The #MarketingMinds series share real-world stories from marketers showing how digital marketing has helped them develop their careers or businesses.
First of all, thank you Nadine and the Smart Insights team for having me on Marketing Minds. It’s truly an honour to be featured here alongside other inspiring marketers.
I’m Erwan, I was born and raised in France but I live in Stockholm (Sweden) where I work as an Independent Digital Marketing Consultant. I help startups with a range of services including Facebook and Instagram ads, SEO and content marketing, but also best practices training and workshops.
When I’m not consulting, I’m also an author for France’s leading innovation and digital magazine and work on a side-project which is a real estate startup simplifying how people search, compare and book co-working spaces in Stockholm.
What is your background in Marketing, and how did you come to be in the position you are in now?
Two things really inspired me as a kid and got a big impact on my desire to work with Innovation and Marketing: the movie Back To The Future 2 and the Air Jordan commercials. To get a job in Marketing, I started by studying Economics in France and then moved to Sweden. I graduated with an MBA in 2009 back when nothing was taught about digital! It nevertheless gave me a solid business foundation and the marketing fundamentals.
After some crazy jobs and internships, I got my first full-time position in a digital marketing agency. I didn’t even know how Google made money on my first day in October 2010 but I ended-up being headhunted by iZettle for my expertise in digital in June 2013. I arrived at iZettle as the second team member of their freshly assembled online acquisition team and led the SEO and social media paid activities across all markets until August 2016. During that time the company went from 50 to 500+ employees (note: iZettle recently reached unicorn status after its acquisition by Paypal for $2.2B).
This journey was obviously a big career accelerator but in September 2016 I decided to leave for a new challenge. I took the role as Head of Growth at Hem, who needed to pivot their business.
Within 12 months and thanks to a very dedicated team, smart partnerships, and effective optimizations, the company turned profitable. This is when I felt that my previous experiences had provided me with enough knowledge, network, and confidence to start my own business.
Which technical skills do you believe are most important in your role?
According to the Financial Times, Google and Facebook account for more than 80% of all digital ad spend in Europe and in the US.
So in my opinion, the most important technical skill for me right now is to stay updated with the constant changes impacting these platforms and interpret what they actually mean for users in order to translate it into opportunities for the businesses I work with.
You need to understand that everybody is not an expert in digital marketing when you talk with a CEO or a developer. It sounds obvious but it’s a mistake a lot of marketers actually do, including myself earlier in my career. It's basic marketing, adapt to your audience.
Which markets do you operate in?
As of today, the majority of my clients are startups based in Stockholm with most of them already having a global presence. I started with the Swedish market because that’s where I’m currently based and the ecosystem is very dynamic here. Stockholm is often nicknamed the Silicon Valley of Europe.
In the upcoming months, I’m planning to work more and more in my motherland – French Tech is gaining interesting momentum as well.
Which Marketing or Business related book would you recommend to a colleague, and why?
Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World by Rand Fishkin.
A must-read for anyone in the tech community and aspiring entrepreneurs. In this book, Rand narrates the often kept-quiet dark sides of a startup journey. A very refreshing and honest perspective contrasting with the success stories tech media outlets tend to focus on. Another reading that I often recommend is 1,000 True Fans an Essay by Kevin Kelly.
What can be one of the biggest challenges Marketers face in the industry you operate in?
The main challenge startup marketers are facing is the lack of focus and resources. Most startup marketers are a one-man show in their organisation, it can be overwhelming.
How do you and your team overcome the aforementioned industry challenges?
To earn trust and buy-in, I usually start by sharing my own experience: both successes and failures. Then my approach is to empower team members to map priorities based on a framework and processes that I provide them with.
Describe what a typical day at work looks like for you?
I have two kids, respectively 4-years-old and 6-months-old, so I organise my days around their routine. I usually wake up around 5 am, before them. I use this quiet time to catch up with industry news, answer a couple of emails and update my checklist for the day.
Other than that there is no typical day since my agenda is driven by the ongoing projects of my clients.
This week, for example, I’m building the marketing strategy for an IoT startup launching in the UK, I’m piloting Facebook ads supporting a big marketing push in the US for a startup in the music industry and I’m preparing a Startup Marketing course for a university in Stockholm.
