Marketing Tips for Non Profits & Startups with Melissa Roberts of ECJC

Melissa Roberts helps entrepreneurs find the resources they need to grow their businesses–whether that’s space, education, mentoring or connections to capital.

She serves as the VP of Strategy and Economic Development at the Enterprise Center in Johnson County, a Kansas City-based non-profit organization. There, she oversees the ECJC’s marketing and communications strategy, educational programs and public policy efforts.

Melissa has been honored as one of the “30 Under 30” to watch by Ink Magazine and a “Next-Gen Leader” by the Kansas City Business Journal.

To learn more about educational programs for entrepreneurs at the ECJC, visit

And check out Melissa on Twitter:

Introduction to Melissa Roberts

Phil Singleton: This is awesome. We’re going to have fun. Give us a, just kind of a little bit of background, fill in the gaps on your bio there, how you got into the business world, those first steps out of college, what have you. What were you doing? Did you get right into business, did you try something else? Tell us what led you to the steps to your current position with ECJC today?

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, sure, Phil. So, I think if you had asked me the day that I graduated from college what I would be doing, I don’t know what I would’ve said but this would’ve been nowhere near my concept of what my future looked like. So, when I graduated from college, I actually was working in the campaign world a lot while I was in school. So, I went into managing political campaigns full time and that was really my first career and my first love. And in that world, I learned a lot about building healthy communities, online and offline and that passion really has carried through many different jobs in my career and today into the business world and working in a non-profit that supports entrepreneurs.

So, after I had spent some time running campaigns, I got the opportunity to start my own business in that political world and that’s really where I learned about entrepreneurship from the ground up and some days, in this job, I laugh because part of my role is to meet with entrepreneurs and hear about the challenges. And so often, there are things that I’ve faced personally that at the time, seemed so insurmountable. Like, “How do I do my taxes? I have no idea.” And today, it’s kind of just part of the entrepreneurial grind, that’s something that I can help people with. So, it’s fun to be on the other side of that table, giving the advice that I got from so many people.

And then I got involved right after I had started my business, in a program called 1 Million Cups at the Kauffman Foundation.

Phil Singleton: Sure, yeah.

The Enterprise Center of Johnson County

Melissa Roberts: And it … Yeah, so, in those days it was really early and I was part of that first volunteer group that helped organize the events and so I got to know a lot of people in the entrepreneurial community and this job at ECJC came out of that and so, I’m really lucky not only to have been an entrepreneur myself, so to speak often for experience, but also to have met a lot of really great people throughout the entrepreneurial community in Kansas City through 1 Million Cups and my work at ECJC. Getting to know some of the people personally that are really making things happen in Kansas City is fun.

Phil Singleton: That is really awesome. So, tell us some of the things … I mean, what’s ECJC about? I’ve been familiar with it for years. I know … I think you guys might have moved from … It used to be off of … Is it in the same location that it was before?

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, a lot of people know us from our old location on the 87th Street.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Melissa Roberts: But now we’re up in Fairway.

Phil Singleton: That’s right, that’s right.

Melissa Roberts:  Right next to Stroud’s.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

Melissa Roberts: So, if you get hungry for fried chicken, just stop by.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. What … Tell us all the great things that ECJC’s doing today and how it helps our community?

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, so, ECJC’s a 20 year old organization, so we’re kind of the dean of the delegation when it comes to entrepreneurship organizations in Kansas City, but today we provide some coworking space as we always have, but we really concentrate on entrepreneurial education activity. So, things like running an MIT-affiliated mentoring program or helping people learn how to pitch to investors and know exactly what investors are looking for in their pitches through a eight week boot camp called Pitch Perfect. Pun intended. Please don’t sue me.

And the latest and greatest is actually that we’re going to be taking a larger role in being a policy advocate for the entrepreneurial community in the state of Kansas, so you’re going to see us a lot more often in Topeka and for me, it’s really fulfilling, because I’ll be getting back to that first love of politics.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. And I was going to say as you were talking about this in the beginning, it almost seems like there’s … Whenever you get in this enterprise, economic development, I mean, there’s definitely some overlap. I mean, you’re clearly right at the heart of new entrepreneurial opportunities as they start in Kansas City, but you’re also connected in some ways to politics and the government, right? So, it’s a really interesting space to be in.

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s a world where you can both have a really personal, micro-level impact on somebody’s life and help them get a level of success, but it’s also a world where you can have a macro-level impact and make a big change for the regional economy happen and so, that’s really exciting to me because you kind of get the best of both worlds, a big picture impact and small, immediate gratification.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. I mean, you talk about non-profit, too, and it’s almost all three. It’s non-profit, it’s a little bit into politics and government and it’s right in the heart of capitalism as well. So, in terms of … I was going to say, in terms of things that you guys are doing to get ECJC out there, like, your role is communications and marketing, what kind of things do you do to get the world out and let people know all the great things you’re doing?

Is it … I know you guys do some educational events and some of the things that you do I think, probably to further the cause, probably helps the marketing to some degree, too, because it helps to get the word out, but fill us in. What does a non-profit like this one that’s kind of unique do to get the marketing message out there?

Non-Profit Marketing Tips

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Phil, I have to be honest, one of the things that’s kind of a tenet of our marketing strategy is something I really learned from you years ago, when we first sat down and had a conversation, and that’s that I really try to avoid investing dollars, like, ad dollars until I’ve exhausted all of the organic options for growth.

I really try to avoid investing dollars, like, ad dollars until I’ve exhausted all of the organic options for growth.

– Melissa Roberts

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Melissa Roberts: And so, yeah, thanks for that. But we really work a lot on amplifying our organic work here and the thing that I think is most important at the end of the day is that sometimes you don’t have in conversations about digital marketing is, especially for non-profits, at the end of the day, you have to deliver. Because no matter what kind of a online social community you manage, if at the end of the day you’re making a real impact on people’s lives, your marketing isn’t going to be successful because it’s all going to ring hollow. So, first is, we put our money where our mouth is and we run great programs.

Second is, most of our marketing happens through word of mouth and so I kept that close to mind when I’m thinking about our digital marketing efforts as well. So, I’m always trying to amplify tweets from other people or participants in the programs if I have an opportunity to, to show exactly what the people who are kind of experiencing ECJC get out of the equation. So, I would say those are the two tenets of our social media strategy and our marketing strategy.

Phil Singleton: And just out of curiosity, as a non-profit, does something like ECJC, is there any investment in traditional media … I mean, I know you guys obviously get great … You were in press recently, a lot of great things about your story and how you’re helping the organization grow and its cause and mission, but I mean, do non-profits like this … Is there print advertising, is there radio advertising? Is there TV? Is it really more kind of the organic stuff and then, like you say, promoting some of the successes that you’re having on social media and that kind of stuff? Because it’s interesting, from my perspective, we deal with companies that are led, especially in the marketing efforts, by people in lots of different generations. So, the ones that seem to have the marketing led by maybe an older generation seem to still cling on the traditional out-bound stuff, where the folks in the younger generation are like, “Well, that’s not how we get … Most of it’s organically through digital social media, SEO and that kind of stuff.”

And just out of curiosity, because you’re obviously in the mix there, right? You’ve got people with experience, newer people, it’s always kind of [inaudible 00:09:11] for me to see what kind of things and where, how does a non-profit invest its marketing dollars? Because I’m sure it’s not in some cases a big company that’s got lots of marketing dollars to invest and try everything. A non-profit might not have those kinds of resources for marketing and that kind of stuff. So, help us fill in the gaps there.

Melissa Roberts: Sure, yeah, so the first thing I always want people to understand about non-profit organizations is that non-profit organizations range from a small organization with no staff to international organizations like the Red Cross. So, there’s really … There’s no theme in non-profits. I would say a small non-profit like us, our budget is always constrained and the biggest thing for me is, every time I choose to spend money on an ad or social media advertising, it’s taking money away from our mission and so I have to have a really good reason as to why that money ought to be spent on advertising as opposed to mission-aligned activities like running a program or bringing another staffer in the door. So, for me, I … The only way that I can make that case to myself is to really look at the measurable impact of that advertising and the thing that I’m always challenged about print advertising is, the reason I’m always challenged about it is because there’s no measurable impact on the back end.

So, you kind of get subscription numbers or circulation numbers generally, but I don’t know how many people opened up that advertisement that day. I don’t know how many people visited my website as a result of it. And so, I really concentrate on trackable social media marketing to the extent that I have money to dedicate to that, but again, I kind of take the Phil Singleton strategy quite literally. I try not to spend money until we’ve invested all of our time, and so often I feel like we haven’t really hit that saturation point, because our biggest constraint, as with many non-profit organizations, is staff time. So, until I know we have some full time professional social media manager, which is unlikely to happen in the near future, I’ll still be spending most of my time and energy on organic means of growth.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome and that’s really … A lot of insights. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to talk to you, because we get a lot of insight from private companies and startups and that kind of stuff, but when you’re talking about directly with a non-profit, different challenges, different ways to get the message out there. But at the end of the day, I mean, you’re running a business like everybody else is, right? And you’ve got to get the biggest bang for the buck, so, it’s really interesting to see that, yeah, you’re looking for measurable returns and a lot of that is where you can invest what you have in digital, right? And where it can get the biggest bang for the buck, so.

I think of print advertising in much the same way as I think of yard signs.

– Melissa Roberts

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, the thing that I always said when I was working in politics was that there’s this pre-occupation with yard signs in politics. People always want more yard signs talking about their candidate, and they’re totally useless. You can’t track them, it doesn’t tell you about who’s going to vote for your candidate or not, so I think of print advertising in much the same way as I think of yard signs.

Phil Singleton: It’s really interesting, though, from my perspective…

Melissa Roberts: Comes full circle.

Phil Singleton: Right, yeah? Some of the … Because I talk about this all the time, with even folks that … I mean, there are magazines that still do well. Of course, a lot of the newspapers and larger magazines that are general are struggling, but niche magazines are doing okay and I do know a lot of our own clients still like to sample and play and every once in a while invest in print advertising. I think it’s just because it’s that physical thing they can hold in their hand, there might be a vanity or ego part attached to it, too, where they can see it or it’s out there and somebody’s actual, physical space, but it really is hard to prove how that kind of stuff helps.

But not even that, to my thing is, it’s okay to do some of that out-bound generation I think, to some extent, but the issue is, most of those people that see this stuff out in physical space, when they see print, when they see a yard sign or something, they’re going to go back through the internet to follow up on it.

Melissa Roberts: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: So, if you’re not there on social media or you’re not a good enough website to capture your own demand that you’re creating even in these old channels, then you kind of waste an opportunity and I still think a lot of people do it that way and don’t realize that they may not have that other side of the equation there where they’re capturing their own efforts. Really interesting.
Hey, one of the things I wanted to go back to on ECJC, in my mind, when I think about the types of businesses that you help, I guess and I know this is probably not true but it might be, so help me, correct me if I’m wrong, it feels like a lot of times you guys maybe are … Or organizations like this are trying to help out maybe just the high tech space or false? You’re really trying to help any kind of a scalable business in a traditional … What’s the mission that way?

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, so, so false, generally. But sometimes true for particular programs. So, one of the things that we’re really well known for running here at the Enterprise Center is the Mid-America Angels Investment Network, and so that is a network of high net worth individuals that invest their own money into early stage businesses. Think Shark Tank, but probably worse lighting.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Melissa Roberts: Yeah. Sorry, bad joke. But we run that network and that is really a program that is a unique opportunity for scalable businesses and what I mean by scalable, is a company that can grow without an additional investment in a high cost good, like staff time or a physical location. So, a service-based company like, say, a construction company, to grow, they hire more people. A restaurant, to grow, builds new locations, but an app to grow does nothing except maybe send an email. You don’t have to build it every time. So, companies like that are a great fit for equity investment, Shark Tank style funding. And that’s what we do through the Mid-America Angels Investment Network.

However, on the other side of the house, there are a lot of companies that are great, high growth companies can have a big impact on the regional economy that are not a great fit for equity investment. So, they would be looking for a partnership with a lending institution to help them grow or they might be looking for a microloan. For those companies, we actually work with the Women’s Business Center on the We Lend Microloan Fund, and so that’s an option to help them finance their business growth. But all of our educational programs, especially the mentoring program, are open to all different kinds of business.

So, it Kind of … It depends on which program you’re talking about.

Phil Singleton: Very interesting. Okay, thanks for clearing that up for me.

Melissa’s Favorite Place in Kansas City

Now, on … I want to shift to another part of the interview where I want to dive in a little bit more personal and ask about the things you like about Kansas City. Anything, restaurant, bars, places you like to go, museums, whatever it is. Somebody’s coming from out of town for a day and you’re just like, “I’ve got to take you here, show you the town,” type of thing. Where do you go, where would you take them?

Melissa Roberts: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, so, I’m lucky, I have friends from the east coast that get to come and visit every once in a while. So, I mean, the first place I take them is always the prototypical Kansas City postcard view from the top of the Liberty Memorial. I mean, you can’t get more Kansas City than that, but if I am just enjoying myself in Kansas City and maybe I don’t have somebody in from out of town, I’m a big fan of a good dive bar.

Phil Singleton: Yeah?

Melissa Roberts: I know you are too, Phil. You know, two of my favorite places in the city are, one in Westport called Harling’s Upstairs, and I’ll give a shout out to Brian the bartender. The thing I love about it is it’s got a great history and if you ask the bartender, he’ll bring out a one page, laminated history of Harling’s and what I want to know is what had to happen to that piece of paper before they finally decided to laminate it. But yeah, Harling’s is a great place for a night on the town. I will warn you to bring cash. So, that’s one of my favorites.

And then if you’re more of the Johnson County ilk but you still want an authentic dive bar experience, I really love the Keyhole Tavern in Mission. It is a club, so you have to have a membership, but usually there’s a friendly person who’s sitting at the bar who’s willing to sponsor you in exchange for a drink, so.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Melissa Roberts: Those are my top two.

Phil Singleton: I just love asking those questions. Those two places, I had really not heard of. Of course, I’m down kind of in the bat cave, in southern Johnson County, so I don’t get out much. But part of asking this question is so I will bust out of this shell and experience some of these cool places, so I really appreciate that.

Melissa Roberts: Well, you have to call me when you go to Harling’s Upstairs.

Phil Singleton: And the last question I have to ask … Yeah? That’s awesome. Brian, right?

Melissa Roberts: Yep.

The 10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: Brian’s the guy there? Yeah. The last question is, is the $10,000 question and that is, what would, and it’s really you can answer this however you like, but it’s, in order to maybe condense … Let’s put it in perspective of the ECJC, in order to condense the success that you’ve had there, and you have, to me, I’ve been following ECJC for a long time and I think since you’ve joined it, it seems to have a lot more energy than it did in the past. And I can say that, you can’t, but I’ve been following it so I know what’s going on there and I’m sure you would attribute it to the whole team and all that kind of stuff, but I think you’ve breathed new life into it because you’re there.

What would you have done, I guess maybe differently, to condense the success that you have now if you were to have to start over tomorrow and get to where you are faster? Is there things you wouldn’t try, would you jump on social media more? How would you get the word out there? What programs do you think you … Because I’m sure you’ve had … I mean, when you’re in a non-profit like yourself, and I’m … It’s a question I’m asking you and I’m doing most of the talking, but I am really interested in this part. You guys seem like you have programs and I’m sure you have some that are successful and then you launch some that might not be so successful, right? So, they maybe don’t get … And that’s part of, I think, the mission of an organization like yours is you have to keep figuring out ways to deliver value to people and educate them and stuff.

So, what would you to do condense it more, if you had to start all over again, day one at ECJC?

Melissa Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you’re right though, in that I do attribute it to the awesome team that we have here, so this is definitely not something that I do on my own or even that my team does on our own, it’s definitely a full team effort here. But I think if I could go back four years in time and do things differently, I think the one thing I didn’t realize at the time was how big of a catalyst our re-brand would be.

So, when I first started we had a legacy brand in place and it was something that clearly needed to change and I think everybody agreed that it was time for a new website and a new face for the organization and that happened about the same time that we were physically moving locations, so it was really good timing in that regard. But I had no idea the statement that that would make in the community as to having a fresh, new vision for the organization as well as a fresh, new logo, and so I think really sitting down and thinking critically about our brand attributes, connectivity being a brand value that’s really important to us, led us to some new programmatic ideas like mentoring programs, and out of that we’re really starting to live in to this fresh, new, connected brand and I think … That’s been really exciting for me.

So, if I could go back and do it over again, I would’ve put a lot more thought into not just redoing the website and the logo, but how are we going to have a fresh, new approach in all things that we do and how do I communicate that as part of this rebranding experience? Because it just took a little bit longer to live into some of those changes and because I didn’t realize it at the time that it was really all part of the same process, and it’s proven to be one long period of transition, today, looking back. Not a six month rebrand and then a website launch and you’re done.
So, it just speaks to the interconnectedness of online and offline marketing efforts in the non-profit world and when you’re an organization that’s programmatically driven and that lives or dies by the quality of your impact and the breadth of your impact, how important it is to have a strong brand that reflects that vision and have that carry through, not just to the website, but to the experiences people have interacting with you every day.

Phil Singleton: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s why I love asking those questions. Then, when you look back it’s like, hindsight’s 20/20 obviously sometimes and you can just see, here’s the path that went down, and looking back, what’s helped us become the success that we are today? So, really appreciate that insight.

Look, it’s been awesome. I’m so glad we had somebody like you of your caliber to come on our show today, kind of share your experience and what you guys are doing. Tell us where we can find you online, where ECJC and maybe where people can follow you, are you more active on LinkedIn or whatever social network you are on in terms of business stuff? And then anything else that you guys are promoting or doing right now that we could go and where we should go to check it out?

Melissa Roberts: Sure, yeah. So, and are where you can find us online and learn more about our programs, our funding opportunities and such. We’re active on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and I’ll say, if you follow ECJC on LinkedIn, that’s one of the best places to get some of that business related content to help you move your company forward as well. And then as for me personally, I’m probably a Twitter person. I’m a big fan of the snarky comeback.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Melissa Roberts: So, you can follow me at @msmeliss2024.

Phil Singleton: I’m going to attribute some of that to where your first love is in politics. The main channel is there, so that doesn’t surprise me. Thank you so much for spending this much time with us today and giving us some great insight on how you’ve helped ECJC and what the great things are doing for our community and for the business here in and around our region.

Sales Tips & Tactics That Are Working Right Now

As an inbound marketer, we practice what we preach.

But when you dominate online, you have to be careful what you wish for…

Sometimes we get so many calls and emails it’s hard to keep up.

Sound like humble bragging? It’s not.

When a large amount of your leads don’t have the budget or willingness to invest in a successful marketing campaign, it takes a lot of time and effort to process leads that are not your ideal clients.

It takes time and money to qualify and process high ticket leads.  And it takes resources (as in salary or commission) to professionally process your lead flow.

And how you handle leads – especially ones you need to reject – affects your online reputation.

Any business that wants to grow, MUST consider outbound sales.


Because good clients – your ideal clients – are often already growing without your help.  They don’t know if they could be making a lot more money with your help, unless you can make them aware of opportunities they are missing.

I just had to know for myself what is working, because we failed miserably at sales campaign last year.

So, I turned to one of the smartest sales experts I know, from one of the world’s most trusted sales training systems.

Dan Stalp, President of Sandler Training Kansas City breaks down what I did wrong, how to do it right, and what tactics are working for sales pros today:

  • LinkedIn (great insight here)
  • Strategic referral tactics
  • Networking

Learn more about Dan Stalp

Dan Stalp’s Website

Dan Stalp on LinkedIn

Meet Sales Expert Dan Stalp of Sandler Training in Kansas City

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I am your host, Phil Singleton.

Today, another very special guest with us in Kansas City, Dan Stalp, president of Sandler Training. He’s a transformational sales coach and a keynote speaker. Dan typically works with sales management and sales professionals who are tired of doing too much unpaid consulting, or are afraid to make sales calls, or fed up with losing sales to the lowest price. Dan, welcome to the show.

Dan Stalp: Well, thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Tell us a little bit about what maybe I missed in that short bio that I gave, and what it is that you do and how long you’ve been doing it here in Kansas City.

Dan Stalp: Sure. Well, first of all, most people aren’t aware of what that is. If you’re in sales, anyway, you might be a little more familiar, but you’ve gone away to maybe a two-hour, or a two-day or even a two-week training, but what you may not have done is continually gone to something over a long period of time, so Sandler Training not only here in Kansas City but in another 160 offices, we have the health club mentality to sales training, where you have 10 session a month that you can come in work out your sales muscles, and we don’t expect you to come to everything, just like at a health club, but we would like to see you once a week for an hour and a half at a time, and then you also have unlimited access to the personal coach, which is a sales coach, so that’s really where we’re helping people not just know things but more importantly start to master things.

Phil Singleton: Nice. That’s a great. Thanks for filling in the gaps there. In terms of you, how you got started with your business and where you are today, can you give us some background in terms of your first steps out of high school or college or what have you into the real world and …

Dan Stalp: Yeah, you bet.

Phil Singleton: What brought you here today.

Dan Stalp: It’s been a while since I’ve been out of college, but I’ll keep it short and sweet, but yeah, so I did graduate from college in 1986, and I had a computer science degree. I suffered through that for four years because I didn’t know what else I wanted to do, so I programmed computers for about three and a half years, and when I decided I didn’t have any fingernails anymore, I thought it was time to do something else, because I was biting them all the time. I was good at it but I didn’t like it, and it just seemed like the sales folks had a lot more fun than I was having, so I asked to get into sales, and the company I was working for said no go, so I just was talking to someone about it, I was kind of frustrated, and they said, “Well, I know that a guy that would hire you with your background,” so I left that company and went to work for another company, and he got me into sales.

But I didn’t know anything about sales, other than it looked like it was more fun than I was having as a computer programmer, so I suffered through that for a while, and if anybody’s still the first few years, it is suffering, and in 1993 I had an opportunity to start a business with three other people. It was not on my dream board. I had no goals around this whatsoever, but I always figure, you know what? I was 29. I could always go get another job. I can’t always have an opportunity to start a company. So in 1993, three of us, or four of us total, myself and three others, started an employee benefits company, because that’s what I started doing right out of college. I was programming computers for an insurance and benefits type company, and that’s what I ended up starting to sell.

Phil Singleton: What was that like? Because I think [inaudible 00:03:37] go through this a little bit where you’re … maybe a scary-type thing where if you had a corporate or a job that actually was paying us out a little bit more stability or benefits or whatever, and all of a sudden you jump out into the world without a safety net, kind of type thing, with a new business, which is what that is, right? Did you have any of that feeling? Was it … Yeah.

Dan Stalp: Oh yeah. Yeah, so at the time, we had a newborn.

Phil Singleton: Oh wow. So nothing to lose there, yeah, wow.

Dan Stalp: Yeah, and my wife hadn’t finished her PhD program yet, so she had a stipend she was getting, but yeah, we weren’t flushed with cash, but on the other hand we weren’t spending a lot. It was scary, but we figured we didn’t have that much to lose. Now, fast forward from 1993 to 2005. I didn’t learn my lesson the first time, so I went ahead and did it again. I don’t know what I was thinking. Now, that time was scarier, because then we had four kids, and they went to private schools, and my wife was staying home because we had four kids, and that was a little bit of a control, alt, delete on the brain, but I just really … I left my benefits firm and became a full-time Sandler sales trainer in late 2005. Now fortunately, I had something to sell at that point, meaning my partnership, what I had the other company, so I had a provision for about 18 months, but that provision was not what we were accustomed to having, but it was something.
But I started over. I had no clients, no business, no anything, and that one had a little bit more negative consequences if it wouldn’t have worked. I gotta give my wife credit. She stuck in there twice.

Phil Singleton: Wow. That’s great.

Dan Stalp: That’s not her nature to do that. She’s very security-minded, she’s a psychologist, but she believed in me, and now fast forward 12 years and I’m not saying that it’s all roses and teddy bears, but I can’t imagine-

Phil Singleton: It’s all work, and you must know this is what you wanted to do, because you’re still doing it and it’s still working, so that’s a great story.

Dan Stalp: The first time was more of a, “Oh, okay.” It found me. The second time it was definitely more of a calling. I knew I was called to do this. That while there were a lot of negative consequences if it didn’t work, there would have been a lot of regret if I never did it.

Phil Singleton: Man, there’s so many things I wanna ask, and we don’t really have a ton of time today, because in the green room we were, “Geez, this could go a lot of different places,” but one thing I have to ask since you are a sales expert, and since you’re talking about starting getting involved this in ’93, which is actually when I graduated from college and I was still … I got a D in computer science, actually, which is kind of funny that I’m running a digital agency right now. We were on-

We were on black screens back then with green type, you know…

Dan Stalp: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: So things have changed quite a bit, and the internet came online, and of course I think that’s changed a lot. It’d just be interesting from your perspective what things about sales have maybe stayed the same and what things are changed because the internet is out there …

Dan Stalp: Yeah, no, that’s a great question.

Phil Singleton: … and stuff, and give us a little bit of feedback on that over the last couple of decades.

No, it’s not just the millennials,” and I think of lot why a lot of us that are in our 50s and 40s and 60s is because even though we’re not native to the technology like our kids are, we’ve been spoiled by it, and no one’s patient anymore.

-Dan Stalp

Dan Stalp: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. My kids are 25 down to 17, and so there’s a lot of people my age are complaining about kids my age, or kids my kids’ ages. “These millennials, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and da, da, da, da, da, and they don’t have any patience, and they don’t … ” You know. I don’t know how many times I just look them straight in the eye and go, “You know what? You don’t have patience either.” They just go, “What? What?” I’m like, “No, it’s not just the millennials,” and I think of lot why a lot of us that are in our 50s and 40s and 60s is because even though we’re not native to the technology like our kids are, we’ve been spoiled by it, and no one’s patient anymore.

We want it yesterday, and there’s a lot of things we can just get at our fingertips, but there’s some things, and this is relating to your question. There are some things you just cannot speed up, I don’t care what technology’s doing, and as long as those face-to-face sales … Now, you can speed it up, but you can’t make it instantaneous, is if you’re selling face-to-face, you still have to have patience.

Now, technology clearly has sped things up, but what a lot of people wanna do is they just don’t wanna work for it. That’s the problem, and so there are some things that were said by Jim Rohn and T. Boone Pickens, and these guys are legends in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, about positive mental attitude and just gutting things out. Those same principles are just as applicable today, and none of this technology had ever started.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Dan Stalp: That would be the only thing I would say is that it’s not a microwave, it’s not an instant message. There’s just certain things you just gotta gut out, and I don’t care what technology does. Now, technology can increase the chances it can happen. It happened quicker, but there’s a lot of gutting out. Yeah.

My Own Sales Investment Fail

Phil Singleton: Wow. That’s great insight. Let’s dive into a couple of things that I think are applicable to my business. We were talking in the green room before the show and I shared some experience that we’ve had. I’ve been in this business for 12 years, almost. All our work up even till now comes from our own inbound, organic search, and then maybe some of the referral stuff that comes up, so that’s great, but then a lot of the people that come from inbound sales are people that already know they have a problem or maybe are struggling a little bit, which is fine because they find us and then we’re basically proving to them, because they found us the way that they did, that we can do what we say we can do.

That being said, there’s a lot of great companies out there that are doing things the old-fashioned way or doing things that have other types of sales and marketing techniques that are working. They don’t necessarily that they could be doing better, so what I’m getting at here is I figured, hey, if we had our own outbound sales approach, we could reach out to people and show them maybe that you have opportunities, that you could be doing better or you could be trying this, and then maybe open up another online channel type of thing.

My theory was, hey, let’s go ahead for the first time last year and hire an outbound sales person that can start calling on companies and just let them know that we exist, right? Because I was like, “Geez, we’ve got great reviews, we’ve got a great reputation, we can prove that we can do what we can do pretty easily. All we’re gonna have to do is maybe make a phone call and let people know that we exist and point them in the right direction, and we’re gonna have all sorts of new clients coming in, ideal clients, maybe, that … ” Some of these guys that maybe, like I say, have budgets and things like that, and just show them. But it didn’t quite work out like that, right? I think I mentioned that we put effort in, I hired some-

Dan Stalp: It seems to easy, right? It seems so easy.

Phil Singleton: Really rude awakening, yeah, to be out there and go and say, “Okay, let’s make 20, 30 or 50 phone calls a day,” hired a person. They weren’t professionally trained, but had the script down. We did have somebody help us out that was a salesperson, and I just figured it was gonna be a lot easier than it was. They made the calls. 30 calls a day, 50 calls a day over the course of three months. One meeting, no sales.

Dan Stalp: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: I was like, “Wow, this is just a lot harder.” What kind of mistakes do you think that I made, or what works in terms of outbound sales and sales calls today for folks that are trying out like this, and does outbound selling still work like it used to?

Dan Stalp: Yeah. Good question. Probably the overarching big picture mistake is that we hired someone to do something we’ve never done.

Phil Singleton: Mistake number one. Okay. Fair enough.

Dan Stalp: Not saying you’ve never done it, but you hadn’t been doing it for a long time, right? So how do I manage that because I don’t know what’s gonna happen, and plus there was no track record that it had happened, so this, and it’s very common. Probably more common than you know. The good news is you haven’t gone out and done it six more times. The most extreme case I had of this was, and I won’t say the name, but it’s a person that a lot of people would recognize, and she’s very good at what she does, and she had started her own company and was having success on her own. Thought, “My gosh, if I can do this, imagine if I hired a full-time salesperson, because I’m only doing this about 10 hours a week.”

…what’s the common denominator in all eight of these salespeople’s situation…. I finally said, “You.” It can’t just be that she hired eight losers in seven years.

-Dan Stalp

She proceeded to do that eight times in seven years, and none of them worked out. She came to me frustrated and said, “Where are all the good salespeople?” She was convinced that that was the problem, and I lovingly said, “Well, what’s the common denominator in all eight of these salespeople’s situation?” And she could not come up with it. I finally said, “You.” It can’t just be that she hired eight losers in seven years. That’s not the case. What was happening, and I don’t know the eight at all, what’s happening is she had never done what she was asking them to do, and then because she didn’t consider herself a salesperson, even though she brought in all the business up to that point, she delegated the sales process to this person that she barely knows on behalf of her company. Now, when I say that out loud, that sounds ridiculous.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: But people do it all the time, because they say, “Well, I’m not a salesperson. I hired you because you are a salesperson, so you tell me how we should sell this.” Well, they could pick up and leave anytime, and you’re stuck with holding the bag. The point of that is that if we have a track record and a process that has worked, then we hire the person to do that, there’s more likelihood it’s going to work, but if it doesn’t work we know why it didn’t work, and it’s not just because I didn’t have a process, it’s because maybe they weren’t the right fit. Does this help a little bit?

Phil Singleton: Yes. Yes, that’s-

Dan Stalp: Sometimes we need to invest in ourselves and get something that’s transferable and leverageable before we bring in that salesperson, because then they have nothing to leverage, and we don’t know how to transfer it.

Phil Singleton: Got it. Really it makes a lot of sense ahead of time to plan for it, figure out what’s working for you, develop a system, because you can’t just have somebody come in out of nowhere, it sounds like, and just start presenting your company. I mean, I don’t know if that’s probably a common problem, maybe an e-myth type of problem where I don’t really consider myself a salesperson, but whenever we get in front of somebody that comes into a meeting, it’s like a 90% closure rate I think, probably, because I’ve got all the answers, it’s my company, right? I might not be the best salesperson, but I’m convincing enough in person to be able to be able. You got to the point, you get a false sense of, I guess, confidence in terms of, well, somebody can just go out and do that. It should be just as easy, and we can get multiples of our sales, but that just doesn’t work that way.

