Reflections – Humble Beginnings to Marketing Technology
Author: Brent Durham
Posted On: April 24, 2020
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I started my career in digital marketing with Dave Wilson Sr. at Preston Automotive Group in Delaware and Maryland. Coming off the great recession that began in October 2008, Preston Automotive Group shifted focus to digital marketing from traditional advertising. A few months before receiving my master’s degree in 2011, Dave reached out to me with an idea. The idea took my previous experiences as the Internet Director of Preston Automotive Group and put them to use for other like-minded dealerships that believed in digital marketing. Upon my graduation from graduate school, the idea of iFrog was born.
From May 2013 to April 2015, I worked on building the original iFrog team and determining how we would enter the market. I regained the helm of Preston Automotive Group’s digital marketing efforts and slowly built an in-house team to propel the digital presence of our first and only client. The team served as the building blocks for iFrog’s formation and grew in 2015.
The state of digital marketing from 2013 to 2015 was very different from today. I remember opting to get my first experience with machine learning for paid search back in 2013. To me, it was scary because we did not have the full control of paid search marketing that I was used to. I pulled the figurative plug on it and went back to manual optimization for our paid search campaigns. In hindsight, I should have stuck with machine learning, which eventually became AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered by machine learning. The term mobile-first strategy was getting buzz due to the growing usage of smartphones. Smartphones represented a little over 50% of all cell phones being used at that time. Content was king and targeting of paid media was reigned by cookies everywhere.
We acquired our first automotive dealer client from outside of Preston Automotive Group on April 9, 2015. Originally, a team of under 10 people, we were ecstatic at the chance to help another client with their digital marketing efforts! Over the next 5 years, we were able to scale and grow the company more than 750% while adjusting to the ever-changing digital landscape. We focused on customer service, the performance of data and continuous improvement as some of our core values on which our company was built.
As we grew, our founding members were stretching, learning and executing multiple areas of expertise. I found myself in multiple roles such as account manager, paid media strategist, trainer, social media planner, content writer, SEO optimizer, and more. We grew organically by teaching our clients how to understand digital marketing, key metrics and data trends. We also assisted them in understanding that all marketing is not created equal, especially those “shiny objects” that come around from time to time.
By 2019, our presence reached coast to coast mostly through word of mouth and no dollars spent on marketing or advertising for ourselves, aside from our websites and a few speaking engagements at automotive conferences.
The largest year of expansion for iFrog was hit in 2019. The number of employees and clients grew tremendously. This also marked a new direction for iFrog Digital Marketing. Now fully focusing on COO responsibilities of the company, I was challenged to implement our new CEOs vision. The vision took everything that we built over the past 5 years and added two initiatives to it. It was time to incorporate a “pirate” mentality and an emphasis on technological solutions. We knew that without thinking outside of the box and utilizing data efficiently and quickly, iFrog would not continue on its growth course. To think outside of the box and bring unparalleled results to our clients became our pirate mentality. Using data in more efficient ways moved us in the direction of utilizing machine learning and AI. Targeting by cookies is fast becoming obsolete and the need to use data on a larger, more creative scale is here.
In recent months, we have taken every step to transition from a digital marketing company to a marketing solutions provider. Today, we are more prepared for the future than ever and exponentially increasing the results that we are achieving for our clients. A proud mantra for many of us at iFrog is “NOW IS OUR TIME.”
Chief Operating Offer, iFrog Digital Markeing