2021 – A year in review

We told you tough times don’t last, what an amazing year!

So where did this year go?… Once again I find myself reflecting on what a year it has been (whilst trying to switch off and leave room for planning for next year). So yes, bad news, you’ve stumbled upon a year-end reflections post. The spoiler to this blog is that StrategiQ had a really great year in many ways. We grew our agency, invested in our people. We reset and realigned conversations on what we do, how we do it and how we present ourselves. 

If 2020 was the year of adaptation, 2021 felt like a year of evolution. As the world and many industries adapted, we also took the opportunity to take stock. By continuing to invest in our growth, employ, nurture and develop the best talent in the country, we can ultimately ensure our services deliver world class results for our clients.

If I’m being totally honest, writing these down is simply an exercise in catharsis. We chalked up impressive figures, enjoying an 8th year of growth. But this is not yet another post about a business succeeding during a turbulent year. Instead, it’s about how this period opened the door to significant shifts in our agency – shifts that will sustain the next stage of the company’s journey into 2022.

I set real challenges this year in training, standards and quality to really evolve our service offering, and while we didn’t get it all right (or indeed done) we really have stepped forward as a “Brand people want to be part of”. Last week a new client told me they “didn’t believe agencies with our expertise and creativity existed outside of London”. This capped off the year perfectly for me as I start to plan next year’s objectives and rally the team to keep working towards our 5-year goal!!!

A few changes here and there…

The lesson I took away for our agency this year is the same lesson we try to teach our clients; embrace change and feed your ambition. It can mean the difference between success and mediocrity. Was change absolutely necessary for us? Who knows. But it was upon us. When we embrace change as an agency, we create beautiful things together, and find new and exciting paths to success.

As businesses began to transition back into the office we kicked off the year by making a bold choice to leave our Midlands home at the Cowshed. This had been our base of operations there since 2018 but we had quickly outgrown the space available. We of course had a plan, and with the growing need for accessibility we migrated our Midlands studio to 1 Mill Street.

A purpose built space designed for the creative and digital community, including all of the tools needed to be successful. A permanent office space as well as the extensibility of hot desk areas, break out spaces, meeting areas and events spaces… as well as a fully kitted out production recording studio. Moving to Royal Leamington Spa has vastly increased our accessibility, not only for our clients but also for the wealth of talent in the region.

We’ve welcomed some new (and some familiar) faces, across both our Suffolk and Midlands studios. Of course we’ve said some sad goodbyes to a couple colleagues as they moved on to exciting new opportunities, but we also increased the wealth of expertise across the team.

Our creative department has grown with the addition of Ian Dance (responsible for StrategiQ’s original logo way back in 2013), Creative Designers Max Buch and Daisy Sturgeon. Long term friend to StrategiQ and veritable wordsmith Doug Smith, took the leap from freelance to agency side. Our clients services team has further grown with the addition of Nathan Young and Sharon Paxman joining our production team to support the delivery of our growing videography marketing offering.

We’ve also had the recent addition of Jackie Bickers taking the position of Office Manager, ensuring the smooth running of our studios and providing a warm welcome to anyone visiting our business (she’s also got one of the hardest roles trying to organise my diary). Arguably the biggest impact has come from the strengthening of our marketing team with some incredible graduates including Imogen Jones and Lauren Grubb.

As part of our commitment to developing and nurturing the best talent in the region we want to ensure that entry-level positions are both visible and provide an environment for structured career development paths and future opportunities. The ‘skill gap’ has long been discussed in the digital sector and is not a new challenge. But we have some exciting developments in store for 2022. These will further contribute towards bridging that gap, highlighting the opportunities within digital marketing and further supporting the wealth of talent in our region… the future is bright.

We also had a slightly less productive member of the team join this year. No ‘Chief Barketing Officer’ or ‘Assistant Branch Manager’ puns from us but we have to admit he adds a little something to the office dynamic… even if that is the occasional crop dusting as he stalks the studio looking for snacks.