Dan Stalp: It doesn’t work that way, yeah, and again, this is in small companies where the owner’s still actively involved, still selling. When you get into large companies that have all kinds of systems and processes, that kind of thing, that’s a whole different story, but if you think about it, just think through it for yourself, someone calls on you, who would you rather buy from? The guy that built the company and can make decisions on a dime, or the salesperson who may not be here in two months?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: It’s just a total different deal, so that’s another thing. It sounds like you had some good behavior for this person, but a lot of times they’ll bring someone in and they’ll say, “Hey, I only make about five calls a week, and I’m making all this money, and so if you do that, I’ll tell you what, double it, and then we’ll see what happens.” It’s way more than double that they have to do to get to the same results that you have, because they just don’t have that business-owner posture, they don’t have the experience, they haven’t made payroll before. There’s just things like that a salesperson just can’t have.

They can be successful, but it sure would be a lot better if you had said, “Hey, I’ve been doing this for six months. Here’s what I’ve done and here’s what’s come in. This seems to be working, so let’s follow this for now, but I’m open to suggestions.” You see, so we’re leveraging the six months that you spent seeing if this thing even works, because it’s gonna work easier for you than the salesperson, and then we’re gonna stick to this, but I’m open to suggestions. I’m not gonna just fill this out and say, “Do what you think we should do,” because a lot of them just frankly don’t have that background to know … they don’t know your company well enough to do that.

Phil Singleton: Right. So I mean, really the onus is on you to invest in some training and things like that, and have a system.

…cold calling is the least effective way to prospect, and it’s becoming more and more ineffective, but it’s better than one other thing, and I don’t know if you can guess what that might be. It is better than one thing – nothing.

-Dan Stalp

Dan Stalp: Or at least have your own plan down. Just, “This is how we do things,” you know? And it’s documented, so that there’s something to follow as opposed to, “Have at it. Here’s a phone book. Knock yourself out,” or whatever, and there is a list, and then the other part of it is, you mentioned earlier, cold calling is the least effective way to prospect, and it’s becoming more and more ineffective, but it’s better than one other thing, and I don’t know if you can guess what that might be. It is better than one thing.

Phil Singleton: Nothing, I guess. I don’t know.

Dan Stalp: That’s it. That’s the answer. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not a good long-term strategy, it’s a short-term until we can get something better going, and so that’s things like referrals, and mining LinkedIn connections and getting referrals, and maybe networking events. The face-to-face stuff still works very well.

Phil Singleton: That was gonna be my next question. First, does cold calling still work. It’s better than nothing. In my experience was, because this one was that we’re doing, really, really hard to call somebody with just a pitch, no matter how good it is, unless you have something I think really, really valuable to give them. Again, this is just my limited experience, when you got somebody that’ll actually give them something or try them something for free, a lot more willing to try it out, but the investment’s a lot higher and you can’t do volume on that because it’s too expensive.

Dan Stalp: Right.

Phil Singleton: But the higher or better the give is, the better you’re gonna get response and actually maybe get access to somebody. That’s one of the things I’ve learned. So calling is something that’s losing leverage, you think, and I know it’s a lot of people still do it, and there’s a few people that still even swear by it, but let’s dig into a little bit some of the things you say are … I mean, this is where I wanted to go, actually, is if calling is one of the things maybe you gotta do to get started, what are the next pieces? You mentioned LinkedIn mining, you mentioned face-to-face, and you mentioned referrals, are the things that I heard. Let’s talk about the referral first. Is that something that you … that’s part of your program or what you train? You’re going out and actively trying to build out referral networks, or … Explain a little bit about how that can work for a salesperson.

Dan Stalp: Yeah, so depending on who you hire, if they’ve been at it a while, one would think they’d have one already, a referral network. If they don’t have one, that’s a red flag, and it’s not that it’s a deal breaker, but you need to poke around why don’t they have one? They might say, “Well, I have one but it’s just not here in Kansas City. I’ve lived here for 15 years and I’ve been traveling. I travel during the week, but I don’t know anybody here.” Well, that’s a different story than, “Oh yeah, I’ve been selling in Kansas City for 15 years, but I don’t have a referral network.” Right? That’s a total different reasoning for why they don’t have it. The other one, it didn’t make sense, and then the other one, it did make sense, and they don’t have it, so they’re probably not gonna find it with you. That’s just something to think about.

But the other part of it is it’s about the conversations, whether that’s through a cold call, or at a networking event, or through your natural market, neighbors. People ask you all the time, “What do you do?” Even if they’re not a fit for what you do, they can refer someone to you, but if I just say, “I’m a banker.” That just doesn’t … We’re assuming they can assimilate all these people that I can help. That doesn’t help at all. You might wanna talk more about how you’ve helped people, the impact you’re having.

You know how sometimes businesses, they can kind of bootstrap at the first 50,000 or 100,000, but then they hit that limit where they’re making money, but to grow they need some more, but they’re frustrated that they can’t get anybody to give them a loan? Well, we help with that. That’s a lot more likely for them to either say, “That’s me,” or, “I know somebody,” than, “I’m a banker.”

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: They’re either gonna say, “Well, that sounds cool,” and that’s the end of it, or gonna say, “How do you do that?” Well, we are SBA, Small Business whatever A stands for, specialists, and so we’re able to get things done that the average bank can’t get done. You see it? All of a sudden now this is a totally different conversation.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: Because I have good technique in explaining what I do, and I don’t just say, “Banker.” Then just to throw a little extra in there, “Oh yeah, we’ve been in business since 1863.” Oh my God, I’m yawning right now. Oh, big deal. Every bank in Kansas City says that.

Phil Singleton: Right, right.

Dan Stalp: That’s not unique at all, so there’s a lot of opportunities where we’re able to tell what we do but we don’t do a good job, and we think people get it. They don’t get it.

Phil Singleton: But hitting those events, trying to make sure that, I guess, your pitch or your angle actually adds value and is not some kind of a boring statement that doesn’t get anybody’s attention. I guess that’s really big. A lot of times I’m a little bit more in the small business area, so a lot of people talk about referrals. I guess I’m thinking about them in two ways. One is, okay, you’re a business referral, and then there’s some ways people can actually set up referral systems that are maybe incentivized, but if I’m a salesperson, I don’t necessarily have, I guess, the ability to go out and offer some kind of a referral fee arrangement, I guess, with people that are cross-promoting stuff, so they’ve got a … I guess if you’re gonna refer stuff, it’s a little bit more on their personal relationship, or maybe … what else does a salesperson have to be able to offer to help somebody else that make…

Dan Stalp: That’s a great, great question. Yeah, so there’s a thing called the law of reciprocity, and if you want more, you need to give more. What a salesperson can do, again, if they have a network, is if they’re asking for a referral, they’re also giving referrals, and frankly most people aren’t motivated by the little 10% or whatever anyway that they get if they help someone, because it’s usually kind of a pain, and it’s not that much, and it feels kind of icky, but boy, if I sent you a referral and you got to keep 100% of it, and then you sent me one back and I got to keep 100% of it, wow.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: I mean, that dog hunts, and so we don’t really have to be paying them a commission or anything, but maybe start with having them start with what are they looking for, and you attempt to refer them. Well, then their law of reciprocity kicks and they say, “Well, how can I help you?” Now they wanna help, type of thing.

Phil Singleton: That definitely works. I think it’s probably worked for a long time and still works, and that’s one of the things that you would still recommend for a lot of different kinds of salespeople with those kind of relationships.

Dan Stalp: Yes. Absolutely.

LinkedIn Mining for Sales

Phil Singleton: Tell me about the LinkedIn mining, because I think LinkedIn’s, to me, one of the hottest things there are right now, and it was always kind of interesting to me, and I kick myself for not getting start with it. I did, actually, a couple of years ago, but now it just seems like it’s even getting better than it was. At first I blamed Microsoft. I thought, “What have you done to this?” But for some reason it just seems like it’s gotten a lot better in the last year so. What kind of things can we do to prospect and-

Dan Stalp: Yeah, so the thing with LinkedIn is because most of it’s free, they can change anything anytime they want, however they want, and you have no control over it, so right now, or for the past few years, they have consistently had a way that it was you could do some of it for free, but as of March of 2007, you have to have a paid version to do this. I’m not a big advocate for buying premium services or Sales Navigator if you’re not using it, so what Sales Navigator allows you to do, though, is to go in, and anybody that I’m connected to, I can sort their connections in minutes by things that are important to me.

I mentioned earlier I own a franchise here. I’m not calling on people anywhere other than here, so I wanna limit it to Kansas City, and then I also know that the best people for me to talk to are owners of companies and CEOs, so I can click a thing there and it sorts by that. I also know that a lot of times, companies that have 10 or more employees are a better fit for me, so there’s even boxes for 10 to 50, 51 to 200, 200, to 500, 500 to 1,000. I mean, I can click boxes, and then sort the person’s connections, or it might start out at 1,600 and I can get it down to about 20 in minutes, and then I handpick people that I think might be a good fit for me, say five to seven of them, and then those are the ones we talk about.

I mean, you probably have this happen to you all the time. People say, “Oh my gosh, you did such a great job for us. We love it. Who’s a good prospect for you?” And that’s when we go, “Uh … ” We’re not locked and loaded, and instead my standard response is, “Tell you what, you and I are LinkedIn. How about I’ll do the heavy lifting, I’ll go out and I’ll come up with five to seven names that people that you’re connected to, you probably don’t know them all, and then you and I sit down, just take a few minutes, and see if there’s one of those that would be a good referral for me.”

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Dan Stalp: I have idiot-proofed this.

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Dan Stalp: But I have yet to find anybody that knows how to do this. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know why it’s such a blind spot. There’s people that have Sales Navigator and they have no idea you can do this, so what I’ve been doing, and in fact my next one’s March 5th from three to five o’clock, I put on these Who Says You Can’t Sell on LinkedIn? That’s what all the marketing people are saying. “No, you can’t do that. You just go out there and put something of interest to them.” That is a hole, just a big old hole that nothing comes from, so now if I give you people’s names and you give me a referral, that is real, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: It takes minutes. I don’t have to type up some blog that no one’s gonna read. This is blocking and tackling, so that’s one of the things that technology has helped us. I mean, this is a big small town.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: There are people that I look on second connections. We have 233 connections in common. How have we not even fallen over each other? And we don’t know each other.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dan Stalp: You wouldn’t know that without LinkedIn. It’s amazing.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, and I mean, I think people just take it for granted in terms of … it’s just such a huge opportunity, but who doesn’t? If you’re doing anything that’s big ticket or B to B, I mean, pretty much everybody ends up before a meeting or any kind of … they’re looking you up on LinkedIn.

Dan Stalp: Absolutely.

Phil Singleton: It’s like one of those things that almost everybody looks from a business standpoint to see who I’m talking to type of thing, but then when it comes to prospecting for their own business, they’re like Jekyll and Hyde and almost kind of ignore the potential of it or don’t look into it. It’s really interesting in that way.

Dan Stalp: I would argue that most people don’t. I mean, I think it’s huge best practice to look at LinkedIn before you go and meet someone, but I think a lot of people don’t do it, and it’s right there at their fingertips, free, and they’re not taking advantage of it. That’s an example of technology is there, but if I don’t have good habits and if I’m not willing to gut certain things out, I’m missing it, and I think it’s something else, and it’s not. It’s just I’m not doing the little things that add up over time.

Networking for Sales Leads

Phil Singleton: Let’s hit on one thing. I’m gonna dip into start wrapping this up here pretty soon, but I do wanna … the third thing that you’d mentioned when we talked about referrals, we talked about some LinkedIn. I also wanna hit just the networking events, because this is something that’s interesting for me. I’m in in Kansas City. I’m part KC Chamber, Leawood Chamber, Overland Park Chamber, Northeast Johnson County Chamber. All sorts of different things that … Worked with some magazines that have launch parties and events, of course. For me, starting out as an introvert myself, I detest going out and networking, doing face-to-face stuff, but I’m also interested because I still do believe what you said very much, because I see it happen all the time, and as soon as you make that personal connection with somebody, it just makes a huge difference, especially on bigger ticket things.

What types of networking events still work, because I think in some cases it seems like it’s a lot of time and effort to be away for a salesperson or a business owner or somebody to go to some of these events, so it’s like what’s the pay? I mean, which one should you go to? Should you go to any of them?

Dan Stalp: Yeah. Like you said, most people don’t like to go to networking events, but if it’s something that you are reasonably okay with or greater, it’s a good use of your time because-

Phil Singleton: You think it’s a must? I mean, is this part of something that every salesperson should be doing just to cover it, or is it like …

Dan Stalp: I wouldn’t say it’s a must for everybody, but it could definitely be a good part of your plan.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Dan Stalp: But it depends on what you sell and also just where do these people that buy what you are selling go to? So it is a little bit of a hit and miss, but sometimes you find out what you want by knowing what you don’t want.

Phil Singleton: Is it one of those things, though, you going to them and showing your face on a regular basis is what makes a difference, or is it like you just go and eventually you get lucky because you’ll run into somebody that maybe makes a good connection? Where’s the real benefit, or is it both? I mean, what’s-

Consistency is key. You gotta give it enough time to work.

-Dan Stalp

Dan Stalp: Well, consistency is key. You gotta give it enough time to work. Having said that, I think that you can show up at something and you can have a gut feeling that this is not gonna be the right place, and so rather than beating your head against the wall, forcing something to happen … But just like when you walk into a company, you can tell the healthy ones from the sick ones. I mean, you can literally tell in the lobby, and so I do think-

Phil Singleton: Thinking about an exit strategy, I guess, as soon as you get there and get that feeling.

Dan Stalp: Yeah, or at least just say, “You know what? I’m gonna gut this out. I’m back to gutting it out. I’m gonna stay here for the full two hours, but when I leave, I’m gonna have clarity.” But I can’t just say five minutes because sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re not, but if I’m there for two hours and I go, “No. I’m not doing that again.” Then that’s okay. Go pick something else. But the main thing is you need to be consistent. You need to show up on a regular basis, minimum six times a year, because otherwise you’re just starting over, starting over, starting over every time you show up.

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Dan Stalp: But the other part of it is is to go there. Instead of what can I get from all of you, what can I contribute to some of you? Again, some of our clients that don’t get a lot of referrals, we just do a pattern interrupt on their thinking. We say, “Okay, I want you to track, like you’ve been doing, how many referrals you’d be getting, because it’s pretty easy because you’re not getting very many. But what I want you to start tracking is how many referrals you’re giving, and I want you to have a goal for the next 90 day, how many a week, a month, whatever, and then let’s talk about whether your referrals have changed.”

Phil Singleton: That makes perfect sense.

Dan Stalp: We’re gonna…

Phil Singleton: I mean, at some point. It just seems like anymore, you have to almost give. You have to either teach or give somebody some value, or give something up, and not just expect showing up, stuff’s gonna drop into your lap because you’re there type of a thing, so that makes perfect sense.

Dan Stalp: Yeah, if I’m just taking, taking, taking, I’m a vendor at my own stuff. If I’m giving and knowing that it’s all gonna come back to me somehow, maybe not right now, then I become a trusted advisor, and trusted advisors, people are drawn to you, and when you help them, they want to help you back. They can’t help themselves, and so-

Phil Singleton: It’s like part of marketing psychology, right? I don’t wanna say they owe it to you, but I know that’s part of one of the marketing psychology things that’s out there, where it’s like as soon as you give something of value, there’s a feeling created like somebody owes you something. Not that they really owe it, but there’s that feeling that somebody gave you something, so I think that really makes an impression, anyway.

Dan Stalp: Yeah, and you don’t wanna do it expecting that, but you just know that over time, you put enough out there, it will come back, but we just don’t know who and when and how, and so that, you’re just gonna stand out, and showing up at networking events and just putting your name, your first name on your name tag, I mean, this is not a pickup place, at least that’s not what I’m … Put your name, your full name, your company name. I mean, you are making it extremely difficult for someone to help you, and frankly they just don’t trust you. You’re not even willing to put your last name and your company? I mean, you’re gonna get hammered, and you don’t want anybody to know who you are. I mean, that has so many negative connotations. Put your full name and your company name. Make it easy for people to help you.

Dan Stalp’s Kansas City Favorites

Phil Singleton: Great. Let’s wrap this up with … Tell me. We’re in Kansas City. I love asking people, because I discover all sorts of things, what you love about it real quickly, and any places that you must go or part of your routine in terms of anything. I don’t know. Favorite restaurants, or sporting events that you go to, or anything. Shout it out.

Dan Stalp: Well, so we grew up on a farm in a town of 3,600 people, so everybody knew everybody, and I really liked that. I mean, you really had to keep your nose clean. You couldn’t be doing stuff, but what I like about Kansas City is even though there’s over two million people, you still have that feeling that people know who you are and they care about you, so that’s been … We’ve lived here for 25 years. We lived in Omaha prior to that, and then I, like I said, I grew up a farm and then I went away to college, but that’s what I really like, is just the people. They genuinely care. They’re just down to Earth, salt to the Earth type of people.

One of the things, when we have family come in, we just go downtown, now that we have a street cars, and we don’t over-plan it, and we just get on the street car, and we get off, and we go do something. We say, “We wanna do something else,” but we almost always go to Union Station, Liberty Memorial, of course the Plaza. We love to go there. As far as restaurants, Jack Stack Barbecue’s my personal favorite, but there’s a lot of good ones. They’re all really good, it’s just my personal favorite. Just letting them take in the city a little bit.
Phil Singleton: Yeah. Those are great places. Union Station, Plaza, I mean that’s … Liberty Memorials are great.

Dan Stalp: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Well look, this has been absolutely phenomenal for me. It’s great, great insight. I’m sure a lot of our listeners are gonna get great value out of this. Tell us where people can reach you in terms of website or LinkedIn, and you mentioned that you had some of your own workshops and things like that. Anything else that you’ve got going that you’d like to promote that’s going on this year [crosstalk 00:35:47].

Dan Stalp: Yeah, thanks for asking. My website is just, just D-A-N S-T-A-L-P .com, and if you’re on the homepage, we always have the next event coming up, and that LinkedIn session is out on there, because that’s on [inaudible 00:36:03]. It’s March 5th.

Phil Singleton: March 5th. Okay.

Dan Stalp: I’m the only Dan Stalp on LinkedIn, so just type in my name and you’ll find me there, and then phone number is 9134511760, and then email is just I try to keep it simple.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Thank you so much for giving us this much time today and sharing some great tips and insight, Dan.

Dan Stalp: You bet. Thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Okay. Take care.

Dan Stalp: All right. Bye-bye.

Market Like a Millennial with Marc Guberti

Marc Guberti is an entrepreneur, digital marketing expert, and author. Marc publishes multiple blog posts every day on his digital marketing blog and tweets every 15 minutes to over 400,000 Twitter followers.

Marc has the fearlessness of his teen years and dedication of an entrepreneur mixed into one mindset which guide him through the process of creating products and writing content. Marc wants to show teens that they can start their businesses earlier. No one has to wait for working papers anymore. There is no age limit for success, and you don’t have to be 18 years or older to be successful.

If you want to contact Marc, ask him a question, or just say hi, you can send him a message on Twitter or directly through his blog.

Snark at Your Peril

Marc  is a 20-year old full-time sophomore in college.

He’s published 19 books, hosted 2 Virtual Summits, publishes podcast episodes every day, and posts blog posts every day.

Over the last two years, I have seen first hand how millennial business owners are starting up traditional local businesses and stealing market share overnight from the old generations that took decades to build their businesses.

Any yet many older generation businesses are still “dipping their toes” in digital marketing, hip shooting at tactics…spraying and praying.

Don’t think millennials are lazy or unmotivated.

I have seen dozens of twenty and thirty-somethings startup local “traditional” businesses.

There are plenty that are willing to work hard, and they were born and raised to marketing online.

Listen to this podcast – see what you’re up against and what your biz can do to stay competitive.

Learn more about Marc Guberti

Marc’s Amazon Author Page

Marc Gurberti on Twitter

Marc Guberti: 20 Year Old, 19 Books Published

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. Today I have a super special guest. Marc Guberti is an entrepreneur, author, and digital marketing expert. He hosts the Breakthrough Success podcast where entrepreneurs learn how to achieve their breakthrough goals. New episodes get published on weekdays starring guests like Seth Godin, Neil Patel, John Lee Dumas, and many others. He advises entrepreneurs on how they leverage content marketing to fuel their growth. Marc, welcome to the show today.

Marc Guberti: Phil, it is a pleasure to be here.

Phil Singleton: I’m going to ask you a bunch of different questions because you’re doing a lot of exciting things at a fairly young age, or at least in terms of most people’s vision of what their career path is. I want to dive right into that, but why don’t you tell us where you are today and some of the things that you’ve accomplished? And then I’m going to ask you a series of questions based on that.

Marc Guberti: Sure. So today I’m an entrepreneur of all those things that you said before, and I’m working on a lot of good projects. I recently published book number 19, which was Content Marketing Secrets, which teaches brands how they can create, promote, and optimize their content for growth and revenue. So that’s one of the things that I most recently launched and I’m…

Phil Singleton: So that’s book number 19?!

Marc Guberti: Book number 19, yes.

Phil Singleton: Can I ask how old you are?

Marc Guberti: 20.

Phil Singleton: 20 years old, and you’re on your 19th book. Okay, that’s very impressive. And you’re in school? I think you’re a sophomore in college. Is that right?

Marc Guberti: Yes.

Phil Singleton: Tell us what else that you’re doing. I mean, you’re a full-time student. What are your other interests? Tell us some other things, because right off the bat, boom, 19 books, very impressive. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that at some point, but keep going.

Marc Guberti: I also host virtual summits. I’m going to be planning one in the future, but I’ve already hosted the Content Marketing Success Summit and the Productivity Virtual Summit, which all had over 50 speakers. That’s what helped me, in part, go from one podcast episode a week to doing a weekday podcast where I’m now publishing five new episodes. So if anyone asks me what my priorities are for business, like what I’m doing, a lot of it is just based on creating more content, spreading the word out to reach even more people. So that’s just my focus, because it’s what I love to do. I love create content for my blog. I recently started to write a blog post per day, instead of a blog post per week, just because I really enjoy creating the content. I want to force myself to get more accountable to creating that content and that expansion, as I mentioned before. I feel that’s something everyone wants, but of course, it’s something that I also want to do for my brand, as well.

Phil Singleton: So 19 books, then you’ve got two virtual summits where you recruited, as least on one of them, 50 guest experts. So that’s very impressive, right? They came up onto a special website that you had, subscribed to it, and then were able to listen to interviews to folks on specific topics, and use it as a learning vehicle, correct?

Marc Guberti: Yes.

Phil Singleton: And then you’re in school, so you’re managing a … you’re in your sophomore year and you’ve got two more years of college to get a degree, which I’m assuming that you plan on completing.

Marc Guberti: Yes, marketing is my intended major.

Phil Singleton: Surprise, surprise. That’s awesome. Now before you got the books, and your website, and your … I mean, how did you get started? Did you first start like a website and then start with a blog? What were the first kind of steps into developing this content platform and this personal branding and authority that you’ve been able to build in a very short period of time?

Marc Guberti: Well, it first started very much as a hobby, because I’m a Red Sox fan. If you are a Red Sox fan in New York, you know that is a really bad mix.

Phil Singleton: You generate a lot of engagement, I guess, on that topic.

Marc Guberti: Yes, so I wasn’t getting much of it in New York. I can tell you that much, but-

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Marc Guberti: … I find the Red Sox fans online, so I actually started, not with a blog about digital marketing, but a blog about the Boston Red Sox because that was my way of tapping into … It was less of like I’m tapping into an online community, more of I’m tapping into a community about the Red Sox fans.

Phil Singleton: Was this high school or was this still in college?

Marc Guberti: This was actually middle school when I did this.

Phil Singleton: Wow. Okay.

Starting a Digital Marketing Career Early

Marc Guberti: So this is like … Content consistency, things like that meant nothing to me. I could write a blog post one day, and then another day I could write four blog posts in four days, but then publish the next blog post like two weeks later. So consistency, things like that, that matter to me now, didn’t matter to me as much. It was more me creating content that could create a dialogue between me and Red Sox fans because I didn’t really have that in New York. I mean, they’re rare to come across, especially when you go to a university in the Bronx. So that was the entry point, and then I promoted the blog on social media. I dabbled around in a lot more blogs and web pages. At some point, I just fell in love with the whole social media promoting and content marketing, that I decided this is what I truly want to specialize in. I want to help people in this. I’ve always wanted to write my own book. I know that. This is something I know a lot about, so that’s possible to turn into a book for me. That’s when I went from some of these other things I was doing to fully committing to being a digital marketer.

Phil Singleton: Were you already full into this before you even started your first day of college, or were you doing this in high school? Your current kind of business and where everything’s kind of evolved to right now, is this the last couple of years?

Marc Guberti: Towards the end of middle school, very early high school, at that point I still wasn’t like super serious in it. I was gradually getting more serious as the time went by. I feel like by the end of my freshman year of high school I was very committed with the digital marketing, and I stopped working on some of my other blogs and web pages, just focused on what I’m currently doing now. But I would say it was definitely a process where at first I approached it as just something to do to, like I have a message. I want to share it. At some point I realized, “Wow. This is something that is very important. This is something that I need to share with as many people as possible.” It’s something that I can do instead of going into a job or something like that where I’m not going to feel fulfilled doing the work that I would have to do either way.

Phil Singleton: And for you, you’re probably at the point now where it’s like you have a real business that’s evolving. So it’s almost like you know what you want to be when you grow up because you’re going to continue to have success with this as it snowballs, and by the time you graduate, I’m assuming this is what you’re going to be doing full-time. There is going to be, probably, a job hiring process. You’re going to jump into this and continue on the success that you’re having.

But one of the things I want to ask is you jumped right in from middle school into having your own blog. I think a lot of folks … maybe even in high school, or college, and certainly folks that I know that are coming out of school that we’ve interviewed … it still seems like having their own website is a scary-type thing, or they haven’t even done that piece of it. I recently went through a hiring process where we had somebody come on board. I was like, “The first thing I’m going to have you do is, I want you to have your own blog. So you can go, just figure how to set up your own personal branding website that, if you stay here with us or you don’t, you can take this with you and start to develop your own type of authority and just get your first taste of what it’s like to have your own website and try to publish content on it.”

Because I, personally, think that’s what … I don’t know. If they’re not doing that in high school or right now, I think everybody should have a website really right away and not have to go do that kind of on your own, so that you’re publishing it and have your own property, and have that rolling. But you did this in middle school, so how did that go about? I mean, you had to get somebody to help. Did you look online? Did a parent help you get it? What was the actual process, like you bought a domain and got a WordPress theme? Because it going to sound simple to you, but I think for a lot of people, that sounds like kind of still out there and hard to do, but I think it’s more accessible than most people think. If a middle schooler could do it, I think other people could probably figure out how to do it. Can you give us some insight on to just how you even got that started?

Marc Guberti: So the starting point, like how the Red Sox blog came to form was my mom told my brother and I about blogging and how you could … there was something called NLB blogs at the time. It’s not around anymore. It integrated with WordPress, which was really important for my growth because then I realized I could write about anything, and not just about baseball. She told us about NLB blogs. We were interested, so that’s … My brother created a blog about the Mets. He’s done a lot of things since he has his own social media agency. I wrote about the Boston Red Sox. I’ve done all my things. So she, my mom, gave us that starting point for getting into it. It wasn’t like she then told me everything to do, like from step one to step where I am now. She did help me a lot. Got to various stuff, if I had questions, I would go to her. If I needed advice, I would go to her. My brother and I continue doing this to this day, but that was the starting point. Then my curiosity and-

Phil Singleton: You just ran with it, it sounds like.

Marc Guberti: Yes. The moment I had it in front of me, I just did all the research to figure out what I needed to do grow it.

Millennials Are Taking Over

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I want to shift a little bit now here and talk about something that we were talking about in the Green Room, which is really one of the main reasons I was really excited to interview you on the show. That is, getting into this business of … you get a lot of folks that are in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or whatever it is … and you’ve got a feeling of when you read things online or even on LinkedIn, other places, that there’s kind of this snarkiness about millennials and how they’re work ethic’s not there, or they’re general, or they talk about how different they are on things, and whatnot.

One of the things that I’ve noticed … well, there’s a couple really … is I think that you get millennials and the younger generation have come in and completely reworked things at the top level. So things like Uber, and Airbnb, and all these companies where guys have just come in and created great technologies, and put themselves where the point of purchase of the searches are, and have jockeyed out some of the traditional old ways of doing business. One of the things I’ve seen as a local web design firm that does local and regional ICO, is I see a lot of this happening now at the local level where you get these people’ that a lot of the older businesses snark at, are coming in and traditional businesses, like things like tree trimming, or hardscaping, or painting businesses, and they’re coming in as digital natives because they don’t … You talk to a millennial about like cold calling, or some of the phone books, it’s just like, “That’s not how we buy, man. They come in directly in with the websites.”

They’re doing things like … you’re doing for your own personal … and you’re an advanced content marketer, for sure. I mean, you’re just about as high as it goes in terms of doing all the things that people should be doing … have your own blog, have your own podcast, doing your own virtual summits … really doing all sorts of things that are just like killer in marketing techniques. But you see these traditional businesses that are being run by ambitious millennials that are coming in and just starting to steal. So the people that like snarking at millennials don’t realize the millennials, a lot of these ambitious millennials, are coming up and stealing their market share right out from under them because they don’t know any different.

Now give us your take on that piece, because you’re a perfect example of how you’ve just fully taken hold of the new way people look at information and do business online, and have done it, and are succeeding at it, before you’re even out of college. Give us your take on that. How do you think … Do you see it that way? Do you see it how I’m saying? Do you think there is a snarkiness? Do you think people are kind of missing what’s actually happening, or am I just seeing a small percentage of folks, or do you think this is the real path, the way people are going?

Well, I haven’t just seen this as a spectator, I’ve seen this actually happen to me.

– Marc Guberti

Marc Guberti: Well, I haven’t just seen this as a spectator, I’ve seen this actually happen to me. There are cases where … this isn’t happening as much now, but I mean, before I had my podcast, my 19 books … right now, you see the potential over several years manifesting itself, but before that ever happened … let’s say, for instance, I just did episode one of my Breakthrough Success podcasts, no credibility whatsoever, and six years younger, so I was 14, and I bombed the episode. Well, people of that time would have said, “Aw, he’s too young,” so my bad. People have said that at some point where it’s like, “He’s too young to be doing this,” and stuff like that. That was like very early in the journey. I don’t really get that anymore, but there are some people who still say things like, “He’s too young. He doesn’t understand,” different things that are happening, like serious things that happen, like challenges with maintaining a life, like with family, and things like that, so obviously I don’t have a family in the sense of parents do.

What I’m trying to say is that I have received it on my end where I do see that snarkiness come at me. I feel like the more you establish yourself, you go from that person who receives a lot of the snarkiness to now a whiz kid who people are not snarky at, but they’re just going to, to get value from, to see what’s happening. I feel like with millennials it is an uphill battle at the beginning, but if you do put in that work, and you’re able to stand out at this really young age, then it’s the reverse. All that time you spent fighting uphill, you now have a nice cruising downhill because people respect what you’ve been able to do in the time that you’ve been here.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. That’s great insight. What would you tell … and I get this all the time. We get people that like, “Okay, Phil, we understand you’re in web design,” or particularly interested in SEO and want to get their kids interested because all these guys that I deal with already have kids in high school and college, and they’re just asking me what’s the best way for them to learn about stuff because they see the importance of … because to me, you get into digital and the stuff that you’re doing, it’s not just about them. This is almost becoming like a life career skill, knowing how to get yourself around on WordPress, or trying to build up your own personal branding. It’s not just in the digital marketing space. I mean, this is something that’s like everybody’s got to use at some point, because this is what differentiates yourself. It applies to just about every business.

