Entrepreneurs despairing that digital marketing is too time-consuming and complicated may look at Australian fashion ecommerce business Showpo and its 1 million+ Facebook fans and 1.3 million Instagram followers and think the company has it easy – with that kind of audience already built, surely marketing to them is easy, right?
Not quite. Showpo’s social media marketing is just one part of its overall marketing strategy. Heading up these efforts, taking in various channels both online and off, is Mark Baartse, who has helped double Showpo’s revenue since joining as Chief Marketing Officer just over 12 months ago.
Though now regarded as one of Australia’s leading digital marketers, Baartse originally started his career as a developer, building his first website in the early 90s before joining MSN.
“It was such an exciting space,” he said.
“Maybe it’s a bit of hyperbole, but it felt like this strange uncharted land, like the great explorers sailing the oceans. There were no rules, no one knew what they were doing and we were all just making it up. It was fascinating to see the internet change from largely a techie domain, to seeing it open up to an increasingly wide audience.”
Through his development work, Baartse said he worked closely with marketing teams and felt they were often doing more interesting work.
“Development seemed to be the very end of a long process, and I wanted to get further up that process. Not just to build, but decide what was being built and be part of shaping the future direction and growth of a business, through marketing,” he said.
The transition to marketing for Baartse was “relatively easy”, he said. Working at Microsoft at the time, he was able to get exposure to marketing projects where a digital understanding was required, and his work grew from there.
With almost 20 years of experience in digital marketing now, Baartse said the space continues to grow and mature. The early days saw rapid evolution, which meant “no one really knew anything”.
On the flip side, he said, these days there is a lot of noise and “we have a lot of people – especially the MarTech vendors – over complicating things”, which is why Baartse has spent the last few years giving workshops and running courses to share his expertise.
“Many marketers feel they can’t do their job without the latest expensive shiny toy, and that’s just not true. At the end of the day, at the heart of effective digital marketing is insights and data analytics. There’s a lot of cheap, basic fundamentals which are just as effective and still deliver excellent returns,” he explained.
For Baartse, striking a balance between the use of those tried and tested fundamentals, and keeping up to date with all the new tools and technologies in the space and jumping onto those which will deliver real value is an interesting part of the job.
“The rate of change is what attracted me to digital in the first place. I love change and the daily challenge that presents. I keep up with daily reading of various blogs, social media accounts, newsletters, and so on,” he admitted.
“Having said that, it is impossible to be 100 percent up to date on every aspect of digital, and new challenges will always present themselves requiring new solutions.”
In approaching the work done at Showpo, Baartse said it all revolves around the fact that, as digital natives, the company’s customers are living their lives online, and therefore that’s where the company too needs to be.
“I came on board to drive the company’s growth through effective digital marketing and build a team to ensure we are constantly pushing the boundaries in the way we engage with our customers online to drive growth, while also improving the complete customer journey,” he said.
“The customer is always at the heart of what we do, and from a marketing perspective we are constantly testing and evolving aspects of strategy to drive greater effectiveness. Showpo has undergone such rapid growth, and while that can present challenges, it’s a good problem to have. However, as a business we are committed to growing in a sustainable way.”
Baartse is eager to help other businesses leverage digital marketing to grow sustainably at a hands-on workshop, Brilliant Digital Marketing, running 10 November through Zambesi.
Among other things, the workshop will see Baartse help participants develop a content marketing plan, give them the ability to use techniques such as SEO, SEM, display, and remarketing to attract new customers, and give them the skills to set up a data marketing strategy capturing and using customer data to create meaningful customer experiences, and create ongoing leads and sales at low cost.
“By having a survey of all major areas of digital marketing, I want people to understand the options, understand how to approach them and manage them, and come away from the day with a really thorough game plan of what’s right for their business. People should have a clear plan and know how to execute that plan,” Baartse said.
Admitting it “sounds like a cliché”, Baartse said he too learns a lot from the teaching he does.
“I can spend an intense period getting neck deep in other’s problems which really gives me a fresh view of my own problems – or makes me realise I have problems I didn’t even realise,” he said.
“I also really enjoy the interaction, and seeing how people from often quite disparate industries can inspire each other and learn as a collective.”