Grace Chu started FirstClick Marketing back in 2006, and since then the Sydney-based business has exploded with more than $17 million in turnover forecast for the current financial year.
But Chu uses an unusual marketing strategy – she gets her staff to speak at conferences. Digital marketers are often talking about the need for businesses to be seen as the experts in their field. Chu is taking them at their word.
So how has the business been going?
Things have been going really well lately. In the search and marketing industry it’s a very fast growing market, so we’re always looking to do new things. We’re also doing a lot with social and social techniques, so that’s a good growth area for us.
There have been some growth pangs after going into Melbourne, but we’ve done very well.
You were turning over $13 million last financial year. Any update there?
We’re on track for $17 million this financial year. That’s a roundabout estimate, but overall it’s done very well. It’ll be between $17-18 million.
So tell me about your public speaking. What made you push your staff to start speaking at conferences?
Well, I’m always the designated speaker for the conferences we attend. We do a lot of strategy consulting, and that’s what I’m good at. But in our industry, a lot of people want to hear about more technical stuff.
So what I talk about is great for CFOs and CMOs; but, for digital marketers, these guys are very, very savvy and what they want is more knowledge in the day-to-day operation of SEO and marketing. I can talk about that sort of stuff, but not on a very deep level. The strategy is more my side of things.
These conferences are very technical. So within our team we have a very strong group of people who are experts in their field, but they’re not necessarily trained as speakers. So, internally, we thought we needed to profile people and get them up on stage to show to our prospective clients, to show we have a really strong team behind what we’re doing.
So what was the first thing you did to get staff out there and speaking in public?
We picked a “team within a team”, so to speak, and then trained them on specific topics they felt comfortable with. Then we rehearsed, and moved them out on to the stage. It’s a simple process, but it’s a little bit of fun and it helps with their career.
You’ve described this as a marketing push, but is it also a career progression move as well?
It’s a combination of that. After all, you can’t really force them to do anything: So we talk to the managers of our respective teams, and then you find out who’s comfortable doing what.
The good thing is everyone in our team is comfortable talking about all this in front of our clients. That’s what they’re passionate about, and we only want to make them talk about things they’re passionate about and care about.
So it’s a good set up we have now, where people will actually want to raise their hand and volunteer to do these conferences instead of hanging back.
Is this a big part of your marketing now?
It’s really a move from our branding proposition. So every year we determine our position in the market and it needs to be consistent. We want to have the best people in the market and we want to show them off.
The other side of this is that we don’t do a tonne of marketing. Speaking at conferences is one of the ways we get out into the market and show off, and we really want to show off the type of product that we can deliver.
That can be conveyed through our team when they go and do these talks.
How much training did you need to give your staff?
Our team has a very technical background. So you need to be able to give those technical details, but also come across in a very attractive way. We’re all slightly nerdy so we love talking about this sort of stuff. That comes across as us knowing our product and our industry.
Would you say this has helped you get more clients?
The ROI is such a major part of offline marketing, and it’s all a part of the strategy we’re using here. But more than client attraction, I think we really reinforce our client retention.
To be seen as a presenter at one of these conferences is really important for our clients, and they’ll immediately start recognising that we’ve been at different events and they’ll be attracted to us as a result.
Many times a client will see us talk about something at an event, and that will spark a conversation about what we can do for them in that area.
For other businesses considering getting their staff into speaking roles – should they do it?
Absolutely. If you’re in a business that requires some sort of technical expertise, it’s definitely worthwhile doing and utilising your services to be a spokesperson. And if you can get your staff to do it – all the better.
Identify a few key topics, then, look at people in your business who you think would be good at speaking. Get them in some training, give them some career progression, and then it’s just preparation.