How To Become A Smarter Digital Marketer

Dhanisa Mashilfa

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

James Lawrence is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Rocket, a leading Australian digital marketing agency. He is also the co-author of the best-selling business book, Smarter Marketer. James shares his story from graduating as a lawyer from UTS to co-founding, with his brother David, the web building agency The Web Showroom, which transformed into Rocket in 2017. The book they wrote together is the culmination of their experience and insights across more than a decade of digital marketing for some major brands and provides 11 golden rules to help in-house marketers thrive in an ever-changing digital world.

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with James Lawrence, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Rocket: a leading Australian digital marketing agency, and also, the Co-founder of the best-selling business book, Smarter Marketer. Welcome, James.

James:

Darren, thank you so much for having me.

Darren:

Well, James, I’m very curious because I discovered that you actually are a graduate from UTS in communications, which made sense. But you’ve also got a law degree. How does a lawyer end up running a leading digital marketing agency?

James:

It’s a fair question, Darren. Yeah, I describe myself often as a failed lawyer. Failed in being a lawyer, maybe not so much generally speaking. Yeah, so I finished high school, was kind of strong at English and history and all those types of things and got a reasonable mark. And mum and dad said you should go into law. I was kind of leaning more towards an arts degree at Sydney uni.

I studied law and essentially, my brother who I’m now in business, and Gary who I’m also in business had a website development agency back in the day in the early 2000s. Got a call one day from Dave saying, “What do you know about internet marketing?” I said, “Absolutely nothing.” He said, “Great, you’ve got a job.”

It was I guess, a precursor to Amazon. It was an eCommerce side early days being built to essentially sell DVDs and CDs online, lots of money coming out of England to build it up with ambitions to sell it. They had a 20-year-old internet marketing manager named James Lawrence in charge of seeing budgets; budgets which I pretty happily take charge of now.

We were signing off on big orders in Yahoo and a bunch of different places. And that went belly up probably partly as a result of having an unqualified 20-year-old law student running the marketing. But yeah, I loved the space. It was growing, it was changing.

So, I set up a little internet consultancy to get me through uni really just to kind of pulling beers at the Wentworth Park Greyhounds, which is what I was doing prior to that and yeah.

Darren:

Clearly, the love has continued because you’ve managed to successfully transition — this is what? Now, the second agency business that you’ve set up actually with your brother David, isn’t it?

James:

Yeah, correct. I graduated uni in 2004 and did a year overseas actually as part of my legal career. Came back, was looking for jobs here and he said, “Come on, let’s have a crack at a business.” And so, we built a cloud-based content management system, launched a business called The Web Showroom, and scaled up really quickly.

We were predominantly doing kind of quick and easy websites. We bolted on SEO, Google ads type offering in an online marketing division, just given the, I guess, the previous experience there. The business grew pretty quickly, kind of did really well on the BAW and Deloitte kind of growth awards and ran that business really well from the kind of 2006 through to the mid-2010s.

It just became difficult, the website of the business. Kind of WordPress was really taking off. It was pretty hard to run a reasonably small proprietary cloud-based CMS in Australia. In the Australian market, the marketing side of the business was doing really, really well. So, we kind of took that and span that into Rocket, which we launched in 2017.

Darren:

Now, you said failed lawyer, but there must be parts of that legal training that you find just pop up every day in running a business, everything from understanding contracts and really the way that the law works. I mean, it wouldn’t be seen as a wasted effort, would it?

James:

No, I don’t think so. I think yes and no because that was always drummed into me. It did law, do a degree, it’s very practical. It’ll help you wherever you go. I think that’s true to an extent. I think when you study to be a lawyer, it changes the way you think.

I think you do become a kind of looking at two sides of an equation, you can become quite black and white on things. In the early days of the business, it was kind of hey, you’re the lawyer, review the terms and conditions, review the contracts with suppliers and the contracts that we would have with clients.