So as somebody’s that’s super, ultra successful at this … and that’s where I consider you are right now. I mean, you’ve had access to people. Seth Godin, Neil Patel, John Lee Dumas … the people twice your age haven’t been able to do yet. You’ve been hosting your own virtual summits, which I’m twice as old as you, at least, I haven’t done my own virtual summit yet, so you’re basically out there running circles around folks. A lot of it, I’m sure, is based on your own talent, but what do you tell … like I tell people … what do you tell people that are just kind of regular guys like you were regular kids like you were at some point in your life to kind of take that step? Because I, personally, think that everybody should be doing some form of this for their own personal branding.

Advice for Younger People

What do you tell the kids of some of these people that I know that are like, “What’s the first steps you think they should take to start establishing themselves as an authority?” And should they do it? Do you think this for everybody like I do, or do you think this is only for a certain amount of people that want to go a certain way?

Marc Guberti: I think this is something that everyone should at least try. Some people, like blogging is not for them. Maybe video is for them. Maybe this whole content creation thing isn’t for them. But I feel like there’s not enough of an awareness yet that, “Hey, like I’m a teenager or a little younger than that, and I could actually create my own content.” I feel like it’s gotten better over the past few years, that you see more of these young entrepreneurs who are dominating, but I don’t really see that … I feel that we need to make that a bigger part of our culture. I feel like the best thing that we have going for that direction is like some CNBC article, “Hey, look at this teen, made millions of dollars, and then.” That teen’s still successful, and stuff, but that article isn’t in front of our face every single day. So I feel-

Phil Singleton: How about at your school even? Do you see this? I mean, do you have other peers that are trying this? Do they push … at the college that you’re at right now, is there anything that tries to help people kind of launch into digital and get more experience with this? How much is this a part of the curriculum, just out of curiosity?

Marc Guberti: There’s not like so … I can’t speak because I haven’t graduated yet, but so far there’s not really a focus on social media and content marketing. I feel like those are just two topics that don’t receive as much attention. Of course, I have two years to go, so that could drastically change. But I feel like, I mean, even like … This isn’t something that you start learning about in the college level. I feel like this is something you should about at high school, because it doesn’t really matter what you’re interested in. You could use social media or content marketing to help you. No matter what you’re interested in, you create content around it. I create content that teaches people how to market their content and get more exposure, things like that. But it’s not like people are only creating content around how do you create more content in marketing, there’s content in gardening, Mac products-

Phil Singleton: You’re coaching those people on how to their pieces, so you’re kind of like a coach’s coach type of thing. Do any peers that you hang … you’re probably in and around your gang, your group of friends probably do this … but even at your school, do you see more people trying to do this, or is it still not … Are you kind of a one-off at what you’re doing and nobody’s even really trying to do this kind of a platform?

Marc Guberti: I haven’t seen anyone-

Phil Singleton: Even attempt it?

Marc Guberti: … actively pursuing it as much.

Phil Singleton: It’s really interesting. I think, to me, if somebody came to me out of college and was like … because I’m not going to have probably your level of success because you’ve been doing it for so long and have really found your niche … but if somebody came out of college with their own blog post, with their own podcast, with this kind of stuff, it just seems to me like they would immediately be much more hireable than most other people that are coming out of college. Like in your case, you’re likely going to come out and never have to have a job because you’ve already created your own lucrative career path and that kind of stuff, which is great. But even if you hadn’t had gotten to that point, you now have a track record on here that would get you hired by virtually, probably, anywhere you went.

I think just by having some … even if you didn’t have that much of a track … somebody else try to do this, a little bit of it, and show that kind of an effort and that kind of a fluency with the attempts at doing this kind of stuff, they’d probably be able to get hired at 10 or 20 different places with a great job. That’s kind of my opinion at looking … and again, I’m kind of 20 years out, looking back, but this would be really impressive for me for anybody that tried it.

So any advice on some of these guys like that, like how you would get started? Let’s just say I heard this. I’m either the parent of a college student or high school student, or I’m a high school student or college student myself, what could I get started on, do you think, today? Maybe I’m not going to take Marc’s direct path and try and build a whole business on it, but what would you tell them? Say, “Hey, just start with this, and then work on this a little bit, and then see if you can develop it, and use this as a way.” What would be the starting point? Would you tell them to start with a podcast? Would you tell them to start with a website? Would you tell them just to be more active in a business sense, maybe, on LinkedIn or something like that? Where would be your first kind of couple one or two steps there?

Two Steps: Get Published & Self-Educate

Marc Guberti: I have two simple steps. First step, get your content. Get some piece of content published. I don’t care if it’s a written blog post, a video, or a podcast. Get it published. As a side note, podcasting is the best because you connect with so many awesome people at podcasting, but that should not influence your decision right now. Just get the content out there in the easiest way possible. For a blog, that means WordPress. For video, that means YouTube. For podcasting, that means Lip and now Libsyn, out of the three. You do have to pay for storage and stuff like that. It’s not that much per month, like we’re just talking maybe $10 to $20 per month, depending on the number of episodes you do. WordPress and YouTube, though, are free, so you may want to just do the free options to start with so that you have some skin the game before you pursue a big adventure like a podcast or even a virtual summit if you want to get really advanced.

The second thing is to just self-educate. You can’t rely on any individual entity to give you the education that you need. You need to pursue this education outside of … just within yourself. I listen to, when I’m biking, stationary bike, I’ll listen to an audio book. Every single morning I get up and I read my book. I read it on my bed because my body doesn’t think it’s got enough yet, but I’m actually actively able to read a book, get motivated, and slowly get up. You really need to self-educate yourself. Publishing that piece of content is just your way of saying, “Okay. I’m in this. I have something tangible now. People can find me on the web. I have my own place.” But that self-education is where you go from where you are now to achieving monumental growth. You can even achieve monumental growth to the point where you achieve that same level of growth that your role model has, but self-education as much as possible, and taking action based on that advice.
Phil Singleton: Marc Guberti, that is fantastic advice. What I love about it is you’re giving advice from somebody that’s actually, yourself, who is somebody who actually is getting real results and just having some tremendous success with it. So tell us, tell our listeners now, what type of things you’ve got going on in terms of courses or offers, where they can find you online. Particularly, where are you most active on social media so we can make sure we have those showing up, too, if somebody wants to kind of connect with you or follow you there.

Marc Guberti: So for people who want to learn more about me, the best place to go is, that is Marc with a “C”. You can also go hit the consulting tab if you want to get a one-on-one consultation with me. That is something that I recently started offering to expand on the services that we mentioned before. You can also get my book, Content Marketing Secrets, over at If you want something for free, just to get a little taste, a toe in the water, before you invest in anything, you could get my free ebook on Getting a Hundred Retweets per Day at On social media, I’m the most active on Twitter, that being @MarcGuberti. A lot of the social networks, also Marc Guberti, like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram as well, also Facebook, but that’s slightly different.

If you search me, you’ll find me. But Twitter is the social network that I’m, by far, the most active on. It’s the one that I started out with and I focus on that instead of trying to be mediocre at all of them, just master one of them, so that’s why I have a lot more followers on Twitter than my other social networks put together.
Phil Singleton: That makes sense. One question, then let you go, is on your coaching course clients, is there a particular ideal client that you have? Are you coaching younger people? Are you teaching older people? Is it a wide mix? What’s kind of a typical buyer or client of yours kind of look like?

Marc Guberti: It varies. I would say it is just someone who wants to take their business, their content brand, to the next level. They take the idea of creating content and social media very seriously. They see these as great avenues to grow their businesses, but they want to tweak a few things, optimize them, or they just need help with the whole process.
Phil Singleton: So anybody who’s at that stage who wants to kind of jump in and say, “I realize the importance of this. I need some help in getting more involved and somebody that’s done this successfully.” It doesn’t really apply to a certain age group or type of business, but that makes perfect sense.

Okay. Hey, Marc. Super pleasure to have you on the show, very special guest. We haven’t really had anybody with this kind of experience anywhere, so I’m really going to be excited about publishing and putting this out there, and I really appreciate your time.

Marc Guberti: It was a pleasure to be on the show. Thank you for having me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right. Have a good one.

Marc Guberti: You, too.

Erica Brune of Lever1: Starting a Successful Business by Solving a Problem

In this episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast we get to chat with Erica Brune, president of Lever1.

Erica explains what a PEO (professional employer organization) is, how Lever1 got started, and some of the key reasons how this venture became so successful so quickly.

You can learn more about Lever1 and Erica Brune here:

Lever1 on Facebook

Lever1 on Twitter

Erica Brune on LinkedIn

About Erica Brune & Lever1

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton, and today, we have a very special guest, Erica Brune. Erica is the president of Lever1, a Kansas City-based professional employer organization, or PEO, providing human resources, payroll and employee benefit solutions. Within five years of launching Lever1, Erica helped drive the company to become Missouri’s fastest growing company of 2017, ranked number 44 in the nation by Inc. Magazine. With Erica’s guidance, Lever1 has secured an industrywide reputation of excellence, operational reliability and thought leadership.

Erica, welcome to the show.

Erica Brune: Thank you.

Phil Singleton: Tell us, before we get started and delve into what a PEO is and the story of how that is taking off, let’s hear a little bit about your background from basically your first steps out of college, or what have you, and your path to success today, if we could.

Erica Brune: Absolutely. I started my career in New York City, working in the legal industry, doing administrative services, just like I do today, so payroll, HR and finance and worked my way up in that industry, spent over 10 years in New York City, and I really credit that fast-paced high-energy, very career-driven environment to really building the roots of who I am today. Eventually in 2008, decided to move back to Kansas City and started looking at career opportunities and was recruited by Gragg Advertising here in Kansas City and started there in 2008 as their director of operations, again doing the same type of stuff, all business related administrative type work — finance, HR and all the employee benefit programs — and joined Greg Gragg as partner in 2010. Greg, as you may know, is a serial entrepreneur, and we started acquiring and spinning off and forming startup companies left and right. At that point, we broke my team of administrators, a handful of CPAs and HR professionals, and broke off and formed Lever1 to administer services back to our other co-owned companies.

First, we thought we were creating Lever1 as a way to simplify all of our bigger conglomerate of business activities between all of our different entities, so we formed that entity, Lever1, thinking it would be our overhead company, where we’d administer business activity for our other profitable businesses and formed a PEO. So we really … I would say we fell into the PEO space accidentally, but we fell in love with it at the same time. Very quickly, we learned how impactful a PEO can be to a small business and that there are so many other resources when it comes to health insurance and payroll and access to HR professionals that small businesses primarily here in the Midwest are just not aware of, that opportunity exist for them. Still, after …
Phil Singleton: Guilty as charged. I was the same way just recently. It makes perfect sense. It doesn’t take them a whole lot of time to understand the value of it, but yeah.

Erica Brune: And PEOs have been around over 30 years. They estimate over 3 million employees use a PEO, so it’s big business, just it’s pretty unheard of here in Kansas City. So we took that opportunity. If we were going to have our PEO, Lever1, for our own business, let’s hire a sales rep and grow it. If anyone else here in Kansas City is interested in joining us, the more the merrier, the better the rates get for everybody. You spread that risk across. That’s what we’ve done over the last five years we’ve been in business. It’s been great.

Phil Singleton: What I love about that is because you basically set it up to solve your own problem, right? And then it worked really well, and you’re just like hey, we can offer this to a lot of people because it’s working so well for us.

Erica Brune: That’s exactly right. We set it up because we thought it was the way we needed to structure our business entities, not knowing that it was a revenue-generating business model.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. One question just in terms of your background and history, when you joined in 2008, was that around, before or after the crash because that was a rough year.

Erica Brune: It was. Right as the economy was taking a hit, Gragg Advertising’s business was soaring. I took most of the credit that Gragg’s business was doing so well, and that’s why Greg made me partner, I always joke.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Erica Brune: Gragg services a lot of businesses in the for-profit secondary school sector. In 2008, jobs were hard to get and a lot of people went back to school to better themselves. So it was almost a reverse trend for Gragg. Their business did quite well, and that allowed us to invest in some of these other startup companies at that time when most people were not doing that.
Phil Singleton: Awesome. And you’re from Kansas City and then went to New York and came back?

Erica Brune: That’s right. I grew up here. Went to Shawnee Mission South High School. Proud Raider. The day after I graduated, I packed my bags and went to school in Arizona just to have a change of pace, and it was a lot of fun. Straight to New York City.

What is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)?

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. We were talking a little bit in the green room beforehand. I just want to dig into this a little bit more because I was telling you, I was like, hey, you know, we’re a small agency. Let’s say we’ve got five people, maybe seven. What is a PEO to me? What would be the benefit and why and secondly, what size company can benefit from this? Is this something like … I’m guessing a freelancer can’t go up and say, hey, I need these benefits. I know just from my own experience, say for example you’re looking into group health insurance, you need to have at least one other W-2. I think everybody who starts a company at some point gets to that point, where it’s like it’s just me. Okay, now, I’ve got another W-2 employee. Now I’ve got to start thinking about benefits at some point. Can you walk me through that a little bit in terms of what size and types of companies can benefit from this?

Erica Brune: Absolutely. PEOs provide employee solutions. Employee to us means a W-2 employee. 1099 contract workers are technically in the eyes of the Department of Labor not employees. They can have multiple jobs and service multiple people and potentially have their own business that you’re contracting with them to do some work. So an employee in the PEO sense is really a W-2 employee. That can be one, the sole owner of the company, or it can be 1,000. You see that gamut utilizing PEOs for one reason or another. Certainly, the smaller the business, and we do … We have local trade associations, for example, that only have their one executive director that needs of full suite of HR services. They needed a job offer. They needed a handbook and compliance posters. They also needed to offer that person benefits or they wouldn’t be able to recruit them to come do that job.

So you can be an employee of one, and we have groups over 300, but it’s not unlikely that we’ll start servicing even larger than that. The benefit to the larger group is reducing some of the burden. They can hire another HR person, or they can utilize our services, for whether it’s background checks, an I-9 verification, payroll software. Everybody has to use something, so we solve that problem for them. Recruiting, handbooks, you name it. They can a la carte pick and choose which of the programs they want to add, even if they have 1,000 employees.

The smaller groups really benefit from the access to benefits. So you think of health insurance is obviously top of mind for most individuals and small business owners.

Phil Singleton: Like even I was going to say right now, there’s a lot of stuff going on where people are like, hey, wait a minute. Here in town, I guess a lot of folks … This is what really prompted me to get more on top of a benefits program because I had some people that worked at in the … maybe a contractor, all of a sudden were worried about access for their own personal insurance because some of the carriers are just like we’re not going to offer it to individuals anymore or not soon. And all of a sudden, we’ve got to take care of some of the people that are helping us out. So let’s get more serious about that. Is that prompting things for your business too a little bit, or do you hear that?

Erica Brune: It is. The individual market has fewer and fewer choices, and people are seeing double digit renewals, so they’re really left with very little choice. The new proposed association plan — there’s been quite a bit of talk about that — may solve that. I know that’s the intent. That will be coming down the pipe later this year, and we’ll see if that’s a new option for sole proprietors and businesses of one or two employees. We don’t offer association plans so I can’t speak too much about that, but I do know that that is an option that’s going to hopefully overcome the challenges individuals have of obtaining health insurance through their company as an employer group plan.

But the Lever1 opportunities are that Lever1 has group benefits, and clients that utilize Lever1 have access to them. That is really the definition of a PEO and how PEOs work. You think of even a 401(k). Hard to even access a 401(k) if you’ve got three to five to seven to 10 employees. Even if you can get one, the costs are pretty astronomical. Utilizing a PEO 401(k) plan overcomes some of that. In addition to cost, it’s truly the peace of mind of having that compliance done as well because as a business owner, do you want to be the fiduciary to your 401(k) plan and the administer of your benefits, and all of these thing have strict regulations that business owners, they want to focus on their business and growing their basically and doing what they do best. Outsourcing some of that risk and liability to a PEO has huge advantages.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. So what’s really interesting about the way you guys started this business and probably I’m just guessing here, but partially a key to some of the launchpad of the growth to it is that, like we were talking about, you had a problem internally with Gragg and maybe some of the Gragg umbrella of companies. You guys came up with this solution to solve that first. So right out of the gate when you started the company or separated out, you had a few clients already, right? Your own client, basically?

We did hit the ground running.

– Erica Brune

Erica Brune: Absolutely. We did hit the ground running.

Phil Singleton: Like you were saying, it was basically set up … go ahead.

Erica Brune: You do have to have a volume to obtain some of these compelling products, and so we did have that advantage of having our sister companies as our first clients to even get launched and get off the ground. It really is a very expensive venture to launch a PEO, and it takes quite a few years to really get the momentum going with the volume. So us knowing that we were doing this as our overhead anyway certainly gave my business partners some understanding of we weren’t expecting to generate a revenue the first year. We never set that expectation. It’s a good thing we didn’t because …

Phil Singleton: But you did have the critical mass.

Erica Brune: Yeah, it’s nearly impossible to do. It takes quite a bit of volume and time before PEOs can really be profitable and have a really great compelling product to offer.

…we really got involved with as many local organizations as we could. We were out in the community on boards and volunteering and participating so that people started to know who we were and had confidence in our business.

– Erica Brune

Phil Singleton: So part of the next step then, you’re just another startup company like the rest of us, except you had a nice … the fact you had the critical mass, you had some clients. At some point, you went out to market, started offering this. Can you walk us out how that went, did it go to Gragg Advertising? Did you guys just start marketing out yourself like other businesses? What are the things that you did? Did you go to trade shows? Can you give us some steps?

Marketing & Sales

Erica Brune: We did a real boots on the ground approach. Lever1 easily targeted and identified that Kansas City was the market we wanted to go after. So I wouldn’t say that the trade show and the traditional advertising strategy was going to be right for us right off the bat. So we really got involved with as many local organizations as we could. We were out in the community on boards and volunteering and participating so that people started to know who we were and had confidence in our business. Because it’s hard. It’s hard to recommend a business that’s only been around one year, two years. So we really needed to have those relationships and trust with our partners so that they felt comfortable referring us. And then I would say strategic partnerships has really been the key to our success in the last few years. Partnering with people who are already doing well, already servicing the same segment that we wanted to service. In a true referral partnership agreement, start offering each other services. That seemed to be the lower hanging fruit than just trying to put a traditional radio spot out there. I’m part of an advertising agency. I know that works. But as a small company, that’s just not feasible with your budget. So we really did the boots on the ground approach.

Our public relations effort is low cost. You can write articles and participate and get content out. I mean, you’re the king of that. So those things really do work in building a business credibility so that when you do have meetings with prospects, they can get online and see that the business is really substantiated and you’ve got some really good referral relationships to back that up.

Phil Singleton: I just love the fact you guys came up with this. Super explosive growth in a short period of time. Then of course, you come in recently, we were talking in the green room, you’ve been able to leverage this to a really smart PR content marketing program. We were kind of laughing, like right now, in this period of time in 2018, you’re pretty much everywhere in Kansas City. I’m seeing you on magazines and on LinkedIn, all sorts of journals and this kind of stuff. I’m sure that helps snowball, obviously, right? Because when people see the success, they get some education. Like I was drawn into it. I saw it and all of a sudden, I had no idea what a PEO was. I don’t know if that makes me stupid or not, or I’m just like one of the other small businesses that don’t understand what it is. All of a sudden, it’s like oh wow. That makes a lot of sense. But it’s the content marketing …

Erica Brune: Yeah, no. It doesn’t make you stupid. We didn’t know what a PEO was, and we started one.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I’m going to guess that you’re seeing some benefits of doing that content education out there in terms of getting your story out and online and in the media. Is that helping or are you guys seeing …

Erica Brune: Absolutely.

Phil Singleton: That’s great.

Our phone, for the first time, over the last 12 months has started to ring. People are getting on our website and submitting for more information. As a business owner, that is just the icing on the cake.

– Erica Brune

Erica Brune: Absolutely. Our phone, for the first time, over the last 12 months has started to ring. People are getting on our website and submitting for more information. As a business owner, that is just the icing on the cake. We have a great outbound marketing and business development program. But when the phone actually starts ringing, it is … boy, it feels good. So yes, that content and that we’re so grateful to all the media and the publications that have picked up our story. I think the product, like you said, this is something that is so needed for business owners, and they just don’t realize it’s out there. That has helped us get quite a bit of attention. It’s just so needed with the change in the health care environment, and the Department of Labor is issuing stricter and stricter laws. The federal administration has not issued, in my opinion, continued strict guidelines for employers. Therefore, state by state, they’re implementing their own laws, such as we’re seeing paid sick time, and we’re seeing equal pay and we’re seeing all these things come through that as a business owner you can’t just rely on the federal regulation if you operate in multiple states. You’ve really got to keep track state by state of how to manage employees in a compliant way. I think business owners are feeling that in addition to the obvious health care lack of resources.

It’s just helped us get quite a bit of attention, and like I said, business owners like yourself are saying hey, this is even an option? I’m going to check it out, and so our phone has started to ring, which is …

Phil Singleton: Exactly. It’s there, and you start looking … you start peeling away the onion and you’re just like oh my god, this is … you’re a one person or five person or 10 or maybe even a 20 person company. Most of the time, the owner’s got their sleeves rolled up is doing some of the work in those cases. So just to have to think about a little bit of this stuff is kind of a headache. So just knowing that it’s out there. I’m looking at this and I’m like geez, that’s pretty cool because it sounds like by the way you’ve got this set up for a PEO, it’s almost like you’re able to access certain types of benefits that would be like a much larger company has and all of a sudden, you’re able to get it.

Erica Brune: That’s right. The recruiting. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Phil Singleton: Yeah. Really cool. The coolest thing about this to me as a marketer is that you set it up as your own idea. You guys went out, and it sounds like you did the hustle, which I know Greg is all about too, right? You actually probably went out, you networked, you joined the stuff. You did a hardcore outbound stuff. I’m sure the phone played a part in that too. Now you got out based on the success that you’re having, really short period of time, super fast growth. You’re able to leverage that out into an inbound approach. Right? And now the story’s getting out there, and now the leads are coming in based on that. So you’ve got the full inbound-outbound kind of a circle going. Super cool. I mean, that’s just like … You see when you lay it out and do it the way you guys have done for a new startup business, I mean really fast, successful growth over a short period of time. Of course, it didn’t just happen by luck. You’ve got some really smart people like yourself and some of your partners behind it. Super awesome story for Kansas City. It’s so inspirational to see this kind of stuff, one. And two, also to be like wow, this is really cool. It’s going to help a lot of businesses, right?

Erica Brune: Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. It’s exciting for us at this time, and I think the next phase after explosive growth, which is what we needed and wanted, is that our products and our solutions now just keep getting better every year because the more people we have in our PEO, the more that that risk is spread and the more opportunities we have to offer different solutions to clients. We’ll just continue to keep attracting more and more people is the goal. That will help everybody that participates.

Favorite Things & Places in Kansas City

Phil Singleton: So awesome. Let’s switch gears a little bit. I always like to ask people, successful entrepreneurs, anybody in Kansas City, what their favorite things in Kansas City are. You moved back here, so there’s obviously, aside from probably family, things you love about it. But is there anything in particular? Do you jones for a particular type of coffee or bakery or restaurant? Places you like to take friends that have never been here, haven’t seen in a long time that are like, “You’ve got to try this is Kansas City or go here.” Any kind of favorites there that you can give some shout outs to?

Erica Brune: Absolutely. I love Dolce Bakery. I live over in the Leawood-Prairie Village area, so that is hard to resist, as you can imagine, getting a morning breakfast there. Quay Coffee in the River Market. That’s right near our office. There’s a reserved table, where I spend a lot of time there. Like most of us, we do coffee, lunch, happy hour. Then I always shoot straight over to Tom’s Town at 4 when they open and have a drink there, which is definitely one of my favorite places.

Phil Singleton: Aha. Cool. That’s one of the things.

Erica Brune: Have you been?

Phil Singleton: It’s funny because for us, I’m down south, so I only go up really for client meetings and things like that, but I always am like once you’re there, so many cool things that are within walking distance or so close that you kind of miss out when you don’t actually work in the scene. That’s one of the coolest things about Kansas City is all those places. That’s why I always like to ask folks. I’ve got a long list going now of places that I have to go. Some people go, and they’re just like oh man, I’ve never heard of that place. I’m glad I heard that on the show, and I’m going to check it out. So it’s always great to hear people’s favorites.

The 10,000 Question

Let’s wrap up with something I like to call the $10,000 question, which is you guys got to start over, let’s say, again tomorrow. The problem with Lever1 … I’d say problem is it seems like you guys almost did everything right because very few people set it up this way with … You just had everything kind of it seems like working in alignment, which enabled you to get over a four, five year period of time such high growth that you’re getting national recognition for it. So when I ask this hindsight’s 20/20, how do you improve on what appears to be a perfect ride? Although I’m sure, I’m guessing there were probably little bumps in the road. So anything that you could share on how maybe you’d do it differently if you had to start this over again. Maybe give us a little insight…

Erica Brune: Sure. We started this company out of our own pockets. So it took quite a bit of time before we started yielding a profit, and that’s not realistic for a lot of people. If we were to do it over again, we would prefer to turn a profit sooner, no doubt. So I would say …

Phil Singleton: Was that because of trial and error? Things like that? What kind of … was it the learning process? Or what was the …

Erica Brune: I think I just didn’t approach it as a profit center. We were investing in the best software and the best programs because that’s what we needed for ourselves. And that was good. It’s been good for my clients, but it took a while to overcome those startup expenses. What I would say is if I were to do it over or to start something else is really find those strategic partnerships right from the get go. For us, that could be a bank or an insurance agency or some like product that already has a big portfolio of clients and sidle yourself next to them because together, you have a much better chance of getting some volume going than if you just try and do it all yourself. I’m going to just start cold calling and start from scratch. That is a slow ride up the mountain. But if you can come up with a business idea or a service that complements and partners with somebody that’s already very successful with a big portfolio of clients or prospects and just go at it together from the beginning, I think I would see much bigger results earlier on.

We’ve done that now, and that’s really helped fuel our pipe, but it took a while for me to figure that out. Because everybody … you know, you think oh, it’s my own business, my own product. I’m just going to do it myself. I would redo that and rethink that.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. Look, this has been really amazing. You and your company, you’re a true inspiration and make the Kansas City business community really proud. It really gets me going because I’m just like this is so cool to see somebody have this level of success over this short period of time.
Erica Brune: Thank you. Appreciate that, though.

Phil Singleton: Really appreciate. Seriously, we all look up to you, and I really appreciate you spending this amount of time and sharing such awesome insight. How can our listeners, if they want to follow you or your company, where do we go online to continue following the story?

Erica Brune: Yes, it’s And that’s L-E-V-E-R and the numeric one. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

Phil Singleton: That’s perfect. Hey, really appreciate this. Thank you once again, and we wish the continued success of Lever1.

Erica Brune: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Starting, Marketing & Growing a Freelance or Solopreneur Business

Julie Cortes has worked in the advertising and marketing industry for over 20 years now, starting on the agency side, moving to corporate, back to agency, and then finding her passion in freelancing.

She’s worked with with hundreds of clients and accounts along the way in a variety of industries. This includes most of the local ad agencies and design shops, as well as some of the larger corporations and small businesses you might be familiar with.

Julie loves being an active member of the professional community, having spent most of her career volunteering, serving on boards, attending professional functions, speaking publicly, and getting interviewed by the media.And while she’s won more than her fair share of awards (over 50), she’s probably best known for starting The Freelance Exchange of KC — a professional trade organization of ‘solopreneurs’ in the advertising and marketing industry.Now Julie is taking her love of the the Freelance Life to the classroom to teach other young artists the tools they need to survive on their own. Julie has created her own course, Freelancing 101, and started teaching as an Adjunct Professor at the renowned Kansas City Art Institute.

Learn More About Julie Cortes

The Freelance Exchange of Kansas City

Kansas City Art Institute

Julie Cortes on LinkedIn

Julie Cortes on Twitter


Phil Singleton: This is a great pleasure, we’re going to have a lot of fun today. So, tell us, this is one of the questions I kind of always ask out of the gate and that is what were kind of your first steps into the business world? What did you do after college or however you got into it, what were the first steps on your way to the path that you’ve taken today?

Julie Cortés: I’m not at all where I thought I would be if you would ask me when I was in school 20-some-odd years ago where I’d be, but I absolutely love it. And there’s been a lot of twists and turns along the way starting out with a couple of internships on the design shop and agency side while I was in college, then I got out and as I strived to find an agency job, I ended up at an in-house corporate marketing department. Wasn’t happy there and so kept looking for that agency gig and finally found one as a writer and producer at a really, really small shop. And like most people or many people in advertising, if an agency loses an account that you work on, there’s a good chance that you’re going to lose your job and that’s what happened to me. And I was booted pretty quickly, I wasn’t there very long at all. So I was back on the scene looking for a job and I kept looking and kept looking and I just wasn’t finding the right fit and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to try this freelance thing,” because I was going it anyway, but, “I’m going to try it as a career as opposed to an in-between job kind of deal.” And that was 20 years ago and I haven’t looked back.

Phil Singleton: Interesting. And when I think when I got out of school, we didn’t have the gig economy like we have right now, so it was kind of hard to either find lower cost direct ways to people to kind of do things, really cut out the middle man, and you could actually pay somebody decently at a good price to start stuff and on the other side there wasn’t a place to find a bunch of buying customers this way. So, in the earlier days, how did you struggle to get the first clients without having this great network of ways to reach potential customers, when you first kind of started?

One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was from my Elements of Advertising professor and he very much insisted that we get involved..

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was from my Elements of Advertising professor and he very much insisted that we get involved. And I took his advice to heart, both in college and then when I got out of school, immediately I jumped on the board for the American Advertising Federation, their young professionals group called Ad2. And I jumped on the board and I worked on their board for three years working my way up, eventually becoming president, volunteer of the year, etc. And I was probably the best thing I could’ve done because here I was surrounded by movers and shakers and I was continually growing my Rolodex and my contacts and so when I was out on my own, initially it was pretty scary and there weren’t a lot of freelancers out there at the time, or this gig economy as you were talking, and so it was just a matter of going to all of these networking events and handing out my card and being as humble and gracious as they come. “Hey, please, give me some work, give me a chance,” kind of thing. And gradually, it just grew and grew and to this day I still get referrals thanks to the volunteer work that I do. So, like I said, one of the best pieces of advice that I have received and probably could give in return.

Phil Singleton: Wow, there’s a couple things I want to touch on, that’s an amazing story and how you got there, and I really kind of feel all sorts of things as you’re talking about it because I’ve kind of been in this industry, too, and I actually came, I’m kind of a reformed finance insurance sector, actually, and didn’t get involved in the digital till like in my 30s type of a thing. But a couple things that really are interesting to me is one, some people will do this on the agency side, I love to talk shop a little bit, and one of the things you had kind of mentioned I think that we still see to this day to some extent is you got this boom bust cycle, I think, that a lot of agencies get and you’ve probably seen this over the years here, especially in Kansas City.

It seems like once a year I see one agency that I knew of knew of that was maybe [inaudible 00:05:22] a little bit harder that ends up closing shop or changing their name or having some kind of struggle, because you see a lot of these guys start up, get good clients, but it’s a boom bust type thing, right? Because they’re working on projects and like you said, clients leave and it leaves a big hole, especially when you get a big one and you have to hire a bunch of people and then you lose it and all of a sudden you still have the same people and they don’t have the same work coming through. So, that’s an interesting thing I think we see a lot here in Kansas City.

