The Internet shrunk the world, and in doing so, had a massive effect on the tourism industry.
From the way travellers obtain information to how companies present and market travel services, the tourism industry has been disrupted down to its very roots.
Such large-scale disruptions directly affected marketing agencies as well, especially those playing in the highly-competitive field of tourism marketing.
These companies had a choice: they either evolved, or they died.
Australian marketing agency WOOF Media chose to evolve by bringing new digital skills into the business, with new partner and digital expert Peter Freeman joining in 2012..
Giving Corporate the Flick
Peter had built up a very strong technology and customer service background after spending a decade in government and enterprise IT.
Once he and his wife had twins, he decided to use all the vacation time he had saved up and took a year off.
Having always had an interest in web design and marketing, Peter decided to pursue web design and development during that time.
He eventually ended up collaborating with WOOF Media’s precursor, WOOF Design & Print, who at the time was just starting to expand into the fast-growing digital marketing space.
“Back then, we were getting a lot of inquiries about websites and digital marketing,” remembers Peter.
“Eventually I got to the point where the growth prospects for digital marketing became more interesting and exciting for me. One thing led to another and I joined the company as a partner instead of going back to my corporate job.
“I gave the corporate life the flick and dove head-first into small business.”
Going All In on Tourism
With Peter in the mix, the company started focusing on digital marketing in earnest. They quickly evolved from a design and print agency that sometimes did digital work into a full-fledged, full-stack digital marketing firm and officially changed their name to WOOF Media.
They didn’t forget their print roots, however. As Peter points out, WOOF Media still does a lot of traditional print-based jobs; digital’s just become a much larger focus to align with client demand.
A short time after Peter joined as partner, the company underwent another big change.
“My wife’s from Canada,” Peter explains, “so about four years ago we decided to move there to be closer to family.
“Since my move to Canada meant we’d have a distributed team, it also started what would be our journey to focus solely on tourism and expand our client base beyond just our local area,” he says.
“Since the company began in 2001, a large percentage of our clients were from the tourism industry.
“We did a lot of work for small destinations and tourism operators; visitor guides, print marketing brochures, websites, branding and so on.”
Peter’s business partner and WOOF Media’s founder, Naomi Blacker, has over 30 years of tourism & marketing experience, so the shift to refocus solely on tourism was a natural fit.
Starting a Distributed Team
Peter’s relocation also opened up the opportunity for the entire WOOF Media team to become more distributed.
Two years after he relocated to Canada, his business partner Naomi moved to Adelaide, South Australia
And just a couple of months ago, WOOF Media’s senior web developer also moved from Port Lincoln to the Northeast Coast of Australia.
“We have a relatively small team, but we now have core team members in five different locations,” Peter explains.
“We have a core team back at the head office, we two business partners are in different locations, and our web developer, designers, and social media manager are all in different places as well.
“Rather than let people go if they moved, we’ve decided to keep the great people and create an environment that helps our remote team work effectively.”
The decision to build a more distributed team also helped open more business opportunities since the company has been able to connect with different areas and markets.
WOOF Media has since gone from having around 95% of their clients in the local region of Port Lincoln to now having clients in five states all across Australia.
Staying Connected, Remotely
Being a distributed team wasn’t without its challenges, however.
It can get hard to keep track of who works on what, when, and how and where team members are applying their time in terms of projects.
“That’s one of the areas where we’ve benefited massively with WORKetc, actually,” Peter says.
“We’re able to track people’s time against particular projects and then break that time down by sections of that project or activity.
“So when we’re scoping out new work we can review similar projects and see, ‘Yeah, here’s where we went over budget’ or if I over- or underquoted.
“Just having that level of detail, understanding what we’re doing with our services, whether we’re allowing enough time in the right areas of a project— it’s revolutionized the way we quote for projects just because we know exactly where our time goes, in detail.”
WORKetc’s Gmail add-on has also proved instrumental in keeping the whole WOOF Media team up-to-date on projects, leads, and support tickets.
“We’re so distributed now we don’t have the ability to shout to each other over the corridor for updates,” Peter laughs.
“We have to rely on each other to keep projects updated, so using the Gmail add-on to attach email communications to projects, or creating support tickets or leads, that’s all part of normal practice for us now.”
A Lot of Moving Parts
Having one app that stores and tracks business-critical data helped WOOF Media gain important insights into one of their most popular products: visitor guides.
For visitor guides, the company partners with a tourism destination and handles the whole creation, sales, and marketing process.
It’s not just a simple matter of designing a print brochure, however.
“All of these publications are advertiser supported,” explains Peter, “and we handle selling advertising space in the guide as well.
“So we do the sales campaign, the production & design work, and the digital version…
“There’s a lot of complexity, a lot of variables. The budgets, in particular, can be very variable. Sales campaigns could go overtime; we might need more time to sell.”
To handle all of those moving parts consistently for each type of project, WOOF Media uses WORKetc’s project templates.
“All of the different sections of the project, we divide it up into subprojects,” says Peter. “Time is tracked against each of those so we always know where we’re at—we can easily monitor if the the sales campaign is on track or if the design work is on track in terms of budget vs time and expenses spent.”
And with advertisers involved, WOOF Media also makes full use of WORKetc’s CRM component.
“For each of those publications we’d have anywhere from 100 to 200+ potential advertisers that we’ll be in contact with,” Peter explains.
“We make full use of the CRM component in WORKetc to tag and group advertisers for that particular publication. Anyone who does advertise gets tagged so we can keep them top of mind for the next project.
“This is a huge time saver, and it improves the accuracy of our record keeping because all of that client data is updated in one place.”
Better Decisions Daily
WOOF Media’s transition into a distributed, tourism-focused marketing agency is a success story all its own.
Instead of struggling to coordinate with each team member, they’ve been able to communicate across state and international borders, and track their business data more effectively than ever before, all while broadening their customer base.
Peter credits WORKetc as being instrumental to the company’s ongoing success.
“We’ve been able to handle more projects than we otherwise would,” says Peter, “just because we were able to get the process fairly streamlined and we’re able to rely on the data we’re putting in and getting out to keep us on track.
“That’s what WORKetc really changed for us. It helped us build out our capability by helping us get better each time we deliver the same type of project for our clients.
“It keeps us all connected, and there’s no doubt it saves us from a lot of mistakes and a lot of missed opportunity costs.
“If we weren’t tracking things as consistently with time we’d be underquoting future projects. Over time, that would add up to a lot of missed opportunities, and missing profits!
“WORKetc is a key system that helps us make better decisions, daily.
“It’s hard to put a dollar figure on it, but that’s really where we’ve seen massive returns on investment.”
And with the business continuing to grow in Australia, Peter is looking to the future to set up a Canadian office for WOOF Media. This distributed team’s success story with WORKetc is only just beginning.