Jay Swansson is the CEO and Co-founder at iAcquire, a digital marketing agency based in New York City and Phoenix. After graduating from law school in 2004, Jay joined a boutique search marketing agency as one of its founding members. In this role, Jay fostered the growth of the company to become an SEO industry market leader and helped lead the company to acquisition. In 2009, Jay partnered with SEO industry veteran, Joe Griffin to start iAcquire. The self-funded company now employs 100 digital marketers in New York and Phoenix to provide full-service digital marketing strategy to 150+ clients worldwide.
Jay earned his Bachelor’s degree while playing baseball for Butler University and later received his Juris Doctor degree from William Mitchell College of Law. He currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona.
1. Tell us about your background and your role in the company:
I graduated from law school in 2004, taken the bar exam, and not soon after I moved to Cincinnati to become one of the founding members of an Internet marketing startup. Here, I was able to help build a scalable startup business that included only 5 employees with 60,000 clients. The rapid growth eventually led to the acquisition of our company.
In 2009, Joe Griffin (my business partner) and I saw an opportunity to do marketing differently. We wanted to serve brands and help them compete in digital – with that in mind we started iAcquire. Today more than 100 mid-sized to Fortune 100 companies partner with us to support their earned media needs.
Day-to-day, Joe and I work daily to drive our agency’s growth through business and product development, marketing, recruitment, company vision, and culture. We work with our leadership team to ensure all the pieces are in place to dominate their jobs and help our clients amplify their digital reach and conversion.
2. What are your main services?
iAcquire is an earned media marketing agency with a focus on digital brand strategy. We help brands develop and implement strategies in social, SEO, market research, and content.
Our tagline: "Become a True Content Brand. Meet The New Digital Agency."
iAcquire is in the business of content marketing — and, inevitably, so is your brand. We create content that powers your business, and develop strategies that forge the road ahead. Using market research, we ensure your brand’s content aligns with what your users are looking for in search and talking about in social. Welcome to the new way of doing content.
We recently beta launched a new brand called ClearVoice. We’ve created a software platform very unique to the market with a simple goal -- to connect the world’s best brands, publishers, and content creators. We’ve created a rating system to allow all sides to interact freely in a true marketplace setting. The ClearVoice platform helps brands and content strategists develop great content to enhance search, social, digital PR, reputation management, and branding.
3. What makes your firm different from other companies competing in your industry?
As an agency, iAcquire helps brands develop digital brand strategies. Our strategies are unique to each client to help them connect with their audience in a meaningful way. We use a combination of search and social to help amplify content strategy and traditional marketing.
Our comprehensive content marketing solution is one area we differentiate from many agencies as we can be a partner, vendor, or holistic strategist with our agency model.
We’ve developed a technology called iRank that allows us to filter and find quality publishers at scale. We also have an in-house editorial, creative, and journalism team that works to develop great content for our brands and publishers. And, ClearVoice will allow us to have the best publishing arm in search and will allow us to branch out into more traditional digital marketing areas.
4. Tell us more about your firm’s success story.
We’re a self-funded company. Joe and I started iAcquire when I was living and working out of a Starbucks in Manhattan and Joe had a one-room office in Arizona. We worked hard to sell, deliver, and build our agency and are now really proud to have a brand new office on Park Avenue in Manhattan, satellite offices in Minnesota and San Diego, along with our headquarters here in Phoenix.
We’ve worked hard and reinvested into leadership, clients, and technology. The next three to five years of iAcquire will be about continued innovation and aggressive growth.
5. According to you, what are the most important questions a potential customer should ask a company before choosing a vendor like you?
We’ve been asked this question many times before, and it all comes down to these things:
• Gain insight into the internal culture: Make sure that your company culture meshes with the prospective agency. Your agency will serve as an arm to your company’s overall marketing team.
• Make them prove their value: It’s important to find an agency that is going to be obsessed with your brand and act as an extension of your team. Are you just another client or is the agency truly engaged in developing unique strategies to help you compete in an ever-changing digital age.
• Ask about track record: An agency's true value can be shown in their “numbers”. Client results and ROI are true measure of success.
• Ask for references: Ask for two to three references from past clients. Ask questions similar to those you would the actual agency and compare answers.
6. What are some of the myths in your field?
One myth is that SEO is dead or is dying and to that I say -- the rumors of SEO’s death have been greatly exaggerated. SEO is changing and it’s changing for the better. CMOs are looking for integrated strategies that combine on-page SEO and content strategy with off-page content marketing, social, paid media, and even TV and print. In this scenario SEO becomes less of a siloed department and more of a foundational piece of the overall marketing strategy.
7. How do you develop your skills in this continuously changing environment?
Read, read, read: Moz, SEOBook, Content Marketing Institute and Search Engine Land are the best places to start reading. Then it’s time to start "doing". There’s no better industry for entrepreneurs. Get out there and do it.
8. What do you see as the future of the industry? What will be the challenges? Do you anticipate any drastic changes?
The search industry is and will continue to converge with supporting traditional marketing and social, PR, market research, and content. Brands need to be wherever their consumer is, whenever they are collecting information and making decisions. So, brands that have content that supports the consumer at every pathway are those who will win in the end.
9. Where do you see your firm in the next 5 years? What about you personally?
We’re growing fast. We nearly doubled our revenue in 2013 and expect to continue or exceed that trajectory. We want to continue to focus our efforts in content marketing. I see iAcquire, with support of ClearVoice, growing to be among the top five interactive agencies internationally.
We will remain aggressive in our goal create content that powers business, and develop strategies that forge the road ahead. Using market research, we’ll ensure brand’s content aligns with what users are looking for in search and talking about in social.
Follow iAcquire onTwitter at http://twitter.com/iAcquire or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/iAcquire.
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