Unacquired: That Time We Sold Our Digital Agency & Then Bought It Back

Unacquired: That Time We Sold Our Digital Agency & Then Bought It Back

At the end of 2016, we sold BuzzShift. This acquisition seemed like the culmination of all our work building the company over the previous seven years; a way for our digital startup to really grow as part of a much larger agency. 10 months later, we bought it back. 

Needless to say, it was a learning experience for everyone involved. We don’t regret going through the process, and we’re now wiser and stronger because of it.

Now that we’re back with what we’re calling BuzzShift 2.0, here are a few insights for other business owners who may be facing similar decisions.

 

A little Q&A with Our Co-Founders

 

Cameron Gawley and Eddy Badrina - BuzzShift

BuzzShift Co-founders, Cameron Gawley & Eddy Badrina at WeWork Uptown

Why did you sell BuzzShift?

We saw the potential in joining a larger, traditional firm like Ivie, getting to work with larger clients, and hopefully helping the team there transition some of their traditional clients over to digital.

The fastest-growing brands in the world are digitally-led brands, but they’re not limited to only using digital channels. Being a part of a more holistic marketing play with brands, which included everything from print ads to in-store signage, was something very important to us. Ivie allowed us that opportunity.  

 

Why did you buy it back?

Like many relationships, you go into it with the best of intentions and on the same page. In the end, though, it simply didn’t work out the way either party thought it would, so we decided to amicably part ways.

 

What lessons did you learn?

There were several big takeaways:

  1. Companies start and end with culture. BuzzShift has a unique culture. We’re very flexible in how we work with clients; when we work; where we work (in terms of being remote or in the office); and even in the types of jobs that each person can fulfill (such as moving from project management to operations, or shifting from graphic design to creative strategy). It’s difficult to assimilate into another organization without losing some of that company culture.
  2. Our team is everything. Very early on at BuzzShift, we focused on ways to create, maintain, and grow a great team. Hiring slowly. Firing quickly, when firing was needed. Instilling high autonomy and even higher responsibility. Creating an environment that promotes authenticity and honesty. We didn’t try to create a family; we took a professional sports approach and tried to create the best team to put out on the field. Team members change, grow, and move on, but we always tried to grow the quality of the organization, so we could better attract high-performing team players.
  3. Looking back, we realize how fortunate we are. Consider the odds:

In short, we hit every milestone we could have in seven years. That’s mainly due to the team we have had the good fortune of hiring. And that goes back to culture. See lessons #1 and #2.

 

BuzzShift Workspace in Lights at WeWork Uptown Dallas

How did this experience change your view on owning a business?

It made us all the more thankful that we could run our own firm. And being a part of a larger company made us appreciate how much tougher it is to scale a small business up and manage it through all the growth transitions. Being a leader in a huge organization is tough sledding, with difficult decisions that are far reaching. It’s no joke.

 

What is BuzzShift 2.0? How is it different from the old BuzzShift?

In some ways, BuzzShift 2.0 is the same as it ever was: fantastic people, great culture, great clients, and a dynamic quality of work. But in other facets, BuzzShift 2.0 is totally different: we’re leaner, more nimble, and even more focused on the future of digital marketing. Our mission of helping businesses grow hasn’t changed, but our digital strategies and tools continue to evolve as the market does.

 

 

Why move to a coworking space (WeWork)?        

For us, it was about flexibility and agility. We needed to figure out how BuzzShift 2.0 would function and operate as a business model, so we had to have an office arrangement that was highly flexible. WeWork didn’t lock us into a 3-5 year contract usually associated with commercial leases, so that allows us to stay nimble and grow as needed. They take care of all the operational logistics that added hours back to our day (utilities, internet, snacks, etc), so it gives us more headspace to work on the business, not in it.

Being heavily connected into the community of other entrepreneurs, tech startups, agencies, and like-minded people is another major benefit of officing in WeWork.

BuzzShift Dallas Digital Marketing Agency Acquisition

Common Space at WeWork Uptown Dallas – BuzzShift

What advice would you give someone who was considering selling their business or getting acquired?

Talk to a good cross-section of business owners in your space. We had great wisdom and input from other techrelated founders and advisers whom we trust, and have known personally for years. We didn’t have to go into details with them, but just the fact that they knew our industry/space, and our business model, helped us a great deal.

Also, a good accountant and a business attorney are both worth every penny. Don’t skimp on those in the beginning of your venture, and don’t try and minimize their value at the end.

 

Would you do it again (get acquired)? If so, what would you do differently this time?

Under the right circumstances, we would be open to it, but we probably need a little break before the next one! The difference would be that we have an acquisition under our belt, so we have a better sense of what to look for now in terms of due diligence, and we will have our expectations dialed in more accurately.

BuzzShift Team

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more thoughts and insights about where digital marketing is headed. Feel free to connect with us on social, or drop us a question in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Our amazing Madison Mentesana

PPC School: Advanced Digital Media

PPC School: Advanced Digital Media

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”88″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″][vc_column_text]Even if you have a solid foundation for managing online ad campaigns and have mastered the different ad platforms, there is still much you can learn. The industry is constantly changing, so to be a true PPC expert, you’ll have to keep up with all the latest developments and PPC news.

PPC 301: Continuing Education

Dig in and read everything you can get your hands on from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). The IAB is the self-governing body of digital advertising. Their theoretical role in the madness of ad tech and online advertising is to make sure things don’t get too out of hand.

There are a couple sections of their site to continually monitor. The first is their Guidelines data on just about every digital ad unit you can imagine. You can read about best practices in compliance, data use/management, social, and more.

