In conversation with: Roots Digital founder Ian Ong

Founded in 2016, Roots Digital has spent the last year helping companies from MNCs, SMEs and startups in their digital marketing campaigns. Priding themselves as specialists in digital marketing domains such as eCommerce SEO, search engine optimisation, B2B lead generation, SEM, Facebook Ads, conversion rate optimisation, advanced analytics, growth strategy and more, the team has worked with many notable clients.

In this series of “In Conversation”, Ian Ong founder of the agency shares his journey.

Listen to the full episode here. This conversation is powered by Roots Digital.

Marketing: Tell us how you got started with Roots digital.

Ong: Roots Digital is a digital agency specialising in helping eCommerce and B2B companies in scaling their businesses. It has always been my dream to start my own business. I used to work in agencies such as Mediacom and Havas Media [and] manage clients’ paid search campaigns. I was the campaign guy behind the scenes. In agencies, technical people like me are "less sexy" because we are not the revenue generating unit - unlike business development teams and the client servicing teams. It is then when I realised that the technical skill set I had, I can put it to good use to earn extra income.

So in 2013 I started freelancing and my first unofficial client was an eCommerce company selling sports nutrition like protein powder in Singapore. Back in those days, I had developed an affinity for eCommerce business, because digital marketing is their bread and butter when it comes to driving traffic to their online store. My work has a direct impact on their revenue and that's why I love what I do, when it comes to digital marketing. 

Marketing: How has the journey been like for you?

Ong: It was a roller coaster ride throughout these four years. I would say it’s an eventful one. I have to put on different hats from being the business development person to the guy chasing after payments for overdue invoices. In terms of personal growth, these four years really have forced me to up my game in the shortest possible time.

Marketing: How did you decide on a name like Roots? Is there a secret meaning behind the name?

Ong: In terms of how I view the entire digital marketing landscape, [for me it is always about going back] to the foundation. People are often chasing after the next big thing or the silver bullet for a campaign, but a lot of times, they forget about the fundamentals. So, back to the roots, that is how and why this name came about. 

Marketing: I really love that emphasis you put as an agency on fundamentals and going back to the core, despite whatever shiny new toy might be out in the market. What else would you say, besides this very important point, makes your agency so different from your competitors out there?

Ong: I would say, to put it bluntly, agencies are pretty much the same. What differentiates an agency boils down to the branding and processes. In today's world, especially when buzzwords like performance marketing and growth hacking have been thrown around quite freely, people are expecting a silver bullet for their campaigns  in terms of performance. Their ideal scenario is a 10x return on ad spend - or these kind of results. However, they often neglect the marketing fundamentals - which is branding.

Typically, I'll ask my prospects or clients, "Would you rather buy from a brand you are aware of, or buy from an unknown brand?" Brand awareness has been the metric that seems to be forgotten when digital marketing comes into play, and performance marketing becomes the buzz word in the industry.

Marketing: That's interesting. But now we see the emergence of a lot of small home-based businesses on Instagram and Facebook. What advice would you have for these players who simply use digital marketing and eCommerce for their businesses?

Ong: Brand awareness is something that I personally feel is built over time. For example, when a company runs an always on digital campaign, be it on Facebook or Google search. When their brand name appears on a person's Facebook newsfeed over a period of time, the brand awareness is building up in the person's mind as well.

Listen to the full episode here. This conversation is powered by Roots Digital.