May 5, 2022

How to Develop a Personalized and Value Driven Content Marketing Strategy with Ali Payani Ep. 68


Ali Payani, CEO and co-founder of LookinLA—an award-winning growth agency in Los Angeles—positions great companies as industry authorities, starting with a deep-dive data assessment to architect an advanced digital marketing strategy. The fast success of LookinLA is driven by Payani’s success as a serial entrepreneur, innovative digital marketer, and strategic management consultant. He is a member of the Forbes Business Council and the Forbes’ Young Entrepreneur Council.

LookinLA provides clients with digital transformation, account-based marketing, design, and production. Additionally, the firm manages clients’ email and video marketing, social media, PPC advertising, influencer marketing, and experiential marketing, and bolsters marketing with public relations. Results are meticulously monitored, measured, and engineered to ensure real-time, outcome-driven, and optimized execution.

Payani came to the United States from Dubai in 2016, bringing vast experience in technology and business. His expertise in artificial intelligence gave him the adeptness and command of digital marketing. Data-driven marketing-generated rapid success for his clients, even amid the pandemic, allowed him to continue growing his firm in both revenue, clients, and staff.

Payani served as a teaching assistant at the University of Wollongong in Dubai and founded Fortment, Inc. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and digital systems security and a master’s degree in information technology management. He also earned international awards for his technology developments and was recognized for his automated phishing detector (Best Innovation Gitex Award in Dubai) and earned the Du InfoSec Award, and the AI Algorithm Gulf Programming contest.

Payani authored a research paper on a behavioral model to improve information security policies implantation and engineered an AI-based air quality measuring technology that is widely celebrated for the innovation’s life-saving potential among those who suffer from asthma.

Payani is often invited to speak at conventions and technology workshops about business growth, leadership, digital marketing, computer security, and AI. Past speaking engagements include the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Trinet, the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, and the Dubai Business Console. He is certified in Google Adwords, Y Combinator – Startup School, IT Security and Risk Management, and Robotics Programs. Outside of technology, Payani is a pianist, a former national basketball player, and a chess champion.

Where to Find Ali Payani

Website: https://lookinla.com/


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Transcript
Natasha Miller:

First question is how do you stand out in such a crowded market in digital marketing?

Ali Payani:

Even when we started five years ago, it was actually against all the odds. So to have a digital marketing agency or a growth agency in Los Angeles where we have over 15,000 agencies in the country, so to stand out is really to understand your clients and their client, your client's industries, and their customer's journeys, the buyer decision process.

And then you have to really work hard to be ahead of all the competition and all the other marketers and strategists. Everything is really changed. So you have to really know the updates, what are the trends, and what can you do to really take your clients to the next level.

Natasha Miller:

Do you have an analyst on the team that looks for the changing times and trends, or as you as the founder leader, is that your responsibility? I can't imagine that you can sell and serve as well as keep current and ahead of technology and changes in trends.

Ali Payani:

Yeah, we do have a strategist and analyst. But that's also still my main focus too, because I really love this challenge, if we all learn about all the industries.

And another advice I used to get five years ago was maybe focus on one industry and I didn't like it because it's still it's not really challenged. And so we work with. We have worked with over 19 different industries, different type of the company's products or services.

I think it's really challenging and fun to know exactly what is going on in their industries and learn more about them. I do that with regular talking to the business owners maybe every week, and then we're becoming friends, and then they share with me. And then I read a lot of like articles and getting a lot of updates from various to learn more about each industries and all, as well as the marketing trends and updates.

Natasha Miller:

What would you say is your number one differentiating fact about your company versus your competitors?

Ali Payani:

We are very fast. We understand it very fast. We figured out very fast and the execute faster than anyone.

Natasha Miller:

Is that getting to know the customer and split testing? What things are you fast at?

Ali Payani:

To understand their problems, to understand the client's vision, their industry, their company, and their capabilities, and how we have to figure out this strategy.

