This month is officially 5 years of being the Co-Captains of Oh My Digital (gimme a YAY). And like the true proud parents that we are, we’ve had some bumps in the road. We’ve learnt some lessons the hard way. We’ve laughed, cried, stress-devoured entire packets of Oreos in one sitting and partied like it’s 1999. So we’re sharing all the things we’ve learned (so hopefully you don’t need to learn them the hard way).
It all started over a glass of wine and some paella
But what’s a true triumph story without the origin? Well, let us take you back. It’s 2017. Hayley is the manager of a Brisbane Digital Marketing Agency (which has since gone out of business). She has a team of 10+ people. One evening Hayley, Katy and two of the other gals in our team meet up for drinks. Steph, one of the original brains trust and always the brave risk-taker suggests an idea to Hayley. “Why don’t we start our own business?” She’d been approached by one of the creepy sales staff to start an agency with him, and that was a hells-to-the-no. But it got her thinking… Hayley, Steph and our other two close-knit team members on the digital team could totally assemble to make the ultimate digital marketing agency.
Hayley’s mind was boggled. She’d never thought of starting her own business. I mean, she always created businesses on The Sims and played out owning them in Barbie games growing up. But IRL? She’d never had the courage to even dream it. This brilliant work colleague and a close friend suggested that when the other gals came outside that we should float the idea by them.
Ellyn, the newest member of the team, but also the one who had an enviable mind for strategy, was 100% on board. I believe we were greeted with a “YASSS”. Next up, Katy walked outside, and with a huge sigh of relief, she shared that she had been wanting to go out on her own, but held back because 1. Hayley was her boss and that was super risky and 2. She wasn’t sure how it would be received by the others either. And that’s where the magic started…
Our branding was very minimal in the early days (literally)
Straight away we checked our contracts, to make sure we wouldn’t be in breach. We weren’t. We started coming up with business names. And Ellyn came up with the name Oh My Digital Agency. Which was a play on our fun, youthful and playful nature. We were known as the gals who were always quoting Mean Girls in the office (even back then), so it was fitting. Steph knew someone who could make us a logo and we chose colours that we thought would appeal to “everyone” (lol).
Our initial branding concept actually came from a lightbulb moment Hayley had whilst looking through Shutterstock for a client. She kept finding all of these brilliant “Candy Minimal” style images. And she suggested that maybe we could use these, with a play on words and be “punny” in our humour. And that’s where our identity was really born.
We knew we needed to stand out in our super-saturated industry
Cementing that brand point of difference from the very beginning was something that we truly believe helped us stand out from day 1. Because in 2017, it wasn’t something that was very common in the Instagram feed (not like it was in the coming years). We knew our brand personality and how we looked visually, and that helped people recognise our brand (and enjoy our content). At the time it was really going against the grain of what a lot of marketers were doing too. Most were caught up in looking super professional, no humour, no personality. But that wasn’t us.
Funny Story: After setting up our Instagram business profile and seeing how many competitors were out there, we had a minor freakout thinking ‘how will we ever stand out or compete when there are sooo many digital marketing agencies out there?’. But when we rationalised it we knew that a) there was a tonne of demand for our services, and that was only going to increase, and 2) just because you have lots of competitors, doesn’t mean they’re all going to stand the test of time. Turns out? We were right!
Our team of four became two (and eventually four again)
By about 6/8 months in, both the other gals had decided to part ways with Oh My Digital. Off to chase other dreams (you go Glenn CoCo). So it was just Hayley & Katy. Which, looking back, was probably a blessing in disguise. Because if we’d known how long it would take us to actually make any money from the business, it wouldn’t have survived with 4 people relying on it as a source of income. It barely survived with the 2 of us in the early days.
We had our Instagram and Facebook set up, content scheduled daily. We were building connections with our online community. We were building our website (on Wix, it was terrible, but I mean. We tried). And we did this consistently for about 10 months before we got our first lead. Insane right? We were sending out proposals to people we knew who had businesses. But we didn’t sign a single client in our first year of business. And that’s not something we share lightly.
We finally had professional photos done – and wished we’d done it sooner!
But you know what the actual lesson was here? We didn’t learn it until our 2nd year of business, but I’m going to share now because it’s something we should have done RIGHT AWAY. We invested in a photoshoot with the magical Stepha Doyle. At the time, we weren’t totally sure where we wanted to go with our branding, so we both wore white. Ask us about it, it’s a funny story. But inspiration struck when we stood in front of a backdrop that had the colours we both LOVED. Baby blues and pinks. And that’s when we had a lightbulb moment. We’d originally chosen colours that we hadn’t loved because we wanted to appeal to “everyone”. But we didn’t want to appeal to everyone. We knew that we wanted to work with primarily women, or men that were respectful of who we were as people (and could handle our hot pink website). So we decided that’s it. With our beautiful new photos, we’d rebrand. And we did. And it was one of the most life-changing moments we had in our business.
Then something crazy happened… People started recognising us!
Immediately we went from being “Oh My Digital Agency” to being “The Oh My Digital Gals” or “Hayley & Katy from Oh My Digital”. People started recognising us at networking events. Businesses started enquiring with us weekly. And that has stayed consistent since 2018. Putting faces to our brand immediately built trust and preference, because people liked our personalities. And they loved that when they met us, we were exactly the same IRL!
When we were building up our online community it felt like we were BFFL with biz owners all over Australia, without even meeting IRL. Because they knew what our faces looked like and had begun to build up that familiarity with us. We weren’t just another agency, we were two young women kicking ass (and being super sassy whilst doing it). That’s how we started forging bonds with some of the amazing community that we still have today.
Our recent rebrand was one of THE most important investments we’ve ever made in our biz
Since our rebrand in 2021, we are now attracting our DREAM clients. Who don’t barter with us over price, because they want to work with US specifically! Our values, vision and brand personality are crystal clear, and we are SO PROUD of that.
We’ve come a long way from trying to appeal to everyone with our branding (in case you couldn’t tell). We’ve fully leaned into our unique vibe and it’s been paying off big time.
So that, Cheer Squad, is our biggest lesson of 2017. Branding is EVERYTHING. And it has the power to completely change how many leads you attract, the quality, whether they’re the right fit and so much more. It’s the best investment we’ve ever made.