From Marketing Grad to Agency Owner to CMO — Talk Marketing Tuesday 004 — Ionut Danifield
Martin: I wouldn’t imagine you’ve watched the videos of the interviews that I’ve done already so you’ve got no idea what this is about. Ionut: I have absolutely no clue I like to be surprised.
Ionut: I actually, no I’m sorry, I actually watched, I think like 15 seconds, they were the best 15 seconds of my life.
Martin: Good right. The tone of this is, I’m interested you know, I’m doing my what the series and interested to break through, I want to support people to be successful in their marketing, so the tone of this has been what prevents people from being successful. The first interview was with Ed, it was brilliant he’s been working in marketing agencies since the 70s, he’s an absolute star. You should go and watch that you might learn something. I spoke to Jem, he’s been working in digital marketing since 1992. Then I spoke to Jim, Jim is a business owner has been a business owner for the last 20 years. So as I understand your experience of marketing, am I right in saying you did a marketing degree.
Ionut: Yes that’s correct.
Martin: Okay, so that’s where your experience starts. Inout: But that’s useless shit, am I allowed to say shit, yeah that’s a load of shit.
Martin: Well, probably, if you’re not allowed don’t say it three times — that would be my recommendation.
Ionut: The reason I’m saying that a marketing degree counts as shit is because, basically when I started marketing and because now I’m doing digital marketing.
Martin: Let’s wait, wait, wait. Okay, about five years ago you were running a marketing agency and you had marketing clients and you were doing web development and app development and those sorts of things, I don’t really understand what that agency was. Now as I understand it you are the Chief Marketing Officer for a car accessories company in Malaysia. Inout: In Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Martin: Okay, cool right, so then if I understand your experience you did a marketing degree you’ve run an agency and now you are on you are internal like a client. You are the Chief Marketing Officer for a business, managing a marketing team yeah.
Ionut: And in between I had a startup, but that’s another story for another time. That’s another story for another time.
Martin: Okay good, so what I’m interested in, what interests me about you is … well there’s two things that interest me about you and your marketing experience. The first is that you did the academic thing before you went into business, so I’m interested to know how useful that was, you’ve already given the game away a little bit probably. The second thing is that you were a marketing agency and now you are essentially a client or an internal marketer. I’m interested in those two aspects. Is there anything, before I start firing questions at you that you absolutely want the world to know about marketing or shall I just fire the questions?
Ionut: Yeah, I’ll just follow the questions and I’m sure that the discussion is going to go in one direction.
Martin: Okay good. So what I’m interested in first is to get this academic thing out of the way. So you studied marketing in Romania?
Ionut: Yeah that’s correct.
Martin: What effect has that had on your career?
Ionut: Every time that I’m actually speaking with someone and they’re asking me about studies the answer is that I finished university in 2008 and I had only one course on digital marketing and that was not even digital marketing. There was one one professor that was starting a blog and who was telling us about blogging and content writing online. I didn’t understand anything, because how advanced was digital marketing back then? So the only thing way that I can say that my studies actually helped me in my career is probably to form a business mentality and mindset. That was probably the only thing because everything that I learned regarding marketing and digital marketing was probably self-taught, watching online courses, learning by doing, speaking with people, going to conferences, talking with smart people like you Martin. I am like a sponge, not necessarily because of my university, I’m actually saying that if you want to be in the marketing field, it is not mandatory to have a degree. It’s good to have one, because probably if you want to get hired people are going to look on your CV and are going to say “okay this guy did a bachelors and a masters” but I wouldn’t say that it’s mandatory. That’s purely my opinion. Okay I wouldn’t say it’s not mandatory.
Martin: I would, I would say not even required, not even perfect. My degree is was in politics, because I started my degree in the 90s, they called it Government and I did government and law and as soon as the options arrived I veered towards philosophy because I’m interested in ideas. I’m interested in how people are motivated, I’m interested in those things, and I would say, not because I have experience of both, but because somebody came to me at the end of one of my marketing strategy courses which is a total of three and a half hours long and who had an MBA in marketing and they said “I’ve learned more in this three and a half hours than I did in the however many years it takes to do an MBA in marketing. My feeling is, but I don’t know this to be true, is that you’re much better off having an understanding of of people’s motivations and their drivers than you are necessarily having a marketing degree. That’s what I would say.
Ionut: I couldn’t agree more. I mean, realistically speaking I’ve been to some conferences and events regarding marketing and was blown away and probably I learned more than in my entire studies. But once again, I’m not trying to bash anyone that is going to study marketing or any kind of degree or that has a marketing degree or is doing anything related to study, but that’s purely my experience and what I’m feeling. Probably we are in the same mindset.
Martin: Okay, yeah, and that and that is my experience not that I have experience of the academic. I mean I do have experience of academic, the degree I studied, they called it Government, I don’t think that’d be in any way shape preparation for a career in government. You know I was never going to be in government. I don’t know, I know Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin those people are all on this mission saying don’t waste your time on the academic, go out and get the experience, and that’s much better for you. I think if you are if you understand people’s motivations and I came from sales, so I was literally dealing with people, seeing and hearing their motivations, so that’s I think more useful than than any academic stuff. The other issue that academics are going to have now, I think the big issue with academics is that they’ve never really applied the knowledge. If you’ve been in an academic environment for the last 25 years what do you really know about landing a message, hitting a target, generating some profit, paying salaries — do you know what I mean? Practically they don’t have that experience. The other issue now is that digital marketing is evolving so fast. When I started in marketing I would say to people, and they would say to me, this is common sense and it absolutely was common sense. Now it’s not just common sense, because now you’ve got to understand where all the buttons are, and how things work, and how Facebook Pixel works. It’s got so much more technical. I had this conversation with Jim, you set something up, you get it running and then you don’t do anything with it because it’s changed by the time you go back. So how do you feel about that? Inout: I feel in principle that is driving my entire career, lifelong learning. I’m spending literally half an hour or an hour every single day, I’m reading blogs and watching YouTube videos of people that are smarter than me for the same reason, because this field of marketing, and there are many others, that are constantly evolving and at the moment that you’re not going to stay up with the trends, you’re going to be obsolete, that’s my personal opinion. I believe that you really need to be like a sponge and I’m going to use the same expression every time that we’re talking about this field, because you need to understand how technology is working and evolving. There is always a new social network coming in like for example Tik Tok. Let’s talk about Tik Tok and Tik Tok marketing. For example, in the company that I’m working at the moment something that I say to them all the time is let’s try to experiment, let’s try to do A B testing, let’s not think about the return on investment, let’s not think about the money coming in, let’s try and understand how the customers are actually seeing our message, and where they are we seeing the message. We started to do Tik Tok marketing, like I don’t remember, like six months ago. The things that we are doing here in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, nobody else is doing it. I’m really proud to say that because I’m constantly bringing new technology in. That is taking a little bit of time for the others to try, I think that if you want to be successful in your company, in your career, it’s always good to try new things. You need to learn to fail, I mean failing is part of the game, if you’re not going to fail and it’s not going to work. For example my manager is coming to me and is like “hey, how is this working? and I’m like “I really don’t know, let’s give it a shot.” That’s something that it’s truly powerful, I can learn to continue to experiment.
