Alice founded Creative Agora Agency, a marketing agency empowering creators and influencers.
In this interview, Alice shares how she founded her marketing agency, her struggles starting and managing it, industry insights, and the challenges she faces working with international clients.
What inspired you to start your marketing agency?
I have always worked as a freelancer, taking on different roles with various brands over time, such as being an SEO specialist, content writer, content marketer, and digital marketer. I have gained a wealth of experience in these areas. However, I also attempted to work for companies in a traditional nine-to-five setting and realized that this environment often confines marketing professionals to specific roles. Employees are either limited to their job description or must fight to work with other teams. This experience made me realize that I do not want to be confined to just one particular aspect of a brand.
In addition, I noticed a gap in the influencer marketing industry, particularly for nano and micro-influencers with less than 50k or even 10k followers. They often struggle to secure brand deals, and when they do, they are usually offered low compensation or only given products. Unfortunately, many people judge their value solely based on their follower count, which is not an accurate reflection of their capabilities. Recognizing this gap, I decided to leverage my relationships with the creators and influencers in my community to teach and show people how to achieve successful influencer marketing campaigns, regardless of the influencer’s number of followers.
Seeing this opportunity, I started my marketing agency, combining my experience with different brands and my passion for helping nano and micro-influencers succeed.
How will you describe your agency’s approach to marketing?
Currently, we focus on influencer marketing. That is like our entry into the agency world. Our approach is all about doing our homework to find influencers who are a perfect match for the brands we work with.
We consider the brand’s target audience and demographics and ask questions to determine if the influencer is the right fit to communicate the brand to their audience effectively. We ensure that our business activities align with the goals of the brands we partner with. It’s essential to build a mutually beneficial relationship that benefits everyone involved.
What are some common misconceptions about marketing that you’ve experienced?
I often hear that people believe they need to work with a famous person, like a skit maker or someone with a large social media following, to get results from influencer marketing. But this is a big misconception. I’ve had brands come to me and only name popular influencers as their options without considering whether they would be a good fit for their brand or target audience.
Just because someone has many followers doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be effective at driving sales for your brand. It’s essential to look beyond the numbers and consider who your ideal customer is, and whether the influencer’s audience matches that demographic.
Another common mistake is focusing too much on vanity metrics like reach. Just because an influencer has a large following doesn’t mean their content is actually reaching the people you want to target. It’s important to look at engagement and other metrics that show how effective their content is at resonating with their audience.
That’s very true. What do you consider to be the most essential element of a successful marketing campaign?
The most crucial aspect of successful marketing is working with the right influencers. However, it’s surprising that many brands don’t consider this a primary strategy. It’s not always about the number of followers an influencer has. The key is to pick influencers that align with the brand’s values and goals. For instance, if a brand targets students, in our search for influencers, we ask ourselves these questions – how do we get students who are influencers actually to reach their people? Do they have a community outside of Instagram? Are there people that they can talk to? We are very thoughtful and selective when choosing influencers.
Sometimes, we may not achieve all the campaign goals we set out for. Still, from my experience, we’re able to hit around 70% of campaign goals for brands, which is a significant success because when it comes to influencer marketing, there is no guarantee that the people you’re talking to will talk to you. We take pride in the fact that we’ve been able to achieve more than 70% of the goals for the brands we’ve worked with.
That’s great! How do you ensure that your client’s products or services are accurately represented in your marketing efforts?
First, before we work with any brand, we ensure we understand what their product is all about. If it’s an app or a lifestyle brand, we get our hands on the product ourselves to see if it aligns with our values, check out their customer service, and make sure we can easily reach them if we need to.
But it doesn’t stop there! We also take feedback from the influencers we’re working with, and it’s essential that we do a lot of social listening when we’re working with a brand. We want to make sure that we’re fully aware of any potential issues with the product, so we can address them upfront and make sure everything is good to go before we start any influencer marketing campaigns.
