Kansas City Keynote Speakers & Motivational Speaking with Joel Goldberg

Joel Goldberg, a popular Kansas City keynote speaker and sports announcer, has one of the most recognizable faces and voices in the metro area.

While Joel has had a first-row seat to one of the most inspirational stories in recent sports history, I found his personal story to be fascinating.

It’s no wonder that he has become on of the most sought-after keynote speaker in the metro area and has spoken companies such as Cerner, Mariner Wealth Advisors, American Family Insurance, Mobank and Enterprise Bank.

Joel shares an amazing story of how he started out in his early 20’s, fresh out of college, and created an opportunity by cold-calling scores of TV stations around the country and fought his way into the business with sheer grit and determination.

You will love this episode!

Click to learn more about Joel, his broadcast career, and all the cool new things he is doing at Joel Goldberg Media!

Learn more about Joel Goldberg

 

Meet Joel Goldberg

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody and welcome to The Local Business Leader’s Podcast. I’m your host Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is Joel Goldberg. Joel has spent nearly a quarter of a century covering college and professional athletes in football, basketball, hockey and baseball. He’s a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and won a Regional Sports Emmy in 2001 in St. Louis.

More recently Joel has hosted thousands of pre and post-game television shows while traveling with the Kansas City Royals since 2008. Joel is a true storyteller, sharing lessons from the sports world about culture and building relationships with audiences looking to make an impact in their businesses.

He recently spoken at some top Kansas City companies such as Cerner, Mariner Wealth Advisors, American Family Insurance, Mobank and Enterprise Bank. Joel, welcome to the show.

Joel Goldberg: Thanks for having me Phil.

Phil Singleton: This is gonna be awesome. Really before we get started with some of the other questions I’d like to ask you today. Just love to hear about your journey on those first steps out of school, almost what got you here today.

Joel Goldberg: Well I’ll say that growing up like a lot of kids, I had the dream of one day playing professional sports. Unlike some kids, I realized pretty quickly that that wasn’t going to happen. I was, and I’m not being humble, an average athlete at best. I loved talking about it. I was the kid from I can remember as early as first or second grade driving my teachers crazy with details of what was in box scores and games from the night before. So I feel like I always enjoyed telling stories and letting people know what was going on.

So my dream from I would say certainly teenage years on, or maybe even a little before was to be on TV talking about sports. I didn’t know exactly what that looked like. I got out of college, that’s what I studied, and what I found was everybody wanted to do that. So let’s just make up a number, say 10,000 kids came out of college wanting to be on TV in 1994 and it’s more than that. There were only 100 jobs available.

I just started cold calling, and I’m not a cold calling type by the way.

– Joel Goldberg

Now let’s back up and say that this was a time where there was no internet. It was just starting, email had just begun. There weren’t YouTube links. You had to put together physically a tape and then record over and over again more versions of that, put a label on it and stick it in the mail and send it out. I got rejection letter after rejection letter after rejection letter. The first lesson that I learned really in life, business, TV, sports, everything, it was instinctual at that point was I had to figure out a way to get to the top of the list really not being any better than anyone else.

I just started cold calling, and I’m not a cold calling type by the way. I just started cold calling TV stations around the country and the conversation basically went like this, “hi can you give me the name of your news director,” again remember there was no website to look up. Sure it’s Dave Smith, thank you, click. Ten minutes later call back, hi can I speak with Dave Smith, hi my names’ Joel Goldberg. I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin, I’m looking for a job in TV. I understand that you don’t have one right now, but I just happened to be passing through, fill in the blank, Quincy, Illinois, Terre Haute, Indiana, Rochester, Minnesota, Mason City Iowa, blah, blah, blah.

I happen to be passing through Terre Haute next Wednesday, could I stop by and introduce myself and give you a tape. Sure, and I’d hop in my car and drive all over the country. I started meeting people that way. Put a lot of mileage on the car and sure enough a couple months later I got my first TV offer and within a month or so later, three more came in.

That was the start of it, that’s how I got to the front of the line and 24 years later here I am.

Phil Singleton: That is so awesome. The reason I say that is because seriously, how many of us, I’m guessing you were in your what, 20’s?

Joel Goldberg: I was 22 at that point. I had no idea what I was doing. Was I good, I don’t think I was all that good. I probably did at the time, but I had-

Phil Singleton: Yeah I can tell you right now though, how many kids in their early 20’s have that kind of grit?

Joel Goldberg: That’s true for anything. By the way this is a message that still applies today. I remember talking to my nephew about this a couple of years ago. I don’t know how it all came up. He’s like, well nowadays we have Linkedin, it’s so much easier. I said sure, so does everyone else. So what are you gonna do different than the thousands of people that also have linked in.

The jobs have changed now too by the way. Kids aren’t, I’m hearing this now. Kids aren’t coming out of school saying I wanna be on Sports Center, or I wanna be the local sports anchor. They’re saying that they wanna be the sideline reporter. That’s become a bigger deal. I wanna do the interviews on social media, I wanna have a presence on SnapChat or whatever it is.

So it’s changed, but I still think that philosophy applies today and will apply till the end of time. How do you differentiate yourself from everyone else.

Joel Goldberg – The Entrepreneur

Phil Singleton: That’s a great story. I’d love to talk a little bit. We were talking kind of in the green room so to speak before we started recording here. I look at you as having two sides to your business. Obviously you’ve got the kind of hosting would you call it a career or a job or, almost want to…

Joel Goldberg: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: But then you’ve also got this other side where you’ve got this separate business, where you’re doing things like, speaking, giving motivational speeches, other types of services as well. I’d love to dive into that a little bit more, how that came about.

Then also how you’re going about using your own influence and career path that you’ve taken at this point to grow that business.

Joel Goldberg: Well it’s, the TV things’ been going obviously for a quarter century, and that makes me feel old. I knew I was starting to really get older when we got to a point where there were officially no players left in the major leagues that were older than me. The last one was Jason Giambi, and once he retired I’m like, I don’t even need to search this anymore. It’s gonna take like a 50 something year old deciding to come back and play. So that was one of the points where I realized that I was getting old.

Phil Singleton: But that’s in the sports world in the grand scheme, I mean come on. You’re in your prime.

Joel Goldberg: But I think that there’s a good message there and I would like to sit there and say this was my speaking business and the entrepreneur side of me was all this master plan to have a fall back option or have life after TV. Because I do the speaking thing like golf, I’m a terrible golfer by the way, but you can do it forever.

As long as you can speak, or as long as you have your physical capabilities, you can play golf. You don’t need a lot of physical capabilities to at least get out there and have fun. As long as I’m capable of speaking and standing up on a stage I can do that. But the reality of it is in the television world, it’s gonna expire at some point. Whether they decide tomorrow that they wanna go a different direction, they haven’t for a long time, or whether I just get older.

So I could sit here and tell you that I had this master fall back plan, but it wasn’t that. I just kind of stumbled into it by accident. Being in TV you’re asked to do a lot of appearances and Rotary Clubs and church groups and schools and things like that. I’d always done that, and about two and a half years ago I was asked by a couple different organizations to come out and speak. We have a small budget, so we’ll pay you. I’m, wow, you’ll pay me to do this, wow.

In hindsight, it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was money. More importantly is I got up there and it was two totally different audiences. One was a group of financial advisors, and the other was a group in lawn care and golf course management. I don’t even remember what the whole speech was, I just remember the reaction to it was the same. I thought, boy you got two different audiences, with different professions, dressed totally differently and they had the same reaction.

I was out with a friend, ’cause my off season … I basically work six to seven days a week for six months in baseball. My off season can kind of do what I want, I was doing some other sports. So the natural question from people is always, hey what have you been up to, what are you doing in your off season. I told them I spoke to a couple groups. One of them said, you know you could form a whole business out of this. I was naïve enough to say really, you can?

I didn’t know anything about the business world, about the speaking world, because for all the people that say to me, hey you’ve got such a good job. You get to talk about baseball every day, you get to travel the country. I say yes, they pay me to talk about baseball, life is great. But it’s such a comfortable place if you can get there, that you don’t ever really look outside of it.

Most of us in the TV or the sports world don’t look outside of it. You look at other sports, and this was totally different. So I kind of caught the bug and the entrepreneurial bug. Then I went about this the old fashioned way. I just started networking and great, we have huge audiences that watch us for baseball. So it certainly made getting into doors easier than just some random cold call.

But as you know, one connection, two connections, three connections and suddenly they start multiplying. During my off seasons, I’m two, three, four meetings a day for coffee, breakfast, lunch, happy hour, whatever it might be. That could be anything, it was anything from new relationships to other introductions to brainstorming content. To learning about speaking techniques to being introduced to a speaking coach. To meeting people in the National Speakers Association to on and on and on and on and on.

With that said, this business has been built. I feel like I’m … it’s become sort of an obsession of mine, even in season. It’s kind of giving me new life at a time where I was okay. It wasn’t that I was bored, it wasn’t that I was unhappy. I was lucky enough to love what I did, love what I do. But I think also Phil, there’s sometimes there’s the danger when you’re happy or satisfied of being complacent.

Kansas City Keynote Speakers & Motivational Speeches

Phil Singleton: Right, I was just gonna say that. So take one step back to the new company that you’ve created, that you’re providing services for. The main service you provide is motivational speeches, are there any kind of other services? I wanna make sure that our listeners get that right. What does this business look like in terms of the services that you offer?

Joel Goldberg: Yeah I think the main thing is speeches, and it’s mostly keynote speeches.

Phil Singleton: Keynote speeches.

Joel Goldberg: That’s really where my comfort level is. There have been some workshops and some other activities, but at least for me right now, that sweet spot is the speaking business, and really two speeches. I’m closing in on a third and a fourth.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Joel Goldberg: But the two, what I’m really focused for now on Kansas City. Just because I think I can provide value to companies all over the country. But the reality of it is, I am, and there’s so much here that has to do with branding. I have a brand as a baseball announcer. I have a brand as the guy that Salvador Perez dumps the Gatorade bucket on and all that stuff.

So I’m trying to take that brand and expand it into someone who can not just come and motivate you, but someone that can come in to teach your employees, or teach the members of your association. Because the one thing that I say is that you don’t have to be a baseball fan or a sports fan to take something out of my speeches, and that is my goal. The same way that when I go on TV, if I’m just gonna go hardcore stats, I’m gonna eliminate a lot of our viewers. If I just go human interest stories and don’t add those stats in, it’ll eliminate other viewers.

So I had to find a way to really pull everyone in. That’s our job, so I try to go about it the same way with the speaking business. Meaning that a lot of former athletes, people on the speaking circuit from the sports world, they can go in there and tell the greatest stories ever. They’re celebrities, and you really don’t have to have a take away. If George Brent or Terry Bradshaw or whoever it might be comes and speaks, they’re gonna make a ton of money by showing up and sharing stories that are gold.

But for me, I don’t think I’m that big of a deal. So I’ve gotta be able to take these stories that I view as a peek behind the curtain. It’s not a tell all. But I’ve been lucky enough for this quarter century to have a shotgun front row seat to teams that have won, lost, everything in between. You look at the Royals, last place to champions. How did they build it, how did they keep it. The highs, the lows and taking these stories and using them as teaching tools for people in business and life.

Storytelling

What I’m finding is, because storytelling … stories are powerful. People remember stories over numbers. People remember stories over pie charts and graphs. That’s important, but I always say when I get to follow the compliance person at a speaking event, I always feel pretty good. Because the compliance, the HR, all that stuff is necessary. You have to do it, but my stuff’s different.

You know what it’s done Phil, it’s given me this new purpose that I can take so many of these things that I can’t necessarily do on TV or I might only have 15 seconds to do on TV, and I can turn them around and spend the better part of an hour with the group really highlighting some of these moments and hopefully opening people’s eyes.

Phil Singleton: Love it. So one of the questions I’ve gathered related to this is, from that standpoint, you’re basically a small business owner, kind of just like the rest of some of us are, right? Of course I know you speak at some of these major top Kansas City companies with lots of employees and stuff like that. But from a business standpoint, in terms of getting new clients for your business. Some of the things you’d already mentioned is how you’re getting new speaking gigs. Part of that is networking, I think you mentioned that. You mentioned you’re active online, on social media. I see you on Linkedin a lot.

I guess one nice thing about also speaking is that kind of leads to other speaking engagements. You do a good job people like the stories that you’re telling, the lessons that you’re teaching and that leads to other things from referrals and that type of thing.

You also have a website right, so you’re kind of like, not only do you have your own social media presences on some of the major social channels. But you’ve actually got kind of a central location for your business online in terms of your own website and you’re kind of marketing that.

Just like to hear a little bit about how that’s working for you, what you’re doing to drive traffic. Other ways that maybe, and let me know if I’m getting this right, other ways that you have tried to generate new business.

Joel Goldberg: Well it’s a good question and I think the first thing I’ll say, ’cause a lot of this is certainly on the website. A lot of this is more your expertise than mine. I’m learning every day, of course we all learn every day, I know that sounds really cliché.

Marketing as an Entrepreneur

Phil Singleton: When you’re doing some of it is common sense. You mentioned you’re going out, you’re having coffee, you’re making it happen. You’re not waiting for the phone to ring. You’re out there actually networking and trying to create these opportunities. I think that’s really just happening because that’s who you are, that’s your nature. It’s like what you said from the beginning. You went out from college and you didn’t wait, sit down and wait for the phone to ring, you went out and made it happen. You had the grit, you made the cold calls, you traveled around the country and finally you got it.

I feel like you’re kind of doing a little bit of that right now. You got this, you got this vision, you got the bug. Now you’re making things happen, like going out and actually meeting with people and being proactive about it. I think that’s a really big lesson to learn for all business owners. ‘Cause so many of us hope for like a magic pill. Throw some money at somebody and hope new business is gonna fall out of the sky.

It really doesn’t happen like that. You have to actually hustle a little bit no matter who you are, especially if you’re gonna start a new business.

Joel Goldberg: Okay, if you have Jeff Bezos type of money or Warren Buffett or name those kind of people, they can make anything happen. Money will buy you if you want. But for the most part for most of us you’re right, there isn’t a magic pill. By the way none of those guys got where they did with the magic pill. All their hard work now enables them to purchase that magic pill if they so choose to. But they also are very astute business people.

But I think it’s a good observation Phil and I appreciate it because it’s weird, I was thinking about this the other day. But when I started this speaking thing two and a half years ago, okay I gotta start networking. I went out immediately, and a good friend and neighbor of mine said you need to meet this guy, he knows everyone. That lead to five more and on and on.

I don’t think I sat there and said okay, I need to do this in the same way that I’ve built my TV career, or started my TV career I should say. It just kind of happened instinctually, which is I think interesting to me. I don’t know how to analyze myself on this one, but I went about it the same way I did when I hit the wall. I didn’t hit a wall on this, but when I had no other chance. My back was against the wall back in 1994, and I just went out there, and I went after it.

So I didn’t go into the speaking thing saying okay, let me go and do this the way I did in ’94, I just started doing it. So you’re right, maybe that’s who I am, and there’s some things you can teach, some things you’re born with, we can debate all that. But I think anyone can do this if they have the desire to do it. I do think that it’s a lot easier to do it when you have a passion for it.

What was interesting to me was as I started this and reading a lot, and all the networking and everybody starting saying the Simon Sinek stuff about finding your why. I didn’t know what my why was. It was almost like you’re not allowed to say the why is for money, you have to have a passion for it. You have to know why you’re doing this. It’s like wait a minute, we all do work to get paid, is that allowed. Am I allowed to talk about that.

The money and the speaking thing potentially is pretty good, and I can control it as a business owner versus signing a contract for TV and this is kind of where you’re at. But along the way I found the why, and I found that I love interacting with people. I love building relationships, I love helping people. I love storytelling and I love opening people’s eyes. Really not all that different than what I was doing when I was seven, eight years old driving those first and second grade teachers nuts. I liked being the one to share that and maybe then it was entertaining. I think now it’s hopefully to help people.

So I guess that’s kind of how everything came about. But I firmly believe that you have to build the relationships in everything. People say to me, when they say to me, hey you’re in the baseball business, you’re in the TV business. I say no I’m not, I love baseball, I’m not in the baseball business, I’m in the people business. I don’t know that I would consider any of the current or former players good friends of mine. But I could rattle off an all star list of guys that if I were to call them or text them right now, and ask for a favor, they would do it.

Because of the relationships and trust that have been built. I’m not doing it, but point being, when I need that interview or I have that big moment, I know that I can rely on these guys. Because, I’ll use a baseball term here, I didn’t steal a base. I went through the whole process. I didn’t try to get to second or third or home before touching first. I think there is a lesson to be learned there. You talk about the magic pill and especially now, as I’m growing all of this and I try to be active on all the social media avenues or platforms.

What I’m finding is, is people try to connect with me on Linkedin and I try to accept everybody because you never know. As I accept them, you start getting some of these messages back. You can see right away it’s sometimes it’s an automated message too, we all get those. It’s like wait a minute, you’re looking for my business and you don’t even know me yet. It’s everything I’m against.

So I’m not asking for everybody that connects with me on Linkedin to try to build a relationship with me. None of us took time for all that. But I’m certainly not gonna do business until we’ve sat down for coffee or gotten to know each other. I think so many people skip that step. I think that’s the one point. Then back to what am I doing. This was another thing that took me a little while to realize, contents’ everything.

So yes, and I have a marketing director that does phenomenal work for me. Basically if you look at my social media, if it looks like something that just was typed out, it was probably me. If it has a nice graphic to it, it was probably her.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Joel Goldberg: She’s very measured with what she does and when she does it. We are at a point now where she is promoting my business and me, which is a little uncomfortable for me. But more than anything, it’s putting out content. Whether it’s sharing quotes or clips from my podcasts or just different things to get people thinking, it doesn’t cost anything.

Just continuing to put out content, building the brand, trying to help people. That doesn’t really cost a lot to do that.

Phil Singleton: Well in a way doing what you are saying that’s been help to get successful your entire career, which is using it in a way with general good content that people are consuming. In a way they’re almost building a relationship with you over the connection, the channels that they’re following you. You’re building that relationship slowly over time ’cause you’re building that trust up and I love that.

Joel Goldberg: That’s right, and again, it doesn’t cost anything. I guess I’m lucky enough that I’m a content person. I also happen to be surrounded by content. But I also think that if we open our eyes, no matter what we do, there’s content around us all the time. There’s stories to be told everywhere. I happen to be lucky enough that I go to work every day of the year for six months a year surrounded by a lot of famous people or people that are less than one percent talent wise. They’re doing something that nobody else could do, that’s really interesting.

But I think everybody has a story to tell, you just have to look for it. You have to ask questions and you have to be willing to share with people and put it in perspective.

Podcasting

Phil Singleton: So that’s a great segue way into one of my recent favorite topics, which is podcasting. You have a podcast, I have a podcast. I think it’s really hot, I think it’s great for all sorts of different reasons. Of course it’s been around since 2005 or before, but it’s really picked up speed in the last three or four years.

Tell us how that came about, what you think about podcasting. If you think it relates to, or can be used by small business owners, other types of business owners. I’d just like to hear what your general thoughts are on podcasting in general.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, I sort of stumbled into the podcasting in the same backwards accidental way that I did the speaking business. The very short of the story, I mentioned that a friend of mine said to me, hey you can start a speaking business. In the message that I got from him, actually his wife is a speaker. She said, you need to write a book, if you’re gonna be a speaker, you gotta write a book.

You see that in the speaking business, when you have a book you get into more doors. When you have a book you can sell books and you make more money and blah, blah, blah. You’re more credible, and by the way, the whole book thing to me, and the podcasting for that matter too is a little bit silly from this standpoint.

It just means you’ve written a book, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great speaker. It doesn’t necessarily mean okay, I won an Emmy. I put that in there because, in the bio, because that’s the one that always gets an ooh and an ahhh from the crowd. But you know that’s like winning a Grammy or whatever. It’s a voting thing. I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it, but there’re years where I think I deserved one and I didn’t get it and other years where maybe-

Phil Singleton: In all fairness I think to the rest of us, you have a platform. Most people I think that go out and try to create speaking gigs or get booked on any type of a gig really, they almost need to have something like a book to establish themselves. You don’t because you’ve already got an audience, you’ve already been on the air. You’re a TV host, you won an Emmy.

You could make an argument that you wouldn’t necessarily need that, but if you didn’t have that platform, you might need something like a podcast or a book or something to help you establish yourself as an expert where you have all this kind of stuff. I think it’s a little bit different, but-

Joel Goldberg: I agree, and so I fully get that. So I’m fortunate enough, and not apologizing for it. It’s all the sacrifice and all the years put in and all the content and everything I’ve learned. That now I can show up really well in a speech and podcast and all that.

But back to the whole podcast question, this person said you need to write a book. I met with an author, and really two years ago the thought was daunting. Like how the heck, I don’t know the first thing, what am I doing. She said to me you know what, I don’t think you should write a book, which I appreciated. Because I’m sure she could have potentially made some money by helping me write a book.

She said do a podcast instead. I said why, she said well one, you’re a broadcaster, it’s in your wheelhouse. So I said okay. Two she said it’s an opportunity to meet people and network. Three it’s new content material that could at some point go into a book and fourth, it’s a great way to create a brand.

