Join Andrei and our guest on today’s episode, Oliver Feakins, as they will be discussing marketing strategies and tactics for scaling tech startups in 2022 and beyond. Oliver is the founder of Trusted Search Marketing and TrackFive, an online technology company that builds and manages intuitive web platforms where employers and talent meet.

𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐎𝐥𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫:  

𝑊𝑒𝑏𝑠𝑖𝑡𝑒: https://trustedsearchmarketing.com/ 

𝑂𝑙𝑖𝑣𝑒𝑟 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑑𝐼𝑛: https://www.linkedin.com/in/oliverfeakins/  

 

𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐧𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐢:

𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢: https://marketiu.com  / https://marketiu.ro   

𝐴𝑛𝑑𝑟𝑒𝑖 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑛: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreitiu/   

𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝐿𝑖𝑛𝑘𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑛: https://www.linkedin.com/company/marketiu   

𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝑇𝑤𝑖𝑡𝑡𝑒𝑟: https://twitter.com/marketiuagency   

𝑀𝑎𝑟𝑘𝑒𝑡𝑖𝑢 𝑜𝑛 𝐼𝑛𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑔𝑟𝑎𝑚: https://www.instagram.com/marketiuagency/  

𝐸𝑚𝑎𝑖𝑙 𝑎𝑡 hello@marketiu.ro

 

𝐋𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐩𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐝𝐞 𝐨𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐟𝐚𝐯𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐞 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦:

▶️Watch the episode on YouTube: https://bit.ly/The-Marketing-Innovation-Show-YouTube 

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▶️ Podbean: https://bit.ly/The-Marketing-Innovation-Show-Podbean 

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Episode transcript: 

 

Andrei Tiu  

Hi there, this is Andrei and you are on the Marketing Innovation Podcast Show. Our special guest today is Oliver Feakins, the founder of Trusted Search Marketing and TrackFive, an online technology company that builds and manages intuitive web platforms where employers and talent meet. Today we discuss marketing strategies and tactics for scaling tech startups in 2022 and beyond. So without further ado, Oliver, it's a pleasure to have you here on the show. How are you? How's your morning going? Because you are login-in from America, right?

 

Oliver Feakins  

That's right. Yeah, absolutely. So my morning just getting started and your day is just about the end, right?

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yes.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Great. Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

 

Andrei Tiu  

It's a pleasure, pleasure, really looking forward to discussing today. I think it's going to be a very dynamic and interesting discussion. It's always nice to share thoughts with a fellow entrepreneur. You have even more experience because you found it more businesses during the past almost 20-ish years, right?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah. 20 years. I started my first business when I was 14 years old. So yeah.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Wow! Okay, let's talk a bit about that one, maybe as a as a warm up.

 

Oliver Feakins  

An appetiser, right? So, yeah. So, um, you know, first off, I come from a family of entrepreneurs, but while mainly my father, right, so I'm actually as a sound here before the show, I was actually born in England, in Southampton, and, you know, grew up in London and Southampton and my father was in the Royal Navy, but he turned into an entrepreneur. While he was in the Navy, he opened up a catering company while he was stationed, you know, in the UK, and then he was stationed in Portugal and he opened up another catering company, he ended up selling it, making some money while he was enlisted, left the military and parlayed that money into other startups. So I got to watch the entrepreneurial process over and over and over again. My father was a somebody that really likes to manage companies. He was the entrepreneurs entrepreneur, he liked to get in scale, a company and exit, which is what a lot of entrepreneurs like to do. And by the way, for your entrepreneurial audience, like that's an important skill to recognise, right? Like, if there's a difference between starting a company and managing a company. They are not the same thing. Those two job descriptions and responsibilities are not interchangeable. They're two different things right? So you have to be able to reskill, refocus for both of those things. But anyway, you see my father do it and work tirelessly and work really hard. I was able to kind of get in to do a similar thing. So at 14 years old I was a DJ, like kids birthday parties and stuff like that, you know, and I worked for a company at 14, and they went out of business, and they were selling, they had like 17 different, you know, vehicles and DJ equipment sets. And they were like, they just wanted to get rid of it. So for like, 3000 US dollars, they were selling a van, all the music and all the DJ equipments and lights, everything you would need to get started, including the vehicle for $3,000 is a great deal. 

 

Andrei Tiu  

Nice!

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah. So I basically wrote a business plan to my dad and said, look: I and my friend would like to do this. His dad is going to put in $1,500, I want you to put in $1,500 and here's how we're going to make this successful. So at 14 I couldn't even drive the vehicle. And, you know, I, you know, I started working on that right and grew up once I hit 16, you know, really scaled it up. I remember coming home from school and going to my dad's office, and one of our biggest markets was school dances, so looking to get the school. So, you know, I had to go sell this. So I would literally spend all night on the internet, like basically copying all the fax numbers, because this was 20 years ago.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah!

 

Oliver Feakins  

Of all the high schools and schools all across Pennsylvania. And I would like 1000s of fax numbers, and I would make a flyer, and I would literally one by one stay till 11 o'clock at night at my dad's office faxing these to, you know, attention to school dance manager, you know, and sending the flyer and you know, all day long, I was hustling it for 14, 15, 16. And I would get like one or two contracts for you know, the years worth of school dances from each one of these schools that came through. And I wrote that business all through school, through college and it really taught me how to grind and hustle. You know, my father gave me a really good piece of advice. He is a consummate salesperson. So he used to tell me, nothing happens 'till you sell something. And I lived those words to this day. And I've seen so many entrepreneurs silo themselves into specific things, whether it be: "We have to have the best product", "We have to have the biggest sales, we have to do this, this, this". And a big mistake of entrepreneurs is not really looking at this as a holistic, you know, a combination of things that have to execute at the same time. So that gave me that sense of hustle, it showed me kind of how to set this up. And you know, I went to go work for some tech companies and some large tech companies and then when I was about 21 years old, you know, I hadn't even finished college and I dropped out of college to work. And I ended up starting my own company scaling that company pretty well going back and finishing college. And then, you know, scaling other companies up as well. So I don't really know what it's like to work in my adult life for a company, I've always been an entrepreneur, so I don't think I could have it any other way.