But honestly, I enjoyed the public side of the law, like if I would’ve gone into criminal law or international law, the contract stuff, I didn’t like it. I don’t think I was overly good at it. So, I’m really happy to defer all legal matters to the law firm that we use. And I think I’ve almost had to deprogram my brain to actually be a marketer and a business owner as opposed to being a lawyer, to some extent, yeah.

Darren:

It’s interesting you said that because the law is one of those professions that people either go into for the sort of satisfaction, but also the money. I mean, everyone knows that commercial is where the money’s at and that crime doesn’t pay.

James:

Correct. I was working for the really successful drug dealers and blackies, your petty traffic offences and whatnot, not so good. I found myself surrounded by lawyers. My brother is a barrister, the other brother, and my friend like we’ve met is a barrister and I’ve still got a lot of friends from uni. So, I still feel I get exposed to the space.

Darren:

Now, how would you classify you talked about how Web Showroom was the early days of building websites, whereas Rocket’s much more about marketing and using digital marketing. For people to get a good sense of what the difference is between the two from your perspective — clearly, websites are still a part of an organizational brand’s digital presence. But what’s the focus now?

James:

Yeah, for sure. I think for us, it was just a case of specialization. We’re not a huge agency. We’re about 50 staff in total. Really hard, you can kind of specialize in different ways, whether you go on vertical specialization or whether you go into a kind of a subject matter or product or service specialization.

And for us, with the types of clients we work with, we just felt we couldn’t be great at building websites and then also, be great at running performance media, running SEO, those types of things.

So, for us, we just made the decision to stop doing any web dev from scratch. Obviously, we jumped into the tools, we got a small dev team that’ll work with clients to make SEO changes. But for us, we’ve … and I think over time, it’s kind of funny, we’re doing less and less as an agency where we’re really focusing heavily into Google.

So, that’s SEO for clients with organic needs, Google ads and that kind of suite, a lot of paid social as well, and then doing bits and pieces in order to kind of help clients in those channels. We’ve got a creative team. We do bits and pieces with automation and email marketing. But fundamentally, it’s SEO, Google ads, and paid social at the moment.

Darren:

Now, is this transition part of what triggered the idea for you and David to co-author this book, Smarter Marketer? Is it that sort of the lesson of going from yes, you’ve got your website, but how do you actually generate a return on investment from your marketing activities?

James:

Yeah, for sure. Like probably it was around 2013-14, every month, we’d have issues with the website side of the business. It’s difficult to make clients happy. It’s hard to scope … it’s essentially the same thing as being a builder of a house. It’s kind of a thankless task to some extent.

Profit wasn’t great. If there was anything at all, the marketing side of the business was attractive, with happy clients, making good money out of it. We had about a hundred staff at the time and so how do we change?

Like how do you move a business of … it’s not the biggest business in the world, but still, we’re a family business, independent business, and how do you kind of make the transition. And so, we worked quite closely with a Canadian consultant called Blair Enns, who does a lot of consulting for creative agencies, and digital agencies around the world.

Worked with him and it was all about specialization, narrowing your focus, leading into what you’re good at, and then building partnerships and referrals to suppliers where you might not be as strong. And that’s part of working with him, is like you’ve got to codify your knowledge. You’ve got put down in writing what is your perspective, what’s your perspective on marketing.

And by that point, we had a lot of experience. We kind of had been doing it since 2001 kind of almost when Google was coming to Australia, in terms of Google ads. Google wasn’t the kind of number one search engine at the time. It was LookSmart, it was a bunch of platforms that have come and gone.

And so, for us, it was, we didn’t want to write the equivalent of a Facebook guide or how to do Google ads in 2015, 2016. We wanted it to be a piece that would stand a test of time and that maybe not in 30 or 40 years, but just genuine principles that would guide an in-house marketer to help them generate better results.

We put a framework around what they’re doing because, for us, the early stages of digital kind of weren’t even marketing like it was a very technical pursuit. Almost just being there was enough, like it was we’re trying to convince businesses to buy Google ad space, not to kind of optimize and beat the competition.