Martin; Okay so that’s interesting, because you’re in the car parts and accessories type of business, is that is that right?
Ionut: Primarily we are doing car mats and we also have a range car accessories.
Martin: Okay so this is a consumer offering, you’re not selling this to other businesses?
Ionut: Both, but primarily it is to consumers.
Martin; Okay, so you have a consumer market who are interested in car accessories, so it’s fair to assume that they are going to be picking up these new social medias these new technologies like TikTok for example? Ionut: Yes and no. You really need to think about the buyer persona. That’s something that I’m saying to my team, always put yourself in the shoes of the customers, where exactly they’re standing. Who is that person? How old are they? What’s the tone of voice that they want to hear? What do they want to see? Where are they spending their time at the moment? You’re going to understand all of that and you’re creating the profile of the customer, then you understand where to tackle them. Something that we’re definitely doing, and it sounds like a really boring product, it really is right? What we try to bring is to create sexy marketing and we created a three, I like to call it like a 360 degree marketing solution. Once the potential lead is in our system, wherever, we’re talking about Email, or Facebook, or the website, and Pixel, and Instagram — we basically bomb him until he’s going to buy. We’re basically tracking him all the way until the entire funnel ends.
Martin: Okay, so are the metrics available already for TikTok, if I’ve never done any marketing on TikTok but if you want to market on TikTok are the metrics available? Ionut; Yeah the metrics are available. We started it, just to the end of this conversation, or not to end, but to give you an answer regarding TikTok. Each advertiser that wants to advertise on TikTok is receiving a 300 USD credit to try it out. Yes, they have a TikTok Pixel similar to the Facebook Pixel, you can install it on your Facebook platform, the business manager TikTok platform is really in its beginning stage compared with the complexity of Facebook or Google for example, but yes you have metrics for conversions, if we’re talking about the e-commerce website. But it isn’t coming back for us, TikTok was not the media for us and we realised quite soon, because realistically speaking for example, when you’re doing ads on on TikTok it is really easy to swipe them out right or up or down, so if you’re not creating engaging content and if you’re not a business in, I don’t know, like a horica*** business or travel I don’t think that’s TikTok, purely in my opinion, TikTok is not for you. Martin: You were able to establish that really quickly, within the three hundred dollars credit they gave you? Ionut: No, we actually invested a little bit more, we actually invested a little bit more and we gave it a couple of shots and we invested more than the three hundred dollars and our creatives were testing. We were purely looking for landing page views, we got like a lot of views but no conversions. If, for example, we are talking about the proportion of views to landing pages to actual conversions it was insignificant. Then we decided to stop it. I like to call it pivoting man, at the end of the day it is pivoting, right? You’re trying to pivot a couple of ideas so you’re going to see which is working in the principle of a lean startup. Try a couple, try three things, see the one that is successful then apply it on a larger scale. Martin: Yeah, I’m with you. I think this is what you have to do if you if you start on a new venture or if you’re marketing for someone, you have to test everything, because of course, until you do, you don’t know. You can have an indication, if you’ve dealt with lots of B2B clients for example, you know Google is going to work, LinkedIn is going to work, email is going to work — you know those are going to be the three staples in a B2B environment. Then you should test Facebook to see if you can make it work well, you should test Instagram, test Twitter, TikTok or Snapchat or whatever. It’s a bit of a suck-and-see operation isn’t it? Ionut; Yes. I just wanted to give you an example of testing and to go on your flow of idea regarding testing. For example, we have a B2B side of the business, where we are selling to agents and partners, and all of these car dealerships. I said let’s do Facebook leads and they were like it’s not going to work and I said how are you’re going to know that it’s not going to work if you don’t try it. Actually, at the moment, Facebook leads is the primary channel that we generate leads from for this B2B business. Martin: Yeah, and there’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen. Back in the day when I was talking to people about social media I was saying every man and their dog is on Facebook and I was saying this from the beginning. When it got to 2010 people started putting their hands up saying yeah my dog is is on Facebook. The targeting behind Facebook is so good, you can target people by their business style, by their designation, you know, all of those things so there’s no reason why Facebook can’t work as a as a B2B lead generation platform. There’s no reason why LinkedIn can’t work as a B2C platform, but they’re not necessarily going to be obviously and immediately as effective as each other. So that’s interesting, I’m interested in this half an hour, hour, two hours that you spend every day on your continuous education. How much did you say it was, an hour? Ionut: Anything between, I don’t have an exact number, but anything between 30 minutes and one hour every day. Before I start work, basically during my morning coffee, and some probably after I finish work. I’m spending a little bit of time also reading. Martin: So this is your time? Ionut: I wouldn’t say that it is necessarily my time. Everything that I’m learning, at the end of the day, I’m going to apply it in my work right? So I consider it part of my job also. of course, primarily I’m going to be the main beneficiary, but whatever new things I’m learning in marketing, I’m going to apply it in my work. Martin: Okay, so let’s say it’s half an hour. That’s half an hour a day, that’s two and a half hours a week, it’s 10 hours a month, times 12, it’s 120 hours a year, which is how many work days is that? That’s 15 work days a year that you are investing in your marketing skills. Ionut: I believe you, yeah, yeah, probably, yeah. Martin: Half an hour a day is two and a half hours a week, there’s five days a week. There’s four weeks in a month so that’s 10 hours, there’s 52 weeks in the year, so that’s 120, there’s 12 months in a year so that’s 120 hours. That to me sounds like an eminently sensible thing to be doing but how many days? That’s 15 work days a year out of 250 work days a year so less than ten percent of your time, clearly less than 10% of your time you’re investing in marketing skills. When you do that work are you researching the principles of marketing or are you focused on the evolving technology f marketing? Or are you looking for new marketing opportunities? Ionut: I would say probably all of those combined. I’m searching, for example, I’m a part of like different Facebook groups. Facebook marketers on Facebook different Facebook groups I’m searching for different people like, I don’t know, like Neil Patel. I’m subscribed to different websites that are sending me emails, I’m actually reading all of these emails that are — hey this is a new technology or this is how you can improve the email marketing, or this is how can you improve your Facebook Ads, or this is how can you improve your SEO. I’m looking at videos, I’m not necessarily searching for, to answer your question, I’m not necessarily searching for a specific