It’s been hard. Very very hard. And joyful. At times ecstatic. And then exhausting. And then heartwarming. For a company with a simple name like “Happy Marketer”, running this company has been a complicated roller-coaster of emotions.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen our logo somewhere on Facebook, Google, YouTube or an Email. It’s rare for us for companies like ours to talk about our journey. I don’t really know why. Maybe secrecy is valued. Maybe they’re scared of naming clients. Probably because nobody has the time to go write an epic novel.
Well, I hope nobody minds this one. Today’s a good day, and we want to celebrate. So I’m just going to jot down the highlights of our journey. Hopefully, other companies ahead of our curve will chuckle. And companies & freelancers who think they’re a little behind our curve will realize that it all works out.
Mostly, I just hope it’s an interesting read. Most of the team, most of our clients, most of our friends have never heard this story and this is the first documentation of that journey.
Quick shoutout – Khyathi, Anshu & Aneza – all the ladies who worked sleepless nights to make this celebration possible. The awesome video, epic graphics, accompanying newsletter, facebook posts, cover photos, site changes, new branding docs and of course – the new logo was possible thanks to these awesome ladies!
Do comment at the bottom and let us know what you think!
So, What’s Up With That Name?
The most common question I’ve gotten in 4 years is about the origin of the name “Happy Marketer”. Here’s the real scoop – when happymarketer.com was registered in early 2009, it wasn’t meant to be an agency or services company.
My original vision for the company was to combine my two loves – Marketing & NLP.
In the years prior to that, I had really enjoyed getting lost in NLP & Hypnosis, and these fields had helped me find happiness in the passion for marketing. And the original vision was to do training to help Marketing Professionals move beyond subject expertise – and help them realize their true love for marketing.
Eventually it turned out that the truly unhappy marketers were usually in client offices, and the only way to bring them to happiness was to go fix their marketing problems. And the agency part of the business organically grew out of that need to make up 80% of our work.
Oh, and yes. For those of you who’ve watched our old logo for years. The smiley WAS inspired from Amazon’s logo, used as a blueprint, coloured orange, mirror-imaged and used in the old logo by yours truly! It’s finally been fixed with months of hard work and a rebranding project.
So, here’s how our story started …
Mid 2009 – Dave & Rachit get their First Client!
In those first few months, we had an exciting run trying to get our first client, sucking it up and growing from being a freelancer (me), deciding to stop working for the man (Dave) and finally settling on a name we could both agree on. That first project was a government sponsored grant for a couple of SMEs. It was put together by our good friend Joey at SPRING Singapore, and without it we would’ve never gotten off the ground.
We have some fond memories of brand new clients from that era – Keystone Cable, with their gorgeous building overlooking Johor, POS Printers with the most complex printing machinery we’d ever seen and ComSOC Technologies where we decided to go overboard and build them a new website as part of an SEO Project! It was also the first time we dealt with paperwork & politics with government projects.
Late 2009 – Training Business Takes Off!
We always figured that training was small businesses and entrepreneurs, but our minds were blown when we started receiving enquiries for training from some really large companies! I’m very thankful to our first two corporate training clients – JobsDB & AirAsia.
It really showed us that when it came to Social Media & Search Marketing Training – even larger companies were hungry for expertise. That feeling at the end of the training, when these clients were making huge strategic shifts thanks to our training, is what still drives us into learning, growing and remaining the best in the industry.
Early 2010 – Google Analytics Becomes Profitable
Google Analytics was this free little thing we used to love killing time on. I figured nobody important used it, and Google would kill the product soon. Then thanks to a push from Google Singapore we decided to get Certified, and suddenly large companies like StarHub were calling us in for Consulting work on this platform!
That relationship has been one of the most fulfilling projects of our career. For over 3 years, we managed, grew and helped the adoption of that tool to hundreds of marketers. And that was the start of a great reputation in the market for Google Analytics & us. Today, we’re trying to push the same spirit forward with new, huge clients and the impending launch of Google Analytics Premium.
Mid 2010 – A Successful Year 1
I’ll be honest. Despite being well into our mid 20s, Dave and I hadn’t even seen a $30k/year paycheque until that point. We were happy being young scrappers, and it never occurred to us that we could be making money. But when wrapped up our first year and tallied up the numbers, the final revenue was 5X of what we were making before Happy Marketer.
Things are very different today – we’re much larger in revenue, size and people. But that first feeling of little pieces of successes never really goes away. We’ve still got that Google Doc with our revenue numbers shared between us 🙂
Late 2010 – International Trainings Start Up
Thanks to a partnership with an established agency, 2010 become a Roaming Tour for us with clients in Malaysia & Thailand. Suddenly the number of companies we touched rapidly scaled from tens to hundreds.
It was also a tough period of growth for us. Until that point, we were relatively new trainers relying purely on our domain knowledge. But when we had to take days of trainings at a stretch, we started paying attention to energy management, learning styles and the deeper issues of teaching digital marketing.
Late 2010 – Enterprise SEO Makes Us Happy!
