The agency helping agencies understand marketing automation
by Herman Manson (@marklives) You think you have a killer digital platform, but the person you hoped would fund you sits you down and gives you the hard truth, which is that you are going to crash and burn. Big time.
Three years ago in 2013, two former telco execs, Graeme Wilson (ex MTN Business and later Seacom) and Daryn Smith (also ex MTN Business) decided to take a marketing automation platform to market. They were looking around for funding and got introduced to Donovan Nealy-May, both the CEO of the Sable Network and the CEO of the global CMO Council.
He told them what no entrepreneur wants to hear — no matter how spunky their entrepreneurial spirit — their service could not compete with international platforms such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua and SharpSpring.
So they decided to launch an agency instead, one that executes and runs marketing automation software platforms for agencies and brands. MPULL, their inbound marketing agency, offered a business-process outsourcing model to marketing agencies and brands, and became a Platinum-certified agency partner with Hubspot. Eventually, they built competencies in Marketo, Pardot, Eloqua and SharpSpring as well.
The rapid growth in marketing automation has allowed the business to quickly expand to serving numerous local and international agencies, says Smith. Today, the majority of its revenue is generated outside of South Africa.
As MPULL grew its marketing automation business, it soon became clear that clients also required website development. It formed a partnership with WG2K (run by Justin Glanville and which, at that point, primarily offered digital-transformation services such as consulting and development) which would finally result in the merger of the two businesses.
The merged entity, League Digital, is positioned as a digital agency focusing upon strategy, content marketing and marketing automation, and deals with direct enterprise clients, while MPULL has been repositioned as an agency-to-agency marketing-automation outsource (white-label) partner. League will continue to focus upon the corporate SA market and MPULL is expanding into the US and Europe. MPULL specialises in end-to-end inbound marketing, content marketing, content production, COS development, marketing automation, HubSpot CRM implementation, demand generation and lead management and conversion.
Combined, the two agencies employ 80 people, including 35 journalists, in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, and revenue comes in at around R30m pa. The group wants to double its revenue this financial year. Together, they are targeting work coming in from the EU (thanks to the tanking rand).
MPULL’s biggest client sits in Spain; it also has clients in the UK and Australia. It assists agencies in setting up inbound-marketing strategies for clients, from strategy to creative and final execution. It helps that competent marketing-automation staff members are hard to find and that agencies are pretty set in their ways, making its outsource model all the more viable, says Smith.
International marketing automation hub
Through MPULL Smith and his partners believe they can successfully position Cape Town as an international marketing automation hub. “MPULL delivers services to agencies internationally; these services are white-labelled so their customers do not know that they are outsourcing to us,” he says. “The type of work we take on is inbound marketing, content marketing and marketing automation.
“These skills do not exist almost anywhere in the world, but we have been running very successful internship and apprenticeship programmes and have built up a ‘centre of excellence’ in Cape Town. We will continue to do this, sourcing great candidates from the tertiary education institutes and training them up.”
Herman Manson (@marklives) is the founder and editor of MarkLives.com. He was the inaugural Vodacom Social Media Journalist of the Year in 2011 and has, over his 20-year-plus career, contributed to numerous journals and websites in South Africa and abroad, including AdVantage magazine, Men’s Health, Computer World and African Communications.