Craig and Laura Davidson of Tag Digital
Laura Davidson, co-founder of Scottish PPC agency Tag Digital, explains how exporting has helped her company expand globally and encourages more businesses to follow their lead…
This 'Around the World in 80 Trades' feature coincides with the annual HSBC Scottish Export Awards in association with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which is being held on 22 March in Glasgow. For information on the event, to nominate or to buy tickets, click here.
Tag Digital, a global pay-per-click agency, was established in Milngavie in 2011 by husband and wife team Craig and Laura Davidson.
The company now has offices in Glasgow, London and LA and runs campaigns in 46 countries, meaning exporting is a key part of its growth strategy.
In what has been a stellar year for the business, Tag has secured projects for New York, Texas, Philadelphia and Dubai for next year since opening its first overseas office in LA and has ambitious plans for the future.
Speaking about what inspired them to start exporting, Laura told BQ: “Once we specialised in PPC, then events, we needed a bigger market than the UK! It started with one or two brands, but then we got referred and began focusing heavily on the UAE and US. To take us to about 40% of turnover being international took about three years, now we are planning for 50% next year.”
So, why has Tag’s business model proved such a hit overseas? Laura explains: “Communication is now so easy with online tools – I think even a decade ago it would have been more difficult but it’s relatively seamless now.
“Our clients in the Middle East Whatsapp us – and our clients in the US are very comfortable using web conferences. The US is such a big country so many of our clients in the same company work in different states so a time difference doesn’t faze them and working with a UK company isn’t unusual.”
However, any business that trades overseas will tell you that exporting is never straight forward, and Tag is no different. Global economic instability is constantly upsetting currency markets and if there’s one thing you can’t escape when breaking into new markets, it’s red tape.
Laura adds: “FX exchange impacts us often as we pay in and out across four main currencies. We work with our bank to provide fixed exchange rates and also currency brokerage services to help us maximise this where possible.
“Most of the events we work on are in English – regardless of location, however we often target searches in Arabic, Spanish, French, German and many more. We overcome this by working with local translators who understand the eccentricities of how people search in other languages.
“It’s really important to have good partnerships, whether its translators, an agency partner in China or strong relationships with our clients where we know in the Middle East regular face to face is crucial, but less so for our US clients who work via phone and video calls.”
She added: “Another challenge we face when traveling is the time difference. Right now, we’re working from LA which means we have 12 hours between us and the UAE. This can mean lots of early mornings and late nights.
“We’ve been very lucky as we’re able to leave our UK operations in safe hands thanks to our excellent team who continue to provide top quality service to our clients, which allows us to devote time to growing the business in US and UAE.”
Support and advice can be crucial to helping businesses succeed overseas and luckily for Laura and Craig, they have support in abundance. The pair have just been named as one of 20 businesses accepted on to the inaugural Scale Up Scotland programme run by The Hunter Foundation & Entrepreneurial Scotland, designed to scale companies up to £50m turnover.
Laura says: “We have recently been accepted as one of 20 companies onto Scale Up Scotland, and 18-month programme – which is designed to take companies up to £50m turnover businesses through further globalisation, mentorship and working alongside our peers. We have also had some support from Scottish Enterprise, UKTI and SDI over the years.”
So, after opening a new office in the US and continuing to increase its global footprint, what next for Tag? Laura explains: “We have located to Los Angeles for the final quarter of 2017, this has only increased our appetite for exporting, with the acquisition of several new projects across the US. In terms of new markets, we are getting started with several projects in Latin America, again which is a huge market.
“We are on track with our 2019 projections of £6m, which is triple this year’s numbers – so who knows where we could be in 2022 – hopefully the £50m mark that Scale Up Scotland is helping us towards.
“We have kept a small team in order to stay highly specialised – but will continue to add to this amazing group of people. Staying small and taking no external funding has kept us extremely flexible and quick to react to change and ideas – we want to keep that dynamism, move with technology and embrace automation.
“Most importantly – I think keep loving what we do, working around the world and keeping our clients happy.”
Laura’s top tips for exporters: “I’m sometimes surprised by the lack of Scottish companies which do export – only 6% of companies do it.
“This is hugely limiting, exporting creates so much potential for growth. Of course, you will make some mistakes, but you’ll learn quickly.
“If you can easily export your product then try it. Initially you can set up a video call before travelling half way round the world to do a deal.
“We are still small, but our revenues have doubled or tripled every year since exporting – and are set to triple again next year.
“We are a young company with a small team and I hope other people see how “easy” it is!”