Position: Co-Founder & Head of Strategy
Industry: Digital Marketing
What inspired you to leap from being a marketing executive to starting your firm?
To be honest, it was my sheer ignorance of how challenging building a profitable business is and the amount of effort required. This coupled with the potential of creating a better life for myself and my family, epitomised the notion of pain and pleasure at its finest and is what made me leap.
You have recently switched customer communication from emails to inside a portal where each account has their message boards. How did customers react to this?
In terms of onboarding new clients, we can clearly explain the portal’s communication mechanics from day one. In this instance the feedback has been very positive.
Our current clients enjoy having their projects neatly organised with relevant communication easily accessible within each job card. Customers greatly appreciate the real-time status indicator of the project’s development stage, as they do not need to continuously contact our team for updates. However, in terms of migrating our existing client base to the new portal system, the response was mixed. As we had to move them away from the traditional agency model they were accustomed to, such as phone calls, WhatsApp and e-mail messages, we met with a few disagreements. Although the majority of our existing customers appreciated the new portal’s innovation, some preferred the ability to reach us directly when it suited them. This usually occurs when a last minute request or special favour was required. In addition to this, the openness of the portal met with a certain amount of friction when introduced to our new clients.
From marketing through to senior management, the marketing function within businesses is usually conducted by several executives. As our portal allows all levels of management to have transparency regarding the development of their marketing deliverables, existing clients who prefer to hide the exact status of their jobs from the bosses were very displeased!
The moral of the story is that you cannot create a service that pleases all people, defines your target audience, and focuses on exceeding their expectations – and that’s what we’re doing.
You have also seen a pivot in your billing model from fixed fees to a subscription model, which slides to cater for cash flow and technical requirements. What are some of the positive and negative factors you have encountered?
React’s billing model is essentially based on the well-known and trusted SaaS model, which is proven to offer numerous benefits for both client and React in equal measure. Customers visit our website and choose the marketing service package most relevant for their business needs. Thereafter, we start work and they pay a fixed monthly fee. There are no hidden costs as the customer can request as many marketing jobs and amendments as they wish.
Our clients also have the freedom to upgrade or downgrade between service packages and discontinue service entirely without financial penalty. In this regard, clients can manage their marketing budgets, profit margins and cash flow very effectively with little financial risk.
Our billing model is the complete opposite to the traditional marketing agency model where invoices can be sent to the client at irregular intervals, of which the invoiced amounts may vary considerably based on the hours and scope of work performed by the agency. In my opinion this is a nightmare for budget and cash flow management.
Also, competing agencies bill their clients for amendments to scope beyond the permitted allocation. At React, our whole business model does away with this frustrating aspect hence our tagline, ‘Unlimited Digital Marketing for a Fixed Monthly Fee’.
From React’s perspective, this new billing model creates a positive cash flow cycle for our business, which means we receive payments in advance via credit card. Secondly, with a healthy degree of certainty, we can bank on the likelihood that our clients will pay each consecutive month in the future.
Overtime we gain a more accurate understanding of the average customer lifetime value for our business, helping us to internally manage our monthly expenses and growth strategy with much greater peace of mind.
To add, if we choose to sell the business down the line or issue an IPO, the company’s financials will be in a much healthier position to base future earnings and valuations on. Ultimately it is a win-win model for both React and our clients.
What challenges do you face marketing in an emerging market over an established first world market and how do you solve these challenges?
Tactically, what may work in an established market may not yield equivalent results in an emerging market on many levels. Each market, whether established or emerging, requires adequate research and analysis before developing a marketing and sales strategy, which will yield strong returns on invested capital. However, digital marketing, of which we are experts, does offer some unique advantages. With the advent of this technology, we can target and communicate with prospective customers to a much higher degree. When compared to traditional print, outdoor, radio and TV marketing methods, digital forms are much more cost effective.
Additionally, we can measure the efficiency of our campaigns with greater levels of certainty, which helps us prove the return on investment more clearly for both React and our clients.
Options for selecting modes of marketing and distribution outlets for content is continuously growing with technological advancements. Where do you see the most growth and opportunity in the next decade?
I’m going to buck the trend and focus on the re-emergence of low-tech strategies that deliver traditional human to human engagement, but that can also leverage the capabilities and efficiency of digital or online marketing.
Many of my contemporaries may focus on the expansion of digital technologies, including the increased prevalence of Artificial Intelligence, of which I too agree with to a considerable extent. However, the digital world is generally becoming highly congested with numerous players competing for the same space. This means they leverage the same tactics, making promises that are similar and difficult to distinguish.
I feel this is building distrust amongst prospective buyers today, and as a result people are logically searching for more authentic messages and engagement with real human beings!
I believe companies should invest in strategies that leverage the cost-effective reach and measurement capabilities offered by digital marketing, and then compound this further with the biological and psychological effectiveness of real face-to-face interactions.
What are the top three methods to tracking results in data driven marketing?
Firstly, gain a clear understanding of the average customer lifetime value for your business. This figure creates a baseline that will help you determine what you can budget and the maximum that can be spent to acquire new customers or achieve your objectives.
Secondly, be extremely clear on your actual objective and ask yourself if it can be measured and how. Define what it is before designing and investing in any marketing and sales campaign. Subsequently, draw out the prospective customer’s journey from initial exposure to your marketing messages, right through to conversion, receiving payment and your newly acquired customer’s interaction with your business long-term.
