The Six Secrets of Our Success

by Jon Payne

Noisy Little Monkey was six years old this September! We've doubled our turnover every year, without outside investment and here’s six reasons we've been able to grow the business like crazy and not go mad…

We do as little as possible

We are 6 years old

Back in 2007, when I started from my spare room in a terraced house in Bristol, my experience in the web development industry taught me that doing one or two things excellently would be a refreshing change. So, I set about getting people to rank on Google for the phrases their potential customers were searching and ensured their website was ready to convert the increased visitor traffic. Then I analysed the results using Google Analytics and made it better.

That was ALL I did. Get them traffic from search, improve their conversions, refine and repeat.

Many times I was offered good money to get into designing websites or consulting on broader marketing strategies. I was tempted, but I’d have stretched my limited resources (me) too far and not delivered those things at the fringes of my expertise better than anyone else could. If you don’t have funding, stick with what you know, do it excellently, find some trusted partners who you can set up with some great referrals for the stuff you can’t deliver.

We don’t promise to over deliver

It’s a common misconception that in business, you have to ‘over deliver’ on your promises. You don’t. Just do what you promise. Deliver on time and do a great job. That’s all you need to do. Your clients are just looking for someone who does what they say they’re going to do, on time and at the price they were expecting. In the UK and in the marketing industry in particular, just delivering on what you promise will often be seen as over delivering. If you have any sort of pride, you’ll always do that little extra anyway and as long as you didn't let the client know this was coming up front, they’ll see it as an extra special thing JUST FOR THEM. This makes both you and the client feel warm and fuzzy.

We have a plan B

I think it was Plato who said “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.” Although he said it in Greek, obviously. More modern translations have it that he said “You’re gonna fuck up. Chill. It happens.”*

Since you know that neither you, nor the world you and your clients inhabit is perfect, it makes sense to put a process in place for when things go wrong. You may not be able to fix every problem easily, but if you have a process you can get the client onside more quickly.

The most important thing is to front up and get face to face to deliver bad news. Don’t do it in an email, try to avoid the phone or Skype. Tell them what has happened (briefly), SAY SORRY and explain that it’s your problem and (briefly) how you propose to fix it and the outcomes. Agree that this is the way forward and now fix it. Smile a big smile, work all day and all night, hire some freelancers, call in some favours and make it better.

It is how you perform when the chips are down that really demonstrates your capabilities and your trustworthiness.

Sometimes, things might not have gone as well as you’d like, but it’s best to front up even if the client didn't notice yet because…

We are scarily honestHonest

SEO, Social Media Marketing, Web Design, PPC – all of these services are like double glazing or snake oil. To people who don’t have lots of experience, you can quite easily pressure / scare them into buying your service or make outlandish claims which have no basis in truth or your experience.

I wanted to be able to sleep at night and not have to check that my clients haven’t been penalised by Google at the start of every day. This meant I had to tell them truthfully how I planned to achieve their goals and tell them what might work and what might not. I had to tell them what might work in the short term, but this short term stuff might be detrimental to their business in the long term and that they should really look to the long term results. I had to use words like “might” not “will” because I can only see correlative data not necessarily causative data…

This scrupulous honesty isn't totally a USP (see TAGFEE), but it does help set us apart from other midsize online marketing agencies who seem to claim it’s smoke and mirrors. This honest approach has led us to develop more sales too – We go out and teach SMEs and Start Ups about how to do digital marketing based on the lessons we've learned over the years and many of them have become customers or referred customers to us.

Our honesty in how digital marketing works, the tools we use and our pricing structure made it easier to sleep at night and also helped with the next secret…

We don’t discount to win business

People who want the cheapest are rarely interested in good value. They’re interested in a quick fix. If you want people to value your product or service, you have to value it yourself. Plus, doing a few things excellently and delivering what you promise means that your customers will value what you do and tell their mates who are buying cheap to stop wasting their money and buy something that works. Well, that’s how it seems to work for Noisy Little Monkey anyway.

Right from the start, I surrounded myself with people better than me

Thinking back to that spare room in 2007, it was just me and 7 years of experience. The online world moves too fast for just one man to keep up (even one as talented, good looking and humble as me). Thankfully I stumbled across some really useful people and resources to use for research or ask questions of in the early days.

Distilled’s conferences were and are awesome (a word they use a lot themselves at the conferences, even though it sounds wrong in a slightly posh English accent – I’m looking at you Will and Duncan) and I’d recommend their Distilled U online resources to anyone… We use them for our new hires.

Moz proved invaluable, particularly their Beginner’s Guide To SEO (new hires again), White Board Fridays and their YouMoz section.

Following those two brands (along with Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, Tom Critchlow, Sam Crocker, Martin MacDonald, Ian Lurie, Matt Cutts and more recently Peter Myers and Jennifer Sable Lopez) was inspirational and my twitter feed was always full of useful / funny / controversial stuff.

Noisy Little Monkey also has the right people on the bus (hat-tip to Tom Critchlow at a conference for putting me on to Good to Great) and some of them are still here!

the noisy little monkey team

Sophie was first aboard, arriving once a week to deliver tea, sympathy and marketing / admin and was followed by a number of equally clever people, so now we’re able to offer the more complete service which our clients are ask for.

After Sophie came Nicola who does organisation and finance, which are my biggest failings. Natasha came on board bringing design sophistication and a love of images, Sallyanne brings elegant composition and psychology, Josh has the ability to instantly don a client persona and share brand messages while Luke has been coding mobile apps since he was in the crib.

By surrounding myself with people better than me, we’re able to offer a broad range of complimentary digital marketing services in house and because the team we have are clever, bright and eager to learn, we’re able to do it all excellently… which has always been my aim.

Thanks to all the clients, friends and collaborators who've helped Noisy Little Monkey come this far… If you want to be part of the journey for the next 6 years, we'd love to hear from you.

*I know Plato didn’t say this and I know that even if he did, it wouldn’t translate as I describe but it made me laugh when I typed it.

“I am 6” image courtesy Leo Reynolds:

"honest" image courtesy Danielle Scott:


Jon Payne
Jon Payne

Founder and Technical Director of Noisy Little Monkey, Jon blogs about SEO and digital marketing strategy.

Meet Jon Payne

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