by Lyka Ferry
- 359,000,000 Google results for “Digital marketing best practices.”
- 290,000,000 different listings for “Creative marketing strategies.”
- 52,100,000 search responses for “Marketing specialization”
With such an overwhelming volume of ‘helpful’ information, I had no idea where to start. Between the guides, checklists, and free marketing consultation offers I felt buried in no time. Even though I consider myself knowledgeable about the foundational concepts behind marketing, I couldn’t grapple with one mind-numbing page of content after another. All the articles, YouTube videos, and countless email subscriptions snowballed into a compilation of “accumulated knowledge,” and it wasn’t getting me any closer to what I needed.
Fortunately, I connected with an actionable and formidable marketing leader – Aaron Wolpoff, CEO of marketing company Double Zebra.
Starting from our first conversation, he took the time to understand my objectives and challenges, and responded to the kind of questions that Google took thousands of results to answer. In no time, we were off and running. Awed and inspired, I stopped to ask him about his approach and methods, and about how he got started in marketing. Here is our conversation:
Q: How would you describe Double Zebra to someone who is having trouble differentiating one marketing company from another?
Aaron: If a business is at the point of hiring a marketing agency or another internal person, that’s when you would look to bring on Double Zebra. Instead of being limited to one person’s skill sets or committing to an oversized marketing company, you get a fast track to the exact expertise and services needed.
For example, let’s say you need to conceptualize a sophisticated app, design it, roll it out over time, and then promote it to the masses. These are wildly different skill sets. Handing all of it requires advanced technical proficiency and also high-level creative thinking. It also involves discipline, organization, and high-caliber execution. You’re probably not going to find all these skill sets in one person, or even two, since they’re vastly different specialties that require support and guidance.
So what we do is to create a customized ‘mini agency’ for each client based around the exact skills and specializations needed, without the filler. This starts at around the cost of one monthly employee and scales from there.
Q: What experience did you have prior to starting your own marketing company?
Aaron: I ran a creative studio, launched startups, worked in finance, earned an MBA, ran live events, wrote songs. Lots of different pieces to the puzzle that somehow make sense now. I’ve collaborated with some of the best creatives in the business and tackled the analytical, sales-driven side of marketing. I understand technical capabilities and limitations. Taking all these diverse experiences, I decided to create my own company around these strengths, for like-minded people. It has been growing ever since.
Q: What do you tell early-stage companies that say they can’t afford marketing yet?
Aaron: I’d say to push it as far as you can go on your own. Lack of marketing leadership will hold you back, so you have to find a way to press forward and bootstrap it. You will reach a point where your time is better spent elsewhere, like growing your company, and the time/budget equation will make way too much sense. Until then, avoid crowd-sourcing. Don’t let your nephew run your brand as soon as he gets around to that online course. Don’t try to be everywhere at once.
As soon as you can support it, pay talented people to work on your behalf. But do everything with quality, even at the early stage. Otherwise, it’s like getting food delivered from a restaurant where the food isn’t good. It doesn’t matter if there’s a lot of it, no one will want to eat it.
Q: How much advice do you give prospective clients?
Aaron: A lot, advice is very important. But there is a new level of connection and understanding that happens the minute we dig in and start our processes that doesn’t happen in discussions and hypotheticals. Once we are officially hired, something clicks into place, and momentum builds from there.
Now, I love marketing, and I could talk about it all day long. But talking without action is like sitting by the pool; I’d rather jump in and start making waves.
Q: How have your marketing experiences shaped you?
Aaron: Every single one of them rewired my DNA in some way. Back at UCSD, we studied theory. In my radio intern days, I did live remotes at 5AM and handed out thousands of free promotional keychains. In my MBA program, I had the opportunity to partner with the US State Department. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with incredibly interesting and magnetic people who sit atop their field. As well as marketing leaders from the golden age. I’m grateful for every experience, from scrappy early days until now.
Because I was classically trained, and because I spent time in the trenches and put in the work, I am now able to provide perspective and insight across many disciplines. I’m able to think strategically, creatively and technically, and to apply everything I’ve learned.
Q: What is a common intimidation tactic in the field of digital marketing that people shouldn’t really worry about?
Aaron: A lot of marketers will point out the things that your competitors are doing that you’re not doing. With the inference that you should be doing them also. But there is something to be said for charting your own course. For example, if you’re not prepared to outspend the competition exponentially, don’t try to copy what they have already done. Take note of it and then chart your own course. Don’t take it as a sign of weakness that you’re not following the same exact steps as your competitors. Wear it like a badge of honor.
Q: Now that you are a marketing leader and CEO, what advice would you have given yourself in the beginning of your journey into marketing?
- Say what you mean with honesty and compassion.
- Value and appreciate all forms of talent.
- Education is a worthy investment that never goes away.
- Think a lot and act fast.
- Keep learning and evolving for life.
Aaron was recently profiled in Fiverr’s Industry Leaders & Experts series. You can read the article here.