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In the spotlight, Running an online Agency, Tips & tricks

Growing Your Agency Through Networking

Owning a digital agency is not for the faint of heart. On top of generating positive results and ROI for your current clients, you always need to keep your momentum and grow your customer base. Frequently agencies don’t have the resources to advertise their own services, so where does that leave you? Akvile DeFazio, founder of social media advertising agency AKvertise, shares how networking has been key to her company’s growth, as well as her thoughts on riding out the unpredictability of our industry and more.

How would you describe your company in less than 100 words?

In the simplest of terms, AKvertise, Inc. is a social media advertising agency. But as someone who lives for connecting people, making the connection between consumers and brands is what I’m proud to say my company and I do best. Our areas of expertise are ecommerce, event marketing, mobile apps, and lead generation, by way of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn Ads. We are located on the central coast of California in Paso Robles and work with a variety of local and global clients of various sizes.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Networking has been the most effective strategy because not only do I enjoy it, but it also rewards my business in both the short and the long term.

In business, success can largely be a product of the relationships you develop and nurture over time. Each person I meet might end up becoming a business partner, a client, someone I can refer to at some point, or even just a new friend, so no matter what it’s a win regardless of the outcome.

Even after running my own business for over three years now, I have yet to do any advertising for myself as all of my clients have come from networking opportunities and word of mouth referrals from other connections I’ve made over the years. I certainly don’t think I would be nearly as successful in my business if it weren’t for getting out there and actively networking.

If you’re looking to grow your business, start networking on and offline now and continue to do so. Check out conferences both in and out of the industry, local chamber of commerce meetings, Twitter Chats, online groups and forums, Toastmasters groups, or any other business groups in your area on sites such as meetup.com.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

As a natural early riser, I get up, take my dog out, make coffee and breakfast, and am at the computer and ready to go by around 7:00am. I check my email and Trello reminders to determine priorities for day and then get a course of action laid out. I typically try to work on more challenging, larger, or analytical tasks first as the mathematical side of my brain is sharper in the morning, then as I transition into the afternoon hours, I work on ad copy, blog posts, and other creative projects.

To increase my productivity, I’ve been training myself not to multitask and to solely focus on what’s in front of me. It’s been a new strategy for me but already it’s been immensely effective – helping me deliver even better work in less time than before. To stay focused, I close any tabs not related to the task at hand, close email, avoid visiting Twitter and Facebook, shut down any chat programs, and put my headphones on as music helps me focus. While some days don’t go as planned, I do my best to control what I can in terms of my workflow.

Besides acquiring new customers, what is the biggest challenge in growing your business?  

Uncertainty is a big one. We have clients we’ve worked with for years and others for just a few weeks, but it’s almost impossible to predict when things are going to change. For instance in 2017, to our surprise, one client’s CEO resigned and the company put most operations, especially advertising, on hold. Another longtime client got acquired, which was an exciting experience, but then another client lost their next series of funding.

While we do our best, sometimes outside factors affect our business and it’s important to find balance as we acquire leads and convert them into clients. In the midst of this uncertainty lies the challenge of determining what to keep in house and what to outsource for the sake of our financial health and continued growth.

What do you think is the most interesting trend in digital advertising now?

Chatbots are growing in popularity, however, they are still heavily under-utilized, especially with advertising campaigns. For the first time since email, Facebook’s Messenger now presents marketers with an entirely new platform to reach customers directly and quickly.

Several brands are killing it using Messenger and Messenger Ads: Sephora is using Facebook Messenger as a way to make booking beauty services and finding nearby locations a quicker and easier process, Domino’s Pizza features a way to place and track your orders, Pinterest is now allowing users to easily search and share pins, and many other brands are using it as a direct customer service channel.

Regardless of the business you’re in and what your goals may be, there are plenty of opportunities to get creative and leverage digital advertising to drive people to every stage of your sales funnel and turn conversations into conversions.

Do you see any trends specific to PPC reporting?

Marketing platforms will continue advancing and reporting features will follow suit. As we travel further down the road of artificial intelligence, I foresee more reporting providers expanding their offerings beyond visual, automated reports, and providing campaign intelligence solutions that will be able to use data from multiple sources and provide correlations and predictions. With the amount of data people provide and companies obtain, we will continue to gain powerful insights.

How will these trends impact advertisers in the future?

Having access to those kinds of business intelligence reporting tools would greatly aid our campaign efforts and provide clients with better performance results.

What are the biggest challenges you face in PPC campaign management?

With Facebook, it’s the lack of automation for certain tasks, especially at the ad set and ad level, such as activating/disabling ads or increasing budgets. Having similar automation features like AdWords does in Facebook would be a significant time saver.

What are the top 5 tools or apps you use almost everyday? 

Trello: For my business and life in general, I use Trello to project manage. I like how easy and quick it is to customize boards to schedule and keep track of tasks.

Toggl: I use to track time on everything I work on. It helps me see where I’m spending too much or not enough time and I can adjust accordingly. It also helps me accurately bill clients for my time.

Slack: Slack is fantastic for quick client and team communications when email or phone calls aren’t necessary.

Basecamp: I also use Basecamp for client project management and communications in certain cases

Buffer. Lastly, I use Buffer for scheduling social media posts for both my personal and business accounts and enjoy its ease of use and time saving features.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’ve honestly enjoyed every job I’ve ever had over the years from babysitting, to DJing, to being an auto parts specialist, barista, server, physical therapy aide, and now a marketer. Each one taught me valuable lessons, from customer service, to managing budgets and expectations, to overseeing teams as a manager.

However, I did have this one job (if you can even call it that as it was an incredibly brief stint) that taught me an invaluable lesson about not compromising my morals. After university, I needed to begin repaying my school loans, so I applied and landed my first phone sales job. In the one day I worked, I realized that some people have little to no integrity and are perfectly comfortable scamming others. I felt so uncomfortable, that when it came time to make my first call, I packed my things and never returned. To this day, I stand my ground, and no matter what situation I may find myself in, I will not work with companies that do not possess a moral compass.

What people have influenced your thinking (and why) and might be of interest to others?

Purna Virji immediately comes to mind as she is fascinating to listen to, converse with, and learn from. She is the of Senior Manager of Global Engagement at Microsoft and I find it very interesting to learn about AI and how it is already beginning to impact the way people utilize technology, for instance with voice search. As more people gain exposure and comfort with new technology, it will most certainly impact our world and have a huge effect on our work in the way we reach consumers with our marketing efforts in years to come.

What is your favorite quote?  

“Contentment is the highest gain”. – Yoga Vasishtha

Where do you see your company in the future?

In the next five, ten, and possibly even twenty years, I see growing success for my company as we navigate exciting new opportunities and challenges. While I cannot predict with certainty how technology will change the work I do, I am confident that advertising will still be of value and businesses will need it to propel their growth via digital means. My company and I will evolve with the times and will continue providing forward-thinking strategies and education on how to succeed in the digital world through consulting and account management.

 

As someone who lives for connecting people, making the connection between consumers and brands is what Akvile DeFazio, President and Digital Advertising Specialist at AKvertise, Inc., a social media advertising agency, does best. Her areas of expertise are ecommerce, event marketing, mobile apps, and lead generation, by way of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn Ads. Connect with her on Twitter at @AkvileDeFazio and @AKvertise or on LinkedIn.