Digital Marketing With Cecilia Sardeo
Digital Marketing,Translation and Self-Marketing Strategy For Freelancers
In this article I interviewed Cecilia Sardeo, probably the single most successful internet marketer in Italy.
I am extremely grateful to Cecilia for many reasons: first, for taking the time to give this great interview. Secondly because my passion for marketing started by reading her blog, seowebmarketingstrategico.com, the best Italian website about digital marketing (now transformed into www.webilicious.com); and last, because she is an example for all the young men and women of my country, showing that a normal person can become a successful entrepreneur and touch many people’s lives for the better if they follow their passion with commitment and determination. Cecilia is co-founder and CEO of Mindvalley Italy, director of traffic acquisition in Mindvalley, leading SEO strategist and published author. She started her career with the blog seowebmarketingstrategico.com, that has now evolved into webilicious.com
In this interview we tackle several questions:
- what marketing is
- what digital marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are
- how important digital marketing is in Italy, mother country for both of us
- how do people psychologically perceive marketing,
- if it is good for companies to develop a multilingual marketing strategy (i.e. the relationship between marketing and localization)
- what Mindvalley is
- and finally some great tips about how freelancers can implement a successful marketing strategy.
I couldn’t be more grateful to Cecilia for her time and the precious insight that she gave us. I hope you enjoy.
Chiara – Hi everyone, today we are going to talk about digital marketing and self-marketing for freelancers. We are going to talk with a very special guest, Cecilia Sardeo. Hi Cecilia, how are you?
Cecilia – Hi Chiara, and hi everybody.
Chiara – People say a lot of things about marketing but I’d like to ask you your personal definition. What is marketing for you?
Cecilia – For me marketing is a mixture of different activities. You might have a solution to a specific problem, a problem that you know a lot of people have and you want to share it with anyone in need of that solution. Marketing is also about producing an effective solution that you might have at the right time, at the right price, possibly at the best price, at the best quality for people. It is also a way of communicating with your community, helping them with their needs and problems that sometimes are not clear even for them, giving them tools and solutions that can help them improve their lives, whatever the niche you are working in.
Chiara – What is, instead, web marketing and more specifically what is SEO?
Cecilia – Web marketing, or internet marketing means bringing the set of activities that we mentioned before on the web. It includes defining what e-commerce stores should look like, how they should convert, how they can offer the best quality to people, up to all the way to how someone should advertise, what product you should be selling, in what way they can improve search engine results for example. And search engine results is SEO, so it is just one of the many traffic channels that you can use to reach out to people when you have a website or you have a website you want to share. SEO is just one branch of web marketing but there are tons of others. SEO is just the one that let’s say is free when it comes to money, although it is a little less free when it comes to time that you have to put into it.
Chiara – In many countries digital marketing is becoming the core of the marketing strategy for the majority of companies. How important is digital marketing in Italy, according to your personal experience and the clients you work with?
Cecilia – I think it is definitely getting more and more relevant in our country as well, in Italy, and what’s more important is that I don’t think it is an option any more. I don’t think you can see it as important or not. It’s turning into a necessity, something that cannot be ignored, by any company or by anyone who has a business unless you want to risk your whole business, whatever niche you’re into. Clients are becoming way more educated every day, sometimes even more educated than the seller. So they are becoming the main players of this whole buying-selling scenario. And this relates to any kind of products, goods, info-products, travelling…just think about the last time you bought a flight off-line. You cannot ignore the web, even if you’re not selling on the web. So if you have a brand you always want to keep up with what people are saying about you. And now people can use social media to do so. If you don’t pay attention to what people are saying about you online, you are just ignoring your customers. This can have an impact on all your business or your freelance career. Talking about Italy, there are some numbers that prove that our country is catching up really fast. The other day I was reading a report saying that Italy has about $1 billion worth online industry, so it ranks among the top few countries in the world when it comes to online business, especially e-commerce. Now, the thing is that not many people are using these tools for their business, so only a few have been able to see that potential. I believe even these people are drastically changing because, again, this is not an option any more.
