Most of you already know Leye Makanjuola, CEO of Intense Digital, especially if you pay attention to the Digital Marketing industry.
I had the privilege of visiting the Intense office Headquarters at Chevron, Lekki for a quick chat but before we drill down to the meat of our conversation, i want to give a brief introduction to today’s center of attention.
Brief Biography of Leye Makanjuola, CEO at Intense Digital
For those of you who don’t know, Leye graduated from Lead City University, Ibadan with a B.Sc in Economics. This led him to work as an Accounts Manager for a company called Moody Intertek, a leading worldwide provider of technical services to the global energy industry and a provider of systems certification services (very abstract sounding, i know).
As it turned out, despite working in this company for 3 years, he knew abstract things such as Economics and Finance bored him to literal death. He knew he was meant for more. He felt that Entrepreneurial drive burning within him nonetheless.
So as fate would have it, a freelance writing gig with lifestyle blog, Fab and another 9-5 job at an investment banking company later, Leye Makanjuola found his way into the digital marketing industry by way of a Twitter account, @iPublicize Naija.
iPublicize Naija is what metamorphosed into Intense Digital after the Twitter page started getting increased inquiries for several digital marketing services ranging from website development, ads and graphic designs.
About the Tech Titans Series
This interview marks the kick off, the first in the series of interviews we will be hosting on Richeetech with Startup Tech CEOs who we consider the ‘Next Big Thing’ in tech. We want to find out their origin story, their mindset and where they’re headed.
I couldn’t be more pleased to have Mr. Leye grace the very first episode!
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Our Interview with Leye Makanjuola
It was a Friday evening in the month of June when i came into Leye’s office, located on the 2nd Floor of the Kings Deck Building, Chevron Drive.
It was towards the end of the Lockdown instituted by the Lagos State Government during the Coronavirus Pandemic, nevertheless, Leye welcomed my team and i to have a chat with him in their Board Room.
If you’ve never met him personally, you’d be pleasantly surprised to realize just how tall he is. He spoke at length about their origin story and gave deep insights into the Digital marketing and technology industry that i believe everyone has to read about in this lifetime.
Richeetech – How was it like starting Intense? How exactly did you move from being a one man business when you started to getting your first office and hiring a fully fledged team?
Leye -I started as one person and later added one staff who was in charge of design, SEO, Business Development and other tasks. It took a lot of learning on the job, watching videos and taking courses.
We basically worked from a shared working space somewhere at Ikoyi back when Intense started in January 2015. I took a seat there for N40,000 a month and paid for 3 months. As time went on, we soon moved to a 4-man office then to a space that could take like 6 people.
We already had 2 or 3 clients on retainer at that point but we got our first major campaign in our fourth month, a campaign worth N2.5 million. Most of our first few clients came from referrals before we started getting clients from organic search.
All this while i hadn’t been paying myself a formal salary. Back then all i cared about was making sure everyone was paid.
Richeetech – Why did you choose to start in a Shared Working Space when starting out instead of renting your own space?
Leye Makanjuola – Renting your own space involves a lot of money to put down at once and you still have no guarantees that the business will be successful, and frankly back then, i didn’t have money. I paid initially for 3 months at the Shared Working Space.
The Clients who we had paid for services at the end of the month, so why tie down all that money at once when your income comes monthly? Plus, the Shared Working Space had other amenities like Conference Rooms and many other advantages.
Richeetech – You’re one of the few Agencies i know that have their office in a commercial property. Most rent out a Residential property because they’re more affordable and they have more space as compared to Commercial properties.
Leye Makanjuola – At first i had the idea of moving to Yaba to get a Residential property for the business. I wanted to get a Duplex and occupy the upstairs while the company took the downstairs, but then i spoke to a Mentor who advised me to set up the office close to where i lived.
His logic was simple: at the end, staff will come and go, so build it around yourself rather than trying to build it around people who will go and come. And at the end of the day, there are skilled people on the Island as well. They don’t only exist on the Mainland.
When we were looking for an office space we considered all options. But one of the reasons why i chose this place is because its Serviced. This helps us focus on our work while the rest is taken care of. I don’t mind paying for convenience.
I have just 24 hrs in a day, let it be used for strategic, productive activities. You get to realize that the higher you go in life, the more you value your time. I would rather pay for things that other people can do. Not everyone will subscribe to this line of thought. Its just my own philosophy.
