2020 at Unity Online: A Year in Review

23 December 2020

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It only feels like yesterday since the 2019 Year in Review article was published, setting out our vision for the agency in 2020. Most would agree that this year has been vastly different to what we had anticipated – a genuine roller-coaster ride.

With that in mind, read on as Unity Online’s founder and managing director Alex Pattenden revisits the last 12 months for the agency by thanking the team and its clients who stood by them throughout this unprecedented time.

Uncertain times call for creative measures

At the end of 2019, I stood in front of the team here at the agency’s newly refurbished office in Needham Market and laid out our strategic objectives for 2020. The whole team had moved in by the middle of January, but within eight weeks we were all moved out again, thinking we would return in a month or so – how wrong were we!

During the initial fallout from the first lockdown, 40% of our client base were forced to pause activity amid the economic uncertainty. In fact, we received more requests to pause our digital marketing and web development support in two weeks than we experienced in the previous six years of the agency’s existence.

The agency’s Leadership team rallied around to design and execute a business continuity plan that would enable our clients to retain a baseline level of marketing support during the lockdown and not be left short at its conclusion.

It’s fair to say that the candle was burnt at both ends, both by myself and our Head of Client Experience, Georgina Day. I’d like to pay tribute to Georgina’s tenacity and determination to not only help safeguard the future of the agency, but those of our clients too. Our continuity plan was very effective, with 95% of those clients still working with us today. This is something I and the rest of the Leadership team are immensely proud of.

Of course, some industries experienced significant downturns during the lockdown, while others experienced a ‘boom’ period due to their ecommerce possibilities. This resulted in many of our clients seeking to double and even triple their campaigns with us. In addition, some clients commissioned us to undertake hugely complex developments, such as bespoke trade portals to enable their customers to buy safely online rather than over the counter.

Our Head of Development, Robert Moore, successfully on-boarded two new team members into the agency whilst working from home. These appointments have enabled us to handle the increased workload and execute the design, build and launch of these projects with incredible efficiency.

In the midst of this, Robert even dedicated time in the evenings to work on better integrating our systems to improve the agility and scalability of our website design & development as the agency grows. It’s for this reason, much to his surprise, that Robert was awarded with our Innovation of the Year Award.

Rob James, our Head of SEO, and Max Planck, our Paid Advertising Team Lead, also worked tremendously hard on amending client campaigns and messaging to allow for the ‘new normal’. They both went above and beyond to execute this – amending dozens of campaigns in such a short space of time to ensure our clients were best positioned online to serve new and existing customers.

Finding opportunities in uncertainty

At the end of the first lockdown, we took the bold step to expand our agency’s reach. The appointment of three new Business Development Managers, operating out of central London, would help to spread the word of our agency’s capabilities across the capital and the south-east. Scott Barton, our Head of Business Development, arose to the challenge by hosting a two-week residential training course with our new recruits. That was followed by 12+ hour days commuting to and from London, supporting the newly appointed BDMs with their client meetings.

In addition to the sterling work from our existing BDMs, this approach has yielded a tremendous influx of clients, allowing us to hit our yearly client acquisition target in just six months of the year.

I am in awe of our talented people

Unity Online is a tremendous digital agency because it is the sum of the people within it. My gratitude and appreciation extends far deeper than our Leadership team. Every single one of our team have gone above and beyond this year to support our clients in any way they can.

Our success during the last 12 months is largely down to the stability and growth of our valued clients. That’s a credit to our talented team who have shown tremendous resilience to work in (and out) of the office and continue to deliver industry leading digital support around the clock.

2020 in numbers for Unity Online

Although the focus on our core objectives for 2020 was somewhat lost due to events beyond our control, our client experience-led approach meant that we were still able to hit nearly all of them, including:

  • 98 new clients have engaged our services – many with specific and complex requirements
  • Moved into our newly renovated headquarters in Needham Market, Suffolk
  • New sales office all set to open on 4th January 2021
  • Countless servicing improvements and innovations
  • Launch of a content team that is producing 150+ pieces of content monthly
  • 50% revenue growth year-on-year
  • Team growth from 22 to 32
  • Launched the new Unity Online website
  • 56 new websites launched

A celebration of 2020 and what’s to come

On the final Friday before Christmas, the team came together to celebrate the above successes and celebrate those that had gone beyond the call of duty this year. It was truly inspiring to look back on such a turbulent 12 months and appreciate how the agency has emerged from this bigger and stronger than ever. A huge thanks go to Marketing Co-ordinator Rachael Robertson for throwing herself into the festivities as usual and making it a special experience for all involved.

Following the awards ceremony, the Leadership team set out our core objectives for 2021, defining a roadmap for harnessing our talented people and driving our clients forward which includes:

  • Continued expansion of our client base, whilst maintaining our attentive and client-focused delivery.
  • Continued development, innovation, automation and refinement of in-house techniques and processes.
  • Super-slick on-boarding for new starters, with enhanced training programs to develop talent within the business.
  • A surge in regional marketing activity, ensuring that every local business knows who we are and how we can help them.
  • Launch of new in-house services (more to come on these soon!)

A heartfelt ‘thank you’ to our clients

One of the agency’s overarching mottos is that “we leave no business behind”. Our clients are the lifeblood of our business and the energy that fuels our team’s creativity. I would like to extend my gratitude to all our valued clients that have put their trust in us during the last 12 months.

I hope we will be able to repay that faith in 2021, which should be a brighter year for us all.

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and healthy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Alex Pattenden

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