Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Felix Norton, the founder, and managing director at Woww Digital, a Cape Town based digital marketing agency with a focus on WordPress web design.
We help businesses start, grow and thrive online. We specialize in building amazing WordPress websites and everything complementary to the success of the website, including Graphic Design, E-commerce, SEO, Digital Marketing, and more.
We’ve managed to have consistent growth for both the agency and our clients, even growing the agency 60% YOY through a pandemic, right after losing several key clients due to hard lockdowns and retail shutdowns.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
While I was a student studying Computer Science, I used to make extra cash by building the odd website for friends and family. I built my first site for my dad's business, then one of his friends, and soon word spread that I could help people get their business noticed online. It was a ton of fun and helped me finance my studies.
After university, I continued making websites. As it became more lucrative, I started hiring other students part-time to help with the workload, it was suddenly a full-time business.
Eventually, I was overwhelmed with all the red tape and admin required to run a legitimate company. and brought on a financial business partner to help formalize the business, allowing me to focus on growing the brand and building out our key service offerings.
During our early days, we quickly discovered that the initial concept of WordPress One Week Websites wasn’t what our clients wanted. What they needed was a team who could help them succeed online holistically. We realized it wasn’t just a website, but the combination of branding, digital marketing, and a great product or service that drove results.
So we slowly built a team of digital experts and expanded our offerings one by one to deliver a complete solution to help clients start, grow and thrive online.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
From the very beginning, I was extremely frustrated with the digital marketing industry.
I’ve often described it as the “Wild Wild Web”, where there's no obvious solution or definitive answer. Results are unpredictable and agency pricing often does not correlate with the outcome. To counter this, we set out with a goal to make our services simple, transparent, and accessible.
We achieved this by focusing on streamlined and standardized deliverables, constantly evaluating our outcomes, and introducing improvements wherever possible.
We also followed a heavy chef principle (never trust a thin chef), similar to practice what you preach, we first tried our solutions on ourselves to prove their efficacy,
By “eating our own food” and proving our services effective for our site, we were able to validate each offering before engaging with clients.
A great example of this would be in our SEO offering. If you search for Wordpress Web Design in South Africa, we rank #1. By setting the goal of being the #1 ranked agency for our services, we not only learned a huge amount by doing, but we also secured ourselves a powerful lead generation engine that saved us $40,000 annually in paid marketing.
As mentioned earlier, our initial offering was purely focused on quick turnaround time template-based WordPress sites, but due to client demand, we quickly pivoted to a more holistic and bespoke offering to help clients truly succeed online.
We work on a scalable time and value-based model. All general services such as web design and SEO are grouped into 3 tiers, Budget, Standard & Premium, which are related to metrics different clients value such as Turnaround Time & Project Priority, Developer Experience, Customer Support, Amount Of Project Management & Reporting, Level of Design, etc. These allow us to charge different rates for different clients and also manage expectations.
For example, if you’re a corporate client that needs fast turnaround time, the most senior web designer, and the most experienced performance marketer to develop a site that drives high-quality leads, you will be billed Premium.
But if you’re a hobbyist looking to start a blog that functions well, but is happy to work with a junior and doesn’t have an urgent deadline, we can offer a Budget rate.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As with almost every agency origin story, our first client was my dad's business website. I saw him getting ripped off by another agency and knew I could do a better job with almost no experience. From there the growth of the brand was very organic, we relied on word of mouth and outreach. It was very much a hustle of hunting down any lead and taking on any project, even if the budgets were slim.
When I brought on my financial partner Garnett Thorne, we started to incorporate a more strategic approach and have been implementing a growth-focused strategy following the principles of the Scaling Up methodology which focuses on 4 key areas: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.
Looking back I wish I had brought on a partner earlier and had approached things more strategically from day 1, it would have saved at least 2 years of time and effort learning things the hard way.
While I don’t regret figuring everything out and learning from one's mistakes as we went along, I would strongly advise anyone entering a market to approach it with more preparation and mentorship which should result in a far easier and faster route to success.
In terms of funding, we were also very averse to taking on any debt, so the entire growth journey has been fully bootstrapped. This too is something that I am very proud of having achieved, but I sometimes wonder how we might have fast-tracked our growth by utilizing some form of investment earlier on. The key advantage, however, is that all equity is held between myself and my partner and we’re not accountable to any outside stakeholders.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
When we started it was very much a bootstrapped business, we didn’t have huge marketing budgets so we grew in two ways.