It’s like, hey, take some budget out of Yellow Pages and move it into Google. And by the time of writing the book, that wasn’t the truth anymore. Like it was the old school marketing tactics, things that have worked for … and I think one of the opening chapters of the book is about an account manager walking across the agency floor, reading out excerpts from this book.

And it was all about split testing, ad copy, how busy your prospect is and how they’re time-poor and the importance of cutting to the chase and copy. And we were kind of like, yeah, like what’s the point of marketing because the book was written in 1923.

And we’re like hang on, this book, which is almost 100 years old is encapsulating a lot of the stuff that we’re doing as a digital agency now and I think for us, we’ve got to that point where digital marketing is kind of just marketing.

Yes, there are some differences in terms of technical stuff that is super important to get right. So, we try to put together a piece that would stand the test of time, but also, take into account that the landscape is different with digital than what it has been traditionally.

Darren:

Yeah, I think one of the interesting things from my perspective is that in the very earliest days and I’m talking the last part of the last century, digital was all about this idea of interactivity and being able to at scale, have personalized conversations and engagement with customers.

At some point, around sort of 2005 to 2010, and I think it was with the rise of Facebook, social media suddenly was pushing at scale and becoming just another advertising media.

That this idea of being able to specifically target and engage a particular audience around what they’re interested in disappeared to just blast it out to as many people, which suddenly put digital advertising on the same level as traditional broadcast or newspapers or any other type of advertising.

It was just about the numbers rather than about that powerful ability to target individuals. I always thought that that was partly driven by the investors who just wanted to see big numbers, rather than a loss of sight of what the technology can actually do. Did you have a similar feeling?

James:

Yeah, I think so. I think it was really interesting you said that. The Facebook rise around that period changed what we did as a business. Like up until then, it was all intent-driven marketing a lot. It was SEO and Google ads. And then how do you optimize a landing page in a website to increase conversion rates.

And then the pitch to clients was classic wasting half of the marketing spend, I just don’t know which half. Digital can solve that for you. Give me 50 grand for Google ads in a month, I’ll push 10,000 visitors to your website. We’ll get X number of leads, we’ll track the sales and if the sales outweigh the 50 grand, we’ll just put more in next month.

Quite linear, more technical in nature and less competition. I think things didn’t have to be done down to one per cent. And then kind of Facebook burned the ad platform kind of then caught up. Obviously, those platforms are all about user growth and time and platform, essentially just selling eyeballs.

And then we started to look at remarketing Google and stalking users around the web with ads that … we’re not trying to buy tennis shoes, throw tennis shoes, and then social targeting got better and it did kind of flip the switch. And I think as we’ve seen, you’ve kind of got all of these providers now contesting the digital media budgets.

You’ve got traditional agencies, advertising agencies, which is just sort a foreign space for us, like you and I have spoken because our perspective, is you come from this performance digital viewpoint. I think we used to basically just look down my nose kind of the idea of awareness and brand campaigns and I was like running vanity metrics.

And these agencies are hiding behind these things that don’t work and have come full circle on that. Which is now in order to have great demand generation campaigns and lead gen campaigns working, you need to have always-on brand stuff whether online or offline. And we just see clients that invest in long-term marketing and advertising strategies are the ones that get the best return from their performance budgets as well.

Darren:

Yeah, I think it’s McKinsey talking about the full funnel. This idea that … because performance marketing, as you said, was really at the bottom of the funnel there, that you already had people that were in the market, they were searching through search engines like Google. They were online looking for the options because they were already aware at the top, they were in consideration.

But I think a lot of performance marketers have started to realize that Google will only deliver the same sort of group of people at any particular time because they’re not filling the top of the funnel. So, if that’s your sector, you need to be contributing to filling that funnel.

James:

Totally. We’ve got statistics about everything, and actually, it’s in the book, is that in any … and this is obviously an average, but in any given market, 97% of people in that market aren’t in the market.

