Its about connecting
Angela is passionate about consumer behaviour, enjoying the rapid changes in technology, always learning and as a natural networker, loves connecting people.
Angela strives to empower Business Women by keeping them at the forefront of the Digital revolution and supporting diversity in Technology. This has culminated in Angela Co-founding the Digital Womens Network in 2016 and becoming 5th Top Ranking Agency Influencer of 2017.
A true Marketing and Business Strategist at heart, Angela is driven by an appetite to position brands and businesses to soar higher. With a talented team, Angela founded Digital White Space, which focuses on being part of our client's businesses "an outsourced marketing team" in order to help them grow market share and sales.
We pride ourselves on encouraging brands and businesses to become distinctly brilliant. Delivered through savvy digital marketing and design!
Angela's career experience crosses across both Australia and the UK, spanning over two decades in Strategic Marketing, Sales B2B and B2C Marketing including product and services marketing. Coupled with Board, Media, Creative, Client and Agency side experience.
Angela's Business expertise has been gained through exposure across verticals such as; Retail, Financial Services, Real estate/Property, Technology/Mobile/Media, Creative/design, Automotive/Manufacturing and FMCG as well as a Board Director for Elwood Bendigo Community Bank.
My Story - Angela Mellak
My journey is not of the norm. Most people in the marketing profession generally started off going to university and completing their marketing degrees and I actually did the opposite. I was very blessed and lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I managed to get myself a role as a junior brand manager at FMCG. At 18, my very first role was working in (the company doesn’t exist anymore) the Australian Marketing Board, working on Big M, Skinny Milk and Farmhouse Milk.
Then, I moved on to doing more in retail. When I went to the UK, I worked as a junior brand manager and promotions marketing manager for Clarins. I must say that today’s marketer, without having the grounding of retail and exposure to consumers, (doesn’t have) the understanding that it doesn’t matter what’s going on in your life, the customer comes first. I think a lot of people miss out on that journey, having gone into university, then into school, and I really think that was the best grounding for me.
I suppose what was really interesting is, I was always really fearful that people would find out one day that I didn’t have all my qualifications. Later on in life, that drove me into finishing all my qualifications and becoming a charted marketeer and following the marketing institute in the UK. So, I’ve got all the qualifications now, but I had all the practical experience.
I moved and shifted, quite interestingly, across many different verticals, many different industries. From media through to advertising agencies. Across into automotive. Through into financial services and then into real estate and property and I’ve done quite a lot in property.
Some of the big highlights throughout my career are some of the things that have been quite defining. In 2014, I’d just finished working with a big property developer locally, launched some massive projects and re-branded Melbourne United (the basketball club) which was, probably, one of the most interesting paths of my journey. I had cartoon characters of my head on a stick from many of the possessed sports fans that didn’t want to change from Melbourne Tigers to Melbourne United. I’ve never been asked to be fired so much in my life by the general public. As well as launching some major property projects, really kicking some goals, developing some apps, and loving it. Really, really enjoying what I did.
My husband and I went on our extended honeymoon to the UK and I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime – to work in the UK with a friend who ran a business. I found myself, within a couple of months, sitting with the team at Heston Blumenthal’s, talking to them and showing them all about Instagram posts and working with the team to understand the strategy of hestonblumenthal.com and developing their digital footprint and their strategy and working for that. And then, thrown in the deep end, working on some of the biggest projects in the United Kingdom with Kirkstall Forge, which is this big project in Leeds.
It was a really defining moment for me, especially the Kirkstall Forge piece. I was sitting in the boardroom and the Managing Director wasn’t feeling well, so he had to leave. And, I had just met the clients for 10 minutes, had a very little brief on what was going to happen and was completely thrown in the deep end. Like, “Run the meeting, Ange.” I was like, “Fine, OK. Let’s go!”
I suppose I sat back there and in my hotel room in London, thinking, “I can do this anyway”. What I really enjoyed doing was working with the client from their perspective. I suppose that drove me, when my husband and I returned to Australia, to stepping out on my own and working with my two business partners. One is a coder and the other is a creative graphic designer and we formed Digital Whitespace. That’s been growing from strength to strength.