But even on the freelancer side, it can kind of be the same way, so one of the things I’m wondering is a lot of folks, I think, today that have, maybe they get their first job at a school, it’s not the career that they love so they got an opportunity now to maybe gig on the side and keep gigging until they find something they’re passionate about, we didn’t really have that, so I’m wondering when you went through your initial stages as an early freelancer kind of getting out to this kind of career, was there a scary part of that? Did you feel like … I think sometimes, even when I was getting my first clients going, you don’t have tons of them at once, you get one or two, so losing one is a big deal. So it’s still a little bit boom busty, I think, in the beginning when you’re a freelancer and can you explain, maybe, did you experience that, one, then two, how far along was it until you kind of felt like, “Okay, this is a steady thing that I can put all my energy in and effort into”?

I always tell others never put all your eggs in one basket and I see some freelancers making that mistake.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Well, I always tell others never put all your eggs in one basket and I see some freelancers making that mistake. Maybe they’ll take an onsite gig with a large corporation and they think that they’re swimming in this money, which is great, but eventually they’re going to lose that and then they have no other clients to rely on. So you constantly have to be feeding your income string and even if you’re busy right now, you’ve got to look six weeks, six months from now, are you going to be busy then? Because it is kind of a feast or famine cycle and you have to plan for those famine times. I think everybody goes through that a little bit, for me, honestly, the big switch came from when I first started out, it was a mindset thing, it was an attitude thing, because at the time I was like, “Okay, am I going to be freelancing part-time and looking for a full-time job part-time or am I going to be looking for a full-time job full-time or freelancing full-time?” And I was like, “You know what? I’m tired of the split efforts and the split focus, I just need to make a decision and do one thing or another.”

And so I was like, “You know what? Screw it, I’m going to try the freelance thing and see if I can make it work.” And I sat down and I wrote a business plan and I wrote a marketing plan, set some goals for myself, and boom I was off and running. And quite honestly, that was my launchpad, if you will, my big springboard into my career because at that point, I knew what I needed to do to pay the bills. And money is a huge motivating factor and you set some goals for yourself, financial especially, print those suckers out and put them in front of you so you see them on your bulletin board, or what-have-you, look at them every single day and reassess maybe two weeks into the month going, “Oh, shoot, I need to earn x amount of dollars by the end of the month just to survive, let alone if I want anything extra for entertainment or what-have-you. What do I need to do to make that happen?” And it’s a huge motivating factor. And you get out there and you do more self promotion, you do more networking, you make those cold calls, you just do it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s hustle, right? To me it’s like nothing’s going to fall into your lap and if it does, it’s like you said, it’s probably going to dry up at some point and if you’re not hustling and making sure that you’re keeping your funnel full with your networking and reaching out, then it’s going to probably be pretty tough because no client lasts forever, really. Even if you do have a relationship for a long time, it’s not like they’re ordering from you the same amount all the time, it comes in ebbs and flows a little bit, too. What would you tell somebody like right now, a young person getting out of school, do you think it’s good advice to be like, “Hey, you may have to go get a lower paying or some kind of job to pay the bills for a little bit while you build your freelance career on the side,” or do you tell them, “Hey, go for it, if you hustle enough, you’ll be able to get your clients”? I’m kind of curious on what your take on that would be.

…work where you’re going to be interacting with your community, with your target audience, and people who could potentially get you work or get you a job. And build that, build up your savings, and then continue to build your freelance business on the side.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: There’s no shame in having a part-time job, especially if you’re first starting out because that first year can be really, really rough. So, I tell people go get a job at a coffee shop or a bar or a restaurant or maybe even, because I work with a lot of young artists, go work at or one of the local art supply stores where you’re going to be interacting with your community, with your target audience, and people who could potentially get you work or get you a job. And build that, build up your savings, and then continue to build your freelance business on the side. And I think, again, as long as you’re focused and you know what you’re doing, maybe work as a barista in the morning but every single afternoon, during the week, is dedicated to your job. Well, I mean, your freelance business. Go. Focus on that. [inaudible 00:10:18] anything else. And I think you’ll find success and eventually you’ll be able to get rid of that part-time job.

Phil Singleton: I love it because I think at some point, yeah, you got to have something that’s coming in over time and that freelancing just has to take, to me, it just takes a little bit of time and effort and hustle to get it rolling to where you can kind of do it full-time versus not-

Julie Cortés: [inaudible 00:10:39]. Go ahead.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I was just saying not having something to pay the bills, especially right away, that’s the one thing I was curious about, like you’ve mentioned that, too, like it sounds like there was a point and time where you’re just like, “I’m doing this, I’m building a plan, I’m committing to it, I’m going forward.” I know a lot of people that kind of having daytime jobs, are in cubicles or whatever, they’re gigging on the side, they got their foot in two boats and it never feels like this is the good time to leave when they’re probably … At some point it’s almost like you have to make the jump, it seems like all of us, everybody I talk to, including what you’re telling me, at one point you were just like committed to it and then just no turning back almost.

…freelancing or solo-preneurship is not for everybody. It does take a certain kind of attitude and motivation and drive and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it.

– Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Right. And you know what, I think everybody’s got that fear and you have to get over that fear. It’s a fear of failure and if you do fail, so what, at least you tried and you said that you’d tried. So, and I will say freelancing or solo-preneurship is not for everybody. It does take a certain kind of attitude and motivation and drive and if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. I see so many freelancers come and go, folks who lose their jobs whether it’s due to the economy or what-have-you and I find the ones who don’t do the things that they need to do are usually the first ones back, full-time, somewhere else. The people who don’t join the network and organizations or don’t promote themselves or don’t do the continuing education, those ones are the first ones back. And I just kind of sit there and shrug my shoulders because I’m here offering tips and tricks and the things to help them get by and you know what, if it’s not in them, it’s not in there. There’s nothing I can do about that.

Phil Singleton: It’s like you say, you can give them … At the end of the day, people have to have hustle and take action, it doesn’t matter how good the tips and advice and stuff is because it’s there. But if they don’t act on it, then they’re probably not going to reap the rewards of what can be a really great career for lots of folks.

Julie Cortés: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Well, let me ask you this, this is something that’s helped me when I first got my business off the ground, I don’t know if people still do this or it’s recommended and I think some people get that they don’t want to do it but it worked out really well for me, the very beginning I actually gave stuff away. Just to build up a little bit of a portfolio and to get a couple, a few like screaming clients where I was like, “I’m going to do this for you, I’m going to bust my butt. It’s worth this amount of money but I need you to be there as a referral. And I also need you to make sure that you’re screaming and putting this stuff up online and giving me nice reviews in different places.” Worked great for me. But I think a lot of people are like, “I’m not going to give anything … ” You know what I mean? [inaudible 00:13:06] …

And I don’t know what … You think that’s recommended or people … I don’t know, did I get lucky? What are your thoughts on doing that for folks? Time is money and you put a lot of stuff into and a lot of times, if you don’t charge for stuff, people don’t understand the value of it, so a lot of times giving stuff for free away all of a sudden loses its value because you’re just doing it for a favor type deal.

Julie Cortés: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Versus actually cash. So what are your thoughts on that?

Julie Cortés: Well, and you don’t want to devalue the profession, either. There’s all sorts of these sites online whether it’s Sologig or Odesk or whatever and you’re sitting there competing against freelancers from overseas who are charging eight bucks and hour and there’s no way I can compete with that. And people are paying for value. When somebody’s first starting out, sure, you can do things in trade, you can do things for exposure, and, again, there’s no shame in that. I don’t personally recommend it. I did do some pro bono work but I did it for charities or I did it for a professional organization where I knew my name was going to be on it and it was going to be broadcast to my target audience of people who could potentially hire me and give me a freelance project. So, I think if you are going to do that, absolutely be very specific about the projects that you choose and make sure that you’re getting something of value in return, like you said, you said the referrals, etc, get something in return and not just be giving work away for free.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, because it’s like you said, as soon as you just give it away for free, all of a sudden then the mind clicks off and it’s not worth as much as what somebody would would’ve paid for it.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: So, I understand why you wouldn’t recommend it. Now I want to dip into a little bit about your own business, the things that you work on, the services that you offer, we talked a little bit at the beginning about your bio and your background and we got some good advice and things like that, but tell us the things that you’re actually doing and how you work with clients and the types of value and services that you’re doing when you work with companies and agencies around Kansas City? And I guess probably the rest of the country.

Julie Cortés: Sure. So, my business actually turns 20 years old next month, I’m very excited.

Phil Singleton: Congrats.

Julie Cortés: People say, “You look like you’re 12.” Thank you, I’m not.

Phil Singleton: I was going to say, you said 20 years, I was like, “Really?” Wow, you wear it well.

Julie Cortés: Thank you. And I’ve worked with a variety of companies, a variety of industries, and, again, it’s ad agencies, large corporations, small business, non-profits, startups, what-have-you, and basically what I do as a freelance copywriter is I work in advertising and marketing on the creative side and I work in tandem with a graphic designer or art directors and we do any advertising or marketing promotional materials for the clients. Sometimes I work on my own, sometimes I work on a team or a virtual agency, it just kind of depends. Every situation is different. Sometimes ad agencies will call me, “Hey, we’re overwhelmed, we just need this one-off project, can you help us?” Or, “Hey, we’ve got a gal out on maternity leave, can you fill in while she’s gone?” Different scenarios.

But then I have other clients like corporate clients who they don’t have enough marketing work for them to sustain an in-house, full-time marketing department, so they’ll have me make a virtual agency and we meet with them once a week and we knock out whatever projects we need to do for them. So, it just totally varies, totally depends. I’ve worked with some companies you’ve heard of such as Sprint and Hallmark and H&R Block, Payless Shoe stores, some of the bigger ones in town, most of the ad agencies and design shops and a whole bunch of small businesses and startups that you haven’t heard of yet but hopefully will here soon in the near future.

Phil Singleton: Right. So can you break it down a little bit like in terms of, okay, copy or copy writing, is it like taglines or product descriptions, is it blog posts, technical articles, website copy, is it all of the above, is it certain things more than others?

Julie Cortés: That’s a great question. So, I dabble in a lot of things, again, mostly advertising and marketing copy. The stuff that I really like to do is the really conceptual stuff, the really creative stuff because I feel like consumers don’t want to be sold to, they don’t want your commercials, they don’t want your ads, but if they have to be inundated by these things, we might as well make them entertaining for them. So, I love a killer headline, I like really short copy, whether it’s a website or a brochure or a print ad, even a TV spot. I love really, really creative stuff. I also do a lot of proof reading, as well, not all copywriters are proof readers and not all proof readers are copywriters and fortunately I’ve got both sides working for me so I’m able to help out in that capacity, too.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And you’ve been doing it for a while now so obviously this is like there’s no doubt this is your passion and I’ve been following you for some time and you can see that everybody that follows you shares the same kind of opinion that you’re one of the best, if not the best, at what you do here in town here. And the passion comes through, we can all see it, so that’s really awesome.

Julie Cortés: Thank you.

Phil Singleton: I wanted to get into a couple things that also were one of the reasons I was really excited to have you on the show was you’re been doing for a while one of these things that’s become a little more trendy and hip in marketing, I think more recent in the last couple years, and that is trying to go out there and intentionally do things to build your own personal branding and your own like authority in your niche type of thing. So, you’ve naturally been doing this for some time, and you’ve been creating your own inbound networks, you created the Freelance Exchange, we’re going to talk here in a minute, Freelance exchange we’re going to talk in a minute, and those types of things where you’re getting out there and people know you as an expert in your field because you’ve gone out and joined and networked and hustled and kind of made your name for yourself.

And I think smart people have been doing this for a long time and now recently you got all these inbound marketers calling this, “It’s authority building, it’s personal branding,” and that kind of stuff. You’ve done a fantastic job on that, by the way, I think everybody in town here knows who you are, especially in the types of arenas that you claim. What have you done that you think that’s helped you get this kind of branding and authority here in town? Has it been the Freelance Exchange had a big part of it? Has it been joining networks, has it been volunteering, is it all of the above? Which ones do you think have helped more than others? Tell us how you’ve helped build your personal brand up.

Julie Cortés: That’s an excellent question. My first instinct is to say all of the above because, honestly, my own personal brand came about before I even started the Freelance Exchange, I’d been freelancing for five years before I started that. And I think one of the keys is authenticity, is I am who I am and my branding reflects that, it’s fun, it’s whimsical. Today it’s kind of shifting a little bit, it’s got a little bit more edge to it, which is kind of who I’ve become over the years, as well. But, that’s not the say the Freelance Exchange hasn’t helped me because that’s got to be the driving force and I put that on my LinkedIn profile, as well, that if there’s one thing I’m known for, sure, people know me as a copywriter, people know my logo, absolutely, but there’s tons of freelance copywriters out there, there’s tons of copywriters out there, the one thing that Julie Cortés is known for is starting the Freelance Exchange.

And the love of professional development came from, I have to give credit to what we used to call the Ad Club, it’s not AAF, the American Advertising Federation, and like I said, I jumped in right away, right out of school, and served on the board and I loved the community and I loved the network and the continuing education, etc. And I got to thinking, after a few years with them, and I still love them and I’m still a member, but I got to thinking, “Hey, why isn’t there anything specifically for freelancers? There’s plenty of us out there, there’s education, for sure, to be had. Why don’t we do something about this?” And so I opened up my Rolodex, this was January of 2013, opened up my Rolodex, I probably emailed about 50 people back then and I said, “Hey, we need a freelance group, why don’t we get together and figure this out?” I had 20 people show up that very first day and we talked and it just grew and grew and grew beyond my wildest dreams and the next thing you know, we’re getting incorporated. We’ve got a name and a logo and we’re charging membership and here we are, this brand new, not-for-profit, professional trade organization in town that is not competing against AAF or AIGA but working in tandem with them to offer education and networking and support and promotional opportunities specifically for those who are self-employed in advertising and marketing.

And it’s not just freelance writers, it’s also designers, photographers, illustrators, video people, and even folks who wouldn’t consider themselves necessarily creative, such as account reps or media buyers, PR pros, social media pros, web developers and programmers. We have them in our group, as well. And the biggest thing for me was most of us went to school to study our discipline, so I got a degree in journalism. I know how to write for advertising, I don’t know how to run a business, I didn’t take business classes because they weren’t required when I was in school, and that’s what was going through my head when I first got started, “How do I do this?” And plus, many creatives aren’t exactly built for the business side of things, either, we’re very much right brain thinkers and so how do we wrap our heads around this? And I was like, “Gosh, let’s get together and figure this out and let’s bring in the experts and we’ll bring in the attorneys and they can help us with our contracts. And we’ll bring in accountants and they can help us with our taxes.” And etc, etc.

And like I said, the concept just grew and grew and grew and we’ve become so much more than continuing education. It’s community, it’s a network of support, it’s referrals, it’s teaming up and creating virtual agencies. And then conversely, it’s also a resource for Kansas City area businesses and ad agencies, when they need talent, they can come to us and search for free on our website or they can come to our annual portfolio showcase and they can find the talent that they need. We offer that as a service to the community.

Phil Singleton: And right here in town, which I think is super important, I think attractive to a lot of people that you’re being able to deal with somebody local if you’re in Kansas City, right?

Julie Cortés: Right. As opposed to finding some random person online, there’s so much to be said for that face time and building relationships with your clients that sometimes can only be done in person.

Phil Singleton: I absolutely … The reason I love this so much is it’s just so brilliant and genius is that you said … I love when people set something up or go after or organize something or launch a new business, a new organization, and it ends up having a cascade of win wins like this because it’s like not only did it help you make a name for yourself, obviously some of your personal branding is attached to doing this, it enabled you to make a lot of connections. I’m sure by being a Freelance Exchange member yourself that it’s generated business for yourself. But you’ve also helped generate a lot of business for the members, as well, right? So, you did this one thing where you went out there and took an issue to do it to kind of help a community out and it’s really resulted in wins for lots of different people, including yourself.

And I love when things line up that way, when you can actually find a way to do something that either helps yourself or your client or whoever it is, but also helps a lot of other people that are involved in stuff. And I think it’s just … I love what you’re doing, I love the mission of it. I was a part of it myself, like we were talking in the green room before the show, it’s like we’ve gotten leads off of it, I was just telling you, again, earlier before we got on the call, on the recording, that we’ve gotten referrals from you and from the Freelance Exchange. So, really helpful and I just absolutely love what you’ve done and to have watch it just grow over … It basically sounds like it was a thought and then email and a meeting, and it’s kind of rolled into this whole thing that’s got its life of it sown, its own organization and non-profit business, so it’s just fantastic.

Julie Cortés: Thank you. We’re now getting national recognition, which is really fun, especially since we’re just one little group here in Kansas City and just this last year, in 2017, myself and the organization won some awards. One from the National Freelancers Conference, we got a community award that’s national, and then the Stevie Awards for women in business, recognized me for innovator of the year and the Freelance Exchange for organization of the year in the category of non-profit. And again, it’s just so humbling because I feel like we’re just here, like I said, in the middle of the Midwest and we’re getting this national attention and now I’m getting requests to take this concept to other cities. So if you know freelancers in other cities or if anybody’s listening, please, please by all means, let me know and I’d be happy to help you.

Phil Singleton: That is so cool. And then we’re going to get into something else now because when you set this thing up, obviously, you were already a freelancer, you contacted other people that were freelancers or established freelancers, probably, to some degree, but now, you’ve taken this experience, your 20 years of experience, your experience setting up a successful non-profit that generates leads and businesses and resources for freelancers and other small businesses and agencies, now you’ve taken it to the actual classroom where you’re taking some of this experience and kind of formalizing it into a course. Tell us a little bit what you’re doing at the Kansas City Art Institute and how that came about.

Julie Cortés: So, for the past few years I’ve been getting invited to come in and speak to the classrooms of different area colleges, whether it was the Art Institute or UMKC or [inaudible 00:27:01] or KU, and they’d have been come in and give a one hour speil about freelancing. Okay, that’s all fine and good, here’s the pros and cons, here’s what you need to know. And then I just started thinking, “Oh, my gosh, there’s so much you kids need to know. And I am just barely touching the surface of it.” And so I randomly mentioned to one of the professors who had me come in, I said, “Hey, if you know of anybody who would be willing to have this as a class, let me know. I’d love to teach.” And, actually, it wasn’t him and it wasn’t that school but it was a student in the class who said, “Hey, I’ve got a connection for you, let me hook you up.” And the next thing you know, I’m presenting this outline to the design chair of the Kansas City Art Institute and I said, “I have no teaching experience but I absolutely love what I do. I’ve got almost 20 years underneath my belt, I know what I’m doing. The students need this.” Especially there at the Art institute, there are no…

Phil Singleton: Big time, yeah.

Julie Cortés: Yeah. They’re not even offered even if you wanted them. So, I was like, “Please, please, let me come in and teach them the basics. What do you charge and how do you put together and estimate and an invoice and what’s a contract and business plans and marketing plans? What do you write off for taxes?” All these questions that-

Phil Singleton: Oh, big time, and just dealing with clients. How many people have gotten their butt kicked the first few gigs, right, because they didn’t have anybody with experience, kind oftell them what to expect?

…creatives typically aren’t business savvy or not good with numbers and I’m teaching them how to overcome those roadblocks and master their business so they can be successful.

Julie Cortés

Julie Cortés: Right. So, they picked me up right away, I’m not on my second tour of teaching over there and even though my elective class is in the graphic design school, I actually have students from all majors. So, there’s design, there’s illustration, photography, film, but even like ceramics and painting and sculpture and fiber and real artsy-fartsy stuff that’s kind of over my head, but they can still get the nuts and bolts of how to run a creative business for the creative mind, mind you. Like I said before, creatives typically aren’t business savvy or not good with numbers and I’m teaching them how to overcome those roadblocks and master their business so they can be successful.

Phil Singleton: What’s the sentiment, do you feel, when you have these classes? Do people kind of light up and they think like, “I want to do this”? Or are some of them still thinking, “Well, I wanted to learn this so I can work for an agency or a company”?  You always wonder, like you’re in college, what you’re thinking, I guess from when I was in school was almost like go to college, get out a job, get a stable paycheck type of thing and is that still, you still find that today or do you talk about this freelancer career and people kind of light up or you feel … What’s the sentiment?

Julie Cortés: Well, the students taking my class, they absolutely light up. They’re very motivated and they want to succeed. I’ll be the first one to tell them that I do not recommend that they start freelancing right out of school. I think it’s a mistake, I think they need to get their feet wet, and if anything, hone their craft under the masters who have been there before them and get that experience and learn what it’s like to work in an ad agency or corporate side or wherever you may be. Get that experience and then when you’re ready or, again, you might not have a choice, you might lose your job like I did, but at least you’ll have that base to build off of. And they’re super excited and I think, like you said, with the gig economy being so hot right now and this entrepreneur mindset, folks are really excited to get out there and I think, or I know right now, freelancers make up a third of the national workforce here in the United States. And by the year 2020, it’s expected to jump to 50%.

right now, freelancers make up a third of the national workforce here in the United States. And by the year 2020, it’s expected to jump to 50%.

– Julie Cortés

Phil Singleton: Wow, I believe it.

Julie Cortés: 50% of the workforce is going to be freelancing or have a side gig of some sort.

Phil Singleton: That’s amazing. And that’s really awesome that you’ve taken it, I can tell just by the passion of this last segment here, that you’re really excited about this part of what you’re doing. Education the new generation of freelancers. So that’s really awesome. Let’s shift as we kind of wrap up the interview here, first let’s talk about a couple of your favorite things in Kansas City, I always like to ask people where they’re from, especially in Kansas City. I’m always learning about something new, new places I hadn’t heard of or haven’t gone yet, but anything. Tell us somebody comes into town, a friend, a long lost friend you haven’t seen for a long time, what you show them, where would you take them, or where do you like to go just like if you’ve been gone for a while and are jonesing for something uniquely Kansas City?

Julie Cortés: I really like, of course everybody’s going to say barbecue, I just like the food here and we have so many options. I live out in the suburbs, which is kind of rare for a creative type, so I love to get into the city and go explore downtown, Westport Plaza area. Some of my favorites, if you’re familiar with, I love live music, too, so if you’re familiar with the Green Lady Lounge down in the crossroads?

Phil Singleton: I’m not. Cool. Okay.

Julie Cortés: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Green Lady Lounge.

Julie Cortés: Yeah, it’s like this little divey jazz club and it’s got an upstairs and downstairs, pretty swanky, nice drinks, and good atmosphere. And, of course, Q39 is probably my favorite barbecue. And I think people here are just generally very friendly, the city’s easy to get around, there’s really nowhere you can’t get to within half an hour’s time and I think in that regard, we’re really spoiled, besides cost of living being awesome, I think we’re really spoiled. It’s almost like we’ve got-

Phil Singleton: Don’t tell anybody.

Julie Cortés: I know. We’ve got big city opportunities in our small, medium size-ish city, so…

Phil Singleton: Especially for people that are gigging, I think, if you’re a freelancer and looking for clients and you live in, say, San Francisco, you’re not going to be as competitive as somebody who maybe is in Kansas City and can do great work because I think we are as talented as anybody is anywhere else in the States or elsewhere. So, that can be an advantage, too. Let’s shift to the $10,000 question, you’re going to get $10,000 tomorrow, none of your assets or connections, you’re going to have all of your knowledge, all of your same bills, what would you start doing immediately to rebuild what you have today? You can’t go put it in Bitcoin, you can’t go do something else, you’re going to rebuild the type of business that you have today, how would you go out and start that hustle? Because now, you’ve got the benefit of hindsight being 20/20, you kind of know what works, where would you start going to apply your knowledge to start getting paid today?

Julie Cortés: Right. This actually happened to me, ironically, about 14, 15 years ago when I got married and my husband got transferred away. And I went with him for the first year, I moved up to Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places, and while I continued to work with my clients in Kansas City, I essentially was starting brand new in Lincoln. I knew nobody, had no connections, I didn’t necessarily have $10,000 in my pocket, but I had to get out there and hustle. And so not only did I join the local organizations and start networking with them but I picked up the phone and I started calling the local ad agencies and design shops, “Hey, do you have any freelance work for me?”

Phil Singleton: You hit the phones, right? Yeah, you rolled up your sleeves and started calling, I love it. That’s hustle.

Julie Cortés: I did.

Phil Singleton: And that worked? Eventually you found somebody that needed some help or had some overflow or some opportunity to take a chance on your type of deal and you got some clients, is that how it worked?

Julie Cortés: I did. In fact, one of my biggest clients came out of over an hour away in Omaha and it wasn’t even an ad agency, it was a corporation, but they ended up giving me plenty of work that I was fine. So, but finally I told my husband, I was like, “Listen, I love you, I love that you love your job, but I’m not a fan of Lincoln, Nebraska, can we go back to Kansas City?”

Phil Singleton: I love it. I love the story, I love this question because everybody that I talk to that’s got some level of success in what they’re doing, there’s always some element of having that hustle-ness in them, you know what I mean? Nobody’s ever like, “Well, I decided to be a freelancer and 10 awesome clients fell into my lap and I lived happily ever after,” type of a thing. It’s like, “No, man, I went out and I worked it. I networker. I worked. I hit the phones. I showed people what I could do and I stayed at it and I was disciplined, I didn’t give up,” type of thing.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: I just … People I think that don’t have that, and that’s my own, you’ve seen more about that and you deal with the freelancers, but I think that’s part of the actual freelance spirit is getting out there and kind of doing your own thing and I think by nature, if you want to be a solo-preneur, or a freelancer, you’ve got a little bit of that hustle gene in you already, type of thing.

Julie Cortés: Right. You have to and like I said, some people are cut out for it, some aren’t, and even some of the members of the Freelance Exchange, it’s the same thing. You can join all you want and you’ll have a profile on our website, but if you don’t do anything with that, we can’t help you. If you don’t put up a bio or your portfolio samples or a link to your own website, that’s on you, that’s not on us, we’re not responsible for getting you work when you’re not doing your end of the bargain. Or, with our portfolio showcase, a, you’ve got to show, and b, you’ve got to show good work and interact with the clients and then you still have to followup. That’s not the Freelance Exchange responsibility, that’s on you. And if you have that hustle, you will succeed, or you can succeed. If you don’t, good luck.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Well, let’s wrap this up with just telling us how people can reach you, where you’re most active like on social media, if somebody wants to follow or connect with you or hire you, tell us where we can … Tell us anything, also, that’s coming down the pike in terms of things you like to promote, books, courses, freebies, downloads, anything that you might have, fire away.

Julie Cortés: Sure. So, of course you can connect with me on all social media. You can find me generally under KCCopyDiva, that’s @KC, like Kansas City, CopyDiva and that’s on Twitter and on Instagram and my Facebook company page and then I think on LinkedIn, it’s just /CopyDiva. My own business website is, it is currently undergoing a transition to not only including my copywriting and proof reading services but also coming down the pike, very exciting, I’m also going to start offering coaching and mentorship opportunities as well as classes on how to freelance. So not on the student level but on the adult professional level, so stay tuned for more information there.

Phil Singleton: That is going to be awesome, I can’t imagine anybody else to learn the ropes and having you share your knowledge through a course so I hope everybody checks that out who’s interested in this kind of career, or even maybe boosting the one that they have.

Julie Cortés: Right.

Phil Singleton: So this has been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for sharing this much time with us, Julie, and best of luck to you and your business and everything that you’ve got going on.

Julie Cortés: Thank you so much, appreciate you having me on.


Meet Shawn Kinkade of Aspire Business Development

Shawn Kinkade is a full time certified Professional Business Coach, Strategic Advisor and the President of Aspire, a business strategy, consulting and coaching company founded in Leawood Kansas in 2007. He works with entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for traction and momentum in their business and are ready to take things to the next level.

Shawn’s experience has been a mix of Management Consulting (Accenture and as an independent) and as a Corporate Executive (at Sprint PCS), both roles required extensive work on developing and fixing business processes, making people productive, instilling leadership and coaching success with a dedicated focus on solving business problems.

For the past 10 years, Shawn has been working as a coach and strategic advisor, helping his clients reach (and exceed) their business goals. Using an entrepreneurial focus along with his corporate background and experiences, clients get a unique perspective and powerful insights into their challenges and solutions.

You can reach Shawn:

Via email at or
By phone at: (913) 660-9400
On LinkedIn: Shawn Kinkade
Or check out the website at

Meet Shawn Kinkade & Aspire Business Development in Kansas City

Phil Singleton:  Shawn, welcome to the show.

Shawn Kinkade: Well, thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: This is a pleasure. Why don’t you, if you could, just give us a little bit of background in terms of how you got started in the business world? I mean literally like the first couple days or weeks that you got out of school, what’d you do? How’d you get started?

Shawn Kinkade: Well, my degree out of college was mechanical aerospace engineering, and so I had some job offers at the time that would have been with my degree. In fact, one of them was actually with the Space Program, so I would have been sent down to Houston, I would have been working on some different things, not with NASA directly, but indirectly with NASA.

I ended up not taking that job, mainly because the more I looked into hardcore engineering, the more I realized I probably wasn’t really a hardcore engineer. So, the job that I did take out of college was with a company called Anderson Consulting, which is actually Accenture now, which is a global consulting company that really focuses on management consulting for primarily Fortune 100 type of corporations around the world.

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Shawn Kinkade: That was my first job out of college. Was in the Kansas City office, and I guess my first project technically was in Kansas City but after training, end up doing that. Basically was on the road for the next seven years with that job, which was cool. When you’re right out of college, that’s kind of fun, but at some point that gets old.

Phil Singleton: Well plus, Accenture, from what I remember, I mean, that’s like jumping into a real job right away. It’s not like you fumbled around at all, and I’m pretty sure that … Tell me if I’m wrong. I’m sure they have their own independent training program, they put you to work right away type of thing.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah. You definitely, they do a pretty hardcore three or four week almost bootcamp type of thing, where they put you through some pretty long days. Getting you up to speed, and then they basically put you out on a client site. There’s an element of, “Hey, you’re just out of college, but you’re expected to project yourself as if you’re an expert.”

Phil Singleton: Baptism by fire.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah, exactly. You learn pretty quickly how to respond to the clients and how to at least say, “Hey, I don’t know, but I’m going to figure it out and I’ll you moving.” It was a great way to learn and I worked with a lot of really smart people which was a big plus, but it’s also one of those companies where, unless you really want to be on the road, especially if you’re from Kansas City, because there aren’t that many local clients that are that size, then if you don’t want to be traveling, they probably need to find something else to do.

Phil Singleton: Right. So then what was the next step after Accenture? Did you know you wanted to do something else? Another opportunity crop up, or?

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah. Once I finally realized, “All right, I’ve got to get off the road,” the timing actually worked out really well that about the time that I was leaving there, that was when Sprint PCS was just starting up. So that was the wireless side of Sprint and I was actually one of the first 300 employees on Sprint PCS, which was actually, it was interesting because it was actually technically a startup. They just happened to have 10 billion dollars in funding.

Phil Singleton: Right, wow.

Shawn Kinkade: It was actually, it was very entrepreneurial, especially in the beginning, ’cause nobody really knew … I mean, now we’re all so used to what the wireless phones are and how they work and everything else, but really, we were figuring it out. So, to be able to be on the front end of launching that kind of service, and my focus was really more on the back-end, billing and how do you bill for different things and how do you invoice people, and all the systems that go behind that.

The first three or four years was actually really fascinating, and then unfortunately the rest of Sprint looked over and said, “Hey, that wireless thing looks like it’s going to be big. We should get involved.” That brought a lot of old school wire line mentality to a very new endeavor, which kind of killed off the entrepreneurial spirit, unfortunately.