 

Andrei Tiu  

That's fun and also, as you're saying, grind the hustle. But I guess during your high school, you were probably a bit of a rock star with the music business. No?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, it's funny, right? Like, you know, and it's fun, but I always tell people, like, you know, I've coached a couple of people through the entrepreneurial process. And, you know, sometimes I just, A. People give up too easy and B. I think that people underestimate the amount of time and sacrifice it takes to launch a successful business. You know, I wasn't going to parties, I was DJing them right, and getting paid, I was going and hanging out with friends, I was sitting at my dad's office, sending faxes, you know, when I launched my other companies, you know, I was coming home and you know, at 11 o'clock at night, because I was, you know, working and growing my business, because I normally did have to manage the clients and create the product. But also, with the sale, I had to do the bookkeeping, I had to do everything. So you know, the amount of sacrifice when you're at that level, and it's, it sounds like a lot of your entrepreneurs or solo operators or kind of just getting started. So I mean, that should resonate. But my advice to your listeners would be to really, you know, it is a lot of work. And the sacrifices are huge. Everybody wants to see the money and the nice cars and everything that comes when you become successful. But there's never a glimpse into what you sacrifice or how much work it took to get there. You know?

 

Andrei Tiu  

Mhm, Mhm. There was a nice thing. I remember I saw it, though it was probably a meme, it stayed with me. It was something like: "The value of anything is the amount of time you put into it." And I think this applies very much to just starting a business.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, for sure. Absolutely. 

 

Andrei Tiu  

And also growing it obviously, because it's not just gonna pick up like this. So what was your next move after you, well, you went through college, and you dropped out? And what did you do?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, so I basically, I was working for an internet company that basically, you know, it was very early was kind of like very early social media, social networking, kind of like MySpace or Facebook. But instead of one platform, the concept behind this tech company was to create a scalable platform in a specific vertical or niche or location and then create the platform to be able to duplicate these very quickly, almost with a push of a button and give access to people. So you know, if you wanted to come in and make a marketing social network, you could launch an account, launch a social network, and you could populate it, run it, it would be completely free. But then this company was able to run advertising throughout the entire platform of social network sites. And then they could target it based on demographic, you know. If, you know, they had a golf company that's selling golf clubs, for example, if there was a social network targeting older people, or you know, high-end kind of interests or hobbies, they could just run it through that. So the company was founded with a couple of million dollars. We went through that process and ended up not surviving, it didn't do well. But during that time, I met another fellow marketing friend of mine. He had a side hustle, a little bit of a side business. And he was basically an SEO he did internet marketing, like me. And basically, what he did, was recruiting nurses through a little website, basically, it was nothing more than a page or two and a form. And this is early internet, you know, 20 years ago, he was getting nurses that were applying and setting up resumes. And, you know, for travel nurse positions, you know, transit physicians, and he was basically working with one nurse staffing agency and saying: "Look, I'll send you my resumes. If you hire one of these nurses or place them at a hospital, send me $1,000." You know, so anyway, he was running this for about eight months, and he was sending hundreds of candidates to this company. And, you know, he was coming to me saying: "They haven't placed a single nurse, and my candidates must be horrible. My marketing sucks, you know, what am I gonna do?" And, you know, I said: "Man, I think you've got this all wrong. And I don't know how you can scale this, I think I could turn this into a million-dollar business." So he said: "Really? Let's, partner!" So we ended up partnering together on it and completely change the model, from a performance model to a SaaS model subscription as a service or software as a service, where people are paying monthly, and I basically called that one client said: "We're gonna stop the candidates coming through because obviously, they don't work. You haven't placed anybody in a year. We're gonna sell this to your competitors now." Well, I got a call back in five minutes from the CEO of that company saying: "Oh, there was an accounting error. We placed 25 people in the last six months." And they said: "Great, thanks for $25,000. Now you have to pay a subscription fee like everybody else." Which they did. So we ended up growing that to about a million and a half $2 million business, it still exists in our portfolio under TrackFive today, which really TrackFive, my company is really just a portfolio company, we run multiple online platforms that are basically career sites or job boards for different professions. And that's what we do. We sell them and we market them as products and sell access to them, to the companies that need the towel.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Just a little question here. So we, so it's clear for everybody. So basically, you guys are developing the platforms that are then sold to companies and rebranded or branded according to their company?

 

Oliver Feakins  

No. So we build the platform as a business, and then we operate the business. So one arm of our site is making the product, but then we're up or we're running them as a SaaS, software as a service where, you know, we make the job board, for example, and then have our company we'll go and sell it to, for example, we have a really large job board in the transportation space, the truck driving space. In America, truck driving is a massive demand right now. Very, very big demand. The UK as well. Yeah, so we have companies that will, you know, subscribe to access to our platform to post their jobs, go into a resume database, get candidates applying to them, and they'll pay 1000s of dollars per month, each one to become part of this platform and receive, you know, hundreds of qualified candidates. So, you know, not only do we build the software and iterate the software, make the software better, and grow it, but we also have to run the business side of it, which is the pricing selling, taking care of the clients, the marketing for both the users and the clients and we sell to, and all the HR legal, you know, stuff that goes in around that as well. So we're launching like, we're basically a little startup company, all we do is launch a little startup and we run them and they're each one of them does, you know, million $2 million each year. So cumulatively together, they do, you know, a decent amount of revenue for us. And then we have a team, which is dedicated to each one of these platforms. And we will grow these platforms and stack them and change them as we need to keep revenue coming in.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Very cool! So you basically build a model that works and then just replicate it across industries.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah. So we built the platform. And we basically, you know, we've tight, you know, each platform is geared toward a specific profession, nursing, doctors, truck drivers, pilots, things like that. But the core framework of our proprietary software, we can duplicate or replicate, and we just have to change the way it looks, the words on the site, the database schemas for you know, how the different types of jobs relate to each other. But it's, it's a push of a button, it's very quick. So, you know, making the site is easy as scaling in and bringing in the clients and the marketing and the candidates. That's what takes a lot of time and money.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Sure, sure. Okay. Interesting. I'm happy that we clarified this, so people know, you know, what you are doing at the moment, which TrackFive. Now, let's go back to the story. So you were saying about the way that you sort of started out?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, so you know, we basically, you know, I started with this one gentleman, a good friend of mine, and we started with one in nursing. And, you know, we joined together in 2007. So we basically switched the model. And it was crazy. I was 21 years old, I had no money, I was just getting, I haven't finished college, right. But I had an idea, I had a vision, and I knew that I could sell it, I knew I could market it. I knew we could get it where it needed to go. So we started launching it, we started getting really successful. And then 2008, the next year happened. And I don't know if it was the same way in the UK. But in 2008, we had the worst financial crisis in the United States we've had in decades,

