How did you start out as a marketer?
I was a professional session drummer and needed to market myself online to get clients. Then one day in 2011 I built a website for my next-door neighbour, who was a plasterer. To my amazement, the website did really well. I found it so fulfilling to have such a profound impact on his business that I quit the drumming and went fully into digital marketing.
I wrote a book about the process I used (called How to Get To The Top of Google). This became a bestseller on Amazon, and on the back of that I built Exposure Ninja. Today we have a team of 90 staff and serve clients around the World.
How did you get your first client back then, and what kind of service did you do for them?
Word spread about the results from the first website, and I filmed a case study and put it on a DVD. I then sent out this DVD to other plasterers, and got the story featured in trades websites. At one point I was sending out hundreds of homemade DVDs a week. I knew my local post office workers by first name, and the bedroom I lived in smelled of the shrinkwrap from the blank DVD boxes. Looking back, it was ludicrous. But because many of the tradespeople at that time didn’t really use the internet, I couldn’t actually market to them online.
After they watched the DVD, they’d call me up and I’d sell them a basic WordPress website and Google Advertising package. The websites were simple but they really worked. Some of those businesses are still clients today, and many of the sites are still live and generating leads consistently, despite being 8 or 9 years old.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
As we’ve grown, we no longer work with one-man-band businesses. But the impact we have on larger companies is just as significant. The thing that energises me most is when we get the reviews that say “deciding to work with Exposure Ninja has been the best business decision I’ve made to date” – that REALLY drives me. Knowing that these businesses have trusted us and we’ve been able to repay that trust by helping them grow is awesome. Commerce can be such a powerful force for good and it’s really exciting to help SMEs grow like this.
If you were given the chance to build your career all over again what would you do differently so that you will achieve your dreams faster?
Have higher standards when managing the team. At the start, I was so flattered and amazed that anyone would want to work with me that I tolerated average too at times when excellence needed to be the benchmark.
How is your typical work day structured?
I plan each week in advance. I have a list of my goals and work out what I need to do this week to move each one forward. Then I schedule it in my calendar, with some gaps for the inevitable things that come up which need handling during the week.
Can you tell us about a time where you had to put in significant effort up front and then wait a long time for success?
It was 3 and a bit years before I was able to take a salary from the business. I was working insane hours, doing a lot myself and putting the money back into the business. It was really tough and many days were utter misery. I remember one of the team setting me some goals in our quarterly review and the reward for achieving all of my goals in the next quarter was that I’d be “one step closer to getting a salary”. At the time it seemed like an impossibility. Now it seems like a ludicrous situation to tolerate, but it’s amazing what a high pain threshold can drive you to do.
What do you do to stay up to date with new marketing techniques?
Our teams are constantly testing new techniques and strategies with clients. We also analyse thousands of sites each year, so keep our ears close to the ground. This gives us the opportunity to develop new methods and efficient ways of rolling out effective strategies in different industries.
I have to say though that ‘new’ is rarely the goal: we and our clients have had a lot more mileage from really well-executed marketing fundamentals than ‘new’ concepts and tricks. Chatbots, Snapchat, Vine all seemed like no-brainers at the time. But our rule is that we’ll only run something for clients if we can see a direct path to it earning money for them. Metrics like awareness are easy to fudge – leads are not. Plenty of businesses have gone to the wall despite having plenty of ‘awareness’.
Can you tell us about a project you’re most proud of from your past work history?
We’ve taken one of our eCommerce clients from 5-figures in annual revenue to mid 8-figures. To be a part of that growth is so exciting and rewarding. They’re a great business and we’ve loved helping them dominate their space.
Which one book/blog post would you recommend every Marketer should read?
How to Get To The Top of Google. It’s the book we built our agency on during the first few years, so if you’re interested then it’s a model for how you can use an authority device like a book to build a business.
What advice would you share with other Marketer’s who want to become more productive?
Focus on generating revenue for your clients, that’s it. If it makes money for them, do it. If it doesn’t, life is too short. If you can make them money they will not cancel you.
If there’s one Marketing Guru you’d recommend who and why.
You already have enough gurus that you’re following. Eventually you need to trust yourself and DO. It can be tempting to think that the answer is in another book, podcast or course. This is rarely the case. Once you have enough of a base to work from, you eventually have to leave the comfort of learning and actually DO stuff.