How To Build And Market Brands From The Ground Up [Ed Leake Interview]

He started his digital agency as a home business and, in five years, evolved it into a staffed marketing firm that has a collection of partners with annual revenues of at least £1 million.

The managing director of Midas Media, Ed Leake has a clear goal when working with these companies: Ensuring they too see rapid growth.

Discussing how to develop and market brands from scratch, whilst sharing experiences building his own agency, Ed Leake is the sixth entry in our marketing influencer interview series.

Develop Relationships with Prospects and Customers

Keyhole: You’ve called “advocacy” the “ultimate win” in marketing. This is when consumers become brand evangelists, giving word-of-mouth recommendations to their contacts. What are the biggest challenges associated with turning customers into evangelists?

Ed Leake: Where do you start? You start at ground zero.

We see this a lot — B2C, B2B, whatever it may be. I think — with startups, particularly — they need to define a demand and understand that demand. Because many startups fail as a result of making too many assumptions.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

So, the product has to be right. The pricing has to be right. The website must be a breeze to use. The branding must have continuity … The culture and the mission have to be about people.

Specifically, pleasing customers more than profiting from them.

>>Listen to Ed’s views on making customers happy

And I think that’s really important in this day and age, because technology allows people to see more transparently than they ever would. And, in our media-saturated world, it’s quite clear when a company solely tries to profit from you as opposed to trying to please you.

Everything has to be solid in this respect, and that’s before you even reach out to people.

I think that’s the biggest challenge — getting everything aligned.

KH: How do you — as a startup or small business, for example — overcome the challenge of making sure everything’s aligned while taking on your bigger competitors?

EL: When it comes to competitors, I wouldn’t pay too much attention. When it comes to startups and smaller companies, I’d give as much as you can without devaluing or derailing what you’re trying to achieve.

Social media and content marketing are great, of course. But there comes a point where all this effort has to pay off.

So, get your house in order. Market research is an old-fashioned term, but it’s not overrated. With the technology and tools we have available to us these days, it’s pretty easy to do.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

As an example, we use a certain method where if someone comes to us and says, “I’ve got this idea and I want you to do our social media marketing,” and if they’re starting from scratch, we’ll say, “We don’t want to take your money to do your marketing until you can prove to us that your product is going to work.”

A lot of people are offended by this, but sometimes they won’t even have the research done. So, some people will come to us and they can’t present anything.

What we’ll tend to do then is build Facebook ads, find relevant audiences, look at their competitors and get a few hundred people to try their products.

So, you send trials to then get a survey. And the survey’s got to be the right structure. It has to have the appropriate method behind it to get the answers you need, whilst looking at issues in the market such as demands and pain-points.

You get immediate product feedback.

If you put your product online with zero reviews, that’s scary. We know how powerful reviews are. They’re social proof. So, you send out products to hundreds of people who also commit to a survey. You then get that information and, if they’re happy, you get testimonials as well right off the bat.

That’s for startups — more testimonials to get you off the line. But for more established brands, they need to show the human side.

Storytelling is a component. What’s intrinsic to the storytelling of brands is: “How does the product make you feel? How does it affect people? Is there an emotional pull? Do the employees get involved?”

One thing I really like is using the owner or founder as the figurehead.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

Get them to talk passionately — that’s a great selling point. This man or woman has developed this thing that they probably love. And who’s the best person to sell it? Well, they are — not the marketing department. Marketing should come after honest emotions, which are very difficult to fake.

But notice how I haven’t really talked about social media branding? That’s because I’m a firm believer you get the house in order before you blow money on marketing.

Marketing doesn’t fit if the product doesn’t have what it takes to succeed.

KH: When asking people to try a product and surveying them afterwards, what sort of questions do you ask?

EL: It’s different for every category — B2B, B2C and depending on your industry.

You want to find segments of the audience. For example, we would ask you what state your business is in. Are you in the research phase? Are you first year? Two years? Really established?

The important thing is that you can segment your audience in all sorts of ways. Depending on what you sell, you could do it simply by gender or age range.

But then the next important thing is asking questions regarding their issues around existing things in your industry.

What do you currently use? What are the problems with it? Why are you happy with it? Why are you looking for something else? What’s the one thing you’re struggling with? Those kind of open-ended questions.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

If you survey enough people, you’ll find a pattern. You’ll be able to say: “There’s our competitor, because people can’t live without their product. Therefore, we need to make ours better than that, or a subset of that.”

Guide Strategies through Web and Social Media Analytics

KH: As you know, social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook typically see low organic reach and engagement rates. As you build social followings for clients, how do you recommend overcoming this issue?