 

Andrei Tiu  

Everybody, I think.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, so the whole world just got poor, like for a couple of years, right. And when they and recruiting is typical. So when, when the economy goes down, and companies start laying off, they're certainly not hiring. So their need for job boards and recruitment services that we offer, put down. So we, you know, I remember losing half the business, that I just spent every waking hour of my life building, like literally in two months, you know, and we had to go through some really hard times, you know, we weren't getting paid, we were working double the amount of time, I remember calling clients and begging them saying, Look, stay, you know, we'll lower the price stay on here, we're gonna do double the work for you. But we need you to know, I needed to secure cash flow to keep the business going. You know, we had to get really good and really efficient at internet marketing, which is where we kind of started, you know, about 20 years ago. And you know, to get those costs down, we had to really take care of our clients and get them the results so they did stay during downtime. And you know, basically, we were able to grow that back up and add more job boards and add more revenue now we're about a, you know, six-seven $8 million company so, you know, we're able to kind of grow out of that and keep pushing, but it would have been really easy for me to, to fold it up and go do something else or go get a job and would have been way less stressful. But you know, like I was saying earlier that hustle that grit that grinds. And also just knowing yourself and knowing what you can do, and knowing your market convinced me to kind of put in that extra effort, stay focused, and it paid off.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Super super. Okay, so how were the last few years for you? Because obviously, I don't know if we are heading towards similar scenarios in 2008 or not? It looks like it by some, some indicators.

 

Oliver Feakins  

It sounds weird, right? Because you're right, like inflation, I don't know how it is over there. But the US has rapid inflation right now, like 30 billion. It's just, I've never seen it like this in my lifetime. And, you know, you're seeing it everywhere the gas, you know, big problem. Bacon is like double the price. You know, that's like, that's what I use.

 

Andrei Tiu  

It is double?

 

Oliver Feakins  

It's like $10 or $11. Now, to get a little thing of bacon, it used to be like four or five $6. So that's expensive. Yeah, everything's expensive. So it's, it's hitting our labour markets. So it's making labour more expensive, which is good in America because you know, people get paid more, but it doesn't equal out to the inflation, the inflation still more. And what we're seeing now is that because people are so desperate for so basically, America was asleep for the last year with COVID, right, everybody was locked down in their homes, companies went under, you couldn't even go to a restaurant, you wouldn't stay in a hotel, like certain, you know, cruises were all parked, you know, Disneyworld was shut down, like, everything was shut down. And now with the vaccines coming out, and with, you know, just in general, America is sprung open. And everybody got a lot of stimulus money throughout the, you know, they got a, you know, a couple $1,000 from the government, some also businesses here got to take advantage of what's called a PPP loan, which basically, the government came out and said, you know, if you're suffering from COVID, we're going to inject you know, X amount of money into a million dollars from the government, the company's got hundreds of 1000s of dollars. And if you can show that you were, you know, if you kept employees on and did not let them go, you got to keep the money, it was meant to be a loan, but you ended up keeping it and then even better than that, they were going to tax you on it tax, it is revenue, and then they forgave the tax as well. So it's completely free money. So you have all these, you know, business owners that were that, you know, yes, they suffered, but they were also given some help. And the whole economy has just been saving money for a year, not going out to eat not going on vacations. So once the will say America opened back up, and people were allowed out of their houses and vaccines are available, America went on a sheer spending spree, as we've never seen before. And the rest of the world hasn't really caught up, you know, like, the factories in China are still dealing with it, their backlog, you know, everything shut down, you can't just turn on the global economy really quickly. So, you know, what that's helped for us for is that you know, people are hiring, and they're hiring all the people that they let go. And on top of that, because there's extra demand, you know, we grew 20%, you know, through COVID, you know, right at once we opened up, we grew like a rocket ship. And we've been really trying to keep up with all the demand. So it's been really good for us. But it's been challenged, it's going good from a demand perspective. But it's been difficult because of the challenges related to trying to find people to work, they increase costs, and every cost has gone up for us. But thank God, that demand has gone up as well. So it's just a very challenging increasing environment to work in. And I've never seen anything like it. Oh, you just waiting over there.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah. And Europe as well. Like, I'm not very aware of the situation in China and the sort of Asian countries, but here as well, I mean, I guess it has to do a lot with the increase in gas price and everything that has to do with the energy sector. But as you said, people probably have saved a lot. Certainly, a lot of businesses have gone bankrupt during this time. And now since things have started to open a bit during the summer, now they are sort of going back into a little sort of lockdown. But I guess everybody should be a bit cautious in terms of how they direct their, first of all, how they save up money for what's coming because we don't really know. And then, of course, just spend money more cautiously, then. I have a question. This doesn't really have to do with our subject. But since we are added, how do you see you know, from you guys from America. How are things looking economically? Do you have any predictions or are you taking certain measures to ensure that you'll do well? In a scenario, if you have a scenario even better, like the one that you believe will happen? I think that will be interesting for us because I guess many of our listeners are a bit like us in the way that they have their hands deep into the business world.

