Don’t be sleazy. LinkedIn is a professional networking platform, so treat people as you would if you were meeting them at a networking event. You wouldn’t go up to a prospect and shove your business card in their face without first introducing yourself, so use the same manners in the digital world. After making a new connection, I send a message that reads something like “Hi XXX, thanks for the connection. I own a digital marketing agency specialising in organic marketing strategies. I see that you work for XXX, can you tell me about your specialties? I look forward to following your content. Thanks, Ellie (Director THE-OOP.COM)”. In most cases I get a response, and people also click through to my website to learn more about what we do without me having to look like a used car salesman.
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Use LinkedIn To Dramatically Improve Your Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellie Shedden. Ellie is the Founder and Director of THE-OOP.COM, a global digital marketing agency specialising in organic digital marketing strategy. With staff and customers spread across 4 continents, Ellie has grown the business from a side-hustle to a top agency within just 2 years. Originally from Australia, Ellie now lives in Prague and takes the opportunity to travel regularly with her online business.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Ellie! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My story is a bit topsy-turvy, and I certainly didn’t follow a traditional career path. After a gap year in Ghana where I worked at a hospital on health promotion initiatives and trained with the midwives, I came back to Australia to study international development, with the aim of eventually working for a global NGO on environmental and poverty reduction initiatives.
Whilst studying, I worked 25 hours per week as a check in agent at Sydney airport. One day the airport was in complete chaos due to terrible weather conditions . I was checking in customers and going about my day as usual, when one customer came up to me, gave me his business card and said “I like the way you are handling the pressure. Give me a call if you want a new job”. He was the State Director of the National Australia Bank so I called him the next day and, lo and behold, he offered me a job as a Senior Associate to a Business Banking Manager.
I was extremely lucky that day as working at the bank opened a lot of doors for me. Although I didn’t enjoy the work, they paid for part of my studies (though I had to change to a Business degree majoring in finance and marketing) and I learnt everything you can imagine about the financial aspects of running a business. Even better, I built a network of business owners which has served me throughout my working life.
I left that job after 3 years as I really didn’t enjoy the work and moved to a job as a receptionist at a global telecommunications company. I expected to stay for only 3 months while I evaluated my options, but my boss (based in Geneva) quickly identified my financial background and offered me a promotion to a very interesting financial management position. Through this job, I traveled regularly to Europe and was eventually relocated to a permanent position in Prague, where I was responsible for controlling the financials for a business unit with a budget of $40M. After 5 years the job lost its sparkle and I was no longer being challenged, so finally I decided to branch out on my own.
This brings me to where I am today. 2 years ago I started the digital marketing agency THE-OOP.COM (did I mention I was also running small businesses on the side whilst in my previous careers? Including a top performing arts school and a marketing advisory for travel agents). I took the knowledge that I previously had regarding running a business and marketing and transferred this to my own and my clients’ businesses. I’m proud to say that we have been running at profit since day 1, and the business is getting stronger every day.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One of my first breaks was being invited to Aachen, a small city in Germany, to teach a group of businesswomen how to build an effective WordPress website. The women were on a month-long retreat, and my course was one of the first activities. I had never taught such a course before and was considering making it a part of my product offering, so I offered to teach for free in exchange for accommodation for the 3 days and transport to the site.
Wow, it was hard work! The class had 15 students, but each had a different level of knowledge when it came to website development. Although I had a structure for the course, I had to throw it out the window in the first hour and spent the next 3 days being pulled this way and that way by a group of very intelligent business women, all looking to build an effective website. At the end of each day I was completely exhausted as I didn’t have a minute to myself, but fortunately this event let to plenty of further travel and business opportunities, including in Berlin, Bali and the Gold Coast.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I have made plenty of mistakes, but none of them were funny at the time! When first starting I didn’t have much experience writing contracts as we had always had a professional to do this at my previous jobs. I knew the basics, but I had no idea of what type of contingencies I needed to include. In one early web design contract I didn’t properly outline delivery dates and expected response times. I spent over 60 hours on this website (for which I had estimated 20 hours) as the client kept coming back with change requests, then taking ages to reply once I had implemented them.
From this experience, I learned what contingencies I need to cover and how to work them into the contract. For example, I now make sure that the client has 48 hours to respond to approve change requests, otherwise I charge for my time.
I also had an issue where my social media scheduling tool malfunctioned whilst I was traveling and completely without phone reception for 4 days. I had no idea that it wasn’t working, but I arrived home to annoyed messages from my customers as their accounts hadn’t been tended to in a week. From this I learned to always have a backup (now I get my VA to check up on all of this if I’m out of contact), even if you think you’ve got everything covered!
Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?
For my own business, LinkedIn has been extremely useful to increase my customer base and revenue. I use it to share industry related articles and connect with prospects, who then may convert to clients.
One of my biggest clients is a European company selling business merchandise. The owner of this company connected with me on LinkedIn and I sent a brieft message to introduce myself and my company. He noted that he was looking for help with marketing and we arranged to meet. Upon meeting, I found out that he was the ex-CEO of a major bank and telecommunication company, and from this single contact I gained lots of large business opportunities who are now my clients.
Let’s talk about LinkedIn specifically, now. Can you share 5 ways to leverage LinkedIn to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.
LinkedIn is one of the best social tools for businesses in the B2B market, or for company owners looking to find strategic partnerships. Here are my 5 best tips to use LinkedIn to increase your market share and revenue:
Because of the position that you are in, 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love to start a paid internship program for university students from less-developed regions to teach them the skills to work in the marketing industry. Having lived in Ghana, I know there are a lot of very talented kids (most even with English as a first language!) who just don’t have the same opportunity to engage with companies and learn digital marketing skills in a workplace environment. Ideally, they would complete the internship and then go on to a full time position with experience and references, or learn the skills to set up their own agency and connect with global clients.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to meet Emma Isaacs from Business Chicks as she is a great success story, and proof that hard work combined with brains and a bit of luck can lead to success. I love that Emma is always honest about not being able to have it all (eg. not being able to run a business and be home for your kids 24/7), and she shares a realistic look of the highs and lows of being a successful business owner. Back when I first started in banking I used to volunteer at Business Chicks events and had the chance to meet Dr Catherine Hamlin, so I’d love to thank her for that as well!
Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!