And it may become to the content strategy. And then when you really figure out very fast, that what you should do. To achieve the goal for your clients. You have to also execute it way faster than any others.

Natasha Miller:

How do you do that? What is your secret? There's only so many hours in the day.

Ali Payani:

Right? Let's say in terms of the executions, if you ask, so that would be our internal processes. Everything is now automated in terms of internal processes for the team. The project management is really working well. And also the knowledge for every channels. It's in a level that we don't get a lot to the problems, so we really execute fast.

And when it's constantly developing the strategy business or marketing strategies for the clients we are where we have a great team and I in exploration meeting to ask the right questions to exactly get the problem, and then what the client is looking for so we can draft the business strategy so they can get there faster.

Natasha Miller:

How big is your team now?

Ali Payani:

I believe we are 16 now.

Natasha Miller:

16. Is it all local or do you have off-shore and remote? Not in the LA area.

Ali Payani:

We do have remote employees and the hybrid.

Natasha Miller:

How is that working out with the new change of the new working?

Ali Payani:

Very well, actually before the pandemic, we used to have a Slack and then we were like communicating everyone, even in the office, through a Slcak.

And then when pandemic happened, we really didn't notice anything or any problem internally because it was opportunity for us. We got really great people from Florida, from Colorado, from Idaho, from different states. And we are still hiring and having removed employees. Because we have regular team meetings and they have a really great communication and engagement on Slack and all the project management tools, monday.com that we use.

So everybody is really engaged. So you don't really feel that you're working remote.

Natasha Miller:

How do you guys utilize artificial intelligence and what you do?

Ali Payani:

One of my background actually is system security, AI and machine learning. So it wasn't marketing before. To understand the AI and some tools that we use to gather data and analyze them.

That helped a lot to understand those problems that might the client have now, or it might come in the future. So the AI, especially like analyzing the data is understanding the behavior of your customers, your clients, what are the factors that impact your decision making process. And whether it's on your website or your marketing collaterals or marketing channels and campaigns.

So we utilize a lot of tools to analyze those datas and then figuring out the best possible strategies.

Natasha Miller:

Are you inventing any technologies? Are you really focused on using other people's technologies that they've built?

Ali Payani:

We're using other technologies, but then invented kind of our own framework of how we are gathering the data, what sources we're getting and then what we are looking into it and how we are doing the execution. So we have our own framework that we apply to the companies.

Natasha Miller:

If I were your client, how would I know what kind of job you're doing for me? A good job, a mediocre job or not great job? Do you have reports that are systematized every month? Am I just supposed to see an increase in RFPs or web visits? What is that like for your end customer?

Ali Payani:

All of them basically. So they start feeling they are getting more busy. The sales team are busy. If it's a B2B, if it's e-commerce, they need more inventors. But also we have a monthly reporting meetings and quarterly executive. Yeah. And I don't have any kind of limit on the number of the meetings that if the clients something is happening, especially like when the pandemic has started.

So we had like more meetings even in the week to discuss the new changes. And I think the right communication with the clients is something that they already know exactly what we are working on and then what comes next. And then that brain storming meetings, they also share with us their different concerts or maybe new goals or new product or new service.

So we share with them the strategy.

Natasha Miller:

Are you guys dipping your toes into the NFT horizons and crypto? Is that something that you're interested in or keeping your eye on?

Ali Payani:

It's good. You ask because it's been few months that we are working on it as a new division and it would be actually launched very soon, that will be a new division that will be looking better.

So we've working on that and then we are taking some of our clients to the middle of verse four. And we have for you even a request from the NFT creators, so that they want it to also do the marketing. So yeah, we do work on that.

Natasha Miller:

How do you feel about that? So I like to say it is our present. It's very new. It's part of our future, but if you're not in it now, you're behind. But if you're in it now, it's so new and it's not centralized. And there's a million players.

