want to work with great people. I want to work with great clients, I want to work with ambitious clients that have got ideas and exciting objectives. Like Richard, I've got a young family too, I want to play with my kids, I want to pick them up from school, I want to drop them off in the mornings. It's, it's the mix of all of that which this business model allows us to do.  Deliver great work and enjoy our lives as well.

 

Greg Simpson  36:28
You're talking about the values of yourselves and I can feel the values of the team that is getting built up. And you speak about business development and the small subscription, professional indemnity insurance. Marketing, I would say this, marketing is an investment, not a cost. Do you see most people are starting to get that or is that mainly a client side point of view? Will the experts think that as well? Or is this an education to do on the client side, when you can prove the return on investment?

 

Richard Johnson  36:58
It's a really difficult one, isn't it? Because, I suppose that's where our background really plays to our clients strengths. We've sat there, we've been them. We've had that situation where you've been offered targets, you've accepted them and you're not quite getting there. You understand the reasons why and you're trying to hit them. Dave and I at Robin Hood Energy, went through months and months and months and months of trying to convince people to invest in a new sales tool becasue we knew it would work. And actually, when it was finally signed off and delivered it more than exceeded our expectations as well. 

 

Richard Johnson  37:44
But it probably goes back to our values as a business, Dave touched on it, we want to work with people who 'get it'. And when I say get it, get it can be in a number of different guises. So one of our clients, loves marketing. Doesn't understand how it works, but understands the benefits of what it will deliver to his business. 'Come in, do it for us, and just show me the return on revenue'. Brilliant. 

 

Richard Johnson  38:12
We want to work businesses that are passionate about their businesses as well. If we're working with somebody who says 'Yeah, I do this but i'm not really interested,' we don't want to be with them. Because we're fanatical about what we do in marketing. So if you don't understand marketing, you don't understand how it can drive your business. But you've got the passion for your business, we can marry the two together and take you to where you want to get to. 

 

Richard Johnson  38:37
But it's a struggle. It's always a struggle, but I don't talk about costs, every proposal we send out includes; 'this investment is and it will deliver Y'. And if people get it, they get it. And if they see it as a cost, then maybe we're not the right business to work with potentially.

 

David Coghlan  38:59
Yeah, and you know what this gig is like, Greg. You send stuff out, and then that's it, you hear nothing more. But we've made the decision really early on that we're not, not gonna chase because we're gonna follow up, but we're not going to get into negotiating on price or just falling down a hole. Because actually, it means if the client or prospect doesn't see the value in what we can provide, then we're not the right people for them. Similarly, if we're trying to cut corners, or cut cloth accordingly that isn't going to give the client the results they want to achieve, they're gonna be unhappy, and we're gonna be unhappy because we're not going to get paid. So we're going to be honest. We've got four core values and one of our values is not just honesty, we're radically honest. So if we have a call with somebody and they say, 'I've got 5000 pounds and I want a complete rebrand, I want a business strategy or an acquisition person or I want some paid social'. Sorry, it ain't happening. We can help you figure out what it needs to look like. But we'll tell people straight, because if their ambition is out of kilter with their budget we can help them readjust it. But we're not going to waste clients time by just taking the money for the sake of it.

 

Richard Johnson  40:26
We've got examples of that already haven't we, we pitched to one business and then we gave it a cursory 'have you got it?' 'Do you want to talk about it?' chase, then  through a mutual acquaintance, they said 'you really need to keep hunting this down because they got 1 million and 1 things on their plate'. 

 

Richard Johnson  40:51
But me and Dave had a conversation about it and stepped it back and said, if they've got 1 million and 1 things on their plate, they're very busy people but if marketing, and a proposal to hit a number sales and revenue isn't in the top 10 of those million and one things to do, Marketing isn't important to that business. And the foundations to go into that business are rocky from the start, because they don't get it, they're not invested into it. So you're on the backfoot from the start. That's where we make a conscious decision to go, they're probably not the right fit for us. You don't have to understand it. But it's got to be in your top 10, because if it's not in your top 10. Why are you spending money on it? The likelihood is you won't spend money on it because you don't fundamentally get it. 