topic. Whatever comes, comes. Of course, sometimes, when for example I don’t know how to solve a problem, the first place that I’m going and researching is Google, how to et cetera et cetera. There the rabbit hole that I’m diving in, the more you know, the less you know, the more you find out the less you know, right? Martin: That’s usually how it happens, right. So I’m just playing devil’s devil’s advocate here. A traditional business owner, capitalist, crack the whip type boss, maybe these don’t exist anymore, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure they do. What would they say to that? If I were to say to them “yeah I’m spending 15 days a year, you know, on education stuff.” I hear that you’re doing it in your own time, that’s absolutely fine, sounds like a sound investment, but they would say I’m not paying for someone who’s learning, I’m paying for someone who knows what they’re doing, so now get on with the job. Do you understand what I’m saying? Ionut: Yeah, yeah. Coming back to where we started, the education, the situation is that technology is evolving. How can I be on top of the trend, and how can I come up with new things, if I’m not going to research, and if I’m not understanding what the new trends are. At the end of the day, this mentality of this guy, I hired this guy that basically knows everything, I really believe that this amount of bullshit, I’m allowed to say bullshit? Martin: Probably, three times. Ionut: I’m really fascinated about people that they’re really good on their specific topic you know. Like this guy is absolutely brilliant on Facebook Ads, or this guy is brilliant on SEO. I’m a little bit different because I have a little bit of knowledge about everything, from the perspective that I wanted to build my career on, probably coming from the agency background, because I needed to understand all of this technology, how it all works together. Martin: Yes this interests me, this interests me a lot, because I think you know in marketing we tell people that they’re supposed to niche, and they’re supposed to be specialists, and they’re supposed to be all of these things. My specialisation, historically, has been integrated marketing, applying the principles of all these marketing oportunities to all of these different marketing opportunities. How do we apply the principles of marketing to Facebook? To TikTok, to LinkedIn to YouTube, to whatever it is. I think that’s a valid position, really valid, because if you’re just selling Facebook Ads then that has to be the solution to any any problem — somebody comes to you who is not making enough sales okay you need to do Facebook Ads. Do you know what I’m saying? Whereas, somebody who can look overall and say actually you know maybe the issue’s not the Facebook ads maybe it’s not any of the marketing platforms you’re doing currently, maybe the message is wrong, maybe the targeting is wrong, maybe the timing is wrong, or maybe the product is wrong, maybe the price is wrong — there might be something on a marketing level that’s completely wrong before you take it to market at all. Just because your marketing doesn’t work it doesn’t mean that this one tool, Facebook Ads, will fix it. I think that’s maybe why you are suited to this role because, like you say being an agency owner, you have to have a grasp of all of it. The issue with that, is that it’s becoming harder and harder to do that because the technology is becoming more and more granular. It’s becoming more and more detailed, there’s more and more opportunity for techies. Ionut: Exactly, that is why I’m saying that, probably, there is no right or wrong answer to becoming niche or taking a helicopter point of view, knowing a little bit of everything. Something that I’ve been saying in my team and in the company that I’m working in at the moment, and in general, in my entire career. I believe that you really need to be surrounded by people that are smarter than you. If I’m a be a business manager and I’m a business owner I like to be surrounded by people that are better than me in Facebook Ads, in Google Ads in all of these niches and basically you and I are the ones that know and how to direct, invent in the right way, and put them to work in the right scope of the business but also make them work together. The problem with the niche people is that they know only their slice of the pie, right? Once again, there is not a right or wrong answer. Martin: No, I think it’s right or wrong. I think that there has to be somebody who is capable of directing things, exactly as you say, finding how much resource needs to go into each of these and kicking those people’s asses and making sure that they are actually delivering on the opportunity. So that makes sense okay. So this does this lead us in, is this the best time so to finish the academic debate, what chance, honestly, what chance does any academic institution have of developing a course that is going to stay relevant. I had this experience when I was a lecturer with the Digital Marketing Institute, immediately you put a curriculum together, immediately you get it approved, immediately you get it certified, immediately you get it to the market, it’s done, because, you know, it’s old. The issue is that somebody at Google might decide that they’re going to change the way something works and it’s changed universally. When I used to run these courses, I would open up my computer in front of the group and say let’s have a look at how this works and then I would, certainly I’ve done it on Facebook on YouTube on all of these platforms, where it’s like “I’m sorry guys, I don’t know how this works anymore, because it didn’t look like this yesterday.” The trouble is that academic institutions don’t stand a chance and I don’t think they were ever particularly good anyway. I think, actually what you should do is, is do some digital marketing. If you’ve got a personal interest, build a website, and market it. I’d always be much more impressed if I was interviewing somebody and I said what do you know about marketing and they said well here’s my website, here’s the x number of thousand followers, here’s the number of conversions, here’s the something else, something else, something else. This is what I did on Facebook, this is what I did on Twitter that would always be much more impressive to me than somebody coming and saying actually I’ve been in university for the last three years. Ionut: At the end of the day Martin it’s not my place to say which one is the right one. I still believe that someone needs to have a certain degree because what you’re trying to say, we’re going to get a little bit philosophical here, but what you’re trying to do here is change an entire system. The system is the one that is saying in order to get a job, one of the requirements, okay you know like how a job description is looking this is the things that you need to do this is the basically the education you need, 99% of the time, is you need to have a bachelors degree, then you need to have a masters. Martin: It’s fundamentally wrong. There is something wrong with the system because a HR person is going to be basically okay does this person knows how to do, I don’t know, Facebook ads — yes; does he have a bachelors degree in marketing, no, bin, next cv. That’s probably wrong because he didn’t give a chance to that person, but we’re changing the system, you want to change a system. I still believe that a person should study, should study marketing or finance or any other scope, purely from the perspective of having a degree. But find a degree that is at least connected with that subject. Martin: Yeah. I’m just interested to talk to you about it because you you did the academic thing, and then you’ve been in the world and the first thing you told us is that that the marketing degree was a