Finally, I just burned out on the whole corporate culture thing which is what prompted me to start Aspire, which was just over 10 years ago…

– Shawn Kinkade

Ultimately that bureaucracy and that corporate culture basically, I lasted a while longer and ultimately ended up leaving, but coming back as a consultant. Finally, I just burned out on the whole corporate culture thing which is what prompted me to start Aspire, which was just over 10 years ago, was I just basically just boiled out on or burned out on corporate culture, and wanted to work with entrepreneurs and business owners who actually wanted to get something done.

From Fortune 100 to an Entrepreneurial Venture

Phil Singleton: Very interesting. I’m always asking, when you went from corporate, had the I guess traditional type of a job so to speak, and then you stepped out. I mean, some people today when they’re in their current career and they want to do something, maybe go out on their own, maybe start their own business, there’s that period of sometimes they’ve got their foot in two boats type of thing, but ultimately there’s a lot of times, one time where they’ve got to figure out what they want to do and jump out and maybe do it without a safety net or whatever, and leave the comfort of that corporate-

Shawn Kinkade: Out of a job, right.

Phil Singleton: Right, having it. But it sounds like in your case, correct me if I’m wrong, you left but you still almost had your first client or client there, so it wasn’t super scary that way. Was there still an element of, “Hey, I’m going out on my own. There’s a scary part of this?” Or?

Shawn Kinkade: No, having somebody lined up would have been really smart in hindsight. I really wish it had worked out that way. No, for me it was definitely, it was a jump. I got to the point where I knew I wanted to do something different. Luckily for me I did have enough money saved up that I could afford to take a risk. I was in a situation where it was certainly possible for me to be able to do something different.

But when I started, I realized, and this was probably poor planning on my part, but I realized probably three or four weeks after I had actually launched the business, that my key target market were entrepreneurs and small business owners and even though I knew thousands of people in Kansas City, I don’t think I knew hardly any who were actually entrepreneurs and small business owners, so I was literally starting from scratch.

Phil Singleton: Wow, interesting. Because I know you to be somebody that has a lot of passion for what you do, and where did that part come from?  You’re coming from consulting, and then a tech, then a large tech company. Now you’re totally, it seems like your calling now is doing what you’re doing right now. How did that come about? Was that something you always wanted to do?

But ultimately, [big companies] end up having a lot of the same problems that entrepreneurs have in the sense of whether it’s systems or it’s people, or it’s strategy, or whatever it is. Just the size of the problems tends to be different.

– Shawn Kinkade

Shawn Kinkade: You know, I think what I looked at was the consulting aspect of it, I always really enjoyed the game of business, right? When you’re doing it at a Fortune 100 level, it’s a different game, in really large corporate environment. But ultimately, they end up having a lot of the same problems that entrepreneurs have in the sense of whether it’s systems or it’s people, or it’s strategy, or whatever it is. Just the size of the problems tends to be different.

So, that’s the part that I think I really started with was I love solving problems and I love helping people figure out, “How do I make this work?” Then, what I discovered when I started Aspire and was able to start working with a small business owner was the impact that I can make with a guy that’s got 10 employees and doing two million dollars worth of revenue.

I can probably get him to be able to double the size of his business, and start working less. That’s life changing for that particular business owner. That’s when it becomes a lot of fun, because now you’re really making a difference. If I help a large corporation do 2% more on the top line, does anybody really notice except maybe Wall Street? You just can’t make that much of an impact. Even though that’s a huge dollar amount for a large corporation, it just doesn’t feel the same.

Phil Singleton: Absolutely. Love it. I mean, it takes me really back to how I got into what I’m doing which is I did one small website on barter for a guy, and got it ranked on Google, and his phone started ringing like never before, and he literally called me up with tears and that was … It’s what you said. It’s that rewarding aspect of it where you’re really helping somebody get to the next level or do something different, and all of a sudden, that’s how it felt for me, is I’ve got some purpose now, and you make that connection with somebody and it becomes I think more real. It sounds like a very similar feeling.

…what I discovered when I started Aspire and was able to start working with a small business owner was the impact that I can make with a guy that’s got 10 employees and doing two million dollars worth of revenue. I can probably get him to be able to double the size of his business, and start working less. That’s life changing for that particular business owner.

– Shawn Kinkade

You started doing that and obviously no turning back. This is what you’ve been doing the last 10+ years.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah. To some extent, especially after getting started and making the jump and realizing, “Well, wait a minute, I literally don’t know anybody that’s in the space that I need to work in and so I’m starting from scratch.” I was lucky enough to just really hit the streets hard and go out and try to meet as many people as I could, and I think I landed my first client maybe two to three months in. Then picked up another one, and gradually started to pick up from there.

For the most part, every year, over the last 10 years, every year’s been better than the year before. It’s the kind of thing that it’s been building and that’s certainly good, ’cause the first year or two was pretty challenging.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. So glad to hear that. Well tell us, I want to get into a part where the things that you’re doing or have done to help you get more access to ideal clients, but before that, can you tell us a little bit, like what is your ideal client? Is it like the 500 or million dollar guy that’s trying to get to two million? Is it two million getting to 100 million?

Shawn Kinkade: It’s probably on the smaller end. One of the things that I’ve realized as I’ve done this is that if it starts to feel corporate, so if it’s somebody that it’s big enough, that they start to look like they’re corporate and they have a lot of politics and stuff, I can probably help ’em, but I really don’t want to. I’ve had a few of those clients.

But the ones that I really enjoy, to your point, are probably at the low end, maybe around a million dollars in revenue. It could be less, depending on the type of business. Actually I’ve got some startups that I’ve really enjoyed working with. A lot of times startups don’t have any money so that’s not necessarily ideal, but they’re always fun.

the ideal is somebody that’s doing well and they’ve got a real opportunity for growth….it’s taking them from one million to two million, or from one million ultimately to five million, or five million to 10 million.

– Shawn Kinkade

But I think the ideal is somebody that’s doing well and they’ve got a real opportunity for growth, and so to your point, it’s taking them from one million to two million, or from one million ultimately to five million, or five million to 10 million. Once they start getting up to 15-20 million, then they do start to feel more corporate, and that’s great, but just not, that’s not the area that’s as much fun for me.

Phil Singleton: Not your zone, yeah. Yeah, I can definitely see that, where I’m thinking while you’re talking, maybe a lot of them are in and around that E-myth area where they’re taking it a certain point and they’re just like, “Hey, I need some help. I’m not sleeping as much, I’m working a lot, I can’t scale anymore. I’ve got a lot of opportunity, I’m leaving money on the table” and all that kind of stuff.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah, absolutely. And the E-myth is a great example. He wrote that back in the ’80s and it still resonates.

Phil Singleton: Isn’t that unbelievable?

Shawn Kinkade: It’s still absolutely the key. You see business owners struggle all the time. There’s very natural plateaus where they get stuck, so he actually figured out the first couple places where somebody gets stuck, and the first one is as the owner, you can’t afford to do it all. If you want to grow, you’re going to have to get out of your own way, and a lot of business owners struggle with that. So helping them figure that out a lot of times is the first step.

Lead Gen Tactics for Business Coaches & Advisory Firms

Phil Singleton: Nice. All right, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to shift over to just some of the things, ’cause I look at you and admire you on a lot of different fronts. I mean, you’re probably, you’re one of the most well known people that I know in the Kansas City business community, and one thing that’s really interesting about you is the people that know you, when they say they know Shawn or, “Do you know Shawn?,” everybody lights up and that’s really interesting how people think so super highly of you.

Not that that’s … It’s just more so than everybody else I’ve ever met here which I think is a testament to the type of person you are.

Shawn Kinkade: Well that’s very nice hear to hear. I guess that means something’s working, right?

Phil Singleton: Exactly. It’s true, but I mean, a lot of things I think you do that are really interesting, just on a marketing front, is you seem to be really active, pretty active on LinkedIn. You’re going to have correct me where I’m wrong. I’m viewing Shawn Kinkade and Aspire from the outside in, you can.

Shawn Kinkade: Sure.

Phil Singleton: … tell me what things have worked for you, but certainly I would guess that your track record and referral marketing is a big part of it. I know, just from knowing you, that you do really interesting things in terms of generating your own content, book reviews, you’ve got a great email newsletter. You do certain types of events and things like that, and those are the kind of things that I see that seem like they all are things in the marketing groups that I’m in, and things that we tell other, all businesses to do, not just professional services.

Can you give us some insight on the stuff that’s worked for you, where I’m wrong, what else that you’re doing, and how some of these things have paid for business?

Shawn Kinkade: No, I think you probably hit the highlights. When I first got started and realized, “Hey, I’m starting from scratch, I’ve got to get out there,” part of what I recognized was that, and you may appreciate this as a marketing expert, I didn’t necessarily know that much about marketing. Because I was helping people with strategy, I was helping people with overall business organizational models and growth, and things like that.

And marketing’s part of that, but it wasn’t necessarily anything that I’d had a lot of previous experience with. So, I tried to learn as much as I can, learned enough about SEO and AdWords and things like that to be dangerous and to know that I needed to know people like you if my clients needed help with that.

Okay, so the one thing I can do is I can be consistent. I’m going to do a blog post…between my business partner and I, we do one [blog post] once a week, which I think is actually a pretty good rhythm.

– Shawn Kinkade

But for me, what I decided was, “Okay, so the one thing I can do is I can be consistent. I’m going to do a blog post,” actually when I started, I think I decided I was going to do a blog post every three or four days, which I did actually, for two or three years. I did one every three or four days. Now I’m down to, between my business partner and I, we do one once a week, which I think is actually a pretty good rhythm.

Phil Singleton: That’s great.

Shawn Kinkade: But that’s basically almost a commandment of, “We will do a blog post every single week, come hell or high water and that’s what we’re going to do.” That gets back to my idea of, “Okay, at least I can be consistent.” What we write about, how long they are, how intricate they get, those will vary, but we’re at least going to do something every single week.

Same thing with the newsletter. I do one every month. It comes out the first Tuesday of the month, and I’ve been doing that now for 10 years, and I don’t think I’ve missed a month. It’s just one of those things where, “Okay, I may or may not be brilliant, but at least I can do what I have to do.” I think that’s a big part of what I see with business owners that I talk to and it sounds like you do, as well. You just have to commit to things and see what works.

Phil Singleton: Right. You blog, you email, I know that you’re active on … At least I know, my thing is LinkedIn more than anything else, but [crosstalk 00:17:18]-
Shawn Kinkade: Yeah, and I’ll use LinkedIn and a little bit of Facebook as a way to supplement the other information. I’ll use those as when we post a blog, make sure that it gets sent out to those different challenges and out to Twitter. Occasionally on LinkedIn I’ll do some other articles that are something different, but yeah, just try to be visible and try to be active so if somebody is looking for me, they’re going to find me.

Phil Singleton: I know over time you’ve done events and things like that.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah, that’s actually been really helpful. I think for the last four years, I’ve done a monthly business book review, which is where I take a business book that I think clients probably should have read, and I know they haven’t, and I’ll summarize it. I’ll write out a seven page summary, and then I’ll also create a presentation document, and then present it as a discussion over breakfast.

We usually have 20, 25, 30 people in the room, and it makes for a great discussion. People walk away from that after an hour and a half, they get breakfast, they learn all the key points of that particular book, and they had a chance to meet a bunch of people and talk about those ideas with all those people. That’s actually been a really powerful event, and I get a lot of people that I’ll meet somebody and they’re like, “Oh, you’re the guy that does those book reviews.” I’ve never met them before, and they just happened to hear it from somebody else.
Phil Singleton: And you’ve been doing that for a long time. I know it’s been-

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah, about three or four years now.

Phil Singleton: That’s great. Then, you also speak at events and those type of things?

Shawn Kinkade: Yep. I try to do probably once every couple of months. I’ll go speak to an organization in whatever topic they want. Sometimes it’s a Chamber of Young Professionals meeting, or I’m doing one this week actually for NARI, which is the Remodeler’s Association here in town. That’s going to be on goal setting and some other stuff, so just kind of depends what people want, but yeah, I don’t really want to have a speaking career, but I do like getting up in front of a room. I think anytime I can do some education, that’s a plus. I enjoy doing that.

Phil Singleton: And you’re involved with communities? I know you were or are a part of the Leawood Chamber of Commerce. Are there other things like that?

Shawn Kinkade: Yep. I’m on the Leawood Chamber Board, and I’ve been in the chamber really since I started the business, trying to keep active in a couple of different those kinds of groups. Yeah again, it’s just a matter of you’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to be visible. You need to be able to run into people, and then from a networking perspective, I think what’s been most effective for me is through all of that, I’ll run into somebody or I’ll get introduced to somebody and it’s a one on one networking meeting. Where my goal is to go into that and say, “Okay, how can I help somebody?”

Whether that’s with an introduction or whether it’s a resource that I can give them, whatever it is. And what I’ve found is when I go into those kind of meetings with that approach, that people respond well, and that may be why to your point, people are like, “Oh yeah, I know who that is” or, “Yeah, they helped a friend of mine” or whatever.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Then also, obviously a big part, I’m guessing, tell me if I’m wrong, but I mean you must have an awesome referral system for yourself where you do get work with other people and they introduce you. Plus you’re out and about, so you’re doing good work, but you’re also out educating and really when I look through your list, I’m writing notes as you’re talking, and everything that you’re doing are the types of things that pretty much all businesses I think should be doing.

But in particular, professional services, right? You’re just doing it by nature ’cause you’re a smart person, but also ’cause you studied and applied this stuff and took action I think, is what I’m guessing. But every one one of them’s like we’re at this hub. It’s like the perfect inbound marketing hub of what we try and get all of our clients to do, in a variety of different businesses. That’s pretty amazing that you actually have all of these on your list and you have this disciplined approach of actually doing them.

I can name, I can count on one hand all the clients that I have that blog once a week. They all do, but they’re not actually doing it in-house type of thing. Help ’em do it, but most of them, they know it’s important but they just don’t commit to it.

Shawn Kinkade: I think for me, I mean, to some extent I told you earlier, the first couple of years, I mean, that was really my opportunity to learn about marketing, and so I did do a lot of studying. I read a ton of books, I followed a whole bunch of people. All the different resources that are out there, but then the other piece was I’m trying to get my clients to do this as well. So, if I’m not modeling it, then I really can’t tell my clients, “Hey, you need to be doing more marketing” or, “You need to be doing this or that.” I figured well, that’s my obligation, that I at least have to try to do it right.

Phil Singleton: So I guess when you have a coaching client that could be all sorts of different things. “I’ve got too many leads. How do I process more? I don’t have enough leads. How do I do this? I don’t have enough time, I’m not efficient.” Does it kind of go in all those different areas or is there something that it’s 80/20, or it’s like, “Most of the time, people need this?”

Shawn Kinkade: No, you’re absolutely right. It depends on the business owner and the industry and the business that they’re in. There’s a large percentage that don’t have enough leads, but there’s equally a large percentage of, “Man, I’ve got leads, I just don’t know what to do with them” or, “I don’t have the bandwidth with my team to be able to process them, so now we drop the ball and that makes us look bad.” There’s definitely a series of challenges that people run into, and every business owner is different which makes it interesting. But also makes it kind of fun.

…when you look at the businesses that end up closing their doors, most of ’em aren’t closing because they didn’t add any value or that they couldn’t help people. They close their doors because the business owner is exhausted.

– Shawn Kinkade

Phil Singleton: Sure. I think a lot of people probably … Like I am, when I first got started, I was like, “I don’t understand who would ever need a coach.” Once you’re in that pre-E-myth stage, it just seems like, “Well, why would you need anybody to help you if you’re already rocking and rolling?” But then you get to a point where you’re just like, “I might need help” type of a thing. Everybody gets there at some certain point, so I can see how that would be the million dollar mark, depending on what it is, like you said, or beyond.  To the point where it’s just the E-myth problem, there’sno way.

Shawn Kinkade: And when you look at the businesses that end up closing their doors, most of ’em aren’t closing because they didn’t add any value or that they couldn’t help people. They close their doors because the business owner is exhausted.

They get to the point where they’ve stretched so thin and they can’t make it work anymore, and so they actually have a choice of, “Okay, I can either go back and be small or I can go take a job somewhere and work half the amount of time and make the same amount of money.” That’s ultimately what they’ll end up doing if they don’t figure it out.

Phil Singleton: Well, and you get some people that are probably scared too where it’s like, “I see I scale, I see I can do more leads, but if I hire more people and make the beast bigger, I’m going to make 10 million and make the same I was making at one million type of thing, and nobody wants to do that” or some people do. I don’t know, but I can see that.

Shawn Kinkade: Yeah. If you’re doing it wrong, if you don’t really have a consistent margin and you’re not growing the bottom line, but you’re growing the top line, then yeah, you end up taking more risk, you work harder, and you get less from it. That’s not a great recipe, ultimately.

Shawn Kinkade’s Kansas City Favorites

Phil Singleton: Fascinating stuff. Look, we’re going to shift into a couple of the last questions I’ll ask here, and wrap this up, but the first thing I want to do is ask you, you’re in Kansas City, half the people that we interview are here in Kansas City, so I always like to ask people what your favorite things are about KC? Places you like to go, coffee shop, restaurant, bars, whatever it is. Something that somebody would be like out of town, and they’re just like, “Okay, we’ve only got you for a day or two, we’re going to take you to these one or two places.” What does Shawn Kinkade love about Kansas City?

Shawn Kinkade: So, Kansas City’s an interesting place because it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of big splash, but I’ve been here for quite a while and it’s a great place to live. When I think about the question coming from, “Hey, if I had somebody in from out of town, where do I take ’em?” The first thing that came to mind was the World War 1 museum, if you haven’t been, is actually spectacular.

Phil Singleton: Cool.

Shawn Kinkade: So that’s kind of a cool thing that I like to do if somebody comes in from out of town. The other which I’m sure you’ve heard from probably everybody is of course, the barbecue side of things.

Phil Singleton: It’s almost like on their list sometimes, too.

Shawn Kinkade: Oh yeah. It’s amazing, when people do come in from out of town, they sometimes know more than I do. They’re like, “Have you heard or this restaurant or this one?” But we just had a Q39 opened up down South. We’ve now been to that a couple of times in the last month, and if you haven’t been to Q39, that’s definitely an experience worth having.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: It’s on my list right now, so sweet. Appreciate that. Okay, let’s shift into the $10,000 question, which is, you’re going to wake up tomorrow, have no job, no business, we’re going to give you $10,000. You’re going to have all your liabilities, so you’ve got to build back what you have today. What do you do to get started? I mean, how do you get your first client again? I’m giving you all your knowledge, so I could probably read it off for you, but I would be interested to know, you’ve only got 10,000 bucks, you’ve got to do some marketing. You’ve tried all these things. Where would you focus on day one to try and get money to start paying the builds again?

…you have to have a website, I think you have to look professional, so that means you’ve got to get cards, you’ve got to get an email address that matches your website, so you need branding and you need a logo, so you need all the basics…

– Shawn Kinkade

Shawn Kinkade: I mean, in a lot of ways it’s kind of how I started the business in the first place. Was, “Okay, I’m making this jump.” I didn’t make a huge investment to be able to open the doors up. I didn’t have to put together a website and did a few other things and went through some training. But really probably ballpark, $10,000 to launch my business was probably about right.
Now, that said, I think you have to have a website, I think you have to look professional, so that means you’ve got to get cards, you’ve got to get an email address that matches your website, so you need branding and you need a logo, so you need all the basics. But then from there, depending on what kind of business you’re in, for me, because it’s got to be a knowledge based value add type of business, it’s just a matter of getting out there and trying to find somebody to help.

You’ve got to build up relationships and do some educational stuff, and get out there…

Phil Singleton: Would you join a chamber or something and then start working that right off the bat, or how?

Shawn Kinkade: Potentially, yeah. A chamber would be a good way to go. The other thing I would do is I probably, in fact, I did this my first couple of years especially, and I still do a little bit, but I would probably put on some events, some workshops, that go out there and get the word out. Because it’s a fairly low bar to get somebody to pay 50 bucks to go to a two hour workshop, or 100 bucks for a half day, or 200 bucks, or whatever it is, but you get people to go out, and when they learn something and you’re at the front of the room, that opens up the door to say, “Hey, I can do other things for you.”

You start building your audience and that’s probably a big part of what I would do, is start setting up a couple of different workshops every quarter, just to be able to get in front of people, and then use networking to start filling those seats and getting people in.

Phil Singleton: So awesome. Shawn, look, I really, really appreciate you coming on today and giving us such amazing insight. Can you tell us where we can find you online, where you like to hangout the most in terms of being able to connect on social media? You mentioned Facebook and LinkedIn, if those are the main spots, we’ll make sure to [crosstalk 00:29:00] in the show notes.
Shawn Kinkade: It’s mostly LinkedIn. I feel like I have to have a presence on Facebook just because it’s there, but it’s not really my favorite. But LinkedIn is definitely where I spend probably more of my time. Then, if you want to go to our website, it’s, and we’ve got, obviously have the blog there, so it’s a resource. There’s all sorts of information.

Phil Singleton: Great newsletter that I’m on, as well, so I recommend everybody sign up to that.

Shawn Kinkade: Yep, that’s definitely a good way to get in touch with us. Between the newsletter and then on the website as well, we promote the book reviews, so those are monthly. We just launched a new program that’s an annual program called The Growth Council, which is basically a group of 10-15 business owners that we’ll be pulling together every quarter for a half day workshop, and then on top of that we’ll be doing other stuff as a group.

That group dynamic brings a whole different kind of aspect to helping people out, so that’s kind of a fun thing.

Phil Singleton: That’s really cool. Are they all different industry type of things, different sizes? Are they handpicked or are they just kind of-

Shawn Kinkade: They’re definitely different industries, and they are different sizes, and it’s really, the common thread is it’s a business owner who likes to learn stuff and wants and is actively trying to grow their business. So, when you get those kind of people together, what happens is that they start helping each other out. So, we’re going to be bringing our best ideas to these sessions, but it’s the other business owners that really make that powerful.

Phil Singleton: I can attest to that myself. One, because I’m part of the Duct Tape Marketing network, and there’s like 120 of us in there, so one of the true values is just what you said. I mean, people compare notes and nobody has time to try all the stuff, right? So we can share, “Hey, this is working for me. This is having the same problem,” or, “Here’s how I resolved this.” You’ve got your own little brain trust there. I can see how that would reallybe valuable.

Shawn Kinkade: And it only takes one good idea to really turn something around sometimes.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Well look man, you are the very best at what you do here in Kansas City, and one of the nicest guys with the most integrity and most talented in this space, so I really appreciate you coming to spend this amount of time with us on the show, and I want to encourage everybody to follow you on LinkedIn, and make sure that we visit Aspire Strategic Advisors website, and continue to get educated and steal some great ideas from you.

Shawn Kinkade: Absolutely. Well, thanks for having me and I appreciate the discussion, and look forward to seeing more of the podcast. I like ’em. They’re good.

Phil Singleton: Thanks a lot, Shawn Kinkade!

Consistent Affordable High Quality Blog Writing for Agencies

About 5 years ago, I almost invested $300k in a content crowdsourcing / blog writing startup.

Well, $100k was my own money and the other $200K was from other angel investors I brought to the table.

Why did I consider this kind of strategic investment? Because I wanted to be part of solving the #1 problem agencies had back then – and that we still have today:

Getting Consistent Affordable High Quality Blog Writing for Agencies

I have tried just about every 3rd party content writing provider out there and have invested 10’s of thousands of dollars into blog writing services over the years.

All of them turned out to be a disappointment, usually because of a lack of quality control and consistency.

I am sure there are some good solutions out there, but to date, no one has come close to The Content Company.

In this episode of Local Business Leaders, I interview Cara McCarron, founder of The Content Company.

I just had to interview Cara on the Local Business Leaders podcast to find out how she’s been able to crack the code to producing a high quality outsourced writing solution.

If you are an agency owner or marketing consultant, you’re going to love this one, including the FREE sample blog post she offers (to agencies / marketers only).

Be sure to check out The Content Company

Are you an agency?  Get a FREE sample blog post by contacting The Content Company and mention that you heard on the Local Business Leaders podcast.

About Cara McCarron & The Content Company

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. Today I’ve got a special guest Cara McCarron, co-founder of the Content Company. Cara has worked in the sales and marketing world for more than 12 years in a variety of different roles. Her journey has seen as a sales rep, an account manager, marketing manager, a director for some of Canada’s best known brands and agencies.

She’s also spent a few years learning the ropes and perfecting her techniques as the owner of her own agency. Cool. Before, getting into digital marketing Cara spent time in retail on the store level. She also has experience with both sides of the buying process and she knows what it takes to get people to take specific actions. This wealth of experience has led to the knowledge that through various forms of marketing Content is one common denominator that gets your message across and increases sales. Oh, yeah. Welcome to the show, Cara.

Cara McCarron: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

Phil Singleton: Well, let’s before we get started and dive into maybe some of your lead generation tips and tactics that you’ve seen maybe work for other people and especially for your own business, let’s fill in the gaps and learn a little bit about your story. Maybe those first steps out of high school or college or whatever took you into the real world for the first time and got you to the business that you’ve got going today.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. I think a lot of times we think it’s this whole entrepreneurship is really romanticized and it’s really not. I think you start off learning and you spend a lot of time learning. That’s just what I did. When I was finished school I went into retail and I learned a lot about the buyer journey and what customers want and what the businesses can provide and all that sort of thing. Seeing that relationship grow between even when you’re selling pants and t-shirts.

Over a time my marketing … I started to get more interested in digital marketing. This was sort of before Google really to be honest. It was my first agency or advertising sales job was selling in publications and boiler room type stuff. There was a floor of 20 or 30 guys and me and we were selling ad space in association publications.

Over a time Google launched, all the digital marketing world started to come into its own. I started a couple businesses. I started a company, two actually, that were marketing/consulting/branding/website development. All that kind of stuff. Even back then really the conversation was still …

People didn’t realize it was a conversation at the time but looking back it was still always about content, which is obviously what we do now. Again, building that relationship through writing and not just about the link building side of things and not just about the quick wins.

Over a time I started that business. It did okay. It provided for our family and that was amazing. There was a point where I really felt I wanted to go back into the workforce and really get a better idea and better sense of what digital marketing actually was beyond my low level knowledge of what it was at the time.

I went back into the workforce for about five years. Like you said, I worked for some of the most incredible SEO companies and agencies in Canada. I learned more than I had ever learned before that. Really, social media was just getting ramped up. Pay per click is and was really huge at the time and SEO. It’s just over a time … It’s sort of like you come full circle. In the beginning people thought, “There’s some content element but let’s do all these other tricks to try and get around link building” and all those tactics.

Really, full circle, it comes back to content. That’s always the conversation that we see happening is that if you’ve got relevant content and all that kind of stuff then you’re marketing wins. It’s really that simple. Yeah, we’ve been in business for we’re in our fourth year now. Things are growing very quickly. We take a totally different approach to content writing because it’s like anything good. You can’t rush it. That’s the same with writing. Yeah, that’s kind of a bit about us.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. The one thing I would say also is because I remember in college for me one of the first internships I had I thought it was going to be cooler than it was. I worked for this company called Paine Weber. It was really this investment bank where they just had me cold calling people all day long to try and get leads.

Cara McCarron: Doesn’t sound fun.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. It’s funny because that does kind of thicken your skin a little bit. You look back and I’m actually glad I had that opportunity to do that kind of stuff. It sounds like what you’re doing. It’s kind of scary in the beginning but then after a while it really does help you in a lot of different areas.

Starting Out and Dialing for Dollars

Cara McCarron: Well, our first big break … I’ll tell you just to speak to that is for the first two years of this company I was on the phones. I was dialing for dollars.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. If that doesn’t say entrepreneur nothing does. Sometimes you’ve just got to roll up your sleeve. I was on the Youpreneur Podcsast with Chris Ducker, he’s got a big following and a big podcast for people and agencies and solopreneurs. His whole thing he’s got one where same deal. He got a virtual assistant’s business in the Philippines. His company almost went down.

He’s like, “Man, at some point I just had to be the superhero and roll up my sleeves and just dial until the cow came home.” He literally dialed his way to save his company type of thing.

Cara McCarron: Amazing.

Phil Singleton: Same thing. You got yours off the ground the same way. I think all that kind of stuff just really thickens your skin and also makes you more confident to some degree. It’s like you don’t get … You heard somebody say no so many times. You almost become fearless.

Cara McCarron: I don’t hear it anymore. I don’t hear the word “no” ever.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Cara McCarron: Ever.

Phil Singleton: I’m going to give you a little bit of experience about … Full disclosure here, I’ve been running my business for 12 years. We’ve tried every content production, article writing, blog writing company under the sun. You guys are the very best at what you do. I have some ideas on why but I want to get some more insight on what makes you guys so good.

Phil Singleton: Tell us a little bit more. We talked about your entrepreneurial journey. We mentioned the name of your company The Content Company at the start of the show. Let’s really get down to the definition of what you guys do. I perceive you as a premium, concierge, agency type of a business that provides great consistent quality business for agencies but also for their clients. Fill in the gaps there and tell us what other stuff that you guys do. I know the things that you help us out with. You’re probably doing some other things. You’re better at pitching your company than I am. Fire away.

Cara McCarron: Well, thanks for the props. I appreciate it. We love hearing that. We’re fortunate that we hear that quite a bit. We’re lucky. I think there’s a couple of big distinctions. The biggest one for us is that … My husband and I started the company four years ago. He was a writer, I was an agency person. We came together and looked at what are the pain points that me on the agency side would feel when I would be ordering content for my clients? Then as a writer, what are some of the pain points that the writers will see?

Phil Singleton: Wait. I want to hold you … When you were doing this and you saw some of it were you actually ordering from some of the folks that are out there today that are more crowdsource?

Cara McCarron: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s what you … Okay.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. That’s what I saw.

Phil Singleton: Okay, so you saw that?

I’m not giving this garbage to my client. I’m embarrassed to read it.

Cara McCarron

Cara McCarron: Oh, yeah. It was painful because not to be whatever about it but at the end of the day I said flat out, “I’m not giving this garbage to my client. I’m embarrassed to read it. I’m not going to pass it to my client. You have two choices. Either I’m not giving it to the client or we need to find a different solution.”

Cara McCarron: My solution was Ken because I’d known his writing for a long time, a long time relationship. Beyond that he’s good. He’s incredible. I would say, “Try him out. If you like him, great, use him. If not, don’t.” Every time I was with an agency he would be full. His roster would be full with their clients writing. That was it.

Cara McCarron: For us, we do high volume for sure but for us it’s about the integrity of the writing. You don’t have to charge 10 times what everybody else is charging. That business model doesn’t work either. For us, we don’t have crowdsourced anything. We know our writers, we’ve got a team of 20 writers. They’re all North American. That will never change. We always want to keep our North American writers busy.

A Concierge Approach to Service

Cara McCarron: When a client comes to us our account manager, you have a human that you talk to. That human then assigns it to the writer. It comes back and we do the editing via humans. We don’t automate that part at all. Then the client gets it back perfect ready to go. They can upload to whatever space they need it. It’s SEO-friendly. All that sort of thing.

Cara McCarron: I think as much as we are so into digital in general we’re so into automation for everything. This piece you can’t automate like that. It’s just like not possible. That’s it.

Phil Singleton: I think that’s where a lot of people miss it because I can see a lot of the other crowdsourced that I’ve tried … Again, I’ve tried many, many, many. It just seems like once they get you in, whatever little system they have, it starts to become distant. It’s like me and this invisible writer. There’s no personal connection or touch to it or whatever it is that you guys have figured out. Then you just lose the consistency.

