How does a career become a calling? I talk about this in terms of my own life in “Wie geht Berufung?” (“A Calling: How It Works”), along with 39 other personalities such as Ottmar Hitzfeld, David Togni and Werner Kieser. Many thanks to the editor Mattis Kummer for this honour.
This book introduces individuals “who have broadened their horizons and made a difference – be it in music or politics; or as an entrepreneur, a presenter, a mother, an astronaut, a CEO or a road sweeper”.
An online presence is obligatory nowadays. Stefan Vetter, founder and CEO of “Wortspiel GmbH” makes the IT jargon of AdWords, content marketing, retargeting and shopping ads understandable for the layman. Stefan Vetter: a far-sighted character with infectious enthusiasm.
Mattis Kummer: You have been active in digital marketing for 15 years; you founded Wortspiel GmbH; work for Product Hunt Zürich and lecture at various schools. Could one say that you have found your calling?
Stefan Vetter: It took many years to track down my identity and to discover what I’m really good at. In the meantime I’ve come to see my greatest strength as being someone who can bring people together. In the marketing arena I get those offering products and services and their customers to sit at the same table. I often connect business partners with other agencies who, in certain areas, are in possession of more specialised competencies than us. Or I’ll match up friends with other friends when I see the potential that might result out of that.
Was it always your goal to be independent?
For me, entrepreneurship and independence was always a goal I’d set. I am a person who loves freedom; a rebel who questions the status quo and thinks through why things run the way they run. With this creative attitude I’d hit a brick wall as an employee in many big companies (laughs).
On Twitter you have more than 20,000 followers right now. How have you achieved this enviable feat?
I think there are two ways to build up your reach in social networks. The first is celebrity status. The US president, the pope or Justin Bieber cultivate huge followings because they are simply extremely well known and influential. Clearly, neither of these factors applies to me. The second way is networking. That means building up contacts in the sense of engaging in dialogue; following people who interest me and offering worthwhile content. These actions lead to new points of contact and this in turn builds presence and generates attention. The natural consequence of this is a growing reach.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn . . . in order to be successful in a globalised world the saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” is more true than ever.
A strong network and robust relationships will be even more important in the future because the world is becoming ever more complicated. New specialisms are emerging in many areas so that any one individual could scarcely keep track of everything. That’s why it is advantageous to have many contacts who know how to tackle various problems and resolve difficulties. Above all, Twitter has yielded many friendships, contracts and business partnerships – as well as the chapter in this book (smiles).
So networking oneself is vitally important – at least in certain sectors – in order to achieve the desired occupational goal. But that means that these networks must be cultivated every day. Social media can eat up a lot of time.
There are opportunities and risks. A measure of discipline is certainly required to avoid wasting valuable time on these platforms without receiving value. I know people who spend all day on Facebook without really creating anything. TV carries similar risks. On the other hand Social Media offers you the chance to access inspirational people directly who are better qualified than I in their respective fields. One of my professional role models is Joel Gascoigne of Buffer. Thanks to Twitter and Instagram I can see with whom he meets, which articles and books he reads, how he runs his company and where he’s hanging out. It’s all really valuable for me and my business.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), AdWords, content marketing, retargeting, shopping ads . . . There are many ways to get a business up to speed so that potential customers can receive relevant search results. But for mere mortals it doesn’t get any easier to keep track of things.
No one individual needs to keep track of everything. It’s easy to get tangled up in the data jungle by yourself. To a great extent, the technical options in terms of SEO have become comprehensive and multi-layered. At the same time it’s more competitive as investment in ecommerce and new internet based business models grows. Implementation of a marketing strategy and the associated training is time intensive. Mostly it’s only possible for larger companies, or an agency, to stay on the ball.
Obviously you’d backed a winner all those years ago.
The decision to focus on Google marketing and, increasingly, on Twitter and Facebook has paid off because the market is still subject to growth. More and more budgets are being diverted in the direction of online marketing strategies. At the moment this is happening to the detriment of print media, but TV and radio will also be faced with real challenges in the future. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Netflix are creating an inhospitable eco-system for these media. This same system will deliver further innovations in the coming years.
The path to independence was not always smooth. What were the greatest obstacles for your start-up?
I wouldn’t say we were a start-up since were following a classical and proven agency business model. But naturally I have experienced the highs and lows of nurturing a fledgling business: the uncertainty and lack of security for example, but also the pleasure of getting those first contracts. Meanwhile, we now work for some major companies alongside start-ups and small and medium sized businesses. That’s great, but I didn’t know when I set up the company that this would turn out to be the case. So I’m still waiting to tackle the really big obstacles. It could be to my advantage that I have been investing in my network for years. I have attended many events related to my area of interest. I have been active in the social networks and have met more influential people than myself for coffee or lunch. In this way I’d had enough enquiries from the beginning.
What inspires you? Where does your infectious confidence come from?
Role models inspire me. In the business world that would be entrepreneurs who combine their success with values and social engagement such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates or David Togni. In a spiritual sense, but also in a practical way, I am inspired by Jesus Christ. Many have a distorted picture of him. In fact he was the original revolutionary. He was completely innovative, a breath of fresh air and he turned the world upside down – all while caring for the vulnerable in society.
Where will Stefan Vetter be in 20 years and what will he be up to?
I want to build Wortspiel GmbH to be one of the leading agencies – not the biggest, but one of the best. The agency model scales slowly and with increasing expense. So we want to grow though launching new products through the agency. There are a few successful examples of this: Trello, Basecamp and also Twitter. These are companies that have arisen from single agencies. This is where I see myself in 20 years’ time.