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AMA: Barney Packer, founder of Modern Classic Digital

AMA: Barney Packer, founder of Modern Classic Digital

In the digital space, Modern Classic Digital has emerged as a business with serious potential. We talk to founder, Barney Packer, to uncover his startup secrets. 

Hi Barney! Could you share the story behind your company, including the problem you set out to solve and the inspiration that led to its creation?

I saw that a lot of digital PR agencies were charging an absolute fortune while delivering very little. Modern Classic Digital is a digital PR agency that focuses on results, not vanity.

It’s important to start by saying that quantity doesn’t influence success in digital PR and organic SEO. What moves the needle is quality and consistency, and that’s what brings clients the most meaningful results.

From a client perspective, this is hugely valuable as we’re actively responsible for improving their online presence. It means they get value from the collaboration that’s way past what many other agencies promise.

So, that’s why I set up Modern Classic Digital. We take a modern approach, activate our strategies in a tried and tested way, and do it all for the digital world. Simple!

What initial challenges did you face when launching your company, and how did you overcome them?

Like many small companies, it took a couple of months to build a range of case studies that proved just how good we were. I’d worked at various agencies before and did great work, but people weren’t interested in that; they wanted to see what Modern Classic could do.

Overcoming that was a really enjoyable process. I called my favourite local businesses and offered discounted services that they just couldn’t turn down. We ran no-risk strategies that required a very small investment for a huge payoff. Needless to say, it was pivotal to us creating a compelling range of case studies to win new clients.

Could you tell me a bit more about your team, and how you've grown the business?

We’re a small remote working team and that helps us to stay creative while still being able to offer an ultra-competitive pricing model. We come to the end of our first year in January, and it has been unforgettable.

Like all startups, it’s been a rollercoaster of ‘what-ifs’.

But we’re finishing the year on a real high. I always feel so proud when I look at our range of truly amazing clients. We genuinely care about them and deliver great results that make us proud. It’s a real buzz.

What are the metrics that you never take your eye off and why?

The ‘bottom line’ metric at Modern Classic is how keywords have changed for our clients over the month. We know how valuable it is to rank well for top keywords, so this is what it all comes down to.

On average, about 30% to 40% of all search volume for a keyword is taken by the first organic result on Google.

That’s a business-changing amount of traffic up for grabs, especially if a smaller website can win that spot!

So, as long as we see keywords improving, then we know we’re moving our clients in the right direction. Needless to say, many other KPIs show this, but we can’t share all of our secrets!

What are your thoughts on fundraising?

Modern Classic Digital is a completely self-funded agency and I’m hugely proud of that. This first year has been a year of driving growth while limiting overheads, and being a remote agency has helped that massively.

If we were to invest in office costs and other luxuries then we’d be in a completely different place. Taking this streamlined approach for our early years is key to successful growth and achieving more for our clients.

How do you manage your cap table? Is a share scheme something you're thinking about?

As the sole shareholder of Modern Classic Digital, there’s a big weight to carry on my shoulders. Over time it would be great to introduce new talent to the table, but these are steps that require patience. From where I’m sitting, we’re looking good as we are.

There’s no share scheme in place currently but might be something we consider in the future.

Diversity and inclusion is essential in today's business world. How does your startup promote both?

Our sole focus is getting either the best people for the job or the people with the most potential and drive. We want to create an agency that provides opportunity and growth while being as inclusive as possible.

Once again, our remote working structure empowers that ideology and will help us scale with the nation’s best talent.

Digital PR doesn’t require university-level training, nor does it require financial backing. If someone looks good for the role, we know we can train them in-house and get their digital PR and organic SEO skills going. It means that we can be an agency that’s diverse and inclusive by nature.

Do you have a favourite motivational quote or mantra that keeps you inspired on tough days? If so, what is it?

It’s not a motivational quote, but a motivational picture! I keep a photo of the artist, Isamu Noguchi, on my desk. In the photo, he’s sitting on a cliffside with his arms outstretched and looking very at peace with the world.

For me, this photo speaks a thousand words. I find the feeling of tranquillity inspiring. It’s a calming presence on an often busy day.

What's the most unusual or surprising productivity hack or ritual you've come across in your career or among your team?

Learn to be ‘unproductive’. The reason I put that in quotes is because it’s the idea of being unproductive with the goal of a productive outcome.

Play is good for humans and helps us detach from the very clinical way of thinking professionally. Mess around, be a bit silly and let your mind wander - good things will come. After all:

Great ideas are never born in a meeting room!

Oh, and don’t forget to switch your phone off once in a while. Phones have a habit of triggering envy instead of creativity. We want to pioneer new and exciting ideas, not old ones that have been rehashed a hundred times.

That’s great advice, Barney! Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom. 

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