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Episode 18 – Becky Simms – Reflect Digital

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Episode 18 – Becky Simms – Reflect Digital

Chris Simmance (00:39.871)

Thanks, VoiceOver Guy, and I’m really pleased to have Becky Sims back on the podcast today. Becky from Reflect Digital, how are you doing?

Becky Simms (00:46.478)
I’m very well, I’m very pleased to be back and thank you for having me.

Chris Simmance (00:49.855)
We are here today to reflect on the last year, which I think is really apt for the name of the agency that I know you from and also love. But those of you who can’t see because of audio podcast, you will notice that, I will notice, I do notice that Becky is in a fantastic backdrop now because her great colleague, Gary has set up a whole…

Becky Simms (00:58.67)
I’m going to go to bed.

Chris Simmance (01:18.521)
suite of all sorts of cool tools and things like that. And so we’re going to release this as a video portion of the podcast for a change, just to see what it looks like, get some extra click throughs and stuff like that. I’ll give you a report at the end, Becky.

Becky Simms (01:21.742)

Becky Simms (01:32.258)
Amazing, look forward to it. Yeah, it feels a lot more high tech than me normally sitting just at my laptop and hoping for the best.

Chris Simmance (01:40.543)
It’s great. Thank you very much for coming back on. I know how busy and how many things have gone on in the last year and obviously we’ll touch on that shortly. But for those of you who live under a rock and have no idea who Becky Sims is and what you do, would you mind giving us a wee mini intro into yourself?

Becky Simms (01:49.294)

Becky Simms (01:59.438)
Yes, definitely do that. So I’m founder and CEO here at Reflect Digital. We are a performance marketing agency and we unleash potential by bringing the art of marketing with behavioral science together. So that’s us. We also now own Lab Agency, which some people might have heard of before, and have rolled that into a new vision called the Human First Collective. So lots has been going on since we last spoke.

Chris Simmance (02:28.671)
Human First Collective, I love that. So just give me a little bit of a background. That’s a lot. You’ve just literally told us probably about two hours worth of podcast recording. So Purchase Lab, how’s this worked?

Becky Simms (02:37.886)

Becky Simms (02:46.702)
Yes, yeah, it’s so we used to be in the lab group. So we joined back in 2019. And with a big vision to create a group founded on human behavior. We had over the years got to I think, five different agencies in that group. But it was unfortunate timing lab group started just like the September prior to COVID hitting some of the agencies did really well.

Chris Simmance (02:51.423)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (03:05.255)

Becky Simms (03:14.734)
some didn’t do so well as is the story across the industry, I think, from that time. We were one of the agencies that was doing particularly well once everyone kind of turned to digital marketing as their answer to getting through that difficult period. So we were doing quite well. And there was a vision to try and go and get private equity.

Chris Simmance (03:16.659)

Chris Simmance (03:28.255)

Becky Simms (03:39.182)
investment and to grow the group. And actually there were two really strong opportunities that happened back in 2022 that didn’t come off again, because I think even when you’re having those kinds of conversations at the moment, like they can fall apart in a second just because someone’s changed direction or whatever. And anyway, there is there really is. And with that then not happening, the group then kind of the vision had dropped away. So we actually stepped out of the group beginning of last year. Well,

Chris Simmance (03:54.591)
Yeah, there’s a lot going on.

Becky Simms (04:08.446)
legals probably was middle of last year just because the vision wasn’t quite there and actually for the direction that we wanted to go and for our own stability it made sense to kind of part ways which all of the agencies ended up doing leaving the original lab agency and because it had been a really tough time it got to the point where actually the vision for lab wasn’t quite there anymore.

Chris Simmance (04:08.447)

Chris Simmance (04:20.223)

Becky Simms (04:33.24)
And we were able to take the team and the clients and to roll that into a new lab agency under Reflect, which actually then it all happened very quickly actually. So we then needed a bit of time to think about what that looked like. So we’ve literally in the last couple of weeks launched the Human First Collective as the vision of actually where the two businesses sit and how they sit next to each other, support each other, work together. But it’s two agencies founded on…

Chris Simmance (04:33.471)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (04:48.071)

Becky Simms (05:01.934)
humans, first of all, be that our team, our clients, our clients, clients, the audiences that we serve. But also two brilliant teams that have been working together really well for the last four or five years, lots of joint clients, so lots of fantastic clients that have supported us in the decisions that we’ve made going forward. And it’s a really exciting time.

