Chris Torres established his Brand, Website and Marketing agency, Senshi Digital, 9 years ago, having developed his skills over the previous 15 years in various design houses in Scotland where he worked on accounts for the likes of Coke, Nissan and Scottish Power.
Based in Glasgow, Senshi Digital now employs a staff of 12 and is very much focussed on the tourism sector, with the company having developed over 200 websites for this sector. This focus ‘paid dividends’ when Senshi won the account for Gray Line, the oldest and largest sightseeing company on the planet, and they are now established as Gray Line’s digital partner worldwide.
It's quite unusual for a digital marketing / design agency to specialise in a specific sector, when did you take this decision and why?
We have always produced websites or helped with marketing for tourism based businesses. In fact our first client was an adventure walking specialist.
Over the years this had grown to become approx 80% of our client base so 2 years ago we made the decision to focus the business towards becoming a destination only digital agency.
This was reinforced when we won the contract with Gray Line Worldwide, becoming their technology partner for the main business as well as over 120 destinations.
I have built a team of specialist tourism marketeers, whilst our designers and developers have accumulated vast knowledge on how customers interact with tourism brands online. Our client base now pretty much covers the globe, with 70% of the business revenue coming from overseas.
What do tourism related companies need to start thinking about to exploit digital marketing properly?
Whist Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) are still very important, we are seeing a shift back to more localised marketing.
When a travel company develops its own website and a strong marketing strategy that is specifically tailored to their products and destination and that tells a story and sells the experience, they are far more likely to be found online and persuade the user to make a purchase.
It all comes down the the art of storytelling. You need to make it easy for the potential customer to visualise and get excited about your products, which can be done through customer stories and good copy, but the most effective tool is video.
Research shows that the average user watches 32 pieces of video content per month. By 2018, it is predicted that video will account for 84% of all internet traffic. Users process information from a video 60,000 times faster than written content and increases their understanding of your product by around 74%. So customers can click your book button 60,000 times faster!
So how has video changed the shape of Senshi? Have you invested heavily in the production side?
Well, we have invested in a motion picture grade camera as well as things like GoPros – but even iPhones have a place in the mix.
For our own strategy we have produced a show called ‘The Digital Tourism Show’. We have produced three episodes so far to test the reaction which has been great. We are now starting to produce these monthly as well as a daily advice video which will last 30-60 seconds. These will be launching on the 3rd July.
The videos offer marketing advice to tourism based businesses and eventually we will have guest speakers on them too.
Have you opened international offices to manage your clients?
Not yet but it is part of my plans over the next few years. We would love to have an office in the USA and elsewhere in Europe – possibly Italy or Croatia. When we do they will act as satellite offices feeding the projects into our studio in Glasgow.
So Glasgow clearly has an important part to play in the future of Senshi – what is it about Glasgow that lends itself to being a creative hub?
Senshi will always be based in Glasgow / Scotland. I have always found Glasgow to be such a creative city. To me, for its size, it is the most creative city in the UK. Designers, architects, musicians, inventors, the amount that Glasgow – and to be honest Scotland as a nation – has produced punches far above its weight.
Far too many designers will go to London as they feel that’s the ‘go-to-place’. Location means nothing in this day and age. If you’re good and you brand yourself properly you will become successful anywhere.
Tell us about the structure of the company just now and how it might change in the future.
At the moment we have 12 staff plus myself. Our staff consists of a project manager, the marketing team and the design and development team. I myself drive sales and business development.
Going forward I am looking to grow the team to around 15-20 staff, mostly in marketing and sales, while I move more towards a business development / brand ambassador role as I want to travel around the world, providing workshops to clients and non-clients on how to market themselves within the tourism space.
How have you handled the growth of your business? Did you find it challenging?
The growth has been pretty organic. I have a full overview of my figures and I have a business coach who helps to point me in the right direction when need be. Having a business coach has really been invaluable to me!
A few years ago I had to buy out my business partner which was the most challenging thing I have had to face to date. It was clear he wanted the business to go off in a different direction whilst I had bigger aspirations towards the tourism industry.
Apart from that the usual challenges with cashflow and resisting the temptation to grow too fast. I have big plans and can be impatient but I sit back, take stock and focus on the long game.
Your point about having a coach is very interesting, but many business leaders would think that they know best. Would you recommend a coach to other business owners?
I think they are short sighted. I have came across other business owners who do ‘think they know best’ but no one can be good at everything. If you’re in business and you want to grow and prosper I believe you must have a business coach, especially if you’re just starting out
Just like athletes who need a sports coach to encourage, advise, motivate or sound off to is key to their success – Andy Murray would not be world number one without coaching!
Coaching has helped me focus on the right areas of the business and make it the international success it is today. Five years down the line I still find my coach’s input valuable and he is very much part of my business.
Apart from getting a coach what advice would you give someone in the process of scaling up their business?
Know your numbers. It’s that simple.
I have a spreadsheet that I call my Fortune Teller with all my outgoings and sales that I update every day. This allows me to see where my cashflow will be in two years time, allowing me to plan for marketing, equipment or staff.
I can also use this to ‘play’ with numbers so for example I can see that if I don’t win a sale for a year it is not going to cripple the business.