At Marketing Trends we are discovering what drives Australia’s top marketers. Ben has been working at Webprofits for over 8 years. From having a contract role in the SEO team to becoming Head of Strategy, his career in Growth has allowed him to gain plenty of experience and insights on the industry. Read his full interview to learn his story, what he has learned along the way and why the privacy challenges facing digital marketing are actually a unique opportunity.
Career & professional background
Ben, how did your career in marketing start?
My career started in the US, working in cable news as an editor. The job was remote, which enabled me to move to California, Vietnam, Cambodia, and last, to Australia. But when I moved here, I decided to change careers.
I applied for a contract role at Webprofits in our SEO team. I was obviously leveraging some of the skills that were needed, but I certainly did not know much about the job, coming from an editing background.
I joined Webprofits at the time when all the big SEO algorithms were rolling out. The whole game was changing, and Webprofits was building up its SEO team to take advantage of this very disruptive market.
I came in and worked in just about every role at the company over the last eight years. From lots of roles within the SEO team up through SEO Strategist, campaign lead, then Head of Operations (probably not the best fit for me) and lastly, Head of Strategy, my role for the last 2 years.
Leading the Strategy Team is so exciting because as a digital growth consultancy, the way we work with businesses varies a lot depending on their needs and phase of growth, but one way or the other it always starts with Strategy.
We have a team of Growth Strategists, and we get involved from the start to learn about our clients' businesses. This way we can really help our clients understand how to grow and how digital fits into that growth. It’s a very dynamic space, and I love it.
If you hadn’t pursued a career in marketing, in which other industry do you think you might be?
I think there are two other potential career directions for me. One, would be teaching. The other one would be in the non-for-profit sector.
When I moved to Australia, I worked for a short period of time at The Wilderness Society as a Media Coordinator, and I really enjoyed it.
Marketing & Industry Trends
Could you tell us about your role as Head of Strategy ?
Most of my time is spent working directly with businesses, focusing on strategy development, insight and planning. Our biggest client globally is Logitech, and I aim to spend a lot of my time consulting with them directly as well. I also spend a lot of time on how we develop strategy. Fundamentally, there’s three main elements to this - insight, communication and execution. That basically means learning about business and finding strategic opportunities to grow, communicating them and then turning them into action. I’m working hard to systemise as much of this as possible to grow our capacity.
Right now, there's really unlimited potential for strategy work. That’s because as I see it Media, Creative, Digital and Consultancy Agencies are all intersecting each other. Businesses are realising that all these different agencies that seem to be speaking different languages are actually not. It’s just that there’s not a strategy behind them to create an alignment.
So it’s a big priority for me at the moment to build capacity at Webprofits to provide these strategies.
How did COVID impact Webprofits and your industry?
At the start, we took a huge hit. The easiest thing for a business to do when there's uncertainty is to pull back their marketing budget. So in that sense, around March last year, it all seemed really dire.
Yet, overall, it actually made us think differently about what businesses need and which things aren't actually necessary. It made us review what delivers value and growth. Now I can say we've grown beyond where we were pre COVID-19. So as a company, it made us better. It made me better.
What is the most exciting trend or innovation happening in your field in terms of growth?
I think the biggest trend within marketing is that Digital is maturing. Around 8 years ago, Digital Marketing was often seen as a separate technical expertise outside of marketing. Now, we are at that point where in order to grow businesses need to leverage everything - all the knowledge, data and technical expertise from Digital, along with all the marketing fundamentals developed over the last 60 or 70 years.
Companies like us are leaning more into messaging, personas, brand and creative strategy which all get supercharged when combined with the opportunities through Digital. It's making the marketing better than ever. It’s also making Marketing really hard - which is great as well.
For a long time, digital marketers have often hid behind tech talk and jargon to make people think they don't really understand what you're doing as a marketer. I think that era of marketing is over.
Beyond the maturity of digital, there’s always a million trends happening. But certainly the Privacy Trends are really interesting. Many big media companies and agency leaders are focusing on the implications of the privacy changes and how it will affect conversion numbers and reporting. But I think all that stuff is always changing, and that's the nature of what we do!
There’s an opportunity here to make great marketing stand out even more. Maybe, we won't be able to rely so heavily on powerful algorithms. Instead we’ll have to think more about who our audience is. How are we going to connect with them? How do we find them? These are all the questions that traditional marketers have been thinking about for years, and it’s about time they were front and centre for digital as well.
Tools, recommendations & sources of inspiration
Which are your sources of inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is the people that I work with. My team has the best marketers I've ever met. Being Growth Marketers they're always looking for what's new and what's next. They work unbelievably hard, are smart, open-minded, always learning and teaching. And there's so many different passions across the team!
For example, there’s one of us who's really passionate about AI, and he's always bringing new AI tools for us to try. Maybe I wouldn’t be researching all those tools, but I get the benefit of it because I work in this environment.
Outside of Webprofits, there is one person that I really look up to as a marketer, which is Peep Laja, the founder of ConversionXL and Wynter. His journey is exactly what I see as the frontier in the industry. He is literally the person that put Conversion Rate Optimization in the spotlight years ago, but over the past few years has pivoted to build a business around Messaging and brand positioning.
Software and tools recommendations: what is the one software you can’t work without and why?
We use many tools: Slack for internal communication, Supermetrics to pull data from all of our different ad campaigns and I use Superhuman for email, Things to manage my tasks. Each of them has their own value, but the only one that we couldn’t work without nor replace is Asana. It’s definitely a key software for us, given the complexity of the work we do.
Which books, podcasts or blogs would you recommend?
When it comes down to books, I usually stay away from marketing. Marketing is what I read and talk about most of the day, and we are always sharing great marketing and growth content through our Slack channels.
I love sci-fi, so I’m always reading books that have either a Hugo Award or a Nebula Award. Ender’s Game has long been my favourite book. I also very much enjoy reading one of my favourite non-fiction authors, Michael Lewis. At the moment, I’m reading The Premonition: A Pandemic Story, about how the US handled the pandemic.
In terms of Podcasts, Webprofits podcast The Growth Manifesto is actually really interesting - in particular for digital marketing managers. We’ve had a lot of really great speakers and touched on fascinating topics so it's something that I’m constantly looking forward to listening to.