Chris Simmance (05:04.775)
Mm -hmm.

Chris Simmance (05:24.991)
You’re in the most tumultuous time when these sorts of things happen, because plenty of stuff happens in the background. Obviously, lots of decisions and different ideas popping in and all that sort of stuff. Loads of different things that you can and can’t control, so to speak. But human first, we certainly need a little bit of that these days in the world, I think.

Becky Simms (05:33.108)

Becky Simms (05:47.384)
100%. And to be honest, like it’s always how I’ve run things. Like I’m a very, I’m a very emotional human person and very connected to our team. One of our values at Reflect has always been that we’re a family, which either gets people really riled and they go, you can’t be a family if you’re a business or they get it. And hopefully more people get it than they’re not in that.

Chris Simmance (05:51.859)

Chris Simmance (05:55.967)

Becky Simms (06:10.178)
We’re not more important than people’s families. We’re just the way we support each other, work together, the way we want each other to be the best we can be is right at the heart of our values in the way that you would support those that are part of your family. And being able to bring that into the lab agency now as well is super exciting. We had a team day a couple of weeks ago with all 50, I think there’s 55 of us now together, which was just crazy.

Chris Simmance (06:36.295)
Oh crikey!

Becky Simms (06:38.67)
So my head count has suddenly gone off. It’s, yeah.

Chris Simmance (06:41.887)
Did you have any typical family style arguments over the dinner table?

Becky Simms (06:48.558)
We didn’t, we did have though, which probably some people found cringier than others, we did have a birthday party. So we had a child’s birthday party as part of our team day, which some people wanted to hide and find the bar because this was pre -alcohol and some people were just embracing it. I was one of those embracing it. But yeah, no, it was good fun. It was very silly. Nice to be a child again.

Chris Simmance (06:59.773)

Chris Simmance (07:09.855)
Lovely. Yeah, and you said a lot a minute ago about vision, and I think that vision is vital to almost any business’s direction and planning and things like that. The issue, obviously, in the real world is that you can’t control things outside of the organization, and that’s where things have to change at some points. And I guess from…

a reflector point of view and from where you are now. There’s probably been a few times where the visions tweaked and changed and weaved a little bit with the times. And the keeping to the human and the behavioral aspects of things has probably tided you over quite well over the last few years at least.

Becky Simms (07:56.96)
Definitely, and I think it’s so true. You can write any vision down, you can tell people your vision and then market changes, things happen. I mean, if we were having this conversation this time last year, I would never have predicted we’d be where we are now because certain things had to happen for this to have been able to be possible and lots of things that weren’t in our control.

Chris Simmance (08:12.767)

Becky Simms (08:20.43)
But yeah, we’ve just done a lot of work on our vision and we’ve done the same. We’ve been working with the concept of the vivid vision and Cameron Herald. I don’t know if you’ve come across come across him, but he worked with Elon Musk and worked on Tesla’s vision. And you basically go through an exercise of writing as though it’s three years time. So our vision is written as though it’s 31st of December, 2026. And you explain the intricacies of the business from a

Chris Simmance (08:29.693)

Becky Simms (08:48.846)
people perspective, a client perspective, a type of work you’re doing, like everything. And you try to make it really vivid because it makes it so much more realistic for you and for the team to understand what they’re shooting for and what we’re actually trying to do and to work out if they’re on the bus or not. Like, are they excited by that?

Chris Simmance (08:54.087)

Chris Simmance (09:00.383)

Chris Simmance (09:06.655)
Yeah. Are you coming with us to wherever we’re going? And this is exactly it. Here’s the book. The industry’s changed a lot in the last year. I’m seeing a huge amount of change in the agency space. There’s sadly already a good few casualties this year, and we’re only in mid -February. But there’s an awful lot of change going on. What have you seen as kind of like one of the…

Becky Simms (09:10.786)
Exactly. Exactly.