 

Oliver Feakins  

But like its interest are like the top 1% that especially like the business owners and things like that received a lot of capital from the US government during COVID. So the people that have the most disposable income at this point have a tonne of extra money to burn. And especially, you know, right now, with business going so crazy. And the stock market going so crazy in the US. You know, the big earners have a lot of extra cash, unfortunately, you know, people on the lower rungs that don't necessarily have that disposable income, they're getting the brunt of it, right. Because the inflation's here, they're spending more there is wage increase, but it just doesn't match. So, you know, but we are seeing the demand is just so huge right now in the US, and it's gonna take years to go through this demand, they can't even sell cars right now, because they can't get parts, there's a waiting list for just about everything. It's there's so much pent up demand, you know, from the consumers in this country, that everything is going really, really well, if you own a business. But if you're trying to put food on the table, unfortunately, it's a little bit tougher. But for us, I mean, really, with the entrance of COVID. And the variance, and I feel like it's musical chairs like COVID just goes around the world that comes back again, you know, like, well, we'll do really, really good. And then you hear Germany's, like, oh, Germany is doing really good, right? Then now they're having it again, or India's doing good. And then they go to her, you know, horrible or Italy or, or England or when Buenos Aires, Argentina, wherever right? Like COVID just kind of goes down the road, but it always comes back. So we're always kind of going in these little curves where it comes down, and we let our guard down. And then four months later, we have a humongous big spike. And you know, what that does, as a business owner, I think is make it very difficult to forward plan. Planning is almost impossible long term. Because you can't account for things like government shutting down, you can't account for, you know, inflation that's just moving around, you can't account for your office being shut down because of COVID infections and things like that. I mean, you can at some point, but you can't really put pen to paper and say what your business is going to be doing in two years from now, the market is just too unstable. So, you know, for us, there's a lot of short term planning, and really working on being agile, being able to move quickly to opportunities, avoid threats, but a lot of it too, is making sure that we have a lot more money in the bank than we ever did before. Because we want to be able to weather the storm a little bit easier.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Mhm, mhm, yeah. Good moves. I'm with you here.

 

Oliver Feakins  

And that's also why we started our Trusted Search Marketing brand, you know, we do, did we do, we've done digital marketing for, you know, 15 years here, TrackFive, we're very good at it. I mean, extremely good at it. You know, we spend millions of dollars with Google, we've been running these campaigns and SEO and everything forever. And, you know, actually used to own in 2010, after he started another digital agency, we grew that up to a $2 - $3 million agency and I sold it off. But we worked with some massive international clients doing SEO and digital marketing. So you know, for me, it's a pedigree, and for any company I touch is usually very marketing-centric. But for us, the reason we opened up this division of our holding company called Trusted Search Marketing, which is a digital marketing agency, is because we were so pigeonholed in recruiting when COVID hit, we lost, you know, 20% of our revenue because nobody was hiring. But I can tell you what, really what went 20% the other way is digital marketing. Because of all the brick and mortar, all the local stores, shops and things like that everybody went online, and they needed SEO, they needed internet marketing. So for us it strategically, you know, it allows us to balance, you know, the recruiting market with a non-recruiting market so that when one's going down, once one stays positive, or it gives us a little bit of a backup or reserve. So that's kind of why we did it. But we're also really good at it, the agency just got a credit credential from Google, or a Google partner agency, we've won some awards already. And, you know, we're, you know, we just have a different take on it. So we've been working with some clients in eCommerce, but surprisingly, because we have such a background in recruiting, we have a lot of recruiting companies that are coming to us, you know, truck driving companies, healthcare companies, asking us to do digital for recruiting talent, you know, so it's been interesting, it's not how we thought it was gonna go. We thought we're gonna be doing eCommerce and working with businesses. And that's what we thought was going to be, you know, that's what he wanted it to be. But as soon as we took our expertise in recruiting, and opened up a digital agency, all the people that use us know us in the recruiting space came over and said: "Can you do digital for us and should teach us how to do it?" 

 

Andrei Tiu  

Ah cool!

 

Oliver Feakins  

Its kind of like the market has told us what it wants from us. And although we could do both, we're gonna follow what the market you know, where the demand is.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah, sure.

 

