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ThoughtShift Startup Story


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Find out here about the ThoughtShift startup story. ThoughtShift are a digital marketing agency in Brighton. …

Find out here about the ThoughtShift startup story. ThoughtShift are a digital marketing agency in Brighton.
Learn how ThoughtShift came to be and get our tips on how to start up your very own business. Get the low down on our Managing Directors & Co Founders Helen Trendell and AJ Coutts.


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  • 1. Meet… & Together they created
  • 2. What Does Do?
  • 3. The whole team of ThoughtShifters are deeply passionate about working with companies and charities that make a difference to the world and believe that creativity is the key. Our ThoughtShift PRISM™ Digital Marketing Methodology transform organisations, doubling, trebling and even quintupling their size. We specialise in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and provide digital marketing re-imagined.
  • 4. What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?
  • 5. AJ
  • 6. Why Digital Marketing?
  • 7. Helen: I felt there was a big future in the internet. I was working for Thomson’s Directory in the 90s and we started selling the additional service of website listings and companies were like, website? Why do I need a website? I would love to see what those companies are doing now. AJ: I liked computers so gave that a go. Through college I learnt the various bits including website design, making computers etc and ended up helping Norfolk County Council with their first intranet. They liked me so much they took me on and it went from there really until I got a job in a marketing agency.
  • 8. How Did You Become Business Partners?
  • 9. AJ: We first met when Helen interviewed me for a job and hired me. We were doing 90 hour weeks and sat at a pub with a cold pint we thought; “There must be a better way to do this?” Helen: At the time we were also working on a pitch over the weekend for a blood diamond company. We didn’t want to work with an unethical company so we ended up inspired to start our own business, writing our business plan on a till receipt because we couldn’t find anything else to write on.
  • 10. What Happened Next?
  • 11. Helen: Our till receipt plan was coming up with the idea of running white label SEO so that we could build our reputation first offering work via partners. For example we are now working with a diamond company that offers a lifetime guarantee and does business ethically. We knew we couldn’t help them directly but digital marketing can affect change and influence so we decided to work with ethical businesses or treat their customers well. Because we had been working with the blood diamond company when we both watched a documentary showing children in Guana go through the various rubbish dumped on their island for scrap, it made us want to do something.
  • 12. What Did You Do First?
  • 13. AJ: The two of us did planning for six months and then we hired our first member of staff, so there were three of us in Helen’s spare room at home. We both invested £100 each which bought us a couple of desks, some red paint and basic supplies Helen: The room has now been converted to a bathroom so my old desk is now a bath and AJ’s is a sink. Haha!
  • 14. How Did You Come Up With The Name ThoughtShift?
  • 15. Helen: The name ‘ThoughtShift’ actually came quite naturally. Now is the time to reimagine digital marketing as a way of helping people solve real-world problems funded by brands. If you can think it, you can do it and that's our entire approach, we first think of a plan to help our clients, then we deliver it. You're looking at Thought (me) and Shift (AJ) right here. It's all about balance and we're ying and yang. The world is going through a paradigm shift - the internet is changing the world.
  • 16. Why Rainbows & Bubbles?
  • 17. Helen: Being based in Brighton the Rainbow is a significant symbol and we very much wanted to express the freedom in creating our own agency and symbolise our pride in being an agency that is ethical and forward thinking. AJ: Yeah it wasn’t so much a “hey, we’re gay” as a sign of peace and liberty and not being afraid to do things differently. We have had many different logos but the thought bubble demonstrates our focus on thinking differently.
  • 18. When Did You Know it Was Going to Work?
  • 19. AJ: Quite quickly for me and lately I frequently think about how awesome it is. Helen: We really did hit the ground running with our White Label SEO model, so I knew it was a profitable business early on and I guess it was when we started to make a profit in month 4 that I felt confident it was going to work. We have been making a profit ever since.
  • 20. What Makes ThoughShift Different?