When she said that, I said well what should I podcast about. She said you figure that out. The one thing I knew was, I don’t wanna do a baseball podcast. I still to this point have friends and people say, hey you should do a season preview, you should talk to … get an athlete on there. I will say this, I could increase my listenership by huge numbers by just doing a Royals podcast. But it doesn’t interest me. I already have that brand, I’m not trying to grow that brand. I’m not trying to stunt it, but I had that exposure that you talked about already on TV.

People see too much of me already and I say that in a self-deprecating way. But I’m hosting 300 shows a summer. I just need to keep doing that job well.

Phil Singleton: I absolutely love it because the podcast that I have called, Local Business Leaders. I could have named it WordPress Website Development Guru, this or that or Kansas City SEO Expert Guy this and that. But no, I wanted to name something kind of like what you’re going after, which is how do we build our network to reach another kind of audience, a new audience. How do we get maybe something that’s more appealing to elevate the type of people I wanna interview. It sounds exactly like where you’re going right. You didn’t just say hey I’m gonna-

Joel Goldberg: That’s exactly it.

Phil Singleton: I love it, I absolutely love it.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah and then it’s just telling stories. I’m not … don’t get me wrong, I have … one of my guests was the new now, it’s been less than two years now. But CEO of H&R Block, I had the mayor of Kansas City, Sly James. I had the CEO of Garmin, those are big name companies and I’ll never say no to those. But at the same time, I’m really interested in telling the story of the start-up entrepreneur who maybe is going to bed tonight worried about financing and making it work and is this gonna work, or is he gonna have to look for something else or she, and telling those stories.

In turn we talk about value of hoping that people that are listening to them, and there’s a library full of them.

Phil Singleton: Tell me, do you think that’s helping your business. I don’t know what episode you’re on right now, but you’ve done dozens of them  Has it lead to new clients, new inquiries, how does it workout that way?

Joel Goldberg: I think it has and maybe I’m not smart enough yet to measure it. One of the things I think with entrepreneurs or certainly people going into a new business and when you’re doing it yourself. It’s the whole scaling issue of what comes first. There’s something and then the investor invest and hope you achieve. So I’m dealing with all that like a lot of people do.

So there’s a lot that I’m still trying to figure out. But what I know is this. I’m getting more buzz, I’m having more people on a regular basis say to me hey, I got a good guest for your. That’s something that wasn’t happening before. I don’t even know if it’s showing up necessarily in the numbers yet. But again this gets back to just trusting this process, it’s very much like building relationships.

Once I got past over obsessing, well I don’t think I was over obsessing, but I would wanna look at those numbers every single week. I was doing it bi-weekly, now it’s weekly, and see how many people are listening to it. I just stopped worrying about that and just keep going out there and more content, more people.

Phil Singleton: It’s like you said earlier, the relationship building. You got a platform now, people know you that want to be interviewed and want to be on your show. Even like this, we’re now talking to each other 20, 30, 40 minutes for a podcast episode. It’s almost like a little bit of relationship starts to build from the nature of podcasting. You’ve already done that with some really heavy hitters in the business world in Kansas City because you have that platform.

I think that’s one of the things people overlook. A guy by the name of Steven Woessler, he’s a marketing guy from one of my earlier episodes. Man people just don’t realize how podcasts, especially the interview format. It’s like the ultimate sales Trojan horse. You get in there, you build up a relationship, you’re doing something for somebody that elevates who they are, their expertise. The relationship actually develops over the interview itself.

That’s one of the reasons it’s happened in the sports world for you. The guys know you because you interviewed them. Then all of a sudden it’s like, you got that, and the same things can happen at the business level. Which I think can apply to all sorts of businesses.

Joel Goldberg: It just grows and it multiplies. It’s one of the reasons why I go, and I trust my network. My network started with one or two, it’s hundreds of people now. It’s started to grow beyond Kansas City. When someone that I trust from in my network says hey you should go for coffee or meet this person. I don’t say why or what am I gonna get out of it. I went to lunch with someone today at the recommendation of someone in my network.

Little did I know we were gonna end up sitting down talking about possibly writing a book together. So you don’t know where the stuff is gonna lead. But I’m looking sitting here in my office, or like you said before we got on the bat cave. It’s a little small for a bat cave. But I’m looking my dry erase board or white board, and when I started this podcast I did every other week because I was worried about, and I think all podcast hosts should be worried about this. I was worried about the regularity of it.

So I know over the years I’ve tried blogging here and there and things like that. I might do one, I might do two and I’m all fired up about it. Then I don’t do one for three months. It’s like who the heck is gonna read or pay attention to something that irregular. So the advice I had from a good friend of mine was, whatever you schedule to be, you have to stick to it. Not just for the listeners, but for the algorithms and all that.

So I thought baseball, I’m gonna go bi-weekly. Well there were stretches. The podcast started in November of 2017. So there were stretches where this podcast, which by the way is called Rounding the Bases, was … I get down there the day before I had to release one and I didn’t have a guest. I thought, I guess if I just wait for the weekend it won’t be two weeks, it’ll be 16 days, that’s fine.

I’m looking at my dry erase board right now, and having switched to weekly guests about a month ago, I’ve got the next eight weeks set, like they’re already recorded. So that’s a product of what you’re talking about and seeing the results to me. I didn’t have to search for those, they just keep coming to me.

So that to me is a sign, a little bit of the branding. When you start seeing and getting traction, again Phil I would say, we’re all guilty of this because we live in a world where you keeps score. I work in a profession covering a sort where somebody wins or loses based on the score. We are since the time we are kids report cards, job reviews, on and on. We keep score and we can get so focused on those numbers understandably. It’s how we get paid, it’s how we succeed that sometimes we forget about the process.

Joel Goldberg’s Kansas City Favorites

Phil Singleton: Such great insight and we could go on and on. But what I wanna do toward the bottom of this interview now is just get into stuff that you love about Kansas City. What you like about living here, kind of some of you’re go to places in terms of maybe you and your family or like where you guys go to eat. Whatever, whatever it is, give us some Joel Goldberg favorites.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, there’s so much. Mostly I hate and love the barbecue question because one, you’re gonna get yourself in trouble. But to me it depends on what kind of mood we’re in. So if we want the nice sit down, =we love Joes. But we also love, wife and two kids, we love just trying to find some of the outskirts of town Mom and Pop type of places too. Just to try to those out. So those are all-

Phil Singleton: Anything come to mind? I’ve got one client, that’s all he does man. He just goes and finds the hole in the wall, family owned types of things and really tries to stay way from them, somewhat like the commercial places.

Joel Goldberg: I remember locations, I don’t always remember names. So there’s a place, and I’m in Johnson County, but there’s a place out in Leavenworth, I can’t remember the name of it, but that’s really good, we’ve gone there a couple of times.

Phil Singleton: What kind of food is it?

Joel Goldberg: It’s a barbecue place.

Phil Singleton: All right, sweet.

Joel Goldberg: A barbecue place, you can never do too much barbecue. I know that’s such a Kansas City thing to say. The flip side of that is, I can’t tell you how many times we were on the road for baseball and you got press box dining for broadcasters, writers. One night of every series on the road, they always do barbecue, as a homage to Kansas City. I’m like no offense, but-

Phil Singleton: Not necessary.

Joel Goldberg: It’s not necessary, you’re not gonna do it like we do it. So that’s certainly something. Other restaurants, there are so many. But we love-

Phil Singleton: There’s no Goldberg family go tos, it’s just oh, there’s no where else to go to.

Joel Goldberg: This is going to be a little gratuitous, not gratuitous but they named a sandwich after me at-

Phil Singleton: ‘Cause you went there so much?

Joel Goldberg: No and they started at Broadway Deli in the Crossroads, 20th and … I should know this because I think I’m-

Phil Singleton: You have a sandwich named after you…

Joel Goldberg: They said there’s the Joe Goldberg and it’s half corned beef, half pastrami. You can’t go wrong with that. So that’s really good. One of my favorites is Blue Koi-

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s there in Leawood.

Joel Goldberg: Which is phenomenal. But if you ask my kids, they’re like any other teenagers. They wanna go to Chick-Fil-A and Kings and wherever they can get chicken tenders and that type of garbage. So that’s it, but the only thing that we really love to do, just to get out of the surburban bubble, we go downtown as often as we can. Whether it be my wife and I, or whether it be with us and the kids and just go try new places in the city and just go explore.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Joel Goldberg: This city has so much to offer. There a lot of people that’ll go down there if they’re not living there. There are a lot of people in the suburbs that never leave the suburbs. That’s true in most cities, but there’s so much going on here. Whether it’s a first Friday or just really any night of the week there’s always something going on.

Phil Singleton: That’s a good measure for everybody. I mean my job takes me up a lot and it’s just so much. If you stay in your suburban bubble and you don’t pay attention to what’s going on, then you lose what’s all the cool things that are happening and new places that are going up. The new kind of generation of people that are creating new restaurants and stuff.

Joel Goldberg: Yeah, I think like all the influence of the millennials and the amount of people moving to town and all the tech industry and upgrading that’s going well, it’s a benefit to everybody, because you see all the places popping up. I’m too old to go clubbing and all that kind of stuff. But there’s so many great spots for live music, and food and drink and festivals. It feels like its growing by the day. I wanna be able to check all that stuff out.

Phil Singleton: Love it, well Joel, we’re at the end of the interview here. What I wanted to ask is where … mention the name of your podcast again so I wanna make sure we get links to it, and then where else people can follow you online. What social media channels you are most active on. I wanna make sure those is all those on the shoe notes when we promote the show.

Joel Goldberg: Well Twitters’ always been the big one. That’s gonna be my more of the baseball types of updates, goldbergkc. Instagram is really what I’m trying to grow right now which is not easy to grow as Twitter, I’m learning. But just trying to get some of that cool content pictures things like. That’s Joelgoldbergkc, that’s Instagram. I’m on Linked in and I’ve got a Facebook business page, fan page, whatever you wanna call it.

The website is JoelGoldbergmedia.com. The podcast, which can be found anywhere you find your podcast is Rounding the Bases with Joel Goldberg and just having fun doing it.

Phil Singleton: Thanks so much for coming on the Local Business Leaders podcast today Joel. It was so awesome to get some of your insight and listen to your story. I wanna make sure that we have all those show notes up on the page with links to your social medial channel and your podcast as well.

I just wanna thank you one more time for sharing your story with our audience.

Joel Goldberg: I appreciate it, thanks for helping me out Phil.

How to Use SEO & Processes to Build, Scale & Sell Your Agency or Business

Ryan Stewart, is a marketing entrepreneur with over a decade of experience building and selling online businesses. He worked as a consultant for Deloitte and SapientNitro helping large brands like Target and Best Buy improve online acquisition. He built and scaled an eCommerce site called Laces Out with a 1.2 million organic business per month and sold the business in 2017. He built and scaled an online SEO agency called WEBRIS to 1.1 million in annual recurring revenue in 16 months, and sold the business in 2018. Ryan is now a partner and board member at From the Future, a technical digital agency with 40 employees and offices in Miami and Philadelphia.

Episode Quick Links

 

External Resource Links

Meet Ryan Stewart

Phil Singleton: Ryan, welcome to the show.

Ryan Stewart: Thank you for having me, Phil. I appreciate it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, this is going to be awesome. I’m so psyched. It’s so cool to have people that are in the business that you can talk shop a little bit. And some of this is going to fly over some our small business owners’ heads, I’m sure, but the SEO and marketing folks are going really love this. So tell us a little about your story, those first steps out of college or university or what have you, into the business world, and what got you to where you are today.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so I graduated undergrad in 2009 and was super lucky. The school that I went to had a really good alumni network, and I was able to get a job in consulting. And I kind of bounced around that for like two years between Accenture and Deloitte and really did not like it. Wasn’t for me for a whole number of reasons. Great company, just not for me. And so I started looking for other ways to make money, and I stumbled across Instagram. This was back in like 2011. This was before Facebook bought it, back before it has anywhere near the mass adoption that it has. And I knew, I saw a lot of my friends using it. I saw a lot of people moving over from Facebook. So I wanted to figure out a way that I could maybe make some money off that. And I ended up getting into something that didn’t work out, but after going through that process of trying to do something and then making a little bit of money and getting a taste of what being an entrepreneur is like, I couldn’t go back.

Phil Singleton: Did you jump out into the cold or did you quit or were you kind of doing this-

Ryan Stewart: No, I didn’t … I was super lucky that I wasn’t doing much at my job. It was big corporate America. I had it down to I would come in, do an hour worth of work, sit in a couple of meetings, and then I had basically had four hours of time on my hands to be on the internet. So it was the perfect time to do things on the internet.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, so I was doing that, and I was in a coffee shop talking to this kid I was working with. Some guy next to me overheard me, and he did SEO. I didn’t know what it was at the time. It was back in 2011. And he started talking about it and introduced it to me and I was like, “That’s where I need to be,” you know what I’m saying? To be able to control what people are searching for and all that stuff.

Ryan Stewart: So got into it, just became obsessed with it. At that point, I ended up quitting my job at Accenture. I picked it up pretty quickly within like six months. Actually lied on my resume, and then went, took a job as a contractor at SapientNitro, which is a huge digital agency. And through that, I was able to learn a lot about analytics, how websites are built, how the internet works, all that different stuff, client communications, all those things.

Phil Singleton: Let’s take a step back here because one of the things that blows me away about you is there’s a lot of different things that you’re really talented, you’re obviously really smart, you’re an SEO genius, but the one thing that I notice is that you are … And obviously, I follow you, we don’t know each other personally up until like now, this interview, is that you’re a master of execution.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

Phil Singleton: All the stuff that you’re doing, you’ve got all these things going in different directions, and I’m just wondering is that some of the stuff that you think came … Did some of that come from Deloitte and training and stuff like that, are you just naturally wired that way? Did SapientNitro … Somewhere in that, you just learned how to execute, man. You’re a killer.

Ryan Stewart: I appreciate that, Phil. First of all, I was an athlete my whole life. I was a scholarship football player in college, D1. I was always undersized. I just had work ethic beaten into me from when I was a young age, so I had that going for me, which was one thing. But going to Deloitte, I was actually a business process re-engineer. So what my job was, I hated it, but my job was to look at massive enterprise software and then build the human processes for that. So I developed a feel for process driven thinking. And that process driven thinking plus my wanting to work hard and succeed, I think when I combined those two things, I found a nice niche in the space. Because a lot of people talk, especially in this industry, but results are what matter. And more importantly too is execution.

Ryan Stewart: So having that process mindset, I was able to build processes to help me scale my time. By having a process, I can then go out and hire somebody with a lot less money, a lot lower cost, that’s not an expert in the field. I can just follow that process. So pretty much everything I’ve done from the agency to the eCommerce to The Blueprint, everything is built on these processes that I’m able to get people underneath me at 4, 5 bucks an hour just doing the busy work that takes stuff off my plate that allows me to be hyper-productive and execute at a very high level as well.

Phil Singleton: Yes. Now it’s coming together. Because I can see, obviously, the competition with SEO, people are really competitive, right? That definitely probably fuels a lot into what drives you.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I love it. I have a love/hate … Off topic now, but that’s fine. I have a love/hate with the industry because I love it because it’s so competitive, how passionate it is. The people are super amazing too. When you go to a conference and meet people, they’re all genuine, nice people and we all share this kind of bond and passion about something as stupid as SEO, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ryan Stewart: But my hate kind of comes from the fact, for the same thing, people can be very condescending. People always think they’re right. And at the end of the day, nobody knows the answer.

Phil Singleton: But your bank account knows the answer is the way I look at it.

Ryan Stewart: And that’s all relative too. I have this debate with my business partner at the agency because he sees things one way in terms of promotion and money and how things should be done. I look at the other side. So we’re in SEO, which is the very white hot side of internet marketing, but you get into like the advertisers, the true internet marketers, like the Frank Kerns of the world, who are just selling info products over and over again, you look at their bank accounts, and if you use that justification, you can get, I don’t want to say unethical, but you can cross some lines in that space. Whole other topic for conversation. But yes, bank accounts really do matter.

Phil Singleton: Right. You mentioned something, I know we’re kind of going through … I’m going to reel it back here in a second, but because this is a little bit talking shop too.

Ryan Stewart: Sure.

SEO Experts vs SEO Journalist and SEO Bloggers

Phil Singleton: I think in our industry there are a ton of people that are perceived to be SEO experts, or I don’t know what have you, I actually wrote about this in the book I wrote with John Jantsch, but a lot of them are actually like journalists or reporters or they’re regurgitating top level stuff. But they’re not actually the grunts that are on the ground that are having to make money for themselves and for their clients. And I think that’s where a lot of SEO expertise comes in.

Phil Singleton: That’s why for people that have been doing it for a long time, I know you’re an expert. I read your stuff. I know that on the side of being an influencer and having great content and helping to educate people, you’ve actually, through your track record, been able to build businesses and make money for other people, make businesses and sell them and done it multiple times and stuff like that. That’s actually a huge difference. Do you agree with me on that? I think it’s a little harsh to come out and say, hey, there are SEO experts out there, but are they really experts or are they just reporters or bloggers that couldn’t rank themselves out of a wet paper bag? That might be a little bit harsh, but I mean seriously…

SEO is so legitimate now …you can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand.

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: Yes and yes. And this is, again, another debate I that I have with people is that when I got into SEO it was to be an entrepreneur. It was to make my own money. But what SEO’s become, it’s become such a legitimate, it’s a legitimate industry, you know what I’m saying? You can go and get a job, and work at a job as an SEO making 100 grand. So there’s different levels to SEO. There’s people who have built their own websites. There’s people who have done Black Hat. There’s people who do local SEO, big enterprise, technical SEO, and all those different … There’s link builders, there’s content marketers, there’s all these different people that have different view of what a result is. You know what I mean?

Ryan Stewart: When I was at Sapient, the big technical SEO stuff, smartest SEOs I ever worked with, but they didn’t know the first thing about content or creativity or … Not that they weren’t creative people, they just looked at things, they were working on Target.com, so of course, Target.com, it’s a technical campaign. And the way that they approached SEO was very different than I was used to approaching SEO building my own WordPress sites and hitting with back links.

Ryan Stewart: So I think it’s all relative. I’m not trying to give a political answer here. I think everyone can be an expert in their own right. But at the end of the day, yes, it’s about what you’ve ranked. It’s about what you’ve monetized. It’s about who you’ve helped. And it’s so much more than that too. I tell people all the time that SEO is a microcosm of marketing which is a microcosm of running a business. And you running a business know after you get to a certain point, SEO doesn’t even really matter to your business anymore. It’s important, but it’s like, what’s more important is hiring, building company, all these different things come up.

Ryan Stewart: I think that if you’ve been doing the same thing for ten years and haven’t necessarily progressed … If that’s what you want to do of course, if you haven’t progressed in the field or with your business then I would have to agree with what you’re saying. You know what I mean? So if you’re still talking about the same things ten years later, it’s like are you building a business or you’re building … You know what I’m saying? There’s different levels to it, you know what I mean?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, let’s jump back because I totally cut you off to go on a tangent.

Ryan Stewart: No, that’s fine.

Phil Singleton: At some point, you jumped out and you actually had your own business because you were able to quit a full-time job.

Ryan Stewart: Yes.

Phil Singleton: You went to Deloitte, and then it was SapientNitro, and then it basically was out on your own?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so when I was at Sapient is when I really started like blogging, doing YouTube videos. This was like 2013-ish when I was in the kitchen of my old apartment doing videos and stuff. And then I was getting traction, especially with like link building, I built the process for link building. I was getting a lot of clients. And at that point, because I was a contractor, I went part-time. And then I just eventually left Sapient after about a year, year-and-a-half. And then WEBRIS was launched. And then I did that and then, well, actually before WEBRIS, there was something else, which we’ll talk about later, with my failure. I had another partner, failed, then I picked myself back up, started WEBRIS, grew it really fast, sold it. And have a whole bunch of…

Phil Singleton: And was that pretty much you? Was there a partner involved with that pretty much your own gig?

Ryan Stewart: WEBRIS was all me. Yeah, that was all me. And now I’ve been with From the Future for about a year and a quarter now, and just a whole bunch of other projects in between as well.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. That’s awesome. So okay, we’ll get to some of this other stuff, but I’d really like to talk about … Well, let’s talk a little bit about how … Because WEBRIS, when you started that, at some point you just jumped onto the scene, the SEO scene where you started, you have great … I was thinking about this before we started the show and it was like a couple things struck me. One is, as I mentioned, you’re a master of execution. The other thing that really strikes me that I remember about your sites, is some of your blog posts, dude, are like entire websites. They’re like web apps. I mean, they’re sick. The amount of stuff you put into them, they’re so good and they’re so detailed, and they have so many features into them. That really stuck me. For anybody, I wanted to add a couple of links to the show notes of some of the post I am talking about.

Blogging & Becoming an SEO Influencer

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I appreciate that.

Phil Singleton: Did that help draw people in, that kind of stuff?  You were all over the place. You’re pitching. One day I see you’re doing a whiteboard video on Moz. You just kind of blew up. Was there a big break there when that happened, and all of a sudden it took off?

Ryan Stewart: Again, it depends how you’re looking at it, but it was years of hard work that was leading up to me….

Phil Singleton:  Becoming an overnight success, yeah.

Ryan Stewart: If the first time you saw me on Moz Whiteboard Friday, it would seem that way, but yeah, that was years and years of blogging, of outreach, of begging people for links, of guest posts. And that’s another thing I did a lot of. I would spend a lot of time guest posting. And I would give my best content to other websites because of the reach. And then when I had it, felt like I had enough authority and clout, I started blogging a lot more on my website.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.

