Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Ash, an eCommerce branding and marketing consultant and founder of a growth-driven digital agency Motif. We help DTC Fashion, Luxury & Lifestyle brands with proven strategies and methodologies to grow them faster.
I started this business with $60 and nowadays we make on average $50K-$100K on recurring revenue. And don’t do any web project smaller than $50K.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2014 I started my eCommerce journey, helped a few companies in my country but failed my business a couple of times. Cause to run a business you need a lot of things which as a teenager I had no access to, like credit cards!!
So I thought if I will start freelancing I could get a Payoneer card and pay all the ad and business expenses with that card while I can’t get a credit card in Bangladesh.
So I did! I was lighting fast, built over 15 eCommerce sites, and fixed over another 20 stores bugs through Fiverr. Boom! I found my passion and what I love to do. In November 2015 I was sitting in a tea stall and all of a sudden I thought I could build a website for my services, that’s how MOTIF got started. I changed my professional route a couple of times and taught myself marketing and other nitty-gritty stuff because I loved it. In 2018 we rebranded the agency from Digital Develop to MOTIF.
Why I routed to branding and marketing? Cause I found this is why our retention rate is higher and profit margin is higher cause we were not building the site or design something for the sake of prettiness rather we were data-driven based on marketing details. So I thought it’s high time we should launch this service.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The first few clients we acquired for our growth marketing service were our web design clients, we worked for free for a few clients to learn what these kinds of businesses really need from an agency. Then, mapped out the service line based on that. Over time, I personally refined our service offerings a couple of times, and that really helped me to make our agency stand out from the rest. In this refinement process, we’ve added and remove a couple of services like we removed organic social media marketing from our service offering and added revenue optimization service as an additional one.
When I’m saying this let me shed some light on, we choose two niches where we are experts, in this case, we focused on two industries where we are kind of ninja are Luxury Lifestyle and the Luxury Beauty industry. We mapped out with which service we can help luxury startup clients and in which way we can really optimize revenue for an established luxury business.
For example, when an established luxury business comes to us we start with an audit then we map out in which way we can really optimize their overall revenue goal. For new business online we start with a marketing and branding blueprint. None of these are our core services instead it’s our first interaction with them to prove us as a capable agency and give them value first.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When I started I hadn’t any plan, as I was totally blank about all these things so I didn’t do any launch strategy or anything. I was sitting in a coffee shop one morning and was thinking why not start a company, in that period of time I had no idea about what an agency all I wanted to do is to make a website and market it.
Eventually, I learned a lot. But right now we have a lot of plans to scale it. This month we have relaunched our podcast “EcomBeats” which is a part of our content marketing strategy. I’m that kind of entrepreneur who loves to build companies and go above and beyond, break rules of thumbs and try to scale it.
As this is agency business, it really cost me very low, I got the domain for $10, got the legal documents for $100, and a few software applications on which I was spending like another $100 a month. But at the start, these costs were almost $0.
An image from our early days where I’m working at 4:00 AM
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
First of all, I want to talk about acquiring clients. It’s really hard if you’re not in a particular niche, I learned about this the hard way. If I would have a niche down 2-3 years ago right now we would be in different dimensions. But still, we are good cause we have niches down to the Luxury Fashion industry. Since we niched down our agency we have seen exponential growth.
We tried a lot of methods to acquire clients like organic content marketing, Google ads, Facebook ads, etc., etc. but among all of these channels, we found we get most of our qualified clients from our thought leadership contents.
The reason why most of the traditional channels didn’t work for MOTIF and content marketing really did well is; in the luxury, industry businesses want to see first how thoughtful you’re about the industry and if you’ve knowledge about the industry to help them. So we started writing about the problem area in the certain industry and how we could solve them. I think this kind of content strategy will always work for any industry you’re in.
Some kind of PR strategy also helped us to set us as an expert in the industry. To be more specific about PR strategy we didn’t take any paid route or didn’t use any PR agency yet to do that. Personally, I have a lot of connections in those publications and our great content on our official blog helped us to reach them. Which led us to be featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other business magazines.
So content marketing is the way to build a long term growth plan. Facebook & Google ads for short term client acquisition.
To retain client we have a simple methodology that is “Keep driving performance, simple effective communication”
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are doing awesome nowadays, but I’m not still happy with that. I don’t value success based on revenue but based on the impact we are leaving in the industry. We’re running a very profitable business when it comes to the agency world, while other agencies cry on their knees to make a 25% profit margin overall we constantly maintain 75%, cause we don’t charge based on hourly but based on value.
I’ve planned to expand our operations to the APAC area, while I’m from Bangladesh I know the market very well. Have some side projects like a design directory dedicated to eCommerce, eCommerce Shows, etc. But we may relaunch our SaaS very soon.
Our short term goal is to acquire some great companies as clients in the next 6-8 months and drive performance for them crazy.
Long term goal is to be one of the pioneer agencies in the Luxury Lifestyle space. And be a legacy in this area, build an agency that brands will admire for.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
If I want to call out one of the biggest mistakes then I would say I didn’t focus on one particular industry instead I wanted to serve every single industry, every single platform with a lot of services.
If I would start an agency today then I would not focus on a single platform anymore. I would pick up an industry, a service or two where we are really good at, and would not narrow down to a particular platform.
The greatest decision I’ve ever made is rebranding the company with a meaningful name that caters the audience of ours. And start writing blogs, that helped us in a great way.
One skill that helped me in my hard days is marketing. If I did not know about marketing I would never be able to build this company.
I read a lot of industry blogs to keep me updated, and that habit helps me a lot to write, analyze and apply them in business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My fav business tools are;
We use WordPress as our core platform and kind of custom coded site. Hubspot as CRM. When you combine Hubspot with WordPress that’s a marketing powerhouse. We use Gsuite for everyday email and company communication. Trello for client-side project management, recording client side’s data, and Asana for project management.
We mostly rely on Facebook Messenger for casual team chats.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I’m a big fan of the Smart Agency podcast by Jason, it’s an agency focus podcast by Agency Advisor and Mentor Jason Swenk.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
If you’re interested in starting an agency today keep this thing in mind that starting an agency is easy but scaling is hard. Be prepared for 14 hours of work a day from day 1 to the next 2-3 years. Don’t niche down to a software platform, rather focus on a single industry, acquire knowledge in that industry. And don’t hire anybody else rather than a salesperson. That’s your first hire!
An image from our last year’s anniversary with a part of our remote team
I made this mistake by hiring a developer rather than a salesperson who could help me land more clients. And I see most of the new agency owners make this same mistake. Don’t hire in hyp but hire when you need.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m looking for some high caliber salespersons who can close 100K-200K website deals. And there are a couple of openings for the production team such as marketers, designers, and agency marketers.
For Business Developers/Sales Person we are looking for someone who has at least 6 years experience in B2B sales, or in Software as a service industry and have a track record of success with selling high ticket services. Knowing eCommerce and some eCommerce software like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. is a plus.
We’re always hiring. Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or head to career.wemotif.com
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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