Dan Chorlton, Co-Founder & CEO of GOA, tells what the motivating factor was to co-found their biddable value identification platform.
What do you currently do at GOA?
As a co-founder of GOA, I’m involved in all areas of the business. Being a start-up, my co-founder and I have worked hard to make GOA what it is today. We are equal partners who make a great team, with myself leading on sales, customer experience and Lewis taking up product development and build.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
I’ve worked in data since 2005, initially at specialist agencies, before helping Google directly with paid search and transforming digital media departments at leading agencies including Omnicom, Publicis and Essence.
I was involved in running some highly successful performance campaigns for blue chips such as McDonalds, Unilever, ASOS, HSBC and Disney, but became frustrated over a lack of transparency in Google Ads, Facebook and my team. It kept playing on my mind that to drive success in this area, you need to keep on top of the details, yet this isn’t a commonly agreed on trait. And although businesses talk about it, very few teams are actually doing it.
I knew there had to be a better way to manage this, and in part, GOA was inspired by my laziness – I felt there was a way to achieve better results while doing less work and the answer was in automation.
I knew my business partner Lewis from a previous role and he had the same thinking on things, and like me was keen to flex his entrepreneurial side. So we decided to start something together and we launched GOA in the form that it is today in 2016.
Who do you admire?
Lots of people for a variety of different reasons, but in a professional sense it would have to be my business partner, Lewis Clayton. We’ve worked together for years now and have been through some of the toughest times professionally together. Sure there are times he annoys the hell out of me, but it’s important to be regularly challenged, and he helps keep me in check. What we’ve achieved with GOA wouldn’t be a reality without Lewis, and I believe starting a business with a partner and trusted advisor has given it the best chance of success.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Ha! It’s harder to think what I would have done the same.
Often it’s by doing what we think is right that it leads to the wrong decisions. For instance, we spent a lot of time listening to our target market, which of course is vital for any business, but it’s easy to start relying so much on feedback that you stop listening to your own instincts. We spent a huge amount of time and energy trying to keep people happy and this derailed our development at times.
I’ll also be the first to admit I jumped ship into the new business too quick and should have stayed doing consultancy for longer. I didn’t realise how long it would take to get GOA off the ground, and we were eight months working on the product before we started trading.
In our first few months, we nearly signed one of the largest FMCG advertisers in the world, but the deal fell through and GOA nearly died there – so that was a wake up call to the world of running your own business. Luckily though, things picked up and in 2017 we started working with some large advertisers to build the product around with our alpha partner programme. In December 2017, we started trading with Not On The High Street, helping it to increase its ROI 140%, and business has really snowballed from there.
What defines GOA’s way of doing business?
GOA is a values-driven business, our name actually stands for the business ethics that underpin our company – governance, opportunity and accountability. We aim to not only save marketers’ time, but cut wasted spend, increase revenue and upskill their team.
In terms of what we do, GOA is a technology company for Google paid search and our proprietary software uses algorithms, which analyse thousands of paid search campaigns daily. Significantly we have found that at least 85% are substandard. Clients that use GOA typically see a 30% improvement to performance, which helps them to re-evaluate their marketing spend and allocate budget accordingly. In 2019, we helped Nissan half their cost per acquisition and increase leads by 137%.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Plan more. You need to have a solid business plan in place before embarking on a business venture. And crucially it’s also vital that you really believe in your idea and are confident you can make it a success.
Do your research. It would be the biggest waste of time to put lots of energy and effort into building a product that the market doesn’t want or need, so speak to your key audience first and listen to their thoughts.
Stick to your day job. Based on my own experiences, I’d advise people to keep working and develop their business as a side hustle until it starts making money, at which point it’s safe to jump ship.
Prepare to get emotional. Starting your own business is fun, but also hugely stressful and anxiety-provoking at times, so make sure you’re ready to ride that roller coaster of emotions.
Be wary of relying on others. A lot of the people I thought I could count on to help me, haven’t, but on the flipside I’ve experienced the reverse and received invaluable advice and support from others that I didn’t expect. Truthfully in business you can only ever truly rely on a very small number of people.
Avoid burn out. When it’s your own business it can be easy to obsess about work 24/7, even in your sleep, but it’s vital that you take time to switch off and have regular breaks and holidays. There’s very few people who can consistently work an 80 hour week without burning out, and I know I’m in the majority.