Helping others is what I do — a year in the life of a marketer.
I’m not telling you what to do. I can see you’re doing your job well because 90% of our customers are saying they found us on the Internet.
This is what I wrote on Facebook on January 13th, 2017. This is the message I got from my client, CRS Automotive, the night before.
The first comment on that post was from my boss, saying that I’m doing a great job. Here’s the screenshot (sorry if you don’t understand, it’s in Serbian).
Your year can’t begin better than that, right?
Besides working in TheIuvo, a Digital Marketing agency based in Canada, I was trying to create an IT community in my hometown, Pirot, where I’m still living, with gathering people who work in the ICT, opening coworking space and organizing the 1st ever ICT conference in the city.
I’m ambitious, what can I say!
But things weren’t that good as you can imagine by reading these first lines. My mother was sick (she couldn’t walk at all, but at that time she was slowly recovering), my sister just became a mother, and they weren’t working. My mother applied for a disability pension, but she didn’t have any income since she couldn’t work. I didn’t earn that much, so to be able to survive I had to work during the day as a rookie in a Digital Marketing agency, and during the night as the event organizer or barmen/bartender, whatever was needed, so I can survive.
It was all up to me. When I wasn’t working, I couldn’t sleep out of tiredness, so I learned. I got better. I even learned while working, listening to Podcasts or YouTube videos. If you are interested in those who helped me, here’s the LINK. In the company, I was the one working more hours and working harder than others, sharing knowledge along the way.
Things in the company were far from great, and we all knew it. I wasn’t satisfied. With my colleague, we marked all things that needed to be fixed, all problems that needed to be solved, and not just that, we thought about solutions, too. End of February, Sunday, I was just about to send a message to my boss to arrange a meeting to discuss these problems and solutions, when I got a message from him. We had a call and I was offered a position to be a General Manager in the company. I did mention the problems and issues I had, but when I accepted, it was up to me to fix them! Crazy! And I was the first-ever GM in the company. It wasn’t a highly paid job, but I was challenged to try changing the company, establishing the culture, and getting the company where it belongs, among the best in the business.
It was all going well, right? I was presented as a GM to the team and I didn’t hear from the owners for the next 2 weeks! Of course, everyone was expecting that I should solve all the problems immediately, but it’s not how it goes. I usually think that being left to learn and to figure out things on my own is good, but in this case, it wasn’t. It just slowed me down. It slowed us, as the company, down. But that’s just how they do, it wasn’t out of the bad intention.
What exactly I needed to do? Optimize the workflow and operations, make the company faster and more efficient, and share my knowledge with other employees so we can grow in both results and sales. I had ideas on how I can do this, I managed huge teams before (I organized the biggest summer camps in Serbian mountains with more than 200 people from 18 countries participating), but this was a bit different.
All employees were my colleagues just a few days ago, we shared the same problems, and now I’m in charge and I’m in charge of solving them. It wasn’t a secret that, in the company, I was the one working more hours and working harder than others, sharing knowledge along the way. And that’s where I found my first problem.
I was trying to motivate the team to work as much as I am, not only for the company but on educating themselves and becoming better in everything they do. That’s just wrong. You can’t make somebody do something just by telling them or giving them an example — yourself. Some people just want to go to the office (a virtual one, since we’re working remotely), do their work for 8 hours and go home. And that’s ok.
I learned that and few other things, like giving negative feedback in 1on1 calls, and a positive one with everyone, etc. I’m always direct in communication and constructive, with giving solutions when I criticize, so the team needed to get used to that, too.
We all grew up with parents teaching us that we need to build our trust in someone before we let them do anything with and/or for us.
They need to earn your trust first, son.
No doubt it’s hard to give your trust to someone just like that.
Hey man, I like you! You have a nice shirt! Can I ask you to do a Social Media plan for me?
You can’t do it like this!
But, if you are running a company, and you hired people who are working there, it’s a completely different situation. You hired people for certain reasons, right? You must’ve seen something in them — knowledge, personality, will, whatever it’s important for you. Those people need to feel trusted. They need to feel like you have trust in them to do the job you hired them for.
