From 2015 to 2019 – A Journey In Digital Marketing

PDG Advertising has been on its digital marketing journey now for three-and-a-half years. This blog post was inspired by wanting to share more of the journey online. As a business, we have achieved a number of small but important milestones in the last few months, and it just feels right to take a look back at where we came from.


In 2015 Peter Doak Global was born, created by myself Peter, from my bedroom in a rented house in Belfast! No office, just a phone, a laptop, a tablet, and a feeling of, “If this doesn’t work out, screw it, I can go back to bar work!”


My first clients came—one from the States, who is still with me today—and I put effort into contacting those who looked like they had a need for my digital advertising services. I contacted them via email, asking if they wanted to have a phone call to discuss their needs.


It worked.


Next thing you know, I had been open for half a year, and it was going great! At that point, I had four customers and was servicing them all really well. I was working in coffee houses, libraries—anywhere with an internet connection. When I had a call with a customer on Skype, I would jump into the car to take the call. (Stationary, not driving.)


The main thing we worked on for customers was Facebook content and Advertising. We created posts, boosted posts, and utilized ads manager to understand audiences and objectives within the platform that would generate beneficial results for customers.


It all felt ok on the customer side, but it was dreadful not having a place to hang my hat. I got in touch with a great little coworking space, the Foundry in East Belfast, and set up the business there. This is a step that I highly recommend for anyone who is working from their laptop, jumping around from place to place. I reckon that I was able to save the cost of the coworking space (£100 per month) in the coffees I was buying throughout the month.


At this time, as with every move, it shifted my mind to want something bigger. I started taking on more clients. However, I couldn’t do everything. When a customer wanted a specific design, I needed to build a relationship with a graphic designer to make that happen. If they wanted a website adjusted, I needed to connect with a developer with those skills. When someone wanted to retarget their web visitors, I needed a connections expert to install and test pixels and ensure Google analytics was working correctly.


It was here that we started to work with multiple platforms to really map and affect our customers’ user journey. We would create strong initial adverts and follow people around the internet until we sold to them or they specifically said, “No, we don’t want this.”


This was when things went a little wrong. I took on too many clients, I wasn’t stringent with my contractor relationships, I left a lot to chance, and I over-promised and under-delivered. My patient customers stayed, and my not-so-patient ones rightly left. But that was ok. Again and again I learned, know what you are doing and don’t go too fast, or you will crash. I always think of this time as an apple cart: It was great with 4 apples in it, but when I tried to put 8 in, it broke, and all the apples fell out.


Pulling back a little, I managed to focus on the product, focus on what was going right, and replicate those things that were and cut the things that weren’t. I learned how to filter out contractors very quickly when I knew they were just talking a good game with small projects that would grow into bigger ones when the relationship developed.


With that focus, and remembering the apple cart analogy, I felt that my cart was a little bigger, and that I could take on more clients. I built back up to 8. It was great, but there was a problem: my charging system was way too low. This is great for clients, as they have a committed person who is trying their best to do a great job, but from my side, it wasn’t good, because I had no time to grow the business or money to take on permanent members of the team, and I was STRESSED.


I worked out that the amount I was charging was not what I or my business were worth. I changed my fee schedule, and while I lost some clients, the clients who were patient and aligned stayed. Again, it was an opportunity to learn. Do you know what else? The stress left abruptly!


Around this time, an opportunity presented itself for me to have my own little office. This was a bit of a move from the coworking environment, a little step up to a one-person office. It was really nice to have my own space, somewhere that I could work without interruption to develop plans and strategies for customers and myself.


It was here that I decided to change the name of the business from Peter Doak Global to PDG Advertising. I don’t think it’s cool to have your name in a business name. It’s uninspired. PDG Advertising may also be uninspired, but I feel it’s better than Peter Doak Global. (I actually had people laugh at the name Peter Doak Global, which was oddly hurtful. No one has laughed at PDG Advertising, but then again, it’s quite a tame name.) The business name will change again soon, and I have a couple of ideas in mind.


This was also around the time that I developed my system. I love things that run in three stages, as I think a lot of people do. The system I developed does three things:


PDG Advertising Has Three Priorities:


Customers—make sure they get what they need.

Team—make sure they are supported and valued.

Business—make sure it’s nurtured.


If I have a process, it’s to check in with each of these areas every day. Some days I spend more time on one area than the other, but these are the three keys to a successful business for me right now.


During my three years, I have been able to take a few trips: one to Thailand, one to the U.S., and one to Canada. I have more planned in 2019. The business is a global business, dealing with customers in 6 time zones on 3 continents. It has been a joy to learn about new cultures and the experiences of people in different areas of the world.


There have been a ton of micro changes in online marketing since 2015. Conversion marketing is hot right now, lookalike marketing and retargeting is sophisticated, and it’s easier than ever to get in front of your target market. The really big changes in my mind are Linkedin and YouTube. Both of these platforms are growing up and adding value to their users now. Both also spread their fair share of crazy.


What now?


Well, now, I have just moved into my first multi-person office. It’s still small, but there is room for me and my first employee coming on board in two weeks. This is pretty big for me. The business is just big enough to sustain two people and add value to customers in doing so.


Where are we going as a business? My new start, my contractors—many of them with me from the start—and I will work to create innovative solutions to get in front of our customers’ target markets and incite action from them.


I hope this has given you a little insight into what has been going on over the last three-and-a-half years. I promise to check in a little more regularly in the future!


Good luck with your business, and I hope we can connect soon!



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