Please share digital marketing tools that help you and your team accomplish your goals every day.
> Facebook Audience Insights: this is really my go-to tool. It helps me for so many other things than just Facebook ads. I mostly use it as a mapping tool to understand the needs and potential touch points with audiences I’m trying to reach through other channels like PR, partnerships, or influencer marketing.
> SEMRush: by far the most complete software for SEO and SEM analysis.
In your opinion, what are the most valuable skills a marketer in your role can have?
Be passionate: change is happening at such a fast pace in our industry. You need to have a passion for change and innovation so 'knowledge update' becomes like a game for you.
Be curious: if you are a startup marketer there is no playbook that will ever help you to disrupt an entire industry. To be able to find the answers you are looking for, you need to explore and test beyond the obvious. It often starts by asking yourself, and others, more specific questions. Dare to ask! Dare to do! Dare to fail! Dare to learn!
Be patient: Don’t take shortcuts, no "growth hack" ever led to sustainable growth.
What is your biggest career goal?
My career goal is definitely not monetary or tied to a specific title I would like to reach one day.
I just want to keep it fun and work with my passion for as long as possible.
In the same time, I would like to use my marketing skills to support underserved communities and charity projects. This is something I’m currently working on in parallel to my consultancy and I should be able to share more about it during the fall. Stay tuned!
What are your most important KPIs (Key Performance Indicator)?
BAV: Bring Added Value!
It beats them all.
What is unique about the organization you work for?
My consultancy is a bit of a paradox actually.
I help startups to scale-up but I’m personally hesitant to grow my business too fast.
The reason why is that I currently prioritise work-life balance over revenue, at least while my kids are so young.
What are the most important attributes you look for in a Manager?
Self-awareness: more about it later.
Across the marketing mix, what medium has brought you the best results?
With my personal brand, LinkedIn has been by far the best channel for me in the last 12 months. Some of my posts got up to 70,000+ views organically. Sharing consistently there definitely helped me to add new clients to my portfolio.
With my clients, it depends on their industry of course, but one channel that has a been a clear winner across the board this year is advertising via Instagram Stories. That’s just where most people’s attention is these days.
Describe one of the most successful projects or campaigns you've worked on. Why was it successful?
My contribution to a tech unicorn like iZettle is definitely a career highlight but successfully starting my own business is the project I’m the proudest of.
Here is how I did it:
> I started with a purpose: I started consulting because I love helping other entrepreneurs but because it was also allowing me to own my agenda and spend more time with my family.
> I visualised a clear goal: I reverse-engineered and calculated exactly how much I needed to be able to make a living.
> I minimised risk: I started progressively. I first kept my job part-time before I felt ready to go all-in. I also invested as little up-front cost as possible.
> I went for a niche: I went for a target group that I knew had a strong demand but where the current offering was irrelevant.
> I maximised the time spent on what I’m good at: and outsourced the rest. I spend almost no time on admin stuff.
> I’m flexible: I proactively ask for feedback from my clients to adapt my offering.
Have you worked on a project or campaign that didn't go as planned? Please describe what went wrong, and the key takeaways from the experience?
Plenty! And often times it was fast-growing companies.
Successful startups fail all the time, in fact, they love failure.
Contrary to traditional companies where failure often has a negative connotation, successful startups associate failure with learnings and actually encourage their staff to fail, to document it, and share it. Because more failure = more learnings = more disruption.
What is the best piece of work-related advice you have ever received?
“The art of leading others comes from the art of leading oneself” was our MBA’s motto. It really stuck with me ever since. Self-awareness is, in my opinion, the most important skill to develop if you want to be successful and happy – both at work and in life.
What do you see as the most exciting future opportunities in digital marketing that you are working on?
I’m very excited about the evolution of voice and the rise of AI-based personal assistants like Alexa or Siri.
We are still in the very early stages of adoption and the current speakers are actually a bit awkward. But these connected devices will transform how we consume content and how we buy products and services.
By Nadine Burzler
Nadine is the Senior Marketing Executive at Smart Insights and is responsible for Business Memberships. Nadine is a multimedia content marketing specialist with extensive experience in startup and higher education marketing. Connect with her via LinkedIn