 

 

Leveraging YouTube

Ryan Stewart: But yeah, I mean, the blogging definitely helped me. It’s still, even on From the Future now, when we release a really good blog stuff, it’s tough in the SEO space because everything’s been covered, there’s no new tactics. But if we can come up with something kind of unique, it always draws clients, still a thing. But for me, it’s been video. Video’s been much better for me. And it’s more scalable for me too. I can put together a deck in like an hour and then talk in the microphone and then give it to a writer to write up. So I’ll do a lot more of that now. Plus it gives me different mediums to attack. It allows me to satisfy two different parts of the audience. Some people like to read, some people like to watch and listen, as you know. And YouTube, for me, has really been my biggest driver.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Ryan Stewart: YouTube grows on itself. You don’t have to promote it nearly as hard as a blog post. You don’t have to wait for it to rank. There’s a whole other algorithm in place on YouTube.

Phil Singleton: Brian Dean is huge on there.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, he crushes it. He crushes it.

Phil Singleton: And you mentioned … The one thing I’ve never done, I’ve never been to one of the industry conferences. Is that something you started? Have you always done it?

Ryan Stewart: A little bit more and more. I’m a little bit bougie in the fact that I don’t like to go and just sit and spectate. I like to go and speak.

Phil Singleton: Great, okay. So you’re doing it more as a speaker then?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s makes a lot of sense.

Ryan Stewart: Because I’m a huge introvert. You see me on camera and this and that, and it’s for the business. But you put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I will just sit there and awkwardly stand there.

Phil Singleton: That’s why I got into SEO man. All of a sudden Google chased me out of my hole…

Ryan Stewart: But when I speak, people will come up to you and interact just naturally. So I’ve been a little bit more speaking. I actually was at a conference … And if it’s a cool place too and they pay me to travel, I’ll travel there for free too. But I live in Miami, it’s tough for me … I work at home all the day, all the time. And it’s difficult to get me out of here. I’m not going to go to some random place that I’ve already been to.

Phil Singleton: Has to be worth it, right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. So the point is that I was in Austin in September with Brian Dean at a conference, and we talked a lot. Super nice dude, super smart, amazing business model too. Doesn’t work with clients, he just makes seven figures a year from launching one course every year. And then it’s all from his blog and YouTube. He’s really smart dude.

Phil Singleton: So on that note, was there a point when you started to get actually clients off of people knowing who you are and doing the speaking versus … I do a little bit of it, but still the vast majority of our stuff comes in from referrals, our own SEO, and maybe podcast. A lot of people that go, “Oh, I heard you speak somewhere.” But obviously for you that must work because you’re out there all over the place. You’ve got a huge, highly engaged audience. A lot of people know you in the industry. What percentage of clients come just from that?

Ryan Stewart: I would say 100% between my partner Nick, Nick Eubanks, he’s also really well known in the SEO space, brilliant technical SEO, really smart businessman too. But conferences are a little bit saturated now. It’s usually the same people up there talking to the same people. It’s really more for networking purposes. I don’t really get clients from when I speak at a marketing or SEO conference.

Phil Singleton: The YouTube stuff out there, people are coming in, that kind of thing?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, so that’s the thing is it’s my opinion that with this much … Most of the ROPs that we get now are almost sole sourced from people because they know me or my partner and they want to work with us as long as the price and the pitch is right. So I would say probably like 90% of our clients come through that. 90% of our leads anyways come through that. So yeah, its really powerful stuff.

Starting, Building and Selling an eCommerce Business

Phil Singleton: All right, let’s jump in … I could literally just go on and on with you, but I do want to talk about … Because I think for me the one thing that really struck and I was like, “Holy cow, this guy is a genius,” for lots of different reasons, but the Laces Out project was awesome. Because on so many different levels, I mean one, it’s like, first obviously, things that went on the internet now is you got clients that come to you that want to be the Amazon of something. No, it’s the niches that win. That was a highly niche-based product. I loved it because I’m just thinking in my mind, “Here’s something that people will pay for. It’s really light.” To me, the margins have got to be good.

laces out shoelaces

Phil Singleton: Then, what the coolest thing was, you’re actually using it as a case study that people are linking back to, and it’s probably helping that business out because you are using it as a case study. And I was like, “This was blowing my mind how many angles you were playing on it.” And I’m sure it was all intentional, but for me I was like, “Okay, now I gotta really start paying attention to what this guy is doing because that was brilliant.” So talk a little bit about how that came about, why you picked it.

Phil Singleton: And then I want to ask you something almost as free consulting. Because I see some things at the local level, and it’s like geez, should I start buying? I’m almost thinking of buying into some local businesses. You’ve got a platform to do some stuff on, you could literally probably rank number one for anybody. But it makes sense to buy into another business for that reason. You could use it as a case study. You could make it another source of income, that type of thing. But before we get to that piece, I want to talk about Laces Out happened, and how did you turn it into so many wins like that?

Ryan Stewart: That was probably within my first few months of being, so we’ll talk about my failure in the future, but I had my own agency experience a little bit before WEBRIS, so I knew dealing with clients wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing. And I wanted a new challenge for myself. I wanted a new project. I’m somebody who has to be … I can’t be working on one thing. I need at least two businesses to focus my attention, at least two, to keep me motivated.

Ryan Stewart: So I had been seeing a lot of stuff about Amazon FBA, and I wanted to start something on Amazon, fulfilled by Amazon, more of an eCommerce play, something different than working with clients. So I did a lot of research and I came across, I really like sneakers, like I said, I’ve been athlete my whole life.

Phil Singleton: So this was, at the beginning, it was more an intellectual, “I just want to try this and learn it,” type of thing to satisfy your brain power? You can’t focus on one thing, gotta have a couple things. So that’s kind of how it started, am I hearing that right?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I’m a firm believer that we have a very unique skill set that, again, kind of what we talked about in the beginning is that a lot of people just use it as a job, but I see it as an opportunity to do something that I love and to free up my time and get paid for it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, so Amazon FBA, so you started that, and you started looking into it.

Ryan Stewart: Yep. And I did a lot of research. I buy a lot of courses. I’m a firm believer, buying courses from people, because I’ll just listen to videos and fast forward and consume a whole new business plan in a matter of weeks. It’s pretty awesome what we can do now. But anyway, so I started researching a lot about what works and how the algorithm there works. And I came across shoe laces because it was something that is light, it’s cheap, people never complain about. And if you can angle it and position it the right way, they’re all selling the same thing, it’s more about the package that you put on it and the feeling that people get from that.

Ryan Stewart: So I started Laces Out, just started a website on WordPress. Ended up not doing Amazon FBA for a lot of reasons, mainly because of the fact that I’m a marketer, and it’s hard to build a brand on Amazon. Although, in hindsight, seeing what’s happening on Amazon now and where we’re going, I wish I would have stuck with Amazon or put more effort into it. But I just had so much success with content marketing for Laces Out, just building likes and viral content.

Ryan Stewart: As an expert marketer, when you walk into a space where there’s not a lot of marketing taking place, you can grow something very quickly. And it happened again, actually, I was interim CMO of this cannabis product company like eight months ago, and the same thing. There’s not a lot of marketing knowledge in that space, it’s still blossoming, but a ton of online volume.

Ryan Stewart: But anyways, with Laces Out, just a lot of content marketing outreach, not even like the craziest type of stuff. I was building infographics and submitting them and they were going viral on like the biggest sneaker websites, which have a tremendous reach, an unimaginable reach and how viral that culture is, and Instagram and all that stuff. So it was a fun project, but I was sourcing my own products from China. I had to dedicate one of my employees to do all the shipping and stuff. It was just burning up too much resource. It was making good money.

Phil Singleton: That’s the type of business starts to be like, “Okay….”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, exactly. I didn’t want to deal with the logistics of it. It was great because it was making me like $5,000 to $10,000 of pure profit, passive income a month. But it just got to the point where I was like, “You know what, it’s still taking too much of my time and attention, and I don’t want to be dealing with stuff that …” That’s what it would cap out at. I couldn’t get that to be a million dollar business. It would never happen. And I realize now, the older I get, the less time that I have to do these things, I want to be focused on projects that have a much higher return, much higher cap rate. So I ended up selling that just on Empire Flippers, made a good amount of money off it. But I just unloaded that, and then a case study.

website business brokers

Phil Singleton: Ultimate, exactly. That’s so awesome to have that and just be like. This gets kind of to the question I was going to ask. I literally had a client come in here the other day. He’s not actually a client yet, but he’s thinking that he’s here. He’s thinking about moving to another state, taking the business and rebuilding it. So he’s thinking about selling this business that he has. He ranks really well. It’s kind of a home services of thing. He has tons of leads, so many that he can’t even do them all. So his business is limited by his ability to scale. So he thinks the business is worth about what I think it is. He had somebody offer him 30 or 50 grand for it. And I was like, “Dude, I will pay you 50 grand right now for this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, for sure.

Phil Singleton: I’ll pay you 100 grand for it. I’ll write you a check right now. That got me thinking, “Gosh, it is awesome to do what you’ve done.” One is because I feel like I’m in, you probably feel the same way, I feel more so because I’m older than you, but I feel like I’m in my prime earning years, and I’ve got this ability to help folks out. There’s got to be a different way to scale out some knowledge. If I can do it passively and spend a little bit of time and get a big chunk of the upside and really help these businesses grow.

Phil Singleton: But then on the flip side, I’m like, “I don’t really know anything about window treatments and blinds and stuff like that. How am I going to find somebody to run it. Maybe I get 50%. Am I going to go down a black hole and start pulling me away from the 60 plus clients that I got right now that I’m responsible for lead generation for and all?” So what are your thoughts on that? Because I think it would be cool to say, “Hey, I’m a business owner just like you. I bought this company. And now I’ve had it grow four or five times because we put a proper marketing and digital plan in.” How awesome is that and then you get more leads on top of that? On the other hand, is this is something where I’m just like, “Man, you step into something, maybe you get pulled into it and it starts hurting your main business.” Thoughts on that? This is the counsel because I’m literally thinking about this right now, and I want somebody to either talk me into it or talk me out of it.

Ryan Stewart: I’m always the type of person that’s going to talk you into it. I truly believe that we, like I said and like you just said, we have a skill set that when you really break it down of who really knows what they’re doing and not just can talk about it, but can put in a plan to execute and then build a business on the back of it. We’re in a small percentage of people. So yes, I think you should highly consider it depending on pricing obviously.

Ryan Stewart: And I think at the very least what you could do is, forget the business, you could just sell the leads. You could sell those leads for 250 a pop. I sell a lot of my SEO leads, to be honest with you, to people because I get a lot of them that are just not qualified for. So I just push them off, and I make more money off that. Lead selling is a very legitimate … Especially if you have control over all the advertising, all the marketing, you could even set up like a chat bot to pre-qualify them all, you know what I’m saying? Sell them for even more.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Ryan Stewart: That’s a true passive play. And then of course you could obviously set up a business on the back of it too, which can then take off and grow in its own right because you’re going to get its. It’s just going to grow aside from just the SEO play that you have going on with it. So I think yes to both.

Phil Singleton: You have so many things to hang your hat on that it’s not really … Like the Laces Out thing is really cool. But I could just see from a local play being able to say, “I own. I bought it. Of course I can do this for you. Look at this business.”

Ryan Stewart: Absolutely. So I say yes.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right, so then let’s get into the final question here, the $10,000 question, tomorrow you wake up, you got all your knowledge, but nobody knows who you are, you’ve got none of the digital assets that you have right now, but all your knowledge and skill set. What would you literally start doing tomorrow? Because you’re in Miami, you got bills to pay, to start using the $10,000 that we give you to start rebuild your empire. Would you the website, would you start … Where would you start?

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, I mean, I would start, if I’m selling anything, I can sell whatever I want, or just doesn’t matter ?

Phil Singleton: Yes, anything.

Ryan Stewart: Okay. I would just throw up a landing page. I would do a couple of videos and just advertise on them. I would do like a webinar video that really shows in-depth process of whatever it is that I’m selling. This is, of course, assuming it’s still SEO or consulting or….

Phil Singleton: Could be any of that.

Ryan Stewart: Anything, whatever it may be. The webinar model still works, and just with video. You don’t even need a website. That’s kind of the thing. I would spend 90% of the money on (digital) advertising, just promotion, promotion, promotion, promotion.

Phil Singleton: You’d get something nice and clean up and start promoting and you would.

Ryan Stewart: Yes, just capturing leads and then just giving them a phone and closing it. You know what I mean? It’s still something that not enough … Especially the SEO community, I think that’s one of the reasons why you see me so much is because nobody advertises, man. People publish a blog post and expect it to … They’ll do manual outreach to people to get them to promote it, but it’s like that’s such a waste of time. It’s so much effort time wise that it’s still money coming out of your pocket as opposed to just like put it on Facebook.

Phil Singleton: Was that a big step for you? You say you’re an introvert, but you’re awesome. You’re very charismatic. You got a lot of stuff. You’re very articulate. You get a lot of information out. Was there a point where you’re just like, “Uh.” Because I’m okay at speaking, I’m not great, I’m good enough to get the knowledge out, but it drains the hell … I got to take a nap after I do like. Just physically drains me.

Ryan Stewart: I 100% agree. After I speak, I have to go up to the hotel room and lay down, no joke, for like 45 minutes.

Phil Singleton: That’s an introvert. You can’t help it. It’s just physical.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, dude, it’s exhausting. And yes, I feel the same way now, but I look at it this way, and it’s still painful. I am really trying to push myself to do more on Instagram because even that is a wide open playing field for people in the business space. The influencers and fitness people had their day, it’s kind of spammed out, but it’s just now people are swinging, everyone’s on Instagram, and everyone’s checking it. Not so much Facebook anymore. But Instagram is different than Twitter. It’s different than YouTube. YouTube is more informational. Instagram is a lot more personal. And I have a lot of trouble showing that side of my life just because it makes me super uncomfortable.

Ryan Stewart: I am not the type of person that’s going to have my cell phone out, my food everywhere. I can’t do it. It’s just not who I am, and it goes against how I feel. But it’s the same thing when I started doing the YouTube stuff, blogging, all this stuff. Because you do have to put yourself out there and people are going to criticize you. They’re going to talk. They’re going to … It’s just what happens when you put yourself out there.

Just ask yourself: If I do this, is it going to help the business?

– Ryan Stewart

Ryan Stewart: And it’s not even the whole, “Don’t worry what other people think, you shouldn’t.” It’s more about a very simple choice. Just ask yourself, “If I do this, is it going to help the business?” Absolutely, then if not, then I’m standing in my own way. So it becomes a very simple decision for me to just dive all in and do it.

Phil Singleton: Then you get used to it, you get a little bit numb to it. It’s kind of like just doing your routine, I guess.

Ryan Stewart: Of course.

Phil Singleton: Get it over with.

Ryan Stewart: I can film a video like nothing, but still when I try to do something on Instagram … Like I have this video filmed that I want to promote on Instagram, but I’m not comfortable posting it. I’m just not.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Ryan Stewart: It’s just too personal for me there. But I have it on YouTube and Facebook and I couldn’t care less. There’s something … So yeah, in that sense, it’s yeah.

Ryan Stewart’s New Projects

Phil Singleton: Okay, sweet man. All right, let’s wrap it up here. Just let us know what your hot on, where we can find you. Obviously, you just talked about Instagram, so that’s a great place. We’ll make sure that we get those links up. But what else, what are your projects? Where can we follow you? What else are you promoting right now?

Ryan Stewart: Yep. So just really two things right now, the agency From the Future. We pretty much only do enterprise SEO in U.S. projects, so big eCom websites, massive B to B, SaaS companies, stuff like that. And then Theblueprint.Training, that’s basically where I’m funneling all of my advanced knowledge, really more SEO … It’s an SEO agency in a box is what I’m calling it. It’s everything from client onboarding to technical SEO to monthly reporting all done for you, videos, templates, everything that you need. So that’s kind of what I just launched last two weeks ago now, and I’m pushing that really hard.

Phil Singleton: Oh, yeah. You got obviously, your audience is probably dying for that…

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s been going well.

seo course

Phil Singleton: Especially that process, a lot of the guys are probably like myself who have been able to build up decent sized business without embarrassingly enough having decent processes in house. A lot of us are flying by the seat of our pants. We do really well, we start choking on whatever the number of clients is you start choking on. Then you have to be able to come back and be able to scale it to get bigger. And that’s painful. Obviously came natural to you for a lot of reasons, but I think that’s a big weakness in SEO in general, especially with the ones that have raw talent to see some of this stuff. But definitely, definitely check that one out.

Phil Singleton: The other thing I was going to … I’m going a little bit off topic there. Oh, on the SEO front, the people that are ideal for this program, what are they? Are they more enterprise play? Is this guys local, that are shooting local? Is it all over the place? What’s the typical-

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, it’s SEO agencies and consultants. I really am broad that way, pretty broad. If you’re doing over like five million a year as an agency, you don’t really need it. You could definitely use it. Basically what I’m trying to position as is like internal training for agencies. So our agency goes through it all the time. We hire someone new and then we have to rely on our existing staff to pull them off billable work to train someone. We’re literally burning money. And then the SEO processes training. And it’s pretty advanced too. You walk into it like I’m not going to tell you what a canonical tag, you have to know what it is. It’s not an intro course.

Phil Singleton: I saw the tools that were up there. It was like all the ones that I use, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Google Search Console, and some other ones….Screaming Frog.

Ryan Stewart: So it’s really great, that’s true, exactly. It’s built for people that are doing five to ten K a month all the way up to like 100K a month, but are having trouble, just like you said, getting to that next step. A lot of people just hit natural plateaus when they get to certain points of the business. I did. Everyone does. So it’s meant for those people to kind of like guide them through that process and get to that three to five to ten million as an agency.

Phil Singleton: So cool, dude. We could go on and on. I love talking shop and especially if somebody’s been through it and still is in. We’re going to put all of this great stuff up in the show notes. You’ve been an awesome guest. This is already one of my all-time favorites. We’re going to put a couple links summary. You can send me a couple of your favorite blog posts up on WEBRIS and a couple other ones that I’m thinking of right now, From the Future, whatever else. Send us a couple things that you got, and we’ll make sure we include those in the show notes too. Really appreciate, this has been awesome.

Ryan Stewart: Yeah, happy to be here.

Redefining Success: The Million-Dollar One-Person Business

Elaine Pofeldt is a freelance writer, editor, and ghost writer who has recently worked with publications including The Economist, Fortune, Money, Inc., CNBC, Crain’s New York Business, Forbes, and many others. Entrepreneurship, small business, and careers are her specialties. She is also the author of a new book, which we’re going to talk about today, The Million-Dollar One-Person Business.

She helps corporate, non-profit, and private clients write and edit proposals, newsletters, blogs, RFPs, reports, white papers, academic articles, and books. Elaine also helps her online editorial clients create inviting high-traffic websites, drawing on her experience on excuse me, Fsb.com to five million page views a month and the number two site in Google after the USSBA. She founded and ran a national businessman competition for fortune, small business and now advises clients on creating and improving contest on their own. She experienced appearing as a guest on TV outlets such as MSNBC and CNN.

You can connect with Elaine and learn more about her and her awesome book here:

 

Meet Elaine Pofeldt

Phil Singleton: Hi Elaine and welcome to the show.

Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you so much Phil great to be here.

Phil Singleton: Alright this is going to be really exciting because as we were talking in th green room so to speak, before we started recording, Elaine wrote one of my favorite books of last year, million dollar one person business book reviewprobably going to be of all time called The Million-Dollar One-Person Business. So as I was explaining to her when we first connected this morning, I think it’s one of the most awesome book titles that I’ve ever heard of and it’s one that’s inspired me I think the first time in my life to buy a book within seconds of actually hearing the title.

So I can’t wait to actually dig into this because as an agency owner and somebody who aspires for this kind of business model I really thought this was exciting and I love the content of the book. But before we actually dive into that I would just like to hear Elaine about your background and those first steps out of school or what have you that got you into the business role.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, sure Phil. Well I came into the business world by accident. I started out as a general assignment reporter after I graduated from college. I was an English major and I worked in Jersey City in Patterson, New Jersey for small newspapers covering police stories, city hall that type of thing. Then after about seven years of that I started to feel a little burned out by all the bad news. So I wanted to do something light and fun and I got a job as a fashion features editor at Women’s Wear Daily.

It couldn’t be much more different than my beat of covering the Hudson County Jail. But it was fun and it introduced me to the business world. I found that I really liked learning about the business side of the fashion businesses even more than covering a runway show. So I wound up going in that direction and I had the opportunity to go to Success Magazine which covers entrepreneurship and then I went from there to fortune small business online which is what you were referring to FSB.com and then I went over to fortune small business magazine for a while. Then they brought me back to the website to help build the traffic some more.

Elaine Pofeldt: Then 11 years ago I went freelance, so now I’ve written for a variety of business publications all in that area of entrepreneurship and careers.

Phil Singleton: Excellent. Thank you for giving us that background and it sounds like at one point whatever that was 11 or 12 years ago you went into the business side of covering stories and content and have never gone back.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, absolutely. Well the coverage at fortune small business was very much focused on the business side and even some of the stuff I did at Women’s Wear Daily was and Success Magazine of course was also I formed my own business 11 years ago. So I now have the understanding of what it takes to stay in business for a pretty long time and you manage cash flow and all the nitty gritty aspects of running a business that you learn on the job when you start your own business.

