Marius Lazarescu has managed to transform his hobby into a real business and has now notched up six years of operational activity. And his strategy is balanced, as web agency Today’s has a significant presence both on local and international markets. As for tomorrow, the entrepreneur is planning further expansion abroad.
For Marius Lazarescu, CEO of Today’s and Google AdWords certified expert, his early career played a crucial role in his decision to set up his own company. The businessman had gained a lot of experience in advertising and the telecom industry, which helped him to draw up his own business strategy. “I felt it was time to raise my performance and offer consultancy services to customers when they needed them. I created a closer relationship with the customers and increased the value of the sale. And that would not have been possible without strong business and marketing knowledge,” remembers Lazarescu.
So he decided to follow a master’s course in online marketing and two further courses in marketing. “Plus, after reading half a library full of marketing books bought from Amazon, I decided to become an entrepreneur, back in 2005,” says the CEO. He adds that his first intention was to offer email marketing and copywriting services exclusively, because there were only two local suppliers in this field, leaving plenty of space for a third player. “But the market proved to me that it was too difficult a tool to sell and implement, which is still the case today. E-mail marketing is still very undervalued in Romania even now, so I decided also to include in my portfolio web design services and online campaigns, the main aim of which was to support the other activity,” says the entrepreneur.
In time customers started to appreciate his services but the rules on the local market changed, influencing Lazarescu’s portfolio of services. “My business developed and web design services accounted for about 80 percent of the business five or six years ago because there was no market to sell lead generation or online sales and marketing campaigns. But now things have changed a lot and 80 percent of my business comes from online campaigns and consultancy services,” he says.
The idea to set up the firm came as a natural step in Lazarescu’s career. He embraced the challenge of using state of the art online marketing techniques that he had read about in specialized books. “It was almost impossible at the beginning, but in time I started to like what I was doing and it became a passion for me. The hardest thing was to transform my passion into a business that could make a profit,” he explains. In his opinion the most difficult moment for his firm was last year when one of his biggest customers stopped working with Today’s while another one was considerably late in its payments. “We actually entered in a churn and we needed to quickly reduce our team and significantly cut costs,” says Lazarescu.
If he started another business he would probably change the country where he sells his services, at least for the first two years of his operational activity. “But I would come back to Romania for sure,” states the CEO. Asked about the challenges his firm has faced, the entrepreneur says that the most significant one has been managing its relations with the customers and the way the agency sets out its actions and benefits to bring added value for its customers. He adds: “I think that the online industry is two steps ahead of the majority of Romanian businesses when it comes to marketing approaches that bring results on the short term. For small businesses I strongly believe that you have to focus 101 percent on generating sales and not building awareness of the ‘About us’ page, amassing friends on Facebook or having thousands of banners on so called ‘relevant sites’,” thinks the expert. He believes that another big challenge for any customer, industry or budget is quantifying outcomes. “Few measure the results and even fewer analyze and act on them. If you don’t measure, you can’t manage and if you can’t manage you can’t optimize.”
According to Lazarescu the Google AdWords local market is worth about EUR 12-15 million a year and there are fewer than ten active players.
“But the good news both for customers and agencies is that multinationals from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia are entering on the local market. Plus, local companies are starting to develop their own strong departments.” In addition, according to Lazarescu’s company’s estimation using
Today’s AdWords Monitor tool, there are about 14,000-15,000 advertisers, out of which fewer than 500 work with specialized agencies. “We have a market share of about 10-15 percent of the budgets managed by agencies.”
As for future plans, the entrepreneur says that he wants to develop his business both locally and internationally. “We intend to add to our portfolio new customers from the US and UK but we also want to be very active on the local market, especially in those industries where we have expertise,” concludes the businessman.