piece of shit. That’s why I was interested to talk to you about it. The situation is changing, because the nature of work is changing. When I was 15 I went to see the careers counsellor at my school and they asked what do you want to do, I’d always been involved in drama and I had auditioned at one time for the BBC to play Oliver Twist; I didn’t get it because they said my face was too fat; so this this was my experience and I wanted to work in TV. They told me, okay, there’s a tv factory in the industrial estate so maybe you should go there and maybe you can work your way up into tv from there. Now, of course, anyone who wants to can work in TV, because TV is now YouTube. When I see people, like successful YouTube people or video content producers they’re not saying send us your CV, demonstrate that you went to university, they’re saying send us a clip, show us your creativity, do something interesting, because actually that’s the currency. So if you want to go into marketing proper, you want to sit in a corporation, then you need a marketing degree. Ionut: I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know the answer and I don’t particularly care either. There are two categories of people; people that want to work for themselves and there are people that want to work for someone else, right? I basically did both. I did work for someone, started the agency doing entrepreneurship, now I’m working for someone, right? Basically, if you want to work for yourself, nobody gives a crap if you have studied or not. I mean, go on Google and search Upwork, freelance.com. All of these places there are opportunities nowadays, with the technology, and the internet, and how fast everything is moving because of this situation companies are realising, maybe I don’t have the budget and I need to work to hire a freelancer, because I need him for a specific project. So there are opportunities that don’t require academic study, that’s for sure. Martin: Okay, so we’re getting off topic there. I basically think the whole academic thing is more or less defunct. I think any employer who is who is employing on the basis of somebody having a degree or not is making a mistake because I would rather speak to somebody with three years practical experience. I would, if they’ve got that experience freelancing, doing their own thing, whatever, I would much rather employ somebody who’s actually done it for the last three years rather than read and talk about it, that’s what I think. Okay, good, this brings me to the other thing that I want to talk to you about which is resource. We’re talking about the amount of time that you have to spend in your own educational developments, when you were an agency, how many people were there, what was your resource, how many did people could you make available to your clients? Ionut: It’s hard to say because I was working with contractors, right? Martin: The question I’m asking is how many, in total, contractors did you have available to your clients? Ionut: Anything between six and ten people. Martin: You weren’t engaging those people full time? How many clients would you be working with at any one time? Ionut: Anything between four and five. Martin: Okay, so somewhere between four and five. So, at best, you’ve got, if you were using those people you’ve got two resources for each of those clients. What resourses do you manage now in your business? Ionut: A the moment I’m managing 11 people. Martin: These are 11 people who are full-time? Ionut: full-time, yeah, full-time. Martin: 11 people committed to one business, two aspects of the same business. Ionut: Yeah, same business. I’m talking about designers, and marketing, and IT and other people from other sectors of the business. Martin: But you’re essentially marketing one business, or there’s two businesses, are you working on both? Ionut: I’m working on both. I’m working on B2C and B2B. Martin: Right, so good, so what I’m interested to know is how on earth did you manage five clients with 10 part-time employees where now you are managing two clients essentially with 11 full-time employees? How does that work? Ionut: It’s a really simple answer. The complexity of what we are doing at the moment it’s bigger compared with what I was doing in the agency. Now I’m trying and experimenting with new things and, of course, when the budget is bigger you have more freedom to do more, to implement more of your own projects, and to experiment new technologies, and try new campaigns. That’s probably why I need more people and believe me even now I have limited resources, because there are three countries, it’s a much bigger company when compared with the clients that I used to have. Martin: So that’s is a really simple answer, it’s a really simple answer, and it’s probably the right answer, so that’s fine. But this seems to me to be the model, maybe it is just about the size of the company, although I’ve also worked with big companies. I’ve never offered any of my clients, I think the most time a client might have ever bought from me might be 10 days a month, so the most they would have got is a resource for half a month, so they’ve got half a resource essentially. Typically, when I work with clients it’s three or four days a month and I’ve been successful for clients. Obviously there’s been instances where I haven’t been successful necessarily, but I think that marketing is a full-time job at least. Irrespective of the stat that typically companies cost of customer acquisition is 30 of their turnover. What that means is that if you’re employing three people one of those people should be a sales and marketing person, do you know what I mean? Ionut: Yeah, yeah — but it’s so rarely the case and I don’t know what the answer is either. Martin: It’s just that it occurred to me, you’ve gone from a situation where you had 10 resources part-time to manage five clients, to a situation where you’ve got two clients essentially and you are now managing 11 people, that just frazzled my mind a little bit. Ionut: I think the answer is, it’s a combination, once again, it’s a combination of the complexity of the job, the size of the budget, the size of the company, and the vision that you have. The problem with marketing agency, at least in my experience, working in agencies, often there is five thousand, or ten thousand dollars, or a hundred dollars or whatever the budget is, they expect to have millions in return. I’m exaggerating a little bit but that’s the general impression, you’re paying an agency and you want to have amazing results overnight. At least that was my experience, it’s a little bit of a rat race from the perspective that you’re searching for clients and you’re not working, and when you’re working you’re not searching for clients. I remember that we had this discussion. Working for a company is a little bit different, I’m probably in a lucky position, having management understand that things need time, and ideas come ti fruition, and actions come from the plan and the plan needs to be executed. It takes time, the results are going to come, you see the time frame that is a little bit more diluted compared with when I was working for the agency and I think I am lucky in that respect because I think that comes down to the size of the business. A small business owner doesn’t really have anything to invest, so by the time they’re investing they want to see ridiculous returns they want it to happen immediately they need to happen immediately. Martin: Yeah so that’s my experience. 