Oliver Feakins  

But yeah, it worked out well.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Mhm, nice, nice, nice. Okay, so now since we came back to the marketing subject. Let's see how you guys are planning your current marketing and given the sort of shaky environment. How are you guys looking at let's say the small startups that you are running? I don't know if it's fair to call them that. But let's say you are, you are launching a new platform. And it's from scratch. It's a technology product. And what I think would be interesting to do is try to draw up some points where that would be applicable for virtually most of the tech startups out there. So if you were to think through your experience right now of launching a new tech startup, whether that's a SAS or not, let's say it's a SAS, but not necessarily limited to it, what would be the approach that you'd have or maybe you already do, to put it out on the market now, at the end of 2021, beginning of 2022?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, so some really interesting things have happened in marketing in the marketing world, so to speak, in the last year or two. You know, we've seen obviously influencer marketing and content marketing really become its own thing. It was kind of lumped into, you know, SEO or lumped into just general marketing or PR, but now content marketing and influencer marketing have really matured to break out into their own segments. And that's a really fun space. And now oftentimes, you know, we see, oh, we want to do social media advertising, we need content. Now, we kind of looked at it backwards, where we have a content marketing strategy, and it's going to be fueled and promoted by social media, right. So we use social as an arm to promote the content that we're promoting. So, you know, getting into things like video, it's really huge. We're seeing some great results with some video marketing that we're doing influencer marketing, things like that. But for a tech company, it depends if you're a business to consumer or business to business company, if you're selling to businesses, there are a little bit different markets. So if you're doing that, what we call Account-Based Marketing, or ABM, where we're really working in producing content for that business. So becoming an industry leader in that business and having that confidence high into the solution that we have. So you know, if you're, you know, if you're a product, a tech product in the finance space, or the payroll space, for example, you may be producing content all around the payroll industry and niche and coming to the market with really breathtaking statistics or perspective that really positioned you as the expert for that industry. But you're using social, whether it be LinkedIn, or just even generally, some of the generic social platforms to really promote that. But some of the things that have really been interesting as well as we do a lot of paid ads. So a lot of media buying, whether it be Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, TikTok ads, you know, we're in all these. And what we've seen over the last year has been really interesting to this because Facebook, well, and Google pretty much well, they came out Apple came out with that whole iOS update about seven months ago, where you had to opt into privacy right. And that's been a, I think, a global trend, like everybody wants more privacy, right. It basically made it really difficult to place tracking cookies and use pixels to track remarketing and things like that. So across the entire world, everyone's Pay Per Click marketing campaigns became worse overnight, because one of the reasons these mediums work so well is because you know, if I want to find if I'm selling houses, I want to find what we call an in-market audience, somebody that they're looking for a house, I can identify that on YouTube, for example, I can identify that person on Facebook. Well now that the tracking is gone, they're less likely to be able to be as accurate or B. if I want to build a remarketing audience, so people come into my website and remarket to them, you know, not only can I not cookie them anymore, if they're on a mobile phone or an Apple phone specifically, they can also opt-out retroactively so they can opt-out and be removed from an audience that they were already in. So we had an eCommerce client that was selling tanning products, for example, a decent, you know, eCommerce product and decent commerce client. We were, for example, we were using what's called remarketing, right, so we were, you know, doing Facebook ads, Google ads, things like that, and we were killing it on Facebook, we were selling this at a five to 10x, you know, on this product, every, you know, every dollar they spent, they're making $10 in revenue off their product. And remarketing for us for them worked really, really well. Well, as soon as this iOS update happened and all of a sudden there were marketing audience group started getting smaller and smaller and smaller and the cost per sale ended up going from like a 10x to an 8x, to 3x, to 2x. And right before our very eyes, you know, it will happen immediately. Some of our brands that TrackFive is caught, you know, our cost per client acquisition doubled because of this because the targeting wasn't as good and the reporting isn't as good, the attribution isn't this good. So what is you know, so a lot of people went out of business, a lot of people cried a moan and they really upset and it is upsetting. It's very frustrating. But what are your options, right? You can go with it. And you could try to find a way around it or you can admit defeat. So we decided to go with it. So we came up with a bunch of ideas. We tested a bunch of ideas. Not only were we to bring those back inline those costs back in mind, but we even were able to make them even better than before. So I think what it's when challenges like this arise in marketing and changes in the global landscape for marketing, I think it really gives marketing people an opportunity to dust off those skills, and to solve the problem. And I think that's very, very entrepreneurial way to look at it, you know, it's like, you know, for me, whether it's a marketing issue or a business issue, it's, you know, I'm a fireman, all I do is put out fires, right? So like, I have to find a way to win, because I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna quit. So, yeah, right there

 

Andrei Tiu  

On this note, but you probably have found it as well, just worth mentioning, for example, what we found as a fix to the issue that occurred and was using a lot of the lookalike audiences and creating custom audiences and creating look alike on specific custom audiences. We are still doing it, and it seems to be working very well.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, we did that, we also use the Facebook API, you know, switch to the API so that we could do that as well. The difference for us in niche products, where it was a little bit harder to get that look like audience once you go down lower in the niche, once you are a little bit broader, and there are a little bit more multi-facets of the target market, then it was okay. But once we got a super niche, you know, super small in the targeting, it just became not as effective. You know, we also found some interesting things too. For example, testing different ad creatives, like video and image ads, and carousel ads. And we would notice that when we swapped the image, the impressions will throttle, right, so like, we went from image to video, for example, the impressions with throttle and the cost, the cost per click, or the cost per lead, or acquisition cost, would skyrocket as well. So we were able to test the distribution network of like Facebook and Instagram, for example, the find out what creatives actually produce because they don't show up in the same places and they're not promoted with the same force, right? So we did a bunch of testing to find out what the combination of you know, we as I said, we tried to look like audiences and things like that. And for our niches, they did better, but they still didn't get us to where we were. We ended up doing some things with video and some creative things work. And also, it helps you be a better marketer, because we took it all the way up the funnel, right? We started looking at our landing pages, like we started, you know, swapping up our ads, working on day parsing, and just getting all the fundamental things and marketing that sometimes we overlook, for the shiny objects like retargeting or, you know, look like audiences or, you know, programmatic, right? Like, you know, sometimes we're so focused as marketers on that type of stuff, we forget that our landing page hasn't been freshened up for a year, and the conversion rate has been falling, or the fact that we could be doing testing. And, you know, we just did a landing page change, you know, during this process as well and we're able to get about a 20% increase in conversion rate, you know, just from a new landing page. So that's without even touching the campaign. So we tie these things all together, we’re able to really bring that cost down. But yeah, I mean, it's been difficult, but it's been good. I mean, as I said, it's forced us - not that we are lazy marketers before, but I think Facebook made it really easy. And now I think it got a little bit harder.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yep. But as you said, it's not necessarily for the words, because, again, I think, you know, you are running a marketing agency, we are a marketing agency. I think it helps filter out the good agencies from not, I wouldn't say the bad agencies, but the agencies that shouldn't get that tight.