So, the idea that … and we’ve seen that well before digital, the car manufacturers, whether they’re marketing to kids into 20 something, you know, they’re not going to buy the car until they’re 40 or 50 — Google’s research around parts to purchase in cars, in auto is that it’s 900 touch points from when you start the purchase to when you actually go through with it.

And we see it again, like with the channels … we still need to work on the funnel, Google, SEO, Google ads — that stuff still plays a role, sure. But a lot of the work we’re doing in LinkedIn in terms of paid social, even in things like Facebook, and YouTube, they’re not on the funnel channels typically. Like there are channels that you will get your best long-term return if the content, the messaging is meeting people at that top of the funnel type area.

We see it ourselves back in that period, you’re kind of referencing, that 2006 to say 2013, it was a different business, but we were spending quite significantly on Google ads at the time. And every month, I just know what it was. I’d spend X amount of money, I’d get 300 leads. I could make X amount of sales. Every month would always be the same and maybe one click, speak to someone, he said a quick yes/no.

There’s no client and we are working with higher-end clients now, but I reckon 5 to 10% of the time that would be the journey to work with Rocket. It’s now, I come to your website, I read some content, signed up for your newsletter, saw you speak at an event, heard you on a podcast, and read your book. It’s just this multi-touch. So, for us, it’s about how we go out there and build a relationship with marketers, and then when the time’s right, they’ll come to us.

Darren:

And that’s one of the things you do highlight in the book that marketing is about that multi-touch. And while a lot of people talk about the customer journey to purchase, in a lot of categories and especially B2B, it’s never linear.

It can be such a random process because they’re really in a curiosity phase. They’re trying to solve a problem that they have or a desire that they have or an opportunity that they have. And so, to be able to sit there … I always love customer journeys that are nice and linear and logical, and I go “You really don’t understand human beings, do you?”

James:

Yeah. And I still don’t mind the funnel. We’ve got flywheels, you’ve got all these different depictions. I don’t mind it in the sense that it’s illustrating the fact that there’s a certain activity that should be done without the intention of making a sale and certain activity that should be a bit different.

But that’s right. Like we do a lot of work in B2B and we’ll have a marketing manager come to us, I’ve got great news. Sales aren’t great this quarter, so I’ve just got an extra 80 grand to pump into a demand gen campaign because we need sales. And the response is that’s great, but you’re selling a seven-figure software and it’s a three-year lead journey from when someone might be thinking of signing off on the system to actually procuring it.

And the idea that you’re going to miraculously force your clients’ hands down that path and fast-track something that will take years, it’s just not how the journey actually works. So, I think it’s flipped.

We always talk to clients about in the 70s and 80s, if the seller had all the power and life insurance sales and walked door to door, and if you walked into a car dealership, the sales rep had all the collateral and then had the pricing, and they had all the power and it’s flipped.

The internet has made it so that as customers, whether in a B2B or B2C context, we do a lot of our research, a lot of our consideration before we even picked up the phone or fill out a form. So, if you try to only get rich people once they’ve already made up their minds, then you’re probably not even going to be on the panel to be procured.

Darren:

Yeah, probably, my science background, I think of the funnel as a particle accelerator shaped like a funnel, and that the consumer is like a cloud of electrons. So, they’re buzzing around and when you turn on the funnel, it’s all about trying to encourage as many of those electrons down the funnel as you can. But like good quantum particles, they can appear anywhere at any time and in any state and you have no control over that whatsoever.

And that’s what I like about it, is that it constantly reminds us that no matter how we build these models, there’s always a huge amount of uncertainty. And at best, we are trying to provide an influence and an encouragement rather than people being able to control them to go A, B, C, D, cash register rings.

James:

And that’s it. And I think that’s the right approach, which is, generally speaking, we need to provide people with a pathway and a journey. Some prospects are going to go through that super quick because something happens in their business and they need to make a change or hire something or fire something or whatever it might be, and other users are getting on a very different journey. But generally speaking, there is a kind of a process or a framework.