One was through word of mouth and reputation. We truly tried our best to deliver an amazing service. This shines through when your clients become your biggest advocates and will sell your product or service for you.
By maintaining the highest level of satisfaction, our clients kept coming back and bringing their colleagues with them.
One of our long-standing core values has been the idea that we thrive together. By building long-lasting relationships with our clients and helping them succeed, they will continue to work with us, but also provide bigger budgets and use more of our services as they grow.
Following our heavy chef principle, we also leveraged our SEO skills to ensure we took the top spot on Google Search for web design. This saved us huge amounts on paid media spend (over $40 000 worth per year) and drove hundreds of quality leads.
Our SEO skills also got us some decent PR, being featured in authoritative SEO articles like “How to Become an SEO Expert” on Backlinko. These features also got us noticed on an international level and resulted in some pretty amazing leads. We took any chance to be featured on podcasts, articles, directories, and review sites which all boosted our reputation and SEO authority.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now things are going well. At the start of Covid, we were anxious. I had a week of very tough calls with clients wanting to reduce budgets or put projects on hold to reserve their cash flow.
However, almost as quickly as existing clients slowed things down, we received a torrent of new work as many clients realized the need to double down on digital as it was the only way to engage with customers during a hard lockdown.
Unlike many brick-and-mortar businesses that struggled, during 2020-2022, we experienced our most profitable years, growing 60% YoY. We’re on track to do the same in 2023 and if things keep up, we’ll hit our Big Hairy Audacious Goal of $1Million MRR in 2026!
While we are keenly aware of the potential recession this year, we see this as more of an opportunity than an obstacle. Our goal is to aggressively internationalize and become a key outsourcing partner for the UK and Europe.
As the economic recession hits and with the newfound industry trust in remote work, we believe Woww will be the perfect partner for any business looking for high-quality, but more cost-effective outsourced agency solutions.
Whatever your product or service is, you need to be passionate about it. If you aren’t genuinely hyped about what it is you’re doing or selling, people will see right through it and pass. But when you love your product and believe in what you do, you naturally become the best salesperson and inspire your team to build amazing things with you.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
A large part of our success has come down to the tools we use.
On the team management side, Asana has been instrumental in running the business. I’ve seen too many other agencies running around just doing work as it comes along. There's usually no system, it's absolute chaos.
We built highly streamlined processes for all of our service offerings. These standard operating procedures enabled us to rapidly onboard new team members, deliver consistent quality work, and constantly improve as we adapted our SOPs from our learnings.
Since our move to a completely remote company, Google Workspace and Slack have made the transition entirely seamless, providing our team with a collaborative environment to work from no matter where in the world they may be.
Moving forward we’re keeping a close eye on AI powered tools like OpenAIs GPT and Dall-e as well as their open-source counterparts, I believe these tools are going to completely change the competitive landscape and we want to be on the frontier.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
A huge focus for our team has been the concept of continuous improvement. I am always browsing for a good deal on platforms like Appsumo for exciting software to empower our team or a new SOP to enhance our Asana workflow.
As a team, we are constantly looking for opportunities to grow and upskill whether it be an SEO Course by Brian Dean, an agency masterclass at a digital marketing conference, or a key lesson from a book like Start With Why,
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
One of the best perks of our business is that we get the opportunity to work with so many other entrepreneurs who are just starting out. We get to celebrate their wins but also learn from their mistakes.
The biggest mistake we see most often, are clients who haven’t properly validated their ideas before putting significant investment into their business concept. One of my favorite books is Lean Startup, and a key takeaway was the principle of a minimum viable product.
An MVP is super valuable in validating the most basic version of your product or idea, to see if it has real potential. Clients who haven’t done this, and jump straight in, often fail. We can build them the most amazing website, but if their product or service isn’t something people want, it won’t sell.
The thing that we see that always leads to a positive outcome is passion. Whatever your product or service is, you need to be passionate about it. If you aren’t genuinely hyped about what it is you’re doing or selling, people will see right through it and pass. But when you love your product and believe in what you do, you naturally become the best salesperson and inspire your team to build amazing things with you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Right now, we’re not looking to fill any specific positions, but our door is always open for new talent who want to amaze us.
Candidates can apply here.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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