 

Oliver Feakins  

It's true, it's true. And like, you know, and even with that, right, like, we've had issues where we're just really weird issues where we've been like, no matter what we do, we can't fix it. We're like, man, we must really suck. Like, we can't - like why is this not like, in theory, what we're doing should work. So we ended up, you know, a good example, we actually reached out to Facebook with a rapper like, hey, like, what are we doing wrong here? Like, we can't figure this out. And next thing, you know, we get a call from a Facebook engineer. It's the only time in my life Facebook has ever called us. Or anybody that I know. It's usually like a live chat or an email. But to get a phone call from a Facebook engineer, you know something's wrong. So they basically said, Yes, you know, you guys were right, it was a bug on the platform, we're gonna address it. So we're like catching bugs on Facebook. It sounds like you know, Facebook's notorious for having bugs and breaking all the time. And right now they're attribution tracking and their reporting is garbage. Like they keep stripping away all these different types of reporting and they keep making it smaller and smaller and then put in disclaimers that it may not be accurate. And, you know, the 20-day attribution is, you know, it's just, it's like, it's crazy. So it's, you know like I said earlier, it's, it has made it more challenging, but as you said, the good agencies adapt, the bad agencies probably don't even know what the bad agencies don't even know that iOS came up with an update that has changed. You know, They're still wondering why their costs, you know, they are calling it seasonality. But, you know, it's, but like, you know, it's the same thing with SEO. Right? Like, SEO is difficult as well, you know, it's just, you know, Google coming out with updates. So it's just, it's just an interesting yeah. But you know what I say this now Android, but like, the, it's always been like this, right? If it wasn't this, now, this is a big one, like the face the iOS change, that's a big, that's a big change. I can't recall a larger change to paid advertising than that in my life.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah, neither do I.

 

Oliver Feakins  

It's a big one. In SEO, we have them all the time. They've been better at it recently, but if you go back in time to like, Penguin, Panda updates, Farmer updates, you know, ‘mobilegeddon’, different specific updates, that were very, very restrictive, that put people out of business penalty related updates, spam-related updates, like, this is how it's been in digital marketing since I remember. And it's a really tough pill to swallow if you're a business owner, right. So if I'm selling you and saying we're going to do absolutely everything, right, we're going to check the box, we're going to execute at the highest level, we're going to be you're at marketing, but then Google can come in and make an algorithm change and wipe out all our gains temporarily, or Apple to come out with a Facebook issue and change your cost per lead and take away all the work we've done for the last three years of grooming your account, you know, or your history is going to go away or your reporting is going to have to wait an extra week now because we need attribution to settle down and get you the right numbers. Like, if you're a business owner, you're probably thinking what the hell is going on? So yeah, that but that's what it is, we've had to be really good with our clients, and just be honest, and say: "This is what's happening. It's not your fault. It's not our fault. And it's not even Facebook's fault or Apple's fault." This is digital marketing. And it's, you know, it never stops, and it always changes and you just have to continually invest in an operational sense that you have to keep going with it. Are you guys seeing that with your clients to where it's just, you know, people could say, like, you know, why is this different, you know? What happened, you know? Why is it this way, you know?

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah, I think, you know, the biggest way was then with the update, but then again, we tried to let people know that there's going to be a change, we didn't know how big but obviously, we expected it. I mean, there are some clients that can still feel a bit of a shakeup, that are affected from. It's probably the clients that didn't have the budget to deploy everything that they were doing in a coordinated way. So for example, on more accounts, and they were kind of like taking one and then the other and they didn't have real-time data on all platforms to readjust spend or budgets, and then they kind of had to with us, to try to wing it until we got a glimpse of it and really the essence. But now everything seems to be much better. I think people got accustomed to the new world of marketing, let's say. And I think it's all going well. I mean, obviously, as you mentioned in terms of Facebook. Sorry, there is a bit of noise. One second. Okay, so Andre, when you edit, please, if you can cut out this little bit here. Because we have the video editing. Okay, so yeah, everything has to be everything seems to get much better now. So yeah, we're looking forward to the Black Friday time, and then Christmas. And I feel the platform also tries to, you know, strip out these reporting elements, and the algorithm is not great. But at the same time, I think they're doing their best to try to adapt. In the end, this is where they get the money from.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, I mean, they have to, right? I mean, I've heard of reading that Facebook is feverishly working on a different way to track conversions, that's going to be more future proof. You know, but we have another layer of issue, you know, when specified on the recruitment side, because we fall into what's known as a special category. So these special categories are obviously things like for those of your audience who don't know, think when you're in a market, like, for example, finance, or employment, or just there's like three or four other things that go into the special category. And I don't know if it's that way, I imagined it's that way overseas as well. But no, it's that way. Yes. 

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah, it is.

 

Oliver Feakins  

So the idea being, you know, if I was going to put up a job to recruit somebody, and I said, the only people that can apply are between the ages of 15-30 that live in these neighbourhoods, that are these this segment ethnicity, that would not fly, right, we'd be flagged as discrimination and rightfully so. So the government came out here and that Facebook made the change saying, you know, if you're recruiting you have, you know, zero targeting and essentially, you know, you can try to target to a profession, but not all professions are representative and Facebook's options, right. So, you know, sometimes you have to pick something close and then essentially you would let the cookie or let the tracking, go through the learning process and optimise the conversions based on that, right? So essentially, in a special ad category, you're giving Facebook a jumpstart into the first level of this. But then you have to wait and be patient and let Facebook work through the learning phase of optimising conversions, you know, based on your performance. So the problem with this is that Facebook's targeting sucks. It's not as good as it used to be and the other problem is that they're not transparent with any data, right? So you can't even tell what Facebook is doing in certain cases. Not enough to me when you're in it. Like, for example, us being in a, I give you an example. One of our job sites is in nursing, right? So there are different types of nurses, RNs, LPNs. These are the difference between like the four-year degree nurses have the one or two-year degree nurses, they have very different skill sets, the demand is also much higher for the RNs registered nurses are, I would say, the real nurses, but like the ones that you know, the more senior and the LPN or the more junior, well, when you're targeting nursing on Facebook, Facebook doesn't give you the targeting options to target based on that - it's all nurses. It's too broad and too generic. But that's their only option, the only option they give you, right?

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah.

