We recently had a chance to sit down at a local coffee shop with Joe Delbridge, the CEO of GeekSmash during his trip to Tokyo! We got to hear all about his company and what it does for the geek community and learned a lot about marketing in today’s world. Joe told us the story of how GeekSmash got started and how it grew into the successful marketing agency that it is today.
Since it began, GeekSmash has grown into an international agency representing companies and people from all around the world. They operate behind-the-scenes to help popularise some of the names that we love in anime, manga, and manhwa...as well as other companies in the geek space, both big and small.
Without any further ado, let’s move onto our interview with Joe. We hope you enjoy learning more about the marketing side of the geek community with us.
Where did you get your idea to start GeekSmash?
Did you always know that you wanted to start a business like this, or did you originally have a different idea?
Why did you want to start GeekSmash in the first place?
What challenges did you face when you were first trying to set up the company?
Beyond that though, one of the biggest challenges is I am at a point where I feel like I want to share some accurate information with people. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and one of the biggest challenges I had, in the beginning, was finding good info. There are a lot of self-proclaimed gurus and a lot of people who claim they know what they’re doing, and they’re just regurgitating information they heard from somewhere else. If you have enough people regurgitating information, eventually the purpose behind it gets lost, and the meaning gets lost. So I am reading what everyone else is reading and saying, I don’t know if this is going to work! You see a lot of stuff on how to make the search engines find you better, or SEO, and sorting through the good stuff and the bad was one of the biggest challenges at the beginning.
Do you face any unique challenges today?
The reason this is a double-edged sword is because those same people often don’t really understand why they should do this, and why they need to use the Internet to market. Sometimes they’re a little old-fashioned. Sometimes they have tried it before with a company that didn’t know what they were doing, or they outsourced it to a company overseas that didn’t really understand the market. It’s different running a local business like a local restaurant or a local service-based business versus running a national or international e-commerce business out of your garage. How you market that is very, very different. So if they had a bad experience with another company, when I meet them, they may not be big believers. It takes longer to make them a believer in it, because it takes time to get them up there if they’re on a lower budget.
What niche do you feel your company is filling in the marketing industry today?
What have you learned through working to expand the otaku world overseas?
I assure you, even with truly understanding marketing, I would never try to market to a Japanese audience without really understanding the culture, understanding the language, and having a native person writing the content. They would send stuff to us and we would edit it, and disagree a lot…it’s always that any time you have any kind of relationship that has conflict, there’s going to be challenges, especially with different cultures. Now I have worked with some of the top companies, and they are usually referring me to other top companies, so when I come in now it’s like, you were referred by whomever, so we trust you.
Have you noticed any differences between small businesses focusing on Japanese pop culture versus Western pop culture?
Which of your services has been the most popular so far?
When we first started, SEO was the big thing. Everyone was saying, ‘Do you do SEO? We want our SEO to be strong.’ So I focused a lot on that, and then it didn’t get results right away, or even after several months. I think especially to niche businesses, it really isn’t what they need, so I don’t even focus on SEO now. On the flip, over the last two years, I keep hearing more about influencer marketing. ‘Can you help me connect with influencers?’ or ‘I’ve tried to contact this person but they aren’t answering any of my e-mails.’ Or even ‘I’ve tried influencer marketing and it didn’t work out, but I hear everyone still talking about it. What did we do wrong?’ So I dove into influencer marketing, and said if I am going to do this, I need to be the best at it. When I say the best, I don’t mean the best of other people; I mean, the best I can be. I am going to give it everything I can.
So I went into it, learned a lot about it, and made a lot of connections, tried some things, failed, tried again, and succeeded. I realised that the industry is like the wild west a little bit right now, and has been for the last several years. There’s not really a normal formula that people use to say this is how much they should charge as an influencer, or this is how much they should pay as a marketing manager. We attempted to do that. We went in and figured out a good formula that is going to give a great value to the company, but also is really fair to the influencer. It could be a cosplayer, Instagrammer, Youtuber, whatever. And this led to us managing a bunch of cosplayers, and having a soft spot for independent creators, I said I want to help them. I was seeing a lot of companies that want to give them a free product in exchange for a post, and having worked on the other side for manufacturing, I know that the amount that they pay for that product. And they have a cosplayer that has twenty or thirty thousand followers, so they are going to sell a reasonable number of contact lenses or whatever for that company. The company is out 3 bucks. They just got a steal! But they never tell the cosplayer how much they sold, and the cosplayer has no idea how well the post was received. I wanted to teach them their value, so to this day every company that I work with, I get sales data. I share the sales data with the influencer so that way they understand their value. It's good for them because they know what they’re worth and what they can charge because it's proof.
What do you think is the future of otaku culture overseas?
Finally, a personal question; what is your favourite series or story? How about a favourite character?
It was really a pleasure to talk to Joe Delbridge and learn so much about GeekSmash and what it is doing in the geek community around the world, and we are really happy that he made time in his busy trip to Japan to sit down with us for a little while! Thanks a lot for your time and all your answers, and teaching us all a lot today, Joe.
If you are interested in learning more about GeekSmash yourself, be sure to check out the website here - https://www.geeksmash.com/
Do you have any questions about our interview? Did you enjoy seeing a different side of the geek world? Want to drop your own thank you to Joe? Be sure to leave a comment below!