Phil Singleton: The one thing I’m going to ask, I want to dig into the book here really in a couple minutes. But since we already started talking about this a little bit you’ve been writing, you’ve been a journalist you’ve been a writer for some time. The Internet’s changed a lot. I’m assuming some of the things when you first got into the writing world so to speak maybe a little bit more emphasis on print publications and then maybe that shifted some. Can you talk a little bit about how that changed for you personally in the way you write and where it gets published and distributed.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, its changed completely Phil. You’re completely right about that. The whole journalism industry has been disrupted. It’s had good and bad changes I would say. I came up in a system that was print oriented and there was a level of rigor to journalism that I think a lot of younger journalists had not experienced. I’ll give you an example. If I wrote a story for fortune small business there might be a line editor that would edit it. A top editor of the magazine and three copy editors before it ever went out to the public and so you have a lot of great training that came with the job. Now what’s happened a lot is papers are basically gone. A lot of stuff has shifted online. But with that shift it doesn’t seem like the industry has been able to really find a good profit model. So where I think a lot of publications have gone is to go ultra lean in terms of staffing.

Elaine Pofeldt: So there are times when I’m publishing things where maybe there’s an editor somewhere in the organization who’s looking at it just to make sure there’s nothing glaring, but I don’t have any contact with that editor on a daily basis. So it’s very much you’re sort of out there winging it and you do your best. Luckily I do have very good training and I know how to do things. But that’s what’s evolved so you have to bring that quality control to your own business and do the fact checking even if they don’t ask you to do it and that sort of thing. Sometimes I have sources who laugh and say I’m the only person who ever contacts them with fact checks and I think that’s probably because there are not that many internships anymore. There are very few staff jobs anymore and there are few opportunities for young journalists who are entering the field now to really learn how to do things in that way. Fortunately there are still a lot of very experienced people doing it so they bring that training to the work.

Elaine Pofeldt: In terms of where I get published it’s definitely much more online these days. In the last year or two you’re on the cutting edge Phil of a big trend which is podcasting which has been a wonderful trend because it’s brought a lot of news waste to the whole discussion of whatever topic it is, in this case entrepreneurship. I find that a lot of the hosts of business podcasts are business people like yourself and they ask very, very smart questions. So I really enjoyed seeing that. Now on one hand maybe if a radio veteran listens to them there might be some things that they look at that they would do differently because they have a certain training. Similar to how I feel with written journalism. But from my point of view as somebody who is part of this whole dialect I’m so excited to see all of these new voices and some of them maybe would have not had the inroad to the media. It’s very much a who you know business that goes way back to your early career and it can be hard to break into. So it’s nice that people can just break in if they have something to say and they can build an audience, I love it.

Phil Singleton: Totally fascinating and as you’re talking I want to get right to the book as soon as we can but I have another question I just have to ask you because of your background and how you’ve seen this shift online and the way that you’re explaining how things have changed being published today. It also makes me think of somebody who for myself often times we’re trying to do for our clients is almost treat their websites as a marketing and a publishing platform. So some of the things that I’m doing writing my own books now, I’m publishing. I’ve got a podcast for many of the reasons you explained.

Phil Singleton: But I actually started to produce our own local magazine. So but one of the things I’ve noticed as looking at content as a publishing platform is how tricky it is for some of these online media sites or online publications where you’ve got this gray area. I don’t know what you want to call it. I’d love to hear your take on this where and I’ve seen this, I’ve been reading about it a little bit more as I get into this publishing model about native content. You had the print model before. There was so much checking, so many tiers as you were mentioning before and it was physically separate. But you know now when we publish things online you’re part of a whole system of things. There’s online ads, there’s people commenting. There’s things being advertised within editorial content. There’s people trying to get an SEO or a Google advantage and get links and stuff. So it’s so much more complex just I think in the way things are presented and distributed in the type of technology that’s embedded in new content, versus the simple way of there was literally a physical firewall on content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, yeah.

Phil Singleton: In a newspaper or magazine. So can you comment on that kind of stuff because this is where it really fascinates me the things I’ve never really thought about before because I’m coming at this as an SEO person and here now I’m trying to play with my own almost media publishing platform. I’m seeing this myself and it’s really making me think, wow I can see how people struggle a little bit with the advertising model because it does get a little bit tricky.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, it does. Well when I see the publications doing is they’ll clearly label it. I’m talking about bigger publications they label it when it’s advertising. I write some content and what I notice is they label it. It’ll say this is our custom content and a lot of them have gotten very sophisticated about it so they won’t just publish anything like the old editorials of the past. Just aren’t done where it was a pay to play kind of thing. It’s very much when I do it I have a lot of discretion as to who to interview. There are people in the stories that did not pay anybody at the magazine. The publication for an ad that they don’t discuss that with me if an ad was purchased or not. They want me to go ahead and do the best possible story because what the advertisers are realizing is no one wants to read some hokey ad you know? They will read a good article that’s topical and related to what the advertiser is in the middle of doing. So maybe somebody might buy an ad. There still are some print publications.

Elaine Pofeldt: The way I see this done is they’ll buy a full page ad somewhere in the publication and then that supports a section on a certain topic, let’s say it was accounting and then as the writer I’ll be asked to submit story ideas about accounting, similar to being a journalist. It’s almost exactly the same. Then go out and report it. It supports the section itself but there’s nobody leaning on and you saying you have to say this.

Phil Singleton: I mean that’s great to know at least from the bigger and more popular ones and of course they’ve got the reputations and things. But you do see I mean gosh some of these ones that offer a sponsor are clearly marked. I think some of these smart advertisers that are doing it, they’re not producing the good ones anyway. Aren’t producing advert tutorial type content. It’s actually they’re getting it…if the sponsor post even it’s not written by a journalist. It’s provided and information provided by a company. It’s almost like the really good ones are truly trying to provide really good educational content that has value versus something that’s so promotional.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah you’re right.

Phil Singleton: Some of those look like they’re so good and then sometimes they’re so good it’s almost like wow is this editorial content or did somebody pay for that? So I pay attention to it a lot more. It’s great to get your insight.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well it’s interesting that you raise that as far as the commentary and that sort of thing. What I found is for awhile a lot of publications were so happy to get the content that they had pretty relaxed standards and then what happened I guess it was the beginning of 2018 when the Huffington Post kicked all the contributors off the site. It seemed like that touched off a wave of scrutiny where I saw a lot of the publications were cracking down on ad content basically. It wasn’t necessarily to “advertisingy” it was more just boring.
Phil Singleton: Lower quality stuff.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah, not true thought leadership and they really raised the bar in terms of thought leadership and I do some editorial work for people who have been trying to get published and they don’t understand why the publication won’t take it. Now I was a senior editor so I worked with some of the toughest editors in business trials so I know why the editors are taking something or not taking it. I can give them some guidance. Now some people don’t want to take that guidance. They just want to say whatever they think is interesting without regard to that feedback. But a lot of people say oh, you know what I just don’t know this field so thank you so much for that feedback and they will adapt their content to make it readable. That’s why it’s so similar to what you see on the journalism side because it has to be. They don’t want to junk up their sites with poor content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Now with smaller publications sometimes they have less sophistication. Not always there are some excellent very small publications. But. We see that very, very blurry line it’s usually going to be the smaller ones that maybe don’t have an experienced staff or don’t have the budget to bring that rigor to the whole process, similar to on the editorial side.

Phil Singleton: Interesting. That does sound like you mentioned, I mean the Huffington Post thing it seems like a lot of these larger online media sites really did look at their contributor platform and like you say some of them shut things down completely and redid them. Looked at them with new eyes and then changed and it sounds like it went through almost like a quality upevil and kind of got focus back on the basics and now we’re all getting a lot better quality from the sites. There was great stuff on Huffington Post that got passed around and I’m sure there were probably some diamonds in the rough that came from little known people that once in awhile got something that went viral. But it got really spammy. So I’m being more harsh. You’re being nice about it, but some of these things really got spammy. A few of them got called out probably from people trying to abuse it from a Google standpoint and it just gets stuff in there for either exposure or traffic or back links and then that got really cleaned up which was good because on some of these sites I think it was really starting to become a problem and people are putting content up for the wrong reasons and it dilutes everything.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well you’re a professional too in the field so I can look at things too and I can see when something is put up for that reason. It junks up the whole site. In terms of protecting their brand I think a lot of the publication said we really don’t have enough of a team to police this to the level we need to so it’s easier just to get everybody off the platform and only have paid contributors. It kind of went full circle in a way.

Phil Singleton: Right I’m so happy it did because it got a little crazy for a few years there and it really cleaned up. Thank you for your perspective on that I really want to get to the content and the topic that really excited to reach out and so happy to have you on to discuss it today which is your book. I thought, the first thing I said like I mentioned at the top and then earlier is the title is just so awesome. Probably personally the best book title I’ve ever seen from a business standpoint because it probably just spoke to me and how I’ve always wanted to run my business, what I’ve aspired to. One of the other things I just personally see in terms of technology and maybe some of the agency and digital type businesses that are run because a lot of things we’ve seen I want to give you a little bit of a preface about why I think your book is important to me and how it resonated with me and kind of dig into some of the things that you wrote about and why you wrote about them.

Revenues, Employee Counts & Venture Capital Do Not Equal Success

Phil Singleton: But, one of the things I see personally is all of us that are in business these days are trying to figure out ways to elevate our authority and trust and expertise and get that out there. One of the things a lot of businesses do especially startups but agencies and other digital types of companies as well is trying to put stats out there which are a lot of times they are related to things that I think don’t necessarily relate to true business success. So, let me give you an example of that. You hear a lot of times people here in my town other places that explain to you they’re being really successful because the number of people they’re hiring. Or because they’re revenue is X amount. But at the end of the day it really relates to the way businesses today are and how profitable are you or how much of that revenue are you bringing in that actually you get to take home.

Elaine Pofeldt: Exactly, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Right? A person or agency that makes a million or two million dollars a year but the owner’s only bringing down 100,000 dollars net is a lot different than a mutual person that we know Chris Parker he’s got a whole website business where he brings in around a million dollars a year and it’s just him and his wife. So obviously his take home is huge. Big difference in lifestyle and these kind of things and I think your book speaks a lot to that kind of a new lean business that’s highly mobile and allows you to live a lifestyle and go out while still bringing in large revenues and being able to take home a lot of it. To me that’s what really excites me about business in general ’cause I know there’s a lot of agencies out there that’ll say oh, we do three million dollars in sales but we’ve got 100 employees. Well, you’re struggling. I know I’ve seen this happen all the time in my town and other ones where you start building up the beast, the number sounds really good but then it gets really tough and it gets to be a lot of heartaches in there sometimes.

The average small business in the United States their leading income is less than 50,000 dollars.

Elaine Pofeldt: Well I’m glad you brought that up. I’m sorry.

Phil Singleton: Sorry?

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s such an important topic and I’m really glad you brought that up because with the title sometimes people say why did you focus on revenue and the reason I did was because when you look at the average small business in the United States their leading income is less than 50,000 dollars. So they don’t even have the revenue to be making much of a profit or to live on honestly depending on where you live in the country. I mean there are lower cost places where 50,000 dollars goes a lot longer way than it would say in Manhattan, New York. But I want to get people thinking more about moving the needle on the revenue but you also do have to move it profitably and that can take some figuring out. That’s why there’s so many case studies in the book because there’s not really a cookie cutter as you know because you run a business and I know the same thing. You have to experiment. What worked one year doesn’t work quite as well the next year because something changes with technology in your field or whatever it may be. Something comes more labor intensive, less labor intensive. So it’s a constantly changing thing.

Elaine Pofeldt: But what you take home is important as far as profits too. There’s a point where you get to where the business can be so profitable that you could be paying out so much in taxes that it’s hard to regress. So sometimes what business owners do is make a decision to actually try to lower the profits a little bit so they’re not paying so much in taxes by reinvesting the business or maybe they have a spouse who is helping out with the bookkeeping but they’re not paying that person so they might hire the spouse and then put the money that the spouse earns into a solo 401k or something like that. Rather an IRA I should say. So sometimes you have to look at those types of things too because it’s complicated the whole thing with profit. What people have on paper isn’t necessarily what they’re really capable of bringing home in the business. They may be in a high tax state and make certain decisions that would actually depress the profits because they almost have to as a matter of survival.

Phil Singleton: Excellent. Let’s take a couple of steps back though in terms of what motivated you to write on this topic? I mean obviously you come from business we talked about your journey as a journalist. But this particular topic I mean how did it, why is it exciting to you? Why is it important and how did it come about?

Elaine Pofeldt: I write a blog for Forbes and I was down to my last couple of days of the month, I write five posts a month and I ran out of ideas so I started Googling for inspiration and I came across some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau for the non employer business. Now that’s a wonky term for businesses that have no W-2 employees. So the owners might work there but no one else. So it could be one person, generally it is one person. Sometimes it might be a couple of spouses. Friends, that sort of business. Anyway I noticed that the numbers of those that were bringing in between one and 2.49 million were going up and they rose 35 percent as of between 2011 and 2016. That was the most recent year we had the census data for and I thought that was pretty interesting. I got very curious about what they were doing and I started looking at the census data and I was able to see which industries they were in.

Elaine Pofeldt: So I published a post about this and then people said well we need to know a little more about this. I need to start a million dollar one person business. Are they doing E-commerce what are they selling and I couldn’t find this out from the census bureau because they won’t give you that type of personal information about the people who fill out the form. So I wrote to the readers and I said if you’re one of these businesses please write to me and tell me what you’re doing because people are curious. So they wrote and I wrote this post about five of them and went very viral. It was I think 340,000 page views now.

Although their numbers are going up  (one-person business millionaires) they’re still a needle in a haystack.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Elaine Pofeldt: It touched off a whole series of profiles as I found out about these folks. Although their numbers are going up they’re still a needle in a haystack. There’s about 36,000 of them in the whole country out of maybe 25 million non employer businesses. So these are the Olympic athletes-

Phil Singleton: Unicorns, yeah.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah. So there are people who just don’t want people to know what revenue they get. They don’t want to go public with that for privacy reasons. All various concerns they might have. So you can’t always get them to do an interview. But the ones that would do an interview I profiled and then over time an agent noticed these and said this would be a great book and it was kind of in the back of my mind that in these posts it was hard to bring them altogether and because I was the only person writing these types of profiles I had some observations about what they had in common that I could share at a high level and go a little deeper into the profiles than you would with a blog post. So that was how the book came about and it came out last January.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome too. I remember when I got it, got on Amazon came the next day or whatever it is. I basically tore through it. I started actually reading it again around just slower this time. I didn’t bring it to the recording studio here. It’s sitting on my nightstand still. I’m halfway through it, the slow read. I know we talked about some of the people that you profiled and at least in general. I know there’s towards the beginning I think there’s a couple but there’s at least one E-commerce one in there for sure. You explained some of the backgrounds on some of them an overview. I obviously want get people to… I think everybody should buy the book and read it especially if you’re… I think this is the dream of a lot of people these days is to have something, a lean company that can run from home, home part time and be able to do things to where you can have the freedom to have a lifestyle and actually be able to experience life to the extent that you can.

Phil Singleton: I know that all the people in the book are like that, it’s like a child and they’re doing it 24/7 and even if they are or claim they have a lifestyle they are probably working a lot harder sometimes on the book than they are playing. But I still like our audience to hear a little bit more about the diversity or the types of businesses that were in there.

Types Of One-Person Millionaire Business Owners

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh sure Phil. Well there are six main categories I focused on and just for a little background there are some categories where people tend to go over five million. But I did not focus on those because they’re still niche and require very specific talents and skills. One of them is finance, so they’re hedge fund managers. I didn’t do that because how many people can become a hedge fund manager. That’s very sophisticated skill. Then there are people like actors, actresses people with very unique talents. I guess we could all go to acting school but we might not make five million dollars a year as an actor. So I eliminated those and I focused on the ones that I felt were most relevant to the general worker out there. So the categories were E-commerce and I’ll give you some specific people after I run through this quick list.

Elaine Pofeldt: Manufacturing which sounds really odd for a one person business but it’s actually growing. Informational content creation, so that would be things like people who have webinars. It could be people have a teachable course any kind of informational product. There’s professional services so this could be attorneys, accountants, engineers, architects who can command high prices basically for what they do, they’re that good. Personal services firms, so this could be people like fitness coaches, nutritionists. Often these types of folks will have contractors working under them. They have a methodology that they teach and then they train other people to use it. I had one person who was an eyebrow stylist who trained other eyebrow stylists to use his method in the book. So it could be something like that.

Cory Binsfield – Real Estate

Elaine Pofeldt: Then there’s real estate. There is one entrepreneur I profiled Cory Binsfield who started out buying a single duplex. He was a financial planner but he was just getting his business off the ground. Reinvested the money from that duplex, the rent money into the next property and now 20 years later he’s got 116 properties, or he did as of the time in the book. He’s probably up to like 120 by now is my guess and may throw off one million dollars in revenue. That’s something that’s accessible to all. So I’ll give you a few examples.

Camille and Ben Arneberg – eCommerce

Elaine Pofeldt: In terms of eCommerce there are Camille and Ben Arneberg they started a business called Willow & Everett it’s an Amazon store and they sell housewares and they’re a young couple. They had recently gotten married. He was in the military and she worked in corporate social sustainability but she felt like she was not really a corporate person even though she cared about social sustainability. So they wanted to create a business they could do together. What they did first was they’re both very athletic. She’s also a personal trainer. They said let’s do something related to our shared interest in running. So they started selling running compression sleeves and they decided after a short time it wasn’t really selling what they’re inventory was. So they decided to change gears, they thought about their other interests and they like to entertain people and buy cool coffee mugs and wine decanters and that sort of thing.

So they ordered I think it was like six or seven products from a private label manufacturer in India and put them up on Amazon. They had about a 5,000 dollar budget and they had saved while they were working and they rationalized that a college course would cost that much. So they were going to view this almost as a college course, even if they lost every single dollar they would have learned something, they were committed to being entrepreneurs and once they put them up there they did a horse race. Some of them didn’t sell as well as others so they discounted the ones that did not sell and reinvested that money into the inventory that was selling and ordered more. That was how they built that business. Now they’ve expanded to several other businesses. They’re selling baby products on one site and pet products on another one. They just sold a business. They kick started that business with another couple.

EThey sold maps for people who use standup desks so they don’t get blood clots by failing to shift and that one was just acquired by somebody Richard Jailichandra who was the Chairman of Click Bank, a giant marketplace for informational products. He’s trying to acquire about 100 million dollar one person businesses actually. So they were acquired by him. So that’s one example.

Megan Telpner – Professional / Personal Services

Another example is Megan Telpner she’s a nutritionist. She was working in advertising in her 20s went on a trip to Africa, got very sick. She was diagnosed with Crones Disease and she didn’t like the treatments that were being given to people with Crones disease and she wanted to heal herself with health and wellness and nutrition. She went back to school, became a nutritionist and stopped working in advertising altogether and she started blogging about her views on nutrition which had a very strong point of view that not everybody cared about the role of nutrition and healing and over four years she was on a panel like this. She blogged every single day and built up a following, very gradually through hard work. These are not overnight success stories.

They started selling a product called the three day green smoothie fast and this was 11 years ago so it was a pdf file basically. She sold it to her email list but her email list was not an email list in a CRM system it was just the people in her email. So this 10 dollar product she saw people bought it so she sold it to some more people. This led to other products like courses, eventually and then she started something called the academy of culinary nutrition where she trains people in her entire system of cooking. Along the way she wrote two cookbooks for Random House called the undiet, easy ways to cook nutritious foods. So that was how she built her business. Now she’s also gotten into coaching other people in their businesses, people like nutritionists who are trying to build their business. So she’s an example of professional service, personal services. But it’s a hybrid because she’s selling informational products.

Rebecca Krones &  Luis Zevallos – Manufacturing

Elaine Pofeldt: We say informational products people think it’s going to be a webinar that then tries to sell you some other thing and what I found with the ones that have sustainable business it’s a real value in terms of what they sell. She has a big following among nutritionists and they really trust her as far as what she’s teaching about nutrition. So I think that’s really important is a real value there. Then another example would be Rebecca Krones and her husband Luis Zevallos, they are in food manufacturing. They sell honey online and they’re doing what a lot of people are doing with manufacturing which is using a co packer. They had the good fortune in that her father is a beekeeper and he sells the bees to commercial farms but he wasn’t doing anything with the honey and she did some research and she found that a lot of people were worried about the origins of their honey at one point there was a scare that adult aerated honey was on the market. It has bad things in it and so she knew where the honey came from and so they put up a site for tropical trader factory foods and they didn’t want the responsibility of bottling up the honey and putting the labels on.

Elaine Pofeldt: So they hired a firm called a co packer that does all of that so that it can be sold commercially. There was another woman I came across after I wrote the book who her product is called Booby Bars it’s a nutrition bar for new moms to keep up their energy level and produce milk for their babies. She was a neonatal intensive care nurse. No business experience whatsoever. She was a mother of three, she was running this volunteer group helping the moms and she started baking these bars for the women and they were so popular that the women started offering to pay her because she was making them in such a large volume. You know how people always say you should turn that into a business. This is really one place where she did and she went to a co packer because as you scale up you really can’t make the stuff in your kitchen because of food safety rules.

Elaine Pofeldt: She was able to get the product into Walmart. (Laughs).

