An e-commerce entrepreneur from Montreal, I will be working with the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels for the next three months. Every week, I will give you my take on the tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem of Brussels. I hope this will encourage a knowledge swap between the two cities will foster future collaborations and innovation.
Online marketing provides entrepreneurs and small business owners the opportunity to compete against the biggest players on the market. Two marketing experts from across the pond share their best assets, tools and resources to stay sharp in this fast-paced digital world.
Thomas Paris is a growth strategist and a former winner of the Boostcamp with his Pictawall project, which was featured at one of Microsoft’s biggest events in the United States. He then used that business as a launchpad for MAD Kings, a growth agency based in Brussels. He also recently partnered with the Microsoft Innovation Center Brussels to organize the Growth Campfires: a series of fireside chats with a panel of successful growth marketers.
Jeremie Fraser is the co-founder of Kryzalid, a Montreal web agency. He launched it with his brother after they each graduated in complementary majors: business and graphic design. From hiring solely designers and programmers, today they celebrate their 16th birthday with a team specialized in user experience, search engine optimization, social media, just to name a few.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Digital marketing is not an easy task. Thomas mentions that some novices think that they only have to apply one marketing hack to their business to grow it from 0 to 100. Others are convinced that you can simply “copy and paste” successful techniques from your competitors. When in fact, finding what works for your business is a scientific process. Behind a successful campaign stand hundreds of field experiments to understand a market. You need to understand data, coding, user psychology and much more. For Jeremie, you are doomed to fail without an action plan for the next 6 months to a year. This allows you to plan, test and readjust, if needed.
Expanding your marketing efforts to international consumers is a great opportunity to grow your company and reach potential customers that may not otherwise know your brand, products and services. To do so, you need to understand regional cultures and online behaviors. Thomas gives the example of the Unites States that has 300 million people, one official language and one mindset. Which makes it pretty straight forward when selling to the American consumer. Whereas in Belgium you have 11 million people, three official languages and multiple mindsets. Not only is the Belgian market smaller than the American but only a small portion of it has the purchasing power. It’s a challenge to navigate between culture differences while sharing a unified brand message
In Quebec, there is also this duality between languages and cultures. However, for Jeremie the most intriguing part of the local market is the consumer habit. The average consumer might not be easy to market to, but once you’re able to grab their attention, they become unwavering fans and ambassadors for your brand.
MOST POWERFUL TOOL
Both Thomas and Jeremie agree that Facebook is their best marketing channel. By far. Jeremie appreciates Facebook’s capacity to provide a strong ROI (return on investment) at a reasonable cost. This enables Kryzalid to attain specific marketing goals relatively quickly for their clients. At MAD Kings, they take advantage of the fact that it is still an underused channel in Western Europe. They turn prospects into clients by convincing them at every step of the conversion funnel: from awareness to action.
What is the best way to ensure a digital agency’s longevity? Investing in its talent. According to Thomas, the European Union has lots of it . With a diverse community from Europe and a considerable expat community Brussels makes hiring easier than other places in the world. At MAD Kings, they make sure to get T-shape professionals on their team; they have basic knowledge in every sphere of digital marketing and deep knowledge in one or two skills. In Montreal, Jeremie is grateful to have access to a pool of candidates who are curious, creative and willing to push the envelope.
Thomas brought up that the growth rate at which new European tech is rising is much faster than the rate at which people are learning new skills. This creates a considerable talent gap in the tech industry. As a matter of fact, close to 1M European tech jobs will be vacant if no change is made to the employment landscape (source: empirica 2013). MAD Kings has looked abroad to fill positions for new talent but lost a few opportunities due to the tax system in Brussels which is not enticing for international hires.
Jeremie noticed that Montreal graduates do not have as much hands-on experience as their European counterparts who have mandatory internships during their studies. This causes local agencies to spend more time training the Montrealers at the beginning of their careers. Also, many digital agencies in the city have established themselves over the years. This causes a lot of competition between companies who witness a high employee turn-over. Another roadblock for Quebec businesses is also the fiscal component. Jeremie states that the government offers assistance, however in real life it is mostly targeted for big corporations. It is more difficult for smaller players to carve out a place for themselves on the market .
Digital marketing is an ever-expanding field of knowledge that only be mastered by implementing it. What are you waiting for? Here are resources, recommended by Thomas and Jeremie, to help you get started:
Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll & Benjamin Yoskovitz
Hacking Growth by Morgan Brown & Sean Ellis
The Best Interface is No Interface by Golden Krishna
The Seth Godin books
Workshops & Events:
Growth Hacking Workshops by MAD Kings (The last workshop was this month but stay tuned for the new dates!)
Growth Tribe Academy (Thomas attended this academy in Amsterdam, prior to launching MAD Kings)