Sometimes, we may think a product is good, but when we start working with influencers, we may realize that there’s another problem that even the product can solve. In that case, we go back to the brand and communicate the issues we’ve discovered. We take feedback from what people are saying to grow the platform or product, and we’re not afraid to give feedback to the brand to say, “Hey, this is what we’re hearing.” How can we make this work?”
We’re big on social listening and feedback, so we’re always going back and forth with the brand to ensure we’re all aligned on messaging, products, and solutions. That way, we can be sure we’re providing the best possible service to our influencers and making sure the brands we work with are putting their best foot forward.
What are some of the biggest challenges that you faced in running your marketing agency, and how did you overcome them?
Okay, so my biggest challenge right now is Nigeria. Apart from the usual business challenges, like fuel scarcity, that businesses face in Nigeria, there are so many misconceptions in the industry that we have to address in order to change people’s mindsets.
For example, we recently started using Twitter influencer marketing, but it’s been challenging because there are so many issues with it. Many Twitter influencers can easily be bought with money and lack values and morals. We have had to build a new set of influencers that the brands could leverage without compromising their integrity.
The biggest problem is still with the mindset of people in the industry, including agencies and brands. We have to educate them to see beyond just the numbers when it comes to influencer marketing. To solve this, we have had to do a lot of education, but that’s easier said than done because of cash constraints.
Also, as a solo business, it’s challenging to sell service-based businesses to investors because nothing is set in stone, and things can change along the way. So we have to bootstrap the marketing agency ourselves.
Another problem we face is payment issues when working with international brands. This is a common issue in Nigeria because there’s no payment mode that actually works. However, some brands are coming up with solutions, and we hope to find a way around it soon.
Do the payment issues only affect work with clients in other African countries like Ghana?
It’s not just Ghana. It’s the US, UK, and Canada as well. We’re considering taking some brands into Nigeria and working with many creators, especially UGC creators. However, there’s no easy way for us to take payment, and they have issues because of their past experiences with Nigerian agents.
This makes conversations difficult, and they start to reconsider whether it’s the right time to penetrate the Nigerian market. It’s pretty difficult to receive payments in local currency now.
We also accept Bitcoin, but some agencies want to avoid being paid in BTC because of tax issues, and it’s challenging to track payments. Certain things are put in place to track payments abroad, but in Nigeria, it’s a major issue to collect dollars from them. Even if they pay us in BTC, they feel like there’s no way to track us. They are always skeptical of whether we can be found through BTC.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to payment solutions. Hopefully, brands will come up with better payment solutions, and we can take payments outside of Africa for campaigns.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in the marketing industry or building a marketing agency?
Okay, so my biggest piece of advice is that you need to believe in yourself. That’s the very first thing you should do – believe that you have the skills to actually do what you want to do. Your mindset is incredibly important. Once you start doubting yourself, it can be tough to get back on track. I doubted myself a lot when I started out, and I remember one incident where I spoke to a brand I wanted to work with. The person I spoke to said they wouldn’t work with because I had no agency experience.”
They made me doubt myself even more and put me off my game. I thought I needed agency experience before I could move forward. So I started working for an agency, but while I was there, I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new. They were paying me for the skills I already had, so what was the point? It was just one person’s opinion that derailed my plans and set me back by a whole year.
But here’s the thing: if you have experience working with other brands, even if it’s only been for one year, and you see a gap in the industry, go for it! If you have the skills, intellect, and passion for solving a problem in the marketing industry, just do it. You’ll learn as you go. And in marketing, what works for one brand may not work for another. Each brand’s needs are unique, so the most important thing is your ability to solve their problems.
Before starting your marketing agency, you can even do a pseudo-project to learn from it. For example, help out a friend who’s launching a brand and create a strategy for them. Through that process, you’ll find yourself learning more about the industry and what you need to do to succeed. Just go for it and believe in yourself! You’re the only one who can validate your idea, and your customers are the ones who will ultimately validate your business.
As you grow, do more research and take feedback from other brands. Ask questions like, “How did our strategy work for you guys?” or “What can we do better as a marketing agency?” Feedback will help you grow and improve, and you’ll become a better marketer as a result. So don’t be afraid to take risks and learn as you go!