The other must-read is their section on Research and Thought Leadership. They have a team on staff that puts together research on things like the best ways for publishers to migrate to a world focused on viewability. It’s a great way to learn about what is affecting the industry and what is to come.

 

PPC School 3: Continuing Education

 

Following Digital News Sources

AdExchanger.com is a technical resource that you should review daily. It provides glimpses into specific ad tech platforms and their place in the marketplace. You’ll find long-form guest posts from industry leaders talking about things like header bidding.

Digiday.com is more about general digital advertising.

You should definitely keep Happens in AdOps handy. Even though this Tumblr is filled with memes, you’ll see a TON of jargon. These terms are the perfect Googling material for you to learn more about specific aspects of the ad tech world. If you’re a client, you might also learn what things drive your agency reps mad!

Who You Should Follow on Social

There are several people who are so good at PPC that you can’t afford not to follow them. A few of our favorites include:

Eric Franchi, Co-Founder of Undertone

His weekly ad tech newsletter, The IO (formerly the Ad Tech Newsletter), aggregates 10-15 articles a week with his personal blurbs on the impact that each trend or piece of news has on the industry. He’s been pushing these out consistently for over a year now, and there is no sign that he is stopping soon.

Bonus Points

If you can’t get enough of the newsletter, follow him on Twitter @ericfranchi for daily 140-character responses to things going on in the industry.

Bonus Bonus Points

Follow him on Snapchat at @ericfranchi for day-in-the-life type experiences, all the way through to his mad grilling skills.

David Berkowitz, Founder of Serial Marketer

No, he is not The Son of Sam. However, he is a serial marketer who has played several big agency roles including his last, CMO at MRY.

He frequently contributes to Ad Age and has been known to make appearances on several other large digital publications. Mixed in with a lot of his personal interests, you’ll get a daily dose of ad tech. He’s also a frequent contributor on the conference circuit. Find him on Twitter @dberkowitz.

• • •

So there you have it: our full, three-part series on how to be a PPC expert. If you missed them, you can check out Part 1 and Part 2 here.

Becoming a paid media expert takes a lot of time and effort. We should know; as a Premier Google Partner, we have to adhere to high standards and stay ahead of the PPC curve. If your online advertising campaigns could use some work, feel free to contact us for help.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

PPC School: Working With Ad Platforms

PPC School: Working With Ad Platforms

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″][vc_column_text]Once you have analytics and conversion tracking set up, as covered in our previous PPC School post, you can start running some ads. There are many different types of ads you can run, on many different ad networks. So, for part 2 of PPC School, it’s time to educate yourself on how to use the different ad platforms available.

PPC 201: Working With Ad Platforms (e.g. Pulling The Levers)

It makes sense to start the education process by looking at the ad platforms that are generating the most revenue (where most businesses are investing). However, you also want to consider which platforms have the best growth rate, since that may mean that businesses are finding success there and increasing their spend accordingly.

ppc2-chart

The biggest platform and the one you should focus on first is Google AdWords. To become certified in Google AdWords, you need to pass the AdWords Fundamentals certification exam, plus one of the following:

Each certification has a study guide to help gain the required knowledge to pass the exam.

It’s important to learn each area in order to develop an understanding of the entire paid digital eco-system. Different clients or projects, each course will provide more or less help in the actual execution.

We recommend starting with Search Advertising and then building on to that with each additional certification. What you don’t use for one client or project, you may find useful for the next.

If you are working with e-commerce or mobile apps , then we recommend taking the separate Google courses focusing on these specific areas.

• • •

While display ads often get short shrift, there is still ample reason to use them, especially for brand awareness. We have also seen Google Adwords start to innovate their platform, and DoubleClick Bid Manager (DBM), to be focused on direct-response ads. Sheerly because it is a Google platform, we think DBM Certification is something that every paid media manager should explore.

If you really want to get into Paid Search or extend your potential investment/reach, then you should get certified in Bing Ads. Bing now accounts for 21% of searches.

 

We recommend starting with Search Advertising and then building on to that with each additional certification.

 

Bing is very similar to Google AdWords and makes it easy to import campaigns over. However, there are slight differences, which is why the certification is important.

One of the ways to push the limits of paid search to the highest efficiency levels is to learn about Alpha Beta campaign structure.

Facebook has quickly become the number two ad platform (and by Facebook we mean the whole company, which includes Instagram). The Facebook ads platform has changed over the years, with Facebook Business Manager now being the foundation.

While Facebook does not have any certification programs currently, Facebook has rolled out Blueprint, a catalog of courses. The courses provide introductions to the various parts of running Facebook and Instagram ads, from setup to reporting. In addition, Blueprint provides best practice courses and webinars to further build your knowledge on this platform.

Twitter actually provides a certification program called Flight School for various “flight paths” depending on how you want to use Twitter. This provides a great overview of the ways Twitter can help achieve your business objectives and expands your knowledge of what is possible with Twitter.

• • •

While remarketing (or retargeting) is not a separate ad platform, it is very important to utilize in building campaigns. The best course for getting started with remarketing is the Google Best Practices video series that walks through the setup and optimization of remarketing.

WordStream’s PPC University provides a great overview of the PPC world with their structured course levels of PPC 101, PPC 102, Advanced PPC, Social Ads 101, Webinars and White Papers. While there is no certification, this offers a non-biased (towards one platform) view of the PPC world.

Once you have all of that down, you’ll know everything you need to know! Right? Well, sort of. There is still much more you can learn if you want to become a true expert. And the industry is constantly changing, so even if you know everything now, you’ll soon fall behind if you don’t keep learning. That’s why we’re going to have a Part 3: Advanced Digital Media. Stay tuned.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]