Farhad Divecha is the managing director and founder of AccuraCast, a leading digital marketing agency and the longest-running independent social media and search marketing agency in the UK. Farhad has over 20 years of industry experience and specialises in digital strategy, search engine marketing, social media marketing, international business, ecommerce, mobile commerce, product marketing and growth analytics. Farhad’s vision, technical know-how and drive have been instrumental in turning AccuraCast into the highly successful agency that it is today.
1. Tell us about your first step into the industry? How did you start and what made you join the Fintech Industry?
When I quit my first job in the UK, I knew I wanted to set up AccuraCast to specialise in digital marketing. This was back in 2004, and there were only 5 other SEO agencies in the UK then. They were all chasing big retail and travel brands, leaving the field wide open for an agency like AccuraCast. I come from a background in financial services; I have an MBA in International Finance and Economics, and so it was naturally the sector that I found easiest to talk to. My co-founder also has a background in financial services, having worked for 10 years at a small fintech firm and a FTSE 100 financial services giant that acquired the firm.
Over time, it became apparent that we worked particularly well in four key sectors, with finance and fintech being one. When it comes to marketing in the fintech sector, we found over the last decade, with the growth of social media, brands faced a big challenge integrating search and social media activity with the growth strategies of financial services firms. Of course, the finance and insurance sectors are restricted by legislation in terms of compliance, data protection and privacy, so we also set out to understand these challenges and overcome them to ensure that fintech companies too, can benefit from rapid growth through digital marketing.
2. AccuraCast is known for simplifying the complex process of integrating Search Engine and Social Media activity with financial services. Can you tell us about the challenges you face and the methods you use to tackle those challenges?
The journey of financial services on social media has been a particularly interesting one. I’ve seen it evolve from the early days, when most of our conversations circled around convincing brands to stop fearing the negativity that could erupt on social and take control of the narrative on their own brand profiles, to the time when the seemingly ever-changing social media landscape presented a challenge in terms of sufficient content creation for each network, to current times, when the main challenge is balancing engagement and ROI – and finding that happy medium where we maintain positive customer sentiment and grow / acquire business.
For us, going through each of these challenges has required constant learning, constant evolution of our own methods and processes, and of course, a heavy reliance on data.
3. What are the challenges faced by AccuraCast during a lockdown?
The challenges for AccuraCast during lockdown have been two-fold. Initially, we had the same concerns and challenges many organisations faced over the past 14 months – client retention and growth. I am pleased to share that in spite of the awful circumstances, we have actually gone from strength to strength during the past year and grown over 30%, which is only testament to our loyal clients and the value they place on our services. If anything, our challenge was hiring and training people remotely, as we grew.
The other side to this was the challenges faced by our clients. As an agency, we serve as an extension of the brands that we work with. So during lockdown we’ve worked closely with our finance clients helping them navigate the challenges of continuing to provide services and acquire new customers while navigating the obstacles that the pandemic has brought.
4. While the LockDown has led to an Economic crisis of sorts, there are also financial savings all around the corner, if we take into account the near to permanent WFH Culture. What do you think should be the best investment strategy for these worrisome times?
It’s absolutely right that although the lockdown has proven catastrophic for the economy as a whole, it has brought with it many financial savings. Our recent research in fact has found that households in Britain could have saved up to £19,372 as a result of lockdown. Although some of this comes from working from home i.e. saving on the cost of commuting, lunch, daily coffee, childcare, and mobile data, as a by-product, the pandemic has also allowed Brits to save on other aspects like gym membership, eating and going out costs, holiday expenditure etc.
We are ready to come out of lockdown and my advice to businesses now is to focus and invest in acquiring new customers as well as recognising the loyalty of your existing customers.
It can be tempting to go back to the old ways of marketing in a bid to recoup financial loss. But it is extremely important that brands realign digital marketing efforts now to address the new reality.
For example, people are unlikely to commute and travel as much, so outdoor advertising might not get the same reach. Similarly, the desire to walk into a bank branch or other physical location for financial services is likely to remain low.Marketeers need to recognise and adjust for these behaviour changes.