  • 21. AJ: We can’t help kids in Guana but we have helped people carve out careers through our apprenticeships. We also do our Do it Different (DiD) challenge whereby we support local charities by running events and using our digital marketing to help raise funds for the homeless or young people. Helen: We have an ethical approach and offer a high quality service that ultimately delivers revenue. We are not about delivering fluffy rankings results. We are transparent and we educate our clients providing free content on our blogs and offering training. We teach our clients everything that we teach our employees.
  • 22. Are You Digital Marketing Rock Stars?
  • 23. Helen: I am a musician and AJ is passionate about music so a lot of our branding and language is influenced by music such as our ‘Thoughtshift Guestlist’ emails, ‘backstage passes’ to our events and our branded flags, which are festival inspired. I think we have let our love of music influence our direction because it is who we are and if we are passionate about our company then it will rub off on our clients.
  • 24. What Are Your Key Achievements?
  • 25. …We also made a popular eCommerce brand 1 million in revenue this year. AJ: 2013 has been a big year. We started working with The Law Society, which is one of the top associations in the UK and transformed 5 traditional print publications to 5 websites achieving over a quarter of a million page views for Gearing Media. However, one of our biggest achievements has been securing our new bigger offices this month! We can’t wait to move in! Helen: We tend to not think too much about what everyone else thinks and just do our thing. I guess that’s just our punk attitude!
  • 26. How Have You Grown Since 2010?
  • 27. AJ: We have now grown from just us 2 to 15 in the last three years, which isn’t bad going… We now have an awesome team!
  • 28. Best memories So far with ThoughtShift?
  • 29. AJ: Our ‘Walk this Way’ team music video was definitely a highlight! We have summer parties and for our last one after some team building we booked into a studio in partnership with Go-experience. We had make-up artists etc and put together the video, It was such a laugh and great to actually be the rock stars we all are at heart. Check it out …
  • 30. Why Digital Marketing Architects?
  • 31. AJ: The digital marketing journey starts with a digital strategy (a blueprint) and just like building your dream house, we believe that our clients need an architect to help them achieve their vision, to take it from paper to reality or in our case a digital marketing architect to take it from campaign plan to customer-driving machine. Helen: Crafting exquisite digital strategies that increase brand awareness, customer engagement and new customer acquisition takes time, this is not something that should be rushed or you could risk burning your budget. The last thing you want to do is end up without having the time to optimise all your marketing assets for search, social and pay per click (it would be like building a beautiful house without any doors to get in)!
  • 32. Tell Us About the ThoughtShift Academy…
  • 33. AJ: I am very passionate about young people and strongly feel that the education system doesn’t work. There are too many young people going to university and coming out with no job prospects. We offer practical training that they can utilise in business. Even if we don’t take on an intern, they are armed with the necessary skills to get employed. I would love to run training workshops in local colleges and help more. Helen: Our industry is so new that SEO and PPC aren't even covered in marketing degree courses so there is a distinct lack of people with search marketing experience out there. Creating our own training programme means we get everyone up to the standard we demand for our clients - which isn't for the faint hearted!
  • 34. What Are Your Future Plans?
  • 35. AJ: When we get a big eCommerce brand like Selfridges becoming a client, then can we can say… AJ: I don’t think we’re doing 90 anymore. Helen: So that’s something, we can lob 10 off a year! …And growing the team to a point that we can have a less stressful life and shorter hours. Helen: Yeah because that is pretty much how we started, to work less hours but it hasn’t quite worked out. Although I don’t know if we are doing 90 hour weeks.
  • 36. What Advice Do You Have for Anyone Starting Up?
  • 37. Helen: It is all in the planning and financial forecasting. We use a custom tool for that. …We use ours to decide if we can employ another person or get the fancy television or Xbox. …If someone took the tool from me I may have to kill them.
  • 38. Top Tip for Website Owners?
  • 39. Helen: Make sure your website is accessible to search engines. AJ: Think about what you want to get from your website. Before you say “I need a website”, or design it, or throw it together – think about who your audience is, what do they want from your website? And then you plan it. So it comes back to the planning.
  • 40. For more about the team, visit our Website: