What’s it like to be the #1 fastest growing technology company in NZ on the Deloitte Fast 500 and #29 on the Deloitte Fast 50 after just seven years?
Anthony Baxter, CEO of Firefly Digital, knows how this feels, especially since he saw an opportunity for digital marketing and hasn’t looked back.
Adrian Yap, CFO and COO at Firefly Digital, talks about what makes Firefly so successful. This story will inspire you, as Adrian provides insights into the agency’s operations, discusses interns, and provides some fantastic advice for aspiring digital marketers.
If you’re not sure if Digital Marketing is the career for you, you should definitely read this interview.
Introduce yourself and your digital marketing agency
I am Adrian Yap, the COO and CFO at Firefly Digital. I’ve been with Firefly and Anthony Baxter’s business partner for the past two and a half years. Anthony started the business in 2014 and I joined five years later.
Firefly was started by Anthony in his dad’s garage, which was converted into a small office. He showed us pictures of that, which was pretty cool to see at the beginning of his journey. Digital Marketing was not known then, but Anthony saw an opportunity and went after it.
What is Firefly Digital’s area of speciality?
We have 3 main areas that we specialise in:
We have a special focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since we feel it’s actually really important for all companies to be able to do it and do well, purely because Google receives so many searches a day. It’s our job to make sure that companies have a piece of that search volume. As a business, we understand the importance of it which is why we advocate it to our clients.
2. Google Ads
Another important area is Google ads. Since Google ads and SEO revolve around search volume, they relate to what’s really out there. With Google ads, you’re basically paying for it, whereas SEO is organic. People already know about you or your product since the volume is already out there. You need to be able to pull them in with that last mechanism.
3. Social media
Our social media offering is only focused on paid advertising, like Facebook and LinkedIn.
We do not do organic posting. The only reason for that is that with social media, what we’re starting to understand is that it’s your push strategy in marketing. That’s because, in social media, you’re actually trying to find the right audience, then you’re trying to hone in on the right copy that resonates with the people who interact with your product and your ads.
So within Social Media, there are 3 main elements :
- Creative element.
If you get these right you’ve got the perfect scenario for engagement, retainment and conversion.
In addition, we have a small team that does some web design when a client requests it. We have a very good web designer on staff. He is able to help our clients to build those kinds of websites that will actually help them to succeed. Specifically with SEO strategy in mind.
Who are your main clients?
We don’t focus on any particular industry. We’re kind of agnostic about that. Mainly because we’ve learned that when you specialise in one area, for example, tourism, you’re going to be in a bit of a bind if anything changes. For this reason, you ought to expand your portfolio.
We’ve actually worked for quite a few, different clients over the years. Whilst we have worked with some big corporations over the years, our primary focus has been on what we call the SME market (small to medium-sized business).
There are actually thousands of SMEs in New Zealand and Australia. This is actually where the bulk of the work is, since they need assistance. Basically, they are after sales. We generate leads for them. With more established companies, you’ll find they are more focused on what I call vanity measures. Getting bigger clients on board means that there’s a bit of a shift.
What current roles are you hiring for?
Our focus for digital roles at Firefly is to hire SEO, Google Ads, and Social Media specialists. Those are probably the three buckets I would look at depending on your experience level. Client success managers fall more on the Client Servicing side, so they serve more of a strategic role in our organisation. Because what a good client success manager does, and if you look at the title itself, is to find success for our clients. This means that you must come up with a very good strategic plan to try to help our clients grow their businesses. That is what your main responsibility is. We also have a digital strategist on staff. Therefore, digital strategists are more of a business development manager’s job, where they look for new clients on our behalf.
Are there any up and coming in-demand skills?
From a specialist standpoint, I would say that SEO is always in demand. Notably, it is in very short supply currently in this market. There is also Google ads, but to be honest there are a lot more people out there doing it. Probably because many people are trying to do it themselves, and Google is trying to monopolise this market for their own support. However, there is a demand for very, very good Google ads, people.
The real unicorn really is, getting a good paid social media specialist as opposed to what we recognise in New Zealand as an organic social media specialist. They are not one and the same. Therefore, we are on the lookout for that unicorn.
I believe there will be a shift in New Zealand because a lot of social media activity here focuses on organic, such as writing content, and, you know, taking care of company social media posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Those are all good things. However, we think that’s something the company should be doing itself since that’s how they stay engaged with communities.
Similarly, as a good paid social media specialist, you must be able to use advertising to find audiences, thereby using creatives, to find the copies that resonate with audiences in order to generate results. That’s how social media specialists in New Zealand should work.
This kind of paid social media specialist is hard to find in New Zealand, and that is an in-demand skill for us.
Additionally, you have your web designers and developers, who are, of course, quite independent as well. Because of the way New Zealand is right now, with a closed economy, there’s a lot more pressure on companies to find the necessary resources right here at home.
The thing about social media and advertising is that you need to test audiences continuously. That’s the key. In the same way, when you’re advertising to some target audiences, you’ve got to find success based on metrics like click-through rates. In order to say, “well, okay, that’s what’s working,” there has to be a certain percentage that you are actually targeting. With social media, you’ll find that one thing should be standard. Generally speaking, “click, click, click”, that is how it works.
For graduates with little or no experience, what are skills and qualities should they possess?
First and foremost, I would have to say that anyone who is hired at Firefly needs to have what I call a high EQ. In other words, to be approachable, you must be able to relate to people, you must be able to get along with people, and you must be able to fit into the culture of the company.
It is also important to have a high level of learning agility, that is, to be able to learn new things quickly. That is something we are looking for. Studying is one thing, but when it comes to working, what you study may not always be what you end up doing. The key is to be flexible and flexible in learning your job. That is essential to success in any role.
Lastly, I would say you’ve got to be a good problem solver. In some cases, we find with individuals that they come to us and say, “oh, I have a problem”. Therefore, my next question is, “what are you going to do about it?” Basically, it’s about being a bit more solution-focused. Having the ability to bring a problem to a supervisor, and at least thinking about a possible solution beforehand.
They are probably three of the most important skills. Another important skill is communication. It is always beneficial to have some acquaintance with the tools needed for a job. As an NZIE graduate or digital marketing graduate, we assume that you have experience with tools such as Analytics, Google Analytics, and all the tools that come along with them, like Facebook, business managers, and everything else.
What is your experience of NZIE graduates been like in what roles have they gone into?
At the moment, we have two NZIE graduates working as interns, Tama and Sanjana. Sanjana works on paid social media, while Tama works on SEO. We are flexible and also believe it is important to experience all the main areas that we deal with. There is a great deal of importance in these three core competencies. We like to give them an all-around experience so, for example, Tama has expressed an interest in web design and development, so we will also try to include that.
How do NZIE graduates measure up in comparison to other interns?
Having worked with other graduates from other learning institutions, I can say that NZIE seems to be a lot more practical, in terms of the way you teach and learn. The graduates that have come in from NZIE have at least seen the tools. In short, you’ve given them some practical types of things to experiment with in order to see how they can achieve the results. So that’s really good. Because they aren’t green when they come into an agency, although there’s a lot of work left to do, at least they’ve seen the process. I would say what NZIE provides is a good start and grounding, because a lot of the graduates are doing well. They can at least walk the talk.
What is the level of NZIE interns’ knowledge of digital marketing? What value have recent graduates brought to Firefly?
In terms of what NZIE graduates give versus non-NZIE graduates, just from recent experiences, I would say NZIE comes up trumps on practical knowledge. In particular from what I’ve seen, in terms of the coursework that NZIE is doing, it’s a lot more relevant. So that actually speaks volumes about the sort of training that NZIE is doing.
As a direct result of our experience with NZIE so far, we place a lot more trust in a recommendation than I would place in other educational institutions in the field. So, kudos to NZIE and what they have done in terms of developing coursework.
We’ve always talked to our graduates about creating their own demand. This is what we call it when it comes to interns and their next steps. In other words consistent across the board, right? In any intern that we hire, we look for all those attributes that I mentioned above, but at the end of the day, they also have to show that passion, that desire, and that willingness to go the extra mile and create their own demand. We need to also take into account the workflow that comes in. In that case, when they complete the internship, of course, we’d love to have a conversation with them. We want to make sure that we’re taking them into account as well because that supports the whole cycle of why you should do an internship. Both Anthony and myself have the mindset that we can’t promise a job to interns coming in. However, we do our best to help you get a job. That’s what we strive for.
Are there any kind of exciting new projects that Tama and Sanjana have contributed to, or any small wins that have helped Firefly achieve?
Interns also learn from their experiences. Having both Tama and Sanjana on the team has been of great help. What I love about them both, is that they have very strong learning agility, and they are always eager to learn new things as well. What I really like, from that perspective, is how they take on work from the team and actually own it. This has been great to see.
Graduating today, I think they just have to own it and act like it’s their own project. What we give them, they have to take ownership of. Since they’ve been such a great help, we’re seriously considering having them on a permanent basis. Feedback from our executives, as well as feedback from the team, is very positive. There is also a big thank you to NZIE as well, regarding how they’ve been taught.
What is your best piece of advice for anyone considering joining the digital marketing industry? Do you believe they would be better equipped with training or qualifications from NZIE first?
So I’m a strong believer in having training and qualifications. Because an employer sees that you are willing to learn, that you want to be better than what you are now. Taking a step out of your comfort zone is something you are willing to do. So for me, the answer is, do I believe that you are better equipped with some training from NZIE?
Absolutely, it shows your desire to get into digital marketing. Having a passion for digital is the best piece of advice I can give to any person interested in joining the digital marketing industry. Be open to learning new things. Be willing to step into the unknown. In addition, do your best to get a solid understanding of Digital Marketing as a whole if you can.
NZIE has done a wonderful job training Digital Marketing Specialists of the future. They’ve got great tutors and whatever they are doing I say, “keep it up”.
Since this interview, we are happy to say that both Tama and Sanjana are now in permanent roles at Firefly Digital and love every minute of it.
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