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What I Learned Building a 4 million USD Performance Marketing Agency

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Erling Løken Andersen Omega Media

Erling Løken Andersen, CEO, and Founder of Omega Media tells us about the data-driven marketing approach.

Erling Løken Andersen, CEO of Omega Media, and Francois Savard, one of the company’s projects managers

First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times? 

Erling Løken Andersen: Things are going well. A new lockdown was just announced here in Oslo, Norway, but that is a good opportunity to spend more time with the family. All is not bad; it is a matter of perspective.  

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Omega Media.

Erling Løken Andersen: In 2005, I started a social networking website called together with two friends. It gathered more than 500.000 members – more than 10% of the Norwegian population – before it was sold in 2008. The buyer was the Danish media giant Egmont, and the sales price was 12.5 million USD. I was just 26 years old at the time, so I spent the next few years traveling the world and working. According to the contract, I had to keep working for a minimum of 3-4 years. 

Fast forward to 2012, I was burnt out and didn’t really know what to do. We had sold, which was our passion, and now I was left without a project to work on. I still had some of the, but nowhere to direct my passion and energy. However, during the past years, I had picked up a skill for search engine optimization – SEO. This is basically the skill of getting a specific website to rank well in Google. I quickly understood that most businesses didn’t understand how important this was; and how big this field would be in a few years’ time. So I started a performance marketing company called Omega Media, which specialized on this new, brave frontier. 

From 2012 until 2015, I worked from home and makeshift offices. I had burned through all of the, and I was working out of the back seat of my old Mercedes and Couchsurfing. Then my car got broken into, and they stole all my clothes and earthly possessions. I didn’t have anything except for an old laptop. I genuinely felt like a Buddhist, that I had either reached rock bottom or Nirvana. Luckily, it all went uphill from that point. 

Working full-time to build up my agency, I also studied to become a lawyer at the University of Oslo during these 3 years. I finally hired my first employee towards the end of 2015. Today, Omega Media has grown to 30 employees and has a revenue of more than 4 million USD. We have been lucky to have worked with some amazing brands along the way, like ManpowerGroup, Unicef, eBay, Sony Playstation, Egmont, Coca-Cola, and many more. 

How does Omega Media innovate? 

Erling Løken Andersen: We are in the services industry, so our innovation primarily happens through delivering superior results for our clients. We achieve these results using a data-driven marketing approach, combining diverse media channels such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others, creating the best possible media mix for the customer. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. I think what separates us from the rest is that we try to think like the customer – and as if we were him or her. How would we spend our marketing budget if we, for example, owned an e-commerce retailer? 

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Erling Løken Andersen: Since Omega Media works with a lot of e-commerce startups – where revenue has typically increased during Covid-19 – we’ve been lucky. We haven’t really noticed Covid-19, except for a certain aversion against larger media investments. Our own revenue is up nearly 50% from last year, driven by organic growth and increased customer attention. We also have a fantastic new sales team in place now, who have really lifted our business and helped secure the upstream sales flow. 

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

Erling Løken Andersen: The hardest choices when building a business is knowing when to hire and when to fire. Hiring is hard because it exposes you to operational, financial risk. You take the risk of paying out a salary to a person who might not contribute to your own growth. This can endanger the entire organization. This is especially important in the beginning when your whole company is essentially living paycheck to paycheck. As you grow, the immediate risk is reduced because you increase your liquidity and overall sense of control. The other difficult choice is deciding to fire someone. Often you’ve developed a friendship with the person, and you really want to see him or her succeed. But then they don’t. And being a human, you keep putting off that tough decision. The lesson I’ve learned is that when it comes to hiring and firing, you have to trust your gut instincts and just do it. Ultimately, you’re the CEO, and you have to make the call on what’s best for the organization you’re trying to build. 

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Erling Løken Andersen: At Omega Media, we believe in empowering our teams – and letting them work independently. However, we have daily and weekly checkings on a myriad of tools, such as Slack, Notion, Google Meet, and Basecamp. We’re also big fans of the Google Suite. It’s hard to envision an agency function without these tools. Personally, I’m also a huge fan of Google Tasks and my right-swipe Android calendar.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Erling Løken Andersen: Our competitors are medium-sized performance marketing agencies in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Typically, they’re between 10 and 50 people, with a data-driven mindset. Some are good, some are bad. Luckily for us, there are also a lot of older, more traditional agencies out there. Their customers are often underserved when it comes to digital innovation. This is good for us, as they’re usually starving for performance-based marketing. When it comes to measuring return-on-investment, it’s hard to beat the perfect mix of search engine optimization (SEO), Google Ads, Google Shopping, heavily segmented Facebook ads, newsletters, affiliate marketing, and content marketing. And all that is at the core of Omega Media’s offering. 

Your final thoughts?

Erling Løken Andersen: If you’re looking to maximize your ad spend, choose your media agency wisely. You should always hire a performance marketing specialist, as they will typically know more about how to optimize your ad spend online than many traditional media advisors. Also, check the CV of any person who is offered to work on your account. Look for ex-employees of Google or Facebook or people with clear experience from the digital marketing world. Experience and managing to keep up with the current trends in the market is the key to delivering top ROI. 

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