About Shaz Memon
Shaz Memon is a business leader, designer and award winning digital and dental marketing expert. He is the Creative Director of Digimax and Digimax Dental. Showing creative flair from the age of 10, Shaz has been tutoring professionals in the creative industry since he was 18 years old.
Regarded as one of the most creative minds in the digital marketing industry today, Shaz works with leading names such as: BBC; FHM; Barclays; UBS; HP; Lennox Lewis; Hiscox; James Caan; House of Fraser; and McDonalds, to name a few. His work has won numerous awards and today he writes for leading magazines and is a regular contributor for UK press and publications, including the Telegraph and Guardian newspapers.
On a frosty December day, at the age of 18, in Greenford, London, 2000, I was riding my metallic blue Raleigh Activator mountain bike, boasting 18 Shimano gears, down the side of the A40 on the way to my first proper paid job. I was on route to teach a well-known designer how to unleash the power of the web by coding websites. The wind was blasting past my face fast. I was switching gears in rapid succession and trying to be uber-cool rather unsuccessfully by attempting to mount kerbs. I was on my way to do what I loved and had been promised payment of a whopping £15 per hour to do so! This included being in a lovely warm office, with a nice desk to work from, while my friends were out in the cold or at their retail jobs, complaining about being paid £5 per hour.
My prospective employer Mark knew my age and that this was my first job, but he treated me with the utmost respect at all times. Even if he did let a little smile slip, when I said something he did not agree with! I remember him chuckling when I told him that, ‘If you want your customers to go ‘Wow!’ you can use this Java reflection effect, I have used on my homepage here.’
Thinking back to this example now, I can see that it was the sort of effect used to add a logo on a website if you actually wanted to hint to your client that you want them to find another agency! In hindsight, it was quite naive of me to say this because the special effect offered no meaningful value.
However, Mark put aside my age because he knew he could learn from me the fundamentals of web design. I had been learning these skills for the past two years from the latest books and a rationed Internet surfing allowance from my big brother, Nad. I had sent out my CV to all the local design and print businesses and Mark had responded. He had called me up at home, where my Mum shouted out my name to call me downstairs – without muting the telephone for Mark to hear – ‘Some man is on the ‘phone asking for you.’ With extreme embarrassment, I had ran down the stairs and took the phone from my Mum, saying a courageous; ‘Hello Shaz speaking.’
Mark was impressed with my CV design, which I had printed on special paper and spent at least two days designing, not counting at least 40 printouts, to get it absolutely right, according to my young but knowledgeable standards! He asked me if instead of designing for him, I could teach him how to make websites. I was thrilled and jumped at this opportunity, agreeing to visit him as soon as possible, at his convenience.
I had – literally – spent every evening for the past two years learning how to make and design websites by coding in HTML. I had also developed my Photoshop skills by watching my older brothers who were graphic designers.
By the age 21, I started telling people about my company Digimax, which stood for: Digital Design, Maximum Effect. Word spread fast and I was gaining more and more freelance design jobs. While I finished my degree in eCommerce at Brunel, I converted my parent’s garage, with the help of several friends. With the first £3000, I saved from my freelance business, I paid a builder to plaster and insulate the walls, wire the electrics, add a ceiling and a window, which I bought second hand from a local building yard.
Once I had finished University and had a degree to my name, I went full time to work at Digimax in the home garage, in West London. Within a year, I hired my first employee, “Zed” through Gumtree, even though I was unable to pay him an annual salary, we came to a three day a week arrangement, which suited us both and our combined workload. After three years working this way, he decided he needed a full time job. But actually what he really meant was that he could not go on working from the back garden of someone’s house! I remember being was distraught at this news, but I put on a strong face, because we were friends now and had delivered so many great website design and branding projects together. Later that evening, I realised that, while I loved design and making websites for clients who went on to build on their successes, I was working myself into the ground. I worked in our garage from early morning until 3am and repeated it the next day. Time flew past quickly because I had so much work now being on my own, but I slowly started to resent how I simply worked all the time and did little else. I started to notice that I was being slower and slower at replying to new enquiries and this deeply upset me, because designing had been so much fun before!
My brother Vas, sat me down and said that I could not go on doing it all myself. He was older and employed several staff – so I was ‘all ears.’ This was a turning point for me. I took his advice, rented a serviced office nearby and interviewed my first full time employee.
