MarTech Cube

MarTech Interview with Steve Ohanians, the CEO and Co-Founder of Clear Digital

Amidst the ever-evolving digital landscape, businesses often find themselves torn between the desire to innovate and the need for stability. This dilemma can leave marketers feeling overwhelmed, unsure of how to navigate the changing tides while maintaining a strong foundation for their products and services.

With their remarkable journey and proven success, Clear Digital has discovered the secret recipe to harmoniously blending innovation with reliability. Through this interview, Steve Ohanians, CEO and Co-Founder of Clear Digital will reveal valuable strategies and insights that empower businesses to embrace emerging technologies while building a solid and scalable foundation. 

Scroll down to unveil the full interview!

Steve, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? How did you get your start in the marketing industry? 
I’ve been working in web design and development since the dot-com boom of the 90s, but I took a roundabout way to get here. Originally, I went to college to study aerospace engineering but quickly discovered that I needed an artistic outlet. I have always been creative—I’m a musician—but even when I dropped out of college to pursue a career in music, I wasn’t satisfied with that. I learned that I needed a career that could give me opportunities to be both creative and analytical. 

The balance of those two elements in the digital world was really appealing to me. By the mid-90s, the internet was becoming more sophisticated, and design was more accessible. Around that time, in 1999, my co-founder and I decided to start our company, WebEnertia. And we were WebEnertia for over two decades until this year when we decided to rebrand as Clear Digital.

Give us a brief overview of Clear Digital and its distinct products and offerings.
Clear Digital is a digital agency headquartered in Silicon Valley that empowers leading B2B companies with digital brand experiences and web experiences that drive real-world results. By building on our deep B2B experience, 20-plus years of exclusive insights and data, and powerful collaborative workflows, we deliver strategic and data-informed perspectives designed for the unique needs of B2B brands. We do more than develop effective websites with best-in-class UX and UI design and technology implementation. Our work helps companies get to the next level, whether that’s repositioning their brand, launching new products, improving lead generation, breaking into a new market, securing funding, moving into the next quadrant, or growing their customer bases.

How does Clear Digital approach user experience design, and what role does it play in the development process?
Effective user experience (UX) design delivers an interface that’s easy to use, engaging, and meets the needs of both the business and its target audience. Clear Digital approaches UX design first by understanding the business goals and context and then defining user personas. Next, we conduct user research and provide narrative and experience recommendations using wireframes and prototypes. Our UX designers work closely with the development team to ensure that the technology implementation is optimized for usability, performance, and accessibility and that the final product stays true to the established business goals and end-user needs. 

How does Clear Digital ensure the scalability and maintainability of its systems as the company grows?
Our team is the most essential part of building a scalable agency that we could reasonably maintain. We are committed to hiring the right people for the job and working to create an environment that allows our team to thrive. We spent 20-plus years building a company culture that’s both supportive and innovative. Understanding who owns what and trusting each subject-matter expert to own their part of the equation has been essential. 

But as a digital agency, we also recognize the importance of technology in creating a scalable and maintainable workplace. We put time and effort into building a tech stack that would support our team but also enable us to be more creative, efficient, and innovative. And we stick to our processes. It took time to iron out the best systems and processes for us, but once we set them and committed to them, we grew steadily. 

What strategies does Clear Digital use to stay ahead of emerging technologies and trends in the industry?
For us, staying ahead of emerging technologies and trends in the industry really comes back to trusting our subject-matter experts. We want our people to be able to operate like the experts that they are and have the freedom to explore new ways of approaching design and development. Encouraging creativity and innovation allows the team to try out new technologies or capitalize on trends when they are relevant and applicable. We leave room for people to take initiative. If someone feels strongly about something, we want them to have room to try it out.

Another part of this equation is data, of course. Like any thriving business, we take our investments in technology seriously and do our research before we shell out funds on trending new technology. Ultimately, the question always comes back to whether or not we will see measurable improvements in a specific area. If a technology or trend helps us stay true to our goals or helps us get there faster, we’re open to it. 

In your opinion, what is the importance of rebranding? When does one know their brand needs rebranding and how to approach it?
Rebranding can have a substantial impact on any business, and it’s a powerful marketing tool. A rebrand can help you communicate your message and offerings more effectively. It can reflect a change in your business and address unwanted brand perceptions. And it can create new avenues to connect with your employees and customers. We began to consider rebranding when we realized our old brand no longer accurately reflected our business, target audience, positioning, or goals.

Rebranding can be complicated and can introduce many risks. Our job as an agency is to help our clients navigate those complications and risks with confidence. Our own rebrand project was an excellent opportunity to apply our strategy to ourselves. The rebranding strategy included thorough research, in-depth brand audits, solidifying our go-to-market positioning and messaging strategy, naming, visual identity design, and a brand rollout and application strategy. 

Can you discuss a particularly challenging technical problem that Clear Digital has faced, and how the company overcame it?
In the process of rebranding, we knew we needed a new name, but we really needed help finding the right name. Our original name, WebEnertia, had a handful of issues. “Inertia” was misspelled, which made the name hard to spell altogether, and it put us in a category of brands that we didn’t feel resonated with the work we actually produced. We knew we didn’t want to repeat this.

But when we struggled to find a new name ourselves, we decided to find a suitable partner that could help and guide us with the naming process. We’re not a naming agency, and sometimes there can be a stigma about outsourcing, but there shouldn’t be. We found a naming agency that provided us with name research, strategy, trademark clearance, URL availability, testing, and ultimately some great brand name options that we then took internally and finalized. 

How does Clear Digital balance the need for innovation with the need for stability and reliability in its products and services?
The foundations of good design will always be the same: it must be useful and beautiful. That applies no matter how many new technologies or methodologies emerge. Balancing innovation with stability and reliability requires clearly understanding your brand narrative. You must know what you offer, why you offer it, and how you are different from the competition. Even if you rebrand, these core principles will stay the same. When you deliver a product or service reliably and with excellence each time, there’s more room to try innovative new processes or systems because, at the end of the day, you can always go back to what works. 

What advice do you have for marketers looking to transition into leadership roles within their organizations?
Transitioning to any leadership role, whether it’s marketing or otherwise, requires you to:

  1. Develop your leadership skills. Seek out opportunities to provide strategic approaches and lead team-based exercises. 
  2. Demonstrate results. Make sure you understand what your organization’s goals are and what success looks like, and deliver outcomes accordingly. 
  3. Seek out mentorship. There’s nothing like building a relationship with someone who can help you set your goals, grow your network, and provide perspective.

How do you plan to scale Clear Digital’s operations and offerings in 2023 and beyond?
Scaling an organization is rarely achieved with just one plan, one offering, or one initiative. You must continually work on all of the core initiatives that make up your business (from external offerings to backend operations) to build the momentum necessary for scale. Our agency improvement roadmap is defined annually and includes initiatives to improve our culture, HR, production and solution delivery processes, sales, marketing, and client services.

Tune in to MTC Podcast for visionary Martech Trends.

Steve Ohanians, CEO and Co-Founder, Clear Digital

Steve Ohanians is an entrepreneur, digital strategist, and CEO of Clear Digital. Over two decades after co-founding the agency; Steve remains one of its key leaders and collaborators. By leveraging his expertise and passion for everything digital, Steve has helped create some of the top global B2B brand digital experiences throughout his career. Steve has worked on significant initiatives with companies like Cisco Systems, Citrix, Intel, and McAfee. Steve is also an avid music fan and a budding guitarist. He holds a BFA in Digital Media, with a minor in Computer Science from San Jose State University. LinkedIn.