One of the other things that stuck out in my time in London was, I found it really hard to make new networks. I was so used to being here, where, if I need media or I need something printed or I need to do something, I can easily find the person to do it because I’ve got such a broad network. And, I started to think, “I wonder how it is for people coming to Melbourne? It must be a bit tough.” Some of the networking groups that were in the UK were just brilliant, and especially for women in the technology space, I really noticed that was quite lacking.
So, I forged, together with a couple of other wonderful people, the Digital Women’s Network. We focused predominantly on trying to bring the latest trends or platforms or technologies and we shared them with an audience. We tried to educate, upskill, and have them learn something. But, also, encourage women to be better networkers. I think, if anything, that is probably one of our weaknesses, that we always put everything else first. We put the family, the kids, walking the dogs, the household, everything else in front of ourselves.
That’s something that we need to start being able to do is being able to dial in and get, “I need to keep my network up”. Most people don’t even think about their network until they are looking for a job. And then, by then it’s like, “Well, who are you?” and nobody’s really going to refer you. As you grow your career in businesses, the most important thing is the people who are around you that you know, and that know you. And the people that can advocate for you and the people that you advocate for.
I suppose I’ve always been a really natural lover of networking and meeting people. I meet somebody and I’m like, “Oh, what do you do with yourself?” I really want to know about them. And then, “Where are the gaps? What can I do for you? Maybe you should meet such and such because I think you two could have something great in common”. And then, that person will advocate and introduce me to something. Ultimately, it’s all about paying forward, and it’s about genuinely doing it. I think there is nothing worse on LinkedIn when somebody wants to connect with you and then go, “How can I help you?” It’s so fake.
The Digital Women’s Network had been a great journey. This year, I got recognised as the top 5th ranking influencer on LinkedIn and, generally, it was all about the stuff I was promoting about the Digital Women’s Network, my interviews with our speakers, some of the great content that’s been shared. I am really proud of what we’ve done as a group. That a little idea that was 30 women in a boardroom has grown to over 27,000 people in our database. We’re marketers!
We started in January 2016, and it has grown from strength to strength. It’s done it on its own merits. We haven’t taken money from people or sponsors to drive the agenda. I’ve always wanted to keep completely neutral and very much focused on delivering quality and value. A couple of people say to me, “Angela, you’re delivering too much”. We feed them, give them a really beautiful glass of wine, and we give them goody bags as well as they come and learn something and network. We’ve got our membership page now, where people can build a profile and connect with other members. We’re on Meetup. We’re across all these different channels. It’s a lot of work. And, I’ve got a wonderful board behind me and we really do share everything.
We are about to open in Sydney, which is really exciting. And, we’ve just teamed up with the Australian College of Marketing to start to provide, not only great little short course but also tertiary qualifications. So, we are trying to help upskill and educate and create a great space where people can come and share their stories. We’ve often had events where people have people have been in tears. They’ve shared something that they’re struggling with. Whether it be inequality or the inability to get a pay rise or how they deal with things and the things that they are struggling with.
We want to create that safe space. We want to create something that’s not just because you’ve got this job. Because you are always more than your job and people forget that. They get lost. They honestly think, “Oh, I can’t go”. I’ve had people lose their job and email me and go, “Angela, I don’t think I should come to the event” and I go, “Yes, you should. That’s exactly why you should be there. You should look at the opportunities around you. They are right in front of you and half of you can’t see them because you’re not looking at them”.
Everyone on our board has got a different background. We’ve got different nationalities. Different religions and we are non-discriminative. We make sure that everybody that is on the board and is part of the team, both male and female, is equal and everyone is really well respected. I am so grateful for all the contributions they make.
We’ve had great growth, with no money spent. It’s all organic. Which is great. We team up with different charities as well. At the moment, we’re working with Gomo (Foundation), we’ve worked with SisterWorks – they help new refugees and new migrants to Australia set up their own businesses, which we love. We’re looking to team up with Dress for Success in Sydney and when they sort out their chapter here in Melbourne. We really want to try and help both local and global women get better into the workforce as well as really encourage people to believe in themselves. I love it. It was just a passion project and then it turned into something mammoth and now it’s a business in its own right.
