In this exclusive interview, John Bamidele, Founder of gbc.ng, asks Lee-Ann Johnstone, the digital marketing expert, about the secrets of growing a successful business from the scratch and what Africa needs to do to accelerate the growth of gaming
With almost two decades of digital marketing and affiliate management experience within retail, payments and prominent iGaming brands, Lee-Ann Johnstone is an award winning digital marketing expert and business mentor. She co-founded AffiliateINSIDER, a media portal for Affiliate marketing in the iGaming Industry. Voted one of the TOP 10 Most Influential Women in iGaming in 2019, Lee Ann, who runs her own marketing agency, has a lot to offer in the area of best practices, training and business coaching. In this interview with John Bamidele, Founder/Editor gbc.ng, the digital marketing expert revealed the secrets of growing a successful business from the scratch and what Africa needs to do to accelerate the growth of gaming.
GBC.NG: You have been around digital marketing for quite a while; can you give us an assessment of the industry?
LEE: Yes, I started out almost two decades ago and a lot has changed between now and then as this industry has matured. It’s a good thing, as regulations and compliance processes improve providing a safe user experience. It also helps marketers to operate within a clear set of rules and guidance making it a lot easier to grow your brands sustainably.
GBC.NG: Huge budgets are set aside for digital marketing by companies around the world; can we say it has taken over from traditional advertising?
LEE: Yes, I think this is steadily increasing as years go on, and now with the uncertainty of the global pandemic we are all suffering under COVID-19 it seems that Digital and Audio now are standing steadfast along with visual ad screenings. Time will tell how marketers will adapt to changes and how brands may re-align their budgets.
GBC.NG: Having started your marketing in the offline industry, how and when did you come to the realization that digital marketing is the way to go?
LEE: I was curious about the idea that you could launch a campaign and see instant results of how the end user (a customer) was resonating with it. That and the fact that I have a very short attention span lead me to the road I have travelled in digital marketing for the past two decades. I’ve loved every single minute of it and I continue to learn and grow.
GBC.NG: You love to work with entrepreneurs because you believe they have fire in them, can you share some of your experiences with us and how you have helped them grow?
LEE: Entrepreneurs and (affiliates) in particular are incredibly agile. They can pivot fast and take advantage of opportunities in a split second. It is this drive to succeed, the desire to get things done and take action that excites me to work alongside advising them. I’ve worked with start ups that have had no cash, but through sheer will and steely determination have built global brands and become big companies today. Every business needs a coach. Someone that can guide, call out the weaknesses, blind spots and offer experienced advice. This is what I love most about helping with digital and marketing strategy. It’s an opportunity to dig deep, and build real results and that – really drives me.
GBC.NG: Growing a business according to you is not for Sissy’s to use your word, what does it take to grow a business from the scratch and nurture it to adulthood?
LEE: Determination, Focus and ability to develop a thick skin!
People buy people at the end of the day – and even when idea’s or words are stolen or replicated they can never be done the same way as you. Marketers should remember this – authenticity drives engagement. Stick to your own USP and your tribe will follow you.
GBC.NG: When consulting for a client what do you always watch out for?
LEE: The best clients listen. They come to you with ideas but allow themselves to be vulnerable and to consider doing things differently. They come with a determination to succeed no matter the cost, and these are the best one’s to work with and for. When you open yourself up to try new things, to deliver new tactics to set new goals, beautiful things can happen!
GBC.NG: Tell us more about your event, digital marketing mixer.
LEE: It was one of those off the cuff conversations about what’s been happening around us right now and what people really need, want and can handle. We are living in strange times – we have half the time we used to get sales done and more competition and noise to break through. I wanted to provide a platform for collaboration and an opportunity to get business done. This was the best I could come up with – and I think it’s worked.
GBC.NG: AffiliateINSIDER was established just over 2 years ago to deepen information on iGaming, are you satisfied with its achievement so far?
LEE: Yes, I think we’ve succeeded in establishing a niche for thought leadership and content. I think people resonate with the brand and we’re still growing month to month so I think that’s a good sign we’ve succeeded in the original plan. Where we go onto next is another question – which I am pondering right now.
GBC.NG: Europe and most importantly England is arguably the biggest gaming industry in the world, is Europe saturated?
LEE: No. I think some markets are more competitive than others but there is always growth and new entrants and new areas to really discover, expand in and grow. What you can say is EU is perhaps more regulated than other geographical regions and that makes it a bit harder to gain market share versus less populated competitive or regulated areas where the competition is not as fierce
GBC.NG: Aside from Europe, which jurisdiction or continent comes next when we talk in terms of iGaming?
LEE: United States of America is now pretty popular as they continue to regulate state by state. I think LATAM is still interesting to look at too.
GBC.NG: Land base is still huge in Africa, however, there is a tremendous increase in Online gaming investment in the continent. In your view, what is still holding Africa back in joining the rest of the world to go digital and how can we overcome it?
LEE: Regulation, legal frameworks and operational policy is key for countries in Africa to develop regulatory frameworks. I think there needs for more collaboration so that Africa can learn from other regions and implement the things that have worked elsewhere to help quicken the pace of regulation and that lead the way to better management of policy and enforcement to build better and safe infrastructures for businesses to operate in the ecosystem that exists around online gaming.
GBC.NG: What are the costs, if Africa does not go online in the next few years?
LEE: Continued illegal and unsafe gaming, which ultimately impacts the economy, the end user and is bad for everyone in general. The faster countries can regulate, build operational frameworks, rules and regulated guidance the better. Things like taxation, job creation, and advertising governance within this industry are just the tips of the iceberg. Local governments and political parties should work together to set rules, laws, and infrastructures to create a controlled environments that can be regulated.
GBC.NG: We have witnessed the growth of affiliate marketing. iGaming companies are investing heavily in this sector, are iGaming companies maximizing the benefits of working with affiliates?
LEE: Some definitely are and some miss the point completely. Like anything – everything has a time, place and purpose. Affiliate marketing is one such thing and when it is combined as part of a clear digital strategy it can pay dividends immensely. When it is not valued or treated properly it can such your ROI and in some cases erode your margins of profit. Doing it right is key. It is also a skill. One, I’m in the process of still learning and don’t think I’ll ever stop.
GBC.NG: We witnessed the devastating effects of Covid19 on the gaming industry. How early do you think the industry will be out of the wood?
LEE: We are not coming out of this any time soon and most businesses are looking at what is going to be the new normal. Time will tell and slowly shed light on what this will look like but for now we’re all just trying to keep our heads above water and our ears to the ground to figure out what’s next. I know what I’m focusing on first – which is my customer. Everything else I thought I wanted to or needed to do have taken second place – now is the time to begin with your customer in mind, stick to that and you can’t really go wrong in my opinion.
Block Issue 5 is out:
The Block is a bi-annual publication which illuminates the cutting-edge sectors of AI, blockchain, crypto and emerging tech, with a print run of 5000 delivered to leading brands across the global industry. View our latest issue of the Block here.