Darren:

Now, there’s another thing in the book that I really enjoyed, and that was the idea that from the point of view of marketing, in many ways, marketing strategy is still the same. The underlying strategy and the philosophy of marketing are still the same. And you sort of alluded to that about a book written half a century ago had had similar disciplines and philosophies.

But that people seem to get confused about tactics and channels, and I’m just wondering if, in the digital age, that’s actually been exacerbated by something you mentioned earlier, which is how technical digital marketing started out being and continues to have that sort of high level of technicality and language that often holds marketers at arm’s distance from what’s actually going on?

James:

Well, great question. Yeah, I think I’m a humble digital marketer. We’re good at the channels that we operate. And I don’t pretend to be a marketing strategist. If you put me into an ASX-listed business, I wouldn’t be the guy to put a marketing strategy together. But I’m a firm believer that you need to know where you want to get to. You need to know what resources you’ve got and then your strategies, and how you’re going to get there.

Right message, right person, right time, properly understanding who your target market is, making ruthless decisions. Like we’re huge believers in just say like the power of saying no, saying no to additional channels or additional campaigns and go deep at stuff that is working.

So, for us, like a lot of the time, someone will reach out to us and I’ll say, “I don’t think that like SEO or Google ads or digital marketing is actually what you need to solve this problem.” And it’s not always the right approach. In the B2B context, particularly in the States, you’ve got active trade shows, conferences, whatever else, a lot of that stuff still makes business work.

So, there is this big temptation around just channel tick-boxing: TikTok’s huge, got to be on it. Got to be on LinkedIn, got some ADMs, got to pump out … upload articles, whatever else. I think it’s like taking a step back, what are you actually trying to achieve in terms of your marketing. What resourcing do we have and then what’s the plan?

And that’s not to say … like a lot of stuff just is important. As you touched on earlier, you need a great website now. Websites are the centre point of digital marketing activity, word-of-mouth referrals, and potential employees.

Generally, you want a really strong SEO campaign that drives most of the traffic around the net, it’s performing better in a B2B context. I think most businesses should be considering Google ads at some level because the breadth will depend on what they’re trying to achieve.

But I think fundamentally, it’s marketing. Who’s your target market? What do they do? Where do they play? How do you move them? How do you give them what’s good for them, not what’s good for you? People levering that.

Darren:

It’s an interesting point you make around the multitude of channels because it’s not just TikTok’s the latest hot thing, but what are you doing about NFTs and what are your plans for the metaverse, I think is the hot topic that you’re reading about at the moment.

And yet marketers, have limited budgets, they have limited resources. A good business model is actually defining a marketing budget with a target of what’s the return on that investment to actually justify the budget.

James:

I guess it’s an internal challenge in businesses. But it’s often … we come in and often, we’re almost impartial. Like we’re coming in, we’re dealing with an in-house marketing team. And if we think something’s just not realistic or not right, often they’ll bring us in and we’ll be talking to basically the CEO, MD, whatever it might be.

But I think it is right. It’s about where does the business need to get to? And if it’s revenue of X or whatever it might be, what’s the reasonable amount of money to spend on marketing. Is it that 5 or 7%, 7 to 10 depending on what we’re trying to grow. We need to treat it … generally spend more or less on marketing.

And then you can’t come at it from these are all the channels and these are all the tactics, let’s do them and do them just waiting. It’s got to be what are the activities? Are they going to take us where we need to get to? So, a lot of the time, we just don’t do it. Don’t even entertain it, don’t play there, you don’t need to be on Facebook.

You may — maybe it’s the absolute best place for you to be but just because something is big and growing and … the thing we get wrong is that I don’t think this was a conversation that really small to medium-sized businesses and midmarket businesses would’ve had 20 years ago: I’ve got to be on TV, I’ve got to be on the radio, I’ve got to be doing some flyer drops, I’ve got to be on Parramatta Road.

Because I would’ve just gone, “This is the way we market our business.” But with digital these days, we’re missing stuff and it’s changing so quickly. We’ve got to be everywhere and it’s just not right.

