Jon Lonsdale, CEO at tech and B2B marketing agency Octopus Group, talks about its transition from PR specialist to integrated agency, and shares his tips for team building.
When you started out at Octopus Group, what were your ambitions? What did you want to help create?
I co-founded Octopus 15 years ago with some mates and colleagues from the agency world, when we all jumped ship together to create something different.
I’ve still got the first three-year plan for Octopus Group – a company with multiple ‘legs’ all driving different aspects of PR and marketing for tech firms under one roof. Actually, it’s all happened exactly like we planned, it just took a lot longer than three years to crack!
In your time spent at the agency, what are you most proud of? Any personal highlights?
I’m most proud of the way that, over the last few years, we’ve evolved Octopus Group from a PR company, into something very different. Our proposition is called ‘Brand to Sales’, and it’s about everything we do for clients being focused on helping them build their brand and sales pipeline as quickly as possible to accelerate growth.
I’ve long thought the PR skillset gives us tools that agencies in other disciplines don’t have, and today we’re a B2B marketing agency that just so happens to be built on solid PR foundations. To see this change happen is very satisfying, because it’s taken guts and a lot of hard work by everyone behind the scenes.
How do you build a strong team?
I think talent management is a major challenge for most growing agencies today, and we certainly invest lots of time in trying to get it right – particularly as we’ve hired some very different types of skills in recent years as part of our Brand to Sales evolution.
Fundamentally though, I think it’s about being honest and authentic with your people at all times, letting them be themselves in the office and giving them room and a safety net to try new things. When I interview new candidates for roles here, a common complaint is that they are bored and working on one-dimensional campaigns where they can’t learn more things.
Describe your ideal client.
It’s more of a mindset that we look for. Our ideal client recognises that the marketing world can no longer operate in silos and needs to be joined up somehow. This usually means we get to work with passionate, entrepreneurial people who want to get things done quickly, utilising many of our services and working in partnership to make campaigns a success.
What’s exciting in B2B/tech right now?
I think the UK tech and B2B marketing scenes are brilliant to be a part of right now.
On the client side there are real disruptive businesses ripping up the rule book in almost every category, and on the agency side there is so much experimentation with new tools and technologies to improve the way we work and the results we get for clients. This makes a real heady mix of cool companies and new techniques that make every project different.
What are your professional plans? What’s on the horizon for Octopus Group ?
World domination for Brand to Sales of course! We feel we have an exciting new proposition that takes PR programmes to a new commercial realm and we have big ambitions to expand this further, deeper and wider over the next few years. There are so many industries being driven by tech and innovation, (automotive, healthcare, financial services) and therefore so many new companies we could work with. After 15 years, it almost feels like we’re just getting started.
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