Throughout the month of August, the Rude Baguette will be running a series of interviews with some of France’s top and rising entrepreneurs, where they’ll share their reflections on their year thus far, their plans through the end of the year and how they manage their businesses through the August down period. In this installment, we talk with Brand Ministry CEO Julien Oudart.
Brand Ministry, a social media tech company, was founded in 2011 by three veterans of the Paris startup scene. They work with brands and agencies in and out of France to help them succeed on social media. They’ve undergone a big transformation recently with the launch of their innovative, comprehensive social media management tool, called Nuke. Here company CEO Julien Oudart talks about the company’s year so far, including their disruptive social marketing platform Nuke, and their future plans.
What have been the big accomplishments for Brand Ministry since the beginning of the year?
By far the number one thing for us has been the launch of Nuke, our Social Marketing platform, earlier in the year. It was an enormous undertaking that has totally transformed our business already, and it’s something I’m really proud of. It’s a significant accomplishment, in terms of the sheer number of hours we put in, as well as the new skills and capacities we had to develop, and it’s been huge for our clients, whose feedback has been overwhelmingly good.
Brand Ministry was founded in 2011; our focus has always been on helping our clients get results on social media. As our clients became more sophisticated about their online strategies, with more people dedicated to social, they began to look for tools that would really empower their in-house social media marketing teams, especially in terms of Facebook campaigns, and in terms of analytics and social CRM. We built Nuke because there was a need from our clients—and it’s a great accomplishment for us to be able to meet that need.
What are your goals for the end of the year?
We built Nuke from the ground up to respond to a demand from a core group—and now we want to bring it global. Nuke is being used by clients outside France already, and for the rentrée, it will be up and running in 5 countries and languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish). We’ve just recruited a team to go after key markets outside France. We actually went through COFACE for partial funding of our internationalization, which can be a great option for French companies looking to move outside the country. We want to establish a strong presence throughout Europe and Asia within the next 6 to 12 months. We’ve already signed several brand and agency clients in the UK and Germany in June and July.
Our other goals for the rest of the year are very product focused. We want Nuke to be the only tool brands need for their social media marketing. To that end we are adding a number of new features: full publishing for the most popular social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest), moderating and social listening tools, which will be available very soon. We’ve done a ton of work on our analytics suite already—we just added a competitor comparison tool—and we’re going to keep improving it in the next few months, making it more powerful and more customizable to the needs of specific clients.
What have you learned this year that you think every entrepreneur should know?
The company’s founders had already helped launch and develop several start-ups between the three of us before creating Brand Ministry. So that helped us to avoid some pitfalls early on—from the start we had pretty a clear idea about how we wanted to structure and grow the company. But there are always new issues to face, which can lead to a lot of learning on a day-to-day basis.
If there were 3 things I would highlight from this year and in general, they would be:
1) One of the big things, in a year where we’ve spent a ton of time developing a new product, is that user experience is not the same for everyone: You design, build, test and retest, and during the process it’s imperative to get multiple perspectives from different people, especially from people who aren’t spending hours every day working on something. But 100 people are never going to agree completely about navigation and other elements of user experience; sometimes people just perceive things differently. Do everything you can to build the best UX possible throughout the entire development process, and continue after you’re done, but in the end you have to build the product that works the best for the most people.
2) I would say its important to set concrete objectives for the long (where you want to be in 3 to 4 years), medium (end of year objectives) and short-term (business objectives for the next 3 months). Especially in the longer term, it’s easy to set vague goals, which lets you define success down without realizing it. If you set measurable goals, even if you don’t reach them you know where you stand.
3) Don’t just focus on getting the right people when it comes to your own employees: get the right outside people with the right skills to support you on other tasks that can consume a lot of your time: a good lawyer, a reliable accountant and a flexible HR consultant !
How does your company handle vacation & the August down period?
Aah ! That’s an interesting question. A lot of people in Paris complain about the drain on productivity and the time lost during these lazy months. And it’s true it can be frustrating at times. But I think in a way we’re lucky to have this period. While any entrepreneur should be continuously assessing themselves and their company throughout the year, August in France is an unbeatable opportunity to really reflect on your past and current performance, set goals for the future and decide how you’re going to reach them.