David Ohandjanian, Founder of UP Hotel Agency and Company Director for ADAO, talks about his journey within the digital marketing industry and his motivations to start the company.
Specialising in web design & development and digital marketing for the hospitality industry; ADAO is a digital agency for all other industries.
Therefore, David Ohandjanian shares his advice and broad experience on agency success, breaking in the market, leadership and opinions for bringing creative solutions for the challenges that marketers face during their career path.
Q: How did you get started in the industry?
I always had a leaning towards the creative industry and saw things moving more digital and web so decided on a Multimedia Design course at De Montfort University in Leicester.
In the final year, I focused my final coursework on website design projects. Straight from Uni, I got my first job designing Automotive websites for DCS in Leamington Spa.
Q: What is the most surprising change in the advertising industry since you got involved in the creative world?
The rise in power of Google. Growing from a simple tech project to one of the most influential companies in the world. The audience and reach are phenomenal, and the acquisition of YouTube just took it to the next level.
The ability to pinpoint target an audience and understand the distinct effect and ROI of marketing efforts is unique to the online advertising world.
Q: What motivated you to start a company in the first place? How did you get inspired to shape your career towards a very niche industry, such as hospitality?
I grew up with entrepreneurial parents who ran their own businesses, they’ve always had confidence in me and been an inspiration. I understood the incredible amount of hard work but also the rewards of creating a successful company.
It’s not impossible for a creative person to run a profitable business and have a lot of fun along the way. The secret is building the right team around you and not giving up but being flexible and agile enough to adapt.
Why a niche? It’s sometimes very difficult for agencies to differentiate themselves, even if they have the best people and amazing case studies. Focusing on a niche allows you to perfect best practices, really understand the inner workings of the vertical and the distinct challenges.
Talking the right language, providing tangible results and the right reporting helps a lot. Even more so, gaining a relevant portfolio and referral business really helps.
We are also able to target our marketing and own search landscapes that we wouldn’t be able to do with a wider audience. We’ve also been able to develop niche products for the industry and develop processes that immediately set us apart from more generic agencies.
However, I’m very strict on the team to constantly be looking towards other industries for ideas and innovation. We don’t want to be pigeonholed into a set way of doing things. We want to be leaders in our field, pioneers and creative at heart!
Q: What piece of advice would you give to a designer looking to break into the market?
Portfolio, Portfolio, Portfolio! Produce a great and varied portfolio in your specialism and be ready to talk through your work and thought processes. A designer who presents their ideas with enthusiasm and energy comes across so well.
Although base qualifications help, there is nothing better than great work samples and a desire to learn. Gaining experience working as an intern or work experience at agencies can help a lot if you are a fledgeling designer. Why not trial sample briefs or shadow more experienced designers?
Try and focus on the areas you enjoy and perfect your craft. Always look around and draw inspiration from great work and ideas, never stop feeding your creative mind.
Q: What are the most important tips that you can give to designers who are also planning to run an agency?
Don’t be scared or worry too much but make sure you have some basics in place:
● Decide on agreements and contract terms, these feel awkward to arrange at the start but may save you incase of client conflicts
● Put in place some form of accounting software that makes the boring admin tasks quicker and easier (Xero / Freeagent)
● Spend a decent amount of time scoping deliverables for the work that you take on
● Try and be confident with pricing and track your time
● Avoid Scope work – you need to be paid for time especially when running a small agency (however big the opportunity)
● Realise you need to allocate time to “running” an agency in addition to hands-on work
● Only grow your team with the right people (be fussy)
● Don’t forget to use your creativity when running a company (outside of work)
● ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE
Q: Which challenges did you face at the beginning of your journey? How did you overcome them?
Overthinking what needs to be done. Take each week as it comes, and it helps to acquire ongoing work / contracts that keep regular cash flowing.
Don’t be tempted to work all the hours, it’s important to leave some space for your mind to keep creative and enjoy the experience.
Try and build a network of clients and companies that could use your services and approach them in person. Once you’ve established a relationship, don’t be shy to keep reminding them that you are available (without being too intense!).
At the core, if you can create great work, you’ll get the reputation and clients. The best ones come from referrals.
Q: What’s the biggest change in the agency business since you started? How have you and your team adapted to these changes?
The biggest change and challenge has been growing in size. From a core of 5 people to 20+ (in 3 years) we’ve needed to put a management layer in place and more procedures. However, getting the right people in the right places and with a desire to succeed has really helped.
People, in general, don’t like change (especially creative people!), so taking the time to explain why things are being changed or done in a certain way really has helped team members to adapt and still be happy in their environment.
Q: What are some useful digital marketing and design tools that help you and your team accomplish your goals every day?
We use Google Drive and shared products for collaboration. These have really helped team members work in tandem on projects.
For project management, we’ve used Asana, Trello, Basecamp and Smartsheets. Although we don’t stick to one due to our clients and projects having different needs we find that a central place to manage projects helps to avoid lost emails and comms.
Being a Google Premier Partner allows us access to the Google team and extra insights and market knowledge. Also, forces us to keep a quality of account and also pass regular exams.
Being very competent with Google Analytics and also Data Studio really enhances our reporting of tangible returns for clients.
Hotjar – Helps with assessing UX issues on websites.
We love designing in Sketch, a tool specifically for digital design as opposed to Photoshop or Illustrator.
Q: What would you say will be the next big trend in the design industry?
● Using intelligent user data collected online to customise guest experiences on the website. The website will adapt to the person using it in a much more intelligent way.
● Although larger sites such as Amazon are effectively doing this, we can see this filtering into tools and techniques for smaller websites.
● We feel that a lot more needs to be done to allow for a smoother e-commerce experience for mobile devices.
ADAO is a creative Digital Agency based in the heart of the Midlands providing a range of Design, Web and Digital Marketing Services to their valued clients.
About UP Hotel Agency
UP Hotel Agency is a full service Hotel Internet Marketing and Web Application Development Agency with an abundance of experience and skill across all online disciplines. They aim to cut through the complexity of the online space and introduce your hotel to a range of key services and methods to increase direct bookings for your hotel online.
They work on a range of international clients from small boutiques through to leading chains. Over the past five years their team of experienced experts have gone from strength to strength winning numerous awards and accreditations.