Today is the last day of May and I almost forgot our 3rd birthday was on May 1st! Time to shower us with gifts! ?
I am super proud of how much we have grown in such a short time and the value we have been able to add to our clients businesses, so I thought I’d share just 3 of the 1,000,000,000 learnings that have come my way. Here’s 3 things I’ve learned in the 3 years of taking VM from scratch as a one man band to the growing team we are today with such a steep trajectory and bright future ahead of us.
3 things I’ve learned from growing a digital marketing agency from scratch
1. Ya gotta let go of superhero syndrome and build a team you can trust
➡ It took me a while to realise that no business owner can be across everything. When I hired my first employee, it was a complete shock to learn that I was no longer the smartest person in the room and that multiple heads are often more useful than my silly head. When you first start out on your own, it requires a leap of faith and rely on others to serve the customers that you’ve worked so hard to earn the trust of. Especially given we started Camplify at the exact same time as Vicinity – there just wasn’t enough time in the week to do both well without some awesome team members. Letting go of control was a big challenge for me in the early days but now it’s something that I love because I get to see the people around me become better at what they do, grow as people and find different (usually better) ways of doing things. Ways that I would never have thought of in a million years.
It does really suck that I don’t get to spend much time “on the tools” any more, because I honestly love diving into a good technical SEO problem or running tests to find better ROI from a Facebook ad campaign! However I know I’m more valuable to the team and the business focussing on other stuff these days. Like biz dev, strategy and putting out fires when they arise. (Oh, and LEGO. I am so awesome at it. Don’t tell my wife this, but I think I’ve got her covered at LEGO)
2. You gotta find a way to focus on the highest marketing priorities for clients.
➡ There are so many ways to market a business online these days and it can be easy to get excited about new tactics or tools or channels. Before you know it, you have half-tried 15 different things for a client and at best some of them have worked “OK”. Just because your client’s competitors are spending all day on Instagram stories or building messenger Bots, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best use of your budget right now. Every market is different and every business is different, so sometimes it can be difficult to focus and double down on the marketing channels that are driving the desired outcomes.
I’m still a sucker for shiny-toy syndrome and we still pay for way too many fancy marketing software tools and apps that we don’t get full use out of. (They’re so much fun!) However fortunately we have improved a lot in this area (mainly thanks to my team who do not have ADHD like me) – we’re much better at distilling our client’s marketing plans down to focus our attention on the top activities that will drive return on investment. Stuff that moves the needle. I reckon this is always going to be something we can get better at, especially given the explosion of technology platforms and marketing options coming with AI & co.
And clients can be just as naughty with this focus issue. We’ve wasted tonnes of time over the years doing things for clients because they “want it pixel perfect”, or they “need to try this random ad platform”. I think it takes a lot of maturity and courage to push back on things that you just KNOW won’t move the needle for a client. Just because they want to do something, doesn’t mean it’s best for their business. These sorts of loving back and forths are one of the things I love about our line of business, because at the end of the day we’re all shooting for the same objective together for the client’s business. How we get there and who “was right about that” doesn’t really matter that much.
3. You gotta embrace the tough decisions and conversations with clarity and empathy
➡ I’ve always been a people pleaser. I like to make sure everybody is happy and having fun and liking each other. I used to think things like being direct or having money conversations would mess up all the good vibes of being in business.
It took me forever to understand that most people don’t live the majority of their lives in a child-like state of joy. Business isn’t always good. Being in business is bloody hard and sometimes our clients are facing a bombardment of shit. The last thing they need is for their marketing advisor to be “telling them what they want to hear” or avoiding frank discussions about their crummy website or shit product or lacklusture salespeople. We build trust and generate the best results by being direct and having the tough conversations with clients when required.
Same goes for team members. These days I realise that if I’m not being completely clear with my team, I’m not doing the right thing by them. If I’m not giving them clear feedback on their performance, I’m stunting their growth. Even if they don’t like what they’re hearing at the time. I now really enjoy communicating openly with my teammates and I think we’ve created a culture where everybody can be themselves. Open and honest and direct with each other.
So there ya go! Just 3 things I’ve learned in these first few years of growing Vicinity into what I think is something really awesome.
I still love our challenge of helping businesses grow with clever, modern digital marketing. Shit is getting crazier than ever online and there’s so much change happening around us. Some of our client’s industries are being turned on their heads with changes in technology. We’re seeing new business models that couldn’t have existed 3 years ago.
It’s all very exciting/scary and I personally can’t wait to see how the next few years pan out. Whatever happens I want us to be here, helping our clients stay ahead of the curve and winning?