What problem are you trying to solve?
The need for modern businesses to be dynamic, agile, and have a strategy which allows them to adapt quickly to changes in their industry is paramount. Nowhere is this more the case than in digital marketing: nothing moves faster than technology. Digital technology moves even faster – every month there are new areas, new thinking, and new internet technologies to contend with. Keeping up is not easy. Which is why most companies can’t. Traditional marketing and PR agencies are finding themselves lacking when it comes to satisfying their clients’ increasing need for digital services. So they are hiring digital agencies to meet the demand. Digital agencies are meant to be specialists, right? Experts in all things digital? Right? Wrong. The reality is that most digital agencies are embarrassingly underperforming when it comes to the services they offer. I call this The Talent Gap.
What is the solution?
I launched 4 businesses:
Aquare.co provides complete digital marketing services from SEO to paid advertising. We provide that service to businesses looking to increase their revenue by converting more customers online. We also partner with traditional marketing and PR companies, working alongside them ‘in-house’ so that they can provide expert digital marketing as part of their own service.
Acadme.com I created the Agencies Certification of Advanced Digital Marketing Expertise as a direct response to the Talent Gap. Aimed at agencies and businesses rather than freelancers, Acadme is an e-learning platform where companies can up-skill their digital employees and build a rock-solid foundation for providing real ROI in things like SEO, AdWords etc. It will soon be accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world, and you can do as much or as little as you like.
Stevanovic.io is my 1:1 consulting service. This is for companies and individuals who want strategic guidance on what they should be doing online. It includes free consulting for charities and I even run an initiative called “Agency Nightmares” where (if you qualify) I’ll come in and “fix” problems created by poor industry practice and help companies whose agencies have let them down. I have over a decade’s experience doing this and it always surprises me how so many businesses are lost when it comes to sound digital strategy.
Omniboard our completely proprietary platform that supercharges your digital marketing and does all the heavy-lifting for you…more on that later!
Tell us a little bit about your journey
My journey to where I am today is quite a story. I’ve actually been playing with the online world since my late teens. About ten years ago, unemployed and with limited finances, I decided to launch a clothing brand.
That was when reality slapped me in the face. All the quotes I received were in the tens of thousands. With almost all of my budget spent on creating the product, I had absolutely no way to pay that kind of money. So I decided to take the matter into my own hands: I started to devour blogs, online courses, forums etc. learning more and more about online marketing.
Over the next few weeks and months, a whole new world opened up to me. Seeing the kind of money being made by other people sitting comfortably behind their screens was a real eye-opener. As time progressed my knowledge grew and grew, while the clothing brand launch got more and more delayed. Long story short, after two or three months I had used my very last savings to buy and build three different websites which I monetised through Google Adsense and affiliate programs. They started to make a profit really quickly – which fuelled my thirst for knowledge and desire to do more.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
- Choose your business partners wisely. A business partnership is quite similar to a romantic relationship, if you don’t share the same values with your business partner, it’s doomed to fail, and it will likely not end well. This has happened to me more than once.
- Don’t give up too early. In the past I let a couple of my ventures fail simply because I gave up too soon. Looking back, I realise how close I was to making them a success – if only I’d known then what I know now.
- Don’t cut corners. The best long term strategy is to do things properly, from the very first step until the last, it will always pay in the end. That’s a lesson I learnt very early on.
- Stay healthy because “health is wealth”. I myself, like many other entrepreneurs, have allowed my health to suffer because I’ve become so absorbed with the daily grind. You can’t grind while you’re sick.
- Focus on providing, first and foremost, value for your clients. A business motivated solely by financial reasons isn’t rewarding for the soul, and this will affect everything else. Once you start putting all your time and resources into planning how to add value for your clients, how to provide a better product and service, the profits will automatically follow.
Talk to us about some of your clients
Most of our clients are clients of our partners which is tricky when it comes to what we can disclose and what we can’t. I can say that we’ve collaborated with a number of agencies in the Omnicom Group, including Porter Novelli, which brings in an annual revenue of well over £100m. Some big name consumer retail companies include Crocs Europe, and we’ve serviced one of the biggest wildlife charities in the UK, Born Free.
What does your business offer that is unique to the industry?
Aquare offers a highly focused, completely hands-off solution. Omniboard, our proprietary online system (which includes live reporting data and a dashboard front end). Available as a downloadable app on iOS and Android, it allows our partners to manage multiple clients and campaigns with great ease. We even include sales and client on-boarding training as part of the relationship, so they know exactly what to say or do in any situation. We’ve seen businesses add as much as 30-60% mark-up on top of our reseller rates and still stay ahead of their competitors because they offer so much more value.
What are your thoughts on traditional marketing and PR? Does it still have a place?
Times have changed. Press coverage and Above-The-Line advertising used to be the be all and end all of marketing, but today these traditional routes are only one part of a campaign. So if you’re not doing digital, you’re not being effective.
Digital is the future of Marketing. Most agencies know this, but the level of expertise in digital varies wildly from agency to agency. Most have scrabbled together an online department purely to satisfy customer needs, and what they deliver is severely lacking. Being honest, this is more to do with the Talent Gap itself than a direct result of any bad decisions on their behalf. This is partly because until now most businesses did not have the expertise to judge the competency of the people pitching to them. But they are slowly wising up. Clients know that all of their customers are on social media, and are constantly connected to the internet, so that’s where they will be looking for real ROI. They’re learning more about it and placing bigger demands on agencies.
What’s been the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
To be 100% value-focused. Everything I do is about providing tangible value for the client. I know this sounds a bit like a cliché, but I’m someone who practices what they preach. We operate a transparent, open policy when it comes to working for a client: they have access to all their data and can see the results in real-time. We’re honest about achievable results in the services we provide – which means we won’t promise the world in a few weeks: things like SEO, PPC, Content Marketing etc. take a while to really get up to speed and start providing ROI, and this is what we tell clients. ‘Providing value and helping other companies provide more value to their own clients’ is our mission statement. We are trying to make a positive impact on the industry by creating higher standards.
Where do you see your businesses in a few years?
Quite simply, I want to make a positive impact. Very few people working in digital marketing have seen as much of the industry as I have, and I want to share that knowledge, in a way that is transparent and open. That’s the core ethos of my consulting business – addressing things like the talent gap, poor agency practice and the rapid pace of change of online marketing. My dream is to see, over time, the point of entry for digital marketing professionals raised to a level which represents real tangible and trusted return on investment for the businesses who are paying for it. How that will look like two years from now is pretty clear to me: Acadme, my online e-learning platform for digital professionals, will be in full-swing. Aquare, my agency, will continue to grow. My personal consulting business and the pro-bono work I do for charity will be taking up more of my time, in a good way. Everything I’m doing now is geared towards raising standards – for the industry, and the businesses involved in it.