MIKE CRADDOCK, CO-FOUNDER & CEO, KAIROS GROUP
If you’d told Mike Craddock seven years ago that he’d be heading up one of the fastest-growing social creative agencies in the UK, he’d probably have laughed. When Kairos Media began in 2015, it was never going to be more than a lifestyle business. But in 2017, the ambitions of Mike and co-founder Chris changed, and so began a stratospheric rise to the top.
Kairos Group, made up of Kairos Media, Turopium and Kyma Media, now has offices in Manchester, London and Los Angeles, 100 members of staff and an enviable client list full of household brands. So, what’s the secret?
“Initially, we were in the right place at the right time,” says Mike. “We got into influencer marketing early, in 2015, and rode the wave. Plus, we’re the best in the business at what we do. We know our clients and we know our sectors better than anyone.”
Those sectors are gaming, social media and influencer marketing – all things that grew rapidly during Covid. “Lockdown and the pandemic have been good for us from a business perspective,” Mike says. “When everything stopped, brands still had advertising budgets to spend and they dropped out of home advertising in favour of spending on social media or gaming.
“It wasn’t immediately obvious that would be the case and we had a scary week when we had contracts worth around £2 million paused or cancelled. But then new clients approached us and different opportunities arose, such as brands who were planning to spend on events like the Euros moving into the gaming space instead.”
SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY
Within two weeks, Mike says they’d won back the business they’d lost and more. Much more.
“We changed our sales strategy, who we were targeting and our messaging, and we’ve come out the other side better than we could ever have imagined.”
This ability to adjust and adapt to the market is something even seasoned business people struggle with, and at the age of just 27, Mike shows a level of experience beyond his years. “I’ve learnt fast,” he says.
LET IT GO
But with his background in YouTube and content creation (Mike himself had over 300,000 subscribers), moving into a more corporate CEO role hasn’t always been easy. “I’ve had to change the way I approach people within the business and learn to let go. It’s the same for every founder, you live and breathe your business but if you want to scale, you have to get out of the trenches. That was hard for me. I wanted everyone to be as invested in the business as I was and accepting that they weren’t was a challenge.”
Looking back now, that’s one of the main things Mike would change about his journey.
“We lost about 18 months of potential growth because I wasn’t focused on the bigger picture. As a start-up, you’re trying to keep costs down but with hindsight, I should have recruited more senior people at the beginning and trusted them to hire beneath them.
“Getting that strong senior leadership team in place has been key. My advice to anyone now would be to put the right people in the right roles and incentivise them properly. Not just bonuses and pay rises but through equity in the business. That way they’re invested in the long-term success and you’re free to do what you’re best at.”
FIND THE BALANCE
One thing that Mike is clearly good at is leading. “My strength is spotting the next trend or emerging market rather than dealing with the day-to-day management, so although it took me a while to adjust to the CEO role, it suits me well.
“It’s a constant learning curve though. We’re growing so fast that there are always new processes to implement and resourcing plans to develop. Winning a new account means we have to find dozens of new staff at a time and finding good people when you need them is a challenge in itself. So, we’re constantly reviewing cashflow, identifying issues and working out how to resolve them.
“You’ve got to find the balance between focusing on today and looking forward to where you want to be.”
And Mike wants to be everywhere. Opening the American office has given Mike the confidence to expand further and taught him another valuable lesson. “Our first office in America didn’t work,” he explains. “We opened a satellite office in New York in early 2020, but we didn’t pick up enough business to make it viable, so when Covid hit and the contract paused, we took the opportunity to close it down.”
Others may have faltered at this point but not Mike. He turned his attention to the gaming heartland of the West Coast and after winning a couple of accounts, Kairos Media Los Angeles was born. “We knew our offer was good,” he says. “We just had to get it in front of the right people.”
This confidence in the team’s expertise comes through repeatedly and has helped secure Kairos Group a seat in front of brands from Estee Lauder to KFC. And while working with some of the biggest brands in the world might intimidate some, for Mike it’s a natural next step.
“We’ve never felt daunted walking into a pitch because we’re always confident that the quality of our work and extent of our knowledge means we deserve to be there. More than that, it means we deserve to win.”
So, what advice does Mike give to a billion-dollar brand? And are there any takeaways for the rest of us?
1) Get onto TikTok
Once the preserve of kids doing dance videos and funny pets, Mike says TikTok has evolved and brands have everything to gain from being on there. “It’s so accessible with such a huge reach that you can grow five times faster on TikTok than on Instagram or Facebook if you get your content right,” he says. “Make sure you’ve got a lighthearted tone of voice and tap into the latest trends. It’s not just for Gen Z either, the fastest-growing audience segment is actually 35-44-year-olds. But take advantage now, before it gets too saturated.”
2) Content is king
Still the most powerful platform for driving engagement and interaction, Mike says brands on Instagram have a huge potential audience. Content is key though, and on Instagram, you need a lot. “2-3 feed posts, a couple of stories and 3-4 reels every week is the sort of level you need to be looking at to grow,” he says. “Get that formula right and you’ve got the potential to get in front of a lot of people.”
3) Facebook is for food
Not only food, but Mike says it’s certainly true that food and restaurant content, as well as mobile games, perform especially well on Facebook. Don’t try and talk to a younger demographic on there though, you’ll struggle to reach many people under the age of 25.
4) Quickfire news
It may feel like Twitter has fallen out of favour in recent years but Mike says that when used properly, it remains a powerful news platform. “Tweets disappear out of your followers’ timelines quickly so you need to post regularly. News and trends work best.”
5) Doing business
Mike isn’t a fan of brands on LinkedIn but concedes that when it comes to business to business, it’s the best platform out there. “LinkedIn should be about sharing knowledge,” he says. “Keep it professional with thought-leadership pieces or posts about the latest news and trends.”
Whatever the platform, the message is clear – if you want to grow, embrace social media. “Any brand that doesn’t have a social-first policy is being left behind,” says Mike.
Mike’s story demonstrates the power of believing in your abilities. The confidence with which he has navigated the early days of business ownership, steering Kairos Group to greater and greater heights, is nothing short of inspiring.
Yes, there have been challenges, but a combination of clear-thinking and unwavering trust in himself and his team has enabled him to bat them away. Look up ‘Kairos’ and you’ll find it defined as ‘the opportune moment’. Look up Mike and you might just find it defined as success.
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