A particularly interesting outcome for fintech is that with interest rates at rock bottom, consumers will need places to invest their savings and earn better returns. This obviously presents great new opportunities, especially in sections of the market that might not have historically been a target.
5. Your interest lies in travel to eCommerce and sports to finance and many more. How do your interests connect with the work you do?
At the core of our business, we specialise in rapid cross-border growth through digital marketing. The industry specialisms are based on where we are most experienced. This specialism has, over time, allowed us to better understand particularities of fintech, finance and insurance, and navigate the specific challenges these brands face. But staying true to our core capability – digital marketing – allows us to rapidly adapt as the finance industry evolves, so we can serve new insuretech brands just as easily as the multinational behemoths.
I should add that it’s vital you have an interest in the clients you work with, otherwise it feels so much more like work! At AccuraCast, we’re fortunate to have a team of people, not only passionate about digital marketing but about the individual sectors we work in; sports, finance, travel and B2B. I find that it’s that zest that results in the fantastic work we do for our clients. We want these companies to be at the top of their game because we’re genuine fans – and that motivates us to do the best work we can for them.
6. AccuraCast is an International Digital Marketing Agency. Tell us about the company offerings and services to improve the financial plan and marketing of a company?
AccuraCast specialises in helping companies scale rapidly across multiple markets. We do this with data-led digital marketing. We have a well-defined process, and a proprietary martech toolset that we’ve created and designed specifically to help brands devise growth models that can be scaled rapidly in international markets. I have repeatedly seen a significant positive impact on the financial performance of a company when our services have been implemented effectively and accurately.
When receiving a brief, we want to hear from the client what their business goals and objectives are, as a whole, not just in marketing. We’re not interested in ticking a box, getting paid for our work and saying goodbye. We want to see the work we do make a real difference to the company. So, we start with what it is they want to achieve, and we create a robust digital marketing plan around that. Implemented in the right way and with the long-term in mind, this will result in financial dividends for the company.
7. What tips would you suggest to include in a financial plan for companies who want to grow exponentially?
In marketing, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. My first advice to all fintech brands who want to grow exponentially is not to believe the hype and nonsense a lot of fintech marketers like to spew about how they spent only £100 on an email (or some simple marketing message) and got 10,000 new customers overnight – what they’re conveniently glossing over is the millions the company spent in building their brand and a fantastic user experience. Without that solid brand, which cost millions to build, and exceptional user experience, which came through a long cycle of testing, learning, and refining, their email would never have received the sort of traction they boast about.
I would advise companies to invest sensibly in marketing. We’ve already touched on how life is moving to a digital world, but what it also means is that people around the globe are connected in a way like no other. Digital Marketing can enable businesses to connect with the right people at the right time, in the right way and using language that conveys their messaging. The world really is a smaller place right now so with effective targeting and messaging, it’s absolutely realistic for businesses to grow exponentially, quickly. But that has to come with an investment of time and resources, and has to be backed by a really good product.
8. The world is now in a pandemic situation where every business is going digital, what are your views on the Post Pandemic Impact on all aspects of finance and Marketing?
We are definitely seeing a shift to a more digital world, not just in business but the way we carry out our personal lives too. In marketing, this can be a huge opportunity, as the scope to reach out to even more potential customers is larger. The financial sector is a resilient one. But the post pandemic world creates an opportunity for a historically traditional sector to move with the times and also get to know their customers in a whole new way. During this time, many financial firms will have been receiving more calls, emails, social media messages than ever before, giving them the perfect opportunity to engage with their customer base and work with them to resolve issues and concerns – demonstrating their value.
Coming out of lockdowns, all finance brands will have to make tough decisions about which pandemic-influenced habits they wish to continue, and which ones should be shed in favour of the traditional way of working.
9. Tell us any advice you would like to give to the upcoming companies in the field seeing the evolution of digital marketing in the upcoming years?
Get on board! Digital offers the advantage that it’s very easy to test, learn and evolve, rapidly. So, rather than waiting to devise the “perfect” strategy, start now! ….and evolve according to your customers and the data.
As we move more and more online, the opportunities continue to grow even more so. No single channel performs in isolation, and there is no “silver bullet”. Your marketing strategy needs to reflect the world your customers live in – the world is moving on and your brand has to move with it.