Folke Engholm is a result driven entrepreneur with extensive expertise in most aspects of management, sales, and company growth, as well as deep knowledge of the essential aspects of start-ups – go-to-market strategy and sales execution. Folke graduated from Bond University in Australia with a master’s degree in international business.
Folke Engholm founded Viral Access in Shenzhen, China, in 2013 with the goal of bringing Micro KOL marketing to Asia. Viral Access became Asia’s premier social communication firm because to its competence in social media marketing and years of experience working with KOLs.
Believing in Yourself is the First Step
“For me, leading a company is the same as leading a tribe of people towards one common goal,” says Folke. He thinks he’s terrible at micromanagement. However, Folke finds himself good at inspiring and directing his tribe towards the right direction. He asserts, “Being Swedish, we tend to not understand and admit to ourselves that we are good at something. So, it took me some time to understand that I most probably have what you would define as leadership characteristics.” Folke further adds, “I am also a very good salesperson, which I think is the most important trait I have. So, in short, I came to the conclusion that I probably have what it takes to start and succeed with a business. Instead of finding reasons for not doing it, I just thought, why not?”
Folke enjoys psychology and the mechanics that underpin human behaviour, so, it’s no surprise that he has always been drawn to marketing, and his preference for sales is simply the icing on the cake. He always sold or promoted things in some form, but it was his success with an old customer named Daniel Wellington that prompted him to pursue this current path in the rather limited industry of social and influencer marketing. He says, “There is no better way to convince yourself that you can do something than actually doing it, and that is what happened with DW. I wrote history with that client and afterwards I said, man, if I can do it for them why not do it for other companies, and that’s how Viral Access started.”
Businesses nowadays are most likely functioning in the world’s fastest-changing environment, so new ideas are critical to survival. According to Folke, they must always be inventive and imaginative. He further adds that businesses must adapt and develop new methods to operate in their sector in the best possible way, as platforms alter regulations and algorithms on a regular basis.
Viral Access has now cemented a strong position as one of the leaders in micro KOL marketing; aiming at China and the SEA markets. “We are sort of the founders of influencer marketing as we see it today, meaning a communication tool that is challenging the traditional mass communication tools,” says Folke.
Folke claims the company’s data-driven strategy and capacity to scale influencer marketing distinguishes it from the competition. But it’s also proud of shifting the conversation on to what success with Influencer Marketing entails, which is far more than finding the right influencers. “We help transform companies into social marketing innovators,” says Viral Access’ current slogan.
Viral Access has revolutionised the business by bringing a far more quantifiable and granular method to mass communication by utilising individuals to convey your message rather than a television or billboard. Folke asserts, “Now it’s almost mainstream but when we first launched Viral Access, it was not easy to sell influencer marketing to companies.”
A Positive Executive of Viral Access
Folke sums himself up in one word, which is ‘Positive’. Folke sees, after coming out of COVID, that his role as the founder and CEO is something similar to being a father; especially having this role in China, where roles matter a lot. He says, “My people around me always look to me for answers and comfort, which is something that comes natural to me, I don’t have to try to be optimistic, I just am.”
Building Balance between Personal and Professional Life
Folke finds difficulty separating his personal life from his professional life. He describes, “My work has become a clear integrated part of my normal life and vice versa. That is the essence that keeps me motivated.” As for the employees, he thinks that formulating the work is not something that keeps them motivated. He adds, “As a team, we have to do certain things, but we are building something big and interesting. So, I am good at making them understand their bigger purpose.”
Success that Become more Meaningful with Growing Up
Succeeding has never been connected to monetary rewards for Folke. He grew up moderate; some might even say poor, so succeeding for him had a much skewed definition for his growing up. He recalls, “My mom was a cleaner in the early immigrant days in Sweden. So, for me, working was the same as cleaning toilets and other facilities. Hence, succeeding was to work in an office, it was that simple.” He adds that he used to picture himself one day going to a “normal” job with a desk and normal co-workers that was not related to cleaning.
But later in life, Folke began to realise that there was a world outside of cleaning, despite the fact that his first firm was in that industry. He asserts, “So, then I would picture myself owning a company doing something that I actually liked and enjoyed doing, and maybe even be proud of. So that is sort of where I am today.”
As far as Folke is concerned, success today means feeling as if he has left a legacy in any of the disciplines, into which he has ventured, particularly in the marketing realm. But, at the same time, it has become abundantly evident to him that the final objective, whatever it may be, must be enjoyable along the way in order to be achieved. He opines, “Every year you waste by doing things you don’t enjoy today can’t be repaid with a future compensation in terms of money or titles.”
Establishing as a Sector Leader in Asia
Folke’s main goal is to solidify Viral Access’ status as Asia’s number one influencer and social marketing company. He also wants to transform Viral Access the first firm to manage worldwide marketing, something no one has done before. He has always placed his clients first, thus the change he is suggesting is that corporations use their marketing money more wisely, and that is how he wants to improve.
He says, “I am guessing we, in one way or another, will be eaten up by the larger media companies, or we will become one of the larger players ourselves and start to acquire.”