How do you become an expert at something that so few people are actually experts in because it's growing? It's a baby. It's an infant right now.

Ali Payani:

It needs still its own strategy. Think of it as a new website that you might build for your company. Like the first version, it's not really good, but at least you have the website, you do have a domain, right?

Natasha Miller:

Are we going to go through the heartbreak of flash in NFT world? I don't know. What would that be that equivalent be?

Ali Payani:

I believe that in the future we're probably gonna a see more e-commerces be active on the metaverse, and selling\ their own NFTs and products in NFD format. And we have like B2B companies that are willing to go there, to have their own virtual office there.

But that would provide the opportunity basically for all the businesses in different industries. If they wanted to have their own virtual office. Plus, they start like selling their own NFTs or products in NFS and with the blockchain technology. So you're continuously gonna make more money.

Natasha Miller:

That's that element of it. And let's break that down for listeners in case they're new to that. So let's explain, I create an NFT and I sell it to you for a thousand dollars. It's never going to be that cheap, but let's just say that. And then you sell it to your brother for whatever amount. I'm then going to get a royalty from that.

So that's so different than if I sell you this iPad and then you sell it to your brother, I'm not going to get any money back from that. But it goes on for infinity. And that is really interesting. And I think those upsides people aren't people outside of the metaverse crypto NFT world. They're not understanding the upside to themselves.

Ali Payanic:

Yeah, I think probably by maybe in 2030. That would be the time that everybody would be active.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, our grandparents.

Ali Payani:

Yeah. And then for the audiences, you have to see, it might not be really good for all the businesses today because your target audience might not be active there.

Depending on the demographics and ages. So if the generation Z are like more active now, maybe on another, your target customers for your business. But in 10 years they will. Like one of my articles that I talk about the millennials being in the workforce and that helped us a lot to grow and to have to keep the constant growth because of this strategy, to look into how the business decision is changing because of the millennials. So that would be changed to generation Z in 10 years.

Natasha Miller:

Right? Absolutely. This is a question I'd like you to answer. If a business was coming to you and they had never engaged with an agency like yours, what are the things that you would hope they come to you with beside a healthy budget?

What can you teach people to prepare for?

Ali Payani:

What information you think might be better if they..?

Natasha Miller:

Yeah. What level of sales should they be at? What kind of growth should they be looking at to start investing? Because I think a lot of people before they get to an agency like yours, they're doing it DIY, or they're doing it in house with somebody that isn't really an extrovert.

When is the right time to come to an agency like yours and what should you have in place?

Ali Payani:

The budget obviously plays important role, right? So your finance. But we see even companies with a good budget, but they're performing really bad internally. I think they should maybe go over a maturity level of the companies and then they make sure that their management, their goals, their objectives, their product, their services, are all really in a really good place and also maybe thriving and then growing and improving.

And one of the, I would say maybe the main fact, there's a management team. CEO, founders co-founders is really important that they are understanding their industry and they know what they're going to get with marketing. And then it comes to their budget. And usually I ask a question, "How much money you want to make?"

And some companies haven't thought about that and they say, "Good question." Because then I would say based on that we can get them in your budget, then we can understand the activities for the marketing, for your sales, how good your sales teams are, or if it's an e-commerce, how good are your product and how much people like it.

I think all these factors would make a company successful even with marketing. So we also help companies with their sales department, with their products, like surveys, feedback, getting, and analyzing those to make them actually improve the other departments as well.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, it sounds to me like you have to be ready for the success that your company will create for that product or service. And if you're not, it's going to break something, it's going to break the website. It's going to break the supply chain or the orders or something's going to go wrong. And then when you start disappointing your clients, your end clients, not the product.

Ali Payani:

Right. I mean, the business is another topic of discussion. So even if you are growing and how do you scale your business, can you do that? If you have an e-commerce with 5,000 orders, 20,000 orders, can you really deliver? So those are also the questions that the companies have, that's why I'm saying the management and the founders and the team are important because they can handle the growth if they are really knowledgeable and accurate.