Becky Simms (09:28.64)

Chris Simmance (09:34.943)
I don’t know, main sort of drivers of change in the industry in the last 12 months or so.

Becky Simms (09:39.854)
I think the economy’s got a lot to say for those drivers. I think there’s been, clients have been holding onto budget, clients have been delaying decisions, be it a client you already have or trying to win new business, which makes it really tough because then also some clients have been making tough decisions where they’ve been having cutbacks. So then if you’ve been a casualty of cutbacks and lost work, but then you can’t get new work signed off, it’s…

Chris Simmance (10:06.623)

Becky Simms (10:09.39)
It’s been a really tough time and we’ve seen obviously there was a big move after COVID, lots of businesses, in -housing lots of people. I’ve also seen that starting to fall back a little bit and actually creating more opportunity for agencies. But there’s just a lot of caution out there which doesn’t breed well when you’re trying to win new business and trying to grow clients. It’s really tricky.

Chris Simmance (10:19.167)
Yeah, yeah.

Chris Simmance (10:26.975)

Chris Simmance (10:32.543)
It’s the it’s almost like the frustrating end of being an entrepreneurial person, isn’t it having uncertainty around you? Because, you know, I know what you’re like, in that you want to drive things forward, you will, you know, you want you want to run a growing, long term business. But at the same time, if there’s lots of uncertainty around and especially with quite a lot of the agencies that are struggling with either.

new client acquisition, client retention, same with staff to a certain degree as well. It’s all kind of, it’s very hard to see where you want it, where you are really going to be if you can’t control 50 % plus of the parameters around you.

Becky Simms (11:18.574)
And I think it’s where doing those things that we know work that take time, you’ve got to, you can’t, like last year we started doing a lot more in the event space to try and meet with people more, to try and build relationships. And that stuff is working, but when you first do it, it doesn’t feel like it’s working because these things take time. You don’t build a relationship inviting one person to an event and hope that’s it. They’re going to come and bring their hundreds of thousands of pounds to you.

So it’s having confidence that you know, these things do work, people by people build relationships and it will all start to come round, but it’s quite difficult when you’re staring at numbers that you’re not liking and you’re worried and you’re stressed and then you don’t know whether to spend the money on the marketing activity or not. And so you’ve got to be in a confident space.

Chris Simmance (12:00.223)

Chris Simmance (12:08.543)
Yeah. And, and, and that’s, I was, I was about to make a joke about buying a pint of Guinness and good things coming to those who wait, but the, the, you need to, you need to brew a good beer, first of all, because then good things will come if you wait. And so a bit of patience is, is, is essential. What kind of trends are you seeing emerging in, in the, the agency space beyond the, the big mysterious AI? There’s, there’s quite a, you know, there’s lots of…

Becky Simms (12:15.958)


Becky Simms (12:33.526)

Chris Simmance (12:37.659)
agencies kind of touting lots of different things that they’re up to at the minute. Is there something that you’re seeing that you’ve either adopted or you’re driving forwards as a trailblazer in the industry?

Becky Simms (12:48.078)
So I think on our side, it’s definitely video content and content in general. I think search is moving away, like especially seeing that younger audience, they don’t turn to Google the way you and I do maybe. They turn to TikTok first or they turn to Instagram and having that understanding of your audience and where they’re choosing to search and then being there with the right content, which probably isn’t the same content that you’d have served on Google.

Chris Simmance (12:53.599)
I think.

Becky Simms (13:14.99)
So actually you’re really starting to have to think about your audience’s more, the channels that they’re choosing and customer journey, which we’ve been kind of on this journey over the last few years from a behavioral point of view to really get clients to understand why it’s important to invest in thinking about customer journey, researching it, understanding it, and then really using that to fuel your strategy. But I think it’s playing dividends now, especially for our clients that have come with us on that journey because they’re starting to see.

they’re already ahead of the game with the right content in the right place. But yeah, it was the one reason that Gary and Chris joined us and not just to have this nice fancy setup for a podcast. But yeah, it’s because this is in demand and being able to create content for social channels and for different purposes, I think is…

Chris Simmance (13:45.693)

Chris Simmance (13:51.857)
Yeah, sorry about that, Gary. I’m sure you’ve got better traits than just setting up a really good AV setup.