And how do you build that trust? By showing them that you have confidence that they will deliver results. And how do you show them that you have confidence in them? By delivering responsibilities to them. By giving people trust that they can do tasks you need them to do.
I decided to start my relationships with people by giving them my trust.
Think about it, when somebody gives you the trust, it’s hard for you to lose it, isn’t it? If you don’t give people the room to do things, to make mistakes, they won’t feel trusted and they will be scared to make mistakes. When you’re scared, you will make even more mistakes.
I needed to show humility and lower my ego.
This gave me the room to watch and to see what your people can actually do. If they do good work, that’s great. If not, I will see what do they need to work on to get better. I was prepared to be surprised — skills and trust can make people do extraordinary things. I knew that delegating responsibilities and giving people trust will allow me to speed up everything I do and reach goals even faster than I anticipated.
Our communication had to be clear. When you are sending a message to a client, to your boss or to your teammates, we had to make sure we are clear about everything. Otherwise, we are just wasting our time, the most valuable asset in today’s world. You can spend time doing things that are more interesting and important, right?
Don’t over complicate everything.
This was something I kept saying. When you are on your way to developing the values and the culture of your company, and this hasn’t been done before, it’s very difficult and it takes time. I’m lucky that I have a small team of 15 people. That means that I still have a chance of establishing these basics into the organization, so we can all grow on certain values and habits.
I wrote down the list that almost every company has with things that need to be addressed by the management of the company. If you are just starting, this is for you and you can find it HERE.
After all that I just wrote and did, some things weren’t functioning. I’m leading and managing by being compassionate, employing empathy, listening to employees, I’m here for them when they need me, I gave them freedom and independence in their work, and what happens? They do quite the opposite, they use this to their advantage to work and learn less.
Now, it may look like somethings missing in my story, but it isn’t.
In this kind of situation, you have to know your employees and you have to know if they are A or B players. If they are not A players, you have to bring back control — not micromanage, but make sure things are getting done and results are there.
The company’s culture is extremely important, it’s what you do when nobody’s watching, but some things got to be clear.
If I, as the General Manager do the dirty work, for sure I expect you to do it, too, no matter what your job title is. You have so many possibilities and you don’t use them? You don’t want to be a part of the culture? Ok, but if you are quiet, you don’t talk about the problems, I can’t help you and if you don’t have results, it will look like you just don’t care and you don’t do your job well. You’ll get fired.
It was just like I thought it will be. When things are not working as they should, you change. Few people left the company, and we hired a few people. I think we made the right choices. We needed someone who’s good in branding and strategic thinking, so we hired that person, but we also hired an amazing copywriter.
We changed the working hours from 8 hours flexible (when work allows it) to 4 hours flexible and 4 hours overlap. We started using all communication channels we needed — Slack, Jira, Trello, Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, which resulted in better communication. We needed rules, and we tried to implement rules which will give people the freedom to do their work better.
In the meantime, the story of creating the IT Community was going great. The city was very slow in implementing their plans (they want Pirot to be known by its IT community), so I felt like I needed to do something. I managed to get some funding (exactly 333 EUR) and organize the big ICT conference with more than 90 people visiting and 7 speakers telling their personal stories. It was a huge success! We called it CilimTech — Where Creative meets Digital, and it became our slogan. You can see videos from the conference HERE. We showed everyone that what we do has potential and came up with an agenda and the whole year was a huge success. I will write what we achieved at the end of the article.
For TheIuvo, I had to come up with all sorts of documents, checklists, agendas so we can operate efficiently. One of them was written by my colleagues and the next thing I learned was connected to it. We are providing a full-stack marketing service, and this document is nothing more than questions for the client, from which we find out important information about its business. Questions go from motivation, mission, vision, strengths, weaknesses, relationship with employees, a competition to the relationship with community, inspiration, customer relations, and others.