Growth…

“The strength of an agency comes down to the people in the team, their culture and approach to work. Team alignment and genuine customer focus are critical, no amount of skill or expertise will trump culture. StrategiQ have a winning culture and truly love seeing their clients succeed – you can feel it.” – Will Anderson, Featurespace

Culture is a huge focus here at StrategiQ with goal-setting being an inherent way of life at our agency. One of my proudest moments this year was seeing two of our longest serving team members smashing their goals by being selected to present about their respective disciplines at the first physical return of Brighton SEO.

Both Oli and Levi absolutely knocked it out of the park, not only did they achieve what they had set out to, but overcame the inevitable anxiety of stepping onto a stage in front of a huge crowd. Both presented like they had been doing it for years. Let’s hope their new found celebrity status doesn’t go to their heads!

Speaking of stepping out onto a stage. With the return of physical events this year, we were delighted to see the return of the DevelopHer Awards. Highlighting the brilliant work of women in the STEM sector, we reprised our role as lead sponsors with our CPO Sarah returning to deliver the keynote speech.

This year was made even more special by no less than four of our team recognised and shortlisted for an award. Although our ladies did not walk away with any gongs, it was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate their achievements and support the creation of more role models within our sector… leaving some of our cheerleaders a little worse for wear.

As we look ahead to 2022, we have no plans of slowing momentum. We’ve sharpened our axes, defined and trained around data protection and critical policies. We’ve put an even greater focus on personal and professional development, setting goals and putting plans in place to help our agency and team achieve their objectives.

We also have some exciting new appointments already made with some great new colleagues joining us in January. StrategiQ continues to be the agency people want to work with and work for.

Culture & Brand…

For the second year running StrategiQ was ranked in the Campaign Best Places To Work. A testament to the values and culture of our agency, and recognition for our focus on providing an environment of ambition and development. For us, culture isn’t a fully stocked beer fridge or material perks… these come as standard, culture is driven by our people.

Every one of us should share the same direction and purpose. Culture is about our team’s ambition, care, expertise and commerciality, they live and breathe our values and it is our responsibility as employers to continue nurturing and creating an environment of development and progression. When I was out walking one day it struck me that StrategiQ can better reward the loyalty of our people. We devised a plan to inspire and grow the leaders of tomorrow.

We needed strong departmental leaders – not just managers but Directors. They should be embedded within the business, with authority to run their unit as if it were a company within the company. That means being responsible for their unit strategy, profit and loss, margins and overall budgeting.

We promoted from within to appoint Directors in Strategy, Marketing, Performance, Creative, Operations and Development. The response was positive, and I expected no less from our most valuable asset, our people. They can see how this new structure rewards, opens up opportunity and positions the business for an exciting new stage in its growth.

Promoting from within gives a new purpose for our managers and shows everyone else that, if you want to grow, there is a clear roadmap to do so with StrategiQ. It is a fitting reward for talent and hard work, and it is a structure that can carry the weight of substantial business growth in the coming years.

Alongside this, the time felt right to take a look at the StrategiQ brand and the way we present ourselves to the market. More of an evolution than a revolution, we unveiled the new look and feel StrategiQ, showing a sophistication and maturity in line with how our company has grown up over time. Coupled with a sharper and modernised brand we underpinned our propositions across Advisory, Creative, Marketing and Tech.

In tandem with the new branding, we unveiled our new mission statements for the whole company to align with. We’d spent a lot of time soul-searching, debating, wrangling and arm-wrestling in the process of nailing our Purpose, Vision and Mission. In the end, it all centres around intelligent strategy and the way thinking strategically forms a vital part of our philosophy and processes.

Our Purpose

To help the world realise that life is better with a strategy.

Our Mission

To ensure strategy is at the heart of every decision made.

Our Vision

To be the strategy agency, delivering world-class

advisory, creative, marketing and tech. 