Chris Simmance (14:09.043)

Becky Simms (14:09.71)
That’s where we’re seeing movement at the moment and all aligned to understanding your audience first. It’s not just all jump in the bandwagon. We need to be on TikTok. Terrible idea. Is your audience on TikTok is the first question. And if they are, what is it that they’re looking for and what therefore content should you be creating?

Chris Simmance (14:28.543)
Absolutely. And the irony of that, other than not being ironic, first point is that it’s very human of you to have had that answer. But the irony is that that that’s the principle of marketing in in a nutshell, isn’t it? You should always have been where your where your audience were. And the problem is, I say problem, the value that to be had now is that there are

Becky Simms (14:35.502)

Chris Simmance (14:52.991)
very much more distinct channels that people are at and are in. Whereas previously with Google search, 10 blue links only, and a couple of ads at the top, everyone was in one place, all forced into a narrow block. So it made life a little bit less easy to use the pillars and the principles of marketing when you’re just using a computer. But now, yeah, there’s…

Becky Simms (15:00.18)

Becky Simms (15:15.118)
Definitely. And I think we’ve ended up with so many specialists that we then just end up thinking in channels and specialisms because, oh, I’m the social expert and I’m the search expert, et cetera. And we’ve kind of lost anyone that goes, oh, I’m the audience specialist. And that’s what we’re trying to bring back is because that person should be in all of those conversations. And really it should just be that all of those people see themselves as audience specialists and are starting to think audience first. It’s…

Chris Simmance (15:19.581)

Chris Simmance (15:32.607)

Becky Simms (15:44.686)
I think we got a bit too excited with all the shiny tools that we’ve got and forgot that actually. At the end of all these shiny tools are some humans that we’re trying to interact with and their needs come first.

Chris Simmance (15:54.975)
Yeah, absolutely. And so in the in the last, well, good, good in the last year, but mostly in the last good few months, a lot of stuff’s changed in the in the business for you. How’s that helped you sort of professionally develop in terms of, I leadership and, and business running life and skills?

Becky Simms (16:13.462)
Well, it really has had to change. So I think one of the things when we stepped away from the group last year, we were able to make decisions around, do we want to bring a non -exec in? And I’d done some coaching previously with Nikki Gatimbi and we engaged with her since probably July last year.

Chris Simmance (16:25.171)

Becky Simms (16:35.47)
And that’s been a real game changer because she’s been helping us run our board meetings, running growth planning sessions, but also doing some coaching with some of the other senior team. And I think it’s really, because I’ve had to shift a little bit, as you say, like now responsibility for another agency, although actually one of the first decisions we made in bringing lab into our world was that I can’t be there all the time and neither can Paul. Like we need to set that business up with for success. So.

Chris Simmance (16:58.687)

Chris Simmance (17:03.935)

Becky Simms (17:05.452)
Steve Radjahn was already Client Services Director over there and already very strong like operationally had been kind of running the agency for the six months or so beforehand. So with himself, Mike Steer who head of technical and then we took Sylvain from our team who’d been my other than Paul my right -hand man like we’d always pitched together and everything but we’ve taken him over there to be MD which is really exciting so actually it’s been amazing for me to see someone that

he’s been on our journey for the last eight years and joined us kind of as an account manager, account director, to actually now see him heading up a business that’s part of our collective of businesses is just amazing. And actually to know that I’m there if they need me, but really, they don’t need me. They’re safe hands running that business. And it’s more about how do we collaborate and make the two businesses grow together is probably where our crossover and work together comes. So that’s been really.

Chris Simmance (17:35.903)

Chris Simmance (17:41.759)
That’s awesome.

Becky Simms (18:02.254)
a fun journey to be a part of.

Chris Simmance (18:04.863)
And I guess I often say this, keeping out of your own way is often the best way for your business to grow. And I felt foul of that a few times where highest pay person opinion style type thinking crept in for me. But to have two separate organizations but under a collective arm, it must be…

Becky Simms (18:18.006)

Chris Simmance (18:29.343)
I’m projecting, I guess here, it’s probably quite hard to not want to dip in and talk and see what’s going on in all the areas because it’s just a exciting sometimes.

