Armin, you founded Bodalgo, tell our readers a little bit about yourself, please.
Well, I am 46, I live in Munich, Germany, together with my wife and two daughters. Before becoming an entrepreneur, I worked in publishing for almost two decades. I started as a junior writer and worked my way up to Publishing Director. Then I got fired. Luckily I had this spare time project: bodalgo – the voice-over marketplace.
Where did the idea for bodalgo come from?
In 2004, a colleague of mine needed a new voice-over for a TV commercial of the German edition of FHM magazine (For Him Magazine). I told him: „You always compliment on my voice – why not give it a try?“ We did, and it worked out. So I wanted to do more voice-over jobs and found a website where voice talents could audition for jobs posted. It was an English internet site, so not many German jobs. I tried to find a site like this for the German market but could not find any. That’s when I had the initial idea.
How did you turn your idea into an actual business?
After the idea had sparked, it took three more years until I realised: There still is no German website like the one I saw. I thought: Nobody will ever do one, you have to do it yourself. In September 2007, I started working on the website. As I had programming skills, a degree in marketing and experience as a voice over talent for some time, all the necessary ingredients came for free. After four months of coding, the first version of bodalgo went live. And it looked truly horrible.
Essentially, you're a voice talent agency. Where do you find your talent?
After bodalgo launch, there were no talents, of course. So I contacted the German association of voice over talents to get the first members on board. Because: It would be useless to promote the website to potential clients when there are no talents to voice the jobs. I offered the first members a free premium membership.
Since then I have never marketed to talents and I never will. For two reasons: 1. Luckily, the talents now find me; I do not need to find them. 2. Far more important: In my book, it is much more important to attract voice seekers as they are the ones with the jobs. Many seekers lead to many jobs, many jobs lead to many happy talents. By the way: bodalgo features translators, too.
What's been your best marketing tool?
No doubt: SEO/SEM and all the tools that Google provides to be successful in these fields. Unfortunately, SEM becomes more and more difficult. One of the main reasons: Campaigns that are targeted to voice seekers are clicked by the talents most of the times.
Why? When talents try to find work opportunities, they often google keywords they think voice seekers use to find talents. Then the talents look at the results to see if there are services they could use to boost their career and click the ads that are targeted to voice seekers. This behaviour will kill your AdWords campaign instantly. I think that many, many advertisers face this issue without knowing why their campaigns don’t work.
What's a typical day at bodalgo HQ?
I usually start around 7.15 am reviewing jobs that have been posted during the night. I check every job posting myself to make sure it is legit.
The same goes for every new voice talent signing up as bodalgo does not allow amateurs to join the roster. Apart from this and customer service, the primary fields are analysis and programming. Analysis helps me understand how people use bodalgo and what could be done to make the user experience better; continuous programming contributes to automating tasks freeing up time I then can use for better customer service, for example. Or playing with my daughters.
You've worked with the likes of Sony, Gucci, and other huge brands. As a relatively new business, how did you go about building relationships with such established brands?
In the beginning, that was not easy at all: bodalgo stirred up the voice-over market in Germany quite a bit where existing market members tried to defame bodalgo wherever they could. Honestly, I did not expect that and just ignored it as there was not much I could do about it anyway.
Instead, I focused on creating a great user experience for both talents and clients by listening carefully to what they were looking for in a service like bodalgo. See, customers usually are not that close to the voice-over industry and don’t know about the "war" in the background. They come to bodalgo unprejudiced and are amazed how easy it is to find the perfect voice. That keeps them coming back. And recommending bodalgo to others.
What are your top tips for start-ups who want to get a bigger market share?
You need a business plan that includes a proper marketing plan. Things can change down the road, but you need to have a plan. You need to know your target group, competitors, source of business.
Be smart with your media spend and watch your campaigns all the time. If an online campaign does not work from day one, it will never work. It will not get better. Never pull the plug instead of wasting money and analyse why it did not work.
Innovate every day. There is always a smarter, easier, more fun way to do things. There is hardly a day that passes where I do not optimise things on bodalgo. It’s rather small things, usually. But it adds up. Even if a slight change affects a conversion rate by only a fraction of a percent: Hundreds of little optimisations per year can make a huge difference. Using tools like hot jar to identify user experience issues is a must. You cannot do without. Period.
What's the three-year plan for Bodalgo?
The major objective of bodalgo has not changed in eight years: Attracting more voice seekers. Everything else builds on this task. Also, I want to add services for the talents that make a premium membership worthwhile for them even in the absence of many possibilities to audition for. These services could include accounting tools, for example. Talents usually do not fancy administration. Some fun to use help would be greatly appreciated, I believe.
If you could have anyone record your voicemail greeting, who would it be and why?
Ellen DeGeneres. A fantastic person, great humour. And because my wife adores her.
Enjoying your success is so important, how do you do that?
I love what I do. Most of the time, I do not perceive my "work" as work at all. That's already something that I enjoy and that I am very grateful for. Then it's many small things that fill me up with joy, for example: When I manage to prepare a meal my older daughter will agree to eat (she is 3). Or when I have a glass of wine with my wife while listening to some good music.