In a response to the shift away from in-person marketing and networking events, Harrogate-based PR agency Appeal and sister company GBM, which specialises in international marketing, have launched a new digital lead generation division, GBMLeads.

The move follows a number of digital marketing contract wins for GBM during lockdown that shifted the firm’s focus from delivering in-person trade missions between the UK and USA, to driving digital sales campaigns for the same companies which were left without avenues to sell their products and services overseas.

Appeal found that many of its UK B2B clients also needed to find innovative ways of generating new business leads and were looking for digital techniques to use in the domestic market to replace networking activities.

“Like many businesses, we were forced to look hard at our business model in March, and we focused on the digital services and lead generation offering we have been using for clients for a while, and invested in further developing these services during lockdown,” said Paul Snape, founder.

Like many agencies, GBM and Appeal lost a significant proportion of their pipeline of business when the pandemic struck in February. They pivoted to replace the lost business and ensure their offering was relevant, regardless of the lockdown and travel restrictions that might be in place for some time.

The £500,000 turnover agencies have won over £150,000 in new business since April, with over 75% of new business driven by a need to maintain B2B sales despite the absence of trade shows and networking events.

“It was quickly obvious that our international export work and trade mission activity was going to be challenging during the pandemic, and we worked seven days a week to win contracts to replace the lost pipeline, using our own methods and services to help ourselves pivot into new markets and start new relationships,” Snape added.

Since May, the team has won contracts in the USA, Germany, Holland and the UK, across sectors as varied as private equity, food manufacturing, oil and gas, software and IT services.

“As we work closely with bodies such as DIT, we knew that companies were keen to keep international sales pipelines open despite travel restrictions and cancelled events, but we also found that our existing local clients had lost their opportunities to sell within the region and the UK, and we’re helping them to keep sales leads flowing as well.

“People in many sectors want targeted ways to maintain networking and sales opportunities, wherever they are, and whatever product or service they sell, and with the launch of the new division we’re able to help them do that online at a time when they are unable to meet their potential customers in-person,” concluded Snape.

After a static year of revenue in 2020, the agencies are aiming to grow fees by 25% in 2021, and plan to recruit two new staff at their Montpellier Street, Harrogate, offices.