 

Oliver Feakins  

But the problem that we have, and we've been fighting Facebook on is that we are, you know, we're converting nurses, but they're, you know, LPNs nurses aides, they're not like the regular, you know, high-level nurses, right? And there's, you know, we can do look like audiences, we've tried that, but Facebook still can't disseminate the difference between these types of nurses. They're having a real hard time with it. So one of the things we're going to do is actually, you know, we're saying, okay, Facebook, you're giving us zero transparency, and you're getting us zero control and everything you're doing is tied to a conversion firing, right to be able to match a conversion. So we're going to play that game. So we actually have started, for example, when somebody comes on our job site and fills out a job, and they're an RN, for example, we actually send them to a different page as a "Thank you page" and we only put the conversion tracking on that page. So now, Facebook is only receiving, you know, signals back from that type so they can refine that algorithm. So even if someone would come in and convert and they weren't an RN, they would, it wouldn't, it would convert on our site, but it would not, it would be you know, not a fraudulent click, but it wouldn't be a targeted clinic wouldn't be a targeted conversion. So we're starting to experiment a little bit with how to train Facebook's algorithm a little bit better within this employment category and within the line of remarketing and things like that, to try and see if we can train the algorithm and then again, mixing up different ad creatives, different mediums. There are different exposures and different distribution networks applied to them. So testing is huge like I can't, you know, I have to let you know how it works. But it's uh, but this is crazy. We never had to do this two years ago, it was so much simpler.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah. And also, now you need far bigger budgets to execute something like what you just mentioned,

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah,

 

Andrei Tiu  

rather than just, you know, getting those 50 conversions in seven days or 30 days, with a, you know, like, kind of relatively smaller budget, definitely smaller than one required to, you know, filter out the convergence and go through the journey that you mentioned just now.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah. And even just, you know, the seasonality and the changes, right. So we saw a lot of people swim to Google, when Facebook had these issues with salad mat, and not a mass exodus from Facebook, but a lot of people hanging up Facebook for a little bit, because they just weren't seeing the results and Google became more competitive, once Facebook started getting a higher cost per acquisition, right? So we saw that attribute to the higher costs of the auction within Google, therefore, also translating the higher cost per lead, but sometimes still better than Facebook. So there's just a lot. So that I guess this goes to why you really need an agency, you know, if you're, so if you're a startup company, right, and you're, you know, I speak to a lot of people all day, they're like, I'm doing this myself, I'm doing well. And yeah, you may get conversions, but you don't know-how, how well you're doing. I mean, we do a lot in recruitment, right? So we know what are our campaigns produce that and we work with companies in the industry that are spending, you know, 15-20 times the cost per acquisition that we get in the same channel, and they think they're doing fantastic. So it's, you know, we almost don't want to tell them what we're doing because it'll make them feel bad. But we, you know, you have to have the experience and you know, an agency like yourselves or us, I mean, you have to you just have to be in it all the time, you have to be.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Okay, so now, since we are… I'm really glad that we discuss all these issues because I think if we just told people that you really need to be cautious, maybe it wouldn't have waited for that much in the argument of why. So it's good that we may be brought these issues upfront. And now if we were to think about the person that is trying to organise their marketing efforts for the coming months, and maybe they don't have a large budget, and now to filter out even more because you mentioned the split between B2B and B2C. And I think at least from what I see in the market, there's a lot of B2C tech platforms that have gained momentum from platforms to, you know, selling eco-bio groceries to, you know, you name it, it's pretty easy to launch a platform nowadays. So or an online store, because it's still a tech product. It's B2B, B2C sorry. Yeah, I mean, yeah, let's not even go there. But let's say, you know, a software product that is B2C. What would you be your three points or three pieces of advice that you'd give an entrepreneur or a marketing manager in a space like this to look for when planning for next year?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, so I would definitely, so I would kind of, I tend to look at things in buckets because it's easier for me, it's easy to organise them in my mind from a sense of strategy than it is to kind of put this into one bucket of marketing, right? So I would tend to look at things like, you know, long term marketing, short term marketing, and also new sales versus recurring sales, right? So, you know, because they would have different strategies and different tactics and mediums, you know, long term, you know, you got to put SEO on play there, you can't really put SEO as a short term. You'll see short term gains, but it's really a long term endeavour, it's something especially if you're in a really complicated niche, it's gonna it could take you years. And to be honest, a good SEO firm would tell you that at some point, it's not even worth it, you know, if you, you know, we have we had somebody that came to us a couple of years ago, and they wanted to rank number one for skincare. And that was their, you know, pet term, and it doesn't matter what budget, they come to the table if they're not going to do it, you know, not, not within a couple of years. I mean, they're 10 years behind, you know, the biggest companies and billionaire brands, you know, have been doing that there's just there's, you know, so we tried to get them to focus on some more meaty middle type of keywords and longtail keywords to social short games. We call it a vanity metric, where a vanity metric for us is when the owner of the company just wants to tell his friends that he ranks for skincare, but doesn't really care how much it cost to get in there, or what business impact it has. So you know, we ended up not being a good fit, because we're just not gonna lie to anybody. But, you know, SEO is a great long term instructor you got to be in it for the long term, they got to go with the algorithm updates the changes, under that you're gonna be producing a lot of content and online PR that you can also recycle into your social campaigns. You know, pay per click, paid social, I love as a short term. I also like to do it before I do SEO, I like to do paid search and social first, specifically paid search because I get real-time, kind of real-time… What's the word I'm looking to validate?