EL: That’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it? Exposure on Facebook, in particular.

I’ll go onto a few organic points in a second, but I think the reality is you have to pay to play a little bit. But I’m not talking tens of thousands or even thousands — you can’t get a lot with £500 or $500.

But, obviously, social media is a place for social activity. So, drip out content that’s useful for your target audience. If you’re in the fitness niche, it may be about a new supplement or how to cook with a super food.

Excuse the pun, but these are bite-sized content … Blogs are the cheapest, as anyone can write passionately about their product and pay someone to proofread it. It should be stuff that educates people, answers questions and addresses the fears and pain-points of the audience.

This isn’t revolutionary stuff. You’ve heard it before — it’s content marketing.

The (audience members) that click it, remarket to them. All the others, goodbye.

We’ve done this for a technology retailer … Essentially, we created mini buying guide blogs involving the pros and cons of buying at different price points. We segmented people based on the different price points that they were reading about. We knew — because we do a lot of research — that certain price points attract certain types of people who want to do certain things with their gadgets, such as drones. And then they get gradually remarketed to the point where they purchase that level of drone.

It works amazingly well. Doubles conversion rates, sometimes triples.

But you’ve got to spend to get there. So, what do we do in terms of organic?

>> Listen to Ed’s thoughts about easy post tests

How about posting when your competitors aren’t posting? It may sound simple and stupid, but it’s not …

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

And that also alludes to testing frequency and your type of posts. It’s bread and butter stuff, but people talk about it and they never do it. So do it. Test posting five times a day or five times a month. Images, quotes, whatever it may be.

For organic reach, partner with other pages.

But where I see this go a little bit skewed is where the little guy tries to latch onto the big guys and partner with them. I think it’s actually better if you partner with a parallel business or community. So, if you’re selling shoes, what about the guy or girl who’s selling socks?

You can also enable targeting settings for your (Facebook) page. So, you choose the categories and target of your post, as well as your base demographics. You can dig into your Facebook Insights and your Google Analytics to find out this kind of information about your audience.

Run a few test posts using these parameters. These are not paid for. It’s all organic targeting.

And that’s a simple test, isn’t it? Maybe send four or five posts to a targeted audience to see how effective they are.

And the other thing, ask your most engaged audiences to turn on notifications from your page. That’s a really simple trick.

KH: How do you and your team at Midas Media approach analytics during day-to-day work?

EL: It underpins everything and ties all the elements together.

Google Analytics is a free tool — although it’s data mining for them — but it’s fantastic. At the end of the day, “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.”

I mean, that’s really important. “I want to spend $50,000 on my logo.” Why? How do you measure the impact of that? It’s so difficult, unless you’re an enterprise worth millions.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

Just get it down to the base points. If you can measure it, do it. Was it good? No? Don’t do it.

KH: Besides Google Analytics, which specific SEO and social analytics tools would you recommend based on your success using them?

EL: We like SEMRush. We like Ahrefs.

We use SEMRush predominantly for keyword tracking … There’s also some nice technical audit stuff in there and there’s some decent pay-per-click competitor assessment information.

There are some content features in Ahrefs that are a bit like BuzzSumo, showing you trending content that have been shared a lot. But it’s more known for keyword ranking and backlink checking.

If you want a really good technical SEO, or just a general infrastructure web tool, DeepCrawl is awesome.

I would recommend Hotjar — something I was on the beta for. The heatmaps are good and the recording is robust. Plus, the survey and poll features are built in. And it’s not expensive.

KH: What advice do you when it comes to sharing and explaining analytics reports to clients?

EL: Let’s distill this.

A client wants to grow and make money. So, what do we do? We split the top-level metrics — the ROI-oriented metrics — and then have a subset for deeper analysis.

We can send the report and communicate with them, but I can tell you now: The majority don’t listen to the deep analytics.

I don’t think clients care for the latter — the detail. And maybe that’s because we have a lot of SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) as opposed to Fortune 500s.

It’s “How much have I spent so far and how much have I gotten back?” That means it’s two overarching metrics, then: Customer lifetime value and cost per acquisition.

Those two figures are quite difficult to cheat your way out of, and that’s why they’re good.

Gain Social Media Influence

KH: Having built an impressive social media presence, what advice would you give to someone looking to become a social influencer in their given field?

EL: Don’t do what I did. And that was to not pick a topic.

When I started on social media many years ago, I was a “digital marketer.” But what the hell does that mean? All marketing is marketing now, whether or not it’s digital.

Pick one or two topics that you’re really good at and focus on them. So, you’re niching yourself. Curate the good stuff, particularly for Twitter. Comment on the relevant topics and the right people. Share the right influencers and content so you can swing on their coattails.