Phil Singleton: There it is, there’s your big break.

Elaine Pofeldt: And she told yeah, you’re a marketer and branding guy. She was worried about the name that Walmart would find it too direct but she said they didn’t even bat an eye. They were fine with it and she went on Shark Tank and she’s done really great with the business. So there are a lot of ways you can do these things.

The Millionaire Next Door

Phil Singleton: Yeah so fascinating the diversity and like you say that’s my favorite thing about the book is it’s in some ways one of my very favorite books but before yours is on the list now too is The Millionaire Next Door.

Elaine Pofeldt: I love that book.

Phil Singleton: You know about how the things that you perceive them to be aren’t and how people live high consumption of lifestyles. Some of that I felt some of that, I don’t know if you intended it, but I feel like when I read some of the stories and the way people are they’re hardworking people that are just trying to go after passions and then they’ve got experience and all this kind of thing for people trust them and they’re just working hard. They’re probably also a lot of them are probably just inherently smart people and maybe low consumption I’m guessing. But it felt like that kind of similar type of small business where you had that blue collar work ethic in terms of them really putting the time and effort behind it and then just turning it into something real. Was the feeling that I took away from some of it. I don’t know that that was necessarily your intention but it really struck me there and I thought that was really interesting.

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s interesting that you took that away. I agree with you about that. I think these folks are very hardworking. They’re self motivated. You have to be to run a successful one person business ’cause there’s not a boss there cracking the whistle. Every once and awhile someone will post something like what do I do about motivation. And if you really are not motivated it’s very hard to run a one person business. You can get external motivation by getting a coach or a system of accountability around you, similar to people with exercise right? You have people that are just at the gym at five in the morning no matter what it could be a blizzard. Then you have other people have a personal trainer. They both maybe equally as fit, but these folks have put their motivated themselves or they’ve put the systems in place with a coach or someone like that to keep them on track. It’s not always easy to run a business. These are not get rich quick type of people.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: I’m not interested in telling those stories because they are not sustainable and I’m more interested in people creating lasting value. Giving something back to the community. It doesn’t mean they have to be almost a nonprofit. But giving something to their customers that makes their customer’s lives better I think is really important ’cause we’re at a point in business where it’s easy not to go in that direction. We see a lot of bad examples of business. So I don’t want to tell those stories. I want to tell the ones of the people that are doing things right and that are working hard.

Phil Singleton: You have to have two pieces of it too. You can’t work hard on something, make a successful profitable business and still on your lifestyle and be making bad decision where you’re maybe squandering the fortune that you’re making. Even to some extent I mean just running my own business there’s some people that take chances with some of the reinvestment money that they make and you got to basically be doing all that stuff which to me then feeds into that work ethic. These people really must be able to not only work hard and be pretty smart in terms of how they’re making money but also kind of how they’re saving and reinvesting in their business. You almost have to have all of those pieces. I think, I’m guessing I don’t have research on it.

Elaine Pofeldt: You do. There is a certain amount of R & D that they do. Some of them like Alan Walton in the book who runs a spy camera store online called SpyGuy uses profit for his accounting and I noticed that a number of them do that where you put your profit away first and you set aside a certain amount of money to do the reinvestment because that’s one difference between these businesses and the sort of scrambling freelancer is that there is a strategy behind it. The owner does step back a little bit and think about okay what is the purpose of this business. Is the business helping me in my life’s biggest goals? Do I have time for my family? I started this business so I have time. Do I actually have it? They set back a little bit and think about the purpose of why they’re doing it all and they do realize the importance of keeping it fresh and sustainable. So you have to do R & D. Even I do R & D in my writing and contact business because there’s new stuff coming out all the time. You can’t know if things are going to work until you try them.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sometimes it costs you money.

Phil Singleton: Right, right.

Elaine Pofeldt: That’s another thing I have to point out which is sometimes folks are thinking about leaving their job to start a business and they can maybe do it without risking any money. These folks have really taken the risk out of things to some extent because they’ll start the business on the side and they do small experiments to test what worked.

Phil Singleton: Was that pretty common that they had the foot kind of in the other boat a little bit and grew it enough to step away?

Elaine Pofeldt: It’s pretty common. Not in all cases. A lot depends on the stage of life. As people who have kids and dependents and things like that often have to start it on the side because it’s very hard to save up enough money to create the perfect circumstances to start a business. The average American has trouble saving 400 dollars, right? So when you think about six months of living expenses, six months of business expenses all the conventional advice which is correct, I mean who can do it. So the way around that is you start it on the side and as it builds up revenue you finally can jump from the job and go into it full time. But you do have to be willing to risk some money because there is some risk to running a business and if you want zero risk at all in your professional life and financial life this is not for you.

Common Success Trait: Ambitious, Self-Educated Risk Takers

Elaine Pofeldt: It’s for people who are willing to take very smart calculated bets on themselves. Ben and Camille they were committed to learning what it took to being entrepreneurs. They knew they wanted to be entrepreneurs. So even if these products didn’t sell they were willing to bet that 5,000 dollars. Now a lot of people don’t have 5,000 dollars but over time you could save up or you could have fewer products if you wanted to be in E-commerce. But there’s going to be certain elements of people might not buy it. That’s the thing you have to be mentally prepared for. It can be stressful for people who are used to going to their job and then in two weeks they get a paycheck whether or not their efforts were successful they would get paid. If they’re really unsuccessful for awhile they might get fired. But basically the money is guaranteed, it’s not in a business.

Elaine Pofeldt: But these are folks who thrive on that and they understand it. But I wouldn’t say they’re extreme risk takers. They’re not like Elon Musk. They’re kind of mildly risk takers and that’s why I thought their stories were so appealing cause there are a lot of people in corporate jobs who are just starting businesses who have that same profile who don’t necessarily don’t want to be the highest rollers in town. But they are willing to take a little gamble on their good idea and on the chance to have the better lifestyle and maybe they’ll decide how much they’re willing to risk. Similar to like if you want to Las Vegas you decide alright that’s it. I’m going to bet this much and that’s it. They kind of take that attitude and then they can go into it with the spirit of fun. But they do put things in place so that they don’t have to end it prematurely.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sometimes it might be that they have a spouse or life partner who has an income coming in or I’ve seen cases where people downsize their lifestyle. I’ve seen this with older entrepreneurs. Sometimes they own a home and now their kids are out of the house and they want to start a business and they might sell the house and move into a rental. Then they have money to invest in a business. I didn’t focus in this business in this book too much on things like franchises. But there actually was one franchise case study in there too so that’s an option too. In that case it was a uni-shipper’s franchise.

Phil Singleton: Yeah sometimes that’s even a bigger up front gamble because it’s a bigger investment.

Elaine Pofeldt: But you can do it. You can get to one million and what he did was he used an outsource back office service so he didn’t have to have all the employees that you would normally have in a franchise and then he eventually liked the back office service so much he acquired it. So there are ways even with that you can learn from these entrepreneurs about how to keep things very lean. But going back to your point about the Millionaire Next Door these are not wasters of money. They’re not people who have to drive a Maserati. I’m not saying anything against someone who wants a Maserati if you like sports cars, but they’re not living for other people. They’re living for who they are and what they want and sometimes they do go on nice trips or I haven’t been to many of their homes so maybe they have really big homes. I don’t know, but the impression I have gotten from them is that their lifestyle focus and they want to build a sustainable lifestyle.

Phil Singleton: Fascinating. I want to wrap this up with just, I should know this but I don’t, first book that I read from you. Was this your first book or?

Elaine Pofeldt: This is my first book under my own name. I’m a ghost writer so I’ve written a handful of books for other people but this is the only one I can really mention here.

Phil Singleton: So just out of curiosity any things that you’ve learned? I’ve written a couple you went through a traditional publisher which is great. We did ours through several different partnerships that I had co-authors and what not. Direct publishing, but I’m just curious. Seems like every time I’ve gone through a book writing process I learn something new. Is there some things that you’ve learned that you would have done differently just in the process? I’m just kind of curious just as somebody myself might write another book again and I know every time I’ve gone through one I was like wow that was a good idea I wish I would have done that a little differently. Just curious if you had anything that you learned from it that you might do differently in the next book?

Elaine Pofeldt: You know there’s always something that you learn you’re so right about that Phil. One thing I found was very valuable was I had events around the book where I would bring together the entrepreneurs from the book and do panel discussions. Sometimes I would get invited to do key notes and I did do some. But I really I liked the more collective approach. So folks would come and get to meet the people from the book and that was extremely popular. Sometimes we’d have two or three hundred people at the events.

Phil Singleton: Wow, that’s great.

Elaine Pofeldt: I think there was something really nice about it not being filtered completely through me. So people could see that these are real people just like themselves and hear it in their voice and there would always be somebody…if you’re a person in the audience maybe you would relate to one person in particular a little more because of the same industry. They’re your same age or your both women or whatever you have in common with them. That was really something that I enjoyed and I thought was very positive for the book and I would definitely do again. I didn’t know to do that when I did the ghost written books with the ghost writing clients but it’s something that I’m now suggesting to others that they do that if they have a case study driven book.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: The real people plus you can do it regionally. So I did it in San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, well I didn’t have a panel in New Orleans but I did go. I did it in Austin, Texas. I’m in the New York area do I did it there and I wound up keeping in touch with a lot of people I met at the events. Thinking of something like that that you could do that really brings it to life and makes it about not just you but the subjects of the book. To me that was my biggest takeaway. That that was very, very helpful and I would also record these things in Facebook lives so it enabled me to bring that message to people around the world who would never be able to come to an event in New York. If they were India or somewhere like that necessarily. But they could at least learn the message of the book and there’s always more to say on the topic. So I was never worried that once people were exposed to it then they’d never read the book. It’s a topic that’s evolving by the minute. Like we didn’t even know people could do this a few years ago.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Elaine Pofeldt: So you learn a whole lot in the next few years.

Phil Singleton: It’s interesting ’cause I think at the beginning of the book or somewhere towards the beginning its like there’s only a matter of time before there’s the billion dollar one person company.

Elaine Pofeldt: Yeah that’s evaluation. Yeah it was funny that was a VC and I was talking with someone else about this yesterday, who knows? I mean I don’t know where it could go, but I’m hearing about bigger and bigger revenue businesses. We’ll see what the profits are as you pointed out in the beginning. But just the fact that they can raise the revenue so much without a big team. They often have a team of contractors and that sort of thing. But that’s to me that’s very freeing for people ’cause there’s a lot of people that don’t like managing people. They just, they’re fine with managing-

Phil Singleton: Well this gets so much easier now to build a system and then specifically hire people out as a gig or a contractor as part of your system for something specific. So you build this machine up and it’s like yeah I can totally see it. As long as it doesn’t strip all the profit away from it and you find a way to add a lot of value and then be able to decide and stop somebody from building something really big and scalable.

Elaine Pofeldt: Oh, no and these folks are very good at hiring contractors. One of the things I learned from Sol Orwell who’s one of the entrepreneurs, he pays a lot for his web designer. I don’t remember if he was on or off the record what he pays her so I don’t want to say it but it was what you would consider pretty high fee. But he found that really good people can get done in one hour what it’s going to take a mediocre person six or seven hours to do. Excuse me, and so that’s one rule of thumb that I’ve used in my business. I try to find the best professionals I can even if their hourly rate is high because these folks are so busy they don’t want to pad the bill anyway. They’ll bill you for one hour and in that hour all the knowledge that they bring is so valuable that it’s not worth trying to find somebody who’s charging the rock bottom price who’s not going to be as good generally.

Connect with Elaine Pofedlt (and Please Buy Her Book)

Phil Singleton: Great, great, great advice because I think we’ve all learned the hard way. Shopping around ends up wasting a lot of time and gives you a heartache. If you just find the experts and then pay them a fair rate you’re likely to get the best return on that. Let’s since we’re coming to the end of this time wise, I’d love to tell our audience one where we can buy your book and two, where the best place is to follow you online for your content.

Elaine Pofeldt: Sure, well the book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, all major book stores. So I hope you do enjoy it and they can reach me at TheMillionDollarOnePersonBusiness.com It’s the title .com. No numbers, all spelled out in words or they can write to me on LinkedIn or Twitter under my full name. I’m sure it’s in the show notes so I won’t spell it out it’s a mouthful. But I do invite people to write to me, I really love hearing from other people in ultra lean businesses and I do write back and I love hearing about what your questions are because it helps me as I’m writing to become a better journalist and think about what were the unanswered questions I didn’t address so I can address them the next time.

Phil Singleton: So great Elaine thank you so much for spending the time. It was absolutely fascinating. Thanks for writing such a great book and then for agreeing to reach out on LinkedIn come to our show and share such great insight and some of your background with us. Personally I thought this was one of my favorite ones so I really appreciate it.

Elaine Pofeldt: Awe, thank you so much this was great. You ask really awesome questions. It was really a pleasure.

Phil Singleton: Alright. We’ll see you soon.

Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you.

Lead Generation Tactics for SEO & Internet Marketing Agencies

Tom is an SEO strategist and the host of The Sure Oak Podcast. Go check out his podcast, like I have. He is the founder of Sure Oak an SEO agency in New York City that grows companies with search engine optimization to get businesses more traffic and drive their revenue growth. Tom has been published in many well-known publications, such as The Huffington Post, Search Engine Watch and SEMrush.

Episode Resources

Meet Tom Casano of Sure Oak

Phil Singleton: Tom Casano, welcome to the show.

Tom Casano: Thanks for having me Phil. I’m psyched to be here. It’s going to be fun.

Phil Singleton: Oh, yeah. This is going to be … These are my favorite ones, and talking to somebody of your caliber is always going to be really fun. Who knows what directions we’re going to go on, but I would love to know, just for myself, little bit of your path about when you got out of school or wherever your last stop was, and got into the business world, what got you to where you are to today and got you into SEO and digital marketing.

Tom Casano: Yeah, it’s a great question. I studied philosophy in school. When I graduated, I wanted to be a rock star. Tried doing that for about a year and, after making $30 for playing at a bar, and no one cared too much, in giving me music lessons, I traded on Wall Street for 10 years. And then once that got pretty meaningless and unfulfilling, then about four, no, six years ago, I started a business. I went through a program to develop a SaaS. I had never developed a SaaS, but I created a lead generation website for life coaches, and that’s called Life Coach Spotter. That’s kind of where I started cutting my teeth in digital marketing, and ultimately, SEO.

Tom Casano: So initially, I struggled like crazy to get traffic to the site to generate leads, because here I am supposed to be the marketer for the life coaches who don’t know how to do marketing. It took me a long time to get to two, three, four, five thousand organic visitors per month. Then we could talk about this. I did link building strategy. You might be familiar with that scholarship. And then the traffic to the site went up literally 500%, 5X in two months, which I’m usually afraid to say because it just sounds too good to be true, and I don’t want people to have the wrong expectations. Also did a lot of Skyscraper pages on there and a lot of cured research and optimization.

Tom Casano: So like the onsite stuff was just like ready to go. And then the link building happened and then it went to like 25,000 organic visitors per month. And then I was like, “You know what, I’ve spent so much time grinding away at SEO and doing tons of stuff that doesn’t work.” I have to bring this to other people. The businesses that are making millions a year and we moved their organic traffic by 10% or 20% as meaningful for their business. So then I started the SEO Agency Sure Oak. And that’s what I’m deeply involved in and focusing in today, which is doing SEO as a consultant, as an agency, and helping businesses to grow their traffic.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. So when you were at the Search Engine Spotter, is that the name?

Tom Casano: Life Coach Spotter.

Phil Singleton: Life Coach Spotter.

Tom Casano: It’s for life coaches. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s right. Okay. That sounds like when the fire was lit a little bit, right? Cause you kind of self studied your way. It sounds like I’m hearing also some people that you may have studied from skyscraper it was reminding me of Brian Dean, and some of these other guys. Did you kind of dive in self study? And some of these … you take some courses and you just test some things out. How does that get rolled in for you?

Tom Casano: Yeah, totally. Totally self education. I’ve always loved to read and learn and teach myself new things. And that’s the funny thing about SEO. I mean, I would hope today there is a college class like search engine optimization 101….

Phil Singleton: I doubt it…

Tom Casano: It’s one of these things, right? Like if you’re in college right now, where are you taking a class in Chatbots, it’s cool that some of those things might be evolving. So yeah, basically as you know yourself and then the worst part is everything you can possibly read and learn. You could pay for courses and classes and mentorship, but then you go and do yourself a practice and it’s like not even driving the results that you know. And part of that I think is not out of someone trying to mislead you.

Tom Casano: But this, the context and the situation is different. So someone might say like, you need to get all the technical stuff on your site, really good. The 404s and a 301s and the, I don’t know, the image all tags, image all tags like those ones drive me crazy cause it drives in results. But that might be very true for a site that has like a hundred thousand pages. But for your little site with like 20 pages that hasn’t even done keyword research and has two backlinks, you really need to focus on your backlinks and the content. So it’s tough like to learn this stuff. But actually, I think all that failure along the way makes you stronger and you realize like, okay, this is what actually works and moves the needle.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So, that’s really cool. Coz I mean, for some of this stuff it’s like, this is kind of my world where I live. So it’s you get talking to somebody else who’s kind of taking their own path. It’s really exciting to talk about. But how about just getting the agency started doing that kind of thing? I mean like I know for me, deciding when to maybe get some physical office space, or taking that first plunge, or maybe actually hiring somebody, whether it’s a full time contract or even an actual W-2 employee, that kind of thing. It’s a big step. Right? Can you maybe explain how you got started with that, did you get the same feelings? And we are trying to build a team, whether it was a remote team or a local team, whatever it was and … because at some point you’re making money for yourself and all of a sudden you’re starting to feed other mouths to feed type of thing and the kind of … the responsibility becomes I think a little bit gross.

Tom Casano: Yeah, now it’s a great question. So I guess in some ways I’m an entrepreneur at heart and I learned along the way with that first business, the life coaching one that is using Upwork to hire freelancers and writers. And we created like 10,000 words of content and like I’ve realized that it wasn’t the best use of my time to sit and write this content. I was outsourcing and finding freelancers to help. And then, when I decided to start the SEO agency, I mean it’s just … and the thing I learned, I did a program called the foundation from being Maxwell, Andy, Trish, and learned a ton about business and a lot of mindset, like these limiting beliefs and these emotional blocks. If you’re afraid to kind of take those first steps on what’s holding you … a lot of it is like the inner game.

Tom Casano: But then … I lost my train of thought. Oh, basically I knew it’s just about getting the first clients, right? Once you get that first client, even if it’s like 500 bucks or a thousand whatever, it doesn’t matter what it is. Now you start to build a little momentum. Like a first little testimonial, you get some experience, you figure out how to create a proposal. And then for me, again, it’s just a matter of like finding a freelancer, finding someone that can … I think like a subcontractor. Like, “Hey, can you help me with Keyword Research?” “Hey, can you help me with … do a technical audit?” And I’m slowly starting to get one or two or three or four clients and starting to pass off some of that work.

Tom Casano: And first I’m doing all the work myself, right? So first I’m just a consultant, then I’m passing that work off. And over time it grows and grows. So now as there’s more clients, then there’s more freelancers. All of a sudden the freelancers are full time people. Our team is all remote. So it’s pretty interesting. Yeah, it’s been really a-
Phil Singleton: Everybody’s moving the nuts. I love it. I love to hear more about that and how you kind of manage it. But that’s-

Tom Casano: You know, exactly, that’s it. Someone was asking me recently, and what’s really been the most helpful is we have this like one half hour meeting once a week, and we just have this vibe and attitude of being like a family and helping each other, loving each other, just being open and honest.

Phil Singleton: How do you…

Tom Casano: That’s a Skype call with no video. I don’t know why, but it’s just the idea of like, just being honest and caring for each other and loving each other and somehow it just brings us more close together. And even though we’re remote, people love it, they work from home or wherever and it hasn’t really been a problem. So yeah, now we have like a full team. There’s over a dozen full time people, I don’t know how many people…

Phil Singleton: I think in my experience it seems like that’s a huge perk for one, to get the best people, and the best people that are really good at what they do. They want to be able to work from home. They don’t want to come into an office or work in a cubicle. That’s the main reason why I got into this business in the first place I was … I got a soul crushing cubicle job my first four years out of college. “I Don’t want to do it anymore.” But yeah, it seems like the best people, seem like they want to work from home or remote cause they can. Do you feel if or not the same way here?

Tom Casano: 100%. And I think also you find such quality and talent and people like if you’re living in the middle of nowhere in Montana, you can’t like commute to a city to get some SEO strategist job. But you know, we got one for you. And you know, I live in New York City in Manhattan, and if I want to hire an SEO strategist here, it’s going to cost me a fortune. But when I find people in other places of the country, so I think there’s just all these benefits, and then there’s also challenges. Like there’s time I wish … so many times I wish I could just give someone a big hug and I can’t. So we need to have yeah, like a get together. But yeah. It sounds like you understand this stuff. Your team has is remote or local?

Phil Singleton: I’ve got local, we have some W-2 employees that are here, but, we also have remote people and like basically full time contractors so. I actually have an office. The only reason I have an office really is for local clients to come in and come to our conference room, have a meeting, know that there’s kind of that investment kind of here locally. But then it’s really just all for them. Because then most of the work’s not done in the office. So I’ve got me, then I’m here with … as I’ve trained my boys were talking about before the show, and the summertime, I kind of have to be here. But other than that, I’m at home when I can be and then my sales guy is in here, we have meetings. Other than that, there’s no reason to have like a physical office, you know what I mean? So.

Tom Casano: Yeah, now that’s a cool thing about the online world nowadays.

Leveraging Upwork

Phil Singleton: Love it. Let’s get into something that’s near and dear to my heart because at the end of the day, it almost all comes down to lead generation for quality clients. Whether it’s for our own agencies or what we’re trying to do for our own companies. All sorts of other things can help people manage and scale and do this all kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, I mean really doesn’t it all come down to lead generation in some shape or form?

Phil Singleton: So you’ve had some successes generating leads in different ways. I’d love to kind of dig into it. And some of the ones that you mentioned before, I think in this call right now even before we started recording. Upwork, Linkedin, you’re a great podcaster you do a lot of video, good video content that goes along that as well. So those kind of things that are kind of working for you in terms of like drawing in ideal clients.

Tom Casano: Yeah, I’ll tell you honestly, 90% or so of our clients and business and revenue and everything is from Upwork. And it’s still kind of surprising to me to hear my own story, but I used Upwork to outsource work. To offshore it, maybe someone in India or the Philippines can do something for a few bucks an hour-

Phil Singleton: First to get help basically is that right?

Tom Casano: Exactly, yes. So, they call it the client and the freelancer. So I’d be the client, and I’m putting in whatever, a hundred bucks to get some work done and I get the work back. But then, I don’t know why or how, but I became a freelancer. So now I’m the consultant or the person looking for the work. And honestly, like that’s, I can’t tell, like I think in the last, 12 trailing months, over $100,000 of transactions have happened through Upwork, but that’s not counting everything that’s happened off of Upwork, off of their platform. Because they take a fee and all that stuff. So I’ve really scaled that up and I spent enough time as an SEO, like you understand, you just want to optimize the heck out of something once you start understanding the mechanics of it.

Tom Casano: So I can walk through that, but we’re maybe getting, I don’t know if it’s 10 or 20 leads per week? And then it’s a matter of filtering, because a lot of people when they’re on Upwork, they’re looking to like outsource, sometimes they’re looking to do it cheap. And so there’s a lot of people that are not the right kind of client for us, but those ones that are, where you go that extra mile to show how much you … how smart you are, how much you care or your experience and your skills and you make your profile awesome and you make your pitch awesome. And you filter out for those bigger projects. But it takes time cause day one you’ve got no reviews, and you’ve got no profiles either build it up over time. But it’s like anything, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Phil Singleton: Are talking about sampling from your first a little bit? Or did they kind of come in and be like, “Hey, we love what we hear. We’ve done some research, let’s sign you up for like a retainer based thing for the rest of them.”

Tom Casano: No. Yeah they started like small terrible projects and to be honest, I have had like zero sales experience I’m like, “What do I know about pitching them and making it compelling and proposals and stuff?” So yeah, I started $500 or whatever I could get to get those little projects and building stuff out.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And was that to build like reviews and things? A smaller transaction or those turn into bigger projects from the people that bought the smaller project from you?

Tom Casano: Yeah. The way it worked for me was just getting that traction of some reviews, so you have like a score, and I figured that it’s called, a Top Rated Freelancer. And then once you have that credibility, and they have their own algorithm. So it’s just like SEO all over again, like how do I rank higher when someone’s ranking SEO on the platform. So yeah, that actually wasn’t from those same client, cause those initial clients were smaller projects. And I could never a upsell them cause I never had the budget. I was like a little local printer in Australia and his budget was $1,000 a month. I could never upsell him to $2,000 a month cause it was just out of his budget. But having that experience and credibility in the platform then, would allow me to get the 2000 a month to 3000 a month.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So Upwork’s one another’s contract it under some degree or some shape or form. Which one do I want to hit on these next? I mean we did talk a little bit about cold calling before the show started. I know in your team you’re not the person responsible for that, but to the extent that you can, love to hear more about it, cause I’m always intrigued about that piece of it was always believed that if there’s a way you can reach somebody on a phone, if you’re good at it, there’s just always going to be an element of timing. We were just thinking about doing and you show yourself, you get that ability. That’s just almost like a numbers game type of thing too. But I also know there’s a lot more noise these days and it’s just so much you’ve got like a really big give or a good angle is hard to get anybody’s attention.

Phil Singleton: Love to hear if that’s working for you or something you guys continue to do now, is it still kind of one, this is up in the air? Is it a core part of kind of like your sales and marketing efforts? How’s that going for you?

Tom Casano: Yeah. Honestly we haven’t even started it yet. And we have two guys that were hiring and we have sales training and I’m not a huge believer in it. It’s not that it can’t work and it won’t work. And I have a friend Ed who’s over in Brooklyn and he’s been doing a lot of it. And when I think of the types of leads, there’s, I think at the top you have like referrals or networking and then layered, like the next level down second level would be like inbound or someone’s found you through content marketing or saw you somewhere on social media.

Tom Casano: And then the third one is outbound. And I tend to think that outbound is the one you can have control over and you can be very proactive in. Because if no one’s coming to your website or you are going to have to pay. But I just think that it’s like a needle in a haystack. And if you call a hundred people, maybe one to five of them or one to ten … It’s a numbers game. And I’m not a huge fan. I’m not a huge believer but I know it’s possible. I know whole businesses built on it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. Well it’s also funny, it seems like some of the clients that we end up getting seemed like they maybe if they were unhappy from their last digital marketing company, nine times out of 10 they were cold calls. How they kind of got on the hook for them. It worked for the company even though maybe they didn’t have their sales and marketing work. So always interested in talking about anybody that’s got a way. Cause there’s other people that swear by it and I’ve interviewed a ton of entrepreneurs where it seems like no matter what at some part of their early career they kind of had to roll up the sleeves either to like save their business or to get it going or just to try and generate something. Lots of them, nine times out of 10 hit the phones, but one time I guess in their life.

Phil Singleton: And maybe that’s a little bit different now because for us trying to do it, we don’t hit the phones. We’d go to another place where we’d try and start off with small gig or something like that to get better clients I don’t know how that works, but I’m definitely still interested in cold call. Cause I told you before that we failed miserably at it, but there’s some tenacity there to see like see how there’s other ways to make it work. I just know the way that we initially tried it didn’t work very well for us.

Tom Casano: No, I know exactly. And it’s like anything, if we try to do too many marketing initiatives, then we’re not giving anything enough attention to like really make it work. And then if you really have conviction on something you can double down on, You start to see the inklings of it. Like working and you get a lead out of it. I mean, like I’m telling you, I think 80-90% of our business is from Upwork. There might be a couple of referrals or partners has been working with those take time to build those relationships. Like if you’re just starting out, even for us to build relationships with potential partners, it’s a process, which I’m okay, I love longterm things, but at the same time I have like an urgency and I always want to see the growth chart to be as vertical as possible, even though it’s ridiculous.

Tom Casano: Another thing I’ve experimented with this clarity about us, have you heard of that Phil?

Phil Singleton: Yes.

Tom Casano: And that works well, no, it doesn’t work right. I guess some phone calls, but none of them really become retainer clients. Maybe like one or two have you could do get hourly work out of that. You could build relationships, you can actually optimize your profile. I’ll be frank with you, the algorithm all these platforms of algorithms, clarity’s algorithm. It’s like you can just keyword stuff your profile and your rank higher. I think for SEO I’m ranked number two, you want to get more reviews and more calls that’ll help you-

Phil Singleton: That’s another, I mean I’ve heard of it. I’ve never like actually used it, Is that’s a kind of another gig based kind of-

Tom Casano: It’s a cool platform. I wish they would market it. I want to help them because you can just hire any consultant on a minute by minute basis, you could talk to someone for a dollar a minute who is an expert in Facebook ads and just like boom, start talking. I think it’s a great idea. And so I’m on there as an SEO consultant. Anyone could be on, there’s any kind of consultant. So it’s another way to get potential leads. But that one doesn’t really drive us retainer leads or retainer clients-

Phil Singleton: Doing that now a while or is it still kinda up in the air is it still?

Tom Casano: Yeah, I’ve been doing that maybe six months or a year-

Phil Singleton: Are you getting like the engagement and starting the conversation, but it hasn’t like-

Tom Casano: Well, what will happen is these people want to pay by the minute, so they want to do a 30 minute call, great. They got what they needed. Maybe they’re doing it themselves for doing it in house and then they’re gone. And it’s like, hey, you want to spend $3,000 a month with me, It’s like not in their budget is not in their mindset. It’s not really the right targeting.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.

3rd Party Webinars ie “Webinar Guesting”

Tom Casano: And then, oh, I did a Webinar for SEM Rush and I think I got four or five leads at that and two of them I think closed and became pretty good, retainers. And then I got another lead from a podcast I was interviewed on. I know this is your thing, so you can-

Phil Singleton: That’s great. I mean, I know that somebody else to like, confirmed that it’s actually working and it wasn’t just luck for me, but that’s awesome. Because a webinars almost to me, almost a very similar type of idea. Where you get exposure and other audience through being a guest somewhere, sharing knowledge bit-

Tom Casano: I think a topic matters too because the one that worked so well for me. It was all about the ROI of SEO. I think that can speak to like a CMO or a business owner. I did another Webinar with SEM Rush and it was all about how to be a great freelancer on Upwork and I think that’s going to get all the freelancers on Upwork it’s not gonna be targeted to my ideal prospect.
Phil Singleton: There’s value in that too though, right? Because all of a sudden you’re getting your name out there more than personal branding and authority and stuff that hopefully will come back-

Tom Casano: Yeah. I think it’s not as much, but yeah, and then we didn’t touch on yet, but I think, I mean I’m working on this now so it’s still too early for me to be like, “I’m getting leads and it’s growing my business.” But, Linkedin we could talk about, we seem to already be aware of….what’s that?

LinkedIn Lead Generation

Phil Singleton: The Cherry on top, let’s get it to Linkedin is something we’re excited about and I think you’ve got much more of a head start than most of us there. So tell us about how that’s working for you and what’s working for you.

Tom Casano: Yeah, for sure. So Linkedin, Microsoft bought them two years ago and change a lot of platform and now people probably notice it’s more like Facebook. There’s the news feed that’s on the homepage and so-

Phil Singleton: Some people were a little bit afraid they (Microsoft) were going to mess it up. It’s just like they actually like hit a home run with it.

Tom Casano: Yeah, exactly. I was like, why is Microsoft buying this? This makes no sense. But the challenge is if you look at Facebook, not only is it like saturated and every marketer kind of knows about it, but also, you get like basically almost zero organic reach through your company page. It’s like basically if you want to be seen, you have to pay for it. Linkedin is still kind of a baby and oh my God, Linkedin is every, in the first of all, the targeting is amazing, right? Like you could basically find anyone you want to find, you want to find the CMOs, you can find them and everyone is on there and it’s much more one to one.

Tom Casano: And it’s also like, it’s not a one way street, like with, Facebook, you’d get followers, but with Linkedin I connect with you and once we’re connected, we’re both automatically following each other unless we unfollow. But there’s like no content. It’s like if you look at your Linkedin feed, it’s terrible. Typically for most people’s feed, it’s like someone share something that gets zero to one likes and it’s like people are promoting it. It’s like garbage.

Tom Casano: There’s this opportunity of all these content creators that are coming on now and it’s an algorithm like, other social media algorithms that if you start getting engagement with your posts, like within the first hour, I don’t even know. I need to study the algorithm. I don’t fully understand. Within the first day or so, the algorithm starts to think like, “Wow, everyone’s liking this to commenting on it. It must be really good. We’ll share it across more, give it more visibility.” And there’s so many fascinating things in this. You could tell getting passionate about it because they’ll show your stuff the second and third degree connections. And you’ve probably seen it like it’ll say the topic, someone commented or someone like such a such a thing. All of a sudden your network just starts like moving further and further out of people that are not directly connected to you.

Tom Casano: And a creative video a week ago, as of the time we’re recording this now and it’s gotten 12,000 views and I think like 200 comments and 200 likes. And it was a very transparent, vulnerable video about spike own self worth, which has nothing to do with business or Linkedin. But if it can resonate and if I can get that initial … I tell the guys in my team like, “Hey, like, or comment on my thing.” That’ll tell the algorithm that this is a good piece of content.

Tom Casano: And so basically I’m very hyper aware now people that have grown, tens of thousands or a hundred thousand plus followers and they put out a piece of content. It gets all these likes and views, and I was telling you in the green room right before this, that if I would have be on YouTube, it might be lucky to get five years right and put the VR on Linkedin, it got 12,000. But that’s because I’m really optimizing the crap out of it. I’m scaling my connection. I’m connected with a hundred people a day. I’ve grown from like 2000 to 4,000 connections in the last month. There, there’s a lot and I’ve been putting a lot of too much time and energy into learning about it, but I just think the opportunity is just amazing.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, that’s so good. There’s other ones, I don’t use it, yes ave looked at at all, but it seems that there’s a lot of Linkedin lead generation services where you’ve got people that are, I’m not exactly sure how it is they’re doing it but I guess they’re targeting people helping to do the outreach stuff, setting up meetings and calls and that kind of stuff. Is that something you’ve tried or looked at? Have you done any kind of your own outreach or that kind of thing?

Tom Casano: That’s something I’m starting like literally next week for, we’re moving into the fourth quarter because I don’t know exactly the best process, but I do know a few things. I do know that templated or like copy and pasting and junk just I don’t think works so well. I think it has to be personalized and I think it has to start from a place of like, “How can I help you?” or “What’s in your world-?”

Phil Singleton: All the time, I’m sure right now, I get it like, all of a sudden somebody can do it. It’s like, now, you know?

Tom Casano: Yeah, exactly. It’s like spam. It’s a cold email. Like we talked about cold calling. There’s cold email, it’s the same concept, right? Just copy and paste as junk and then the person’s like, “I don’t … who are you?”

Phil Singleton: We’ll do a followup with you on that to see how it kind of works I know there’s something, I mean I even tried to think about the ways that people have actually … that I’ve actually ended up buying from. Because they get pitched all the time. Sure you do. And the ones that really only works when then the gift has been pretty good. Like, “Hey, some people say I want to guest post.” Or when somebody comes and says, “I read this post, it was really awesome. We actually linked from it from our side.” and I said. “Oh Wow. Okay. Well that’s cool.” they already starting to give me something. Now I feel obligated to come back and do that.

Tom Casano: So now all your listeners now they just need to send you a backlink.

Phil Singleton: I guess we’re doing that right now, but anything, yeah, another guy said that, their posting or their blogger outreach was so good that he was willing to give me three of them to like, “Hell yeah, I got to try that.” And then all of a sudden it was good. So we tried them out and that kind of stuff. That stuff really works right? Cause they’re investing in themselves, to do that kind of thing versus “Hey, we just connected with you. I want to tell you about how I can make your company more money. You’re saving money.” It’s like never, it has never worked once for me. I don’t think it will ever work. Has it worked for you? Has it worked for some people? Because it’s a numbers game for em but-

Tom Casano: No, I have the same philosophy you got to give first. You have to add value, create value. I’ve been also tracking this as I connect with more people. I get more of these things and I’m actually starting to record there’s like four of them that got me to engage. And I was almost intrigued. I was like, “Ooh.” And one of them was just an open question of like, it’s a personalized message. So it can be templated it’s like, “Hey Tom, thanks. We’re going actionable.” And they’re like, “What’s new in your world?” And I feel like I have to respond to that. I don’t know why and two of those guys said. And I was like, “I wonder if this is like a thing that people are doing this?” Like, “What’s new in your” … it doesn’t have to be that phrase, but I was just like … or they say, “What can I do to help you?”

Tom Casano: And I usually say that and then like, “Oh, do you know anyone who needs help with SEO?” I’d love to …. But you are not adding value, and this is now … we could talk about it for a second like … cause I want to actually you to teach me when you’re in my podcast about how you’re becoming a guest on podcasts. So there’s been some … I have a podcast as well as fill in and some people have pitched me like, “Hey, I want to be a guest on your podcast?” And it’s just like you’re saying, and I heard you say this in the Larry Kim episode, like, “What’s in it for me?” Like, “What’s the value?” Like, “If I get 10 pitches, why would I pick you? I don’t have all the time in the world.”

Tom Casano: And, so I watched another agency like pitch me in to be a guest. On their podcast, I took the guest, it was the guy who’s the founder of Manychat, the chat-

Phil Singleton: Okay. Yeah, sure.

Tom Casano: And what she said, it was a great email and I copied the whole thing. I was like, “This is beautiful.” It was like she left her review, and then she talked honestly.
Phil Singleton: Wow that’s good.

Tom Casano: Yeah. And she said like something very specific, like I could tell she must have listened to an episode for at least 10 minutes. Oftentimes people will say that when they’re doing outreach for link building, like, “I liked your post about it.” and then insert title and then you’re like, “No, you didn’t.”

Tom Casano: Who Cares? Right? So it’s adding value. It’s giving first building a relationship and then finding that synergy and connection. But, so that’s what we’ve been doing. So for me to become a guest on podcasts on it, I need to hear your strategy. We’ve been doing that and just being methodical or having a list of podcasts and creating a rela … a lot of it is building relationships like you and I met through a relationship through my colleague, who’s been a guest on your podcast, and on mine too. So it just becomes a small world where people want to help each other and all that.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. And it’s so genuine stuff like that. I’d love to kind of dig into that a bit more. But yeah, the Linkedin things very exciting and I think it’s going … it seems like it’s getting, it’s almost like early, it’s getting better.

Phil Singleton: I mean, I don’t wanna spend any time on. The only place I ever spent anytime right now is Linkedin because it’s cleaner content. It’s more interesting. It’s more focused on stuff that I like. I just not never have really been into Facebook. I am there because you know, clients and customers need to be there, that kind of stuff and there’s some group things that work. But I love Linkedin but I also feel like I’m leaving money on the table.

Tom Casano: Well I think-

Phil Singleton: Only participating and not doing it with enough strategy.

Tom Casano: Yeah, I mean I think it’s like anything, it’s like to really make it work for you, you really have to invest time or energy or money. You have to give it some focus. Right? And I’ve struggled with this too, because I’m too focused on too many things I’m not. But I think the other big thing is to, when we talk, like Gary Vaynerchuk talks about like optimizing to the platform or like being native within that platform.

Tom Casano: And so with Linkedin you can’t put an external link in your post because Linkedin’s algorithm will not give it as much visibility coz Linkedin doesn’t want people to leave the platform. So you really have to create content for Linkedin. Like specifically, you can’t take your blog post and just paste it in the link and say something about it. You’ve got to, craft that Linkedin post in the same way that if you’re writing a blog post for your blog, you’re just making it just for that blog. So does that make sense? I think a lot of people like doing that.

Phil Singleton: Totally. And that’s something I’m probably doing you no wrong too, coz I’m always wanting people to come back to our site so I can tag them now with Linkedin’s got their own remarketing tag too, so I can see how people would do it the old fashioned way.

Phil Singleton: But I totally get what you’re saying it’s like, well you’re also, it’s a little give and take there. They want you to put your best con … you want your best content on your site. They want the best content on their platform and they’re going to reward you more for it. So-

Tom Casano: Exactly. And it just takes more time and effort. And the other thing is like they give you like the preview, like if it’s a text post, you see like the first. I should know the number of characters are down that need’s to click see more. And so the real, it’s almost like the headline or the Clickbait and you have to have something in there emotional that will grab people. And the other thing is like transparency or vulnerability, which people, I think there’s fear because on Linkedin you feel like you have to be professional.

Tom Casano: It’s your professional network. But I think once you start to just say something like raw and honest and the other thing that’s really amazing, is like when you go on Instagram or Facebook, you know everyone’s posting like their vacation pictures and this perfect life, life like the filters on. But like, then it makes all the rest of us kind of feel crappy like, “Man, these people have awesome lives.” Like, “Mine sucks.” But then when you go on Linkedin and no one’s doing anything like remarkable, and then you start to say something that’s like, “My client just fired me yesterday.” Period. It’s like, well, you want to start your … see more. Or like, “I just had the worst day of my life yesterday and I cried for two hours.” Well like you can click see more and your students are reading it and getting the engagement. So it’s like marketing and other platforms as well.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Let’s let them wrap up here and then kind of also just tell our listeners where they can find you and that kind of stuff. Before I do that, I want to ask one more question. One of the things I noticed in after we made a connection, of course I checked your website. That’s great. I checked out your podcast with some episodes. You’ve done a fantastic job of being able to start a podcast in your niche and be able to invite and get people on your show that are pretty much the Who’s who in the SEO, like kind of in the inbound marketing world in particular in SEO. How does that … how did you do that? What? Did you do direct outreach? Did you engage with these people first? What … you saw one of the tricks Larry used again when he came on my show. Did you do … was it that extravagant or did you use something else? Spill it man. Tell em how you do it.

Tom Casano: Oh you know I didn’t finish Larry King episode, and he told to listen to the rest of it. Yeah, so, I have kind of like a template, and you have to, like we talked about adding value and giving you have to position that so that like, “Hey, would you like to be featured as a guest on my podcast for all my listener?” It has to be of extreme value to them, but the relationship building is even first and foremost. And even with any templated email, I’m always personalize in the beginning. If you have an existing relationship, you have to have that human connection that they like you and they want to be on.

