The Digital Scot in Conversation with… Adam Bell from moment.agency.

This week, our class was treated to a guest lecture from Adam, the founder and managing director of Aberdeen based moment.agency. We heard all about his journey so far, some unique insights into the world of digital marketing and his top career advice.

Originally from the shire, Adam started his career at Microsoft in London before working in Melbourne, Leeds and now back in the Granite City as the founder and managing director of moment.

I got the opportunity to have a chat with Adam about his career so far, how his previous jobs have shaped his current role and his recommendations for kickstarting a career in modern marketing.

So, firstly Adam, how did you actually get into digital marketing?

Brilliant question! I think one of my favourite things about working in marketing is asking other people how they got into it. 80% of people say accidentally.

I got into it through a fluke working at Microsoft. I had applied to do an internship because I knew that it would be a great brand to work for. I completed all the assessments, got approved and was presented with a few options. I chose to work as part of the Digital Media Team, mainly because it was in London.

I ended up spending three years in that team. I was retained after my initial internship, won “Intern of the year” and it was the craziest introduction to marketing, media, agencies and brands. I knew that I wanted to stay in it after that.

How do you think your previous roles, from working in London to Melbourne, have helped shape where you are now?

London was the best place to start a career. I’d always known, growing up in rural Aberdeenshire, that I’d want to spend a year in London. I studied in Edinburgh and stayed in London for four years on and off.

It provided the opportunity to get deeply involved in all aspects of marketing. People either thrive in that environment or they don’t. So for me, having the opportunity to learn an insane amount in a very short period of time has stood me in good stead for the other jobs that I’ve gone on to do.

I think being able to contrast it to Melbourne was really useful as well. Melbourne was about five years behind London in terms of overall digital sophistication. In some ways though, Melbourne/Australia is way more advanced.

The UK had a very clear journey between computers being “a thing”, then mobile being “a thing”, and the evolution of technologies in that sense. Australia has had mobile for ages. You do not have broadband outside of the major cities so people have had smartphones and 4G for ages and that totally changes the communication landscape.

I went from Melbourne to Leeds, which is less developed as many people aren’t aware of the technology or of the benefits or potential advantages of the technology. But because I’ve seen it elsewhere and done it elsewhere, the risk was talking about the technology in a too complicated fashion as it could go over people’s heads.

Being able to talk about the opportunities, break it down and say I’ve seen this and made it work and finding a way of communicating that to people with less of an understanding was a really exciting opportunity.

Fantastic. So what brought you back to Aberdeen?

A whole host of reasons. A couple of personal life things happened which caused a pause for reflection. I was in Leeds and didn’t really know anyone within 200 miles who I’d known for any longer than I’d worked in that city. That made me question whether I wanted to be there and make it my base.

I’d always had this business idea and considered the idea of going back to London, Australia or even New York. I knew that I’d be in the same position – being in a city trying to make friends. I think it gets harder as you get older. People have their own lives, communities, kids etc.

I have a lot of friends up in Aberdeen so, from a life perspective, that was a big driver. Also, my folks are up here and they’ll be retiring in a few years. It was really due to conversations with my best friend who lives in Aberdeen. We were taking walks in the Cairngorms, talking about options and he said, “why don’t you do it? Why don’t you come up and try the business?” He’s given me loads of support in different ways.

Overall, it was a combination of loads of personal stuff and a really good time to start the business. I knew if I didn’t do it now, I would be taking another career job.

Can you talk more about moment agency?

Moment has come out of everything that I have done previously. It is a digital agency, although I don’t like using the term digital necessarily. I prefer to talk about modern marketing and modern marketing channels more specifically. We look at everything to do with search engines, social media and email marketing as core digital communication channels.

It has really been a process of figuring out what we do do, and what we don’t do. Search, social and email is what I’ve done over the last 10 years. I’m really comfortable with my experience with it, my ability to deliver it and my ability to train other people to deliver it. Moment won’t go any broader than that or any narrower than that.

By being specific about those channels, it allows us to collaborate with other agencies. Because we don’t do creative or branding, we work with other agencies that do, and they can send channel work to us. 

What does your typical workday look like?

Every day is different. I’ll try and break it down into the core aspects of what I do.

Firstly, a large part of the role is sales and business development which has been a part of my previous roles. Now that it is solely incumbent on me to achieve sales in order for the business to grow, it’s a bit different.

The role covers everything from sales through to client strategy/creating road maps. Also, aspects of implementation. I haven’t done a lot of pure implementation work for the last few years, so that has been pretty fun actually. It’s part of the nature of a start-up – everyone does a bit of everything.

Alongside all that, I also get involved in everything else business-related – admin, finance, office management, operations, people management and training avenues etc. That side of things is kind of new. I had another small agency in London, but this is a completely different operation. We’ve planned for the start that in five years time we’ll be a 50-person agency. It’s a completely different mindset.

It’s a niche point on that, but the fact that we are a start-up means we can relate to a lot of our clients who are smaller, owner-managed businesses. So many of the things that are really important for them are also really important to us.

As much as we help them with marketing, we also share a number of commonalities on the admin kind of things such as growing pains, recruitment etc. That shared understanding has really helped in strengthening those relationships.

What is your favourite part of the job?

Probably where I get the biggest kick is the client strategy segment and being able to work with new clients or existing clients. We do quarterly business reviews to apply our understanding of digital marketing to their understanding of their industry to come up with the best possible plan of how they want to communicate across their channels. That allows us to come up with the best ideas, campaigns and strategies. That’s the biggest kick for me.

Your top advice for those wanting to get into digital marketing?

The thing I love about digital marketing is about how broad the opportunities are. I asked a class of primary school students what kind of jobs they would like to do in the future. There were the usual answers – fireman, policeman, architect etc. The best thing for me about marketing is that you can actually work across a wide range of sectors. We get to work with all of them.

And being at moment and being able to decide the direction or culture of moment as an agency, we can work with the sectors that we love. It’s a big cultural thing to make sure as we grow, we work with sectors we want to engage with.

I think in terms of breaking that down in terms what you need to do to get into digital marketing, it’s looking at a horizon of about five years. Do you want to work with a big agency, big clients or smaller independent start-ups?

The number one tactic that applies to all of these types of jobs is making personal connections. Use LinkedIn for absolutely everything – send people requests, always personalise the invite. Not everyone will accept, but it’s the only way of cutting through to the people who do matter.

Apply for everything, be everywhere, go to events. These are all things that I’ve done that I perceive to be important and has ultimately led me to be where I am now.

It’s all about personal connections. Find the important people on LinkedIn and go to an event where they are, identify the decision makers, be it a business owner or recruitment manager, that would be where I’d go.

To flip the question on its head, is there anything you would recommend NOT doing?

Never send anything generic. Personalise everything whether it be a LinkedIn invite, an application, CV. It’s really hard to use the scale approach when you’re applying for everything and trying to personalise it. I always try and break it down into a few categories and make small changes for each company.

Top tip: Before sending any first connection request to anyone, Google them and see whether there are any recent updates on Google News. It’ll show that you’ve done a bit of research and the more time you can spend, the more engaging you can be.

If they’ve won an award it will feature on Google News or if they’ve recently grown a department that should also appear. If you can mention that in that first connection it will put you in a very good position.

Perfect, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us. I’ll be sure to take all of your advice on board.

Thank you!

A huge thank you to Adam for passing on some really valuable advice, expertise and insights. You can keep up with Adam on LinkedIn, and all the exciting updates with moment.agency on their websiteTwitter and LinkedIn

Stay tuned for some more exciting blogs from the MSc Digital Marketing Class of 2019

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