Phil Singleton: Once it takes too long to start … If you have to read through stuff and edit and edit over all of a sudden it’s just, “What’s the point? I’ll just write it myself.” You know what I mean? Hire somebody locally. Whatever that piece of it that you’ve got down you guys have nailed it, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show to figure out what is it? It’s definitely part of your secret sauce.

Cara McCarron: It’s just being human again. It’s bringing it back to that human element because people miss it. No matter what we say, we miss it. I’m the co-founder. If a client’s really in trouble they can call me still.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Cara McCarron: That never happens.

Serving to Agencies Instead of Directly to Businesses

Phil Singleton: Some of this is the same because I know when we first met and talked your focus was really, kind of your niche really, working with agencies versus the end client. Has that changed at all or is it still kind of your primary?

Cara McCarron: No, it hasn’t. We do focus on working with the agency simply because if we’re working with the end user and they don’t have a strategy in place we can’t help them. We’re not a strategy company. We’re a writing company. Often what we’ll do is we’ll push them to clients that we have because if we’re representing all these agencies we have relationships with them.

Cara McCarron: If there’s an opportunity where we can say, “Look, you’re not ready to use us yet but here’s the marketing person or here’s an agency that you can work with. We’ll happily write it but we need that middle ground.” The last thing is I don’t want a small business coming to me who has X amount of dollars budgeted for content, us write it, and they have no idea what to do with it. That’s a total waste of resources for everyone.

Cara McCarron: For that reason, we’re very much focused on if you’ve got a marketing person or you are within an agency or you’re an agency yourself, that’s really where our sweet spot is. If the person is new and they’re just starting out we’re happy to recommend the people that we work with so that they have … You can have a great idea. The best entrepreneur can have the most incredible idea but if you don’t have somebody market it you’re done. In my opinion.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. One of the reasons I’m so excited to talk to you is one of the things we were talking about before the show started … It’s a pain point and it’s an important part for everybody in marketing and has been for a long time. It’s so serious for me because, as I was telling you before, about four years ago I literally got $300,000 together, $100,000 of my own money to try and invest in one of these startup crowdsourced content. I was like, “This is such an important piece. It’s never going to go away. Somebody’s got to figure out a way to get this together.”

Phil Singleton: Now we weren’t able to do a deal with this company who is still around but it really underscores what my point was was I wanted to have a lead-in to somebody that was going to be consistent because four, five years ago blogging everybody was talking about it was important. We knew it was important. Now nothing has really changed. I have tried literally everybody under the sun.

Blogging, no matter what anybody says, it is the cornerstone of inbound marketing

Phil Singleton

Phil Singleton: Blogging, no matter what anybody says, it is the cornerstone of inbound marketing. There’s all sorts of content I know that you guys do but really for somebody to do digital and SEO there’s got to be a consistent flow under the website. There has to be a strategy piece like you’re talking about, which makes perfect sense. That’s why you work with agencies.

When it comes in for us we’re not just blogging for the sake of blogging. Hopefully we’re blogging with an end result in mind and somebody has put some thought into what’s trending, what keywords we’re going after, so there’s a lot of things baked into it and not just another page of copy going onto the website.

The fact that you guys have really cracked the nut on this is super important. Not only did I almost invest $100,000 into another company because I thought it was so important. I’ve tried literally every single one I think out there that I could find. New ones are cropping all the time but they all have the same problem, which is you sign up where they’ve got this great inbound process.

You get into this fully automated funnel or system that they have and all of a sudden you don’t know if it’s some automated person or somebody offshore or whatever. The end result it ends up being what you think it will be. Every once in a while somebody will get some one-off halfway piece of quality and it’s like okay. At the end you always get disappointed. I know because I have tried this over and over and over again. To the point where [crosstalk 00:13:19]

Cara McCarron: You’ve done the homework.

Oh, yeah. The other thing is you can if you’ve got the time, like I do, we do have our own stock of freelance writers that we’ve used. There’s a big problem with that too because, one, they’re freelancers. Two, because they flake out. They get [inaudible 00:13:34] and sometimes [inaudible 00:13:35] It’s just hard to do it. Plus you’ve got a whole other thing to manage.

Or you hire somebody in-house, which a lot of people just don’t have the bandwidth or the resources to do. Ideally you’d write them by yourself but nobody is going to do that. I’m the expert at my company. I can’t write all my stuff. There’s just no way. I wouldn’t have time to help my other clients out. To the point where we come and finally …

Again, I’m going to take one more step forward to be like you know that I’m a part of the Duct Tape Marketing Network. A lot of people that listen to this show or that know me know that. We have seen in the Duct Tape Marketing Network over 120 very seasoned, talented, digital marketers in there that either have a few clients or scores of clients like I have that have had digital content writers and suppliers come through the network.

Nobody has really been able to stand and deliver consistently. They come in and they leave and people end up having high hopes for them. They get disappointed. You’re the only one that’s been in there that’s been able to produce and been, in my opinion … I’m not John. It’s John Jantsch. It’s his network. But I know that you’re thought of highly in that group.

That really says a lot because these are people that routinely … This is one of the reasons why we’re in the group is that we’re vetting other services and things. As a small agency I can’t try every single new thing out there. I can’t try every new content provider. When somebody says, “Hey, we’ve got something good here. Here’s a golden nugget. Let’s use this as part of our strategic providers.” You’re one of those golden children that are in the Duct Tape Marketing Network. I can’t speak highly enough about it.

Cara McCarron: Thank you. I’m blushing all over the place.

Phil Singleton: Well, that’s really why I’m so passionate about this. In order to get results we have to get consistent quality onto our clients’ website. It just has to happen. Without the content piece, the thing falls apart. To the extent that you guys have cracked that and been able to get a solid team deliver consistent quality … The last thing we want to do is get a piece of content and have to read through it and edit it a bunch of times.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. I hear that all the time.

Phil Singleton: If it’s 90% good it still takes a long time to clean that 10% up. That’s got to be good enough where it’s light touch and publish, right? That’s what you guys have cracked. That’s my experience. That’s why I’m so happy to have you on the show.

Cara McCarron: Cool.

Phil Singleton: I’m glad that you got your piece out and shared some of the reasons and things that get you to make it work. I want to drill down a little bit and be like, hey, you’re a digital provider just like I am and some of the rest of the people that listen” at least half the people that listen to this show.

Going to Trade Shows for Leads

What things are you doing to help generate leads for your own business? I don’t care if you go to all the trade shows or you’re still cold calling some. Anything. Tell us what’s generating clients.

I think for us because … We’ve tried a few things over the years. There’s a couple of things that definitely don’t work. Really, it doesn’t work because our market is pretty niche. Our buyer percent are spot on. We don’t have to think about them anymore. We know exactly who we want to talk to. We know who wants to talk to us.

Blogging for sure is a big element. This year we’re really going to … It’s always the shoemaker’s son situation. We’ve not done a great job of content creation ourselves just because we’re busy. This year the big focus is going to be a lot more content in the form of blogging and all that kind of stuff.

You know, being the husband and wife team is he’s really good at operations, he’s really good at the internal marketing. I’m stronger at going to conferences, trade shows, cold calling too. I’m networking my butt off. That’s still even after four years there’s still … Our biggest frustration is there’s so many people to get to to share what we can do for them that it’s overwhelming sometimes.

I think in terms of my role the biggest wins I’ve had for sure … It’s not even just being at the show and presenting and having a booth. It’s me going to the shows and sitting there and having a conversation with somebody. Picking the shows that are strategic. I’m not just going to go to a show that’s about pay per click marketing, let’s say. I’m going to go to a show that’s about inbound marketing or I’m going to go to a show that’s about content marketing.

If I’m sitting next to people I’ll be the first one to strike up, “Hey, what’s your business? How are you doing?” That kind of thing. People are … It’s funny and it’s kind of sad but every business on Earth is looking for a better solution to their content. Like really truly. I’m not just saying that to sound pompous or whatever. It’s true.

I have yet to meet anybody that I’ve talked to in the last, let’s say, year or two years where they’ve said, “No, we’ve got a great provider. It’s amazing.” It’s, “Well, it’s okay.” The way that we always approach it is, “Look, I’ll give you a free sample. We’ll write you your first one for free. No strings attached. Give me a blog topic, give me a keyword, strategy, give me your buyer persona and we’ll get it back to you in five days.” Done.

I’m telling you every time we win the business that way. Every time. Maybe 99 out of 100. It reads. You know we care. You know there’s integrity in what we’re producing. That’s a huge one, offering a free sample. I know it’s a lot more challenging when you’re a digital agency. It’s hard to do that. In our experience that’s one of the biggest ways.

Then your traditional lead source stuff, guest blogging, all that kind of stuff. For me, on my side of things by far trade shows, conferences, cold calling, relationship building is massive, massive. It continues to be.

Phil Singleton: For trade shows are there any particular ones that you go to that are chock-full of the agency type stuff?

Cara McCarron: Yes.

Phil Singleton: I have never been to one single one.

Cara McCarron: No?

Phil Singleton: I’m interested though, I hear more people, I know a lot of people get a ton of business from events and shows and a variety of things.

Cara McCarron: Yeah, it is. You have to be careful. I can go to pretty much any digital marketing conference and I’ll get something out of it. If I was an agency I would be more strategic about it.

Phil Singleton: Are there any recommended ones that you’ve been to?

Cara McCarron: Inbound.

Phil Singleton: That’s a good one?

Cara McCarron: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That makes sense because that’s the whole thing there.

Cara McCarron: It is. It’s a bit larger than … It’s getting to be where it’s a bit too big. It’s 20,000 people. It’s hard to network with that many people. For sure, that’s a good one. That’s a really good one for knowledge.

Cara McCarron: I just came back actually from New York last month. I was at the Innovation Enterprise Summit and they had a content arm of it this year. It was pretty good. I made some incredible connections there. It was very, very small. It was really good connections.

Cara McCarron: Then there’s a couple local ones here in Toronto, like there’s a couple of digital marketing shows. They’re not all consistent. I think last time I checked there was about 4000. SMX is one really good one. There’s 4000 shows, though!

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I was going to say.

Cara McCarron: It’s crazy.

Phil Singleton: It’s like an investment. You’ve got to go, you’re away from home. It’s time.

Cara McCarron: For sure.

Phil Singleton: That’s the thing. You have to almost come back with something or some really good leads to make those …

Cara McCarron: I’m not allowed to come home unless I have four solid leads, I’ve been told. That’s the rule in our family.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Cara McCarron: The kids are a part of it. Everyone is like, “Did you do what you’re supposed to do?” I’m like, “I sure did.” “Okay, you can come home.”

More Requests for Long Form Content

Phil Singleton: I’m wondering. You might not be able to answer this but I want to ask anyway. You work with a lot of agencies. Most of them are inbound marketing, web design, or SEO folks, that type of thing. Do you know what works for those guys in terms of what they’re doing? Or do you have any insight?

Cara McCarron: Yeah. Obviously you’ve got to be careful. We don’t see a lot of that strategy from them. I can say that when it comes to content the interesting thing that’s happening over the last, say, 18 months or so is the long-form blog posts. It’s becoming where definitely there’s a lot more 1500 word posts.

I always say to clients and people and even when I’m being interviewed, “Be really careful with that.” Obviously if you’re working with us it’s going to cost you more money. It’s never a bad thing to make more on our end. However, if it doesn’t work there’s no point of doing it. I think it’s really important … What we see is they’ll do a couple of 400 to 600 word posts and then throw in a long-form every so often.

If you have long-form all of the time I would … I don’t know for sure the metrics. I’m just going based on my experience. I don’t know that that would get as much engagement all of the time because it’s long. 1500 words is a long piece.

Phil Singleton: I totally get that. That’s really more of a search engine play to some degree.

Cara McCarron: For sure. I would agree with that too.

Phil Singleton: For us, even, we’re trying to think, “Okay, let’s do one really long one like once a quarter” and then, just like you said, if you only concentrate on that then to us when you put a blog post out a week it’s just like what you said. That gets fed into social media and at least there’s some kind of messaging, one.

Two, unless you’re going to really have some kind of in-depth guide that requires that much stuff then you’re just writing a long-form post for something else and not for the user. That’s interesting. Yeah, that’s what moves the needle for some folks.

Cara McCarron: It does.

Phil Singleton: You say long-form, 1000, 1500 …

Cara McCarron: Yeah. We’ve seen even up to 2000 lately. You’re right. It becomes less about engagement and conversion and pleasing the person who is reading it and more about pleasing Google or whatever search engine. I think it’s just a slippery slope. I’ll be the first to say to you if somebody comes to us and says, “We want to do 15 posts” and there’s not much richness to it I’ll say, “Do 10 really amazing ones.”

It’s not about quantity anymore. It’s about quality. You need to produce. There’s no question. There is a balance between putting it out there just to say, “Yeah, we put out 15 blogs this month” versus, “We put 10 really incredible pieces out. We did a really cool downloadable PDF for our inbound and we did an ebook.” There’s got to be some kind of rhyme and reason to it or it’s just nonsense. [crosstalk 00:23:29]

Phil Singleton: Some of the ways we’re getting around it is, like I’m saying, I still like a good well-written 500, 600 word post and it gets fed out. For the long-form stuff part of the reasons why I have a podcast right now, get great content, get to talk to somebody, get it transcribed on for a dollar a minute by a human person. All of a sudden you’ve got an 8000 word transcription on your website you can tweak a little bit. That stuff ranks too.

If you’re really worried about having some things a transcript is a nice natural way to actually say, “Here is something useful for the user. Listen to it. Here’s some long-form text you can break up and maybe turn it into a post” but then focus on your actual blog. Make that real good stuff that’s focused on not just long for the sake of long.

It’s interesting to see … You’re seeing that because you’re a great source to see what people are actually ordering. I don’t see that.

Cara McCarron: I see the backend. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Right. Right. Any other tidbits there?

That’s it at the end of the day. The content has to be useful.

Cara McCarron

Cara McCarron: Well, you nailed it, though. You said useful. That’s it at the end of the day. It’s got to be useful. Podcasts, super useful. Transcribing those, very useful. There’s purpose to it. Any other tidbits? Yeah, I don’t know [crosstalk 00:24:36]

Phil Singleton: That’s really insightful. We don’t see that. You get to see what other people are ordering. Any other forms of stuff? Are you seeing a lot of people that are asking for things to be turned into ebooks?

Cara McCarron: Yeah. Ebooks are really, really picking up steam. It’s funny because people will say, “We want a 10 page ebook” and I’ll quote them. I’ll say, “This is how much it costs.” I’ll say, “But you don’t really want a 10 page ebook, written 10 pages. That’s like a 30 page book.” They’re like, “Oh, you’re right.”

Cara McCarron: One thing I always caution people is you’re really getting three pages of written content and then your designer is going to take that and turn it into 10 pages. You never want to see an ebook that’s just page, page, page, page. Unless you’re writing an actual book, that’s not cutting it. We are seeing a lot more ebooks where … We have just started to add the element of design for those clients who don’t have an in-house designer who want to just … It’s not a big piece of what we’re doing.

Phil Singleton: Like a combination type thing.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. If you’re stuck we’ll give you a hand. We’ve got an incredible designer. We’ll put something together. By and large, you’re looking at a three page ebook that you can have 10 pages. Ebooks are definitely ramping up. Landing pages, there’s a lot of product [crosstalk 00:25:42]

Phil Singleton: Yeah. I was going to say, page copying and that stuff?

Cara McCarron: Yeah. Everything. We do tons of blogs, tons of website content.

Phil Singleton: Press releases?

Cara McCarron: A lot of press releases. We don’t do any social updates or anything like that because again that’s more strategy and once you have the post you can chop it up in a million different ways and utilize different portions of it. Yeah, if I had to say the top three it would be blog posts, website content, and ebooks right now. Huge.

Phil Singleton: That’s really awesome. Now we’re getting down to the end of the show here but I do want to ask what I like to call the $10,000 Question. That is you are going to wake up tomorrow with none of your business. We’re going to let you keep your family and all of your bills. I’m going to give you $10,000 cash, a computer, and a phone and you’ve got to start rebuilding what you have today.

Phil Singleton: I’m not giving you a new life. I’m just giving you a chance to say here’s all your knowledge, none of your connections. How are you going to start applying that to rebuild what you have, rebuild The Content Company? What’s the first step? Is it the phone? Tell us.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. The first step would be get my website up immediately.

Phil Singleton: Website. All right.

Cara McCarron: For sure. Fill it full of amazing content. Get Ken’s butt back in the chair and get him writing like crazy. My next step would be finding a trade show and just work that like my life depended on it. Finding a really good trade show that had all of you digital marketers searching, searching, searching for a good content provider. $10,000 is not a ton of money to start a business.

Phil Singleton: I was going to say how many trade shows do you think that gets for a decent …

Cara McCarron: I could probably do two on $10,000.

Phil Singleton: Two? Wow.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. I could probably do two.

Phil Singleton: Is that because of the booth fees or just traveling and access? I’ve never done one. When you say that is that you being a booth or you just working the show?

Cara McCarron: Oh, no. I work it.

Phil Singleton: Plus the travel, the hotel, and the ticket for the event?

Cara McCarron: Yeah. For sure. I think the one I went to New York I went and the ticket was like … Remember, I’m in Canada. Your $1000 ticket really costs me $1300. For sure that would be my first thing. Then get my ass back on the phone. Just dialing for dollars.

Phil Singleton: You know you can get it. Yeah.

Cara McCarron: My pitch is so much more refined now, right? We’ve had four years to really refine what we do.

Phil Singleton: Plus it’s like of all things if somebody … They don’t get that. Every time you get pitched or cold called from somebody as an agency it’s somebody trying to sell you your own service, “I want to do web design for you”, “I want to do SEO for you.” It’s like call me up and tell me you’ve got really great content that I know you’re struggling with because everybody is looking for a better solution or has got problems with it. Or just to have somebody else give it a shot. Every once in a while you outgrow whatever it is.

Cara McCarron: For sure.

Phil Singleton: You’ve got your own freelance or freelancers and you’re growing then you’re going to max them out pretty soon. That makes perfect sense.

Cara McCarron: I will tell you the first … Actually, probably maybe the fourth phone call that I ever made with our company they’re still a client. They give us the other 50% of the business that we didn’t have when we first started with them.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Cara McCarron: Just to give you a sense of our retention because we’re … We behave like a small business but we think globally. We’ve got the best of both worlds.

Phil Singleton: Well, you care also. You take pride in what you do. If you don’t you’re just trying to make money and you’re going to just … People are going to roll in and out. That’s just not going to last. You’re going to get your butt kicked. Everybody, all of us, are going to get our butt kicked if we don’t really have any pride in what we’re doing.

Cara McCarron: Awesome. Yup.

Phil Singleton: Okay. Let’s wrap it up by telling people how can they get a hold of you. What kind of cool things do you have? You mentioned one thing that I think is really awesome. If you’re an agency people can actually contact you and sample the goods for no string attached just to show them. That’s pretty powerful. I would recommend anybody, any digital agency, any marketer out there that’s got business that could benefit from having many posts in a month from a partner like this should try you out. No? How do we do that?

Cara McCarron: We’re like content crack dealers basically is what we call ourselves.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. At the end of the day. If you hop on our site www dot Get Awesome Content dot com I’m sure you’re going to leave it for [crosstalk 00:29:48]

Phil Singleton: Yup. Show notes. All over the place.

Cara McCarron: Just mention Phil’s name and you will get a free sample just so we know where you all came from because we have to make sure that we’re following and measuring. Yeah, if you just hit me up, go on the website, reach out, and we’ll send you a link for a free sample.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Cara McCarron: That’s it.

Phil Singleton: Man, if you’re a marketing agency then I’m telling you this will be the best decision that you’re going to make in a long time.

Cara McCarron: Sorry, jumping in. We don’t have contracts either. This is the magic I think. This is what keeps us exactly where we need to be. We don’t have any contracts. We rely on every single time we deliver you have to love it or you’re not coming back. That’s it.

Phil Singleton: I think this is [inaudible 00:30:31] for you guys, know this with anybody, when we start working with you folks it’s like there’s always got to be a get to know the thing period. The cool thing I noticed about you guys is you’re pretty much on the money close out of the gate. It gets better and better because it’s just human nature. The more people that know what you want and what you’re doing the more you’re focused. You get a rhythm going. It even gets better.

Phil Singleton: I think the one thing I noticed about you guys is that that process is really accelerated and it starts off almost where you need to be at the very beginning. It does actually improve even more I think as you get it because that’s just part of I think just developing a relationship.

Cara McCarron: Yeah. You just get to know each other a bit. For sure.

Phil Singleton: Then on social media where’s the best places to hang out with you and your company and connect you on? Are you active on Facebook more? LinkedIn?

Cara McCarron: I would say Facebook and LinkedIn for sure. Instagram, I’m a total Instagram junkie but we’ve got other people who are going to start working that since I don’t have time for it. Personally I’m an Instagram junkie. For business definitely we’ve got The Content Company group on Facebook and LinkedIn as well. You can always reach out on any of those channels and we’ll get it as well.

Phil Singleton: We’ll keep those links up. The last thing I have to throw a little bit of a curveball but I usually do this more in the middle of the show. You’re in Toronto?

Cara McCarron: Yup.

Phil Singleton: Tell anybody who would be a first time visitor there what places … I’m talking local places. Don’t send us to a franchise or something. Where are a couple cool places that you’d send people to go for the best whatever? Great food. Just get a couple shout outs to two or three places.

Cara McCarron: For sure, one of my favorite places in the world is Pearl on King. It has the most ridiculous dim sum. It will change your life. It’s on King Street West.

Phil Singleton: Dim sum. Yeah.

Cara McCarron: Dim sum. Yeah. Oh my gosh. Their soy sauce is in-house. I’m sure there’s a grandfather with an ancient recipe back there making this stuff. It’s so, so incredible. Then the tourist-y stuff, I got to say the CN Tower is still one of the coolest things. I’ve been living here for 11 years. I’ll still go there. We take the kids there sometimes. That’s a really, really cool experience. What else would I do?

Phil Singleton: Yeah. Food-wise you really jones for, “I’ve been away for a long time and I got to have this”? Dim sum is great.

Cara McCarron: There’s a ramen noodle place that I’m obsessed with now called Ebisu on Queen West. E-B-I-S-U. Off the chain. Change your life ramen noodles. So, so good. Those would be the three things that I would say.

Phil Singleton: It’s getting close to dinner time. You just made me … I haven’t had dim sum in so long. Probably there’s not a place that awesome. I was in Asia for 10 years.
Cara McCarron: Oh, wow. Wicked.

Phil Singleton: There was some awesome stuff.

Cara McCarron: I bet.

Phil Singleton: This is so great. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for really just being great at what you do because you’re filling a void there that 90% of the people that are out there that are doing this don’t do the best job. They only do okay. I don’t know if they care so much. They just want to do a passable amount of work. You guys don’t. You’ve cracked the code and I hope you keep growing. I hope we’re partners for a long time.

Cara McCarron: Awesome. Thanks, Phil.

Phil Singleton: All right. Have a great one.

Cara McCarron: You too. Cheers.

Local Attorney SEO Tips & SEO Tactics for Law Firms with Sherry Bonelli

This episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast covers Local SEO and local SEO for attorneys, with some great practical, real-world examples of how lawyers can make an immediate impact on their local organic search engine visibility.  Learn high impact local lawyer SEO tips & tactics with Sherry Bonelli.

Sherry Bonelli is a nationally recognized local SEO expert and digital marketing professional. She entered the digital marketing world in 1998 when she launched her first ecommerce business selling pregnancy and baby products. Her ecommerce site was selected as one of the top 10 websites by a leading pregnancy magazine, and she appeared on the TODAY Show, CNN, ABC News and other media outlets.

Her digital marketing agency, early bird digital marketing, is located in Cedar Rapids, IA, but she serves clients all over the U.S. Sherry is passionate about helping her clients grow their businesses.

As a guest columnist for some of the leading SEO and digital marketing websites, like:

  • Moz
  • Search Engine Land
  • SEMrush
  • GeoMarketing/Yext
  • BrightLocal

She’s earned recognition by having some of the most shared local SEO blog posts in the world and one of her blog posts was recently recognized as Search Engine Land’s second most popular column in 2017.

To fill her head with even more knowledge, she obtained her Master’s Degree in Internet Marketing in the Fall of 2016. Sherry is a frequent speaker at industry events, webinars and podcasts where she shares her vast knowledge on all things digital marketing.

In her “spare” time she volunteers as a SCORE Mentor for the SCORE East Central Iowa Chapter. As a SCORE mentor, she enjoys helping fledgling businesses identify their digital marketing strategies.

Resources & Links

About Sherry Bonelli

Phil Singleton: So, tell us a little bit … We read your bio out, which is awesome. Lots of great stuff, lots of great experience today, so we do plan to pick your brain and get some hacks, and I know you. I’ve known you for a while and I know you’ve got a lot of expertise in a lot of different areas, but I always think of you in terms of your local SEO knowledge, so we’re gonna definitely tap into that.

Sherry Bonelli: Perfect.

Phil Singleton: Tell us how you got into this and got started and what brought you here today.

Sherry Bonelli: Well, it was a fluke actually. In 1998, I had my first son and I thought of a baby product idea and so I invented that. I found that that alone was not a good thing to sell. You need to sell more than one product, so I set up an e-commerce website. It was really pathetic at the time. PayPal, nobody knew what PayPal was, and literally my first e-commerce sale was a check I got in the mail through the US Postal Service.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Sherry Bonelli: So, yeah. So, that’s how scared people were about commerce online, but it was great experience for me. So, everything I know about search engine optimization and digital marketing … All self-taught, which I think is great because you could test on your own website and make changes and see results as you go, and so it’s just been great. So, I’ve been doing it for 19 years now and now I help lots of local businesses with their digital marketing and SEO efforts, and it’s just so much fun. I love how the industry changes. I love how clients … I love educating them. I think that’s the one thing I find most interesting is talking with clients and explaining why they need the services that they need. So, it was literally by accident.

Phil Singleton: But you started in digital marketing and pretty much never looked back, so have you pretty much been in digital since then or have you jumped around different types of ventures or …

Sherry Bonelli: Yes, pretty much been digital. I’ve done a few … I worked for a publishing industry, technology publishing industry for about 15 years as well, so I have a strong editorial background in technology publishing. So, it’s neat because they are combining right now, which is fantastic. But I’ve done a lot of project management work as well, but I’ve always, always tinkered or had my hand in the digital marketing world because I’m just so fascinated by it and love it so much.

Phil Singleton: You know what’s really interesting what you said, too, is I mean, I started in digital over 15 years ago myself, and when we started or when you started there really wasn’t a whole lot of online resources like there are now.

Sherry Bonelli: Right.

Phil Singleton: There’s all sorts of courses and of course places like Moz and other places. There’s all sorts of places where you can jump up and get up to speed really quickly, but I think back 15 years ago or so we all had to self-study.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, we did.

Phil Singleton: And now here you are. You’re a major contributor and influencer and trying to help educate and bring some of your knowledge into some of these other places like we mentioned at the top of the show. So, you contribute for Search Engine Land and Yext and Moz and some of these other places and that’s helping bring the new generation of digital marketers up to speed, so that’s really cool.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, and one thing I think that’s interesting is a lot of people when they think about Search Engine Land or Moz they automatically think we have to write or put an article up about something that’s advanced, an advanced topic. But what a lot of people don’t think about is there’s this whole new generation that are coming out of school and they may know social media, but search engine optimization usually is not taught in school or colleges, and so you do have a lot of people that need to learn search engine optimization basics, but they’re in other industries or different marketing aspects. So, I always feel like there’s a need for introductory material on any of these websites.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, and as you mentioned, it’s always changing so it’s almost like we’re writing new introductory material on some part of the shifting sand of search engine optimization or digital that we’ve got to almost write the new cheat sheets for.

Sherry Bonelli: Absolutely. Yep, that’s exactly right.

Local SEO for Lawyers

Phil Singleton: So, let’s dive into something specific. On this show we like to talk about things that are working for people today, but I like to try and drill down into some specific niche or area or some type of business where we can really try and figure out what those guys are doing, what’s working for them, or small things or changes that they can make that might make a big change in terms of their visibility or even online leads. So, today we want to talk a little bit about attorneys and Sherry, I think you’ve got some examples or some comments on how you think these guys might be able to take a look at their local presence, make some changes or look into certain areas that might actually help make a big difference.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, for any local business the holy grail is getting in Google Local 3-Pack, and Phil, as you know, it used to be a seven pack and then they shrunk it down, and it’s getting more and more competitive to be in that small, little spot that takes up so much room on the first page of search results. And so it’s really competitive and there are a couple different approaches when you’re talking about attorneys, because often you’ll have a law firm with a name. Let’s say law firm Cedar Rapids and within that office there are several attorneys. So, the challenge that those individual attorneys have is how do I stand out among my peers at this office. So, in essence they’re competing against one another, and it’s a really tricky thing because Google …
When it comes to pertaining to Google My Business they don’t like to see the same type of professionals at the same address, and so there’s little rules that you want to know about with regard to sole practitioners or practitioners, and one of my attorney clients, she was not ranking well on the Local 3-Pack or even getting on Maps. She was just ranking really low, and what I realized is that we had her listed just as a lawyer, and so were all of her competitors. And she primarily focuses on family law, so I said, “Let’s try something different. Let’s go ahead and change your category in Google My Business to family law, and I kid you not, almost immediately we saw a spike in where she showed up on Google My Business.

…for any local business the holy grail is getting in Google Local 3-Pack.

Sherry Bonelli, Early Bird Digital Marketing

Phil Singleton: That’s okay.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, and it’s trial and error because sometimes you want to mirror are do the same thing that the high ranking competitors are doing with regard to categories, but sometimes you want to change it up and be different form them in order to stand out.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, so really just making a small change like that sometimes can make a huge difference, because like you said, I mean, some of these guys like all the … We’ve got some clients that you work hard and you’ll see if you look on the first page on the regular, organic search results maybe you’ll only see three or what I would say is three and a half. Now I think sometimes they show the ads, right?

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Even on desktop, but you’ll go into the actual map view on organic search and you’ll see sometimes some of these guys are only … They’re listed fourth or fifth, so sometimes it’s only a feather’s weight of difference that can yank you into the next one, and then sometimes it can make you … A small thing like you’re saying, just being misclassified in a Google My Business category or not maybe being classified accurately enough to what the actual category niche is can help you pull right up in there. So, that’s a fantastic result where somebody can go in and just have an expert like yourself say, “Hey, wait a minute. Look here.” It doesn’t look like it’s a big deal because you are a lawyer, but if we reclassify this to what you actually specialize your practice in it could make a difference and it did.

Sherry Bonelli: It really does make a difference and I actually talked with her yesterday and she got two more calls just yesterday for family related practices with regard to child custody, and one of the women lived in Georgia but she had a case here in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So, the fact that she’s being found now is amazing. I mean, she’s just thrilled, and I know that a lot of that has to do with how I’m managing her online directories and her Google My Business listing, so we’re real active about creating posts, which are important, answering questions. So, if clients aren’t taking advantage of the Q&A feature like Google My Business now offers that’s something that definitely they should keep an eye out for, because anybody can ask their business a question and the scary thing is anybody can answer that question as well. And so, Google has released a lot of really neat features that are available to businesses and agencies that they can do on behalf of their client. They just need to know about these little things that are gonna improve those rankings and the search results for their clients.

Phil Singleton: So, that’s something … Just to recap a little bit on this. Say you’re an attorney in a city, you’re trying to get better visibility … It sounds like in this case … I know from your expertise you zeroed in on Maps because that’s a way to get a quick win for a client, and you actually got it. You were spot on, so we went in and we made in and we made sure that we reclassified. When you do that did you also … Did you move the primary and add different ones or did you just say, “Let’s just classify you as a family lawyer and drop anything else, and do you have any recommendations on do you add more types within the Google My Business or do you just try and do one on one?

