Dirk Tuip: “In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result”

September 25, 2020

Dirk Tuip: “In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result”

Dirk Tuip, former handball player who combined his career with studies in sport marketing at Johan Cruyff Academy, became fascinated when realized that “in Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result”. He is currently the owner of the B2B online marketing agency SearchUser

Marketing used to be pretty vague for me. I used certain tools and media because everyone used them. But the game changed completely for me when search engines first appeared on the internet. From then on we could apply search engine optimization, and that meant a huge step forwards for online marketing,” says Dirk Tuip, who studied sport marketing at Johan Cruyff Academy, which he combined with his handball career and is currently the owner of SearchUser, a B2B online marketing agency. “I became fascinated because with keyword analysis you could now suddenly see who needed what, how many people visited your website, and how many of those website visitors converted to customers. In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result,” says Dirk.

In the 1990s, companies like Google made their appearance as simple yet highly effective keyword search engines. Google has developed into a hugely powerful company that has built an empire through platforms such as YouTube, Gmail and Maps, to name just a few. And there are more of these huge platforms. These developments offer online marketing agencies unprecedented opportunities and challenges. “You could now literally be judged on your result and clearly see who was responsible for it. You no longer had to convince your manager about a gut feeling, but you could justify the exact costs per lead, or even per customer.”

Dirk Tuip: “In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result”

Dirk Tuip.

Before we get into this, what impact does the corona crisis have on online marketing?

The corona crisis has obviously changed the game considerably. The first shock wave in the marketing and media world was the sudden standstill of sectors that had to close: the catering industry, the events industry and many educational companies such as training agencies. Media budgets for Google, LinkedIn and Facebook were immediately put on hold, which meant they no longer had to be managed.

“During the corona crisis we see that the generation of leads is often there, but that sales remain difficult”

The second shock wave was in the industries that work directly around them. There are more than you might think: catering companies, stand builders, rental companies, advertising agencies that do a lot at events, but also, for example, the cleaning companies that work in the hospitality sector. We are mainly active in B2B, and there you see that the generation of leads is often there, but that sales are usually difficult, because many companies are forced to work from home. Of course, you can do a lot online, but if your company normally has five sales employees on the road securing long-term contracts, you can imagine that the impact is tremendous.

What can you do in terms of online marketing during the corona crisis?

As a marketing agency, we try to help our customers with a corona marketing protocol, in which we indicate what you can do during the corona crisis with your marketing activities. Maybe right now it can be a good time to modernize your approach, to be well prepared if the measures relax further. To this end, we have released an e-book on online marketing in times of crisis (available in Dutch), in which we recommend our customers focus on:

  • Quick wins during the Corona crisis.
  • Collecting leads in uncertain times.
  • Optimizing your website, to be well prepared when services normalize.
  • Analyzing your current customer database for possible opportunities.
  • Improving your ‘marketing automation’ to further personalize services.
“The crisis has reduced online competitive pressure and that also offers opportunities”

We have a number of customers who are actually using the corona crisis to position themselves better, because competitive pressure from, for example, Google, Facebook and Linkedin has decreased significantly. This translates into considerably lower costs per click, lower CPM and, in many cases, also lower costs per conversion.

What are the current trends in online marketing?

The popular buzzwords of the moment are ‘the internet of things’, ‘smart cities’, ‘smart buildings’ and ‘smart products’. All kinds of data will go via the cloud and there will be much more data available that will be linked to all kinds of new possibilities. As a result, the shortage of data analysts is also increasing. Machine learning and artificial intelligence have been developed to solve this. No analyst can compete with that, and that will have a huge impact. Furthermore, we have blockchain, virtual and augmented reality and robotic process automation. These are all things that will cause a stir and will accelerate in the coming years.

Google is not clear on how they determine their search results (SERP). What consequences does that have?

SERPs offer you the opportunity to distinguish yourself. Mainly it is ‘act fast, fail fast’ in the sense that it involves a lot of trying out, testing, and watching others and keeping track of the results. All knowledge is available, but how do you absorb that knowledge as quickly as possible? You have to be very flexible and adapt quickly. I am no longer directly involved as a manager, I have stepped back a little, but the ‘sport’ is precisely to respond well to those rapidly changing circumstances. There are now thousands of marketing (software) tools that can be used for every marketer, also in terms of price.

The great thing is that you almost immediately see what works. Of course, you must understand and interpret well what you have tested. But whether it is about attracting traffic to your site, or converting a visitor into a customer, or following up on a lead, optimization remains essentially the same at every stage.

And what does that mean for your HR policy?

In our company, we aim for a mix of young talent and more experienced marketers. You must be able to anticipate developments well. We work with a fixed step-by-step plan to ensure success for our customers; we have laid down the basics well. The steps apply to every customer, although within the plan you obviously approach each client and situation differently. This year we celebrate our ten-year anniversary, which means that we have the necessary experience. We give our talents opportunities, the space and the responsibility to learn quickly, while they are supported by experienced online marketing professionals. We have also noticed that we know well what ‘next’ is in the market, and we respond to this faster than some other agencies.

