Eduardo Sonoda is the CEO and Founder of Eduardo Sonoda Advisory. After a highly accomplished career working for some of the biggest marketing agencies in the UK, Sonoda became an international marketing advisor so he could use his extensive experience and expertise to guide his clients to business success.
Born and raised in Hackney in East London, Sonoda studied at the London Marketing Academy, where he was quick to develop a keen interest and aptitude for marketing. After graduation, Sonoda worked with some of the big names in the marketing industry. His outstanding work in the marketing field earned him the respect of his colleagues and attention from several executives around the world.
In the six years of working for marketing agencies, Eduardo was quick to rise through the ranks. In 1995, he decided he would become an entrepreneur and launch his marketing advisory firm named Eduardo Sonoda Advisory. This small firm started with only 7 employees but grew meteorically to 700 employees. Today, the firm has clients from all around the globe ranging from startups to Inc. 5000 firms. Sonoda continues to serve as the chief executive officer of Eduardo Sonoda Advisory.
Sonoda also writes for several top business publications sharing his no-nonsense approach to marketing. These business publications have further reinforced the position of Sonoda as one of the leading figures in the marketing advisory industry.
In addition to leading his marketing advisory firm and writing for several business publications, Sonoda finds time to pursue his philanthropist interests. He is a well-known philanthropist in London and other areas of the world. His philanthropist work includes working with international organizations to provide disaster relief to several underserved regions of the world including countries in Central America and Asia. He also worked with local charities and other organizations to help children with school supplies.
Where did the idea for Eduardo Sonoda Advisory come from?
I knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be an entrepreneur someday. I wasn’t sure yet what I would be doing, but I knew I wanted my own business.
So I sought education in business and marketing, then after six years of building a marketing career across various agencies, decided it was time to strike out on my own. It only made sense to take advantage of my knowledge and experience in the marketing field to build a marketing agency that would serve global brands.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Eduardo Sonoda Advisory is a very collaborative kind of firm. Even though we’ve grown so much in just a few years, I like to stay in that “startup mentality” where the founders and employees are always brainstorming new ideas and sharing them, before we refine and execute them.
My team and I discuss the state of current projects, then we seek input for how we can refine business processes, client relations, and developments in the business and marketing worlds that we need to watch.
My firm takes a very no-nonsense approach in both marketing and day-to-day operations. We don’t have those meetings about having more meetings. You have to trust your talent to manage each client’s account well and bring their ideas and inspiration to the table to constantly keep perspective fresh and find ways to make things more efficient.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As I said, I like to perpetually stay in that startup mentality. It’s not merely goal-setting and making action plans to try out new ideas and pilot projects, it’s a state of constant innovation!
We look at new ideas and information and strive to stay flexible when it comes to executing them, because markets, audiences, and behaviours constantly change. You have to stay ahead of that change however you can, and over-planning with too much confidence can end up holding firms back.
Make a plan, keep it quick, simple, and very no-nonsense. It should be easy for management and employees to understand, and be able to get off the ground quickly.
What’s one trend that excites you?
There are so many exciting developments in the business world right now, but as the pandemic showed us, we have to be adaptable and willing to embrace changes that will go from trends to long-term staying power.
Hybrid events are one of them.
With the current state of the world, you have a lot of people excited about restrictions easing and some even want to go back to the office regardless of what their employers want. Other people, have anxiety about being in crowded indoor spaces and aren’t yet ready to return to them. With concerns about COVID-19 variants and the possibility that restrictions on gatherings and events could resume, marketers and event planners need to be creative and flexible.
It’s not just conferences and conventions, it’s also product launches, grand openings, and even concerts and performances. Hybrid events incorporate both live and digital elements, look at the success that BTS had with offering digital options to their live shows so that fans could still participate in real-time without having to travel to the venue.
While hybrid events are a popular trend now, marketers are going to need to think in the long run about how they’re going to incorporate these events into marketing strategies and create memorable experiences. It costs little or nothing to add digital options to live events, why lose potential customers?
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Making room for spontaneity. Always be willing to try new things. Some entrepreneurs stick to routines that they don’t like to deviate from, but the deviation is how we get innovation.
I always keep part of my day open for sharing and being exposed to new ideas, whether it’s talking with my core team and other employees, listening to a podcast or firing off an article the second I get inspired to write one. It’s too easy for entrepreneurs to get lost in the grind of the daily hustle, but straying from your original focus can make you more productive in the long run.
What advice would you give your younger self?
That while it’s never too late to start a business, nurture those entrepreneurial instincts early. I knew since I was six years old that I wanted to have my own company, but wasn’t sure how to get there aside from just studying business and marketing.
My advice would’ve been to seek out more business owners of all types, and mentorship when I was much younger, so I could’ve embarked on my entrepreneurial journey much earlier than I did.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
What brands need to make nonprofit partnerships into more than just a blatant PR move.
