Getting To Know You: Danny Hall, MD, Freelance SEO Essex

Danny Hall

Danny Hall, Managing Director of Freelance SEO Essex, a digital marketing agency tells us who he admires in business.

What do you currently do at FSE Digital?

I’m currently the MD, but essentially I play a number of roles (particularly in the earlier days), such as head of sales, HR, finance, and tea boy! All part of being a small business.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

That final push of encouragement to start my own agency came from a frustration of seeing so many SMEs unable to afford good marketing services, when their objectives were actually quite straightforward and easy to achieve. I believed there was a gap in the market for providing cost-effective marketing services to SMEs that actually delivered results.

As we helped SMEs grow their businesses, this resulted in them growing their marketing budgets.

This enables us to scale up their work, do more exciting projects and achieve even bigger results, but we’re still here for the SMEs that we set out to serve, proving a cost-effective service at our core.

Who do you admire?

I tend to admire UK-based individuals who made it to where they are, through spotting gaps in markets and diversifying along the way. Duncan Bannatyne always sticks with me as he started out selling bread from the bakers he worked at door-to-door. He then bought an ice cream van and ended up with a fleet of them before sitting in his local gym one day and calculating the square footage of the gym and how many members it had, which inspired him to start Bannertyne’s gyms.

Being flexible and always thinking about the next opportunity, I think, is what makes a successful business owner.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?

Looking back, I would have probably been more aggressive in promoting our service, results and self-belief in the first year or so.

We were almost apologetic and far too often we undervalued the work we did. There were certainly some situations where we were probably making a loss and spending far too much time and resource working on other people’s businesses but neglecting our own.

It’s always a tricky balancing act, and one that I think almost every agency has. We’ll always go above and beyond for our clients, and while we still probably spend more time per fee than most agencies, along the way we have learnt where to draw the line, and when to concentrate on ourselves. I’ve learnt you have to treat your own brand like a client if you want to make sure you stick to your goals. Follow the entire process you would for a client – scope out the competition, put a strategy together, set deadlines, and report on your progress, to make sure you’re getting the benefit you’d provide your clients with.

What defines your way of doing business?

Trust and results underpin everything we do. Ultimately, I believe a client relationship should be a partnership and that nobody should feel as if they are over-paying or under-charging. I have (and still do) work with many companies on a basis where we start our services at much lower costs initially on the agreement that they increase as the return on investment grows. Most clients like this as both companies have a vested interest in them doing well, and it’s a relatively low risk decision.

We have a very open and trusting relationship with our clients that works both ways – we don’t tie our clients into really lengthy contracts like some agencies do, and in return, because of the level of communication and results, the companies we work with are happy to trust our advice and direction; giving us the freedom to put together and execute strategies that work.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

My advice to anyone starting out is that there are no short cuts to anywhere worth going. Whatever they plan to do, they have to be prepared to put in the hard work as it’s very unlikely it’s going to just happen. I have met so many people that have good ideas but never actually act on them.

I think sometimes having too many ideas can get in the way – focus on one or two, and really work on making these happen.

You also need to remember that making it happen is only the start of the hard work. There’s no doubting the time and effort that goes into starting a business, but don’t make the mistake of thinking your efforts are front-loaded. It’s not a painting you’ve worked on carefully that you can suddenly reveal to your audience with a sigh of relief, but a live and functioning company where the work is only just beginning! Having said that, the reward of running a successful business makes it all worthwhile.