Darren:

Yeah, look, I think and I’m glad to hear you say that you actually advise clients that they shouldn’t be in some channels if those channels aren’t right. But I think there’s a huge amount of FOMO, fear of missing out.

And it’s actually driven by the fact that so much of the industry sales around media channels actually plays to FOMO. I have this joke with people, I say, “When was the last time you talked to a social media strategist that didn’t recommend social media? Or when was the last time you talked to someone that specializes in LinkedIn that didn’t recommend LinkedIn for B2B?”

There’s this whole sales mechanism that exists. It’s not called sales anymore, it’s called strategy and it’s really there just to get you to be in a channel that may not necessarily be the right channel for you.

James:

And I think it’s a bit patient-doctor. Like where does the responsibility lie or if you go to a mechanic and you say, “Hey, can you change my brake pad because it’s squeaky” and it gets changed and it’s still squeaky. You come back and you go, “Well, you didn’t fix it.”

At it’s like oh, that wasn’t a problem to start with and I think often, clients will come to us and dictate we need X or we need Y, and you kind of just you take this, you take the order and give them what they want or you challenge them even if it means them not working with you.

And I don’t know, talking about Rocket, one of our values is to do right by the client. And we do try our best. If we don’t think something is the right path or the right decision, we’ll tell a client. And then you do have to overlay that with the reality that you don’t always know like there’s definitely campaigns we’ve taken on, which I think we’re going to smash out of the park and we don’t, and then ones that you’re a bit sceptical on. And two years later, the client’s still with you and you’re smashing it.

So, there’s no crystal ball, but it is a conflict of interest. Like you’re asking the social media for the agency, whether you should be spending more on social media. It’s kind of, I think that comes to the marketing planning and strategy phase, right?

Darren:

Well, it really comes down to setting … sort of being able to articulate as a client what are my goals? What are my objectives? What are the pain points? What are the things that I’m not achieving? And then be careful of going to the specialist for the answer because you have a sore leg and you go to a heart doctor. The heart doctor’s not going to be the right person for the sore leg.

You need to go to the orthopedic — well, preferably not the orthopedic surgeon. He’ll probably just chop it off. But you know what I mean? You need to be able to get that advice. I actually find a lot of marketers feel that they have to go to their agencies, whatever area, and specify what they want because what they’re scared of is specifying what they’re trying to achieve and being sold a solution that’s actually not going to achieve it.

James:

Yeah, and that’s a hard one. I feel particularly with prospective clients, often, they’ll be super cagey with budgets and targets and whatever else. And then I think it comes down to the question of who you’re dealing with. I think if you’re in any industry, there’s going to be providers that call it as it is and tell you not what you want to hear, but what they actually believe. And there’s going to be others that take your money.

But I think having a rock-solid idea of what you’re trying to achieve, a good agency partner, a prospective partner should tell you, “Yeah, you’re on the right track and this is how we can solve it” or actually, “No, this is how to do it.”

And so, often with our smaller clients, they are just more business-minded stuff, which is “We need to achieve new growth of X or online sales of Y. These are our rough budgets, you guys put forward what you think is going to work.”

And then generally, with the bigger clients, it will be a single channel type approach or manage a lot of our digital media and move it around with these targets in mind. And they’ve already made the decision further up the line that digital media looks like X, and this is the thing we’re trying to target and this is what success looks like. And then it’s about us going off and executing.

Darren:

One of my favourite stories was from a colleague that I worked with a while back who was a direct marketer — remember direct marketing? They’re the people that actually should be involved in digital marketing because they actually have those principles. The Lester Wunderman’s of the world when he wrote his book on direct marketing, had typing pools as a way of typing out personalized letters and mailing them to people.

And Lester, unfortunately, passed away very a few years ago, but for him to see the way technology allowed a lot of those philosophies and approaches for direct marketing to happen in real-time and happen at that sort of scale, would’ve been phenomenal.