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, no, we did keep several of the other Google My Business lower level categories, so she did have some of the other categories, but we made her prime category family practice.

Phil Singleton: Go ahead.

Sherry Bonelli: It can be trial and error, so it could be that maybe you need to get rid of those other categories because it’s diluting Google’s view of your business. So, it can be a trail and error, but the thing is once you get it pinned down and nailed down and you got it right it makes a big difference. So, it’s just a matter of seeing what your competitors are doing and either emulating what they’re doing and try that, and if that doesn’t work do the exact opposite of what they’re doing.

Phil Singleton: Local agency or a local business … I mean, I think really a lot of people don’t realize that some of the lowest, lowest hanging fruit is really going in there and cleaning up Google My Business and the Maps as quickly as you can because you can get really, really quick wins on all this stuff. You did a Q&A, you looked at the category, and then you mentioned … I know something that you have a lot of experience with is on citations.

Sherry Bonelli: Yes.

Phil Singleton: How would you recommend, and for people that are listening to this obviously marketers are gonna know what we’re talking about when we talk about citations, but an attorney might be like, “What do you mean by a citation?” So, can you define that a little bit and then tell me if say I’m a lawyer and I want to get citations, what service or services would you want to put me on today. If I’ve got a mess how would I clean that up as quickly as possible?

Local SEO Citations for Attorneys & Small Businesses

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, definitely online directories and/or citations are a mess. A citation basically refers to any place your company’s name, address, and phone number is listed, and online business directories or online directories are essentially the same thing. There’s a modern darn Yellowbook online essentially. And I have a lot of clients that say, “Why do I need this? Nobody goes to Merchant Circle to look for my business,” and they don’t. They right, clients don’t go to those directories to search for businesses, but the search engines trust those online directories and pull in those business information into the first page of search results in a lot of cases.

So, there are different services out there that will manually go out and claim your Google My Business listings and also, Merchant Circle and about 50 to 60 other prominent, highly reputable, authoritative online directories or citation sites. BrightLocal is one of them, Whitespark is another. Moz has a feature where they will go out and find online directory or citation listings as well, and you can also manually do it yourself. Yext is another option and there are a few pros and cons with Yext, but there are several different ways that an agency can go about cleaning up their online directories. And what I tell clients is it has to be a monthly thing.

…you have to manage citations on continual basis, it’s like flu vaccine for your website.

Sherry Bonelli, Early Bird Digital Marketing

It has to be an ongoing service, and people ask me, “Well, Sherry, if I fix it can’t I just leave it? Why do I have to pay for it every month?” The reason is if you think about the online directories or the citation sites as a big database or a spiderweb, all of them are all interconnected and they feed off of one another, so if you have one directory that has misinformation in it, eventually it’s going to get populated into other directories and then it’s gonna spread like a virus. So, I use the analogy of just because you got the flu shot this year doesn’t mean you’re not gonna get the flu three years from now. You still have to keep up with getting the flu shots, taking care of your health, washing your hands, and that’s what the online directory services do each month is to make sure that your online directories have a clean bill of health, basically.

Phil Singleton: Right, and it’s not some … In my opinion, it’s not some marketing ploy where these citation companies are out there saying, “You’ve gotta do this.” We, as SEO people, know that having an accurate map, name, address, phone number on these types of places are a very important and heavily weighted local ranking factor, otherwise there would be no reason to pay for a service to do this every month. And the reason you have it is it helps you get up into the Maps, it helps your local, organic search results, and doing some of this stuff is the reason why it makes a lot of sense to pay for it.

I love the analogy, almost like it’s this antivirus type of service that you’re doing. You’re getting your site vaccinated every year, because that’s really what it’s all about and given the importance that it has makes a lot of sense. So, any other tips you’d have for an attorney that’s coming and listening to this and saying, “Geez, I think we could be doing better. We haven’t really hired anybody.” There’s still … I know a lot of people out there, even traditional lawyers are some that I would say even dip in their toes in digital marketing, which is hard to think of but it’s true.

Sherry Bonelli: It is.

Phil Singleton: Where would you … Get somebody to help you out with Google Maps, let’s clean up your citations … I mean, when somebody comes to you with a new engagement, you’ve got an attorney, are you trying to work on their website a little bit first or are you trying to so some of these maybe off-page things to try and show them some results and where would you … Where would you tell an attorney to get started if, say, they maybe had the budget to do a full scale program but they were like, “I want to try to see if you can help me out with these few areas first.” Is there any other things, next steps after citations and Google My Business to get them, keep them moving.

…I cannot stress enough, lawyers should not set up more than one Google My Business listing. Google frowns on adding extra words that describe what type of lawyer you are

Sherry Bonelli, Early Bird Digital Marketing

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, that’s a great question, Phil. Before we leave the Google My Business topic I cannot stress enough that lawyers should not set up more than one Google My Business listing. Google frowns on adding extra words that describe what type of lawyer you are, so for instance if your name is Suzy Smith and that’s it you don’t want to say, “Suzy Smith, best criminal defense lawyer in San Diego,” as your Google My Business listing name.

Phil Singleton: I think they still do this all the time.

Sherry Bonelli: They do.

Phil Singleton: In a digital space they should know better, but even in some of the other spaces where they maybe have an excuse of not knowing. Even there’s some spammy agencies out there, still. So, that’s great advice.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, yeah. I was actually working with a client in a recent article that I did for Search Engine Land or Moz. There was an attorney that literally had four different listings because he thought it would help him rank higher, and what that will do is it will eventually get you reported or Google will find out and you’ll get cut, essentially. So, it doesn’t pay to try and cheat the system. So, I always recommend doing Google My Business, Bing Places for Business. Don’t forget about Bing, and then all the other online directories and if you go to Yext, they have a pretty good list of online directories that they target. Those are all pretty … Those are all authoritative directories that you’d want to get listen on.

Don’t go with the shady ones. Don’t go with the ones that aren’t trustworthy or that don’t have brand recognition. So, if it shows up on the first or second page of Google you know that a directory or a citation site is good. Now, lawyers are lucky because there’s also niche directories for attorneys like Avvo and a few other ones. So, attorneys also can get listen on these other online directories, and sometimes there are fees for those and then sometimes there aren’t. So what I generally do with attorneys is I’ll work on their online directories first, get them all straightened out, their Google My Business listing cleaned up, make sure we’re active on that by adding posts and answering questions, and then the next thing is to go in and see what their website’s like.
I’m a firm believer of content. I really feel that the internet thrives on content. I also believe that nobody is going to be reading an attorney’s blog at all. I don’t think they’re going to, so my philosophy with regard to content on a lawyer’s site is to create pages that connect to other pages on their site that answer questions people are asking about their issue.

So, if they are going for more custody for their child support what questions are they asking, and then write a page about that for their site, then link to it from their child support page. So, instead of creating a blog, which again, most people aren’t going to read a lawyer’s blog because hopefully they’re not in that much legal trouble, but you’ll increase the odds of showing up because you’re finding out what questions people are really asking and then you’re giving them answers to those questions, and that’s gonna build trust with those prospective clients or customers.
Phil Singleton: Awesome, so the next step into that, really, is to start diving into their website and then we’re starting off with content and then making sure, like you were saying, let’s just not put content for the sake of content. Let’s do it in ways that people are gonna actually get value from it, answer questions and that kind of stuff, and that’s how you start attacking that website. Because to me, the website’s really the key to everything. We’re trying to make that the referral source for everything so we can Pixel them and do AdWords, all sorts of stuff maybe down the road as they start to buy in to digital strategy, but that’s a great place to start. I guess at that point then you show them how it works and the payoff and then sometimes these guys and ladies are turning into clients.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah. Yeah, it’s great. So, the other thing is to make sure title tags and description tags are appropriately named. Don’t ever use just “Home” as a title. That doesn’t make sense, and when you explain to clients that you think of the title tag as an ad headline and the description as an ad copy, ask them to read it to themselves and flat out ask them, “Would you click on that link?” And in most cases they flat out tell me, “No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t click on that,” and to get them to understand that’s the purpose of it. If you show up in those search results you get one shot to have that person click on your listing in the search results. You want to have a title and a description that’s gonna have their attention, and that’s what I help them do.
Phil Singleton: Is get that start. That’s amazing how many sites still just have Home.

Sherry Bonelli: Or About.

Phil Singleton: Right, and we just think for us that’s basically where on page starts is that’s SEO 101. To do that piece of it, but it’s still out there all over the place and I think a lot of people need that help, too, just to get the basics down, and sometimes you’re talking about low hanging fruit on making a category change, and sometimes some of these sites that have been around for a long time … It’s a similar type of thing where you make a couple fundamental changes and you almost uncork some of the SEO value because you were dragging it down just by not having some of the fundamental things set up and we’ve had, and I’m sure you’ve had also, some wins just by applying some basic on page SEO stuff that we would think would be a natural … But it’s not, sometimes people are just holding themselves back because they haven’t even applied the basics.

Seriously, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. You can’t do that anymore.” I said, “That worked 19 years ago, it doesn’t work anymore.”

Sherry Bonelli, Early Bird Digital Marketing

Sherry Bonelli: Well, or they receive misinformation. I was at an audiologists’ conference. An audiologist is basically someone who specializes in hearing, hearing loss, and hearing aids, and he came up to me after I gave my presentation and he’s like, “Yeah, we’re doing really good. We even put keywords in white font on our website,” and I’m going, “Oh, my gosh. People still do that?”
Phil Singleton: You’re starting to cry…

Sherry Bonelli: Seriously, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. You can’t do that anymore.” I said, “That worked 19 years ago, it doesn’t work anymore.”

Phil Singleton: 2005 called, it wants its SEO tactic back.

Sherry Bonelli: Exactly, so I’m still surprised at how many people are still misinformed as to the basics of SEO, and so that’s why I’ve been really, really trying to get colleges … I’ve been doing a lot of outreach to colleges saying that anybody who’s in any type of communication, marketing, or social media, or programing, web development program, SEO should be a course that’s required. I really believe that.

Phil Singleton: I totally agree. I tell people, too, look at the stock market. The five most valuable companies in the world right now are Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and I’m missing one, but the five of them are … It’s basically the entire digital marketing landscape. They should have classes on each one of those in college because that’s where all the action is, so that’s a great point because the stock market’s saying that’s where the action is and why aren’t our schools teaching it.

Sherry Bonelli: Exactly. Yeah, and it’s been a tough … I mean, it’s been a tough pull. I mean, we actually offered one at a local college here, but I just don’t think they promoted it right. Now, had they gotten me in the room to promote it to the web developers and programmers I could’ve probably signed up 100 kids, but if you put it in a catalog and say it’s an optional course they’re not gonna pay attention to it. But they need to know the importance of it because most developers and designers … SEO is not their forte, but they still need to know enough of it to do benefit when they’re redesigning a website or developing a website.

Phil Singleton: Amen. Before we get to the wrap up section of the show I wanted to circle back on one thing, and that was you’d mentioned some of … Say we were talking about attorneys today, might have duplicate listings or listings in their personal name or their firm name. If you see that happen, I mean, what … Is it one of the sites like a Yext that’s gonna help you clean that up, do they have to manually do it, they have to claim it and delete it, what’s your recommended or what do you think the best way is to attack if you’ve got all these duplicate listings.
Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, it’s a tricky situation and generally every situation is different, so I tend to do a lot of research on the pros and cons and best practices before each and every change I make.

Phil Singleton: So, that’s case by case almost?

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, it really is. The other thing you can do is go to the Google My Business forum. I don’t have the URL with me.

Phil Singleton: I’ll put it in the show notes.

Sherry Bonelli: Yep, we can do it there. And you can literally ask any type of question regarding Google My Business and there are a list of top contributors that will help answer those questions and you can even reach out to Google directly. Typically if they’re all okay you can merge them into one, that’s generally the best. For instance, I have one client right now who used to have their own video production company with a separate name. They had a music studio with a separate name. Those two businesses merged to create a third company at a new address and so my job right now is to figure out the best way to merge all three of those businesses without losing the name value that each of those businesses had separately. So, I’m doing a lot of research and a lot of due diligence before I even make one change because it’s very important that you do it correctly.

Phil Singleton: I totally agree and I think it’s almost amazing that we’re talking about one just really super important online directory. Does it really warrant this much time and effort and almost concern that you do it wrong, yeah it does.

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, it does.

Phil Singleton: It’s what makes the phone ring more than anything else, so you have to take it seriously and keep an eye on it and be really careful. Really, in this case I really do think it’s very important to hire an expert like you, Sherry, to have people walk through it because you can do damage. And the more you mess things up the harder … I just gave you an example in the green room before the call. I was literally on the phone and one move from one client to another one it took me 20 phone calls to Google to get that one very important listing updated. If I would’ve known what I’d known in the beginning it might’ve only taken five phone calls, but luckily we did it and there was no damage and they were able to recover everything and it helped out in a way. Yeah, it is that important, especially if you’re local like an attorney or anything else. These local listings, especially Google, are super important for your business. So, that is really helpful.
Sherry Bonelli: The other thing I’d recommend, too, is as you get these questions answered write them down and refer back to them next time you have a scenario like that. So for instance, I have just a Google My Business cheat sheet where I’ll write down this is a scenario, this is what I did, and this is the answer that the Google top contributor told me to do, so that if I ever come across that same issue again I know the answer right away. So, document everything if you can.

Sherry’s Favs in Cedar Rapids

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So, one thing I like to ask is circle back, make it a little more personal now. You’re in Cedar Rapids, I’ve never been to Cedar Rapids.

Sherry Bonelli: You’re not missing much.

Phil Singleton: Give us a shout out to something. I mean, you must … If you’re away what do you Jones for? Is there a great coffee shop or a local restaurant or anything [inaudible 00:28:33] time you say, “You’ve gotta try this.”

Sherry Bonelli: Well, I will tell you Cedar Rapids is affectionately known internally as the City of Five Smells because we have several different food manufacturing plants here. So, Quaker Oats is right down the street downtown, so you can tell when they’re making Crunch Berries or certain types of cereal. There are a variety of smells in Cedar Rapids, but Cedar Rapids is really known for Rockwell Collins, which is an aerospace big company that works with the military and also private airplanes with navigation systems and heads up units for military soldiers, and Rockwell Collins probably employs 99.9% of the people in Cedar Rapids.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Sherry Bonelli: But as far as coffee shops go, Aurora’s coffee shop.

Phil Singleton: Aurora, okay. Cool.

Sherry Bonelli: Yep, awesome. Great coffee, great service.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, and I was just thinking when you were saying that, whatever the five smells are in terms of the food manufacturers it’s probably the lowest sales that they have are in Cedar Rapids if people smell it so much. Last thing I’m gonna do is buy a Quaker Oats product.

Sherry Bonelli: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Depending on the way the wind blows it’s some days are better than others.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: That’s funny. Thank you for that. Get a little personal there, and then finally, the 10,000 dollar question, which is you’re gonna wake up tomorrow in this hypothetical … Have all the knowledge that you’ve accumulated since 1998 but none of the money, none of the contacts and you gotta rebuild what you have today. I mean, what would you literally start tomorrow to pay the same bills that you have today. So, would it be a website, would you start guest posting on things, how would you start to rebuild what you’ve already started now?

Sherry Bonelli: If I were to start all over again I think I would go back to creating an e-commerce store again. I think that was one of the most exciting times of my life and maybe it’s just because I’m nostalgic and it was really big learning curves for me, but I think I would go back to selling pregnancy and baby related products again. I really do.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, and then you have all the ammo you need to get that off the ground because you’ve got … We gave you your knowledge, so interesting.

Sherry Bonelli: Yep.

Phil Singleton: Plus I think it’s interesting that you started off in a niche because we look at things today and it’s … People come to you and they want to sell all these products online, be the next Amazon. That’s never gonna happen, but if you can niche into something, something specific like baby products, build your content, maybe try and build some personal branding authority around it, you can actually start to attack and compete with some of the big boys in some of these e-commerce spaces just by having this focus on a certain area because you’re never gonna be the next Amazon or whatever and try and compete with everybody. So, we still get that sometimes. People coming in, “I want to sell all this kind of stuff.”

Sherry Bonelli: Right.

Phil Singleton: If you’re looking for SEO it’s gonna be really tough to do that and become the next Best Buy and stuff. If you’re gonna zero in on something like shoelaces or baby products … Yeah, maybe you’ve got a chance.

Sherry Bonelli: The things you need to zero in on are the products that those big stores are not carrying. So, for instance when I got started I specifically looked for mom invented baby products, and so my whole store was filled with literally unknown companies who eventually started to make money and make it big and now a lot of them are in Walmarts and Targets, but when I got started they were small just like me. So, if you’re going to an e-commerce store pick a niche that not … Target and Walmart, they don’t have products in their stores. So, really find those unique products that’s difficult to find somewhere else.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Okay, and then finally let’s … Tell us how people can find you. Your main website, where else can we find you? What social media networks are you most active on so people can connect with you and anything that you have in terms of a promotion or an offer that you might be working on or something to send somebody to. Let us know that and we’ll …

Sherry Bonelli: Yeah, thanks. So, anybody can reach me at and I also am very active on Twitter and Facebook, but if you go up to you will see a spot where you can run a free SEO report.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Sherry Bonelli: And that will give you a good idea as far as what your reputation is, what are people saying about you online, how is your website doing as far as speed, load time. I have probably four different reports that we can run, so at the top navigation you can see that. So, just look for the SEO report and you can get free information and if you need my help go ahead and email me and I’m happy to help you out.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Sherry Bonelli, thank you so much. You are a true expert and I just wanted to know what you do. So happy to have a guest of your caliber on the show and hope to have you on again sometime.

Sherry Bonelli: Great, thanks, Phil. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Phil Singleton: Thank you.

Podcasting for Lead Generation with One-Click Lindsey Anderson

One-click Lindsey Anderson is a crazy smart digital marketer.

She, in fact, is one of the inspirations for the Local Business Leaders podcast.

One of the coolest things about Lindsey is how she and her team help businesses at all levels, but I think most importantly smaller local businesses.  She has a killer local lead generation tip that we think every small business owner should use, and she give a great example in the interview for a chiropractor.

Learn how to use your own personal podcast or your own company podcast to connect with your ideal clients and the CEO and business owner level. This is one of the most effective outbound-inbound digital marketing lead generation tactics you will ever find.

This is a must listen, and be sure to check Lindsey’s websites, and courses here:

Phil Singleton: Welcome everybody to another episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast. I am your host Phil Singleton. Today I’ve got a very special guest. Really, I always say that because I do believe everybody’s special but One-Click Lindsey Anderson. She is the first female guest we are having so hooray, hooray. Awesome. I’m sure we’ll have many more but let me read this intro off to you guys and then I’ll let Lindsey fill in the blanks.

One-Click Lindsey is a web strategy expert working with small business owners to help them utilize the web to produce more website traffic and leads. Lindsey is the founder and CEO of It specializes in driving traffic, getting leads, and the art of nurturing leads to become lifelong clients. One-Click Lindsey is an expert in landing pages, email sequences, search engine ranking, newsletters, analytics, social media, pay per click ads, websites, blogging, and the list goes on and on. She knows how to utilize the myriad of online marketing options to generate more traffic and leads, which produces more paying clients. That’s awesome. I love it. Welcome to the show, Lindsey.

Lindsey Anderson: Phil, always a pleasure to hang out with you for a bit.

Hosting Your Own Podcast to Get Ideal Client Leads

Phil Singleton: We’re going to try and pack a lot in here in the 20 minutes. It might go a little bit over but there’s lots of things I want to ask you. I think the way a lot of you pro podcaster folks do, I’m doing for the same reason today. I want to pick your brain for selfish reasons. I don’t even care if one person listens to this although I think there’s going to be plenty of people that are going to want to tune in and hear some of your podcast lead generation tips.  I have actually started this podcast, The Local Business Leaders Podcast, in large part because of what you’re doing. You’ve got your own podcast and you’ve been on my marketer for some time and had some great success in it but you also had a locally based podcast called, is it PDX Small Business….what is the name again.

Lindsey Anderson:  PDX Small Business Network Podcast. Like you said, I have traffic and leads podcast, which is an online marketing podcast but because I always like to plant my flag in the ground and even though my clients are all over the world even, I still want to dominate Portland where I just moved. I started the PDX Small Business Network Podcast to do such a thing.

Phil Singleton:  That is awesome. We’re going to dive right into that but can you fill in the blanks a little bit about your journey on where you started and then to how you got to where you’re doing things and making money today?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, sure so I’ve always been an entrepreneur and so when I went to collage it was just a natural fit to go into some sort of information systems platform so that you could try all of these ideas without having to pay out to a web developer. My first business, well my first business was a babysitters’ club but we won’t talk about that. When I was older I worked at a swimming pool and the parents would come in and sign up their kids for swimming lessons on paper and this is right when the internet came out. I was like, “We should have a website,” where they’re putting their kids’ information in on like this really lame html form and then I basically put that on a CD and sold it to all the local pools. It worked pretty well.

Phil Singleton: It’s awesome.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, so I’ve been in and out of so many online businesses but always the foundation of my income and my passion has been online marketing. I started with just web development. The problem with being just a web developer so I’ve been doing this for 12 years. Back in the day, we were just web developers. Problem is everyone’s brothers’ kids’ dogs a web developer so we were honestly just competing on price. That made it very, very difficult to make any money. So we specialized and so now we specialize in online marketing. It’s not just a website but actually your website works and brings in traffic and leads, which is what you guys are looking for. It’s been a long journey and now for the past five or six years been extremely stable but there was plenty of bumpy moments there.

Phil Singleton: You’ve just basically been an entrepreneur, had that spirit since the beginning, right?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes.

Phil Singleton:  Then you rolled into web design and since then okay and now it’s become more into okay you got the website so now how do we get them to make money type of thing. That’s where you are and probably I guess always be or at least at the moment.

Lindsey Anderson:  Probably we’ll stay. We can make a lot more money just being specialists there. The customers are happier because a lot of customers they just don’t understand that you can’t just throw a website up and people aren’t going to come. You have to do a lot of work to actually make a website work so the customers are happier.

Phil Singleton:  That’s the biggest problem don’t you think?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah.

Phil Singleton:  That people just think they’re going to-

Lindsey Anderson:  That’s a huge problem.

Phil Singleton:  Right so if you’re going to say how you’re actually your businesses or businesses are making money in terms of digital marketing, is it courses still websites, some development? Are you doing digital engagements? Is it coaching? What’s the pie look like?

Lindsey Anderson:  I do a little, honestly our bread and butter is creating websites, custom applications and then our biggest chunk comes from online marketing campaigns. If you’re a chiropractor and you’re ready to buckle down and get serious about generating traffic and leads for your website and creating email sequences, videos and just creating this nice funnel of people that you can use forever and ever. That’s what we do and we increase an SEO, run some PPC so generate traffic and all of those ways. We just wrap it up and take care of it for you and present to you your traffic and leads, your clients.

….web designers don’t realize that they hold the keys to the kingdom.

– Phil Singleton

Phil Singleton:  I love it because that’s really what our secret is too. I think a lot of web designers don’t realize that they have the keys to the kingdom. They still do these one-off web design only projects. They try to compete on price on websites. Then look at this one chance to get in there whereas if they pitch SEO-friendly web design as a marketing platform you can actually position yourself like you are and like we are too to be their marketing partner and actually help the thing make money instead of just being a digital brochure style type thing, which I think what a lot of people still pick. It’s certainly the way it’s still promoted on TV and through the Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and GoDaddy’s of the world, right?

Lindsey Anderson: I know and there is a place for those, for the people that are bootstrapping and stuff like that but honestly if you want to make money for your business you have to invest in and you’re ready to do online marketing you got to invest in it. You got to go all out and go in on it.

Phil Singleton:  I hope small business are listening to that and that sinks in and even web designers, too. I know how these folks still don’t realize that they could really have two or three times the business if they thought about being online.

Lindsey Anderson:  I don’t know about you and I just got off a call with a guy who was like, “I feel like I have to go find a Facebook person and an AdWords person and a SEO person and I don’t know how all those fit together.” Then he’s not even thinking about email sequences or anything like that. I know that you’re not supposed to be the master of everything but honesty I’ve run this business for 12 years. I have expert professionals and all of those things. I personally know quite a bit about all of those topics although I have people, heads of my departments to execute on them but that’s our strength is that you don’t have to know if you should put your business into SEO or PPC. We’ll come up with a six-month plan and whatever that looks like to generate traffic and leads for your specific business, for your specific demographic.

Phil Singleton:  Love it….so I really appreciate that because it just reinforces some of the stuff that we’ve doing and how it works. It sounds like how you guys are doing.

Lindsey Anderson: That’s what we’re doing.

How to Turn Podcast Guests into Clients

Phil Singleton:  Let’s dive into the local podcast that you have, when you started it, why you started it and how it works today.

Lindsey Anderson:  Like I said I have a bit of a … I don’t know I just like to be the best at wherever I’m at and so while I do get a ton of leads and clients all over the world, I just wanted to be like the most well-known online marketer here in the Portland area because my husband and I we basically threw a dart in the map and said, “Okay, let’s move to Portland” so we moved to Portland and it didn’t affect the business because we’re all remote.

I don’t care at all if anyone else listens to that. It’s my way of being able to contact business owners and for them to talk to me.

– One-Click Lindsey Anderson

We arrive in Portland and I decide to start the PDX Small Business Network Podcast and essentially Phil I don’t care at all if anyone else listens to that. It’s my way of being able to contact business owners and for them to talk to me. I’ll just give you this perfect example. I just went to a networking event and it was my first network at this specific networking event. It was called “Women with Moxy.” I’m sure you would have been welcomed with open arms, Phil. So I go and there’s probably 40 or 50 women there and I forgot a secret and I’ll tell you what the secret was.

When I was first introducing myself to people, I’ll be like, “Hey,” and you do the, “What do you do?” “Well, what do you?” I’m like, “I’m an online marketer,” and my name and my company is Traffic and Leads. You can just see them zone out like, “Okay, everyone’s an online marketer” or “I can’t afford that,” or “Whatever.” Halfway through you just know-

Phil Singleton:  You ever get an eye-roll? I think online marketing is better than if you say SEO any more. Oh, yeah.

Lindsey Anderson:   Or web developer, it’s like, “Oh, gosh. Here we go.” So halfway, you know and they were friendly but you can just tell. No one asked for my business card or whatever. Half way through the night I’m like, “I got to reevaluate what I’m doing here.” For the next half of the night I literally they be like, “Well, what do you do?” “Well, I run the PDX Small Business Network Podcast where I interview small business owners in the Portland area,” and I gave away all my business cards because of that.

Now, all these ladies and I literally have five emails from ladies from a networking event who want to be interviewed. Now, I can have this one on one conversation with literal business owners in the area and we talk and highlight their business for 20 minutes and then I publish it in a very professional way. I share on my social media and in my follow up email I’m basically like, “And also I would really love to share with you or we can help you with your online marketing or whatever,” in an email follow up sequence to this but they get so much [crosstalk 00:10:09].

Phil Singleton:  So you invite them as a guest, right?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes.

Phil Singleton:   Because they’re on and get that. Then afterwards you got so how far afterwards do you say, “By the way do we do this” or … ?

This is my super secret. I’ll whisper it to you so 90% of small business owners don’t have a Facebook pixel installed on their website….

– One-Click Lindsey Anderson

Lindsey Anderson:  Well, usually they green room talk. This is my super secret. I’ll whisper it to you so 90% of small business owners don’t have a Facebook pixel installed on their website. That’s a really easy way of showing that you’re a professional and you know what you’re doing so at the end there is some green room talk where we’re just chatting, not recording. I usually will be like, “Oh, there’s just one small thing I noticed,” because they’ll of course ask what I do and why I’m doing this podcast. I’ll be like, “And I noticed you don’t have this Facebook Pixel installed. You should totally get your web developer to do that, da-da-da-da-,” which just makes me look like the expert, makes me look like I’m trying to help them and it’s super easy and easy to explain.

Phil Singleton: You look at the source code just for the thing or how do you look at the page?

Lindsey Anderson: I use the Facebook Pixel Helper Chrome extension. Super easy and there’s like, “Oh, she knows what she’s doing.” Honestly, just a follow up email of, “Hey, here’s my calendar. I’d love to talk to you specifically about your business.” Honestly, it works like a charm. Not only that-

Phil Singleton:  So honestly getting the people on works and you’re able to convert some of them into clients obviously like what you’ve done.

Lindsey Anderson:  A hundred percent, 100% can convert some into clients and not only that is once a quarter and I just started this last year. Once a quarter, I’ll also host a free event where I talk about either Facebook marketing or SEO or whatever topic. The last one I did was Facebook Marketing for Beginners. All of the people I interviewed, I just sent them an email and said, “Hey, you should totally join me in my event.” I very easily filled up an event with 40 people.

Phil Singleton: Awesome and what you’re doing all the same stuff even locally I mean you’re putting up, you’re doing show notes, you’re giving them it’s all about them, they get a nice little graphic on there for sharing on social media, right?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes.

Phil Singleton:  So you’re leveraging there are audience are getting through that.

Lindsey Anderson: Exactly.

Phil Singleton:  Just getting access to that-

Lindsey Anderson:  So they’ll share it in their … Yes. They share it in their newsletters if they have them. Typically, they don’t as you know but they’ll also they definitely share on social media all the time. It just works really well.

Phil Singleton:   That’s so awesome. Then how about outreach force, you have somebody doing it send emails to people? Is it phone calls? What’s the way that you actually get local guests?

Lindsey Anderson:  The best way that I have found, so there’s two ways and both work actually pretty decently. The first way is when I got to these networking events it’s so easy to find people or you have these little pockets of business owners for your area. In Portland, there’s like six or seven different small business owners groups in Portland online, on Facebook groups. I’ll get into those groups and then I’ll PM the admin and say, “Is it okay if I post this?” You don’t want to be spammy and post it without their permission. Every single time I’ve asked they’ll be like, “That’s a really great opportunity for everyone in here. Absolutely post it.” They will just flood in on those.

Then the second way that I do it is I found some website and it just listed a crap ton of Portland business owners’ businesses. It was a lot so I have an overseas contractor for $10 an hour, find an email address and send it out. You would be amazed at how many people respond to that. Just cold emailing to be on a podcast.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome then what is that email look like? Does that go on the show or some people have been on it? How do you , what … ?

Lindsey Anderson:  Let’s see. I will tell you. It basically says, “Hey, I’m Lindsey from Portland. I’m actually going to pull it up”. I try to keep it very friendly and this is a Portland only podcast and you would be a great addition. I think it’s really important to keep it local like you’re a real person just earnestly reaching out to someone. Whatever you’d say to a small business owner that you really wanted on your podcast, put that on your form email.

Phil Singleton:   Right and you get pretty good response off of that?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, my subject is PDX Podcast- A quick question is the name. Oh, this is what else. Would you consider being a guest for my show? I include a link to the show and then I state three benefits of being on the show. On the show you’ll be featured on all my social media channels. You will have a great interview about you and your small business. You can share so people can get to know you and three, during this interview you will be able to tell the listeners about how you can help them and how they can get in touch with you. I hope you would consider being on the show. I look forward to hearing back from you. Pretty simple.

Phil Singleton:  That’s awesome. Some of the people they think it’s a lot harder than it is basically like a phone call.

…honestly most of these small business owners struggle with tech and I really wanted it to be as simple as possible.

