It takes more courage and leadership to be a follower and to let go of one’s ego.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Kaitlin Zhang.
Kaitlin Zhang is the CEO of Oval Branding and an award-winning speaker. Kaitlin is a Chinese Canadian entrepreneur and creative based in London, UK. She has lived and worked in Shenzhen, Vancouver, Shanghai, and San Francisco prior to settling in London. Her multi-cultural background helps inform her cross-border branding practice especially between China and the West.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
When I first arrived in London, I worked for a brilliant cleantech startup, Loowatt, that made waterless toilets that can turn human waste into energy and biogas. It was a challenge to manage the company’s brand image to navigate the tricky areas of toilet humor. Certainly, there were a few jokes that didn’t land as well as hoped and had to be flushed. What I learned is that marketing is about continuous testing and it’s okay to make small mistakes as long as we are sincere in our efforts and are willing to learn from it.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. As you know Google and other search engines constantly update their search algorithms. Today, do you believe that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is still an important part of any long-term marketing plan? Can you explain why?
Absolutely, SEO will always remain an important part of any long-term marketing plan. Simply put, people will always continue to Google you and your company.
In the work that I do in the financial services industry, I know first-hand that investors are always doing their due diligence and Google the team and company prior to meeting with them. This is your digital first impression and it can last a long time. It’s the difference between getting that initial meeting or struggling to raise money.
Can you share some basic Search Engine Optimization tips you have for less experienced marketers?
- Don’t try to “hack” the SEO logarithms, but instead focus on the things that’ll never change: quality content gets higher SEO because they offer the most value to the audiences.
- People’s attention span is short. Learn how to write web content that are scannable and suitable for the web, such as lists. Better content gets higher views and thus higher SEO rankings in the long run.
- Invest in video marketing and video SEO and remember that the audio quality matters more than the video quality.
What “3 Non-Intuitive Marketing Strategies” have been most effective for you in your industry?
1. Build Your Personal Brand Online
The internet is the go-to resource if someone wants to know more about you. Thus, it is imperative that you represent the best version of who you are online and clearly showcase what you do, what you stand for and what you believe in. Personal branding online can also be described as online reputation management. Through effective personal brand positioning, you can become known as an expert in a niche area and attract opportunities that wouldn’t normally come by. This area is especially important for start-up founders as they are looking to attract funding; having an excellent corporate brand is simply not enough if you cannot demonstrate your own brand and track record.
Building my personal branding is how I started everything. In 2016, I started building my personal brand by blogging on my personal website kaitlinzhang.com, about branding and marketing. I also did a series of around 15 offline workshops and events in London that year in conjunction with building my online brand. This led to a series of high-profile personal branding clients such as actors, musicians, authors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Eventually, less than two years later, I was invited to speak at the UK Cabinet Office to civil servants about the importance of online reputation management. Currently, I work exclusively with high profile clients on their personal branding with a special focus on online reputation management.
2. Build Genuine Relationships and Be A Human First
Doing business is first and foremost about building relationships. Most of my clients have ended up as life-long friends and I’m grateful to have been able to add value to their business. The non-intuitive strategy is to forget about the business and not to be afraid to add value to the other person first.
For example, during the current COVID-19 outbreak, now is the perfect time to reach out to your industry networks in the countries affected and offer support where you can. Especially for clients and contacts in China, a simple message of encouragement on WeChat can be heart-warming. It’s about being a loving human that genuinely cares and people can tell the difference.
3. Networking Outside The Industry
Networking outside one’s industry can allow for the opportunity to meet new people and gain new insights. I wouldn’t call this a “marketing strategy” because the goal of this is not to sell one’s business or brand. It’s about building relationships and see if there are people that you can add value to and assist. You can meet people from a hobbies group, a sports club or even an online Facebook group.
Personally, as a Christian, I belong to a few faith-based organizations in London, in particular, the HTB Entrepreneurs Network as well as the Generous Journeys community. These organizations allow me to meet business leaders and entrepreneurs from across industries, some of whom have become long term clients and good friends.
If you were only allowed to run paid ads on 1 platform (in your industry) over the next 12 months, what would it be and why?
Have you heard of a Chinese app called Douyin? It’s the original Chinese version that the popular Tiktok app is based on. It is a short video sharing app owned by Bytedance that has over 400 million daily active users in Jan 2020, up from 250 million the same time a year ago, according to the South China Morning Post. We have tested the platform for one of our UK technology clients and the ROI is insane! Everyone that works with China needs to understand and learn how to use this platform asap.
One more question! You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Actually, there is no need for me to inspire a movement. I think it takes more courage and leadership to be a follower and to let go of one’s ego. They are so many inspiring people out there leading amazing movements, why not consider supporting them instead? Some leaders that come to mind include Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai, Arianna Huffington, and Emma Watson.
Furthermore, I believe our roles as marketers and brand managers are to help our client tell their unique stories and support their visions for a better world. So I’m perfectly happy doing that to make the world a better place.
Thank you so much for sharing so much value with us!