Natasha Miller:

What is your biggest challenge in your business right now today?

Ali Payani:

I would say for marketing engagements is probably changes in the privacy was really affecting. And there are tons of data that have been disconnected and data sharing integrations.

It didn't impact any of our clients so far much. We find like other ways to do it and find our own kind of a strategy by already understood their customers. And that would be one that's directly effecting the marketing campaigns. And another, as you said, there are more people that they think they're doing marketing.

So they are active on social media and they think that's it. Or they have like relatives on the families or some freelancers that they might even be out of the states. So they don't know what is going on in the states. So they are doing marketing. The comment is I see that they don't get results.

And then they come to us and say, "Hey, you know what? We did marketing before it didn't work." And we look at their campaigns, there's really nothing there. And so that wasn't marketing. That's another issue in the marketing industry in general.

Natasha Miller:

And then the followup to that is this year, we're still new in the year, what are you focusing on your business in order to scale and grow it further? What is like one thing that you're really doubling down on?

Ali Payani:

We are getting a lot of partnership actually from the companies. We became a partner with Terminus, which is the one of the best actually best icon based marketing platforms and we just became partner with ZoomInfo.

So we are increasing a number of the partnership we have. And then with the help of the partners, we introduced their services because they're really good and helpful. And also a lot of co-marketing opportunities and the partners and partnership.

Natasha Miller:

What is the structure for the partnership?

Ali Payani:

There are different distractors based on who you are and like what that agency is or what levels you are or what type of clients you can bring for the partner.

And so that would be different levels.

Natasha Miller:

Is it similar to affiliate marketing or is there rev share or how are you looking at that?

Ali Payani:

They have their own different type of structures. Yeah, so each company, they have their own type. Maybe it would be a rev share or..

Natasha Miller:

So you were going into their already created program as a part of..

Ali Payani:

Yeah. And then we use their services because for most of the clients we have a partnership with the other CEO's and then in our network and my network and even with the clients. So we get lots of like referral also. So that works well, but that part of the marketing is really to make sure that we have that brand awareness for LookinLA.

So we are also producing more content, more real educational content and annual report on the B2B industries and B2C industries. That's also been very effective.

Natasha Miller:

What would you say that you wish you would have known before starting your own company that you had no idea about?

Ali Payani:

I'm always thinking that every six months we find something that we never thought about it six months ago.

I'm like, "Oh, what is it that in six months that I don't know today?" There are a lot. Like if it comes to this strategy, the strategies we develop now, understanding the industries is really different when we started. And I would say maybe one would be focusing on the growth versus some maybe weaknesses or maybe the problems that may become to the business.

So instead of maybe dwelling on those, you will only focus on the growth and how you can become better every day. That would help a lot for the scaling the company.

Natasha Miller:

Great. That was all the questions I had for you. Do you want to talk about anything we didn't bring up?

Ali Payani:

No, I think you've covered all. Just that I still think based on my experiences, going to the meetings with the prospects and different companies, to have a marketing strategy is important. We still 2022, we get that sometimes that, why do I need marketing strategy? So you're doing it. And this is coming from companies that they might do like 50 million in revenue.

And then they are declining in revenue for like last two years or three years and they can't figure it out. So you definitely need a marketing strategy. You need a strategist in your team and the whole customer journey for your market is changing. Main reason that I always talk about is the millennials.

So now my generation, basically we are going to be RD over 90% of the business decision makers in the workforce in the US. And five years ago, it was 75 influencers. And but now there are the whole decision-makers and then the process, and then the journey is different where we gathered the data who we are talking to.

We might not talk to the salespeople. We don't want to talk over the fall. We can chat and buy some really even expensive package. So those are changes that the companies should really adhere and act fast and really modernize their online presence.

Natasha Miller:

Thank you.