Spending hours on Google and reading success stories of people who found success in their online ventures may seem helpful. The problem, however, is that these stories often fail to teach you the exact steps to take if you want to experience the same level of success. And if you dig deeper in the search results pages, all you’ll find is regurgitated information about how to set up a blog, what your monetization options are, and where to get traffic. More often than not, blogs that share this information make things simpler than they actually are.
In the digital marketing world, you should come as prepared as you can be. It’s easy enough to create your own blog and hope for success. But keep in mind this industry has virtually no limits and it is constantly changing. Anyone can do the same thing you’re doing (and better too), so you must equip yourself with the right knowledge to get a competitive advantage. But where does this knowledge come from?
Hafiz Muhammad Ali found himself asking this same question a decade ago. Now, he’s a digital marketing mentor, author, writer, and owner of five successful companies. His journey started on one fateful night in 2009 when he borrowed $90 from a friend so he could purchase and host his first company domain. He wasn’t an expert in anything during that time, but he knew a career in digital marketing was the right path for him.
Fast forward to 2019. Hafiz now mentors aspiring entrepreneurs and company leaders alike, guiding them as they formulate the most effective strategies for boosting their online presence. We feel honored for the time Hafiz had shared with us to learn more about his story and how this can help you with your digital marketing journey.
1) First of all, thank you for sitting down with us today. Can you share a bit about how you started your first company?
In 2009, a friend of mine loaned me $90 to pay for hosting a website and for the company domain. This became SEO Compass. It started out as a search and SEO company and has since adapted with the changes in the online world and evolved into what is now a full-service digital marketing agency, Omnicore.
2) Looking back, that $90 loan must have generated an enormous return on your investment. What was the key to growing your company despite not having a lot of experience back then?
Digital marketing has become very sophisticated now and there are different facets of it, each with its own advantage e.g. creating funnels, running YouTube and Facebook Ads, conversion optimization and more.
When we started back in 2009, SEO was the bread and butter other than Google Adwords and being a bootstrapped company, we decided to master one specific skill that has helped us not only grow but also sustain in tough times.
In 10 years, Google has instituted changes that have significantly differentiated themselves from their competition. During the transition, a lot of digital marketers lost their advantages and had to change their strategies to adapt to Google’s algorithms.
The key to our growth was that we invested a lot of time working on side-projects of our own where we had the liberty to experiment different strategies and learn. By getting our hands dirty and going in the trenches, we were able to master specific skills that has helped adapt to constant changes in the industry.
Along the way, I have continued my formal education with an MSc in Digital Marketing Leadership from the University of Aberdeen, a Life Coach Certification from the University of Cambridge, and other certifications and training from the Digital Marketing Institute, Google, and Market Motive.
I believe education is the key to moving forward. I wanted to learn about digital marketing, especially the aspects that make success in this industry possible. It took me a while to find the resources needed to advance in this field. Now I am sharing that information with others who want to succeed in digital marketing.
3) Most digital marketing mentors or coaches end up pitching a product to their students. What approach do you take to set yourself apart and ensure that you’re offering real value to those interested in starting a digital marketing career?
Firstly, there are several things I’d want my students to know about my work and that includes my experiences and the direction I am taking. I believe true leadership is about helping others. I happily mentor people; this is something I have spent several years doing.
To offer real value, set myself apart, and help new and old digital marketers, I have created a psychometric test for the industry and published a book.
My book, Digital Passport, covers everything there is to know about digital marketing and is based on my own personal experience in the industry. The book will help the reader choose in which digital marketing area to specialize as I cover all the diverse opportunities there are in this field. By reading my book, digital marketers can more easily their footing and navigate through all the available information. This sets the person on the right path more quickly than spending numerous hours on research and old-school marketing tactics. Brands, after all, are looking for marketers who understand the digital world as this is the path of future marketing.
The psychometric test is the first of its kind and aims to help users determine which digital marketing field would be best for them, but more about this later.
4) Digital Passport remains one of the best books for beginners in digital marketing. What’s in the book that still makes it relevant today?
Digital Passport was designed to specifically help people who are new to digital marketing. It details the information that is necessary to start a career in digital marketing. While it covers everything there is to know, more importantly, it exposes the reader to the different sectors of digital marketing. In this way, the new user is not overwhelmed by the information presented in the book.
The book is also an evergreen resource because, although digital marketing resources, techniques, methods, and strategies change constantly, the book teaches the beginner where to start. Early on, it also helps the new digital marketer choose a specific area and this can be further assisted by doing my psychometric test. Having a digital marketing segment on which to focus provides both a start and the direction going forward.
5) The Digital Ladder is one of your latest projects. The first-ever psychometric test for digital marketers is revolutionary, to say the least. Can you tell us how you came up with this idea and what its applications are?
My inspiration for the Digital Ladder came from my own experiences and challenges in the digital marketing industry. Two key problems for an aspiring digital marketer is one, the too wide a range of fields within digital like SEO, Content Marketing, Paid Advertisement, etc and two, needing to study everything about digital marketing to see where and how everything fits together as you start out and gain experience.
So, one of the underlying ideas behind the psychometric test is that a person who likes what they are doing will not treat it as work, which will help them save time and frustration and feel more fulfilled. I have learned that not every digital marketing field is right for every person; that’s where the Digital Ladder comes in.
When a person does the psychometric test, an in-demand digital marketing specialization is matched to them based on a mix of their personality, characteristics, and aptitude. For example, someone who is very analytical would be best matched to Web Analytics and SEO, while someone who is more a creative type would be better matched to Social Media or Content Marketing.
The match will be a digital marketing method they should be very comfortable with as it fits who they are innately. And when they are comfortable in what they do, their confidence to implement the strategy will grow because their work fits their talents. So, as a result, they are more likely to progress faster, earn more, and be successful in their career.
6) Many aspiring entrepreneurs and digital marketers are looking up to you. Do you have a message for them?
There are several things I learned while building Omnicore to its current state. The first thing is that digital marketing continuously changes. To keep up, study or research the next big method. Digital marketers who use yesterday’s methods will be left behind. Adapting to these changes is necessary to survive in this business.
Hafiz Muhammad Ali is the epitome of what motivation, hard work, and relentlessness can do. He has found immense success in his chosen field, all thanks to his perseverance in mastering the different aspects of digital marketing. Once again, special thanks to Mr. Hafiz for this interview.