First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alex Cohen: Thankfully, health-wise, we have been fine. We have young children, so we haven’t missed eating out and late nights as much as we may have a few years ago. We’ve been a remote company since we started in 2009; I have an office in the back garden, so in that regard, life hasn’t changed that much this year.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Xander Marketing.
Alex Cohen: I previously worked in small companies and at a marketing agency. I could see a need for a business that required marketing but didn’t have the time, resources, or know-how to do it in-house. So in 2009, I set Xander Marketing up to fill this need. Initially, we worked with any company; however, our first big client was a SaaS business, which led us into other SaaS businesses, and we pivoted to be just focused on working with B2B SaaS businesses in 2014; as far as I know, the first agency to do just that.
How does Xander Marketing innovate?
Alex Cohen: We are a marketing agency, so we need to constantly innovate for our clients. Campaign ideas, try new tools, and new tactics. In 2009 working remotely wasn’t the norm. 11 years later, the rest of the world is now catching up, especially this year. We use technology that makes us efficient – is there a piece of software that can do something we can do – we use it. For example, in a recruitment campaign this year, we used video interview software for the first time, which saved a lot of time.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alex Cohen: As mentioned above, we’ve been a remote company for over a decade, so we were set up for this. We work with SaaS businesses, and they have been one of the few sectors that have largely benefited from the pandemic, so we’ve been well placed to serve them. Yes, we’ve had some clients cut back or dive in a bit more cautiously than they would have been, but on the whole, we’ve been up this year. I put this down to luck rather than skill! If our clients were in the hospitality industry because our first big client 11 years ago was a hotel and we followed that path, it would be a very different story.
We’ve been able to support our clients throughout this year as they grapple with the fast-changing environment, and I’m proud that our team of employees and freelancers are busier than ever at the moment and that we can do our bit to support them and their families.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alex Cohen: Every week, sometimes every day – it’s the life of running a business. Every decision you learn from – of course, I don’t get every one right. But you have to make decisions; otherwise, decisions can be made for you. The process is important – how you think things through, who do you talk to, how do you execute that decision. You learn from every decision, which gives you experience the next time you need to make a similar decision.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Alex Cohen: I am strict with taking weekends off and not checking work emails unless I really need to. This helps. Daily walks help to clear my mind and put things into perspective. You do need breaks/holidays to reset and gain perspective sometimes.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alex Cohen: We have other agencies that focus on SaaS we compete with, then tens of thousands of general agencies, then freelancers, companies hiring staff instead of an agency, and of course a client ‘doing nothing.’ An agency-client relationship is a partnership, and it’s about finding a good fit. There’s enough business to go around, and we all work in different ways. We continue to grow and work on interesting projects, so I don’t pay too much attention to the competition.
Your final thoughts?
Alex Cohen: We’ve worked with hundreds of businesses and many startups over the last 11 years. The ones that succeed tend to be the ones that stay focused, continue what they’re doing day in, day out, innovating as they go along. Business is hard. Before I started, I read a few business books, worked in some companies, and thought it was easy. But it is hard – and you have to stay focused and keep going and try new things when you need to. We’ve been lucky this year, many businesses haven’t, and I feel for them. However, I’d like to think if we had have been badly affected by COVID, we would have pivoted, adapted, and found a way to keep going, and that’s what I see other successful businesses around us doing.
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