100% of the time, if you can convince the customer of the amount of time it’s going to take and they give you that amount of time, then you can typically generate enough of a result to keep them motivated. Ionut: but how many times is it actually happening, that’s the question? Martin: I was thinking about my success rates. My business was a little bit more complicated. I invoiced a thousand different businesses in the nine years that I was running the Effective Marketing Company properly a lot of those would have been for training gigs or speaking gigs, probably 30% of those, around 300 were clients who came to engage us to do some marketing for them. I think the times that we were spectacularly successful is probably about five out of those 300. Ionut: I think that’s a good number. Martin: I think that successful, i.e doing a good job was maybe 40 out of 300, or maybe 30 out of 300, so that means that we probably failed, didn’t fail, we might have done a mediocre job for another 100 customers and then failed miserably with another 150. But there’s more aspects to it, like being given the resource, and the time, and the authority to actually affect the change and meet expectations. So I suppose a good marketing agency, a good marketing manager, is one that’s able to consistently get that commitment from their clients. I would say it’s 50/50 split down the middle, I didn’t get the authority, I didn’t get the time to do what needed to be done, or probably we did a lousy job, we never did a lousy job we never intentionally did a lousy job Ionut: You know what’s the problem? Sorry to interrupt you, the problem is because of all of the things that you encounter, budgets, timing and so on, it’s difficult to prove what are actually capable of. That’s something that I’m seeing in agencies, I’ve been talking with different people that still have agencies, or they work as a freelancers — you need in this space to be really lucky to find someone that is actually giving you, first of all the expectation is aligned, and secondly you need to have the right resources. Out often, if someone is working with an agency its because the resources are not there. We are not talking big agencies and big companies, that’s a another story. Most of the time, for people like me, we’re talking about small agencies, small companies, or startups or SMEs where every single cent counts. It’s still the case here in this company where I am now, but the difference is that I found a mentality that’s okay let’s try and experiment, let’s try new things, okay I hired you because you know what you’re doing better than me and I said okay I’m not going to prove it in the next week, I’m going to prove it in the next three months. And the results started to come, because it’s a learning curve. That’s another problem with marketing agencies, because it’s a learning curve, when your working as an agency or a contractor for another company, people expect you to learn really fast, the ins and outs of the business, which is absolutely impossible. It literally took me months to understand how these car mats are working and how the accessories work, and how the Malaysia market is working, and how Singapore is working, and how Indonesia is working and the ins and outs of the industry. It literally took me three four months to learn. Martin: Yes. The thing is if you’re only offering three four days a month, like I was, then that’s then it’s to take 10 times as long, it’s going to take 30 months maybe to actually learn the business. I think it’s really interesting, and you know, I think it’s kind of crazy. I don’t know how I managed, it or how I didn’t manage it, or how any agency manages. To affect a real change there’s a difference, clearly your business understands the value of marketing and the necessity to invest in the marketing so I think you were lucky to find that situation because my experience is that lots of businesses don’t. Ionut: Yeah true, so that’s why I would say I am lucky Martin: I still believe. When I used to teach digital marketing I would tell people digital marketing is like driving a car. You need more traffic to your website? These are the levers that you pull to get more traffic. You need more conversions on your website? These are the levers that you pull to get more conversions. You need to increase your profitability or you need to develop new products? I still believe, I still want to believe, in that dream the, perfect digital marketing, driving it like a car for a business. I’m pretty jaded and I’m wondering if it is actually even possible anymore. Ionut: I definitely believe that is possible. Because when I’m talking with different people that have different companies even now, I’m stunned of how things, that for me sound like common sense, just don’t happen. To give you one example, a website that doesn’t have Facebook Pixel when they are running Facebook Ads. Why in a million years would you do that? Because you cannot create an audience and you cannot do re-marketing. I don’t know, the Google Analytics is not set up correctly, you know a certain level of competency that companies are still missing. For me that is stunning because exactly like you said, you want to pull a lever to make things happen. If you’re pulling a lever on Facebook, on ads, and paid ads and you don’t have Pixel installed or Google Analytics, or the Google re-marketing code on your website, how can you do that? Businesses, in general, they have problems and they have problems because they are not hiring the right people. They have problems because they hire managers that they think know everything regarding marketing. It’s funny how I’m talking, and I used to talk, with different business owners and they were like I’m going to hire you because you want to run, I don’t know Facebook ads. After a certain period of time they were like, I think that we should run it this way and I was like why the fuck did you hire me to do this? You put your money and resources into someone that actually knows better than you and then you undermine it. That’s another problem with the marketing business nowadays is that it’s too technical. You know it’s actually getting to the point where you need someone who’s a full-time specialist in things. Martin: I wouldn’t have an idea now how to get Facebook Pixel working. This is what I used to say to people when I was running my agency, sometimes the technology works and we make some money, very often it doesn’t and we don’t make some money. So it’s not even like it’s reliable, it’s not even like it’s even predictable or forecastable. It changes all the time, that’s my issue with it. The very nature of social media has changed, I remember in 2007, 2008, 2009 I was telling people go wild because you don’t need to pay for media in your business anymore, because you have social media. You get complete control of your creative, complete control of your audience, complete control of all of this stuff that you used to pay for. Then, I don’t know, around 2014 or 2015 it stopped being social and started being an entirely paid for thing. At which point it was much more necessary that people were tracking things properly but they weren’t necessarily. I don’t know man I’ve got an issue with that. I’ll tell you what my issue is when you’ve answered that question if there was a question in there yeah but it was what’s the question; can you keep up? can anyone keep up with the technology? Ionut: Until a certain level, but the reason why it is evolving because there is a lot of noise. First of all we are talking about the noise, you know there is so much noise out there you know. If you’re talking about Facebook for example, on the Facebook feed how much noise there is, if we are taking the entire social media in on industry, there is so much noise. There is a new network coming and saying we think that we solve the problem and there is a new one, and probably by the end of the year 10 of them are going to fail, and another 10, or another 20 are going to come up. So it’s really difficult to keep up, I think that you can keep up until a certain level but there is a level of