Is Google the only company that really counts in online marketing?

No, definitely not. Google is one of the major platforms with, for example, YouTube, but you also have Facebook with Instagram, and Microsoft with, among others, LinkedIn and Bing. And then there is also Apple, Amazon and the Alibaba Group. They are all relevant and you can use them depending on your target group or objective. A tricky thing is that these companies have a monopoly position in their market. On the one hand that makes things clear and easy, but on the other hand it is also somewhat scary. In recent years, we have witnessed an increasing amount of discussion, both in society and in politics, because of the challenges this causes; remember for example the debates on data protection and the safety of personal data, freedom of expression and the manipulation of news, or ‘ fake news’. However, these platforms are all so far ahead of the rest in their field of expertise, that their current position is almost impossible to overtake. Governments now recognize this now more and more. I am curious how governments will deal with this at the national and international level in the future.

Dirk Tuip: “In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result”


Should the power of companies like Google be curtailed?

This is a big topic. It has gotten out of hand here and there of course, and much more has recently become known about it, such as all the fuss about influencing elections, deliberately leaking certain data, creating fake news, etc. Without going in too much detail, I think Europe has missed the boat. We just don’t have the guts to set up initiatives like Google, Facebook, Amazon or Alibaba. In general, we are too quickly satisfied with easy gains. The founders of all those platforms had big ideas. They wanted to create something new in this world. And thanks to the unprecedented technological possibilities, you can now conquer the world very quickly, both literally and figuratively. From that position you can then learn faster than anyone else, especially thanks to the data you collect. These data-driven companies can ‘listen’ like no other to what the need is and how you can respond to it.

“Fake news and influencing elections are not new. It is only happening in a new way”

Then you have the people with the wrong intentions. They have always been there of course. Fake news is not new. Influencing elections is not new. It is only happening in a new way and the reach, speed and impact through these platforms is greater than ever before. It also transcends all national borders. That makes it very complicated. I don’t think we can fully regulate that.

“I think Europe has missed the boat. We just don’t have the guts to set up initiatives like Google, Facebook, Amazon or Alibaba”

From a personal point of view, I intend to look mainly at the positive aspects that all this has brought. Spotify, Netflix, Google, Amazon—and I could go on—are good inventions and they have made our lives better. In my role as a marketer, it doesn’t really make a difference. A good marketer has the ability to adapt, so I don’t care whether a search engine is called Google, Bing, Baidu, Amazon or Bol.com.

Which skills from sport do you apply in your work?

There are quite a few. The attitude to improve myself every day, to work purposefully on big ambitions and dreams, and to deal with setbacks, I use that every day. In fact, I feel I am just like that as a person. I also started ambitiously with SearchUser. I wanted the agency to grow quickly and attract new people so that we could continue to develop. The way in which top sport is organized means that you have to get to know yourself very quickly, to learn and improve. From that mentality, I had to get used to the fact that these things that were so normal and very evident to me, are not so normal at all to others. There are also differences. Tasks, team roles and responsibilities are very clear on the sports field. If someone makes a mistake, everyone knows who made the mistake and you can correct it immediately. That is also relatively easy for a coach. And performance can also be checked in the competitions and tournaments. This often remains unclear in business. And, while it is now quite common in top sport to collect data 24/7 and all types of statistics are available, including data from training and heart rate measurements, etc., this is still ‘not done’ in many other sectors, for ethical reasons.  In fact, we are still at the starting point in many industries. But there are already enough companies that are taking the next step, and coincidentally, these are also the large platforms, because one of their core activities consists of collecting data and responding more quickly to it.

“In elite sport, it is quite common to collect data 24/7. In business this is often ‘not done’, ethically speaking”

What were the main gains from your marketing studies at Johan Cruyff Academy?

I mainly discovered what the essence of marketing is. And that I am a real marketer myself. And how a marketer thinks, what his strengths are, how you can respond to trends, and how marketing can help to position your company. Johan Cruyff Academy also ensures that you get to know like-minded people, with the same challenges and dreams in sport. This is inspiring and you have more fun, too. You also get to know the unique properties of sport. Sport is emotion. Sport is unique. If you can sell sport, you can sell anything!

“Johan was on a different wavelength, he could see things that others did not immediately see and was able to transmit it in such a simple, funny and personal way, so that something remarkable always happened”

How has Johan Cruyff influenced you?

It is actually bizarre how often I still think about Johan Cruyff, and how often I quote him in conversations or presentations. Well, I think this is also because I worked for two years at Johan Cruyff Institute, and saw him occasionally and was able to speak to him. Johan was on a different wavelength than 99% of the rest of the people on this planet. That made him see things that others did not immediately see. And he was able to transmit it in such a simple, funny and personal way, so that something remarkable always happened. But what I still find the most special thing about him was the attention and care he had for people, whether it was a casual passer-by, an athlete or one of the employees at work.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Johan Cruyff Academy, we interview alumni who started out as top athletes to later become leaders in sport marketing and related fields. Dirk Tuip is one of them.

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