Alex Holliman founded Climbing Trees Online Marketing in 2010 to express his entrepreneurial creativity. A veteran of marketing, Holliman sought to take what he did best and delivery it to clients in the ways that he sought fit.
Since the company’s formation, Climbing Trees has grown from a start-up online marketing company into a go-to firm for businesses of all sizes.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Holliman. He had to learn how to be a boss on the job and it did take some time to grow his management skills. Now, with nearly a decade under his beat, Holliman and Climbing Trees have hit their stride and deliver curated marketing plans to all of their clients. The future looks bright for the company as it goes from strength to strength.
Between running a full-time online marketing firm and raising twin boys with his partner, Holliman found time to tell Totalprestige Magazine all about his career and Climbing Trees Online Marketing.
Alex, you started Climbing Trees Online Marketing in 2010. What influenced you to start the company?
I’ve never been that successful at being told what to do and I had reached the time in life where if I did not try to work for myself then I never would. The ambition to blend producing exceptional work and having entrepreneurial creativity appealed massively. I felt confident that with hard work, I could realise my ambition of working for myself.
Can you tell us about your career in marketing prior to launching the brand?
I had worked for three of the top five media agencies in the UK and then worked for an entrepreneur who grew his business from a start-up to the largest agency outside of London in the UK. I worked on brands such as Lloyds TSB, Amnesty International, and London Zoo to smaller enterprises that weren’t famous but were fantastically positive businesses.
Online marketing is changing rapidly. What have been the biggest changes since you founded Climbing Trees?
The industry has broadly remained the same in many ways, but the underlying infrastructure has advanced rapidly with innovations from companies like Google and Facebook – so the mobilisation of the internet, coupled with leaps in machine learning and artificial intelligence mean that we are able to offer some really sophisticated solutions to customers.
What is the biggest challenge of owning and running a start-up online marketing firm?
The biggest challenge historically has been how to scale the business with no external debt or investment. The business has been cash positive from month one and grown in a natural way. The challenges that deliver are what the business can afford in terms of outgoings – so the calibre of staff, office space. There is an abundance of things I would love to have done better – but self-imposed financial limitations have meant that the business has been overly dependant on me personally. As our billings have grown, we have been able to recruit staff with plenty of experience that has enabled us to grow with much less dependence on me.
As an expert in the online marketing field, what is your number one advice to clients seeking to expand their Internet presence?
Build an understanding of who your preferred target customer is, then find ways to reach them online – be that through online PR, search engine marketing – paid or organic or social media. Then build a creative campaign that delivers on the resolution of the core day to day issues your customers face.
What is your process when working with a new client to build their online strategy?
We undertake an internal planning workshop where we immerse ourselves in our clients’ business, understanding core products or services, competitors, their offerings, how their business works and any geographical considerations. We then formulate a plan that aims to get them in front of the right type of people online regardless of their position in the buying cycle.
How quickly is digital marketing evolving and what will it look like in a few years?
Its evolving very quickly and the old ad adage of Jon Wanamaker’s, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”, has changed. That said, there is much hyperbole that our industry is guilty of buying into – in terms of content marketing, content is king, Mobilegeddon etc – however, I think that artificial intelligence is much vaunted in terms of the impact that it will have on society, let alone our industry.
There are some themes in digital marketing that AI will affect – such as staffing, computational power, decision making that potentially will be moved forward massively – what this looks like from a client management and acquisition perspective remains to be seen.
Furthermore, quick answers and voice search will alter the traditional search term/position based angle that a lot of search marketing companies rely on.
As an entrepreneur owning a company for around nine years, how do you get the work-life balance right?
I’m totally focussed on my family life, that is very much my priority. I spend time with my sons (twin boys, three-years old) each morning before I leave to work. I leave work to be home for 5:30 each evening and put them to bed. I work most evenings to ensure everything is completed and set up for the next day. I have an internal hierarchy of my aims in life and make sure that as much as possible the life I am living is in tune with that – so for me, family comes first.
What were some of the difficulties, professional or personal, you experienced when starting Climbing Trees?
I think the main difficulty is that I have no experience of building a team or coaching a team. I also had no experience in running a business. So, those two things combined led me to build the wrong team, to manage people in a way I didn’t want to, to sometimes speak to staff in a way that they did not deserve based on the pressure that comes from running a business. I’ve got better, but I try to remain vigilant and have done a lot of work to grow in these areas.
What is the biggest issue you see with online marketing today?
I think a growing awareness of online privacy may challenge the ad-funded model of the Internet and an abundance of sites offering a third way. It’s unclear whether that will be micro payments from a yet founded cryptocurrency or some other mechanism. The ad-funded model provides free search with Google, free social with Facebook but the dawning knowledge that consumers are what is being sold is taking hold and that realization is already being acknowledged with greater transparency from those companies.
Alex, what is a day in your life like?
Usually, I wake up early (see comment regarding twin boys) and I spend time with my sons, getting them dressed and ready for breakfast. Work is a five-minute drive away. I’m usually the first one in the office and I begin my daily intake of coffee. I am either out at meetings with clients or new business meetings, or in the office speaking to clients on the phone, holding internal review meetings with the team and trying to make sure that all the plates we need to be spinning are going.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I once participated in a parachute jump that went wrong,
What makes you smile?
Spending time with my family.
Do you have any hobbies?
Dog walking, sailing, watching Norwich City Football Club.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” – Winston Churchill
“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
Man’s negative effect on the planet
For more information on Alex Holliman and Climbing Trees Online Marketing, please visit https://www.climbingtrees.com