complexity. People, or consumers, and customers are getting smarter and smarter and we are ignoring all of these media. Right. What used to work five years, exactly as you said, if you’re putting if you’re a company and you’re putting out a Facebook post, probably the reach was twenty or thirty percent, now it’s less than five percent because Facebook is a basically a money machine, they want money, which is normal. At the end of the day you need to survive and there is no such thing, I don’t believe, as viral marketing. Martin: Yeah we should definitely be worried about those people, Facebook and Google who need to survive we should definitely be worried about them. Ionut: I’m talking about, no, I’m talking about businesses that we need, not Facebook or Google. I’m talking about normal business, I don’t know how to call it, my business or your business or any other business. They need to survive, they need to play the game, they need to invest money. I don’t believe in organic so much in the term organic, because what’s organic. At the end of the day you’re competing for the same keyword with a hundred thousand other people and a hundred thousand other businesses. You’re going to do it, probably, a little bit better than them but at the end of the day, competition really, really is getting stronger and stronger, right? Marketing is getting more complex, sometimes I’m really tired, because I’m thinking like oh my god there is a new technology coming in, or there is a new term. Since I joined this company I think I installed the Facebook, it’s a stupid thing, right, but I think since I joined the company I installed the Facebook pixel at least five times, different on this website, on that website. Why? Because there is a new way to install the pixel, there is a new code, there is a new way to count conversions, to go a little bit deeper, to go more granular. Martin: So is it better? That is my question. For all of this development I didn’t see that, when I was on the tools every day I didn’t see that things were getting better. In fact, I would have to say, that I think, and I can’t really say this but I’m definitely going to just say it; I think Facebook advertising, Twitter advertising or Facebook marketing Twitter marketing and all of those platforms Google advertising has become less effective in the last seven eight years. When they started deciding what it is that people should be looking at it became much less effective. I don’t think it’s as engaging, I don’t think as many people are there as there used to be. That will depend on where in the world you are but I don’t think development is actually producing something that is better. I don’t think they’re delivering better marketing solutions for businesses and I don’t think they’re creating better social environments for users. Those things, two things combined, I honestly think that it might be over for social media because I don’t believe that people are engaging in the same way that they were. Ionut: I believe that it is getting more complex and it is getting more expensive to do paid advertising and to be successful on the social networks. I don’t think that social networks are going to die because, look around you and you see that literally everyone is on Facebook, or on Instagram, or on TikTok or on …. Martin: I’m not. Sorry, I’m definitely not seeing that anymore. Ionut? Probably because you’re living in Bali. Martin: I don’t think it’s because I’m living in Bali because when you and I first got to Bali five years ago everybody was on Facebook, so it’s not a Bali thing. People do Instagram a bit, I don’t believe that people are engaging with those social platforms the way they were five or six years ago. I’m want to speak to somebody about this, I haven’t found anyone who will have a conversation with me, have you seen the Social Dilemma? Ionut: It was really brilliant from a perspective of you know like it was putting a word where your thoughts were. You know, you didn’t actually verbalise what these guys are doing, what all of these social media companies are doing. For me it was really brilliant, the guy from Pinterest that was saying I’m building these tools, and I know that I’m building them for people to continue to use it more and more and I’m basically falling in the exactly the same trap. Man, realistically, there is no social media at the moment it’s purely media. I’m saying this because all of these social media companies are money making machines and it’s less socially engaging between me and you on social media, or between me and my friends at the moment. I’m seeing on my Facebook or on my Instagram, I’m seeing 10 times more, or 20 times more ads than I used to see a year ago. I cannot watch a video til the end because I’m having a YouTube video ad coming in or a Facebook ad. This is my point, I think I think that whole thing is is a load of old shit. You know there’s actual lies in there. Where the professor from some university and comes on and says this is a drug, it’s not a drug, a drug is a material that you ingest that changes your metabolism or your chemical reactions, social media is not a drug. At the same time lord knows how many hundreds of thousands of Americans and people around the world actually have substance abuse issues which is much more serious. I think that whole thing is designed to make us think that these social medias are much more clever than they actually are. A friend of mine saw it and he’s like oh it’s so clever they show you what you want to see and they advertise the things that you want to buy. My life might be a bit complicated because I’m in and out of different accounts, obviously that’s little bits of work I’m doing for clients or different projects that I’m involved in, but literally now every time I see an advert on YouTube, because I won’t give them ten dollars a month, every time I see an advert on YouTube I’m messaging him. look how clever YouTube are they are now marketing industrial floor cleaners which are made in China to me. I don’t think these platforms are anything like as clever as as they think they are and I think similar to the tobacco industry they would be very pleased to be categorised as addictive because that’s what, as a marketer, you want you want your customers to be addicted to your product so they can’t stop using it, or they can’t stop buying it, or they can’t stop smoking it. Do you know what I mean? I think there’s something really, really transparently wrong with that and that the whole world is so easily convinced of that seems to me to be the more frightening thing about it. Clearly people shouldn’t be spending so much time on their phones or their products but they are convincing people that they’re addicted to those services. I think that serves a purpose for them, they’re nothing like as clever as they like to think they are. Their certainly aren’t three people behind every single user making decisions to try and keep that person more hooked on on those products. They employ teams, tens of thousands of people to make them more engaging to make them more enticing, to make them more time consuming but that program is is nothing like the truth, I don’t think. Ionut: I can agree to disagree with you from the perspective that I really believe that social media, coming from a person that is working in digital marketing and is spending like most of their time on social media platform and finding new ways to acquire customers, I really believe that it is a drug. Go and look for example, on your phone, in your well-being and see how much time you’re spending on apps, you’re going to be shocked. You’re saying that I didn’t actually spend so much time on Facebook or YouTube but even if you’re spending time on YouTube because you want to educate yourself it’s still a social media platform. There is