The Digital Marketing Podcast, with listeners in over 120 countries worldwide, combines interviews with global experts, together with the latest news, tools, strategies and techniques to give your digital marketing the edge.
In this episode of the Digital Marketing Podcast Ciaran talks with Swydo founder and CEO Jeroen Maljers about the soul-searching and research the company has undertaken to develop its digital marketing reporting tool, and they take a look at what’s next for promotion and development as Swydo prepares to reach for an even larger international market.
Podcast transcript (summary)
Ciaran: Hello, and welcome back to the Digital Marketing Podcast. My name is Ciaran Rogers, and I’m joined today with a very special guest. Tell us who you are and where you come from.
Jeroen: Thanks for having me, Ciaran. My name is Jeroen Maljers. I’m the CEO of Swydo, and we’re located near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. We help online marketers communicate with their stakeholders as we’re a reporting tool for online marketers.
Ciaran: Fantastic. And what does the average day look like for the CEO of Swydo?
Jeroen: I think for most CEOs or directors it’s decision making. Decision making because online marketing changes constantly. And with constant change, you have constant decisions to make. “Will I focus on this? Will I focus on that?” And we get constant, enthusiastic feedback from our customers about adding more features.
Ciaran: What was your background before you started Swydo? What prompted you to launch into the reporting tool space?
Jeroen: It wasn’t that one day I woke up and said, “Hey, let’s make a reporting tool.” These things grow organically most of the time, and that happened in our case. We started an online marketing agency in the Netherlands back in 2006. And while we loved managing campaigns for clients, we realized that communicating with the clients about the results was just as important as actually improving AdWords campaigns.
Ciaran: And it’s one of the more challenging things. I’ve worked both the agency side and within digital marketing teams. And for any of our listeners, if you have kind of pored over spreadsheets, inputting individual fields of data, and pulling them together from all the different sources that you have from your analytics program and from your various different AdWords platforms or from your search engine optimization platforms, it’s painful and it’s dull. And you spend so much time putting the information into these spreadsheets and tweaking graphs and charts, you actually don’t get the time to actually spend time thinking about, “What’s actually happening? How is this all working?”
Jeroen: It’s just as important as doing the job because you have to convince your stakeholders that you need to follow a certain direction and most of the time it is data-driven, you collect data to make decisions. And our experience at that time was it was very, very hard.
To come back to the question, how did we start with the tool? We made a tool for internal use only, and we used it a couple of years to report to our clients. Then in 2012 we thought, “Hey, maybe if we have this problem, maybe others also have the problem.” So we launched it. It was a soft launch, and from there on we slowly started to gain clients. And that was basically the start of our reporting suite.
Ciaran: Why is it called Swydo? Where does the name come from?
Jeroen: Yeah, that’s a funny story because what we just discussed that communicating is very important, and that you have to show to your stakeholders what you do. We came up with the acronym “Show What You Do Online.”
Ciaran: That’s brilliant. And it’s certainly easy to find online. So that’s unique.
Ciaran: So who is your target audience? And how do you go about reaching them? How do you digitally market something like this?
Jeroen: Well, we mainly focused on the agencies because we were an agency, of course. So we know how they work, what their needs were so that was our initial focus. We have many “smart” agencies go very deep into analysis for their clients. They want all the metrics. They want all the filters we can offer them because they really want a data-driven analysis of their performance. It’s challenging because you want to be a perfect tool for all of the segments.
We really focused on search marketing as a marketing tactic. That was the main focus the first two years. It was my thinking that if you focus on the people that have a problem and are actively searching for a solution, those are the easiest targets because they have a problem and they’re searching for a solution. And search marketing is the best means to drive them to your website.
Ciaran: And in terms of the development of the tool, at what point did you really find things took off?
Jeroen: It’s really an art to make things simple in the user interface, so people can easily find what they want and what they need. In 2013 we stripped the tool, got rid of all the distractions – and took that approach in the development cycle – and then we became more successful.
Our users understood what we could offer them when they entered the website and also when they tried the tool. You could argue that you should onboard your customers with articles and demos, but you could also argue that a tool should be self-explanatory. If your tool doesn’t explain itself, it’s weak somewhere.
Ciaran: Which is interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever read a Swydo manual – it takes about half an hour to pick it up.
Ciaran: Have you been able to see any trends or shifts in what people are taking a keen interest in? Are things getting simpler or more sophisticated?
Jeroen: What we see is that marketers are getting more professional and that’s a good thing. It’s become a profession, a profession of people that know what they’re doing and want to focus on what they’re doing. And we see that in those three segments we target, smart agencies, broker agencies and the small agencies, that they of course request their own features. We’re getting 10 or 15 daily feature requests, it’s incredible. All these ideas for our tool.
Ciaran: I can well believe it having added a few of my own over the last week actually. Obviously, you started out as an agency and so I would imagine you were doing all your research and your marketing in-house. Is that something that you’ve continued?
Jeroen: We’ve started now with some outsourcing, but to be honest… I was the one that was holding it internally, it’s sort of an addiction because I really still like to manage the AdWords campaigns. It’s not doable anymore, not in my time. And now that we have global customers, we really need to think global but act local. So in some countries like France and Germany, we really need local expertise to adapt to those markets.
Ciaran: It sounds like you’re sort of tapping into global outsourcing. How did you approach making that decision and what have been the outcomes of releasing yourself from the onerous responsibility of constantly finding new fresh blood for the company?