Richard Johnson  41:39
I've worked with businesses as well, where they're say 'I don't really want to spend this money. But I've been told I've got to, and all I care about is you getting me results.' That's fine. I'm quite happy with that approach. I'll go in and talk revenue and finance off the back of the marketing, they don't have to get it, like it, or whatever, but they get excited by the end result. So it's an interesting scenario to be in. But I think we want to work with businesses who either get it, who get marketing or who don't get it, but want the result.

 

Greg Simpson  42:12
Yeah, I mean, this is it, isn't it. I was given a great piece of advice about five years ago, which is the most important job you've got, as a business owner, bar none is getting and keeping customers. 

 

Greg Simpson  42:21
Dress it up however you want after that, that's the most important thing, otherwise, nothing else happens. There are no other functions without the customers. And basically, that is marketing. Right? So do you think we're now into January 2021 I was going to ask you for a crystal ball moment. Things have changed obviously, since last week, or have they? Is the opportunity even more present now? Because this Wild West has opened up for freelancers and experts? Or is that a threat? In that there is so many people now who may be coming out of jobs? Or roles? Is there a huge opportunity? Or huge risk? Or is there a bit of both for people?

 

David Coghlan  43:03
I think for me there's both. I think the one undeniable truth about 2021 is change is coming. So we might not know how it's gonna shake out, but the world is going to be very different this time next year than it is today, and how it was last year. So accept that fact. That how you operate today isn't going to be how you operate next year. 

 

David Coghlan  43:26
I think there is opportunity, there's also risk, I think there's risk for people, there's risk for businesses. There was a piece in the news I heard today from the FSB, about small businesses at real risk. And us we're recently self employed there's no support for people like us, we're covering this ourselves. So there's huge risk, and I think there's gonna be huge risk amongst the smaller end of business community. Obviously, the impact of that is loss of income, potential loss of homes, awful, awful outcomes. So that's the challenge for businesses and even for larger businesses, if people stop spending, they're not going to buy your stuff, whatever it might be. 

 

David Coghlan  44:10
And then on the flip side, obviously, when businesses fold, or they reduce, or they just hunker down, people start losing jobs, there's going to be redundancies and it snowballs. So that's that's the risk and it feels inevitable. I think the economic chickens are going to come home to roost this year, in one way or another. But at the same time, we've had warning, this has been going on since March last year. It's inevitable that it's going to get worse, it's how do you prepare. So the opportunity is 'How do I structure my business? How do I set my stall out? Or how do I cut my cloth so that I can adapt or be flexible enough? Going back to my private equity days, you've got to have options you've got to have optionality about, 'I think this might happen, so I'll do that. But if it doesn't, then I can quickly go this way.' 

 

David Coghlan  45:09
Then on the employer side, I think as there is a reduction in jobs, more people enter the job market through redundancy or whatever, there's going to be greater level of 'enforced self employment'. So people in our position who are in marketing, we've already seen some of our former colleagues, excellent marketers, being made redundant. So the option as there become less jobs is self employment. We hope with the IMG, certainly for that group of people, that if you're struggling to get a job, you've worked in good businesses, you know your stuff, but you're a bit nervous about setting up on your own, we can help. We want to be the community, we want to put our arms around our peers, around people that are working in our industry to help them succeed. Because no matter how awful the economic situation is in this coming year, businesses need to survive. And they need to do that by like you say, getting new customers and keeping their old ones. And then they're going to need to grow. And again, that's all going to be driven through marketing and through sales. So I fundamentally believe and Richards exactly the same, that marketing is a function for growth. It can help you defend your market share. And as the market shifts with people leaving or exiting or out of necessity or choice, the market actually for your business becomes bigger. So there's opportunity to grow. It's going to be a very, very dynamic market over the next 12 months. And I think it's how you set the stall out today that will help you navigate it.