Chiara – Sure. So we talked a little bit about the companies’ side. What about the people? How do the people perceive marketing? I have the feeling that people always think about marketing as something that wants to separate them from their money, that wants to convince them to buy something they don’t actually need. I think there is a sort of negative feeling about marketing. What do you think?
Cecilia – Well, I don’t agree but I don’t disagree either. One thing is sure: when you mention marketing or selling to some people it automatically means that you are trying to pressure them to buy something that they don’t want in a very subtle way, but I think it is a stereotype and every stereotype is never reflecting a 100% the reality of things. I believe marketing is a powerful tool, and as any powerful tool can be used either for good or for bad. There is this guy, Dan Sullivan, who is an amazing entrepreneur, who defines selling as getting someone intellectually engaged in a future result that is good for them, and getting to emotionally commit to take action to achieve that result. I actually have the definition in front of my eyes. Now, if you just remove the good for them part of course the whole sentence makes marketing sound a manipulative activity. So it is unfortunate that a lot of people and a lot of big companies use marketing and psychological triggers to convince people to buy things they don’t need just to make money, but on the other side you also want to keep in mind all the tons of great companies and me as well, who use marketing to change people lives for the better. Now the good news is that consumers now are the real experts. They have become much more able to filter any information that comes online. They have more tools to choose what’s good and what’s not good for them, so the more education there is about this topic the more consumers are becoming the real players in this scenario. Of course there will always be bad marketers who run scams. But as I said, any powerful tool marketing can be used for good or for bad. It’s up to you what you want to do with it.
Chiara – Sure, that makes perfect sense actually. I have another question: for companies that target clients in several countries, is it useful in your opinion to develop a multilingual marketing strategy or is English enough? If someone is selling a specific service in a specific language I would say that it is rather useless. But if someone is selling goods instead I think a multilingual marketing strategy should be planned. What do you think?
Cecilia – I believe it is definitely worth it but it also depends a lot on the goal of the company, the potential of the country where the company is located, or the company is selling to, and I do believe if you want to be a long term business entity, whether it is in English or not, if you want to build a multilingual marketing strategy you need to know everything that country is going through very well. I’m not talking only about language; I’m also talking about habits, beliefs, culture… In Mindvalley we are now in more than two countries in each continent and the differences are huge. It is very unlikely that what’s working in Russia is going to work in Italy or in the Middle East or vice-versa. So my answer is yes, it is worth it to develop a multilingual marketing strategy but it is also very delicate. So whatever is the country you are going into you have to make sure you are not just going to throw something out there and see how that works because this is not going to be a long term solution.
Chiara – And what about the other way round? I mean for companies that are working in a specific country, should they have their website translated into English?
Cecilia – Well, it is definitely an option. It also depends on the scope of the company, the budget they can rely on, the size and the potential of the country where the company operates. I think this is extremely important because I hear lots of times people who want to go into the English-speaking market just because it automatically presents more opportunities, which is true in a way: it is wider, and it is definitely a market where consumers have reached a level where they have a higher education and they reached a higher independence and comfort in buying online. But at the same time the English-speaking market is extremely competitive.It is saturated and it is extremely expensive, especially for the online marketing world which is the one I know very well. So what I always suggest is to carefully study what is the potential of the market where you are, before thinking of going all out towards the English speaking one. And of course, if your budget allows it, if your scope reflects the extension towards the new countries, then why not. But just remember that when you go into that market the rules of the game change completely. I experienced it directly, in Mindvalley.
Chiara – Can you just explain briefly what Mindvalley is?
Cecilia – Sure. Mindvalley is a lot of things, but I would say that we are a company whose mission is to change the world for the better. Generally speaking I’d say that we work in education. What we do believe is that the way schools are training kids, who are the future of our world, is not the most optimized; it is not the most relevant. So the idea is to push humanity forward through innovation in education and in culture hacking. This is our mission. What we do practically is online publishing, so we try to spread good ideas when it comes to personal growth and business mastery through home studying courses and communities where people can virtually interact with each other. We also work towards new technological solutions. The scope is really wide, and we are trying to get there through a lot of different channels which are mainly multimedia channels.