Richeetech – Digital marketing Agencies are more in number now than when you started. Do you think because of this it’s now harder to get clients than in the past?
Leye – No. It just depends on the type of clients you’re trying to get. The type of clients we were trying to get then was different from the type of clients we are trying to get now. Now we don’t even identify as a Digital marketing agency. We identify as a Marketing and Technology company.
As at when we started, our clients were more of Social media management clients paying between N100k to N200k a month. But for you to scale that, you would need so many people and so much time because its not a product. A major issue with this model is also the fact that value is perceived.
For instance, a Creative designer may design something for you and you don’t like it, but he thinks its great and someone else also thinks its great.
Your major resources would be time and people. A client can take so much of your time to the extent that you don’t have enough of it for other clients and if you can’t attend to them, invariably you lose that client. It becomes hard to scale.
So therefore we figured out that it would be better if we worked with clients who could pay more while we worked with less people. Down the line, we also realized that those clients who typically contacted us via search more times than not turned out to be those clients that didn’t pay as much.
So for you to get clients who would pay you millions, you need more than just SEO as a means of getting clients. You’d need referrals, be seen in a newspaper or publication, or you get noticed by speaking at an event. So we basically moved away from getting clients primarily through search to creating and maintaining relationships.
Richeetech – How do you cope with disappointment about a business deal that didn’t go your way?
Leye – I’m not sure how i used to feel in the early days. I don’t think i ever felt crushed that a deal didn’t go my way. Maybe just a few that were so close to being done deals that eventually fell through at the very end. And when i say “So close”, i mean those that had already said, “Send your invoice” and then they just go quiet.
But even with those ones, the very next day i’m usually like, “Let’s look for more leads.” This is because it’s a game of numbers. All you have to do is to increase your conversion rate. You need to discover why you got the clients you got and use it to your advantage in converting more clients.
Richeetech – It’s no secret the digital marketing industry has a very high staff turnover rate. How do you cope with staff who leave?
Leye – It was very tough at the beginning. It was emotional at first and i didn’t understand why people left, I was trying my best, training them, denying myself salary just so they get paid without story and at the end, they just get up and leave.
But then because it was new to me. As time went on, i realized that everybody has their own ambitions and goals and everyone wants to make the best decision for themselves so i don’t take it personally.
So these days we just try to make sure our compensations are competitive. At this stage, you’ll probably get paid more at Intense doing the same job than in many Agencies in the country. We also try to make our environment very conducive for our team. We’re more concerned with getting the work done than being about what you wear to work or how you speak.
We don’t expect you to be here forever, so we also try to support our Team members in their individual side hustles as long as they get their jobs done and meet KPIs without it negatively impacting their work.
Richeetech – Some CEOs in this niche believe that very soon, digital marketing agencies will have no business due to more companies having internal digital teams and so therefore bypassing Agencies altogether. What are your thoughts about this?
Leye – I believe there’ll always be a need for digital marketing agencies because it’s a people and an experience thing, just that, perhaps the number of Agencies won’t be that much anymore and they’ll be more specialized in a niche of digital marketing.
Even if companies have in house Agencies, they’d still need to work with external Agencies because they’ll need new ideas, new perspectives. A lot of these companies change their Agencies from time to time because they want something fresh.
Richeetech – How does an Agency manage to stay relevant in an industry that is quickly becoming saturated?
Leye Makanjuola – The services we were providing in our year one and year two, anybody can do them now. They are common skills that can be priced down because it’s no longer special.
What makes an Agency stay relevant is if they’re doing something no one else can do, and there are far more chances to do that in tech than in media and creative services because tech is just way more complex. You have to bring something different to the table.
Another way is to stay relevant is to be a niche Agency and be an expert in a particular niche of digital marketing and a particular industry.
In fact, if you say you only do digital marketing for Hospitals, you will do so much better because you know so much about the Hospital business that no other Agency can compete with you in this field because you’ve had experience haven worked with a lot of Hospitals.
Richeetech – Thanks Leye. It’s been great having you here!
Now Your Turn!
I think this has really been insightful for everyone reading this. Do you have any questions for Mr Leye Makanjuola? Write them in the comments section below.
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