‘The finance industry is a goldmine for marketers’

21 Mar 2019

Inbal Lavi. Image: Webpals Group

This week on Leaders’ Insights, Inbal Lavi of Webpals Group talks about the importance of a strong acquisition strategy and a diverse team.

Inbal Lavi has been the CEO of Webpals Group, a performance marketing company, since January 2014.

Her career spans about 15 years in the online marketing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy, operations and P&L management. She holds a BSc and an MSc in industrial engineering from Tel Aviv University.

Future Human

MarTechExec named Lavi as one of the 50 Women You Need to Know in Martech in 2018 and she was recently recognised in the 2018 Women World Awards in the Female Executive of the Year category.

Describe your role and what you do.

As CEO of Webpals Group, my role is to lead the company with a vision of being the global leader in online performance marketing, supported by a strategy to execute this vision according to the values we believe in.

I also direct the company’s growth by overseeing acquisitions, monitoring the development of each of our subsidiaries and divisions, and building a positive environment for our employees.

With clients in over 180 countries, I am tasked with leading our team under a cohesive mission: to create the most advanced user acquisition engine and provide the most relevant content, which delivers high-value users to our partners and empowers customers to make the best decision.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

As a mother of three, it is extremely important for me to create a work-life balance. Both jobs are highly rewarding; to meet the demands of both my role as CEO and of mother to the best of my ability, I try to keep my focus on each role separate. I try to dedicate quality time to be spent with my family and make an effort to keep anything else out of mind during that precious time.

I also make sure to have ‘me time’, which I like to spend dancing and exercising – these two activities help to relieve stress, allowing me to clear my mind and help me refocus.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Developing the tools that will enable scalable growth in all verticals is one of the biggest challenges we face today. Webpals is a leader and innovator in the online marketing sector, which is a crowded and constantly evolving market. Today’s consumers are inundated with information and want access to highly tailored content across all media channels. To stand out, companies must have unique value.

Therefore, we must always remain ahead of the curve to engage users through a wide variety of platforms and niche sites. In order to do so, we have utilised our knowhow to expand into new territories, such as South Korea, and new verticals, like personal finance.

‘I’m proud to lead a company with 50pc of its employees being women’

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

In the past two years, Webpals Group announced $27.2m in acquisitions of financial sites, including the purchase of InvestorJunkie.com, MoneyUnder30.com, Greedyrates.ca and DoughRoller.net, among others.

This rapidly expanding industry is a goldmine for marketers as consumers flood the internet, looking for guidance and information regarding personal finance, robo-advisers, credit cards and more. By strategically expanding into the economic sector, Webpals has been able to empower consumers to make informed, financial decisions. As a result of this, our partners in the financial sector receive high-intent traffic.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

My journey started during my master’s degree in industrial engineering from Tel Aviv University. I wrote my thesis about machine learning and data mining, which wasn’t such a hot-button topic back then. There weren’t many companies that offered jobs relevant to my academic background, but I always knew the right job opportunity would present itself.

My first commercial position in the online world was in data mining at 888. With time, I moved into a business management position at the company and realised that is the direction I wanted to follow.

Later, when the opportunity arose to become the CEO of Webpals Group, I jumped at the chance.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

Something I’ve realised in recent years is that you don’t get ahead without making mistakes. Along the way I have made blunders, both big and small, but I believe my biggest learning opportunity came from underestimating the value of a strong acquisition strategy.

When companies acquire other, smaller companies, they have many reasons or motives. Understanding your most central corporate objectives and building a plan around them is vital to steady, prosperous growth. I have learned from each acquisition and consequently have adopted a three-pronged approach anchored by a focus on verticals, market leadership and technology.

How do you get the best out of your team?

While I try to lead by example, my team at Webpals is truly remarkable. When I began my role at the company, it was important to me that we put together a group of people that are inclusive and gender-balanced, exemplifying the essence of our mission. Creating a team of diverse and talented experts pushes each member to show what they can bring to the table, constantly striving to improve our technology and customer services.

I also work closely with the company’s management, delegating responsibilities as I see fit. It is crucial to entrust your employees with accountable tasks, as it shows me the value of each team member and empowers the employees themselves.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

I’m proud to lead a company with 50pc of its employees being women. We hire the most talented people and 50pc of them are female. We also present equal opportunity for women to take managerial roles in the company, promoting by merit – including promotions of women before giving birth – and pride ourselves on having women comprising 67pc of our senior management. Diversity can be found at Webpals with age range, religion, language and more.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in the industry at large. That’s one of the reasons we joined the P51 initiative, which is a social impact venture that aims to empower women in the workplace.

Who is your role model and why?

I’ve been fortunate to encounter various role models throughout my life and have adopted individual elements from many of these mentors. These encounters led to my main belief: to work hard, set goals and achieve them.

As a female executive, I receive a lot of emails from female employees saying how important it is for them to have a female role model, so I try my best to be one for them.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. This book forced me to look at my decision-making process and reevaluate how and why we all make the decisions we do – a critical element to running a healthy organisation.

A professor of psychology and behavioural economics, Ariely has written a book that changed the way I thought about thinking. By dissecting the science behind our decisions, Ariely exposes the emotions, expectations and ethics we subconsciously refer to when making choices, in daily life and in business.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I use several tools to keep track of internal and external affairs at Webpals. I start each morning looking at managerial dashboards and BI to keep up to speed with the performance of the various sectors of our business and to track our targets. Rank Ranger is another useful tool for me to see what’s going on outside of the business, tracking changes and trends in the Google rankings of the sites we operate.

Internally, my business and corporate teams submit weekly and monthly reports regarding the progress of major tech projects, initiatives and various business affairs.

Lastly – and my personal favourite – is our roundtable discussions. I try to meet with employees and managers across the organisation in order to get to know them better, learning first-hand about the best ways to maintain our success and improve the company.

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