As Web Results Direct turns 22, we spoke to David Glaser, Director at WRD, about the inception and journey of the company since 2001.
What made you decide to start Web Results Direct and why?
“It struck me over 22 years ago that there were people able to build some really great websites and then, after launch, these sites were considered finished projects. Few people then ever considered website management or digital marketing as the next step. The great majority of websites were built and forgotten, like putting all the company brochures into a locked filing cabinet.
“Having sold my web design agency in 1999 I wanted to launch a new agency that focused on digital marketing only, and so Web Results Direct was born in 2001. I was keen to run the business ethically in terms of the companies we served: no gambling sites, no sex sites, and nothing relating to arms or weapons. By and large, this is something we have managed to maintain over the decades and have turned down potentially lucrative opportunities as a result.
Who were your first clients, and how did you grow the business?
“We had four clients who knew me and wanted to sign up straight away: three of them were hotels and one was a chain of opticians.
“Within a month of launching the business, Steve Cooper, whom I had met at my previous company, joined me and together we formed a great team. Operating from my home office I did all the technical and digital marketing work and Steve did all the hard work looking for new business. I led the sales to larger clients who typically were represented by the technically focused IT team and Steve did the sales to the commercial sector.
“We secured a wide range of clients from very large government departments and multinationals to quite modest corporates but decided not to go on the path of rapid growth but rather focus on offering a service of quality that could be carefully monitored and controlled.
Starting out, what was your biggest challenge?
“During the first few years the major task was not selling digital marketing but rather educating clients about the importance of having a web site at all. Even large companies were unconvinced about the web as being an important channel for their business. Of course, the government was even more resistant than the commercial sector and we had a number of very large government departments on our books and much of the current government website look and feel arose from our work on usability in the early 2000s.”
What has been your scariest moment?
We worked for one of the dragons on ‘Dragons Den’ who was selling up for many tens of millions – much of the value had been generated by the sales from the website which we had marketed for many years. Shortly before the sale the website lost all its ranking on the key search engine, Google, and we had to find out why or the sale could have fallen through. We found out the problem and the deal went through, just!
Have there been any crazy ideas along the way?
We thought it would be good to get direct experience of running a shop and between us we all agreed that we should have a go at running a toy shop. We could then advise our clients from the direct experience of our very own shop. We were very excited to be given a delivery date of all the toys when suddenly this huge lorry turned up and the boxes which were emptied out filled more than half of our office – toy storage uses a lot of floor space! Thankfully the toys were sold, we did learn a lot, but decided running a shop was for clients that had the storage space and not us!
What has been the most expensive mistake?
We had a paid advertising junior manager who was asked by the client to reset their budget to £500 per month. He did not report this to his senior manager, and unfortunately, he reset the budget to £500 per day before going on holiday. The client rang us a week later horrified by the spend and was of course immediately re-imbursed. Fortunately, he had a lot of extra business too!
And what has been your favourite moment?
The best moment has been reaching the grand old age of 21 – it makes me feel very proud to have started a business that has contributed so much to its employees and clients. Most of our employees stick with us for many years and we have a surprising number of clients that are still with us after ten years – we must be doing something right!
Web Results Direct’s First Website