Brighton SEO Fireside Chat with Mark Wright – Winner of The Apprentice 2015

In part 2 of our Brighton SEO blog post, we focus on the final half hour session – dubbed the ‘Fireside Chat’. This was set aside for Brighton SEO organiser Kelvin Newman to interview the winner of this year’s The Apprentice Mark Wright,now CEO of search marketing agency Climb Online.

To put the talk into context, Mark had been subjected to a fair bit of criticism since the airing of the Apprentice final from many within the SEO industry, particularly for some of the bold claims he made during the show despite having relatively limited experience working for another agency. For those who do SEO day-in, day-out, it was clear to see that Mark was very much able to sell the service to customers, but that perhaps his implementation knowledge was lacking somewhat.

In an interesting and varied chat, Mark was able to cope well when questioned about how he was perceived in the industry, commenting about one particular tweet which had been made that day which said:

“I see @Mark_E_Wright is in the building. That takes the count of SEO experts at #brightonSEO from 1700 to, well 1700 :P”

However, he quickly quashed the idea that he was trying to perceive himself as an “SEO expert”, and was honest enough to say that he has had to learn a lot in a short space of time, especially from the employees he had recruited so far. He emphasised his love for SEO, and then said that he was keen to show the industry in a better light than it is sometimes seen by outsiders.

Mark went on to give some fascinating insight around the Apprentice process. Some of the highlights included:

• He stated that his original business idea was more based around web domains (think Go Daddy etc) with some PPC-related services, yet he was asked to develop this further by the show’s producers; only then did he include the SEO elements of his business proposal

• He talked about the auditioning process, stating that thousands of candidates worked their way up a multi-story building, completing different tasks and being whittled down each time until the final auditionees reached the top-floor. As a final challenge they were made to put together large pieces of IKEA furniture in 20 minutes to see how well they would work as a team under pressurised circumstances

• The producers had to work with Mark and Lord Sugar to find a way to explain SEO quickly and easily to the wider public; they found that the infamous phrase “getting up the pecking order” was the best way to do this based on the programme’s market research

• Mark now works in the same building in Essex as a number of other Apprentice winners, including inventor Tom Pellereau, recruitment consultant Ricky Martin and cosmetic skincare expert Doctor Leah. He has subsequently found it difficult to attract people to come and work at these offices given its location away from the capital

• He never expected the unprecedented number of enquiries he would get following the show, and that his philosophy around giving clients a “personal account manager service” has been severely stretched. He called winning the show “a blessing and a curse” because of the huge amount of PR it generated

Overall it seemed like Mark Wright was able to change the perceptions of many of the SEO’s attending the final session of the day, especially after giving such an honest, behind-the-scenes account of how the programme works when the cameras aren’t rolling. I think everyone in the industry will be keen to keep an eye on how Climb Online perform in relation to many of its already well-established competitor agencies.