Julian Smit

J.D. Nevins Communications

Tell us about your background

Over 20 years of experience in marketing, mostly in digital marketing. I have managed over a dozen award-winning digital media projects on behalf of blue-chip organizations such as Manulife and AllState. I'm the host of a Podcast/YouTube Channel - BIYF MARKETING which attracted over 190K views and 3800 subscribers in its first year. I will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 Global Digital Marketing Summit in Jamaica.

Elevator pitch: What is your agency about?

We operate as a virtual agency that offers 360 digital marketing services. We deliver all the value of a traditional agency but without the trappings of traditional agencies (namely exposed brick walls, ping-pong table, and retainer contracts). We are unique in that we don't just offer managed solutions; we also train client teams to senior-level performance in digital marketing and multimedia production. Our approach could be described as "no-nonsense". We believe in open and transparent dialogue, identifying challenges or issues directly and honestly rather than sugar coating or avoiding them. We value relationships and personalized service and genuinely enjoy helping our clients. We strive to produce clean designs, with clear and concise messaging. And we believe that work can be fun!

Where did the idea come from?

Both J.D. Nevins & BIYF are founded on a few principles: 1) The economy is changing - moving towards a gig economy. We are transitioning from the industrial age to the digital/information age 2) Every day we walk around with more computational power in our pockets than NASA had when they launched the lunar landing. If they can achieve that, sure I and others can use modern technology to improve the quality of our lives. 3) There is a growing economy of authenticity (as a currency, authenticity is appreciating in value)

What were some early challenges you faced?

When I launched my first business roughly 15 years ago I was terrible about looking for my next job while I was working on my current one. To this day I have a tendency to want to do everything myself and so I get stuck in Freelancer mode.

How has your business changed from it’s inception to now?

A lot has changed in my business model and in a very short period of time. The growth in knowledge and capabilities, especially with regards to social media and SEO has been unbelievable. When we started we envisioned building a consortium of high-skilled. multi-disciplined freelancers and consultants. What we quickly realized was that this was already well underway organically in our industry. We didn't need to build anything, we simply needed to tap into it. And perhaps the biggest change is that originally I had no ambition or desire to be a public persona for my business, but once I embraced the economy of authenticity and launched BIYF Marketing, everything changed.

Tell us about your biggest failure

In my 20's I was hired as the Special Event Coordinator for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream in Canada. They had rented me a van for the job. I was living in a busy part of the city back then and there weren't a lot of parking lots nearby. I found a parking lot and started circling up the spiral ramp. The space between the ceiling and the van roof was getting shorter and shorter the higher I went up until there was no more space to go. I ended up scrapping and denting the hell out of the roof before I managed to back out of there. It was my 2nd day on the job! My boss was very forgiving of the incident, shared a similar story of his own. I eventually became Marketing Manager.

What is the best indicator for you that your business is working?

When there is an increase in the number of people reaching out to me directly saying "this person suggested I speak with you"

What is the biggest challenge you face with your business daily?

Our service offerings and models are constantly changing. Algorithms change, platforms and interfaces change, etc. As a result, it can be difficult to put a pin in what we do and simply rinse and repeat. It can be difficult to prioritize when there is an abundance of information. But that's what we do with the entire business regularly. Being nimble is something we're very proud of and comes with the territory of agile and design thinking methodologies.

What’s something you wish clients understood better about your business?

Clients are frequently very transactional in their thinking and overly preoccupied with metrics. The metrics are important. They've always been and there has been an explosion of data that is now available to us that never was before and it needs to be considered. BUT, marketing is also about a lot of intangible values. There are a lot of factors that go into the building, growing and maintaining a brand over the long-term. When you work with professional marketers you're paying for more than just the time it takes to execute their service. You are paying for years of experience, knowledge, and insight.

Are there any areas you’d like to expand in over the next few years?

I have recently partnered with a very talented event planner to create an online training academy in event planning and digital marketing. It's called the Marketing Summit Academy. We've just launched our BETA program with a dozen students and I'm really excited to see that grow. I would also like to see us do more app development and build our own SAAS model.

Are there any technology trends that you’re particularly excited about using in your work?

I'm finally catching up on Instagram which is long overdue! LinkedIn has been huge for us and I'm excited to see that platform continue to grow and be relevant. There are a lot of automation tools on the market and more seem to pop up daily, so we're looking forward to playing with some of those.

What advice would you give someone who is considering launching their own agency?

Fail hard, fail fast, fail often. And none of them are failures unless you give up. It's all just learning. That and be you! Be very clear about what you are about, what your agency is about, and be clear about what is your personal brand and what is your business brand.

Can you give us your best tip for making customers happy?

Under promise, over deliver.

Can you recommend a great book that everyone must read?

Man's Search for Meaning - by Viktor Frankl

Finally, what are you most excited about for the future of your business?

I'm very excited to reach the point where almost all of my time is dedicated to teaching and public speaking, and the agency operates autonomously.

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Learn more

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