Tom Casano: But if they’ve never heard from me, I might cold email them or I might try to like get some kind of referral or some kind of like connections was not direct. So like for instance, Brian Dean, I think I first emailed him in like September of last year. And I replied to one of his like automated marketing messages, and then he went on Hunter.io. I tried to find … he had like three email addresses like, “I don’t know what or it he’s even going to reply. So and then I replied to one of his automated marketing messages, and then he said something, he was taking like a podcast holiday for two months and he was busy. Okay. So I marked it on my calendar and I followed up again and then he was busy. Okay. And then … Sometimes the opportunity just presents itself. Like there’s a, a company I mentioned to you called conductor, which is … you’re not that familiar with them and probably a lot of people aren’t.

Tom Casano: But I want to interview the CEO, his name Seth. And so I’d emailed him in the past and then the opportunity presented himself. I just randomly … Sorry shared on Linkedin that he was interviewed in some podcast and shared. And then I liked it and I commented, I said, “Oh great. I’ve had Pat from your team, from your company on the show and I’d love to interview you and … sorry the guy too.” And then he responded and then I emailed them and they emailed me back to set up a time. It’s like … and the other thing is having the credibility. So what I’m asking someone that I want to interview on my podcast, I have a landing page and I could share with you and it’s like, I’ve got the most credible figures I could think of, at least in my or in our world of SEO and stuff like that.  Eric Su, you know, maybe I’ll change things or add people if I have some of those types of people or internet famous. What’s that?

Phil Singleton: If they click on it and they are of that caliber, then all of a sudden they see everybody else to it. Now it’s kind of like snowballing on itself, right?

Tom Casano: Exactly. Yeah. It’s like street cred, right? And you build your way up. And then, but then what I’ve learned, Phil, I’ll be very honest, is I thought that like, what’s cool is one, it’s influencer marketing. So you’re building relationships, right? Like now I feel like I can email Rand Fishkin or Brian Dean and then I’m not going to be some stranger weirdo guy. But the other thing is I thought that these people would kind of like share it. And he even got Brian Dean’s tweet it, but like did nothing, I don’t really think it had any impact. So even my concept and what I heard and thought about influencer marketing, it’s not really driving results for the podcast, which makes me realize Mm-hmm (affirmative)- okay. That’s not really the best strategy for me. What other strategy should I do?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. It’s great stuff. Gosh, we have to have you back again to once now that we’ve had this kind of initial one to kind of really maybe drill down on one or two things the next time if you’re willing to come back on the show. But for now I just want to thank you and I’d like for you to tell us where people can reach you in terms of your website, and I’m assuming Linkedin’s going to be one of the places that we’ve got to make sure that we are link to because you’re active on. What any other social channels that you spend time on too?

Tom Casano: I spend a lot of time on twitter, but it doesn’t really do anything. You thinking like a con. I don’t know. People don’t really engage or maybe I’m just too late to the platform. I Dunno. But yeah, and it’s been a pleasure. I-

Phil Singleton: You do it just to … so it will include that link, but that’s one of the ones that you just kind of-

Tom Casano: Well it’s, yes. Some people say it’s a ghost town, or it’s overly bullish on Linkedin.

Phil Singleton: I just … Yeah Linkedin seems like it’s more for like the people out there that are actually getting the work done. Twitter just seems like such an … just like a major influencer platform.

Tom Casano: It’s too noisy. That’s the other thing, like you could-

Phil Singleton: Unless you are a Celebrity, and I mean the rest of us, is it really the best place for them now?

Tom Casano: But it’s too competitive. It’s too noisy and competitive, like maybe there’s … in someone’s feed, they might have like a thousand tweets an hour or 200. Like how are we going to stand out in that? You’re not.

Phil Singleton: Once I was talking to some other guy, I was saying, yeah, like the twitter or something … twitter’s the shelf life’s like minutes?

Tom Casano: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Facebook, It’s like maybe six hours or so I don’t know what it is on Linkedin, but at least on some of those-

Tom Casano: Linkedin is like, oh, it’s like a week, it’s two weeks. Like you look in your feed and you might see like something from four days ago.

Phil Singleton: It’s still in…

Tom Casano: It can still show it because they’re so hungry for content. There’s nothing better that happened in the la … I mean that video is still getting views. It’s still increasing cause it’s, yeah. So people can find me anywhere. Google my name Tom Casano or connecting with me on-

Phil Singleton: Can you spell it out for us?

Tom Casano: Sure Oak. Yeah, for sure it’s Sure Oak Yeah. It’s S-U-R-E like you are “sure” about something and O-A-K like an Oaktree.

Tom Casano: So yeah, connect with me. Follow me, reach out. I’d love to say hello and see what I can do to help you. And thanks so much for having me, Phil. It has been a pleasure.

Phil Singleton: Awesome I also got so excited about this too. So and Tom Casano tell me I’m saying it the right way hope I didn’t say it … mispronounce it. I didn’t, I just rolled the dice and said, I think I can get this one. But thanks a ton of time.

Tom Casano: Yeah. I’ve had a blast Phil you are awesome and we’re kindred spirits, so thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

How to Get Content From Your Clients

About James Rose & Content Snare

James Rose is a reformed Australian digital agency owner and the co-founder of Content Snare.

Content Snare is an online software service designed to cut down the time and headache wasted on chasing up clients for website content.

Content Snare is one of the best content marketing tools helps digital agencies and web designers get content from their clients.

One of the biggest bottlenecks in the web design process is waiting on clients to send their content through.

After countless follow-ups and an email trail longer than your to-do list, it’s still common for deadlines to be missed.

Content Snare helps you get the content back on time and in the right format, in a process that’s simplified for the client and your agency.

Instead of wading through different files, a massive email trail and Dropbox, Content Snare provides a central place where you and your client can access everything.

Episode Resources & Links

 

Meet James Rose

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of The Local Business Leaders Podcast. I am your host Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is James Rose. James is a reformed Australian digital agency owner and the co-founder of Content Snare. Content Snare is an online software service designed to cut down the time and headache wasted on chasing up clients for website content.

So, wow. I’m a website, SEO, digital marketing owner myself. And I can tell you that this is one of the most difficult things that us agency owners run into. We’ll get a website, you know, 90% done and then be waiting weeks and weeks on content from the clients, who are busy during their own thing, right? The website’s a really important part of their business and it’s the hub of basically anybody’s modern digital marketing program. Yet getting that critical content up onto a new website can be like pulling teeth.

So anybody who creates websites for a living and knows how tough it can be to get the content needed to complete and launch a new website is gonna love this. And I think other folks with small businesses that listen to this podcast as well will kind of understand some of the challenges that we have in … Or in getting this kind of content. Really probably for websites but just maybe ongoing, you know, content for the website and other projects as well. So we can’t wait to really dig into this.

James, welcome to the show.

James Rose: Thank you for having me, Phil.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. I can’t wait for this one. ‘Cause anytime we get the chance to talk about our own company’s pain points and stuff like that is always a treat. But before we get into that kind of stuff, can you give us a little bit of background about yourself? I mean, literally your first kind of job out of school or what have you? How did you get started into the business world? And what was kind of your story in terms of getting to where you are today?

James Rose: I think I have one of the more boring stories here. Like, I always hear people like … Oh, they like selling things to people in school and stuff like that and always have had the entrepreneurial thing. But I did not at all. I was fully in the system, you know? Go to university, college as you guys might say. And then get an engineering job, ’cause I was really into that sort of stuff, like super logical and liked working stuff and I liked working on that kind of … Sorry, moving stuff, you know, like machinery and all that. And I was just fascinated by it and I wanted to make it.

So that’s where I went. But yeah, I just did the thing. I went to college, got my job. Was doing … Just did that for a few years. And then a friend of mine was going to an online marketing conference and he had a free ticket. And you know back in the day when online marketing conferences were basically pitch fests?

Phil Singleton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

James Rose: But yeah, I went to one of those kind of things. And … But it actually provided a fair bit of info on like how to sell other people’s products for a commission online. And that sort of … It was one of those like Matrix red pill moments where, you know, I couldn’t get back now that I know that I can make money on the internet. Yeah, that’s pretty much how it all started.

Phil Singleton: The conference basically lit the fire, huh?

James Rose: Yeah. Like, so I went home and started building websites and trying to monetize them with … Back in the AdSense gold rush as they called it, where you could just throw up rubbish websites and put AdSense on ’em and try to get them ranking in Google to make some money. And yeah, that was my start. Like, in hindsight we made some terrible, terrible websites. I mean, we were probably putting a lot of crap on the internet and I’m glad it went away. But …

Phil Singleton: How awesome was it for a while? I mean, as it was kind of easy to make a little bit of money back then, or a lot of money. You know, just by getting started up. They were sweet. So then what happened? And then you got … I know you’ve had an agency or had an agency for a long time. What was kind of the …

James Rose: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Like when you first got that started and how you kind of maybe amped that up?

James Rose: Well, the first thing we actually did is I met my business partner at my day job. And we built some software for that industry. Is a long time ago now. So we always liked software and building stuff, and that’s where we started. But eventually-

Phil Singleton: So you actually had some skills? I mean, in terms of like, you know, build stuff and participate in that kind of, you know.

James Rose: Well, we learned it. We learned it, you know? Like, we wrote software as part of our job, but very, very different style of software then writing something for a computer, you know? Like these industrial things that have their own special programming languages that most like web developers and stuff would have never even seen half of these languages before.

But so there, we learned C Sharp, it was, and we built a product for … It was in the SEO space, and eventually it kind of … We just decided we didn’t want to be in that space anymore because this product was kind of dodgy. You know, like now it’s a grade of black hat and back then everyone was doing it. And we saw that shift happening and we were like, “No, we cannot be in this space. We don’t really want our names on it.”

So, yeah. Then we started networking just around the local area to just try and find another problem to solve, really. That was it. I was just talking about what issues they had. They asked what I did, and I’d say software. And most people seemed to associate anything with computers as the same thing. You know, like IT, websites, software. So as soon as we said we did software they’d be like, “Oh, my web guy’s like disappeared and we’ve got all these problems with our website.” And blah, blah, blah. Everyone focused on websites.

So that’s how we got started. We went, “Ah, well, we’ve been building websites for years. So how about we do that for people and charge them for it?” So that’s how we got into the agency side of things.

Phil Singleton: Nice. So that kind of … It looks like you had that going for years. Five, six, seven, eight years. Something like that? Or …

James Rose: Yeah, I think it was about … Oh, actually, no. It was only about four and a bit I think now. Because we’re winding that down now. But yeah, so we started doing websites and obviously had that capability for software and eventually mobile apps, which we learned over time. But to be honest, we always had our head down, like ear to the ground looking for ideas for our next product.

So we … Actually, it really early on in the whole thing we found a problem with … A client needed to set up a payment system and send invoices out with Xero using Stripe, the payments … Sorry. The payments went out with Stripe, invoices went out with Xero. And there was not a really easy way to make this happen. Like, we were trying to use Zapya and Triumph, and things together to make it work. But the reconciliation process was really awful. And we ended up building a product for that called Silver Siphon, which we actually sold to an investment firm in Silicon Valley last year. So that was-

Phil Singleton: Nice.

James Rose: But it was only like a side gig. It was never going to be a huge app, ’cause it was a single feature app type thing. Yeah, so … And that sold last year. And then around the same time we started work … Actually, it overlaps quite a bit, but we started work on Content Snare, which is our product which you’ve already touched on for digital agencies to get content from clients. Because we obviously had that problem quite a bit in our agency life.

Phil Singleton: Right. So that’s what I was gonna ask. Is it … Is that something that you went around and asked? Or obviously you had a niche building websites, you felt that pain on your own as any of us still feel to this day. So loved to hear about how kind of, you know, that started and the kind of problems that you had at your agency in terms of getting stuff out of clients to launch.

James Rose: Yeah. Well, I absolutely cannot take credit for it, because my original idea was something around the briefing process, like website briefing. Because that was one of my biggest issues. I was really trying to get websites down to a really sort of … Like, I’m very process-minded, and I wanted all these parts that took a while to be automated somehow. So I had this pretty cool idea for a briefing app. And in our software circles, they talk about doing client interviews, where you go and talk to your potential audience and find out what their biggest problems are.

So I did that. And the idea is you go in without any … Like, you don’t guide them towards what you want, you know? Like, I wasn’t sitting there going, “Is the briefing process really difficult?” I didn’t … I just wanted them to talk about their biggest problems.

So I just went down that path with about 15 different local designers. And every single one of them focused on content as the biggest bottleneck in their process. ‘Cause that’s … I just talked about their process from start to finish. From talking to a client or potential client to signing off a job and them going on their way. And every single one of them focused on content as the biggest problem. So even before we’d started, the idea was kind of flipped over and we basically moved on Content Snare instead of a briefing tool.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. So let’s talk about like what it does and how you guys help people and what kind of traction you got and a little bit more about Content Snare. It’s one of those things, too, I think that … You know, I’ve been doing this for years myself and it’s always been an issue and we try different ways to do things. And we found certain ways I think to kind of ease the pain. And some of it is trying to do whatever we can actually to take it away from our clients.

So part of our process would be like, “Okay, we’ve got 10 or 15 questions. We do interviews on Zoom. We record ’em. We transcribe ’em. We send them to a write and we just basically … Part of our contract is we’re gonna write you like seven or 10 pieces of content, you know? Get some stuff out. So if takes a long time, we’re just gonna be able to like stamp this out. Even though that’s probably not the best way to do it. It’s almost like just a way … Like, get some really high-quality starter content on the website. Which isn’t great, but you can see how … I can see how people are out there just trying to figure out how to get things done.

The Problem: Getting Content for a New Website

‘Cause if I step back and look like, “Look, if I just … If every new client I had just already had 10 or 15 pages worth of content, some great images and maybe a couple of videos, we could be turning out really awesome websites in like a couple … Custom websites in like two to three weeks.” You know?

James Rose: Oh yeah.

Phil Singleton: But you don’t have that piece. So that’s the X factor that takes a website … You know, instead of two or three weeks may take two or three months. Or four or five months. Or six months or … You know, like we were talking about before the show, everybody’s got one that they’re probably really embarrassed about. It’s like, “Wow, we’ve worked for like months and we can’t get it launched.” And I’ve got two right now that are from 2017, you know? And we’re still trying. Which is like scary. So-

James Rose: And it’s definitely a story we’ve heard a lot.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, yeah. So tell us … And then you hear things like, you know, “Cool, alright. There’s a new software or service that you got.” Which almost sounds … I don’t want to like, you know, always hit it … Is that too good to be true type of thing. How have you guys solved it? Like, what does it do? Let’s dig in a little bit and tell us how it’s made our lives easier as agency owners.

James Rose: Yeah, and it’s funny you say that too good to be true thing. Because I’ve actually … The first email that goes out now and to clients’ Success Pack, this sort of thing that I send out to people that sign up, I make sure that I say that it’s not a magic bullet, right? Like, nothing’s just gonna magically get you content. I think that is actually one of our biggest issues at the moment is people sign up expecting they can turn it on and magically all their content problems go away. And suddenly clients start providing content in like three days. But it’s not the case.

So essentially we just try to make it much easier for clients to provide content. And that also requires a bit of work on the digital agency front. So at its core really it’s just a lot of different places for a client to put their content in. So that might be file uploads or text fields or WYSIWYG, which is for those not familiar, What You See Is What You Get. So just like formatted texts so they can bold things and italics and all that sort of stuff. You know, and you can constrain everything, so like with images … You know, it’s always funny when you get a logo that’s like 20 pixels high or something and you’re trying to use it on the site.

So you can force clients in … ‘Cause this is one of … Like, the biggest problems we found people had were the delays. Getting bad content. You know, whether that’s the wrong images or content that’s not long enough or short enough, or, you know, it’s waffling. Or it’s just not good content at all. Or it comes back really strangely formatted, like probably a lot of web designers can probably resonate with this. But getting like Word documents back that are full of highlighting and red text with like instructions saying things like … Yeah. You’re laughing because I’m sure you’ve had it before.

Phil Singleton: Oh yeah.

James Rose: Yeah. So … And you get these weirdly formatted documents. And that was what we were trying to squash, is those three issues in one. So it’s a place … It’s a central place to manage all the content where you don’t need to have instructions throughout the actual content like you do with Word documents. So the instructions sit separately in their own little boxes where you can guide your clients through the writing process and what kind of content you need. You can constrain them into the right kinds. And then obviously the automatic reminders, because that’s the biggest thing is sometimes they just forget or, you know, you don’t want to have to sit there and constantly email them and chase them up.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, right.

James Rose: So yeah, I mean, one day maybe we’ll even do some text message reminders or something, I don’t know. But we want to turn it into a bit more of a management platform where it helps you manage your clients a bit more. At the moment it’s kind of just email reminders, you know, on schedules based on due dates.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So it’s like a central repository kind of where you can put stuff and then you’re actually structuring the content that you need and then the clients are basically getting reminders. And once it’s filled, does it stop the reminder?

James Rose: Yeah, absolutely. So … And you can actually send out different reminders based on like whether they’ve not started at all or they’ve filled it out just a little bit. Or whether they’re done. So in the future, I think we’re gonna make that even better. But, yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like, I never know how much detail to go into with this. But yeah, in one sentence, it’s a central repository with a structure and the automatic reminders. So yeah, what you said.

Phil Singleton: And then it’s like I see … I totally get what you’re saying about it. It’s really any of these tools. I mean, there’s so many things out there that I guess can work or can’t work for you. And it’s like none of them usually are like, “Buy something and solve all of your problems.” But anything that can kind of give you the structure and you actually like use and make part of your routine, is huge. Right? I mean, that’s just a big thing.

But the other side of it is that I can see … This is an agency designer myself that’s … Look, I’m really intrigued by this and I’ve actually signed up for it myself. But we’re already like, you know … Always seems like we’re in a game running around. So you get that part where it’s like, “Which tools do you kind of give it a try?” ‘Cause every trick that we try takes some time, is a learning curve, right?

James Rose: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: And then you know you need to do some of these things so that can improve your process. But at the same time, it’s like … Okay, sometimes we put things off, right? And then-

James Rose: Absolutely, yeah.

Phil Singleton: And even on new things that we know can help … Any challenges with that or any success stories that you can relate to people that are taking the time to work this into their routine? And some of the things your happy clients say after kind of incorporating it I guess?

James Rose: Yeah, and this is why we have to spend a lot of time trying to make that onboarding process, like getting people to use it, as easy as possible. And because if they put it in the too hard basket, I don’t know, do you guys say that in America? Put it in the too hard basket?

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I’m gonna start saying that. But, had to explain it, yeah.

James Rose: Yeah, yeah. So that’s … You know, if you have to put all this work in to get it going out of the … Especially as a busy person already, which most agency owners are, they’re not gonna have the time to do it. So that’s pretty much where all my time’s going right now is making things easier. And I mentioned the Client Success Pack before. And that’s essentially like a video that helps people get started as fast as possible. Some explanation on how to make it work the best. And some actual templates, you know, and copywriting instructions. Because I find that is the biggest thing.

And I was speaking to a client … To answer your question … I was speaking to a client just like a week ago who sort of hit this aha moment. They’d first started using it a while back. And didn’t really realize the best ways to use it. And to him that was realizing each section. So in Content Snare you have a content request, and then you have sort of pages, which could be used for pages on a website. And then within those, you have sections.

So in a website header, you know, the hero header might be a section. But he hadn’t … In my mind that was really clear, ’cause that’s how we designed it. But he hadn’t realized that was a … How it was supposed to be used. And when he realized that you could put a screenshot of a website section as like a section in Content Snare and then put fields in that corresponds to that like a headline and a subheadline and a button, that was his aha moment where it clicked in. So that’s a big thing now.

Like, I’ve … We’ve created built-in templates for common website sections like navigation sections and headers and, you know, about blurbs and contact pages and all that kind of stuff to get people to that point faster. And he actually said it really well. ‘Cause we were just talking about the time spent to get up to speed. He said, “You know, putting in a few minutes work now can save you hours later. And now I’m trying to work out how to put that in our onboarding.” Like, get … Make people realize that that’s the case.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s awesome. So I can see as you’re talking about this, I’m also thinking about how many of us … And you’ve probably done this yourself, too, James, maybe … Where I’ve bought things or started trials or even bought things where, you know, you are … You’ve got this thing, this service page you’re paying for. And I’m actually thinking right now, every once and a while I think we go back and I take a look and like, “Are we actually even using this?” ‘Cause you start doing your own agency or whatever, all of a sudden you start building up this like list of monthly payments that you’re doing. And then not even realizing that you haven’t used it.

And not that the product’s not good or anything, it’s just you never took some time. I think it seems like some online software providers, they must have some way to like tag their notices. ‘Cause some of them I notice if you don’t start using them, they basically are like … They know that they’re at risk of, you know, maybe canceling the service because you’re not even using it at all. You haven’t really given it the chance. Like, you went on with the best intentions. You buy and it kind of sat there. And all of a sudden it starts dinging your credit card.

James Rose: Yeah, you’ve just given me an idea of like … ‘Cause that’s definitely one of our things at the moment is people forgetting about it or not using it and not having the time. And then canceling. And I was like, “Man, the CRM we’re using has that ability to email people who are” … It’s called the segment’s slipping away. So it’s like built in, right? So that’s something I need to start doing.