Once this is in place, define the marketing and sales metrics that need to be measured to achieve your defined objective, and ensure you focus only on the critical metrics rather than the superficial metrics, which will bog your team down via analysis paralysis.
Set regular intervals to measure and analyse the performance of your campaigns. Adjust strategies if needed based on the data and not pure assumption. Google’s suite of tools such as, Google Analytics, Tag Manager, and Search Console etc are a great and cost-effective means to track your online marketing efforts. However, you will need to do some number crunching when calculating return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) and your overall return-on-investment (ROI).
Results for video marketing are soaring through the roof over still images, why is this?
This is not always the case as it is very dependent on the situation of the prospective customer viewing your content. A creative still image can be more effective than a dull explainer video. Although I do agree that the general trend online is towards video content, I would still emphasise that no matter your budget for producing a video or still images, take the time to understand the psyche of your customers. After which, you can invest in sound creative marketing strategy that has been thoroughly mapped out for measurement and data analysis.
Recently Google have deployed three major algorithm updates in the last 2 or 3 months. Normally major updates are much less frequent. Therefore, how do you see Google further challenging websites to keep up as the regional and global volume of websites increase and competition grows in the next year or two?
Google is an exceptional company, which holds the lion share of global market share. Their financial pockets are deep, and they employ the greatest minds in the world. Unless there’s a significant economic, political or geographic black swan event, I expect Google will continue their historic trend of continuous innovation and improvement.
Basically, expect the unexpected and do not think of your web and online marketing efforts as a fixed investment, but rather as continuously evolving assets, which should be generating a profitable income. This means it should evolve with Google’s updates as they significantly impact online traffic.
There has been an increase in the amount of regulations behind influencer marketing in the US market. Does the same apply here in the Middle East, and how do businesses know for sure they are getting the actual target market exposure they are promised?
Governments in the region have made attempts to streamline the influencer movement, and there are strong cases to be made both for and against any form of regulation. I advise reading up on the local laws personally and consulting lawyers rather than wholeheartedly taking advice from an agency or an influencer. However, certain steps can be taken for businesses to be sure about their intended exposure. Firstly, research the credibility of the marketing supplier (request referrals, review case studies, and so forth). Secondly, the business operators should invest in learning about digital marketing and how to effectively measure and calculate marketing ROI. Otherwise, they can never truly be sure what is good and what is bad. They may wake up one day to see an empty bank account and a completely tapped out network.
In the current market place, which marketing trends do you believe will begin to fade out of the picture?
Content marketing, as there is so much out there right now in the form of blogs, videos, feeds and so on. However, the credibility and the qualifications of the individuals generating this content are generally poor. I do not believe it will fade out entirely, but the content generator’s credibility will become increasingly scrutinized and regulated in my opinion. This is why I emphasise human-to-human engagement compounded with the efficiency of digital marketing. For a prospective customer to build trust and determine the sincerity and credibility of an individual, it is far more beneficial to meet in person rather than reading a generic blog.
Therefore, good businesses will develop online strategies that ultimately get them face-time with leads, not just clicks and downloads! You need your marketing and sales strategy to be cohesive. For example, if you have separate teams, ensure they are working together under a ‘Revenue Officer’ if needed.
With analytics becoming more precise, depth of data increasing, and artificial intelligence evolving to pair all the moving parts together, do you think that this is cause for concern for human marketers?
Yes, but in the face of adversity, there is always room for opportunity. Therefore, I recommend that digital marketers learn about upcoming technologies. Also, I advise them to look into the past to see how prior innovations disrupted markets in both positive and negative ways, short term and long term.
Most likely digital marketers can focus more on strategic and creative elements of their work, whilst relying on artificial intelligence to do the legwork of tasks. However, this will certainly impact the employment landscape as it stands today and we will see job losses as well as new ones emerging.
Secondly, I would always advise people to leverage multiple means with the intent to generate a bigger income, which will help mitigate predictable and unpredictable events such as, the increasing adoption of artificial intelligence. This advice is relevant no matter what industry you work in. On one hand, specialisation can be a serious money generator, but on the other hand, when there is an industry shift, over specialisation can be harmful.
You have recently started a free workshop to give back, can you please explain more so our readers can have the option to attend?
As a means to give back not just financially, but intellectually as well, I host a free monthly workshop to pass on the knowledge that I have learnt. Although marketing and sales is the pillar of my knowledge, I also share information about the fundamentals. These range from psychology to personal finance and beyond!
If you are stuck in life, find and message me on LinkedIn! I will share the details of the next event – I may even be able to help you unstick yourself!
Please could you share a few words of wisdom for those in the corporate world contemplating starting up their own business?
For one year, read a book and view an online training course every week to understand everything from psychology, corporate and personal finance, operations, sales and marketing, human resources, leadership and more. All of these factors are involved with developing a profitable and sellable business.
Most likely after this year of education is complete, you will be either more committed to start your business and generate greater results in a shorter period, or maybe you will create a new strategy for your life altogether, but always apply what you learn either way.
Secondly, find a successful and credible mentor that has created the life you intend to have. Take their advice regularly and learn from them (but make sure you buy them lunch and dinner often)! Their years of experience can accelerate your success exponentially. Time is our greatest asset, once spent you can never get it back.
A mentor can be a great asset, however, I believe committing yourself to continuous learning will be the greatest catalyst for your success. Once the knowledge is in your brain, you will figure out how best to leverage it in your life. I always recommend starting with, ‘Awaken the Giant Within’ by Tony Robbins, as your first book if you are serious about taking this path in life.