 

Andrei Tiu  

Feel?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, real-time data, but real-time validation, on my keywords, my ad copy, my click-through rate. So I can actually start experimenting with things like a click-through rate right on an ad, I can have several ads targeted, and I can find out which ones produce better. Well, guess what those become my meta tags, or get my men and title tags on my website when I do my SEO because I have proven that I can optimise that that language for SEO keywords. But I've now done real-time experimenting to find which one has a better click-through rate. Again, as CEOs and internet marketers, sometimes they focus so much on the shiny things in front of them, they forget to look at all of it, right? So what's if I rank for number one on whatever term right I'm getting, I'm showing in front of millions of searches, but my click-through rate is half of what it could be, I'm losing half the amount of traffic and that you know, 1% click-through rate with 2% click-through rate on a head term that brings in hundreds of 1000s of clicks. That's a lot that could result in millions of dollars worth of sales. So from an SEO perspective, taking it a full stack of full-funnel, and really, you know, going from there using paid search and social and really experimenting there, I tend to bring content marketing at this point as well because I need it for SEO, I need it for paid search and social and I'll typically try to produce a content calendar with that mirrors all of them together so that they're all kind of talking about the same thing it's not kind of a schizophrenic type of like content strategy where it doesn't make sense together right? And they should all be pushing kind of what your goals are for that time frame. So Search Social PPC definitely rolling out with those and I would say also you know a lot of people there are startups are so focused on getting the sale. They sometimes again shiny object they forget to focus on you know, keeping the sale, upselling the sale, referring other people from the sale so having things like you know retargeting, good Account-Based Marketing where you're going out using things like email or social you know, retargeting throughout the social networks to get people to upgrade upsell keep them going and things like that cross-sell amongst other products, you know, things they left in the cart, that kind of thing if you're talking eCommerce, and so those are the things I would really work on for starting up, you know, content SEO, PPC and retargeting, things like that. I mean, those are my go-to is for those.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Love it, super cool! And also two things that I would mention and you can you know, you can argue with them if you feel like you don't agree. One of them would be there's nothing wrong with because we saw people that, then you'll see Google ads, for example, and SEO as not complementary, but rather having to choose from, from the two, one is nothing wrong with actually, it's good to have the two done in parallel because one serves, as you mentioned, in terms of buckets, the short term goals, and the information and data gathering while as the other one is a medium to long term activity. So you can you probably should do both in parallel, so…

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, they also it's kind of saturate that first page of Google, right? Now you're taking up double the amount of space, you're pushing competitors down. And we know the click distribution from the top of the Google search results to the bottom right. We know that you know, once you get past page, you know, you know, position 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, so to speak, you know, it shrinks, right? So if you can get top positioning and a PPC positioning, you're really capitalising on a lot, but I would also just throw in the SEO stuff, too. You know, there's a lot more now than just ranking right. We got featured snippets, Rich Snippets, we have ads, we have, you know, videos, we have rich media, universal search, we have so many different ways to show up in Google right now. So SEO has kind of turned from this, like, we just want to rank number one. And I keep telling clients like, that's, you know, what way and not only that, but you have personalization, right? So I would say you want to rank number one, and whose search results like, you know, everything is so personalised right now. So, you know, we tend to look at things like page metrics over ranking and vanity metrics, just because it's a better conversation framing to have. Is more in line with goals. But I can't help it. Everybody still wants to talk about rankings, you know, it will never go away.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Time will come, time will come. Yeah, and the second one was with content marketing, very on point, to what you mentioned, and the way that I feel about it is that, because we can't really plan long term, what we tend to advise is to have an integrated content plan, but rather than having it for the full year, let's say for the fall of 2022, rather try to focus on quarters, maybe and then monthly plans, right? I mean, do you agree with this?

 

Oliver Feakins  

Absolutely. Because, you know, with especially with doing that you allow you if you've planned too long again, especially in COVID right now, the markets shifting so much, we need to allow your time, that time flexibility, but also being kind of nimble, and agile allows you to take advantage of opportunities, like a tactic called newsjacking, right newsjacking for us. If we find something in the news that we can bring our clients products to and take advantage of those searches, that's something we can spend together really quickly. So keep it short, like that allows you to you know, as I say here, roll with the punches.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Nice, nice, nice. Oliver, this was great to have you here on the show really, really enjoyed our conversation. 

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, me too.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Tell us where can people find you? Or how people find support with you or with your companies.

Oliver Feakins   

Yeah, so right now you can check out our agency offering which is trustedsearchmarketing.com. I can check out our other portfolio brands over at TrackFive that's T R A C K F I V E.com and Oliver Feakins - you can find me on LinkedIn. Feel free to link with me, shoot me any information or any questions you have, I’ll be happy to answer them. So yeah, that's it.

 

Andrei Tiu  

I love it. Awesome. Oliver. Again. Thank you so much. This was a very, very nice conversation. Looking forward to you guys tuning in today, hearing your thoughts, comments, sharing your insights, if you have any or if you agree or not with us, let us know what are your thoughts, all of them are welcome. And as always, if you have any ideas or things that you'd like us to focus on, maybe even together in a future episode, let us know you can email us at hello@marketiu.com. Or just post in the comments on YouTube if you watch this on YouTube or otherwise, you know, any way possible you can LinkedIn me, LinkedIn with Oliver, and maybe we can sort something out to serve better your needs. Until then - best of luck with everything. Oliver, thank you so much again for being on the show.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Thank you so much!

 

Andrei Tiu  

I look forward to hopefully meeting you in person someday, in America or the UK.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Will see. Have you ever been, do you get to come to the SEO conferences over here at all? I guess now they're shut down, but.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Yeah, no, I haven't had the chance yet. I was planning a problem. I mean, previously, I was staying for this year, but now I think it probably will be next year. I saw America is now open. So hopefully it will stay like that.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yeah, they're starting to bring conferences back so slowly. But uh, but yeah, but there are some good ones like Traffic and Conversion Conference. There's obviously like SMX, SCS. The mas conferences are great. I mean, there's, we've got some fantastic so offerings over here. So definitely anyone who's interested check them out. I mean, there's, you know, try to find one in Las Vegas. You know, it's a fun place to go. So I guess. That's my recommendation. You may not go to the conference, but you will have fun you know, so.

 

Andrei Tiu  

I just have to get it.

 

Oliver Feakins  

Yes, yes. Great.

 

Andrei Tiu  

Cool. Thank you so much, Oliver. Have an awesome day. And you guys as well for tuning in today. See you on the next episode.

 

Oliver Feakins  

See you!

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