In 2008, Nick Bell was left with only a few hundred dollars in his personal back account after his first startup failed.  So what did he do?  He started another. 

Today, that business, WME, is Australia’s largest digital marketing agency with 450 employees in 8 countries.

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A little background on Nick.  His entrepreneurial drive started in grade school where he sold his lunches to hungrier kids looking to part with their money.  That endeavor made him over five figures!

His next business came years later after dropping out of college.  He had personal facial acne issues he wanted to clear up, so he created his own line of products with a formulator and manufacturer.

Ultimately, that enterprise failed but instead of dwelling on the missed opportunity, he found value in the experience and taught himself SEO marketing.

With $400 left in his bank account, he used the money to start his own SEO company, believing that he could become successful.  And to get his first client, he made a lot of cold calls.

Thus, WME was born.

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Along with the expansion of his company into multiple countries around the world, Nick is also focusing on his new app development firm AppScore and invests in a variety of startups including renewable energy.

We got a chance to ask Nick some questions about his success and on digital marketing and how to use it effectively to drive and convert traffic.

What did you learn from your first startup?

As is true with most early professional ventures, I learned some invaluable lessons while running my skin care business, such as negotiating deals, managing budgets and implementing strategies.

For a new business, what are the most effective tools / strategies to drive traffic to your site, especially when you don’t have much money to spend on advertising and marketing.

EDM’s (electronic direct mail) are a powerful marketing tool that have survived the test of time. An effective EDM is made up by a catchy subject line, well written content and a powerful call to action. Make it simple but significant. Avoid image based EDM’s, as they won’t show up on most devices.  A regular updated blog projects authority, keeps customers/clients informed and helps promote a steady flow of organic traffic to your site. Sharing these blog posts on social platforms alongside additional social posts (i.e. office snaps, events and authoritative external content), helps maintain and increase the volume of this organic traffic.

Create your own PR. Contact editors of publications and submit juicy content that people would want to read! PR can help promote brand awareness as is extremely effective in increasing your business’s reach. The more people who know about your business the more people who will visit your site. Simple.

How does a business find the right customers online? Is it through paid ads on Facebook, social media platforms, re-targeted ads?

I firmly believe a holistic and effective approach involves a combination of SEO, PPC, social, EDM’s and content marketing. As is true with every business, one strategy doesn’t fit all. The more avenues we use effectively, the more people we’re able to reach.  Never forget the importance of having the foundation (your website) geared for conversions. No point driving huge amounts of quality to traffic to your website if it doesn’t results in leads or sales.

What’s the best way to convert web traffic to sales? Are there tools to help with
conversion?

Less is more when designing a website. Keep it clean, simple and easy to navigate.

Additionally, free offers and deals can act as a powerful catalyst. Give your customers something they can’t refuse. Finally, always remember to collect their data so that you can stay in contact and market to them on a frequent basis.

You cold called companies when you first started. How did you convince them to go with you instead of someone already established?

Clients buy the person not the service. I worked hard to build relationships and trust. When a client joined I managed and grew the account with customer service 101 principles. It’s all about respect and results. Get the basics right and your business will grow.

Any thoughts on SAAS tools, such as email integration software, landing page generators, etc., that all promise to streamline your business and help get customers?

These can be amazing tools if used correctly by someone who knows what they’re doing.  However, in the wrong hands they can prove to be a waste of time and money. Know what works, what converts and then roll it out. Keep things simple!

Online businesses follow the same formula these days: give out something of value for free such as an e-book to collect and grow an email list/subscribers. Any thoughts on this tactic and is there a better way of finding customers?

Freebies still work. It’s how you word the offering that really gives it some punch. For example, “5 amazing ways to super charge your sales”. Grab the customer’s attention, build trust, provide value and more often than not, they’ll purchase.

Outsourcing has proven popular for startups looking to grow; yet you have gone against the trend. Why and what results have you received?

I do believe outsourcing can work in certain industries if managed extremely well. In the SEO game where you need to think outside of the box, outsourcing work overseas can be extremely damaging to your business. Poor SEO, ultimately, can see your website wiped off Google.

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As a successful entrepreneur involved in a number of businesses, what are your tips for others looking to diversify their interests and investments?

Play to your strengths. I invest in digital businesses because I know the industry and I can spot the elements that are accountable for making or breaking a business. Investing in a talented and determined management team that will drive results for your business is essential, the concept is secondary. Finally, invest in what you can afford to lose. I’m a firm believer in taking risks, but calculated risks are the best type of risks you can take.

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What are the three pieces of advice you offer for someone embarking on a startup?

Have a sense of urgency, if you want to cruise along and expect to be successful, forget it. Success comes with aggressive, hard work. Hire smart, passionate people from day one. Think big. If you want something badly enough and work at it, there is a good chance it will happen. A relentless and unwavering drive will ultimately bare unrivaled results.