ClickMaven Had To Overcome Growing Pains to Become a Serious Industry Player

ClickMaven Had To Overcome Growing Pains to Become a Serious Industry Player


Vital Stats

  • Company: ClickMaven
  • Player: Ferdie Bester
  • Est: 2007
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 726 1074
  • Visit:

When digital marketing expert, Ferdie Bester, decided it was time to launch his own business in 2007, his wife handed her bonus over to him so that he could get ClickMaven up and running.

“I was lucky, I had just written the business plan and I was preparing to bootstrap the company, when my wife got a windfall and invested it in my start-up,” Bester recalls. That support continued through the ups and downs of the young business which required a shift in mindset and lifestyle.

Early mishaps

Bester is candid about the mistakes he made in the beginning. “I wanted to start a business because it seemed glamorous and would give me more freedom. I also believed that hard work would logically equal success. I could not have been more wrong.”

Bester says his first mistake was to work from home. “All my anxiety about work affected my home life. My work hours were erratic and it was difficult for people to take me seriously on the phone when they could hear the dog barking. I also began to sense that I was socially deprived. I had little contact with the outside world and I was getting very little affirmation.”


Changing the business model

Bester’s business model was built on performance marketing, a combination of advertising and innovation that helps retailers and affiliates grow their businesses through highly targeted campaigns. Done well, it creates big opportunities for both retailers and affiliates.

“After a year of working alone, the business had gained little traction, and I realised I’d have to change what I was doing and find a way to really make the business stand out. It was about making the change from freelancer to entrepreneur.

“I also had to let go of the delusional idea that by paying myself a low salary I could convince myself that I was breaking even.” 

Ask yourself:

How do you get your business to gain traction and go from small start-up to serious industry player?

Doing one thing well

Bester focused the business on one thing only – Google AdWords management. He’d gained experience in it at a time when the concept was still new in the local market.

By helping clients put their message in front of potential customers searching for what those clients had to offer, he began to distinguish ClickMaven’s offering. That helped him to position the business and start building a significant client base.

Within two years ClickMaven achieved break-even, with Bester signing up more and more clients, thanks to his technical know-how and his new mindset.

“I was lucky enough to fail quickly and often. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it meant that I could see that my initial plan was not going to work and I could adjust accordingly. I was basically forced to figure out what to do next.”

Paving the way for growth

From the initial focus on AdWords, the company now has a suite of digital marketing products that drive leads and sales for clients, a move that happened in line with rapidly changing market needs. It builds sales-focused websites, marketing clients’ services, driving traffic to their sites, and bringing them more qualified leads.

Today the business employs 16 people and has a solid client base in the financial services industry, as well as a number of mid-sized companies. From 2011 to now, the business has doubled its revenue, and is growing at a rate of 30% per year.

“We have always been excellent at what we do technically. The challenge now is to continue to promote an organisational culture that is innovative enough to enable us to compete in what has become a commoditised market.

“Our team is united by a passion for digital, and we are always ready to embrace new technology and new ideas. I’m committed to making sure we have a great mix of people and products. That will make the business sustainable.”

In 2012 Bester joined Entrepreneurs’ Organisation, a global non-profit organisation which engages leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.

“It was an enormous help to receive advice and mentorship from other people, and to be able to surround myself with people who face the same challenges and operate in similar spaces to me. There’s a lot to be said for reaching out.”

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.