But this particular direct marketer told me that the best client he had was a bank and they actually paid him a monthly retainer to reject briefs. And he would have to sit there at the end of each month with all the briefs from all the different parts of the bank and show and explain why he rejected those briefs for direct marketing, why he did these briefs and what the return on investment. Because it’s that old saying of just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

James:

Yeah, a hundred per cent.

Darren:

And when it came to talking to your own customers, what he was protecting was building up a relationship where the customer was actively rejecting the brand that they were already part of. He was saying that the danger is with email and well, in those days direct mail that you bombard your customer with these sales opportunities. And if you’re only getting, say 1% response rate, that means you’ve got 99% of your own customers actively rejecting you.

James:

Interesting. And those disciplines have come into digital. There are some guys in the States that run a business called Digital Marketer, and they do a lot of training and training courses. We, as an agency, we’ve had … I think we might have lapsed it, but we would always run our team through it, big training, online training platform, modules, accreditation. They’d have conferences. They had one out here in the Gold Coast a few years back.

But they all came out of old school, direct marketing, and just applying those principles to a digital context. Because I think the nature of digital is that it is … you’ve got your failed lawyers that moved in, and you’ve got the bigger media conglomerates that have kind of come in from a different … everyone’s kind of come into this space and probably doesn’t always have the rigour or the kind of the fundamentals being applied to it that probably should. But yeah, it’s interesting.

Darren:

Well, I think it’s funny that we’re sitting here talking about digital because in actual fact if you look at digital television, digital radio, and digital out-of-home, there are very few media left that are actually not digital in some ways. And we are moving towards a world where there will be that flexibility.

I mean, I saw an article where the out-of-home association was talking about how there needs to be more use of digital capabilities to be able to put customized messages up in real-time. Whereas, back in the old days, you had to get the skins printed and then they had to be installed and they’d be up there for a month. Now, you can have digital messages flashing onto screens in minutes.

James:

We call ourselves a digital marketing agency acutely aware that the word digital will be redundant very shortly. And I do a better kind of presentation that I’ll deliver, I don’t know, 10 or 15 times a year, and one of the slides has kind of digital just struck through and because you’re right, like TV, radio, outdoor are being bought programmatically or soon to be bought programmatically. We’ve got a generation of kids coming through.

It’s just a redundant concept. So, that’s the reality. And so for us, it is just looking at the kind of, you go as an agency into channel expertise or vertical expertise, and that’s kind of the decisions we’re making and it’s changing every year, to where you kind of put your focus.

Darren:

So, you’ve built up quite a good portfolio of clients and small, medium to larger clients. What is it from your perspective that makes a great client? What are the types of things that great clients do that really allow Rocket to deliver to them the best value possible?

James:

Great question. The first one is respect and trust. I think we’re not brash when we come into every interaction with a prospective client or existing client, expecting it to be a meeting of equals. We’re really good at certain things and they’re going to be really good at certain things.

You need to give your agency partner trust, and leeway and let them do what they do, and do it well. I think giving us some level of autonomy. I think if you’re being told what to do, if you’re being dictated to all of the time, you end up just being an order taker that’s fulfilling tactical tasks. I think it becomes very difficult once you’ve lost that upper hand.

I think that this is kind of the basic one, but just treating your agency partner with respect. One of our four values is no jerks and we just … how we treat each other in the agency, it’s how I’d expect a member of our academy team to treat me, how I should treat them, how I treat partners, and how I’d want my team to treat clients and vice versa.

Humans make mistakes, balls get dropped, give feedback, and give it directly. And then I think the fourth one for me is it’s nice to self-staff, but you need to hold your agency to account. So, I think it has that North Star metric or metrics. These are the things that actually matter, and then make sure there’s a plan to get there and that you’re not deviating from it.

Darren:

Fantastic advice James, thank you. I’ve just noticed the time. I could continue this conversation for hours and perhaps, we can revisit it sometime soon. But thank you very much for sitting down and having a chat for Managing Marketing.

James:

Thanks, Darren, I’d love to come back.

Darren:

Well, look just before you go, I’ve got a final question and that is of all that huge portfolio of clients, which one’s your favourite?

 

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