From this document, we find out many things about our clients — not just for them as a company, but for them as people. We find out who they are, who inspires them, what their ambitions are, what motivates them to get out of the bed every day, are they charitable.. This document also gives us the answer to the most important question — are we the right feet for each other? Do we share the same values, have the same ambitions? Our owners and employees of that company really the people we want to work with daily? Extremely important information if you want to be successful.
We needed clients, but we didn’t want to go out there and search for any client. No way! Don’t chase the money, let money chase you.
Choose clients who have enough to pay for your service, of course, but don’t let money be the deciding factor. You will have to work with those people on a daily basis. Eventually, maybe they will become more than just clients.
Why not? In TheIuvo we have clients who are with us for years, with whom we even started developing new business, together.
Develop trust from day one.
Give them something which will help them understand that you have what it takes to do the job. Exceed the expectation from the very beginning, even before it. Don’t leave a place for any doubts in your expertise. Help them not only with their marketing efforts but with business development. Help them learn how to do business in the 21st century when everything’s changing really fast and it’s gonna get even faster. By doing that, you’ll get lifetime clients and even friends.
Now, back to the Questionnaire. What you read in it can (if it doesn’t make you run away), motivate you to help your client achieve their goals fast. You can’t find everything on Google. Maybe your client is helping the community by supporting the local baseball team, maybe they are organizing barbecues and inviting people from the block to hang out with them and establish relationships, maybe they are giving money to the orphanages and who knows what else? You maybe won’t be able to use that information for promotion and marketing, but you’ll know, which is more important. You will know who your client is and that will give you the necessary background to create the most suitable content and campaigns.
Don’t let the money be your motivation. Put into work, get shit done, prove your expertise and the money will come.
But how can we actually get clients? We had a guy who was working in sales for us, but we weren’t satisfied, so we were without anyone doing sales. To be clear, this is the most important thing for any business. Staying in one place, even if you’re doing good at the moment, is a journey to losing at the end.
The solution is Personal branding and/or Influencer Marketing, with relevant and quality content that gives value to your customers. We should all work on building our own Personal Brand. Employees of each company will be the biggest influencers for that company and its clients/customers when this mindset finally takes place.
Now, we need to find a way to develop employee branding without making our employees just visible-moving-speaking company billboards. We need to help them develop their personal brand, document their skills, become visible, and in that way our company can become visible, too. Somebody asked me how can you, as a Digital Marketing Agency, sell your services? Well, here’s the answer.
Marketing Agency can sell their services by not selling them.
For TheIuvo, I created a checklist connected to the improvement of the company visibility and awareness, but also the employees' branding, which means employees own branding as experts and specialists in what they do. You can find it HERE.
Summer was always the time when I work more than usual, especially August. This is when I analyze everything, use vacations to get ahead of the competition and plan the last quarter. August is the month when you WIN. We usually follow the results comparing month to month, and only on rare occasions, we go deep into analyzing a longer period of time. I don’t know why are we doing that, but it’s wrong. When I’m looking at the long-term analytics for each client, I can really see if there were enough will and effort invested in that project by my team members. It’s obvious if you take a look at the graphics and different channels.
If you are investing in content, and you probably are, that’s how you can measure that, too. I mean, you have to bring people to your content if you want anyone to actually see it, and that’s just the first step. After that comes conversions and other measures. Without visitors, what’s the point of creating content on a daily and weekly basis? You are just wasting money and time. Results are not negotiable, they are there, showing you what you actually did or didn’t do. In the end, results determine if I’m doing the job I’m hired to do or I don’t. I realized how much long-term results can prove my opinion of the performance of a team member. It never happened that the employee, who’s working well, cooperating, learning, showing initiative and accepting feedback, isn’t showing improvement when it comes to results. It never happened. People not performing as expected are those who are usually late, not respecting deadlines, not accepting feedback, not cooperating well with other team members or, in the end, those who are not interacting much with other members of a team.
I needed to make sure that I work and care for both, the behavior of our employees and their results, which are actually our results, results of the company.
p.s. if you are looking to get deeper into marketing topic, THIS is the link you should follow.