Jeroen: Our vision is that we do only internally what we do best, and if someone else can do it better, we have to outsource it. We do it in software development. We’re a reporting tool and create a lot of PDF documents, and the PDF documents are in turn mailed to the end customers. We use a special tool to create the PDFs, and we use another tool for mailing the reports. We don’t do it internally. We in-source specialists and technology and it’s efficient and that’s why we can…with a relatively small team, we can make big steps.
We adopted the same approach to marketing. Our marketing manager said, “Let’s see who is the real specialist in these local markets or a specific marketing tactic, and let’s meet those people, talk to them and see if we can partner with them.”
Ciaran: I think it’s really interesting because a lot of people, if they’re not at that stage, would have ambitions to take whatever they’re doing into the global marketplace. How do you go about finding a suitable search engine marketing partner to do that for you? What criteria did you set down to find the right people?
Jeroen: That’s an interesting question because we started out as an agency, and we are now in the process of outsourcing part of our marketing efforts to agencies. We are now on the other side of the table and it’s interesting to ask ourselves “What do I want in a partner that I outsource my campaigns to?” And once you determine the criteria, you think to yourself “Wow I wish I knew this when I launched my agency.”
We need partners who understand the software as a service business because it’s a really niche, specialist business. And it’s been very important to us that the people we work with understand that B2B marketing is very different from B2C. You need to focus on tactics and channels to attract business people and not consumers.
Ciaran: And how is the process going? I mean has it worked out well? Are you seeing much more rapid growth? Has it freed up more time to focus on servicing your customers rather than just finding them?
Jeroen: In the United States we have a very good partner for PR/branding and content which works well. In South America we now have a local marketer working for us that speaks the local language, that’s very important. Europe is strange, we’re based in the Netherlands but it is still difficult to get to know the right people. And maybe that’s because our focus was really on the United States for a couple of years because we thought that was the biggest market. But we need to visit Germany and France more, and talk to people there because those countries have a lot of potential.
Ciaran: So do you get out much and sort of meet people face-to-face? Have you ever done the whole round of marketing shows and what-have-you or have you sort of shied away from that tactic?
Jeroen: At first we focused on PPC campaigns but now we try to add more layers of marketing on top of that because with the search campaigns, you only talk to those people that have this problem and search for you. But you have to also recognize that maybe people don’t realize that they have a reporting problem. So we see that it’s very important to talk to people at conferences. We’ve attended brightonSEO, SMX, Hero Conference. But we also try to call our clients. And that’s rare, I think, in the software as a service business, but we really try to call every lead that signs up. And sometimes we can’t reach them or they’re not available, but it’s just a touch point. It is a chance to say “Hey, we are software but we are also people. We are here. We try to help you. If you need us, you can reach us.” And we try to have that personal touch.
Ciaran: One question I love to ask people that start a business is if you could reach back into early 2011-2012, right at the beginning of the process knowing what you know now, what advice would you give this young upstart CEO starting on this new venture? What are the key things that you’ve learned that you wish you could share with your former self?
Jeroen: Yeah, that’s a good question. I really would advise to focus on the real problem that you want to help your clients with. What is the problem they want to solve? Why would they want to use your tool, your company, your service, etc.? And no distractions – just focus your website, your campaigns on this one problem because when you’re a startup, you have a limited budget, you cannot overspend, you have to count every dollar.
And I would advise to focus on search campaigns because people are searching. They’re coming to your website, they can try your product, and if all is in line with each other, they will sign up and they will agree to pay or they will contact you to buy your services.
Ciaran: And what things have you done that have really given you that key insight into what to focus on and what are the things that people actually want? How did you go about doing that? Because I think it’s really good advice, but I’m really interested in what were the key breakthroughs for you?
Jeroen: What really, really helped is that we sat with the team and said, “Okay, what is the thing that we’re really solving? Why are people signing up for our tool? And we asked our customers “Why did you sign up for our tool? What is the problem that you want to solve?” That gave us our focus.
Ciaran: Brilliant. And what’s next for Swydo’s plan for global domination?
Jeroen: We’re going to buy Alphabet. No. We just want to be a good tool (solution) for our customers. Build our brand and build our community.
Ciaran: You’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline. Is there anything you can share with us that’s up and coming?
Jeroen: In 2016, we really focused on new technology, so in 2017 we really want to launch better connections, more connections with data partners. And we really want to focus on being a platform for people to integrate with. Maybe we’ll move to publish our reports not only via e-mail but also via Slack or WhatsApp. Improvement will be made to reporting features but also publishing options. So Swydo will really become a communication platform for online marketers.
Ciaran: Well, I’m super excited. What the future might hold. The more information you can knit together and compare and contrast…
Jeroen: Yeah, and still keep it simple with visualization, still be easy to draw conclusions.
Ciaran: So if we want to find out more about Swydo and the tool and what it does, where do we go and how do we do it?
Jeroen: Just go to swydo.com and we have a free trial. Just try that out, get in contact with us, ask us questions, and we will be very happy to help you further.
About Digital Marketing Podcast
The Digital Marketing Podcast is an advert free, fortnightly digital marketing podcast with listeners in over 120 countries worldwide. Produced by Target Internet and hosted by Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Expert, Ciaran Rogers and Award Winning Author and Speaker, Daniel Rowles. Find out more at TargetInternet.com.