Spotlight: John Sellwood, Business Development Director


John Sellwood – Business Development Director at Oban International.

  • How and when did you start working in international digital marketing?

I started working in international digital marketing in 2006 when I joined the international arm of a well-known UK bank. We needed to build our digital presence to locate and engage with expats and inpats the world over. I learned first-hand some of the pit-falls of international digital marketing and uncovered some of the problems you can run into when agencies attempt to engage international audiences using a directly translated approach! It wasn’t until later in my career (following a chance meeting with our Founder Greig) that I learnt of Oban, and how they approach international digital marketing.  It was an approach that clicked with me instantly – so obvious but yet still largely unrecognised in the industry.

  • What do you enjoy about it?

Human behaviour – it’s been the one consistent theme throughout my career, understanding what makes people tick. Adding cultural and linguistic nuances into the mix heightens this. Having to learn to remove all assumptions about how we should be engaging different audiences always keeps things fresh and we are always learning. In terms of my specific role – I love the variety of businesses and organisation’s I get the chance to work alongside. For me, starting new relationships is a really consultative and collaborative process and  being able to show how a real understanding of international audiences can provide proper business value is rewarding.  I also really enjoy the training side of my role. With academic roots, knowledge transfer is a large part of the soul of Oban, so sharing our knowledge through our Econsultancy, Brighton SEO and in-house training is a really rewarding experience.

  • What are the biggest challenges you face?

We sometimes find businesses are too quick to jump into multi-market expansion without fully understanding what is needed to compete effectively. That is a frustration. When you think about it – we often spend years crafting a good digital presence and experience domestically, where we have the advantage of at least understanding the language, market and behaviours of our customers. Yet, when it comes to new markets there is an assumption expansion can happen at a much quicker rate. This can be fine with proper planning and the right team, but when done without this, audiences get a very second rate experience. That’s obviously damaging to the experience and the brand and it’s largely needless with the right mentality from the beginning.

  • What would you be doing if you didn’t have a career in international digital marketing?

There’s stuff you can do that isn’t international marketing???

OK, I would be a carpenter.

  • What countries have you visited? Which is your favourite and why?

Brazil: Caipirhinias and hang-gliding onto Ipanema beach strapped to a chap known only as ‘the mosquito’.

  • Outside of work hours, you’ll find me….

Placating a baby and a puppy (seemed like a good idea at the time to have both). Playing golf in bad weather only – I like the challenge.

  • Top 3: Brand, site and item of technology

Brand: Audi

Site: Paleo Leap

Technology: Don’t know what it’s called but the machine that mixes milk to the right temperature at 3am in the morning for my son in a 10th of the time it would normally take me.