It’s pretty basic, but what I have done on and off — and you have to have a bit of patience — is create private lists on Twitter of 30 to 50 people. Get in a routine of interacting with them over and over. Share their stuff and talk to them — it’s social media.

Because when the time is right, you’ll have ingratiated yourself with them and you’ll be able to get your foot in the door. And they may be able to invite you to guest post, promote your product, do an interview.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

It’s simple, but it’s hard work. And that’s the thing in marketing and business. Normally, once you grind all the noise out, the simple stuff that requires a lot of work is the best.

But the biggest Twitter tactic or hack of all time? Follow people, because they follow you back.

Bonus: How Ed Leake Developed Midas Media

KH: Take us through a brief history of Midas Media. How did it grow into what it is today?

EL: I started with no real plan — as the best entrepreneurs do, of course.

Me and a friend started the business under a different name five and a half years ago, and I started doing cheap websites as you would do. I quickly learned that the “stack them high, sell them cheap” methodology was a bloody nightmare. Client retention and working with people at that level is just no fun.

I started to get involved in PPC, SEO, that sort of thing and started to realize it’s more fun than doing a website with a bit of bolt-on marketing. Within six months, I moved the business model over to more marketing and slowly weaned off websites over a period of about two years.

In hindsight, I should’ve done it sooner.

I’m quite an analytical person, but creative as well. So I was involved in the design side, but also the analytics side — paid search and SEO. I felt like I was a master of nothing as a result.

I also was using a lot of freelancers and contractors with a couple of people on payroll, but working from home. And the issues became client management, project management and me sitting at my home office with three phones, multiple email accounts and no management software — it was just a nightmare. A time-sapping nightmare.

About two and a half years ago, I took the plunge and took some office space.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

I actually went from 14 or 15 freelancers and outsourced staff members to four internal employees and three outsourced ones. By hiring internally, I managed to cut off some of the freelance resources because that’s how inefficient that model was … When you try to deliver services at a higher standard, it’s far more attractive to have all heads under one roof.

KH: What were the issues you faced when going from a freelance-fueled model to a more traditional, centralized model?

EL: I’m still discovering some of them, to be honest.

Building a team is difficult. I’ve managed teams in previous roles, but finding, interviewing, nurturing and mentoring people — even when it’s a team of 10 people — is incredibly difficult.

That’s partly because, in our industry, it’s incredibly difficult to retain people. And I think that’s because of the age range we work in. Many people are between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties. And there’s a lot of change. You only have to go on LinkedIn and look at someone’s profile — they’ve been in a job for six months, 12 months, 18 months and then they move, move, move.

I think that’s the nature of, unfortunately, the agency. There are lots of us smaller agencies under 25 people. But your career momentum can only go so far in a small agency, so you’re looking ahead and saying: “Well, that bigger agency has more seats. So, I should be able to go there and build on what I’ve done so far.”

That’s happened to me on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I’ve hired too slowly in the past. I’ve hired too quickly in the past. My hit rate to start was, unfortunately, 50%. I’d hire and fire every other person. And that’s down to me — I made the wrong decisions.

But on the flip side, there are fantastic people who work for us.

Ed Leake Quote - How to Build and Market Brands

I think it’s very difficult to get that gel right in a small agency. You’re trying to find equilibrium in the swing of people who just want a job and the swing of people who want a career … Because in a small team, not necessary just an agency, the people who just want a job can screw the whole thing up by dragging people back with them.

>> Listen to Ed’s opinions about building relationships

We can serve the client very well. But if you haven’t got the (right) team under you, the client sees that … You could be doing an average job, like a lot of people do, but it won’t get noticed because the relationship’s solid.

If the work’s brilliant, but the relationship is weak — tough. The relationship will fold the house of cards.

Wrapping Up

KH: Any opinions or bits of advice you’d like to leave us with?

EL: When it comes to social media in particular, give a little before you start trying to take a little.

And by that, I mean keep depositing good will and build it up like a balance. When it’s time to withdraw, you actually have something to withdraw from.

It’s the 80/20 rule. So, if you’re going to promote or push to people, do it — at the very most — 20% of the time.

It’s quite straightforward, because you can bet most of your competitors are being more pushy than that.

Keyhole is a real-time conversation tracker that provides keyword and hashtag analytics for Twitter and Instagram. Get started for free and search your brand now.

4 thoughts on “How To Build And Market Brands From The Ground Up [Ed Leake Interview]

  1. Marcus and Jesse, just want to say thank you for having me – a fun interview and glad I could be of use to provide a few soundbites in the process. 🙂

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