This was a period where we truly felt like experts. With our earlier training engagements, we’d gone into companies and guided their strategies. But with our new SEO projects at InSing.com and StarHub.com, we truly felt like we were pulling the guts of their business and putting them back together ourselves.
And the teams at those companies were truly kick-ass. Amazingly savvy, smart and very mature in their industries. Even though we did great work on the SEO side for both those companies, and the results brought in benefits for years to come, I still feel like we learnt more from working with them.
Mid 2011 – Capped off an even bigger Year 2!
After a tiring sprint at the end of our Year 2, we found ourselves with the largest client list we’d ever had. I don’t know if it was luck or strategy that helped us add some huge brand names to our client list – Phillip Capital, JobStreet, NUS, Ministry of Health, CooperVision & more!
This was also the point when Dave and I were getting exhausted. Neither of us was a salesperson, and we really felt the lack of a couple of areas of expertise – Business Development on the business side, and Social Media on the delivery side. Unknown to most people, we were working hard to persuade one of our closest friends to join us …
Late 2011 – Prantik Joins & Drives Growth!
After a 4 month courting, we finally managed to get Prantik to leave his previous agency and join us as the third partner. And the difference was immediate! We were energised, meeting new people and felt like a complete management team ready to scale up.
Yet again, we experienced rapid growth as we threw caution to the wind and took on every single project we could win.
Early 2012 – Education Grows Beyond Our Imagination!
While we had done small projects for education institutions earlier, we added an unprecedented number of Universities, Schools & MBA Institutes to our rolodex in 2012. With prestigious names like NTU, NUS, SUTD, NAFA and several other institutes, for a while we started feeling like teachers!
As work grew, so did our fatigue. So, we made a decision to invest all our savings back into the business and hire the smartest folks we could find. For the three years prior, we tried hiring in Singapore – but as we hit a critical point in our growth, we realized that without funding, juicy margins and a competitive hiring landscape, we needed to go International with our hires …
Mid 2012 – India Office & Management!
We finally took the plunge – after a 6 month incorporation process, we decided to start up a branch in Bangalore. We also decided to grow our management team by hiring two very smart managers in Sanchit & Siljith. The Bangalore office has been a tiring but important lesson, and it’s been heartening to see that team grow to double digits within a year.
While hiring in India wasn’t easy by any measure, we suddenly found that our increased profile made it easy to hire in both Singapore and Bangalore. Suddenly buoyed by an excess of smart young people & energy, we turned our eyes to a new target – Travel & Hospitality.
Early 2013 – Travel & Hospitality Explodes!
If 2011-12 was the year of Education, 2012-13 turned out to be the year of Travel & Hospitality. With challenging, rewarding new projects with Tiger Airways (11+ countries), Far East Hospitality (18+ properties), DirectRooms (197,000+ hotels) and several other Hospitality Brands (Park Hotel Group, Hong Kong Disneyland, Naumi Hotel, The L Hotel) in our kitty – we focused on growing our Marketing Analytics, Facebook/Social Media & Web Video practices.
And these clients have helped us see a totally different side of digital marketing – fast moving, mature, conversion focused web giants who push our team to the limits and force us to grow beyond beyond being good regionally. As we push ourselves to global best standards, we’ve been focussing on sharing our expertise with the world.
Mid 2013 – Happiness & Marketing, Shared!
As we wrap up our 4th year and kick off the 5th year, we find that the part that makes us happiest is the fact that we’re able to share our thoughts, ideas and experiences with the marketing community at large.
A Facebook Fan base of close to 8,000. A YouTube channel with 31,000 views. A newsletter delivered to 5,500 inboxes each month. A Blog with over 150 posts in these 4 years. And keynotes & conference talks given to 4,000+ marketers across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia & Thailand.
At the risk of getting Sappy
It was jittery excitement on 17th June 2009, when Dave and I went down to ACRA to register a little company called Happy Marketer. And it’s jittery excitement as we look forward to the next 4 years of growth, clients, awesome new people, investments and who knows what.
There are two groups that I’d like to thank here. First, our clients. For all the companies mentioned in this article (and many more we didn’t get a chance to), thank you. Working with you guys has been stress, pain, frustration and tiring. And totally awesome. You’ve driven us, asked us the right questions, encouraged us at the end of tough days and made us grow from nothing to a proud team of 20.
And most of all – the Happy Marketers. These weird, cuckoo, bizzare individuals who’ve somehow chosen to love the company, live the culture and taught the founders how to be happy no matter what. Sanchit, Su Ann, Siljith, Priya, Khyathi, Yilin, Kanchan, Kok Kit, Anshu, Fay, Dass, Ancy, Dipali, Larissa, Aneza, Radhika, Sapna, Siyun, Michelle, Joey & Carlo – you guys have made these 4 years worth it. And your contributions will make the next 4 years magnitudes better.
Thank you for reading this long, unnecessary rant. I wish each of you the struggles, sweat, pain, frustration …. and intense, irreplacable, joyous HAPPINESS that we’ve felt these last few years.
Rachit, Managing Partner
(On behalf of David, Prantik and all the Happy Marketers!)