Cube Online, Signifi Media, Awaken thrive on digital marketing surge – The Australian Financial Review

Lead Marketing & Automation Services > Blog > Uncategorized > Cube Online, Signifi Media, Awaken thrive on digital marketing surge – The Australian Financial Review

The return of online strategy as an essential part of marketing for many businesses has been a bonus for Cube Online, which has made the 2022 AFR Fast 100.
The five-year-old software company provides local marketing, customer experience and reputation management to small businesses and retailers.
Cube Online staff gained time for reflection by spending a few days at an off-site meeting on the Whitsundays. 
Founder Tony Van-Eyk set out to help businesses communicate with customers via SMS and manage their entire online footprint in one place. The software enables businesses to generate local leads and reviews and automate repetitive tasks.
“Our software gives businesses the tools they need to grow in one place,” Van-Eyk says.
While marketing costs were initially cut when COVID hit, a quick pivot to offer a new “Bricks 2 Clicks” service that helped business promote e-commerce stores proved a huge success.
As time marched on and the pandemic remained a challenge for businesses, many businesses returned to digital marketing in droves to bolster their online presence.
“Businesses that weren’t perhaps as focused on digital or didn’t feel that digital was important to them suddenly realised they were being left behind. Every business can now see the importance of having a digital strategy in place to reach customers.”
Cube Online founder Tony Van-Eyk: “We’ve done a lot of work on our employee proposition over the past 12 months.”  
Opening a second office in London has seen the team grow to 116 people. Further expansion into Europe is also on the horizon. He attributes his growth to having great product-market fit.
Like most companies in the digital space, finding skilled workers remains a challenge. A financial reward for referrals and offering flexibility has been crucial in the war for talent. He’s in the process of hiring for 25 new roles over the coming months.
“We’ve mainly focused on the SME market, but we’re moving upmarket into the enterprise sector next year. We’re also making a move into channel partners to handle trade shows and expos, among other initiatives,” he says.
Taking a selection of the team away for a few days to an off-site meeting for a thinktank on how to improve the business this year saw a number of staff members chosen for a trip to the Whitsundays for three days.
“This allows time for reflection and we also ask people proactively to career plan,” he says.
“We’ve done a lot of work on our employee proposition over the past 12 months which has helped us with attraction and retention of staff, which sets us apart from others in our space.”
The digital marketing shift over the last couple of years has also proven a boon for Perth-based Signifi Media, which has also made the AFR Fast 100.
The six-year-old online marketing and digital solutions agency offers remarketing and retargeting technology. It now has a presence in 11 countries and plans to partner with a range of European countries in the near future.
“We partner with large online marketplaces around the world. In each country, there’s usually a number one real estate, automotive or recruitment portal, for example, which allows listings to be booked,” director and co-founder Matt Cahill says.
Signifi Media co-founders Matt Cahill (left) and Nick Sertis constantly invest in research and development. “You can only do so much from behind the computer when you’re in growth phase,” Cahill says. 
“We take a listing of someone’s house and amplify that listing by sending it across a range of different platforms automatically, which can reduce marketing costs. We provide all the sophistication for a few hundred dollars.”
Signifi Media also white labels its digital marketing services to online retailers. It has also secured a partnership deal with a large bank in United Arab Emirates and Central America and has trials under way with a large real estate portal, which represents further growth over the coming years. Signifi Media employs 22 staff.
“We back ourselves by offering no lock-in contracts, and the majority of our clients have stayed with us for a number of years,” he says.
“We’ve clients start out on a $1000 a month and absolutely rocketed on the back of that, and then turn around and spend several hundreds and thousands of dollars with us,” he says.
While its international pipeline shrank during the initial COVID phase, overall revenues grew. As soon as the international borders opened again, Cahill had flights booked into key international markets in a bid to shore up further growth.
“Now that we’ve been able to travel again, we’ve attended several international conferences to promote our software, attracting a number of partnership opportunities with our software on the back of those trips,” Cahill says.
“We’ve been all over the place, so we’re quite used to the 17-hour flight from Perth to London. It’s just a quick little bus trip for us now,” he says. “But it’s not instantaneous. Partnerships can take a year to come to fruition.”
Travel is essential for growth.
“You can only do so much from behind the computer when you’re in growth phase. When you meet someone in person, you get to form relationships and get to know the executive team you’re going to partner with. It’s good to break bread and talk about other things rather than just talk about work, and business logically follows after that,” Cahill says.
He adds that research and development is a continual part of doing business in the digital world. “We invested every single cent back into our business over the past five or six years to be constantly investing in the technology to build out new features and functionality.”
Creative media agency Awaken was launched eight years ago by Chris Parker.
“I started off on the kitchen table after we had twins, and the business has grown to 20 staff now, along with a production team that scales up or down depending on the workload,” he explains at a mile a minute.
Parker is clearly quick-thinking, too. As founder and CEO, his world moves faster than most. AFR Fast 100 lister Awaken designs creative for TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, television, Spotify, podcasts and everything in between. The team also writes the creative strategy and handles media placement.
It is one of the lucky businesses that thrived during COVID lockdowns as brands sought assistance to reach locked-down consumers.
“Once the worst of the lockdowns was over, we had a strong resurgence across electronics, alcohol and other consumer goods categories, which have also been strong this year,” he says. “This has led to larger budgets and more strategic ways to help our clients grow.”
Bringing strategy, design and media placement under one umbrella isn’t standard practice in the marketing space. But Parker doesn’t see why they need to be separate.
“It’s not the norm, but it creates a more cohesive strategy and allows better results,” Parker says. “Having media planners and creatives in the same room allows us to create individual assets that work across each medium.”
He says the agency has maintained strong growth, particularly over the past five years since adding a creative arm to the business. The addition has made Awaken a one-stop-shop for clients seeking creative design such as television ads, strategy and media placement.
“That’s been our niche and it’s helped us grow quite considerably,” he says.
In the early days, he handled a lot of the creative himself. “It was grinding. It wasn’t easy. In the beginning, I was doing every type of Facebook ad and website, and calling all my contacts and working through LinkedIn in any way we could to build our client base.”
But it’s paid off. Awaken has expanded into the US, creating a virtual 24-hour creative shop. Next year, Parker is planning to add a direct-to-consumer arm to handle distribution for clients, including packing subscription boxes for clients.
Parker attributes a lot of Awaken’s success to its team. Flexible work arrangements have enabled him to attract and retain top talent.
“I’ve always been focused on the fact that family comes first, and people can take time off if and when they need to. We all work to live, not live to work, and we don’t want work to be the main focus for our people, because that’s not healthy.”
Productivity is measured on output, which is roughly mapped out with team members on a daily and weekly basis. Workers are encouraged to get along to a yoga class or help out in their child’s reading class at school in the middle of the day if they would like to.
“You have to treat people like adults. We all know what we need to get done to achieve our KPIs and as long as everyone is hitting those, that’s great,” Parker says.
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