We’re back with another series of founder spotlight. Today we’re delighted to be chatting with the co founder of Abacus. Tune into our chat!
Abacus was Founded by Pete and Jeff in 2016. Pete came from a life in the agency world, and Jeff came from the brand side. Pete was the President at Spark which was a full-service digital advertising agency and was acquired two years ago. Meanwhile, Jeff was working as Head of Growth at a fintech startup called Borrowell. We were introduced to each other at a conference in Boston and went out for breakfast one morning. That’s when we realized we both shared the same vision for where advertising agencies were going and what the agency of 2020 would look like.
We looked around at the agency landscape and knew some big changes were afoot.
There was a lack of transparency and accountability – big spends with no proof of results. A focus on metrics that aren’t important – impressions, reach. Lack of standardization.
Every agency we looked at said the same thing: we’re a full service digital marketing agency. We can help you with everything from SEO, development, ads, creative.
We spoke to the brands, they were fed up. We wanted to disrupt this status quo, and reinvent the agency. A few insights drove our vision:
– A need for a better understanding of the vast amount of data
– A growing push to tie everything back to revenue
– A move toward specialization over generalization
A central hypothesis of ours is that clients want to work with specialists and not generalists – they want agencies who crush it at one of a few things and can collaborate with their ecosystem of partners. It’s impossible to be cutting edge at everything. So we wanted to be part of that shift toward specialists rather than full service generalists.
Our specialism is Facebook. We’re data driven and scientific. We always try to tie marketing to revenue.
What inspired you to create Abacus dedicated to specialized marketing?
It takes a long time to learn one platform really well and we didn’t want to be another one-stop-shop agency. Everybody says they can do everything for everybody and we wanted to do something very specific and get amazing at one thing, and that was Facebook ads. We chose Facebook ads because we both had a lot of experience with it and we saw that no one was doing the Facebook ad specialty like people do say, search marketing, or something like that. So we wanted to come in and be the best at Facebook from creative to optimization and audience and targeting.
The potential for Facebook was also huge, no other platform could offer the same advertising capabilities. The audience targeting was unmatched and Facebook provided their partner agencies with a lot of resources/support. The user base on Facebook was also growing fast (they currently have about 2 billion users on the platform!).
We know naming is huge and often times tough to tackle. How did the name come about?
The name Abacus comes from historical/political origins.
Abacus is the combination of two ancient archetypes; the magician and the sage.
Abacus is the machine. The AI. The lean, mean, marketing machine that grows our clients businesses.
The ever evolving complex digital ecosystem means marketing managers struggle to make sense of the changes and keep up. Where humans struggles, Abacus thrives. As the digital world continues to become more connected and complex, Abacus only gets better. We’re the technicians that work the machine. The digital assassins operating Abacus; we obsess over how technology and data can grow our clients businesses with advanced data driven Facebook Advertising.
What gets a dragon from dragon’s den to form a partnership with your organization?
We don’t want to put words in Bruce’s mouth, but we guess he just saw the opportunity! We identified a gap in the market; an area that’s in high demand but isn’t being served well. VCs like Bruce want the companies they invest in to scale fast. We can help them do that. We speak that language. We bring a lean startup approach; we shoot for zero waste marketing and we only care about growth. Anything else is a distraction. So I think that resonated with him.
Where do you see modern marketing in 10 years?
Facebook, Google and Amazon being the key platforms for advertisers – consolidating a lot of the ad tech noise out there.
-The world will be even more mobile, IoT, with even more devices to market on and data to gather.
– More use of AI to drive customer interactions
– Better attribution
– Accountability when it comes to tying measurable data back to results; companies want to know that their marketing dollars are working in the form of tangible ROI.
What advice do you have for startups to build a solid foundation in marketing?
Startups shouldn’t leave marketing their company as an afterthought. They should plan how much money they want to allocate to each marketing channel. They should also be testing the marketing channels that will work best for their target customer. Instead, of assuming that their target customer is best accessed through search engine marketing for example, a startup should test to see if another channel works better. Also, questioning whether they should handle their marketing inhouse or outsource it to an agency of experts is another important factor to consider. If nobody knows about your product it becomes difficult to sell it.
What characteristics makes a superstar marketer?
A superstar marketer needs to be agile. The marketing landscape has changed more in the last 3 years than it has in the last 10. Having digital skills is mandatory. As previously mentioned, we believe that there’s a trend towards specialists, so a superstar marketer will choose one thing and become expert at it instead of being a generalist. A superstar marketer prioritizes data and measuring results, not just throwing something against a wall and hoping it sticks. They will also, have a growth hacker mindset and find faster ways to get things done.
We know partnerships can be powerful for creating synergies and opportunities. What kind of strategic partnerships do you recommend a startup to look for?
We believe the startup community is an ecosystem of people willing to help each other. Look for companies/organizations that are expert in something that your business could use help with. Ask yourself what your weaknesses are. Do you need help with PR? Could you use growth advisory? Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses or afraid of asking for help. Then think about what your business can offer a company in return. Can you for example help them with their marketing channels? Or offer free access to your platform? Build partnerships where both parties can mutually benefit.
We like to align ourselves with really smart people who can teach us more about areas we could use help with.
For example, Abacus partners with other agencies who want help with their clients Facebook advertising. Abacus gets the business and the partnering agency looks good to their client for getting them awesome results.
Another example is our partnerships with startup organizations in the city. We like partnering with startup incubators/accelerators where we can come in and teach their tenants about Facebook Advertising. We provide free content and maybe down the line their tenants will want to do business with us.
Obviously besides Jeff’s book on growth hacking. What other sources (blogs, magazines, youtube, etc) will help marketers stay up to date with their continuous learning?
Abacus Blog (Facebook advertising)
Events and conferences like Dx3
Podcasts are also a great source of learning:
Digital Marketing Radio
Convince and Convert
For more information on Abacus visit: http://abacus.agency/
Authors & Contributors:
Amanda is the community Manager at Abacus a lean, mean conversion focused Facebook Advertising agency. She is a business-minded professional with a creative edge. She believes ideas are great but execution is better.
With a specialization in entrepreneurship major at Ryerson University, Angela is truly passionate about helping people turning their ideas into reality. Angela is a nature & outdoor adventurer, she has ran 4 half-marathons and traveled to more than 12 countries.