Achievement…

Of course it wouldn’t be an agency round-up without mentioning some awards now would it? 2021 brought with it some of the biggest awards our agency has ever been awarded. In March our team were finalists in 4 categories at the UK Dev Awards and were crowned winners of the Best Site Migration, for our work with Reuters Pictures.

It was an honour to be shortlisted for partner of the year by our friends at The Air Ambulance Service, attending their inaugural gala event to celebrate the important work this charity does to save lives. Our Performance Marketing team picked up the silver award for our work with Jacada Travel in the campaign effectiveness category at the UK Agency Awards.

However, the big one was only last month where StrategiQ was awarded ‘Best Large SEO Campaign’ at the highly respected UK Search Awards. We hadn’t picked up an award at this event since 2018 so to come home with one of the biggest accolades of the night was a monumental achievement.

Impact…

This year, we’ve got to work with some really ambitious clients, both existing and new. We’ve had opportunities to listen, learn, leverage, and formulate some pretty cool solutions that ultimately moved the needle for our clients’ businesses. Solutions weren’t always easy or obvious, but if nothing else, we rally really well as a team in the face of challenges…and wind up in some pretty great places!

We’ve landed some exciting new clients this year including Suffolk Mind, Yoga Ed, Featurespace, Hey Girls, Mercury Theatre, Thomson Environmental, Cycling GK and Abbey Road to name but a few. Our team have launched 18 new websites this year from ecommerce platforms to multisite CMS instances, here are just a few of our favourite launches:

Performance has been a big focus for our team this year. With the creation of a dedicated performance team which spans across our marketing and development teams to drive channel and platform performance. With the roll out of Googles Core Web Vitals speed has never been more important for businesses to maintain their competitive edge and provide the best possible experience to users.

Several of our projects and launches have achieved world class results. Breaking records for performance, speed and accessibility. Our work with the Broke Backpacker was even celebrated by The Wall Street Journal for the innovative approaches and results driven by our team of experts.

Whilst we all appreciate winning an award, standing up in front of our respected peers and professionals to receive recognition of our work, there is nothing more valuable than client feedback. This year StrategiQ joined The Drum Recommended, a respected industry publication that highlights and rewards agencies that come recommended by the most credible of sources, their own clients.

Whilst we were quietly confident, we were not expecting the deluge of positive feedback, ratings and reviews for our team. Coming out of the gates so strong with top marks across a range of factors that matter most to our partnerships. A huge thank you to all our clients who have rated StrategiQ and enabled us to be featured on The Drum Recommends.

Looking towards 2022

In summary, we continue to build an amazing team who do an exceptional job delivering our services. We are really proud of our colleagues, their impact and accomplishments throughout the year. Personally I cannot wait to share the results of our Annual Awards. We will be unveiling these at our next Strategy Day in January, as well as the many new and inspiring developments we have in store.

When I look back at what the team has achieved this year I am genuinely proud. We’re continuing to build the business I always envisaged, we’ve grown businesses, created brands, launched websites and marketing campaigns that have delivered revenue record breaking results. It is what drives us, and this will continue to underpin our ambition, growth and success.

We’re seeing a continued growth of appreciation for digital, what we do, how we do it. We’re seeing a desire from exciting new talent to begin and forge their careers in digital. It is these elements that will be our focus for 2022. The imminent launch of our StrategiQ Academy will offer the successful candidates a structured industry qualification and the opportunity to learn from some of the best people in our industry.

There are some additional exciting plans ahead for StrategiQ during 2022. A new home, and  a new way to help nurture and develop the marketers of tomorrow. There could be an event to empower partnerships and collaboration… you’ll have to wait and see. As we move into the next phase of our journey, we are committed to growth, delivering impact and continuing to employ, nurture and develop the best talent in the country.

So thank you to everyone – clients, colleagues and partners – who have continued to be a part of our journey. 

Happy Christmas, and here’s to 2022… we will see you on the other side!