another thing, it’s actually addictive because I’m still following sometimes, in the game when I’m doing my research it’s like a rabbit hole. I’m going to a subject and another subject and another subject and at the end of the day I have 10 tabs open. **** Martin: I don’t I don’t disagree with that, I don’t disagree with anything that you’re saying I think it is is a distraction. A year ago, more than a year ago, 18 months ago, I decided I didn’t want Facebook on my phone anymore. I have Instagram on my phone, I haven’t engaged with Twitter for years. I don’t really engage with Facebook at all anymore, I wish people a happy birthday. This situation with the virus actually forced more people back on Facebook because we had a group, a Stay in Bali group about visas, there’s another group which is about the situation in Bali, or locally, or anywhere in the world I suppose. This drove people back onto those platforms. You’re spending money advertising with these people, the premise of the program is that you are the product, that they are selling businesses advertisers; so do you feel that, as an advertiser, you can acquire customers at will from Facebook or Instagram or any of these social media platforms? Ionut: I really didn’t get your question. Martin: A user of a social media platform is the product that Facebook sell to advertisers. Ionut: Yeah definitely, the user is the product yeah. The user for me is the product. You know in marketing we say if you’re buying a drill you’re not buying the drilling you’re buying the hole, right? I don’t care about the user, for me it’s a number. I don’t care if it’s a male or female, I care about the successful sale. Martin: So the question then is how effectively are they doing that? You must know, you should be able to say if I acquire a customer from Facebook it cost me x dollars. Ionut: Yeah absolutely, absolutely. Martin: So what is the return on that investment, as a percentage? Ionut: Traditionally speaking, if I’m speaking about the return on investment for example, for us its anything between five and eight percent, it depends on the campaign, somewhere between five and ten times return. For every one Ringgit, between five times and ten times. Ionut: Yes, for every one Ringgit for every one that we put in, or every US dollar that we put in, we basically get five dollars out, or ten dollars out, depending on the of the campaign. Of course it’s up and down and it’s changing but realistically, we actually know the entire funnel. Martin: So your cost of customer acquisition, if you’re getting somewhere between five and ten times what you spend is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent. Ionut: Yeah. Martin: Perfect, you know that is absolutely perfect. So how reliable is that, if someone were to give you a million dollars tomorrow, could you turn that million dollars into five million dollars or ten million dollars? Inout: No, no, because it’s not working like that. There are a couple of factors. If somebody, or these guys come to me and say hey, I’m going to give you a million dollars because what you’re doing with a hundred thousand dollars is bringing me x amount of money, five times more money, I would say no, it’s not like that. In the short term from a simple perspective is not Facebook is not working like that. You basically need to scale up gradually in order to to improve to get to that number because at the moment you’re not giving a big, big push of money. In the platform, the algorithm of Facebook is going to screw up because basically we don’t have the pixel, we don’t have your audience for that amount of money. So what you’re probably going to see is that the CPP, the cost per purchase, is going to sky rocket. From five dollars you’re going to end up at 30, the money, the return on spend is not going to be there. Actually you are probably going to go from five or ten to one or two. Do you follow where I’m going? Martin: I do follow where you’re going. But then surely, if this Social Dilemma thing is true, accurate, I’m saying they’re not doing a good job for their users, people probably aren’t as addicted as they might like to think. Certainly not addicted the way they would be if they were ingesting drugs. As a business, because they’ve got two billion users supposedly … Inout: Yeah, but not all of those two billion users are actually going to be your customer. It’s amazing if you consider that there are two billion users, but not all of these are available. It depends on the demographic, depends on the gender. It’s about coming back to who are your customers, not two billion users. Okay let’s take out the billion. Let’s talk about Malaysia, let’s talk about Indonesia, not all of the people have a car; I’m slicing down the pipe right, not all of the people are in the right age group, most of my customers are male. We are talking about the size of the basket. It’s much easier to sell something, that’s my opinion, it’s much easier to sell something that costs five dollars, rather than something that cost fifty dollars. You need to be in the right mood to actually spend that money. Martin: This is exactly the point. What the Social Dilemma is telling us is that they are creating the mood. There are 270 million people in Indonesia, your demographic if it’s 10% of the population, males aged between such an age and such an age, interested in cars, living at home with their parents, whatever it might be, if that’s 10% of the population you’ve got 27 million people to choose from. What the Social Dilemma is saying is that the social media platforms are setting the mood, they are generating the need, or the desire in those customers. In a way you’ve answered my question, which is that they’re not actually doing that. They’re not making anyone buy anything that they weren’t going to buy before. Essentially Facebook advertising is a form of very effective display advertising. They can land the right message on the right people at the right time, their targeting is much better than anything that’s been available before but they can’t do what Google does which is put your product and service in front of the people at the very time that they are most interested in that thing. Does that make sense? Ionut: You’re following, probably, in the footsteps of Neil Patel. Neil Patel was saying the same thing. At the moment that you’re going on Google you’re basically searching, you have a need, you have an urge, you have an action. The action is, let’s say I’m searching for a car mat, I’m searching for a car mat because I intend to have a car mat, or I intend to buy a car mat. If I’m doing research on Facebook it’s a social media platform right, so I’m just spending time because I happen to be on that feed, I’m watching a video and I’m giving the attention and suddenly it comes to an ad. What I’m seeing is that it’s taking, the conversion, is taking a little longer. The complexity for the business is that you’re generating the need or the desire in that person. That’s exactly what I’m planning, I’m planting the seed. Martin: You’re planting the seed yeah. You’re building that desire, it’s what you’re doing. Because social media is only media, it’s not where people go if they want to buy stuff. If I want to buy tennis shoes on a Tuesday in Denpasar, I’m not going to put that into into Facebook I’m going to put that into Google. Google is, it clearly has to be, by principle, the most effective digital marketing platform because this is where people go to buy things. Ionut: I’m seeing that it needs to be a combination of all of them if you want to be successful. I don’t think that you need to put all of your money. I can give you the example of what’s happening in in our business so basically at the moment. If you’re going to stay on social media, on Facebook let’s say, you’re going