I’ve had a couple of people say to me, “Do you want to come and flip it?” and I’m like, “No, it’s not what I am here to do. We are here to build a community”. Seeing the world very differently through my husband’s eyes as far as being a migrant and the journey he went through, and I thought, “Hmm… I really want to try and create a beautiful community around people, not just their jobs”.
Going back to the Digital Whitespace arena, I see the landscape, from a future of marketing perspective, as having a hell of a lot of inbound marketing. That is a lot of people spending so much time and effort trying to get leads coming into the business. So, online marketing, whether it’s a LinkedIn campaign or pay-per-click advertising, Google AdWords, Search Engine Optimisation, all those things are really important and powerful to have – with a really good mix of outbound and inbound.
Marketing needs sales. Sales needs marketing. We need to work in unison, so you can’t just always rely now on, “Let’s just forget about the sales, let’s just rely on inbound”. No business has ever grown from waiting for the phone to ring. We need to be out there doing things differently. I love retail (as I said earlier). One of the things that I think is really lacking in retail is retailers still have stupid opening hours. Like, seriously, who can make it at 6 pm to run to the shops? I sure as hell can’t.
I think, as time goes on, we need to be more flexible. I know some of my friends in retail, they still can’t afford to open on a Sunday, and like, that’s my main shopping day – Saturdays and Sundays. So, I think that there’s a lot to be said for that. And, also, I think that people want an experience. People want to feel a real connection to a brand. They don’t just want an ad or an EDM or they really want to be engaged with that brand and use that experience. And, that continues to grow. I think, understanding consumer behaviour online is brilliant. Big data. Mining it. Understanding what the footprint is. What are the hot areas on websites that people click onto? Social media listening tools that we use. It’s all fabulous stuff and we’re listening and we’re observing. And, we also need to be engaging that experience. We need sales. Especially for business to business.
A few of my colleagues have complained to me, “Oh, the managing director is really putting a lot of pressure on me now, we really need to drive sales”. We’ll, it’s not inbound marketing’s job. It’s the whole business. So, there’s a whole bunch of talk around design-led thinking and I’ve unpacked that a lot and it’s just marketing. It’s really good marketing. Starting with, “What is the objective of the business? What does the business want to achieve?” The objectives for marketing should flow directly from the business objectives.
And, then, “What is the situation analysis? Who is around doing what? How is the business currently run? What are the things that the business does very well? Where are our blind spots? What’s the landscape doing? What are the opportunities? Are we growing through mergers and acquisitions or are going to continue to deliver and evolve?” Let’s stick to what we do really well in our swimming lane. Those types of things. And, thinking from the top down. “What does is business trying to achieve? Where does it want to go? Is it a 5-year flip story? Or, is it long-term and longevity?” So, for me, I can’t do marketing without having the business understanding.
A lot of people come to me and say, “Hi, Ange. Can you build me a website?” And, I’m like, “Yeah, but what does your business do and what do you want to say on your website? What do you want your website for?” A lot of people focus on the tactical outputs of what you do in marketing, not the strategy. I suppose that’s where we differentiate. We focus on the strategy. Who is the customer? How are we engaging with them? Why are we engaging them? Why do we exist?
Putting the customer at the centre of everything you do can’t change. You can use all the fanciest tools on the planet, but a lot of them are observing behaviour. You need to drive behaviour through what you actually deliver really well. If you’ve got a service or a product, you have to do it well. Don’t promise that you’ll be the best and then not deliver on time, if you’re delivering a product. It’s getting the basics right but working in harmony. And digital marketing and marketing are the same, they can’t be in two separate teams.
Your expectations of what marketing needs to be, needs to be recalibrated. Marketing is there, and it is as good as the business strategy that it’s written from. The sales people and the marketing people need to work together as a team. It’s not one is higher than the other. They need to feed off each other. The sales people should be at the forefront and say, “I would have said this. We need to do something about that” and marketing takes those insights and works on them.
