5 Minutes With… Chris Pitt, Vertical Leap
We speak to Vertical Leap’s Head of Marketing Chris Pitt about the search agency’s USPs, the challenges of data analysis, the rise in voice technology and AI, plus the disappointing lack of slides at Google HQ…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
Vertical Leap is the most effective search agency in the UK when it comes to scale and depth. We use data science and machine learning, combined with experience and expertise, to dig deeper, achieve more and operate at a scale that is at least 4x the capability of our nearest competitor.
Our Apollo Insights technology ensures that no stone is ever left unturned when it comes to your search marketing campaign. It collects everything that could possibly be known about your website, your wider online presence, your competitors and your overall market. It combines, verifies and analyses all this data to provide both prescriptive and predictive insights that identify all the opportunities and threats that you are facing. It is infused with artificial intelligence that provides our search specialists with a level of analysis that would simply not be possible manually; more than humanly possible.
It means that we spend more time implementing a finely targeted set of activities that are quantitatively proven to get the greatest impact. We spend more time on the details that will yield the greatest results. We spend more time on what matters most – your business.
For over 15 years, we have been leading the way in search marketing, pioneering innovative techniques that keep our customers ahead of their competitors. Our customers range from SMEs to enterprise-level, including the likes of P&O, Harvester, Ordnance Survey, Foyles and University of East Anglia.
We are part of the Sideshow group; an independent group of 170 staff with an annual turnover of £15m and offices in Portsmouth, London and Bournemouth. We are a RAR top 100 agency and a Premier Google Partner.
What have been the biggest challenges the digital marketing industry has faced over the past 12 months?
The balance between the increasing amounts of data needed to be effective and having the time for analysis and implementation
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
Machine learning and AI are undoubtedly the biggest opportunities. Where too much data and limited resource is the issue, AI and machine learning are the solution.
What is the biggest priority for the digital marketing industry in 2018?
It is the same as it ever us. Proving the value of each channel in its own right and as part of the whole blend. The context changes from year to year, but the priority should always be about the value.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2018?
Voice could potentially be huge. Smart home devices are growing in use, but aren’t yet being deployed for commercial advantage. As soon as Amazon, Google and Apple work out how to monetise the everyday usage of voice, there will be a new opportunity for business.
Otherwise, expect more technology, AI and machine learning. It is the future and the spoils will go to the early adopters. It is no coincidence that the biggest companies in the world (Google, Apple, Amazon etc) have machine learning and AI at the core off their businesses.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, see above. But, admittedly, it is more challenging for businesses to integrate AI/ML competencies in to their business. On that basis (and to bring something new to the conversation), we expect to see a new wave of chatbots arriving on the scene. The chatbots that have been built have been underwhelming – little more than chatty FAQs. What is coming will be far stronger, proactive, intelligent bots that can predict your needs and provide the solution at exactly the right time.
In 2020 we’ll all be talking about…?
Brexit, probably. But also, how quickly marketing has moved to be a more symbiotic relationship of human creativity and machine learning efficiency.
Which person in, or associated with, the digital marketing industry would you most like to meet?
Tim O’Reilly from O’Reilly Media. He is not strictly digital marketing, but does overlap. He calls it right, every time.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the digital marketing sector?
THERE ARE NO SLIDES AT GOOGLE HQ LONDON. I’ve been there. It was a huge, surprising, disappointment.
You go to the bar at the Digital Marketing Solutions Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
I’m T-total, so let’s go with a decent cup of tea.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Meeting and working with huge brands. The kind of huge brands you remember seeing when you were young and that you’ve lived with all your life. To then have them as your customers is a unique feeling.
And what’s the most challenging?
Digital marketing offers huge opportunities, but often you have to walk, then run, the sprint. You can see the finish line getting nearer; and you can also see all the other new tools and tactics available. That can be distracting and frustrating, for customers and agencies alike. Managing expectations and staying focussed, balanced with what else is out there can be very challenging.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s not in the form of advice, but I remember when, having just started my own business (a record label) I had secured a meeting with an industry influencer that could open some doors. The first thing he asked me was what I was specifically trying to achieve and whilst I had lofty plans for world domination, I couldn’t answer his question. Since then I’ve always tried to make sure I can answer that question, whatever the situation.
Peaky Blinders or The Crown?