By Emma Robson – 10/03/09 Figaro | Digital
Summit, founded by mother and son team Marion and Hedley Aylott, has grown from strength to strength in the eight years since it first became recognised as a digital marketing agency. With an 80 strong team based in Yorkshire and Prague, delivering all channels ofonline marketing and strategy, Summit provides fully managed e-commerce platforms and marketing tools.
As a retail focused specialist digital agency, Summit boasts some of the biggest names in retail including Argos and Play.com whilst providing strategy and marketing to other sectors including clients ranging from EON, 3 mobile and Microsoft and Sixt internationally. These clients became aware of, and into partnership with Summit not via a sales team but by referral. Brave some might say, but pretty impressive nonetheless. Summit has, in fact, no sales infrastructure whatsoever, but instead relies solely on word of mouth to generate new business.
The Success of Summit
Last year, Summit was positioned in the Tech Track 100 league table which ranks Britain’s fastest growing private tech companies based on sales growth over the latest three years. And all to think that this success has partly been thanks to a unique training and employment programme setup by Summit at HMP Wolds prison eight years ago following ground breaking arts projects that made use of digital media. In fact the business started life and operated for the first five years from the East Yorkshire prison. “I’d say that some of the best people I’ve ever worked with did time here. Many swear that this is the best opportunity they’ve ever had,” insists Aylott.
The Econsultancy Innovation Awards 2008 also saw Aylott named as the ‘Most innovative person in Digital Marketing’. Aylott received the honour for his company’s growing reputation for developing cutting-edge . tools that deliver enhanced online sales performance and for his pioneering rehabilitation work teaching digital marketing skills to prisoners as HMP Wolds.
Summit’s pioneering scheme for prisoners is simply another part of the Summit agenda. The extraordinary system allows a number of prisoners to become full time, tax paying staff at Summit when their rehabilitation comes to an end. Over ten people who have left the prison now provide Summit with their skills on a daily basis in full time employment.
The Holistic Approach
Aylott maintains that the breadth of services that Summit offers is the key to delivering increased client revenue consistently year on year. With their passion, enthusiasm and “Summit Spirit” staff work with clients to offer new product activity and increase campaign effectiveness, assisting at every point in each customer’s user journey. Aylott explains, “It gives us a clear picture of how the different channels work together, whether its search campaigns, affiliate programmes or email strategy. We’re involved in digital marketing all the way from click to sale.”
By adopting this holistic approach, Summit can operate as a full service agency, offering all core channels of digital marketing under one roof. Instead of outsourcing, Summit is completely independent. With their own technology team, the specialist marketing tools needed by staff are available there and then. The marketing team structure allows for full accountability as everyone is so tightly integrated. Not only is this cost effective, but also timely. For the clients, this is a huge benefit. The ‘joined up’ approach and agility with new campaign ideas allows Summit to choreograph the activities and take full responsibility for conversion.
A specialist team dedicated to technology is one of the numerous in-house advantages Summit has. Heavily focused on building technology to support more effective marketing, Summit has its very own marketing suite of tools called ‘Stingray’ that offers cutting edge technology for all clients. Stingray incorporates accurate ‘weighted sale’ tracking across all channels and provides tools to deliver better PPC, SEO, Shopping comparison, and Affiliate management and a host of functionality to provide campaign insight and efficient campaign management. “Stingray is revolutionising campaigns for our clients. We are able to generate more insight than ever before to improve campaign effectiveness and spend more time optimising campaigns than creating reports that are often out of date,” says Aylott.
Portfolio Manager, for example, is a Google API tool which is unique to Summit. The technology manages large, dynamic PPC campaigns in almost real time. The innovative PPC campaign manager uses a product feed to automatically update campaigns across search engines, reacting to stock and pricing changes. A rules engine adds and removes products from the feed and enables the client to filter which products will appear in search, based on sales, profit margin, stock levels or any other business criteria. The technology measures the response rate and ROI of online activity at keyword level and also monitors traffic volume received from advertisements from all major search engines and any sales or leads generated as a result of this traffic. Their close relationship with Google also facilitates the development of new products that are directly aligned with Google’s emerging technologies.
Summit also has its own Affiliate Platform which powers many client ‘in house programs’ including 3 Mobile. This approach has been used successfully by clients to support network programmes where they have wanted a closer relationship with a small group of affiliates or with businesses that wouldn’t consider themselves an ‘affiliate’.
A continuous programme of Research and Development and a roadmap of technology development are considered the key to Summit’s and their clients continuing success. Clients have a strong input into the product roadmap and many new features are developed through the requests of clients. “It’s a true partnership where we continually re-invest client revenue back into improving the technology and campaign effectiveness”, says Aylott.
Summit and the Retail Sector
As a retail focused agency, Summit is familiar with the processes aligned with the demands of the retail environment. “We have a strong retail focus. We are always thinking about pricing, stock, technology, reporting and web-to-store systems. It’s all about Monday! ” declares Aylott.
Summit works with 50% of the UK’s top five retailers, Argos and Play.com, providing power online marketing for the retail giants. With the processes and experience aligned with the demands of the retail environment, Summit helps clients access additional supplier funding from brands and uses technology integration with retail systems to provide better management information and campaign optimisation.
Assisting a number of multi-channelled retailers, Summit offers support in a variety of ways, for example, by offering regular analysis of online to offline sales. Retailers also seek advice on how to improve site conversion, an important and integral part of Summit’s approach to campaign process. To complete the user experience, Summit uses a combination of multi-variant testing and usability to ensure each and every user is satisfied with the service, and is an experience Google Web Optimiser integration partner. “We can attribute value throughout the customer journey,” believes Aylott, “not just the last click.”
The Complete User Experience
Summit’s full service offering incorporating all direct response channels, in-house marketing technology, specialised areas of expertise and conversion improvement stresses how, as an agency, they have come to be so well respected. “Our clients really appreciate being able to hold us accountable for everything we do, and we are more that comfortable with that.” persists Aylott.
Set in an idyllic location, at a Yorkshire farm, the UK Headquarters of Summit allows staff to enjoy the countryside, think clearly and play polo every week. You may question how much work actually goes on behind closed doors. The answer is, actually quite a lot.