Becky Simms (18:39.086)
Definitely, yeah, you do have to sit on your hands sometimes and go no, no, no, no, sit back. But it’s I think one of the other things that came as we exited the group, we had a bit more control over budgets, where we weren’t paying towards group teams, etc. And last year, we brought a few more experienced people into senior roles within Reflect. And I think that, again, was a game changing moment.

Chris Simmance (18:43.677)

Becky Simms (19:07.246)
to lift more weight off of my shoulders and to be able to go, actually, I don’t even need my nose to be in that. Like, yes, I might want to be nosy, but they don’t actually need me, which is brilliant. And they’ve got it, they’re under control and they’re doing better than I could do being there. So that’s been really nice is really trying to get those kind of key pillar people in their roles, secure, feeling comfortable that they know what they need to do so that they can set their teams up for success and…

It all seems to be coming together. It never happens as quick as you want it to, but looking back from where we were this time last year, it’s transformational.

Chris Simmance (19:45.919)
Absolutely. And so if we’re if we’re doing this recording in another year’s time, we’re both hopefully in person recording this when in your fantastic suite that you’re going to have additional to this is going to be even bigger. Me a whole desk podcast style Joe Rogan stuff going on I can see. And we’ve got a glass of champagne, we’re only going to sip out that champagne if if something that’s in the in in the vision has been achieved. What are you looking forward to in the future? What’s?

Becky Simms (19:51.854)
I’m going to go ahead and close the video.

Becky Simms (19:56.224)

Chris Simmance (20:13.855)
What’s the thing that’s getting you and their teams excited at the moment?

Becky Simms (20:17.166)
I think the behavioral side of what we’re doing. So like we’ve been making really good ground there and doing some really interesting projects. We helped a charity last year, we look at all of their email marketing, for example, and we looked at all of the ways that they communicate with their audience because they just had their messaging wrong and they weren’t really getting that across in the right way. And to do more work like that, where we can also then really start to see the impact of.

Because I think I always talk about us as the fact that we unleash potential that other agencies can’t because of the behavioral side of what we do. And I want to do more of that because clients come to us because of that sometimes. And then sometimes they go, oh, that’s a bit extra work. Or can you just run our page, just run our SEO or just do this. And actually we’re getting stronger around, you need to want to do this and warrant spending the money on it and believe in it like we do.

Chris Simmance (20:53.149)

Chris Simmance (21:01.407)

Becky Simms (21:14.062)
We will then show you the results and we’ll make it all happen. But that’s why you’re choosing to work with us. So I think this time next year, we’ll have moved that service forward even further from a behavioral perspective and we’ll have some really exciting things and really be showing why that’s different and actually why you shouldn’t run a marketing strategy without that and without that audience focus.

Chris Simmance (21:36.703)
Yeah, and I mean, it’s an exciting 12 months ahead for you guys. And aside from hopefully seeing you at the odd conference here and there, and eagerly watching out on LinkedIn for the next amazing big step that you guys make.

Becky Simms (21:51.214)
Yeah, definitely. It’s been a whirlwind. So I think there’s also some bedding down of just what’s… Yeah. Oh, it really has. It really has. It’s been brilliant fun and just such a great focus for the future of what can happen and seeing where Lab gets to actually. They’ve…

Chris Simmance (21:55.487)
You’re saying it calmly but what you mean is it’s been crazy!

Becky Simms (22:14.67)
that’s worked out even better than we expected it to from how the initial couple of months have started and the support we’ve had from clients on bringing the two businesses together and the human -first collective. So, I mean, in some ways, especially when I think back a year, I could never have predicted where we are. So I have no idea really where we’ll be, but it will be good and it will be fun and we’ll have done some amazing work and worked with some brilliant team members and it will all be good. So it’s exciting.

Chris Simmance (22:43.903)
Thank you so much for coming on again, Becky, and hopefully we’ll have another positive chat in a year’s time.

Becky Simms (22:50.24)
Definitely. Thank you for having me.

Chris Simmance (22:52.895)
In our next episode, we’ll revisit another agency leader and see how their last year has been. Thanks very much for listening.