Sensis’s digital services agency, Found has signalled it is on a major new business push, targeting small to medium enterprises (SMEs) which it claims are being “under-serviced” by major media and digital agencies.
Over the past 12 months, Found, under former Mediacom Melbourne boss Peter Barrie, has been quietly ramping up Sensis’s digital offering creating an agency trading desk and expanding its products to cover not only strategy, search and social media but also launching a new analytics platform aimed at helping SMEs to generate leads.
Barrie: smaller clients are being under-serviced by major agencies.
Found currently has 40 staff but Barrie today indicated he was looking to expand on the back of Sensis’s 300,000 plus SME customer base. “I spent some time when I first joined Sensis over in Canada where their Yellow Pages has a huge agency called Mediactive, with more than 200 people,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of competitors – there are dozens of them – but there is a massive opportunity for this business (Sensis) and we are on a growth trajectory, and at Found I couldn’t think of another agency that has grown as quickly as we have.”
Asked if he was seeking to challenge the big, multi-national agencies where Barrie had spent much of his career, he said his focus was on the smaller businesses but conceded he was also talking to bigger clients.
“Right now our focus is on our existing customer base,” said Barrie. “We have 300,000 customers in our business – some of those will spend a very small amount and others will spend a couple of million dollars.
“What I have seen in my experience, in this past year, is that this market has been under-serviced. If you (as an SME) have been with a larger agency, you are just a small…player and you just get under-serviced.”
“Now, yes, we will be able to offer those services up to big blue chip businesses, too, and the expertise we have built certainly puts us in a position to do that, and we are having some of those conversations but this is not the core of what we do.”
Barrie cited the success of Mediactive in Canada, which built a successful model targeting a section of the market often ignored by bigger players.
“Now they have a slightly different model to us,” he said. “But what we have learnt together is that there is this opportunity, for when you enhance data for these small to medium enterprises you can make a real difference to these businesses; there is an opportunity that no one else has brought to the table.
“We have scale in this business and we have this opportunity to bring data to the table – it’s not all-around programmatic and trying to sell them something – it’s about understanding the touch-points of communication and how you are going to make that work for them.”
Found was launched in September 2014, with the aim of leveraging off Sensis’s traditional directories business. Barrie said this traditional print platform remained an important part of the business but that his role was to help these businesses navigate the digital landscape.
“Interestingly, our print product is holding up really well,” he said. “It’s not because of the journalism – because there isn’t any – not in the metro markets (where) there is a decline, but in regional markets, where the NBN hasn’t been a huge success, and (customers) need a plumber in the middle of the night. It is useful.
“What we are open to is bringing new insight to the table where we say, ‘you’re an important customer to us and we already have a fantastic relationship, (so) let us help show you what is possible’.”
Barrie said he would be reluctant to move into traditional media buying.
“We both have our role – we are not a media buying agency, we are a digital marketing agency. But if you are a smaller client in a big agency you have to make a decision on what kind of service you get out,” he said.
“If you buy a lot of TV one of the big agencies is probably your best bet. But where we are specialising is the data and analytics side and increasingly that is becoming more and more important.”