 

Richard Johnson  46:49
Yeah, I was just trying make a few notes while you were talking there, everything is  completely spot on. And I think there are some undeniable truths, Dave touched on one about how you operate today is not going to be how you operate tomorrow. But the undeniable truth is the furlough scheme has to end at some point. It's now at the end of April it's been extended to at that point, when it ends, the undeniable truth is there will be swathes of brilliant marketeers being made redundant. Because the reality is, it's still the same mentality, the first department to go is marketing. So through no fault of their own brilliant marketers will be made redundant. So in a way COVID means that our opportunity maybe has to be elongated, because businesses might not spend initially, might monitor to see what happens, so it's about us holding our nerves. The opportunity, which Dave touched on, is that there's going to be brilliant talent out there. And actually, they might be forced into their own sort of employment, what they might not want to do is go out and lead gen. Actually, that's where we can help. 

 

Richard Johnson  48:03
From the business point of view, they are going to have to market, they're going to have to win customers or they're going to have to defend their businesses. If you go right back to the War, there are case studies where businesses who didn't advertise during the war didn't exit the war, as successfully as those who reduced or carried on spending. These businesses who cut their marketing functions, or get rid of them, need to do something. But they're not necessarily wanting to put that cost back on the payroll. 

 

Richard Johnson  48:32
We had a conversation with a prospect last week, their response was actually this model really works. 'I get the skill and expertise, but I don't actually get them on my payroll. So I get them for a short period of time to do the job they need to do, I only pay for what I get out of them in terms of one day, two days, three days a week, or whatever it is. But I get the right person.' So I think that there's opportunity in this but cause for a bit of cautiousness. But how we've set our business model up really works. We've got no fixed assets in terms of office space. To run our business is actually is quite a small cost because it's a virtual business. 

 

Richard Johnson  49:20
And to touch on Dave's point about the people, our brilliant marketeers that we've worked with might find themselves having to do this themselves and set up their own businesses. I think Dave coined the phrase, 'we want this business to exist so nobody has to figure it out alone.' If I start my business today, and I'm a PR expert, or I'm a PPC specialist, how do I get leads, how do I get this? How do I do whatever, just join the IMG and we will feed you.

 

Greg Simpson  49:54
Yeah. Which is taking away the risk on both sides as well isn't it there. Because you're saying that with risk reward and clients. The risk there is saddling themselves with resource they need to pay for. You're helping to make sure they get what they need, rather than tying themselves into great big issues around employment law, everything else you're just planting people in and experts in, as and when they need them. So that de risks it nicely for them and keeps the flexibility.

 

David Coghlan  50:21
Yeah, absolutely. And you don't just join the community. Obviously, to run this business, we've got technology, we've got assets and support, we've got documents, we've got legal templates, all of the stuff and all of the work that we've done in the last three or four months to get this thing off the ground. Once you sign up, not only do you get access to the community or into the group that we can feed you with business, but you also get the tech stack. So you know, we've got a CRM system, we've got accounting software, we've got all sorts of stuff, which you can again, just parachute in, and you're off and running.

 

Greg Simpson  50:57
And how's the first couple of months been? What's the feedback been like? How's it been being our own bosses Guys? How'd you feel?

 

David Coghlan  51:06
Okay, so on the on the bosses thing, I love it. Absolutely love it. I don't know about you Rich but I think it's really great. I've done this before and it was terrifying. But I think if I was doing it again on my own, I would be equally terrified. But doing it with Richard, it feels safer because particularly early on, when we've basically got no income you always get a bit oooooh, especially when Christmas was coming. I think I had a call with Richard a few weeks after we'd started saying 'Are we doing the right thing? Is this gonna be alright?' but just having having Richard there, for me has been so helpful just to have that other person to bounce it off. And we cheer each other up.

 

Richard Johnson  51:57
There's a great song. And one of the lyrics in there is 'Up on your down days'. And that's what works. Dave will ring me going ooooh and I'm bouncing off the walls

 

Richard Johnson  52:11
And then it works vice versa, I rang Dave up the other day and I'm like. 'God, i'm bit worried about our run rate?' And he's like, 'Yeah, but what about, what about, what about?' 

