Digital Marketing

Why I Started a Digital Marketing Agency

September 2017
Che Stevenson

You’re a graphic designer. What makes you think you can run a digital marketing agency? This is a question I often ask myself. And it doesn’t have a simple answer.

My story starts at birth, but there’s probably a little too much ground to cover there so I’ll start with the defining moment, the watershed event, that started me on this path…

I was a graphic designer at a low-level design and printing business. In four years I had learnt what I could from my colleagues and I was looking for the next step in my career.

I had this inkling that graphic design was a cog in a larger marketing machine, I wanted to know what drove the machine. What guides the intent of design?

I thought this would make me a better designer. I wanted a design job in an internal marketing department, so I could get closer to marketing and grow as a designer.

Little did I know that this would start me on the path towards Creative Revolution.

The road least travelled

Eventually I landed the job I wanted: a graphic design job in the marketing department of an educational publisher. I thought I had blown it in the interview, but I’d find out later that the very comment I thought killed it for me won me the job and set me on this path.

They asked me “Where do you want to be in five years” and without hesitating I blurted out “In a role that involves some marketing and some graphic design, because I think knowing more about marketing will make me a better designer!”. As soon as I said it I thought I’d overdone it: who wants a graphic designer who doesn’t want to do graphic design?

But it didn’t put them off; in fact it was just what they wanted.

The very day I arrived for my first day of work, my new boss said “I’m finishing up in two weeks: would you like to do some marketing?” Within 12 months I was marketing coordinator, then brand manager, then marketing manager, then content manager, then project manager…

Seven years later I had a rogue’s gallery of roles and job titles under my belt, but I was unhappy. At thirty I was having a kind of early midlife crisis.

And that’s when it clicked

I don’t know if you agree with this, but sometimes it feels like your life is made up of a million tiny decisions. You end up somewhere you never thought you’d be, you look back and realise that the fork in the road that lead you here was miles back.

In 2012 that’s how I felt. How did I get here? Is this where I want to be? Success, yes. But is this the success I want? Where do I want to be in another 5 years?

After a lot of deep reflection I came full circle: I wanted to be closer to marketing, but still with an involvement in graphic design. When I first started studying graphic design I had always dreamt of having my own agency, maybe that’s where I want to be?

But it wouldn’t just be a design agency. I wanted to draw on all my experience in marketing: a marketing agency, a digital marketing agency! Yes! That’s it: a full service digital marketing agency!

But why digital marketing?

In the last seven years I had seen the power of digital to both transform and destroy a business. It seemed like a natural evolution from traditional marketing for me, but for others it was a scary new world.

I wanted to dive headfirst into digital, but I was held back. I couldn’t understand why, it seemed vital, it seemed necessary. We did a little, but it wasn’t enough. The world moved on despite our reluctance.

I guess the proof is in the pudding – that business no longer exists. You can’t stop the long march of time. If you don’t change the world will change around you.

At the same time I watched new businesses embrace digital and come to dominate within what felt like a blink of an eye.

I wanted to work with people who wanted to change. Businesses that had ‘seen the light’ and were ready to embrace digital. They just need a little help along the way.

Lessons from the market

“I want to do this” – that’s how so many people start a business, but in many ways the worst way to start a business. The focus is entirely in the wrong direction: a business exists because it provides value to a customer.

“See a need, fill a need.”

This is one of the truest, most essential, statements about marketing that I’ve ever heard. The only thing I’d add is “... and make a profit doing it.”

So I asked myself, does Bendigo need a digital marketing agency?

I wrote a little survey and called about 20 random businesses in Bendigo, interviewing them on their current marketing activities and challenges. And the result was overwhelming. Nearly every business I interviewed said the same thing. A variation of:

“We’re doing a bit of {insert traditional media channels}, but it’s not working very well anymore. We know we should be doing more online and in social media, but we’ve had a crack and it didn’t really work for us. We don’t really know what to do now.”

It was the same story. Every time. There was no doubt the market needed a digital marketing agency.

The gap is still wide open

That was 2012. 4 years later not a lot has changed. Overall businesses are adopting digital marketing in larger numbers, they can’t afford not to. And a newer generation of business owners – digital natives you might say – are killing it with digital-first businesses. The older generation is taking notice.

But by and large many regional businesses are still floundering at fully adopting digital marketing principles and channels. Bendigo marketing agencies are still mostly the same old players, with an emphasis on traditional strategies and channels – they themselves are struggling to adapt to the new digital world.

There are a handful of newcomers – ourselves included – that are offering truly modern digital-first marketing services. But – at the risk of sounding full of it – I’ll say there is no doubt we are the best!

Digital-first, results-oriented

Our tagline sums it up pretty well (you’d hope so, I wrote it!): Digital Done Right

Digital

We are a digital-first marketing agency. We live and breathe digital culture and digital marketing. There’s sometimes a place for traditional offline marketing, but we’ll always start online and include other channels when required.

Done

We do it. We are a full-service agency focused on campaign implementation. We will plan your strategy, and then help you with every facet of the implementation. Within our team and our network of collaborators we provide a full end-to-end service.

Right

We do it right, which means we get results. We understand that digital marketing is a tool. It’s a tool that helps us to achieve a business outcome. We always aim to understand your business and your objectives. We plan and implement campaigns that are focused on getting results, whether that is leads, online orders, awareness, or something else.

And that’s why I started a digital marketing agency

Well it ended up being a bit of a long-winded story, but now you know.

I think everyone who takes that leap and starts a business has a similarly messy story of how they got there. Maybe my story helps you reflect on yours.

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