Now, my business is in Central London and we have a team of more than 18 talented people and a growing business that spans three offices. I realised that if I expect my clients to invest in my services, I needed to invest in myself and in my team. I recruited people who I felt had the best potential for my business and my client’s needs. Also, I always gave them an introductory talk, about how important the clients are and why they trust Digimax to deliver.
My business vision, which we were achieving successfully for a range of different clients, was creating websites that were different, always with an edge over our competitors. We had many new clients, either referred to us, or who were calling because they had seen a site they liked, which we had designed. I innovated and used the wide experience of the team to brainstorm and go one step further all the time.
One memorable evening, I was buying a plasma television, which I wanted to hang on my wall. After browsing the televisions in Dixons at the time, I swiftly moved to the wall bracket section. I noticed there were several steel TV wall brackets being sold for almost £150. I couldn’t believe it! This was so much money to me in those days. It was one of my first Eureka moments. I called a close friend, Harry, who I trusted and told him about a innovative business idea I had and asked him to become a 50% partner. I told him I would handle the product design, packaging, website sales and marketing and I simply needed him to handle the day to day running of the business and ensure the goods went out on time. Of course, his first response was to ask what this venture was going to cost us. I gave him a figure and confidently he said, ‘Ok, let’s do it.’
After many discussions about what to call ourselves, I contacted suppliers in China. I supplied my designs and we ordered our first container of wall brackets, with no customers or pre-orders.
Little was I to know, that this was when the biggest breakthrough in my business education and knowledge would happen. I had designed an amazing website through which to sell our unique wall brackets at a reasonable price and everything was functional and ready to go. The pictures on the website looked incredible and we ensured that the site included every reassurance a user would be looking for. The only problem was…no one knew about the site and we had no sales. I was concerned because it was not only my money I had used but also my friends. He had gone into business thinking he could someday quadruple his investment. I had added our site to Google, but it wasn’t appearing high enough on the searches to be visible and seen by potential customers. I added several new meta tags, as web designers we are taught to do, but it wasn’t making nearly enough difference! A few weeks later, I called my business partner and promised to fix the problem. Thankfully, he was laid back about it and didn’t put any pressure on me, but I was under extreme pressure from my conscience. I took almost a whole month off my work at Digimax, which created a heap of new pressures and I spent every waking hour learning the art of SEO. I must have visited every forum, read every guide and white paper and implemented everything I possibly could. I paid for services, which promised to help, but actually did little more than dig me deeper into a financial hole. I implemented everything I learnt and very quickly realised that I was becoming addicted to SEO. Everything I learnt made me more and more fascinated about the topic. I wanted to understand completely how Google decided to display one site above another site, in the string of search engine results.
Low and behold – a year later – I achieved our goal and our website was at the top of Google for the term TV Bracket and TV Wall Bracket amongst 10,000 other terms! But I continued to be awake every day until far too late at night – or actually the early morning – reading every bit of research that was being published and I was glued to Google Matt Cutt’s blog.
By the end of the second year of business we had achieved more than £450,000 worth of sales. We were supplying TV wall brackets to Tesco and Sony, who had actually found us on Google. My first real SEO strategy had worked! We were paying approximately £8 a bracket and selling them for £40 and more. The margins were healthy. This is when I understood that, my business needed to be more than about designing pretty websites. I needed to help my clients make a serious profit.
With the new knowledge I had acquired, I employed a small team of people to multiply our learning power and conduct research before implementing new SEO developments and ideas onto our business website projects. In this way, if something didn’t work, no harm was done. I waited two years before I started offering SEO services to clients, because I wanted to absolutely perfect the formula. In those days, and today Google was always changing how they ranked websites and what worked one day, did not work the next day. I think Google was actually learning as I was learning too, how to perfect their activities and specifically how to best protect its search index from spammers. In some ways you could say Google is actually still changing how they work today too.
In 2012, the Google Penguin Update landed, it was one of the biggest changes made by Google to the way it ranked websites. It changed everything for the SEO industry world forever. SEO teams who were using poor spam tactics went out of business instantly, because their clients were penalised on Google and they lost their rankings. Our clients, who were using several of these companies, came to us for help and we started our dedicated SEO service. Brilliant websites, combined with a steady flow of traffic meant more business for our clients and ultimately more business for us. The more money our clients made from our efforts, the more money they were willing to invest in their projects with us and of course, not to mention, giving rave reviews about us to their friends.
Today I consult and work in a digital marketing capacity for my clients which range from some of the biggest household names, right through to SME’s.Back