I was also spending more time speaking at conferences, like WEB Dan, and/or hosting MeetUps, workshops and marketing & business development courses. I’ll be speaking a lot more in 2018. so if you know a conference or even where I should speak, let me know, please.
After working until 04:30 am one morning, I have to tell you that everybody’s waiting for something! Please don’t be one of them.
You had to just step up my game and get shit done because if I didn’t, it would take months for those things to be done by others, or by me, eventually, if I’m waiting for something to be done only during my working hours. Perfection isn’t that important most of the time, no matter what you do. I’m still seeing and hearing people chasing perfection each day — in the company I work for, in other companies, everywhere.
Leave perfection to somebody else, you should focus on the end game and winning in what you do.
So what are some of my results in 2017.?
- Started working as a General Manager in TheIuvo
- Started working as a CMO in Sylidra Inc. a company we developed with a long-term client, providing a marketing software solution for the automotive industry. MyShop helps you keep your vehicle in top shape — and rewards you for it. It turns the tedious and confusing world of automotive repair and maintenance into a simple and efficient experience with rewards and achievements.
- Had a 31,4% increase in website visits for a little auto repair and car dealership shop in Hamilton and Oakville, Canada. You can find this kind of shops all around there, so this is a significant result, having in mind that more than 80% of visitors came organic, without using advertising.
- All of my clients were at the #1 spot in Google Search and Google Maps
- Wrote an article which was read 15000 times and image from it was in top 10 results on Google Image search
- Clients article made it to the top of Google Search for a hot topic — electric car maintenance.
- Have been a part of the organization team of the International Youth Conference in Macedonia
- Have been a part of the organization team of the conference talking about Creative Industries (Economy)
- Implemented a couple of Erasmus+ projects
- Learned 126264930304938 new things
- Have been a part of a Digital-born Media Carnival organized by Share Foundation, the OSCE Mission to Serbia & the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. a 4-day event gathering more than hundred of online media representatives,
information explorers and digital rights enthusiasts. This event provided a regional platform where the latest trends in the confluence of technology and society were presented and discussed in a friendly environment with the aim to learn from each other and through a mixture of interactive panels, talks, workshops, and hands-on training, leading experts gave their take on the future challenges to the freedom of expression and media professionalism in a connected public sphere — how to create new opportunities for sustainability and growth while staying true to the ethical standards of journalism in a digital environment. The main topics of the Carnival were fake news, ethics, sustainability, business models, creativity, innovation in reporting, manipulation, the online media market, surveillance, privacy, post-truth, etc. Here’s the video from the Carnival.
- Met at least 50 new wonderful people
- Found my peace
It was one hell of the year!
What have we achieved with CilimTech?
- We presented the first working space in the city, which is being transformed into a coworking.
- We established the IT community in Pirot.
- We conducted courses in marketing and programming (basic and middle level).
- Fifteen people have completed the development course.
- Ten people have completed marketing course and local entrepreneurs are already showing interest in hiring them
- The application CilimTech, a software solution that transforms local communities into a modern society, is presented to the public.
- We attended the gathering of the coworking community of Serbia and we’re working together on networking and mutual assistance.
- We are recognized as intermediaries in connecting companies and potential employees and we are working to bring interested companies in Pirot.
- We organized the first MeetUps in the city on the following topics: Lead Generation & Web Research, Good & Bad Things with Remote Work, Basic Concepts and Architecture of Computer Systems.
Not bad, would you agree?
For TheIuvo, 2017. was a turbulent year. We had great results (our clients were at the top of the Google Search, Maps and Images, most of them made progress), but we also lost few clients due to our own faults.
Being mediocre has never been enough for me. It’s not the same as being successful. That’s how the year has started. I’m already working on getting new clients coming from recommendations by people with whom I worked for. What more can you ask for?
I’m going after what I deserve and I’m on a mission to help as many people and businesses as I can. If I can help you and your business, feel free to send me a message.
I’m going big, expect to see a lot more from me in 2018. Ready or not, here I come.
Nemanja Zivkovic, I bring value to your business.