Last week my NI Digital Experts interview series got off to a great start with Emma Gribben. Be sure to read her interview if you haven’t already done so.
For the second instalment I asked Niamh Taylor to participate. I’ve know Niamh for several years now – we first met through the (now dormant) Digital Exchange networking group, and got to collaborate when she was at Sliderobes. Since she started her own business I’ve been working with her on several client projects, and we’ve also shared judging duties on the DANI Awards.
Niamh is one of the smartest and most educated digital marketers I know. She did amazing work while at Sliderobes, and her new agency Digital Twenty Four has been going from strength to strength since its inception.
I was really chuffed that she agreed to be interviewed for this series. So let’s get stuck in and read all about Niamh’s journey in to digital marketing:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey in to the digital industry: how did you discover the internet, and how did you become so involved with it?
Back when I was 14, I started working in a travel agency on a Saturday in Omagh – earning £10 a day! It was a fairly stressful job for someone so young but it completely shaped me into the person I am today. I know that sounds a bit clichéd but I learnt so much over the 7 years I worked there – from dealing with customers, working on a computer and being responsible for booking flights and holidays. I was exposed to marketing too and that’s pretty much when I decided I wanted a career in advertising and marketing.
I was fortunate because so many leave school not knowing what they want to do. I went to Queens and studied Economics and Information Management which included coding and marketing. Once I completed my degree I got on to the Premiere Programme. It places you in work experience within a company on your job choice – mine was marketing. I got placed in Bedeck and I got kept on once it finished.
I stayed there four years before deciding I wanted to spread my wings and go to Australia. During my time in Bedeck I was involved in a basic website project which was the only online activity there was back then. I went to a similar company to Bedeck in Sydney – Sheridan Australia – where I worked on their Actil brand for a few years. I worked on their website and was more involved in online then.
When I came back to NI, I worked in Translink, then Hollywood and Donnelly C&C, before I finally settled into a job looking after Sliderobes marketing. During my 7 years there we moved from traditional marketing with a £3m budget to a solely digital strategy and a £1.8m budget. Changing strategy meant we could reduce spend.
It was in the latter 5 years that I started to work closely with Google in Dublin to develop a strategy that reduced the cost to acquire targeted leads. I was so fascinated by the possibilities that online opened up and the targeted reach you could get from advertising. I gradually built up an in-house digital team before leaving last May and starting my own digital company.
Since your original studies in information management, you’ve never stopped learning and have collected an impressive range of professional certificates and diplomas. Do you feel that such a wholehearted embrace of lifelong learning is crucial to success in the digital industry? If you could go back, would you study a different subject at university?
I’ve always enjoyed studying and learning new things, and I guess getting a qualification or certification at the end of it is always nice. I do think it is important to never stop learning – whether that is through completing a course or just constantly reading.
But I don’t think having professional qualifications or diplomas are critical, especially in today’s digital age. As long as you have common sense and a desire to learn – like a real yearning to constantly learn new things – then you can be very successful in digital. Digital is constantly changing. If you aren’t in the ‘here and now’ reading every day you will miss something. That is crucial to success in the digital industry. My biggest advice to people is to be on Twitter daily; look at what’s happening in the digital sphere and sign up to lots of industry related newsletters.
If I had to go back to university now I would love to do some sort of psychology – something related to the brain and behaviour research in marketing. I’m fascinated by neuromarketing.
You’ve had a rich career over the years before you started Digital Twenty Four, including working two years in Australia. How do you feel your varied experiences have shaped your focus on digital marketing? When did you decide that starting your own business was the right decision? Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur.
Australia – and, more importantly, the Central Business District of Sydney, which is where I worked – is an incredibly dynamic and exciting place to be. There is such a strong work ethic there, much more than I had ever experienced. People in NI tend to work 9 to 5 but Sydney was very like London. All work and little play. The opportunities to do varied work is vast. My job came with great prospects for an interesting and rewarding career but I missed my family too much and came home to NI.
Travelling and working abroad just opens your eyes to a whole new world out there. When I came back I didn’t want to get stuck in a rut but as with many things I did. Time ticked on and suddenly ten years had passed by. I was feeling frustrated at myself and didn’t know what I wanted. Loads of incredible people whose opinions I value had said to me that I should go out on my own and with that in mind I decided to go for it.
The biggest driver for me was the same as when I went to Australia – I didn’t want to look back and regret not trying. And so in May last year I did just that. There was no magic formula – it just happened and I haven’t looked back. I was accepted on to Women in Business ‘Power of Four’ programme which really helped with my network. To be surrounded with like-minded people was important to me.
Then I got accepted onto Entrepreneurial Spark which meant I had the opportunity to grow my network even more with like-minded entrepreneurs, not to mention it came with free city centre office space. I have just completed that and have found new offices with some amazing entrepreneurs I met through Power of Four and we move in at the start of September.
Why the name ‘Digital Twenty Four’?
I don’t want this to sound like a “train wreck” approach to creating a business name but I was lying in bed thinking about what I wanted the business to be called, and I thought Digital was important to have in the name. And then I decided my slogan would be “always on” because the online world never shuts.
I thought about Digital 24/7 but the domain was gone and so I went with Digital Twenty Four. I wish it was more exciting than that but it just happened. There was no musing for days. It took about 15 minutes. But I liked it straight away and my gut said to go with it. I always trust my gut instinct.
You’re well-known in Northern Ireland as a strong all-round digital marketer. What skillset within digital marketing do you consider to be your main strength? Are there areas of digital marketing you feel you could develop yourself further in?
I lectured for the Digital Marketing Institute, have spoken at conferences, taken masterclasses for Women in Business, judged CIM awards and DANI awards, so that helped me become well-known in my field. I won awards in marketing like CIM Senior Professional as well as multiple digital accolades and head hunters told me I was seen as a “person to watch” in the digital arena in NI.
I would say my main strengths are looking at a business and developing a holistic digital strategy as well as implementing it to deliver a return on investment. The main areas I look at are Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing, Paid Advertising (Search and Display), Social Media, and Content Marketing.
I learnt so much during my time working alongside Google which definitely helped and now I am a Google Partner. I have been able to deliver brilliant results for my clients with some seeing 100%+ increase in sales revenue year on year. That makes me happy and also drives word of mouth recommendations.
My link building and technical SEO skills aren’t up to scratch so if you ever wanted to run a masterclass course for us digital marketers in NI on Technical SEO then I would be the first to sign up.
Tell us a bit about your hobbies outside of work; what do you enjoy in your life outside of the office?
I could live my entire life travelling – I just love going abroad – seeing new places and experiencing different cultures. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled throughout the world; I took 3 months off when moving back from Australia and travelled extensively. My husband and I try to get away at least 4 times a year and never to the same place.
I have a house in Rossnowlagh, Donegal, so I love to go there for long walks on the beach or the odd cycle which always inevitably ends up in the pub. I love eating out too as well as entertaining friends and family.
I pay for Virgin gym membership but it stops there. Does that count as a hobby?
Lastly, give us one website or app that you feel is vastly underrated and deserves a wider audience.
Buzzsumo is a website I am on practically every day. It helps me when I am looking at trending content or coming up with great ideas for blog topics. It lets you enter any keyword or topic you are interested in and it’ll show you the most shared articles for that keyword across all the major social networks for any time period. It is my go-to for all content marketing ideas.
About Niamh Taylor