Highs, lows and heartbreak as company looks back over ten years
The highs, lows and heartbreak of ten years in business mean a hardworking Barnsley entrepreneur is taking Covid in his stride and focusing on the future.
Mark Woodcock is managing director of digital marketing agency Bigfoot Digital, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in the midst of the pandemic.
Based at Barnsley’s Digital Media Centre (DMC 01), Bigfoot Digital was established by Mark and co-director Lindsey Watson in the year 2000 and has since developed a UK-wide reputation for SEO, Social Media and other online marketing services.
But the company’s back-story is full of challenges – and was rocked last year by the tragic loss of Mark’s wife, the company’s HR manager, Carmen Woodcock. The company’s current success and recent DMC expansion has been dedicated to her memory.
Looking right back to the beginning, Bigfoot Digital secured a major client at the very start of the business and this account grew in value year on year until the client pulled out five years ago, taking their work to the USA, and giving Mark just 30 days’ notice.
At the same time, lucrative white label work for a web development agency which had gone on for years, suddenly stopped as ‘full-service agencies’ began to take their SEO work in-house. Bigfoot’s monthly income dropped from five figures to rock bottom in the summer of 2015.
Mark said: “We had some amazing good fortune in the early years securing one or two big brand clients and developing excellent partnerships, but then the double blow which hit us when both these aspects of the business dried up nearly finished us.
“We really hadn’t had to market ourselves and fight for business before, but we did then. At first me and Lindsey were stumped but then we made a decision to rebuild our customer base by doing what we know best.”
Bigfoot turned its SEO expertise on itself and launched a campaign to make ‘Bigfoot Digital’ the number one ranking SEO agency in Google searches for 16 major Yorkshire towns and cities.
Mark said: “As soon as this SEO work kicked in, our rankings rocketed, and the phone went crazy.”
Mark says this influx of new leads was the springboard for the company’s current strength with a diverse customer base, which continues to grow.
The Yorkshire campaign was so successful, Bigfoot turned its attention to London and reached the top spots on Google for London-based SEO terms in 2016 which extended their customer base into the capital.
But alongside this success, there was tragedy with the sudden passing of Mark’s wife Carmen, aged 43, in April last year. Carmen was the small business’ HR and office manager and linchpin of its dynamic young team. She had lived with a rare health condition called Sarcoidosis for many years but was suddenly taken very ill with complications which proved fatal. Her death left Mark with two young daughters Evie, aged 10 and Anya, aged 7.
Mark said: “The shock of losing Carmen last year was terrible. For our family of course, and, also, for the team. She was the mother of the business and it was devasting for us all at Bigfoot, as well as everyone in the close-knit DMC community.
“We were at the start of our best-ever year financially when she passed away and several new ideas were being developed at that time – many are now coming to fruition. Her legacy is still with us.”
One of Bigfoot Digital’s new ideas was to launch an SEO and Amazon FBA consultancy service, led by Mark and dedicated to equipping companies to analyse and boost their online marketing and sales. His new website can be seen at https://www.markwoodcock.com Another recent innovation is a digital reviews website at https://www.digitalmarketing.reviews through which the team provides genuine expert reviews of digital software, tools and platforms.
Bigfoot now operates as a full-service digital agency and has just added digital PR to its suite of digital marketing services. It also plans to develop more of its own software in-house.
Mark said: “I’ve been in this business for over 25 years, since the internet began, and Lindsey has been involved in social media right from when that became a big thing too. We are glad we’ve survived the challenges and feel very positive about the future for our team.”
Mark adds that moving to the DMC in 2012 was the best move they’ve made: “When Lindsey and I first stepped into the DMC, the place blew us away. Since then, its community and the business support we’ve gained here, through Enterprising Barnsley, has proved vital to our business.”
During the Covid-19 outbreak, some Bigfoot clients have paused or reduced their spends, but others have come on board seeking to invest in crucial online marketing at this time.
Bigfoot Digital is considered a key part of the community at DMC 01, a digital business hub at the heart of Barnsley’s new digital business campus, The Seam.
The launch event for its expansion into DMC 02, last month, was dedicated to the memory of Carmen, along with Tracey Cheetham, who were both described as two ‘staunch DMC friends and collaborators’.
DMC manager Tracey Johnson said: “We were keen to commemorate Carmen at our celebration launching DMC 02 as she was a well-loved member of the community here.
“Bigfoot Digital has been at the heart of our business hub for so long now. It’s been great to see them grow over the last ten years and we certainly look forward to seeing their development over the next ten.”