 

Richard Johnson  52:21
'Yeah, great fine.' I'm the same as you, this feels safer than going alone. What I like about the relationship that Dave and I have got, and I'll use a football metaphor. I've used it to people in passing but I don't think I've said this to you Dave or not, but I've said it about you. We've both got Nottingham backgrounds and it's almost like Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. One was a manager, one worked for them. But actually who was better than the other person? Actually, no one was better they just brought different things to the party. The stuff which Dave does, for our business, where I'm like, bloody hell, I don't know how you've just done that. That's brilliant. And likewise, I'd like to think the same. 

 

Richard Johnson  53:18
And actually, the two of us together, work amazingly well. But actually, when Clough and Taylor departed, and one went to Brighton, and the other went to Leeds or whatever, they failed separately. But then they came back at Forest and took on the world. So it's that to me which is really, really good. 

 

David Coghlan  53:18
Yep

 

Richard Johnson  53:37
I think from a business point of view, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say we've been absolutely blown away by the response. We've not had one conversation, where somebody's gone, 'this business model is pathetic, and it doesn't work.' The conversations we've had everyone's just got it. And I guess some of the barriers are attitudinal. In the fact that, and this is this is one of the things we need to sort of break down, is that everyone is still in the same mantra. It's in built, it's innate. So actually, one of the dangers could be that we come out of COVID, let's call it April 1st, and everyone goes 'right! Everyone back to the offices!' That's because it's in built, it's built into people. 

 

Richard Johnson  54:27
The conversation we're having with people about our model is around recruitment. And again, conversation last week was pretty much 'Yea I was going to go and recruit somebody for this role.' But you're just compounding the issue, because you don't need that person full time, you need them for six months. Nobody's going to leave a full time job to join you for six months. If you recruit them full time, then they do that bit you needed them for but then you're going 'Hmm do you want to just look at this?' Because you're trying to fill their time up. And I think that's the thing we need to break down. The default answer is, when I need something, I go out and recruit full time. I've touched on it before in this, but you're then limited by your budget. You could compromise on skill to get budget but actually, this is about what you need? what can you afford? And our proposals are very much about. You need a PR expert five days a week? Right, it's going to cost you this. Can't afford that? In reality, do you need them five days a week, because I think you'd get the same benefits three days a week. That PR expert's happy at 3 days per week because they've got other clients to fulfil. The business is happy, because they've got the person to get the results they need. But it's just, it's breaking down that that innate behaviour. 

 

Richard Johnson  55:40
It's the cycles, which business have been on since businesses were invented. I've been guilty of it in the past, you judge your success by how many people work for you.

 

Greg Simpson  55:52
Absolutely.

 

Richard Johnson  55:53
Actually me and Dave talked about it the other day, I've run big teams in the past. You know, these freelancers don't work for us, but I've got a team now of 20, which I can call upon. This is the biggest team i've ever run within six weeks, seven weeks of launching. And they may not all be available today. But I know that if I want a front end developer, I can go and get one. I've got one, he's on our database i'll go and speak to him, we know what he's going to charge, we know his availability, job done. 

 

Richard Johnson  56:18
This is an amazing concept. And that's what we've got to get out to people is don't go and recruit a full time conversion rate specialist, what do you need them for, what's your budget, you can deliver that on this

 

Greg Simpson  56:36
spot on

 

Greg Simpson  56:38
In that case, guys, I'll leave you to get on with the rest of your Monday. Dave, you’ve probably got some washing to put on I think you said, I've got to walk the dog.

 

David Coghlan  56:45
Yes. Well, yeah, the washing is actually already on, I need to hang it out now. But yeah, thank you for that Greg, I really appreciate that and a good chat. I hope it was slightly interesting introduction to what we're trying to do here with the Inspired Marketing Group and we'd love to work with you if you want to join the group. Let us know. 

 

David Coghlan  57:03
If you'd like to work with us. Let us know go to the website theimgroup.co.uk there's a form there get in contact and we'll say hello. Thank you very much

 

Richard Johnson  57:12
Thank you very much

 

Greg Simpson  57:13
Thank you guys, bye bye

 

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