StartupTalky presents Recap'22. This is a series of interviews in which we conduct in-depth discussions with founders & industry leaders to understand their growth in 2022 and their predictions for the future.
A digital marketing and design agency is a company that specializes in providing marketing and design services to clients in the digital space. These agencies offer a range of services, including website design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, and digital advertising.
The goal of a digital marketing and design agency is to help clients build and maintain a strong online presence, increase brand awareness, and drive more traffic and conversions to their website. They use various digital marketing strategies and techniques to reach and engage with their target audience and achieve the desired outcomes for their clients.
According to MarketsandMarkets, the global digital marketing and design agency market was valued at USD 48.7 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14.0% until 2026, reaching a value of USD 97.9 billion by the end of the forecast period.
For this Interview, we invited, Shiraz Khan, Founder Director of Spicetree Design Agency (SDA), and we talked about the growth, challenges, insights, and future opportunities in the Digital Marketing industry.
StartupTalky: What service does your company provide? What was the motivation/vision with which you started?
Shiraz: SDA is among India’s leading digital marketing agencies and is trusted by clients for its unique, inspiring, and impactful communications delivered through new-age technologies.
The company provides various marketing and design services across digital, online, and print media platforms. The gamut of services includes website design and development, conceptualizing and designing print artwork, and digital marketing, which involves SMM, SMO, SEO, e-mailers, and retargeting.
The company was started with a vision to deploy a unique mix of creativity and advanced technologies to enhance the brand presence of every client business. Over the journey, SDA has been able to deliver on that front.
StartupTalky: What new services have been added in the past year? What is/are the USP/s of your service?
Shiraz: In the post-pandemic scenario, the world of marketing and brand communications has undergone a sea change. There is a greater emphasis on engaging customers through content marketing, and we have accordingly expanded our capabilities and technologies in SEO, SMM, SEM, and various aspects of digital communications. The USP of SDA’s service is the excellent mix of creativity with advanced technologies that help us consistently create impactful branding campaigns for clients.
StartupTalky: How has the digital marketing industry changed in recent years, and how has your company adapted to these changes?
Shiraz: There has been an incredible shift in how digital marketing is approached, and we are witnessing greater tech sophistication and communication maturing. Old and pushy sales initiatives are now replaced by steady content-driven campaigns that engage the customers and sustain their interest.
Marketing is no longer a standalone function related to creating ads but a collaborative effort with the clients. We focus on understanding their business, USPs, products, and services and use our creative and technical expertise to help the brands grow. We have also introduced relevant services and tools from time to time.
For instance, now there is a greater focus on effective communication through various formats of creativity (Audio, Video, Animation) and marketing automation and we are helping our clients with that.
StartupTalky: How do you stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments in the digital marketing industry?
Shiraz: Our industry is highly dynamic, and as we work hands-on daily with the clients, we also keep an eye on the global players. Technological innovations, creativity, and changing customer sentiments are all routinely observed, and we keep testing ourselves with the best practices to ensure that we are constantly updated and competent enough to support our clients.
StartupTalky: What key metrics do you track to check the company's growth and performance?
Shiraz: We check our company’s growth and performance via two metrics, internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders for us are our team; if we have managed to retain the right talent and acquire the right talent and keep them motivated and happy, then we think we are doing well internally. External is our relationship with our clients, vendors, and partners. We have been in this business for nearly a decade, and we have managed to retain almost 60% of our clients and, at the same time, onboard some big names. These two things help us understand that we are doing well and are on the right path.
StartupTalky: What were the most significant challenges your company faced in the past year and how did you overcome them?
Shiraz: Budgets and more than required interference in the creative process. Our scientific approach helped us reason it out with them to show them why they should spend the apt amount to expect the kind of results they have in their mind. And give us creative liberty, it’s evident that if they have a suggestion that makes more sense, it is most welcome, but if it does not, then we explain our bit to push our ideas through.
StartupTalky: Good service is something everyone is talking about in the service industry. How do you ensure that your clients are happy?
Shiraz: The definition of good service has changed over time; the client now feels that good service means attending to their numerous calls, changing the creative as per their creative sensibilities, and matching their unreasonable timelines. We focus more on the outcome; if the bottom line is met, then clients take a back seat, and that’s how we have managed to sail smoothly.
StartupTalky: What are the different strategies you use for marketing? Tell us about any growth hack which you pulled off.
Shiraz: SDA is a premier multi-faceted marketing agency. We have been deploying a healthy mix of digital marketing tools, SEO, paid advertisements, print and digital media content, and video communication to promote our brand and client organizations.
The one growth hack that SDA has leveraged over the years is to ensure an optimum balance between technology and creativity. SDA’s core philosophy is to obtain factual creativity through a perfect blend of creative vision and scientific analytics. Most people believe that science and creativity are two different domains, but we have been able to use these in complete harmony to achieve a unique and previously unexplored manner.
StartupTalky: Foreign clients- this is what most of the service-based companies are looking for. What has been your experience?
Shiraz: For us, every client is equally important. Agencies indeed get greater creative freedom and economic opportunities with foreign clients, but our focus is on being the best in what we do. Our work speaks for itself, and we do get regular opportunities to work with Indian as well as foreign clients. We have expanded our operations in the US and Indian cities such as Chennai and Bangalore.
StartupTalky: What are the important tools and software you use to run your business smoothly?
Shiraz: Apart from the regular Digital marketing tools for the marketing side of things, for our web, we use a wide range of technologies such as LAMP stack, HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, JQuery, Angular, and other web tools such as Bootstrap, WordPress, Code Ignitor, Shopify, Magneto and so on. Further, SDA has its video animation and production team to create short films, motion graphics, stop motion, etc., which are a critical part of digital communication today.
StartupTalky: What opportunities do you see for future growth in your industry in India and the world? What kind of difference in market behavior have you seen between India and the world?
Shiraz: India is adapting super-fast to all the global trends; we are moving hand in hand with agencies worldwide. There is so much outsourcing happening from overseas that is testimony to the fact that we have a grip over this game. The market behavior and the buying patterns of markets across cities and countries are different and must be dealt with differently. Here is where our expertise in having a scientific approach helps us understand the TG more effectively. We do not try to please the client but always prefer to look at the result.
StartupTalky: What lessons did your team learn in the past year and how will these inform your future plans and strategies?
Shiraz: We have learned to become more flexible and stride forward with confidence. Bucking the slowdown trend, SDA managed to expand its domestic presence to Chennai and Bangalore, and we have also entered the US markets. Thus, this year has been great for the company, and we have added Indian and foreign clients and expanded our range of offerings.
StartupTalky: How do you plan to expand the Customers, service offering, and team base in the future?
Shiraz: We have plans to open more offices overseas and have appointed a team of consultants to help us take the franchise route to service more clients. As far as the internal team is concerned, we are looking for varied talents 365 days a year.
StartupTalky: One tip that you would like to share with another Service company founder?
Shiraz: Please refrain from falling prey to clients willing to pay peanuts and expect great results. Some don’t even want to spend monies on paid promotions and expect magical results. The ones that pay less are the ones that expect the maximum. Interview the clients before onboarding them.
We thank Shiraz Khan for spending his valuable time and sharing his learnings with all of us.