What You Need to Know to Start a Business in the Marketing Sector

Updated on 28 November 2018

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The digital marketing industry stimulates me because there’s always changes going on, says Jandre de Beer, Managing Director and founder of the digital marketing agency Version Eight Media (V8 Media). “I get bored easily but this industry keeps me stimulated. If you want to be agile, the digital marketing industry is for you.

“The digital space provides flexibility,” says De Beer who has been in the digital marketing space for seven years.

If you’re interested in starting a business in the digital marketing industry, de Beer together with Wandile Shabangu, Head of Strategy and Sales at V8, give insights into how to do it.

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Wandile Shabangu and Jandre de Beer of the digital marketing agency, V8 Media. (Image supplied)

Set up costs

De Beer said that to sell a service in the digital marketing industry, you only need a laptop and access to internet. He advised that people who don’t have access to internet, should make use of WiFi spots. “Starbucks, for example, has free WiFi. There’s also an Apps experience at Absa in Rosebank, where you’ll get access to free working space, WiFi and you can have a cup of coffee there.”

According to Shabangu, the best learning is through experience. “Yes, you can go to an university or college or do a course online. Get certified.”

He added that he learned through searching for information on Google. “The main keywords I used were ‘how to’. I was fascinated with social media, so I started searching for things like ‘how to make money off the internet?’

“I’m a YouTube fanatic – I’m fascinated by video. I’d also watch other individuals, influential people that are taking action. You have to find out what are influencers doing, get their tips and advice,” he advised.

Shabangu said that he’s done courses on Udemy, Google Adwords and Hubspot. “That’s how I started my journey.”

De Beer shared Shabangu’s sentiment on learning. “You need to be a practitioner to get better (in digital marketing).”

He said you don’t have to spend a lot of money to learn about digital marketing. De Beer suggested platforms like Linkedin Learning and listening to podcasts on marketing.

You need to decide what type clients you want to go after. The mistake we made was we wanted to go after everyone. Try to specialise in a certain type of clients, specialise in a certain space

Options to explore

De Beer explained the mistake he did when starting out. “When we started out we wanted to do everything. We were naïve (to want to do everything). Now we’re doing paid ads, chat bots, SEO and social media management,” he said.

He said that the trend within the digital marketing industry is that agencies are becoming more niche with the services that they offer and deliver. “We’ve seen companies that specialise in certain things.”

The list of services you can offer includes social media, content marketing, SEO, email marketing, native advertising and retargeting ads, according to the Hubspot. De Beer added that services one can offer are visual content, audio content, copy writing, blogging, lead generation for a company, paid ads, social media management and community management.


He gave examples of two popular trends of business opportunities:

  • Consulting. – You come to a company and they might not know how to draw up a content marketing plan. As a consultant, you will come in and say how the business can do it.
  • Coaching. – People are selling their expertise. For example, there are people who are trying to grow their Instagram account or want to know how to better their personal branding, so you can coach people in this.


De Beer says he started his digital marketing business in February this year. “When you start out there are a ton of competitors. You must think how you differentiate yourself?” He suggested that as a small business you can give your clients a lot of attention and also, you come in at a good price. “When we started we offered a lot of value. Clients enjoyed that because they tend not to get that at a big company.”

Now, he said, the challenge for him is how do you scale. “(The challenge is) how do you become more profitable?”

According to Shabangu, your main focus (as a new business) should be to get clients. “There’s a saying ‘work on the business, not in the business.’ Clients will want to see what you’ve done. Think about how can you build your personal brand and then leverage from your personal brand,” is his advice.

Getting the clients you want

De Beer said that he began writing thought leadership articles for local publications, including Entrepreneur magazine. This is one of the ways he marketed his brand. “I became more active on Linkedin.”

He also advises that to get clients, you should pick up the phone and start emailing people.

“You need to decide what type clients you want to go after. The mistake we made was we wanted to go after everyone. Try to specialise in a certain type of clients, specialise in a certain space.”

Shabangu echoed this statement. “You become a trusted advisor when you specialise in a niche. You then become an industry leader, hone your craft. You really want to become a trusted advisor, the person that gives constant value.

“Look at what your prospects are googling, what are their pain points are, where they are hanging out… Do your research. Become a trusted advisor within a specific niche.”

Rules and regulations

Shabangu said that you need to comply to the normal regulations as a business owner. “You also need to look at the different platforms you are working on, like ads for Facebook or Google. Ad policies change all the time. If you’re going to provide a service, you need to understand the different terms and conditions of the platforms.”

De Beer said that you also need to be updated on international digital marketing policies like the data act, the PoPI  Act (the Act on Protection on Personal Information). “Also things like General Data Protection Regulation – it’s currently in Europe, but it might move over here too. You have to be aware of these things.

“Ultimately, it’s up to your clients to decide if they trust you or not. But, it’s important to have your ducks in a row,” he said.

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