It’s one of those open secrets of the industry and something that everybody knows but doesn’t like to acknowledge out loud. Marketing strategies surrounding strategic partnerships with charitable and philanthropic organizations can often appear to be lip service and tokenism, or even a scheme to get tax write-offs with a flimsy promise to donate a percentage of sales. Why would current or prospective customers be interested in that when they could just give directly to the organizations they support without it being conditional on purchases?
Executives will often disagree on this because it’s worked well in the past. But in the present, brands need to take a more hands-on approach with these partnerships that go beyond a press release and a few donations. Philanthropy is very near and dear to me, and I see so many well-intentioned but careless mistakes with these partnerships frequently.
Authenticity in a nonprofit partnership is so important, and it needs to be well thought out before it’s executed.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Actively engage your audience! They are your biggest advocates, and must always be engaged and spreading the good word about your brand.
Traditional advertising has its role in building a brand, but it simply doesn’t have the staying power that it had in the 20th century. It’s not the ultimate method for reaching your targeted audience anymore. You have to turn your audience into fervent advocates because repeatedly ensuring that people are happy to talk about your products or services is the most powerful marketing that there is.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Working with the right people is key for sustained, long-term growth. I grew my business from just seven employees to 700, and we work with major international brands.
Hiring people with clear career goals and the right attitude is so crucial. Skills can be trained, you can always arrange education for your employees to pick up new software and techniques. But the right attitude? That’s harder to find and more instrumental to successfully build and grow a company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Staying adaptable is key to sustainability, but in the beginning, I kept relying on methods that simply weren’t producing the results that I wanted. I had a difficult time separating persistence from finding a new way to solve the problem- getting leads to respond, in this case.
What I learned is that you need to look at your problems from all angles and re-contextualize them. It may not be a problem with your method, but perhaps your target market and messaging. It helps to get a fresh perspective by asking a co-founder, employee, or friend, if not an impartial professional like a consultant to give you a second opinion, where they see something that you might’ve missed.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Become an event planner who can arrange exemplary hybrid events!
I grow do think they’re going to be enormous in the coming decade. Many corporate and independent event planners found themselves out of jobs when COVID-19 first struck, then wound up seeking new roles or opportunities. There’s no greater opportunity now than dedicating yourself to planning events that have both live and digital elements and scaling the business up by offering your clients experiences that attendees will never forget with plenty of accessible options for attendees who can’t or don’t want to come to the venue.
This business idea will rampantly take off, as the day hopefully arrives soon that we can put the pandemic behind us because so many people find themselves unable to attend everything from conferences to concerts due to travel costs, childcare needs, and other barriers. If the event can stay in their living rooms in addition to the convention centre, why not capitalize on it?
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent $100 on a new pair of AirPods wireless headphones. You don’t need to splurge hundreds of dollars on the more upscale models, as they tend to have similar battery life and fit issues, but a cheaper pair is likely not to last as long.
They’re just one of the greatest inventions that let you carry on conversations hands-free, listen to podcasts, and do other activities without being hampered or needing to adjust the jacks. Though of course, it’s a good idea to have a jack adapter with classic jack headphones laying around, in case the AirPods need recharging sooner than anticipated.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello by Atlassian is one of the most robust production planning tools on the market.
Planning projects can be as simple as making lists of lists, or with complicated steps, priorities, and deadlines to be set. Trello boards can be shared across large organizations and divisions, or even made very personal and solitary with helpful features like checklists and comment threads, plus a mobile app that is very easy to use so the board and conversations can be updated from anywhere. It can be easily adapted for usage with large or small teams and projects and works great with both visually-oriented team members and those who prefer the written word.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Start Something That Matters, the story of the founder of TOMS Shoes, which is the company that became famous for donating shoes with every purchase.
There are so many fascinating life and business lessons from the founder Blake Mycoskie that he dives into in this book, and there are several aspects about his entrepreneurial journey that should and shouldn’t be repeated when it comes to building partnerships with nonprofit organizations. As more companies began adopting sustainable or charitable initiatives in the ensuing years, many have been rightfully accused of “greenwashing” which is why this area needs to be handled with care.
There are so many important lessons to take away from the TOMS story and it’s something that every entrepreneur or executive thinking about a nonprofit partnership or sustainability strategy must-read.
What is your favorite quote?
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” -Bill Gates
People branded as “lazy” can always find ways to make companies more efficient. This underused gem from Bill Gates has stood the test of time.
- Established companies need to act just like startups do when it comes to flexibility, adaptability, and new ideas.
- Hybrid events are here to stay in a post-pandemic society, and brands and marketers need to see them as a massive opportunity.
- Forming partnerships with nonprofits requires a deeper involvement than a donation and occasional announcement about it.