Advice to others
I remember seeing this one career coach a few years ago, and he said to me, “Angela, you need a Pty Ltd”. And, I was like, “Huh?” (This was when I was still working in corporate.) He said, “You need more than one thing”. And, it was like a lightbulb went off and I said, “Well, I love doing more than one thing”. And, he goes, “I know. And you need to be doing more than one thing”. And, I was like, “Hmm… I like that idea”. So, on the side, I still do little start-up pieces with my business partners. We are always doing different things, and the more I build the network and the Pty Ltd, it’s easier to identify things I want to get involved with. So, that was probably a really great piece.
Throughout my career and my life, I’ve had some of the most incredible mentors. I’ve also had some of the worst, most horrible, bosses, too. But, my incredible mentors have been just wonderful. One, in particular, David Gibbs, is a McKinsey consultant and he really helped recalibrate so many of the things that I’ve done throughout my life. As well as Emma Blackman, from the Australian College of Marketing, she has been an amazing mentor for sharing and engagement.
I’ve had so many others along my career and journey. I really don’t go out to seek people. It’s just about the networking that I do. I am always open to meeting someone and having a coffee with them, and, if there’s a connection and a click, then it ends up being a great mentor-styled engagement. I’ll give them a call and say, “Can I buy you lunch? Can I ask you some questions?” And then, reiterate back to them what I’ve learned or how my journey has moved forward. I don’t really seek them out, but they just come to me. Now, I am blessed that people also look to me and ask me for my advice and I am happy to give that.
Having a really good memory helps. I suppose it is being diligent with my paperwork and making notes, running meetings, and making sure that I clarify what I’ve understood. I think that’s probably one of the best pieces of advice or training that I had many, many years ago. It does astound me when you go to meetings and you don’t see people even taking notes. It doesn’t make sense to me.
I am also very digital. I am always plugged in. My business is in the cloud. Everything we do – I’ve got the phones. I’ve got the watches. I’ve got everything – but I still run around with a beautiful, leather-bound, notebook, and I can sit down and re-read my notes and reflect and make sure I haven’t missed out on anything.
And, processes. To process manage is the only way you can grow. So, you need to have robust processes. And, ensure that my team and people that I work with understand the expectations of what I’ve got on them and what is required for us as a business and the client. Having regular meetings with my team. Making sure that they feel really appreciated. Ensuring that we also have downtime to be able to reflect, relax, and enjoy. We work long hours. There is no 9 to 5. I am plugged in, switched on, and dealing with so much. I think, for me, that’s the kind of habits that I have. As well as being able to just enjoy life. Being grateful for where you are. We don’t want to get too big, so I have the privilege and the blessing of saying to people, “I’m sorry, but we don’t want to work with you” or “We are not able to do that at this point”.
This year and last year, I met some interesting people who, after just a little bit of showing of hands, I saw that their values don’t really with mine, and I just know - regardless of the dollar price or the figures that you could get, even the brand association – they were going to be too hard. So, walk away. You don’t need them. If they really want to start off on that foot, you are never going to get any better. You are at the dating stage, so, if there are some red flags there, it’s not going to get good.
It does take a little bit of practice to actually say no. I’ll never forget, I had just declined a client, and I was so nervous afterwards, one of the guys gave me a high-five and said, “Yay!” And, I’m like, “That’s so cool, I actually got to say, “Yay!”
You may have already seen this one and it’s probably a little bit old-school, but, “Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card. And, how you leave people feeling after they have dealt with you, becomes your trademark”. That’s my favourite quote, that I’ve got above my signature. Lots of people comment on that, and I really believe that. It’s about being genuine. It’s about delivering value. It’s about connecting with people. We are all plugged in, switched on, but people are losing that connection. People are losing that deeper understanding and time to care for each other.
That’s one of the things I try to do at the Digital Women’s Network – as does the team. We try to make time for people. We try to sit down and connect with them and have them feel as though they are more than their job. We are all here to care for each other. That’s why physical events are so important versus online stuff. Even though we are in digital! The digital elements are fantastic as back up but having that face-to-face and having one-on-one engagement and the community inbuilt from coming together, I think that’s really important.
I have two beautiful websites. Digitalwhitespace.com.au and also the digitalwomensnetwork.com. My contact details are on either one of those websites.