The Making of a Successful Marketing Agency: The Digital Butter Story
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We recently had the pleasure of connecting with the Co-Founder & Digital Marketing Director of Digital Butter, Robyn Mays. Digital Butter is a digital marketing agency based out of South Africa and their primary focus is to help online businesses find, retain & engage with their audience.
Robyn and Rich started this company from nothing and grew it into a successful venture that is just getting started. We are very inspired by their story and consider it a tale worth telling so here’s a brief interview with Robyn where she tells us the Digital Butter story:
Introduce your business, Digital Butter. What inspired or prompted you to start this company?
“Our journey started a little differently from most. Before we became a business, we were volunteers at a few local Non-Profit Organisations. At first, we did the typical volunteer work but felt that we could help more if we used our marketing skills and experience rather than spending time on the more common, while still incredibly helpful and necessary, tasks.
A lot of South African NPOs are started out of passion. They survive month-to-month and aren’t sure if they’ll get the next donation to keep the lights on. We decided to use our experience in the digital world to further their reach and improve their online presence. After some success, a small business reached out to us. That’s when we realised our true mission. Now Digital Butter works each day to help the small guys win.”
What challenges did you face in the early days, and how did you overcome them?
“Starting any business is difficult. You’re new to the industry, unsure of yourself, and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is going to work. A lot of growth comes with time and it can be tough to wait it out when you need money to keep your business afloat.
Most of our clients come from word of mouth, and in the beginning, we didn’t have the volume of clients to recommend us to others. We did a lot of pro bono work and a lot of work for less than we should have charged so that we could build out our portfolio and our network.
Rich and I are big believers in being generous. We love people and we love helping people and that’s ultimately why we started Digital Butter. When we started our business we did a lot of work for free. It was a strategic decision (we needed experience and portfolio pieces) but we’ve tried our best to keep generosity at the core of our business because it’s an important part of who we are.
What has been incredible for us to witness is how much we’ve gained from this generosity over time. Without even realising it until we work backwards and map out where our clients came from over the years, we have benefited monetarily and in so many other ways from this.
Almost all of our clients can somehow be connected to doing something for free or being generous in some way. This has allowed us to build genuine relationships with people who have become advocates for us. We’ve been able to work on projects we never would have been able to had we pitched work the traditional way or waited for people to come to us.
This has enabled us to grow our skills exponentially. While we may not have been paid for a project, the experience alone made it worth it.”
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
“We’ve helped one of our clients, the NakedPastor, grow from around 20k followers on Instagram to around 120k. As a result, we’ve also grown his income by about 600%. We work a lot on his social media helping him post up to 4 times a day. This volume of posts is the reason for his growth in income and brand awareness.”
In your opinion, what’s the secret sauce to success?
“We love what we do and we’re always learning. Our industry changes quickly, so the trick is to never be afraid of being wrong. As soon as you believe there is nothing left to learn, you start getting left behind.”
What do you attribute the success of your company to?
“As we mentioned, almost every single client of ours can be traced back to doing something for free. One day we’ll map them all out. But being generous without expecting anything in return is what kick-started our business.
Apart from that, we can’t forget everyone who helped us along the way. Parents, friends, colleagues, clients, mentors, employees. Everyone we’ve worked with or sought advice from along the way has had a part to play in our success and we are so incredibly grateful to them all!
Something that Robyn is incredible at is asking for help. People are kind, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We also have the best team. We’ve got the most amazing copywriter and designer who make everything we do better and much easier. We’ve also got lots of friends and freelancers in the industry we respect and can always turn to. Good talent and a good team are critical.”
Can you describe the company culture at your organization?
“We love Patrick Lencioni’s notion that an ideal team player possesses a potent combination of three virtues, humble, hungry and smart. I’d say that sums up our team and culture.”
What are your company’s plans for growth and expansion in the future?
“At the moment we are trying to catch up to the growth we’ve recently experienced.
Once we’ve found our footing, our next steps will be to update our very out-of-date website along with a new hire or two to help with project and client management. But nothing is set in stone.”
How do you plan to stay ahead of emerging industry trends and changes?
“Never stop learning.”
What new products or services are in development or planned for the future?
“We are refining some packages that can be ‘productized’. These are angled towards giving strategic input to a business instead of implementation. We would still be able to implement the recommendations but we believe in the strategy behind what we do and believe that that’s where we add the most value.”
What is the long-term vision for the company, and how do you plan to achieve it?
“We want to stay small. We don’t see ourselves ever having more than 5-10 employees. We want to keep doing the work we love like working with awesome brands.”
Additionally, tell us about your experience with Social Champ and the considerations and decisions that lead you here.
“We’ve used various social media platforms. We started with Buffer years ago and moved to Agorapulse as we needed a tool with better workflow management. We used Agorapulse for about 3 years and still really love it. However, it’s gotten more and more expensive over the years and certain features are now add-ons. It just became too expensive.
We decided to move tools and tested a lot of different options including Kontentino, Sendible, and a few others. Tools testing was a bit of a nightmare but we found that Social Champ was the best by far. It’s set apart by its cost-effectiveness and features for agencies.
We’ve had a lot of experience with different social scheduling tools as some of our clients have their tools. As an agency, the features you need are very different.
The 2 most important ones we think an agency needs are:
- Good workflow management tools. We need to be able to seamlessly assign posts to clients for their approval.
- Reliable customer support. You don’t think about customer support until something goes wrong and your client is waiting for it to be fixed and you can’t give them an answer because client support isn’t answering you.”
We’d like to thank Robyn for taking out the time to speak with us and we wish Digital Butter the best of luck in all their future endeavors.