Chiara – Great! That’s amazing. I’d like to talk now about one last question, and it is how can freelancers benefit from a marketing strategy? What kind of marketing strategy should they plan for themselves in order to be able to reach the same results as a company, of course on a different scale but to implement the same kind of strategy that big companies use?
Cecilia – That are a lot of things that freelancers can do. Definitely I’d say that the first thing should be to define a niche, and when I talk about niche I refer to a micro-niche. So let’s say we’re talking about a designer, it would be ideal for that designer to specialize in something that is extremely targeted, for example logos. In everyday life, if you’re looking for a cure for your headache or your migraine you are not going to go for a generic kind of cure medicine, you are going to go for something that actually cures headaches. So when I look for a logo I’m not going to go for a random designer if I can choose between a generalist and someone who is actually specialized in logos for companies. This is just an example but it gives you the idea how important it is actually to become a specialist in a specific micro-niche for different reasons: first of all because it is less competitive so you can actually position yourself as a top freelance in that niche, and then it also allows you to increase your value and your cost because you are offering a service which is way more targeted than anybody else’s. So I’d say that is the first thing that sometimes I don’t see happening and I think it could be a really good way to differentiate yourself as a freelancer. The other thing I’d say is don’t wait for clients to find you. You’ll need some online profiling, like a website or a portfolio, possibly with your full name so when people look for you on Google they will find you right away and then you should definitely have a Facebook profile, Facebook page, or a LinkedIn profile, whatever is the channel that you use the most. At the same time you don’t want to wait for people to just find you. There is something that happened to us few years ago. There was this video-guy that instead of just applying randomly with a CV, actually applied with a project-based piece of work. He was a freelancer, and he sent us a video that was beautifully made, with our logo and we just felt in love with the work. So we were looking for someone at that time but he didn’t just wait for us to find him, he actually exceeded our expectations and he actually moved way faster by just finding us and giving us something that was absolutely outstanding. So you don’t want to sell yourself too much or promote yourself too much but you want to definitely get yourself out there in one way or another. You can use any channel that you normally use, Facebook, Twitter and be clear on who it is that you want to work with; that’s another important thing. Internet allows us to literally get in touch with anybody but that’s not necessarily a good thing or a practical thing when it comes to narrowing down what it is that we want to do. So when you are a freelancer you could technically work with anybody, but do you really want to work with anybody? I don’t think so. I think everybody has his own ideal about what kind of companies he wants to work with, what kind of mission is behind this ideal company. Is it just about money or is it about working with companies that reflect specific requirements that you just want to see in your work, in your portfolio? So that’s another important thing to do.
Chiara – And how can they check if the clients that they are targeting really need the services they are providing?
Cecilia – Well, that’s all about online researching. Any company that might be looking for freelancers online has by now an online presence. So if you look for Mindvalley you can easily find everything that we do and you will be easily able to guess what it is that we are looking for. Smart companies when they need someone they also declare it, they put it on their website, they just say which are the positions they are looking for, even if it’s a freelance position because a freelancer can work with companies as well. Actually more and more companies right now are looking for freelancer solutions, because it allows you to grow at a much faster scale and a much lower cost for specific projects. When it comes to individuals, single people that you might look for, then you definitely want to have a look at LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best place to figure out what people need, what self-employed people need in case they are looking for project-based work. Another useful tool you can use is oDesk.com or Elance.com where you just have to apply for positions that are already open, so that’s even easier; you don’t even have to do any research.
Chiara – A lot of useful tips! Thank you very much Cecilia, thank you for your time and for all the super useful tips that you gave us. I hope to speak with you again!
Cecilia – Sure! Thank you and thank you to all your readers. Bye.