to see that video at the moment and you click, I have your pixel, I have your cookie, right? You’re going to arrive at a website, you are going to arrive via Google, and you’re probably going to read the website and you’re going to show up in Google Analytics. What I’m trying to say here is that I don’t care if Facebook or social media is actually creating an action what is going to be successful is combining all of these platforms. Martin: I think that’s absolutely true but it’s like I say social media is just media, it does the thing that media always did. In TV advertising you’d be watching a program about diggers and there’d be a digger advert in the break or you’d be reading the Financial Times, reading about changes in the markets and there would be some investment advertising. Clearly social media does that in a much more targeted way. I think the placement is more on the advertiser than it is on the platform. I can’t go to Facebook and say I want to sell shoes and Facebook just gives me the audience to go sell some shoes because they know, exactly the people who are interested in shoes. The advertiser still has to do the work, to build the audience, you still have to implement the pixel, you still have to do the targeting, you still have to build the database, you still have to educate and motivate those people. I think you’ve solidified my position on the Social Dilemma, which is that social media is not particularly addictive to users and I don’t think it’s particularly effective for advertisers, certainly not as effective as they portray in that video. It’s not like they are selling the possibility to businesses to have new customers buy stuff that we don’t want to buy. Ionut: Man, it’s a certain level of understanding .I can give you an example. I was actually targeted by a company that was selling pills for women at menopause and I’m like what the actual fuck. I mean, do your research, at least put female there. Martin: It happens all the time, the newspapers they’re trying to sell me nail polish. Ionut: But that’s a problem with newspapers, the newspapers cannot do targeting. Martin: I mean on a news website, on the football pages, they absolutely can and they’re not. It just makes my point again, that’s the advertiser’s fault like, they should untick the box that says football pages. That to me demonstrates the capability of these platforms, they’re nothing like as effective, they’re nothing like as clever as they want us to believe. This Social Dilemma thing is basically propaganda to try and convince people that these things are addictive, so that they are less resistant to them. Ionut; Maybe. Martin: I don’t know what that is but I don’t think it’s making it better. I don’t think people have to be so specialised that they don’t get to understand the principles of marketing before they start. If you’re not applying the principles of marketing to all of these platforms they’re just marketing opportunities. If you’re not understanding that actually Facebook is just a form of display advertising, it is incidental to the content, that’s all. It’s going to get very, very little attention, it’s going to get you very, very little response and you are essentially, if you’re using those platforms you are in an education process. You are trying to motivate people to buy from you. Whereas the people who go to Google, that’s a response platform, people who go to YouTube, to Google are looking for a product or service, they have a very definite interest in the things they search for. Sorry was I ranting too much. Ionut: I think your ranting is perfect. I’m going to say this in front of the camera it was a pleasure Martin, to talk with you, like always. I think that what you’re doing with these videos is to gather people, not necessarily, because in general in these marketing videos everybody is talking about the technical marketing aspect. What I think is really cool, at least my understanding is that you’re bringing a level of experience from business owners. This is his experience, or her experience, and how that person is seeing marketing. I think that you’re on the right track. Martin: I hope so. The mission that I’m on is to let people know in their businesses, that marketing is nothing like as complicated as people would have you believe. Marketing is much, more achievable than people would have you believe and you just have to do it if you want to be successful in your business. There is no other way to be successful in your business than to be extraordinarily effective and successful in your sales and marketing. That’s the thing. It seems to me that these digital marketing platforms that we’re talking about are doing the market, are doing their customers, a disservice by making it much more complicated than it needs to be. Ionut: That is the problem, the problem is that it’s easy, but complex at the same time. The mistake that entrepreneurs or businesses are making is that we’re hiring really shitty marketers. They did a marketing course online and they believe that they are really good at marketing. Martin: I’m going to send you links to the other chats that I’ve had. Look at the one that I did with Ed, the sound is appalling unfortunately, but that’s exactly what we’re talking about. There is an issue in marketing, it’s partly the client’s issue, it’s partly the agency’s issue, it’s partly the internal marketers issue, but it’s preventing people from being successful. That’s the mission that I’m on. I want to find out why that happens. I want to motivate people, let them know marketing is much more achievable and much more necessary, perhaps than they know. They shouldn’t be taking shit, they should be focused on marketing if they want to be successful. The camera’s going to go any second man let me go. I love you man, I love this conversation. I think these conversations are necessary especially during a pandemic, especially during the pandemic. Ionut: I’m going to end with this, you started the subject again. We are living in a pandemic, if you believe or not in the pandemic that’s another story, I don’t want to go into this. I believe that we are living in a crisis now and the first budget usually gets cut in a crisis is the marketing budget. I had a conversation with the with the managers and they were like okay you know are we are going to be on the offence or defense and I was like I think that we need to be on both. You need to be cautious with the money that you’re spending on marketing but the companies that are actually going to succeed and going to be around after this pandemic, after this crisis, are the ones that are actually investing in marketing and planting a seed with the consumers and thinking about brand awareness. That’s my personal opinion and I’m done. Martin: I did a talk in 2009 after the last financial crisis. There were 70 business people there and it was just after the last recession. In the UK they were doing this “keep calm and carry-on” thing and I bastardised that and said look the message should be get excited and kick arse. People are going out of business, their customers will be looking for new suppliers, more millionaires are created in a recession than at any other time. Now, absolutely, is the time to be investing in your sales and your marketing because everyone else is asleep at the wheel. So that’s the advice you tell them, we go on the offensive now. If there’s anything genuine in any of these platforms where we’re supposedly bidding for rankings, we’re bidding for clicks, if there’s anything genuine in that, all of the costs should be going down because less people are doing it, because like you say, people think they should stop investing in marketing during a recession. I love you and we’re going to do this again Ionut: Okay awesome it was a pleasure, peace. Martin: Cheers.