– One-Click Lindsey Anderson

Lindsey Anderson:   Yeah, and that’s the other thing. In the email I’m like, “It’s a simple 20 minute interview via the phone.” I make that very clear. You don’t have to do it in person. It’s just super simple. We talked about this previously, is that first I was trying to get people to go on Zencastr, which is a professional podcasting recording situation but honestly most of these small business owners struggle with tech and I really wanted it to be as simple as possible. Literally, we’ll do Zoom.

I’m not going to be a sound quality snob at all and you just send them their phone number at the beginning of the day and say I have a form email that goes out when they submit, when they get on my calendar. Then basically it’s just, “Okay, great. On the morning of the interview I will send you this information and we’ll just meet up on the phone.”

Phil Singleton:  Do you ever get any that actually connect with Zoom or do you just literally say, “Just call this phone number,” where you just record the phone call?

Lindsey Anderson:  I just give them the phone number because they just struggle with tech.

Phil Singleton:  That’s the easiest right. Yeah, that’s what I figure so that’s really smart because I’m on Zoom and we’re on Zoom right now. I think it’s great and easy to use but yeah. I think for some of the times and this is again I haven’t really started. You’re like the fifth or sixth guest that we’ve had. Most of them have been marketing experts of some niche area. I’ve had one a couple local business leaders but the one’s that are here doing it are in tech so it’s really easy for them, right?

Lindsey Anderson:   Yes.

Phil Singleton:  I figured

Lindsey Anderson:   That most of them will struggle with anything outside of a phone number.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome so that’s the way you do it. Yours is the same. Let me ask you this then so you’re obviously a hired gun digital marketer. You know how to do all this kind of stuff. Is there any and I can see from the way that you’re doing it that this is an absolute no-brainer because a lot of this outbound marketing stuff just does not work. I actually hired somebody, great person for three months to try and do some old school just cold calling. I think 30, 50 phone calls a day doing networking events and that kind of stuff. We got one or two meetings off of it. Three months and I was paying weekly out of pocket in addition to some commission, which I never had to pay but it’s just really, really hard. We were doing all sorts of things to call. Just direct call, try to get someone over the phone. No. It’s a much easier pitch when the give is really big.

Lindsey Anderson:  When the give is big and then you have that relationship of trust and so they are like, “Oh, I know Lindsey is an online marketer.” So she’ll tell her friends or when it’s time to online market they’ll come back to you because they remember the interview, they remember what you do. Then also at the beginning of my podcast because it does just highlight small business owners in Portland, I’ll always do a marketing minute and a commercial for myself at the beginning. I’m just straight up, got to pay the bills. Here’s a commercial. Now, let’s get into the interview.

Phil Singleton:  That piece of it so it’s for digital marketers like we are, that we want to build up an audience nationally but also locally like what you’re doing, which I love. Do you think this kind of podcasting access thing can work for your local advanced business? Because again a lot of them aren’t going to do this because there’s like, “I can’t even … I got to make a phone call.” I talked to one of my lawyer clients the other day and he’s down with the idea. I told him all the things you get from it so easy, right? Access, free blog post, leveraging other people’s social media. Don’t be scared of the technology. It’s really easy once you do it once or twice I would think.

Lindsey Anderson:  Don’t be scared of it-

Phil Singleton:  I’m hoping-

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, don’t be scared of the technology. This is a really great strategy that anyone can benefit and it’s what you need to focus on is you want to interview the key is to interview your demographic. It’s a way of interviewing your core demographic and again who cares about podcast stats? Who cares?

Phil Singleton:  Your ads working for it. How many episodes are you on PDX?

Lindsey Anderson:  Oh, gosh.

Phil Singleton:  Dozen tons or scores?

…honestly I have so many that I’ve recorded and are in the queue. I had to stop interviewing because so many people want to be on the podcast.

– One Click-Lindsey Anderson

Lindsey Anderson: I started it mid-July but honestly I have so many that I’ve recorded and are in the queue. I had to stop interviewing because so many people want to be on the podcast.

Phil Singleton:  That’s so awesome and so you do once a week on that one or … ?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes, I do once a week.

Phil Singleton:  It’s a no-brainer. It’s not like some people you do podcast for a while and say, “This ain’t working so I’m going to stop it.” I mean it’s actually a no-brainer for you, right?

Lindsey Anderson:           Yeah, especially if you’re not scared to sell. Definitely, I would say because I run two podcasts, Traffic and Leads Podcast has way more listeners. I’ve been doing that for two plus years. I do that a lot to keep in contact with industry leaders. I do get clients off of that one but I get way more clients off the PDX podcast.

Niche Lead Generation Tips for Chiropractors

Phil Singleton:  That awesome all right let’s switch gears really quickly and I like to talk each one of these shows that we’re having we like to try and zero in on a niche at first just to see what stuff’s working for people on a local level within a niche and then after that if there’s any lessons we can learn for any small business you can learn from what the chiropractors are doing. Again, I just kind of gave it away because we were talking before the show, which niche can we focus on you mentioned chiropractors might be a good one to talk about so I’ll take it from there.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, for some reason I do have a fair amount of chiropractor clients and it’s always my go-to example when someone’s asking me for online marketing so the chiropractors. My favorite little thing that we’re doing for chiropractors right now is a nice mix of PPC and Facebook ads marketing.

We go into AdWords and we find some really inexpensive long tail keywords to bid. Basically, we send people to a landing page….the landing page is pixeled with a Facebook pixel….and we run an offer for a $50 exam, x-ray and consult in the office….

– One-Click Lindsey Anderson

What we’re doing is we are finding some really inexpensive keywords for of course the chiropractor’s local so brick and mortar local. We go into AdWords and we find some really inexpensive long tail keywords to bid. Basically, we send people to a landing page and we don’t ask them for their email or anything but on this landing page is essentially four or five videos about how to ease your back pain on your own. Again they don’t have to opt in or anything. They’re just getting literal value from this landing page. The landing page is pixeled with a Facebook pixel. Then after, we pay for that traffic to go from pay per click, which makes a really hot topic because they’re in our area because we geo-targeted them through PPC and we know that they have back pain or neck pain or whatever that may be because they’ve googled it. I’ll get into something else but we know they’re hot, right?

Now, we’ve pixeled them so we turn around on Facebook and we run an offer for a $50 exam, x-ray and consult in the office because we know they’re hot. That brings our Facebook ad cost down considerably because these are hot people and it’s not like we’re trying to target to a huge area. A campaign like that is working pretty well.

Phil Singleton:  What’s the ad look like?

Lindsey Anderson:  That make sense?

Phil Singleton: Is it an ad that runs to a landing page on the website or what’s it look like on Facebook? What variety of advertise-

Lindsey Anderson: Oh, it’s just regular ad that actually does … The ad is $50 consult x-ray and exam. Click here. They go to a new landing page where they do have to fill out their name, their email. Let’s see first name, email and phone and then basically we make it real clear within the email and on that page that then they’ll get a scheduling link.

Phil Singleton:  So the ad clicks off onto a page on back onto their website?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes.

Phil Singleton:  Nice and what before you even get that say a chiropractor’s listening to this right now so that sounds awesome. We want to start doing this. Are you looking at their website first? Is there redesign talks? Are you on … I mean do you just do this stuff with what they have or … ?

Lindsey Anderson: Well, yeah because all of this, all of the strategy I just talked to you about has nothing to do with their website. Basically, the landing page can be a ClickFunnels or whatever else it can even be an our ClickFunnels although I don’t recommend that but it can be if you don’t want to spend money on that. We create an in click funnel that has nothing to do with their website. The PPC has nothing to do with their website. The Facebook ad of course has to do a little bit with their Facebook page but then even that final landing page that we send them to has nothing to do with their website.

Phil Singleton:  Those engagement things you do for a certain period of time or are they just be trying to get somebody in your clients on monthly on that, they stay with you and how does that … ?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, so it’s a really big upfront fee so about $1500 to set it up and basically it’s ad spend and they can take it from there so yeah, it’s not really even monthly although we end up for most of our clients that we run something like that for we end up doing some SEO and other things for them.

Phil Singleton:  You end up setting up once for a one time fee and that’s up for everybody.

Lindsey Anderson:  They don’t really need us. They can turn that ad off and on whenever they want.

Phil Singleton:  Then for you it’s a way to get in there and say, “Oh, we do all these other things too and maybe a web design’s enough-

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes, and it’s a good $1500 too, right? So why not? I just wanted to describe to the audience that it’s more powerful than just running a Facebook ad because when you’re running a Facebook ad locally, you’re running that to this whole audience of people that may or may not have back pain and so you’re “wasting some add dollars” because you’re not able to really target people who have this kind of pain. Where if we know someone has searched back pain Minnesota or back pain Portland, Oregon and we pixel them. We know exactly that they’ve searched for that and they’re hot.

Phil Singleton:  That’s great and it’s something like this is I think it’s pretty obvious that this can be used for different types of businesses right?

Lindsey Anderson: For anything, anything at all. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: The idea is zero in long tail keywords, use AdWords, get people while they’re hot, pixel them from the website and then follow them on Facebook. It’s got to be I guess a good compelling offer while they’re hot, right?

Lindsey Anderson:  It does. It does have to be a good compelling offer.

Phil Singleton: Then draw them in and that can be used for any small business. That’s awesome and you know $1500 it’s an investment but in the grand scheme of what things are out there and people start to look at marketing, local marketing that’s a very I think reasonable investment because certainly there’s a lot of other people that offer local marketings for a lot more with probably less results.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah and that doesn’t include ad spend nor does it include you guys have to do the videos.

Phil Singleton: What do you think a good ad spend is for a city like Portland I mean for a small business, $1000, $2000, $500 a month? Obviously you got to spend something to get some people I think try to start off so little it’s hard to see if that’s enough to-

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, you can’t even get any decent analytics from a small budget. I would say I wold like to see someone go in between a thousand and $1500 in ad spend as well. Your Facebook ad spend is like nothing. It’ll be a couple hundred bucks.

Phil Singleton:  Wow so then yeah so AdWords is where you eat that most of that stuff up so that’s got to be really set up right and targeted.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes and don’t just have any old person set up your AdWords because there’s just so much to know there but that’s a topic for another day.

Phil Singleton:  We will save it for another day but I will give one example on one I’ve got. I had a lawyer that would spend $6,000 a month on Employment Law and we went in there. He did it himself…

Lindsey Anderson: He did it himself?

Phil Singleton: Yes he tried to setup AdWords on his own, so I mean $4000 of it a month was going to just junk clicks.

Lindsey Anderson:  Was he getting any leads?

Phil Singleton: He was getting some but I was like, “Look dude. You got to have somebody do this because I could drastically reduce your spend, increase your leads and pay for SEO and content marketing for less that your current AdWords spend.

Lindsey Anderson:  Imagine what he would do with an optimized PPC campaign? Oh, my gosh.

Phil Singleton: Oh, my … Luckily we did. We went in there and optimized it for him. Paid for his SEO and content marketing.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yeah, usually.

Phil Singleton:  Used his PPC and saved him some money so now he’s more like $4,000 a month to save him to things he’s getting a lot more stuff leads out of it. Just what you said, you can’t go in the AdWords and some of the stuff is getting so I think complex and it’s changing a lot.

Lindsey Anderson:  It’s so expensive and complicated. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That is where I think you’re going to get the most bang for your buck right is just stew on in there and getting an expert that knows how to set these up like you do because if you take a chiropractor that’s going to go in there and just try and learn AdWords on his own and set it up. They’re going to get frustrated, thinking like this doesn’t work. It’s a rip off. Well, it’s not if you go in there and do it yourself and leave it at the default settings and they’ll zero in and try to optimize it with the long tail keywords and things that you’re doing.

Lindsey Anderson:  There’s so much to know like negative keywords and types of bidding and phone numbers. There is just so much to know.

Phil Singleton:  That’s a ton of value that you’re giving for that program for the local business.

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes because we’re setting up a PPC campaign for you. Yes.

Phil Singleton:  Big time well this has been awesome, tons of gold nuggets all over the place and I’m actually going to be listening to this one again myself to see if I can steal some more ideas from you.

Lindsey Anderson:  Awesome.

Phil Singleton:  I really appreciate having you on the show. I’d love for you to explain or maybe tell us how people can reach you or what things have you got going on and we’ll make sure those are covered in the show notes. Fire.

Lindsey Anderson:  Awesome so you already gave me the ability to do my plug so we’re Traffic and Leads. We specialize in basically setting up those funnels and the traffic that’s coming from Facebook ads, or PPC or SEO like a nice mix of all of them in some cases but you can come to us and we’ll actually tell you where you’ll get the best bang for your buck. You can find us at, my podcast is so that’s where I interview latest, greatest upcoming professionals on traffic and leads generation and then my personal blog is

Phil Singleton:  Awesome and any particular social platform that you’re more active or you kind of work them all?

Lindsey Anderson: Oh, I’m a huge Facebooker so trying to do the Instagram thing a little bit more but definitely I’m a huge Facebooker. Oh, also may I do one more thing?

Phil Singleton:  Yes.

Lindsey Anderson:   If you go to that is you put your email in there and basically that’s a five-day crash course and access to a private Facebook group that will help you build a strong online marketing foundation. It gives you all of my secrets where we, on how we build a strong foundation for our clients with online marketing.

Phil Singleton:  Is that a free program, paid program, how’s does it work?

Lindsey Anderson:  Yes, free.

Phil Singleton:  Free program. Nice! Who’s not going to take advantage of that?


Phil Singleton: We got it.

Lindsey Anderson:  All right.

Phil Singleton:   Thank you so much.

Lindsey Anderson:  My pleasure.

Phil Singleton:  All right, talk to you later.

Lead Generation & Marketing Tips for Professional Services Firms

In this episode, we discuss how John got started in marketing and how he started Duct Tape Marketing.

John gives tips and advice how freelancers and moonlighting professionals with day jobs can start their own agencies.

We also discuss the best ways for professional service providers to generate leads and get new business today.

About John Jantsch

John Jantsch has been called the World’s Most Practical Small Business Expert for consistently delivering proven real-world, small business marketing ideas and strategies.

He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world.

John frequently consults with small and mid-sized businesses, helping them create marketing plans and organized marketing systems that smooth the way for steady growth.

He is a veteran speaker and workshop leader with over 500 successful events under his belt.

His blog was chosen as a Forbes favorite for marketing and small business and his podcast, The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast — a top-ten marketing show on iTunes — was called a “must listen” by Fast Company magazine.

Huffington Post calls John one of the top 100 “Must Follow” on Twitter, and Forbes named Duct Tape Marketing one of the 100 Best Websites for Entrepreneurs.

He is the featured marketing contributor to American Express OPENForum and is a popular workshop and webinar presenter for organizations such as American Express, Intuit, Verizon, HP, and Citrix.

John’s practical take on small business is often cited as a resource in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNNMoney.

John Jantsch is the Peter Drucker of small business marketing tactics.

 – Seth Godin


Lead Generation and SEO books:

Questions I Ask John Jantsch

  1. Before building Duct Tape Marketing into what it is today, did you leave a comfortable salary job to start a “risky” new business?
  2. What things do you love about Kansas City? Favorite places, food, teams, characteristics, etc.?
  3. What is working today in terms of lead generation for professional services companies?
  4. What do you tell would-be entrepreneurs with day-jobs that need the steady paycheck and benefits to provide for their families?
  5. The $10k Question: if you woke up tomorrow with all your knowledge, but none of your business assets or connections, what would you start working on today?

About Duct Tape Marketing and John Jantsch

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I’ve got a very special guest today with me, John Jantsch. He’s a Duct Tape Marketing consultant, a speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine, the Referral Engine, and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
His latest book SEO For Growth, it’s a great book I co-wrote, The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, We Designers, and Entrepreneurs, is changing the way the world thinks about SEO. Hey, John. Welcome to the show.

John Jantsch: So glad to be here, Phil. I’m so glad you’ve gotten into podcasting. I’ve been working on you for years.

Leaving a Day Job to Start a New Business

Phil Singleton: It’s only been three years, right? All right. Well, there’s a couple of things I wanted to dig into today. The first one we want to talk about and ask you is something I’ve been asking everybody that’s come on the show. Before your success with Duct Tape Marketing and building the Duct Tape Marketing empire, early on in your career did you have the point like a lot of us do where you left the safety of a corporate job or something that seemed a little less scary and then you maybe jumped out into the world without a safety net, so to speak, and came into a port where you’re going to be an independent consultant or something where you’re going to try and start your own business? Explain that scary feeling and how you went from there.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I suppose mine isn’t the same as a lot of people. Actually my whole career I’ve owned my own marketing consulting firm for coming up on 30 years. I got out of college, went to work for an ad agency for about five years, and felt like I wanted to do my own thing. I liked hustling, I liked selling.

I didn’t like doing the same thing day in, day out. I just without any real plan I started my marketing consulting agency, which was really code for going out and hustling projects. Anybody who said that I had a problem or had some marketing need I said, “Sure, I can do that.”

Probably five or six years into that I decided that I really enjoyed working with small business owners. Unfortunately, that also came with the frustration and the fact that they never had the same budgets or attention spans or resources. I, this is around 2000, said, “You know what I need to do in order to sell that frustration and for me to profitably grow a business is I need to start a marketing consulting firm where I walk in and say, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do, here’s what you’re going to do, here’s the results we expect to get, here’s what I cost. Take it or leave it.”

Everyone is selling a piece of the puzzle…it’s very hard for a small business owner to put any of that together in a strategic sense

– John Jantsch

I guess that was that moment where I said I’m going to change everything about how I go to business or go to market with my business. In trying to sell my greatest frustration I think I ultimately maybe accidentally tapped into one of the greatest frustrations still today for many small businesses. It’s actually hard to buy marketing services as a small business owner. Everybody is selling a piece of the puzzle, a fraction of this and, “I’ll do this for you” and, “I’ll do that”.

It’s very hard for a small business owner to put any of that together in a strategic sense. My proposition was kind of music to their ears. That was really the genesis of Duct Tape Marketing. I decided if I was going to turn marketing into a product I was going to have to give it a product-like name and thus pivoted and changed Jantsch Communications, which was a catch-all for any kind of work I could do, to Duct Tape Marketing.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. At that one point where you actually left the ad agency was that a scary moment at all? Where were you in your life? Were you married,  had kids yet? Didn’t have kids yet? Obviously there was probably a salary and you were like, “I’m going to be on my own.”

John Jantsch: Yeah. I had three kids and one on the way. Nothing to lose (ha ha).

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I guess at that time you had enough confidence or you knew that you would go out and be like, “Hey, I’m going to do this”?

John Jantsch: Back before we called it the “side hustle”, I was side hustling.

Phil Singleton: Got it.

John Jantsch: I had a pretty good idea that there was a demand for what I was doing and I could make a living doing it really before I made the ultimate leap.

Phil Singleton: So day one, so to speak, you had either clients lined up or at least had a pretty good target of where you were going to go. It wasn’t like you were struggling for months and months to get a new client.

John Jantsch: That’s right. I had a couple pretty good sized clients that I was doing work for. Really, essentially, project work. I wasn’t designing or getting print done or anything for them. I was managing it all. It was work I could do really evenings and weekends.

Phil Singleton: How far in do you think you were like? I know at my last job I was really only three or four years out of school into one corporate job and it was scary to jump out into the world. Once I did it for a little while it was like “I’m never going back” type of a thing. Is that kind of how you felt pretty early on?

John Jantsch: Yeah, I didn’t like the job. There was nothing really holding me. My father had been an entrepreneur. I had seen that lifestyle and he represented manufacturers and so there’d be one in one day and one out another day. He didn’t know how he was going to make a living one year and then he was … I’d seen how you deal with that. That wasn’t scary to me. That seemed kind of normal actually.

What do You Love About Kansas City?

Phil Singleton: Interesting. Okay, obviously we’re both here in Kansas City. I love to ask this question, though, especially people that are here. What things do you really love about Kansas City? I want to get specific here about favorite things that you like to eat. Actually name names. I know you’re into sports. Everybody says they like all of Kansas City sports teams. I think everybody also has a secret favorite in their heart that if they had to pick one they’d pick that one. Let’s get down into what John Jantsch’s favorite Kansas City things are.

John Jantsch: Well, sure, I do have to preface this with this is the only place I’ve ever lived. In terms of comparison I’m not a very good person to ask.

Phil Singleton: But you’ve been everywhere, man. You’ve traveled everywhere.

John Jantsch: I do travel everywhere but I’ve never lived anywhere else but here. I like the size of Kansas City. I like the fact that there’s never any traffic. I like the fact that … Probably a lot of cities are this way. In fact, I know they are. I like the fact that Kansas City … I live in the heart of the central city and it’s still very neighborhood-based. The neighborhoods have Christmas decoration contests and block parties and that kind of traditional stuff. I get hives if I go into a Walmart so I’m very much I like it when I go into my coffee shop and they know my name and I know their name. Again, I’m …

Phil Singleton: Well, come on give it up. Give us a couple of your favorite coffee shops.

John Jantsch: Well, sure, because of where I live they’re going to be in proximity. I’m a big fan of Kaldi’s, which actually is the closest thing there is to an independent chain of shops. They’ve probably got three or four. I like Crows Coffee. I’m a huge fan of McLain’s Bakery. I think I’ve turned you onto their cinnamon rolls.

There’s a lovely little independent craft beer store right across the street from me that the owner … This is a perfect example. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. I call him the Kid. He’s like 40 now and has kids of his own, that owns the Bier Station, which is this little craft beer place, used to be the kid behind the counter at SRO Video when I was renting movies when we still rented these videos from video stores.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

John Jantsch: He was the high school kid at the time that would give me good recommendations on movies. Now 20 years later he’s across the street owning the Beer Station.
Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

John Jantsch: That’s sort of a classic Kansas City story.

Phil Singleton: Love it. Sports teams? I think I know what the answer is to this but tell me if you only had to pick one.

John Jantsch: I’m an easy one to answer that because I don’t have enough time for more than one sport. I’m a huge baseball fan. I have for lifelong been a Kansas City Royals fan. They came into existence when I was nine. I never really had time to become an As fan and be disillusioned when they left Kansas City. I’m a lifelong Royals fan.

Phil Singleton: If you had to pick three restaurants and you’ve got to have one because some of your friends eat meat, so give me one good place to eat for people that have … I guess for vegetarians or whatever else you like. I want to hear three restaurants.

John Jantsch: I’ll start with the vegan restaurant Café Gratitude, which is in the crossroads. I don’t care what you like or don’t like. It is the best food in Kansas City period.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

John Jantsch: I’d put that one up there. There is a little French bistro in Crestwood neighborhood that is called Aixois.

Phil Singleton: Spell that for me, please.

John Jantsch: A-I-X-O-I-S. I think there’s a French region called Aixois and so it’s named after that. It’s not fancy fancy. It has pretty fancy food I suppose but it’s not a fancy French restaurant. It has an outside patio that my wife and I will go for happy hour and have pomme frites. It can be pretty casual too.

Then I’ll give you a pizza place. Waldo Pizza, which has been around for 30 years probably and was kind of one of the original hippie pizza places that has now expanded and has a huge place. They were one of the early on having craft beers before anybody was calling them craft beers. Back before anybody was eating gluten-free and vegan and all that kind of stuff Phil at Waldo Pizza had all of that stuff on the menu. Like I say, he was kind of the original hippie pizza joint.

Lead Generation for Professional Service Providers

Phil Singleton: Nice. All right. Had to do it. Next let’s get back to business here. I want to talk about … I like to get specific into some kind of a niche when we talk about this stuff. What do you think is working today in terms of lead generation for professional services firms? You’re kind of fitting into this niche because you kind of do that a little bit. Drill down into it. Let’s say a web designer or a CPA or any type of professional service and see if we can talk about some of the things that are working for these guys and drumming up new business.

John Jantsch: Sure. For professional services folks going out and speaking has always been big. PR has always been big, meaning if you can write a column for a local newspaper or magazine. Strategic partnerships have always been a great way for professional services. The thing about professional services is that the trust level typically has to be much higher. Them perceiving you as an expert and them knowing other people who think you’re an expert, them getting referred to you, those are always really important for professional services.

Now having said that that doesn’t mean that you have to sit around and wait for somebody to refer an accountant or refer a marketing consultant to you. People are actually out there looking today and they’re trying to solve problems so they’re turning to the web and searching by the millions.

Producing really high quality content that addresses the problems that you know they’re searching for and then using that interest to capture leads and to build rapport or build relationship with is absolutely a piece of the puzzle today.

Even if you’re turning around and advertising for it because those people are out there looking, you’re not advertising, “Hi, hire me because I’m really smart and I’m an expert.” You’re advertising content that addresses a problem that you know they are trying to solve. By virtue of you articulating and understanding the problem you’re going to get invited to now connect that problem to your service.

Advice for Would Be Entreprenuers

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Okay. Great. I appreciate that. The next question I wanted to ask you is what would you tell a would-be entrepreneur now that has a day job, still needs the pay check and the benefits, but they might want to be or have aspirations to be an independent marketing consultant or maybe they’re a web designer and it’s like, “I’m working for an agency right now but I really have dreams to do my own stuff. I do the work. I know I can deliver.”

More an SEO or marketing person, anybody that’s out there that’s attached to an agency and has a job but really is like, “Gosh, you know what? I want to do this for myself. I think I’ve got the ability. I’ve got a family, I’m starting a family. I need the pay check and I’m afraid to jump out.” How do you tell somebody at that point in their life when to start, how to do it? Any advice or insight there?

John Jantsch: Well, that’s always a tough one because there’s no question. You can’t have one foot … You can have one foot in both places but not for very long. You do have to decide this is something I want to do and you can then ease into it.

One of the things I tell people all the time, that web designer or that marketing consultant, create a website of your own. Start putting stuff up there, start writing. If nothing else, even if that sits up there for two years and you’re once a month adding something to it, you will have built an asset that you can turn on a little faster than starting from complete scratch. You may not have a product or a service to offer but by virtue of the fact that you have that out there you’ll start having conversations with people who may actually want to hire you.

I think that when you put that out there … This will be the spiritual section of the interview. When you put your intention out there you start having conversations. People start showing up needing what it is that you do. A lot of times that will ultimately give you the shove that you need. If you just constantly harbor this, “Well, some day I’m going to do that” it probably won’t happen. If you act as though you are moving forward, you start building the assets, that you know if it does happen you will want to have in place, it will turn the universe your way.

Phil Singleton: Yes. Love it. One of the things I think about too and for sure when you started but even when I started we didn’t have the gig economy type stuff. In 2005 when I did my first website I was struggling my way through Dreamweaver. I either didn’t know about it or maybe they weren’t even around yet where you have these gig places where you didn’t have to spend a whole lot of money but you could go find somebody to help and pay a little bit to try and get started or test out an idea or something or even maybe help you get a website started for …
Maybe it’s not the website that you need to actually totally break out and be the professional one that you’ll eventually need. We didn’t have that, did we? When you decided it was either like you had to jump out or you had to spend a lot more time and effort to try something and invest a lot more.

John Jantsch: Yeah. That’s another cool thing. There are these sites like CloudPeeps and Upwork where somebody who wants to grab five hours a week of some work can go and probably match up with somebody who needs that. That’s such an incredible way to get started. You could be full-time employed, you don’t have to advertise or promote yourself out there to the world, especially if you’re trying to keep it on the side and not necessarily have it be something that is a known thing that somebody could find publicly. You go and you put yourself into one of those workplace environment marketplaces and you could pick up a $50 gig if you wanted to.

Phil Singleton: And test it out or find somebody to do a lot of work for you for $50, right?

John Jantsch: No question about that. Yeah.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: Awesome. The last question is what I call the $10,000 question. I had Matt Watson on the show recently, which I know you did also. I’m going to put a Matt Watson qualifier in here at the end.

If you woke up tomorrow with all your knowledge but none of your business assets or connections what would you start working on today? You’ve got $10,000, a laptop with no information on it, just the stuff that you need, and an internet connection. No, Matt Watson, you can’t invest in Litecoin or Bitcoin. It has to be in your own business to start rebuilding your own empire. What would you start working on? What would it be? Would you start writing another book? Would you get to work on a website? Would you start speaking? How would you spend that money if you had to?

John Jantsch: Well, I wouldn’t spend a dime.

Phil Singleton: Interesting.

John Jantsch: If somebody is in that environment go get a client. I’d start going … You said I got to have my knowledge, right? I know marketing. I know how to spot if somebody has a need. I would go out and I would start getting a couple clients. I wouldn’t necessarily …

Phil Singleton: What would you do? Would you do it on the cheap? Would you do it for free? Nobody knows who you are, nobody knows your brand. You’re going out completely cold but you have all your knowledge. You would go …

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think if you’re getting started sometimes you have to make somebody an offer that is going to take away all of the barrier to the fact that they don’t know you. It might be on the cheap or it might actually be … I love to do a deal … I’m so confident in what I can produce that I would do a deal with somebody to say, “Look, I’m not going to charge you anything for the first month and if I get you X amount of leads then you’re going to hire me to do all of your marketing.”

Phil Singleton: Interesting. Very interesting. That’s similar to … I’ve asked a couple entrepreneurs this one. A lot of them they kind of say something similar where they’d be, “I’d go out and hustle a gig directly and either do it on a …”

John Jantsch: I was going to say you qualified it as … Now had you said, in six months you need to be up making six figures I might take a different approach. If all I have to do is go out and start building a business at some pace [crosstalk 00:18:19]

Phil Singleton: You’re waking up tomorrow with all the same … You’re empty. You’ve got maybe the same liabilities and you’ve got to start producing like ASAP. What do you do? To me, you’ve got to get out, you’ve got to start a website, and that kind of stuff. I’m not asking the question … This question is going to get better and better and more refined I think because people keep coming up with stuff out of the woodwork. I’m trying to pin them into a corner.

I think I’m still getting a lot of great insight out of this because most people are basically saying entrepreneurs are successful, entrepreneurs are saying something similar, which is, “Hey, man. I’m going to bootstrap it up and essentially go hustle up some business directly because I know I can do it and then use that to snowball it rebuild what I had before.”

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think about times in my career. Fortunately, knock on wood, things are fairly steady and I have revenues coming from a number of places. I feel pretty good about that. There were certainly times in my career where I’d look up and go, “I’m not sure the next three months look good enough” and I’ve always had that mentality of, “I can go and hustle some work.”

I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel that way. I think in some ways that’s why they don’t … A lot of people think of starting a business as being so risky. I think a lot of entrepreneurs would tell you the other way around. Working for somebody else is the ultimate risk because that person can walk in tomorrow and say, “You’re fired. You get nothing.” Most entrepreneurs feel like if they’re down and out they can go hustle some stuff and keep it going based on their own wits.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. That wraps up today’s show. John, where can we find you? What do you got going on? Where do you want to direct people in terms of any offers or things that you’re trying to promote today?

John Jantsch: Yeah, nothing really to promote today. I just always tell people to check out Duct Tape Marketing. It’s just D-U-C-T T-A-P-E Marketing dot com. Phil is also a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. I’m sure you’ve heard him talk about that before. Anybody who is out there who is either a marketing consultant or an SEO person or a web designer I think you’ll find that being a part of something like the Duct Tape Marketing Network will allow you to get bigger gigs, higher retention, charge more money. All of the things that come from having some tools that we’ve built and the brand behind you.

Phil Singleton: As I tell people all the time, it’s the best decision I’ve ever made other than the decision to actually go into business for myself and do what I’m doing. I don’t think anything has helped me out as much as Duct Tape has.

John Jantsch: And to ask your wife to marry her.

Phil Singleton: Right!

John Jantsch: I want to throw that one in there.

Phil Singleton: On Google she’s position zero, right?

John Jantsch: There you go.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, man. All right. We’ll catch up with you again. Thanks for spending so much time with us.

John Jantsch: My pleasure, Phil.