In conversation with Quentin Aisbett, Founder of OnQ Marketing

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Think forward 5 and 10 years and identify what type of product you want to have. Ask yourself whether it’s a business to simply support your lifestyle? Or whether you want to scale?

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett

Founder and Digital Strategist at OnQ Marketing

I was always that kid that had an affinity to numbers, so much so that one of my early career ambitions was to be an accountant. Exciting right?

But somehow I found myself studying Public Relations, which as soon as I completed the degree, I realised was not my thing and I didn’t pursue it any further. But it did help me get into a marketing role and in a football club, which seemed like a dream role at the time.

Fast forward a few years and the iPhone had been launched and Facebook was starting to disrupt our lives. I had grand ideas and they were falling on deaf ears in the organisation. I felt trapped at this stage and no matter how much I loved the sport and the opportunity to work full-time in the industry, I had to follow the energy, so I decided I needed to start something myself.

Your Business Journey so far

I did what so many people do and I started the agency as a side-gig. It was particularly difficult managing a full-time job while acquiring and managing the first few clients but it only took six months after acquiring the first client to giving notice at work.

There were many more challenges in those first few years. My partner had lost her job and decided to come on the journey with me, so all of a sudden we were both dependent on this business that neither of us was sure was going to last.

We were both learning completely new skillsets while charging ourselves out at hourly rates that made us feel like frauds. Thankfully, social media hadn’t been around for that long for anyone to be a seasoned expert and SEO at the time was much more straightforward in that it didn’t require the breadth of knowledge it does now.

But the biggest challenge was actually running a business. Nobody tells you about how much time this is going to consume. I thought I’d spend 95% of my week on client work and of course, those thoughts extend to how many hours you’ll be billing and how much money you can potentially make if only you could get the business.

But inevitably hours are eaten up.

Education too was a big investment in time. I was spending the equivalent of a full-time week consuming as much content as I possibly could to increase my knowledge. People weren’t sending recordings of webinars back then either, so if you wanted to watch a webinar you had to watch it live and of course, they were all on the other side of the world, so there were some really early mornings and late nights.

How do you help your clients grow and achieve their goals?

I bet you must get some really tacky answers to this question….

I don’t have an elevator type pitch answer to this question. What we do is quite simple.

We don’t profess to have unique knowledge over other agencies. What we do focus a lot on is beginning any client relationship with a conversation to identify what really is going to improve their business. The reason for this is because they often approach us with goals that they believe they should be trying to achieve when ultimately it’s not what will improve their business.

For example, we still have prospective SEO clients come to us asking for us to ‘improve their search ranking for a specific keyword’ or ‘to outrank their competitor for a specific keyword’.

But if you can start a genuine conversation, you find out that’s not what they really want, they want to generate new business, it’s almost always about new business.

So in this instance, we’d learn more about their target audience and first establish if search is the best medium to invest. Then we’d look at whether the search term they’re targeting is the right term, even if the competitor is ranking for a keyword, doesn’t mean that it’s the best search term to target. There may be other search terms out there that have more traffic or even if they have less traffic are less competitive so you can get a bigger slice of the searches.

Sometimes it’s pivoting to different search terms simply because the one you want to target generates low-quality traffic, when there are others that whilst they have less volume, ultimately the people searching are more qualified and they convert better.

Aside from having these conversations and learning more about the business, we show clients that we do generally care about their success. We teach them if they want to learn. We show them a cheaper way of doing something when the chance arises. And when we get asked to help outside of the scope of our work we do our best to help.

Experience from 0 to first 10 clients and further growth

It was no whirlwind ride for us. It was certainly a grind. But we had help from a dear friend that had connections and she helped us acquire a handful of contracts that laid the foundation and financial security to help us continue on learning the skills that serve us in the business today.

But they weren’t enough and they weren’t the contracts we necessarily wanted.

The problem was I was not a salesperson. I am not a salesperson. So I was not going to make outbound calls and I didn’t even want to be sending outbound emails looking for work. How naive I was.

So we practised what we were preaching – This new concept of inbound marketing. We blogged regularly and eventually, we had a couple of posts that gained traction and it was those posts that started to generate new leads. These leads turned into business and this business generated referred business.

Keeping pace with changing technology and remain competitive?

Thankfully whilst technology is developing at record pace, our industry has matured and even the laggards in business understand the need for a strong digital presence. So this brings with it the ability for a clear focus on where we want to go and how to get there.

However, the search landscape specifically is incredibly fluid at the moment and there’s always a sense that the next big algorithm change could disrupt the entire practice of SEO.

With our experience now though, the role of learning is more about testing our own hypothesis, whilst reading what thought-leaders in the industry are identifying from their own tests and monitoring. If you want to keep at the forefront of SEO then you can’t go wrong by following Glenn Gabe, Marie Haynes, Barry Schwartz, Cyrus Shepard, Bill Slawski and Kevin Indig to name just a few.

Top hurdles faced for business growth

Managing my own energy.

We are what is often referred to as a ‘lifestyle agency’. We don’t aim to hit any fastest-growing agency list, our aim is to manage a client roster to suit what we want to get out of the agency and that is enjoyment and fulfilment.

Whilst this sounds very zen-like to some it does come with hurdles but they are more internal. When you don’t have a singular focus on growth then the new business work can come down to my own energy levels as the founder and CEO.

Core specialties and offerings to your clients

At the core of our business, we offer our clients a clear sense of focus when it comes to their online presence and generating new business. We do this by helping them create a digital strategy and then helping them implement the search (both paid and organic) and content components.

Key to Motivation & Productivity

Both can be problematic for me to be honest. I do so many things wrong. I try to multi-task despite everything you read advising against it. I am a victim of having 20+ Chrome browser tabs open at any given time. To help me in this regard I use Chrome extensions such as OneTab to save the tabs for later reference and The Great Suspender, which kills a tab after a period of time so it’s not such a drain on my computer’s resources. Productivity is a work in progress for me.

Motivation is up and down for me too. On my good days, the feeling is that I’ve carved out the perfect career that allows me incredible flexibility, comforts and more time than most with my young family. On a bad day, I’m sick of dealing with clients, I want to get out from behind the laptop and I simply don’t want to run a business. The average day is somewhere in between.

But when motivation is low, I know what I need to do. I need to take a day off and spend it with my youngest who isn’t at school yet. This simple exercise reminds me of the fortunate position I am in and motivates me moving forward.

But right now, I have extra motivation as I’m about to launch my first SaaS product – Pocket Insights. So I’m up and about and excited to see it come to reality.

I love reading but struggle to carve out sufficient time to dig in. So I’ve been listening to Audiobooks primarily for 5+ years – They are an amazing way of better utilising your commute. I have a number of books that I like to recommend for various reasons. My favourites include – Contagious by Jonah Berger; Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday; Zero to One by Peter Thiel; The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell; Small Is The New Big by Seth Godin; Quiet by Susan Cain; The Lean Startup by Eric Ries; Hooked by Nir Eyal; and Obviously Awesome by April Dunford.

Advice to Product Makers

The best advice that I’ve heard and share with others is to think forward 5 and 10 years and identify what type of product or agency you want to have. Ask yourself whether it’s a business to simply support your lifestyle? Or whether you want to scale? Will you want to sell it? Will the marketplace still want what you have? Where will the challenges be coming from?

It’s so very easy to keep moving forward with little control or direction over where you’re going. From an agency perspective, you only need to take on a few clients in a row looking for a specific service, one that you are not interested in but you take them on anyway because it’s money and before you know it, you have a business you never intended on having. The same can be said for products.

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