Phil Singleton: Well, even still just myself, I was just thinking, “Gosh, that I could see how that happens.” ‘Cause we all want the next edge and you have to keep investing in technology and stuff like that. But I can see that being a tricky … How about just making the … I mean, you didn’t really make a transition I guess from … You always kind of had the agency in the background, but you always seemed like you also had the ability or you had a product that you were actually selling and, you know, kind of a scalable piece where you could have it out there and resell it. And I was gonna ask…

James Rose: Yeah, I think that’s where our heart’s always been, you know, like in the software side of things. Agency stuff was like … I enjoyed it, but not as much as software.

Phil Singleton: Right. And that’s ’cause you like building that stuff? Or you like actual process of being able to kind of put something out and market it and sell, you know-

James Rose: Yeah-

Phil Singleton: Lots of them versus having to kind of … You know, it is kind of tough. Everyone wants to scale their agency. But at the end of the day, we’re still consultants to some degree, you know? It’s really, really hard to like completely automate like a website.

James Rose: Oh yeah.

Phil Singleton: Especially if you want to use it as a tool to do recurring income type of thing. But-

James Rose: Definitely.

Phil Singleton: So you can scale and have more, maybe you can go from 50 to a hundred or two hundred. But you can’t do like a product where you could literally sell thousands of ’em, right?

James Rose: Yeah, that’s right.

Phil Singleton: And that’s kind of where you guys are at with this thing. And … Can you give us some examples about how you … You got this, you got a product, you have something that almost seems like it’s really geared for agencies, right? Digital agencies?

James Rose: Yeah, well, that’s like the marketing. There’s definitely other markets for it.

Phil Singleton: So how are you going about, like, getting the word out? Marketing that now? Maybe a website for it? You’re doing your own content for it? You doing any AdWords? I mean, you’re out there both … How’s … What’s working for you that way?

James Rose: Oh, this is a touchy subject.

Phil Singleton: I’m sorry.

James Rose: No, no, no. I’m kidding. It’s like the bane of my existence right now because the big thing with any sort of productized thing is they say … Especially in the beginning … Finds one or two channels that are really working well for you and just double down those. And right now I have about 15 channels that are working a little bit. So I don’t have any one channel that’s really like exploded or … You know, it’s all working a little bit and it’s fine and it’s growing. It’s just like I wish I knew where to focus. But yeah, we’ve tried … We’ve done a little bit of AdWords. A little bit of Facebook Ads.

But a lot of our stuff comes from people searching for the problem. Whether that’s by actual on Google going like, you know, hitting a point of frustration and going, “How to get website content from clients”, but that’s really, really low volume. Like, not many people actually search for that. To the point where we couldn’t even target it on AdWords ’cause it said too low volume or whatever.

And the other thing is if they hit that same point of frustration and go to like a Facebook group or a community and say, “Look, I’m so sick of this. Like, what have you seen that helps or how can we streamline this process?” And people might mention Content Snare if they’ve heard about it. Or, you know, ’cause I find some groups that we haven’t sort of gotten into yet where people are talking about Google Docs or product management systems. And they’re probably our biggest competitors in these tools that can be used to do it, but probably not in the best way. And then people find out about Content Snare and suddenly we get recommended.

But that’s … They’re our biggest channels. I spend a lot of my time on content marketing, so we definitely have a few blog posts that rank well for terms that digital agencies would be searching for.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

James Rose: But there’s not many of those, you know? I’ve spent … Oh, man, I don’t even want to know how much time I’ve spent searching and reverse engineering other websites that target digital agencies to find what they rank for and come up empty-handed. It’s crazy. So yeah, that’s why I said it’s a touchy subject, ’cause I just … It’s all these like small channels. Nothing’s really just gone gangbusters yet.

Phil Singleton: Have you guys ever tried … Like, you mentioned at the beginning … And I’ve never really been … I mean, I’ve actually never been to one single industry event type of thing. So anyone out there … And I know a lot of people go ’cause they end up making … You know, a lot of people … I mean, I’m sure of the States anyway … They’ll go after a certain vertical or whatever and the big part of their business is just going to like, I don’t know … If you’re doing … If you want to do marketing, you want to focus on like dentists. And you go to like a dentists, you know, event or some trade show or something like that. And I just go with them. And that’s great.

But I don’t know. Have you been … I mean, I know you went to some early on. One kind of sparked the fire for you. But have you ever gone to any of them yourself just in general? And have you ever gone to any of them with the purpose of pitching Content Snare?

James Rose: No, not really. So I go to a lot of events, but more like general entrepreneurial stuff. Mostly just to be around other business owners, ’cause it’s like a different head space. But I’ve been to a WordCamp, which is sort of 50-50-

Phil Singleton: Sure.

James Rose: Our target audience. And I’ve looked up a lot of agency conferences. Unfortunately, a lot of the big ones are not in Australia, obviously.

Phil Singleton: Such a roll of the dice, too, ’cause they’re so expensive to-

James Rose: Oh yeah.

Phil Singleton: Travel to and go to and …

James Rose: And it’s a bit hard to justify I feel when, you know, software products might be 30, 50, whatever, a hundred bucks a month. So let’s say your lifetime value is somewhere between, I don’t know, 300 bucks and a thousand dollars. For us, like, it’s … You know, I don’t know if how worthwhile it is to spend all this time, you know, all the money to travel to a conference. To stay there. To … You know, there’s a lot of costs, right? For the ticket-

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

James Rose: And all that sort of stuff. And if you’re only there talking to a few people … If the entire purpose was pitching, which it rarely is, you’d have to convert … You’d have to get a lot of people onboard to make it worthwhile, right?

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

James Rose: Whereas if you were doing.

Phil Singleton: A hundred dollars, sure.

James Rose: Yeah. And you know, if you’re doing dental marketing stuff and you can charge five, 10 grand a month or something, then you’re gonna pay back that much faster by … With just one client. Exactly. Exactly. So that’s why it’s not something I’ve really looked at too much. I’ve looked at sponsoring some events. So far the sponsoring thing hasn’t done real well. I think that’s more of a branding play that you gotta do long term. And if you’ve got lots of money … Like, yeah, that hasn’t really been a big part of our play yet.

Phil Singleton: And then that’s a great time to segue into something that’s actually worked pretty well for me, which is podcasting. Both-

James Rose: Oh, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Having a podcast and being a guest on a podcast, you know.

James Rose: Definitely.

Phil Singleton: Even in front of lots of targeted audiences. Sometimes I guess in maybe small pockets, but you’re still doing it from your home office or your office in Brisbane or in Kansas City or wherever you are. And all of a sudden you’re getting in front of targeted audiences week in and week out.

James Rose: That’s it. And after having you on our podcast last week, I … We sort of talked about this offline and I’m really starting to think about doing that again. ‘Cause that’s how we did that in the beginning. And we got a lot of traction. Well, you know, relatively sort of compared to zero. At the beginning, you know, that was how we started is going on various podcasts. And you can use the people you’ve already spoken to to introduce you to other podcasts, ’cause everyone’s connected. And then suddenly … And as a lot of things that that … A lot of benefits for that where it’s not just getting in front of the audience but the backlinks obviously. So rank better across a lot of-

The Agency Highway Podcast

Phil Singleton: Ding, ding, ding, ding. That’s actually the reason I got started. And I was like, “Holy cow. There’s so many other things that come.” You know, once you start getting clients from it, I was like, “Okay. All in.”

So tell us now about how you’re … You’ve got your own podcast. This is a great time to talk about it. You know, you’re talking about your … I’m gonna butcher it … But it’s Agency … What is it?

James Rose: Agency Highway.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

James Rose: Yeah, and that’s cool. And it’s brand new, right? Like, well, I think brand new. We’re at about 12 episodes or something. But the reason we started that is people have been telling me to podcast for years. Saying that, “You know, you’ve got the personality for it. It’s be awesome. Blah, blah, blah.” And I never knew what I was gonna podcast about. That’s why I never did it.

But now it seems to make sense, because Content Snare as … We do a lot of content marketing around Content Snare, right? I could have done a podcast under that brand, but the thing is a lot of agencies might not need Content Snare, so they might have an in-house copywriter or whatever that uses their own systems. They know how to provide the content and the right format, whatever.

So they might not benefit unless they need a sort of collaborative tool to work with their clients. Which is, you know, that’s a whole ‘nother topic really. But which is where we’re going to be moving Content Snare. Not moving, but adding features for that kind of workflow as well. But because I feel like a lot of our marketing then is wasted because we’re here getting in front of these agencies that don’t need Snare where if we had another resource or place for agencies to go, it becomes … I don’t know. That’s just more helpful in general.

So it will … I plan on it being a resource website. A bunch of content as well as the podcast. But yeah, that’s what we’re doing now. It’s more just so my marketing isn’t … I don’t know. I can help more people and not waste marketing, really. It makes sense.

Phil Singleton: This is a great, you know, just such a … Every agency owner can relate to some form of pain. I don’t care how big or small the agency is, but there’s always some parts of … ‘Cause you’re dealing with people and people get busy. Especially or obviously … Especially when you’re in smaller companies where people know that the website’s a really important part of it. But they get locked down ’cause they’re actually executing some other owned work, right?

No matter what it is. If it’s a plumber or….layers, all that kind of stuff. So … Your company’s are saying, “Wait, I have some resources in-house. It’s a little easier for them.” But still, coordinating that effort, I can see that as a big challenge. But yeah, I love that. ‘Cause one of the reasons we started the podcast is one, so I can pick the brains of smart people like you and get hacks and ideas and get access to new tools and that kind of stuff. It’s gonna make us more profitable and more scalable.

But it’s also such awesome access. I mean, we try to do some outbound marketing last year and got no one. And then as soon as we, you know, go to an ideal potential client and say, “We want to be on The Local Business Leaders Podcast“, they’re just like, “Yeah”. You know what I mean? ‘Cause they want to be … So same thing I think with you, obviously, right? I mean, you could start interviewing folks and some of them might be either ideal clients or if they’re influencer agencies where people are trying to follow them, at least they’re not gonna use it, then you get to tag their out answer, do all that kind of stuff. So …

James Rose: Yeah, well, it’s definitely a good networking tool for sure. And that was one of the first sort of things I was thinking about. And, you know, if I want to have a partnership with another company, like an influencer agency that you were talking about that’s connected with other agencies, it’s hard to go in and go, “Hey, we’ve got this product. Would you like to try it? Blah, blah, blah”. And it’s all on the take, right? It’s you just trying to take all the value.

But if I can go in and say, “Hey, look. We’ve got this audience and I want to put you in front of them. I come on the podcast, we’ll put you in the Facebook Group. Obviously gets shared everywhere. We can do a guest post if you want. Whatever.” But, you know, lead with all this value and then they go, “Oh, you’ve got this cool product. Like, I think I should share that with my audience.”

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, really cool, man. I love all of this kind of stuff. Yeah, we’re kind of … Throw us in that group of folks that like … I have every intention to use Content Snare. We’ve signed up for it. You know, we’re gonna try and obviously use it and give it a try. But it’s funny. It’s one of those things that’s like we’re constantly in … I’m one of these agents … I know a lot of them are like it … But I don’t … You know, we don’t like hire for growth type of thing. We hire after we’ve been doggie paddling so long that we’re drowning.

I don’t know … That’s probably the worst way to do it, but I’m so conservative. ‘Cause I mean there’s so many agencies out there, especially here like here where they basically hire based on feast or famine type of work. And then they go out of business because they had a couple of really good clients an office and hired a bunch of people, and they couldn’t “feed the beast”. And they close like a year or two later. So I’ve always…

James Rose: Yeah, totally.

Phil Singleton: I’ve been doing this … The only way I’ve survived is kind of being … That means a lot of times we’re doggie paddling, you know? We’re, you know, “busy” kind of thing that works. So … The other thing I was wondering … I’ll tell you this about myself, as I’ve got a great, really smart guy in-house that has tried to build something on his own. I think we talked about this before on active campaigns or something.

And I’m thinking like, “Gosh, all a sudden if you’ve got somebody who’s got their own process, and now you’re gonna say, ‘Hey, I got this really cool thing that’s probably gonna be better than what we have'”, do you compete sometimes a little bit with somebody that’s either got their own thing and you’re introducing something new? And I’ve never really had that discussion yet, but I’m just throwing it out there if that happens or how do you get around it. Tips that I can try to get internal buy-in to try and sell it, too, right?

James Rose: Yeah. And I mean, yeah, that’s almost another story than I was going to mention. Because then there’s a person involved, you know, and people tend to enjoy like creating … If they’ve gone and created this awesome process, then they’re not gonna like to have that be taken away or whatever.

Phil Singleton: Even if it is better.

James Rose: Yeah, but I mean, they can always get involved in that new process themselves, right? Like, they could set up … You know, it’s still their little baby … But like I was saying before, it’s … These things are definitely our biggest competition. Things like Google Docs or project management systems like Basecamp or whatever. Like, we have people say, “Oh yeah, I just get them to come into our project management system and do it there.” And I’m like, “And that goes well for you?” And they go, “Oh, no.”

Phil Singleton: But that’s how we do it.

James Rose: Yeah. And like, I’m a big fan of not having clients in project management systems. That’s why I’ve always been a big fan of team work, ’cause it integrates with team work desks so that clients can keep using emails to talk with you. But it comes into your system as … Not into your project management system. I love that. Yeah, so I … And Google Docs, I mean, obviously everyone’s or most people are familiar with that. But it’s got its inherent problems as well. But yeah, these are our competition and some people don’t have the time or want to change. And then other people do change and go, “Oh, man. This was like … I wish I’d done this earlier.” So yeah. I think that answers it.

Phil Singleton: James, look, I really appreciate you having and kind of sharing all this insight and kind of what Content Snare is and how it’s helped and how you got, you know, why you started it and kind of where you guys have … Are today with it. Tell our listeners where they can find you online. At what places you hang out, what opportunities that you have. Content Snare, that’s something people can try out. Is there a trial thing? How does that work? And kind of tell us … Our listeners how to follow you and connect with you.

James Rose: Alright, cool. Well, I guess the best way is probably go to ContentSnare.com. That’s obviously the tool itself. But if you go down to the footer, there’s a bunch of free resources. We’ve got like a Facebook Group for web designers. And agencies, obviously AgencyHighway.com. That’s pre-launch at the moment. But if you to … Just search The Agency Highway Podcast, you’ll find that. If you want to subscribe to that. Me on Twitter is @_jimmyrose. I was really late to that and didn’t get my name or my nickname. But yeah, I think that’s pretty much it.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, your Facebook … You have like thousands of people on that thing.

James Rose: Yeah. 3800 in there. And it’s called Grow Your Web Design Business. Very originally named.

Phil Singleton: So awesome.

James Rose: Yeah. Jump on in and say hi. That’s where I spend most of my time hanging out, for sure.

Phil Singleton: Alright, James. Thanks so much for coming on the show. And we appreciate the time that you spent with us.

James Rose: And thanks for having me, Phil. This has been awesome.

 

Building a Million Dollar Website Business with No Employees

Chris Parker is the founder & CEO of WhatIsMyIPaddress.com, the number one website in the world for finding your IP address. According to the Alexa ranking, Chris’s website is one of the top 3000 websites in the United States with over 6 million visitors a month.

Chris started the website on January 4th, 2000 and for the first five years, his revenue didn’t even cover his internet bill. In 2005, Chris made $30 from display ads and he knew he couldn’t give up!

In 2014, Chris was laid off from his corporate job and was faced with the scary opportunity to make his website a full time business. Since then he’s aggressively grown his site to generate just under seven figures a year in revenue with no employees, no office, and no inventory!

WhatIsMyIPaddress.com has granted Chris and his wife time and financial freedom that they use to travel the world and raise their mini schnauzer, Bailey.

WhatIsMyIPAddress.com Resource Links

Chris Parker Resource Links

 

Meet Chris Parker of WhatIsMyIPAddress.com

Phil Singleton: Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Parker: Great to be here, Phil.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, so I’d love to hear right off the bat, like just what got you into the business World in general, those first steps out of high school or college, or whatever it was. What was your first job? And kind of just give us the quick story in terms of how you got involved in the business world, and what brought you to here today.
Chris Parker: Sure. Yeah, my first job was in 1984. I was 12 years old, and I delivered newspapers.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Chris Parker: I think I had like, I had the smallest route in the neighborhood. I had like 30 customers, so to speak. I made four bucks a month or whatever it was, but grew that, took over all the neighboring routes, and did that for number years, and then realized I don’t want to ride my bicycle every morning and every night delivering papers.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Chris Parker: I think my first business that I tried running was a website called discountbibles.com, back in 1999.

Phil Singleton: Dang.

Chris Parker: That was just around the time, I think, Amazon had launched not too long before that, but I was competing against Amazon, selling Bibles. It was fun. I was working a day job at an online, or I guess at that time was a mail order catalog, a computer reseller called Club Mac. I thought, you know, I want to sell Bibles of the side.

I put together a website, got some databases of things, and put together something fairly clever, and started, put up the server on my own DSL connection in my home. Over the course of a couple months, I realized it really sucks to have to pick up the books, box them up at night, and on my lunch breaks take them over to FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service. And on the weekends, I was boxing and running credit cards, and trying to do all this out of my apartment. I realized, oh my gosh, this is not scalable. I don’t want to be doing this.

I think I was making maybe a couple of hundred bucks a month at the end of the day, which is nice to have some extra spending money, but way too much work for what I was making. So my next thing that I tried was, well, if you can’t beat Amazon use should join them. And so I switched over to the site. Called it “The Bible Finder,” you know, keeping your niche when you know what you’re doing. And rather than packaging them up myself, and doing all that, all the credit card processing, the chargebacks, all that fun stuff, I just became an affiliate for Amazon. No more, you know, no more books lying around the house, no more dust. I thought, oh, this is awesome. It’s totally scalable, until Amazon decided, “We don’t want to have to charge sales tax to all the orders that we ship to California, so we’re dropping every California affiliate.”

Overnight, my business disappeared.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Chris Parker: I think, during all that time, I’d actually started whatismyipaddress.com back in 2000, and it was totally a hobby. I’d never thought of it as as a business. I just put up the site because it solved the problem that I was trying to figure out for the company I was working for. I just kind of let it run in and, honestly, didn’t really pay attention to it for a while.
Once I saw there was some traffic to it, I was originally like just showing people their IP address, like no welcome to the site, just eight characters, 12 characters, whatever it is. Just effectively one word of text on the screen.

Phil Singleton: One point there, before we could continue on there. Just as a refresher on an IP address. Can you explain to people kind of what that is? I think most people have heard about it, especially if you got a job or something, and you know we’ve all heard about, “Hey, what’s your IP address?” I think, definitely for marketers, it’s become something that they’re familiar with for a variety of reasons. But can you explain just in simple terms to the layman, that really doesn’t maybe spend a whole lot of time on the computer, what an IP address is, and why somebody might want to look it up?

Chris Parker: Absolutely, it’s the internet equivalent of your home mailing address. When you’re at home and you want to mail something and get a response back from someone, you put their name on the envelope, you put your return address on the envelope, you send it off. It gets to that company. They want to send whatever they want back to you, they need that return address in order to get the envelope back to you. That’s the internet equivalent of an IP address. It’s so websites and email servers and all the things that we do online, games, data, it knows how to get back to us when we put a request in.

It can reveal a little bit more about you than you realize. It provides someone with a database. They can figure out what who your internet service provider is, and with some more advanced databases, they can actually probably figure out within a few blocks of where you live, just based on your IP address.

Phil Singleton: Some practical things I’m thinking of, like we run into all the time, is for our websites we a lot of time will put some additional layer security for against malware and hacking. There’s ways to kinda block access to people, maybe add them to the back of your, say WordPress example, WordPress website. You need to know, basically, your IP address of the people that want to walk in there, if you want to like white-list them, allow them in, right? So that’s one thing I know that we’ve used your site for, to lookup an IP address, so that we can white-list people to be able to access, and through the security settings that we have for our website.

I can also think of other things that are like hot today. You hear people talking about geo-targeting, geo-fencing, all this kinda stuff that’s based on maybe a device and a location. I’m guessing that probably has something to do with an IP address for some of these things. Is that right?

Chris Parker: Yep. When it comes to mobile devices, primarily it goes based off of the GPS data that you’re intentionally sharing, but even if you turn off the GPS data, you kinda fall back to the geolocation based off of IP address. Not as accurate, but nevertheless when you’re surfing the internet, it can give you ads for your local neighborhood, as opposed to the wrong country.
Phil Singleton: Awesome, okay. So thanks for that kind of refresher there because I think, again, most people have heard about it. A lot of people have kinda looked it up for certain different things, but I think that kinda helps put things into perspective. Get you back onto the trail of kind of where you were, you said that you had kinda started whatismyipaddress.com kind of as a hobby, still had kind of a day job, and where would you take it from there?

Chris Parker: Yep. I, at some point, put an email address on the site, and said, “Hey, if you have questions, ask me questions.” So I started answering questions about IP addresses via email, and I realized that, “Gee, I’m getting an awful lot of the same questions over and over.” So I put up a FAQ on the site. That was the beginning of my content development days, of rather than one-off … and I’m thinking scalability here, rather than one-off responding to these emails, but put the information online, and that’s kind of how the site started to grow.

Like you said, back in 2005, you had the launch of ad networks and AdSense. So I put a little ads on the site, and realized, “Oh my gosh, I can make a little bit of money doing this, and offset my bills for my hobby.” Then it, you know, finally started being more than my bills, and making a little bit of vacation money, some travel money, and little of investment money.

Again, it was never really on my mind as this is going to become a full-time gig. At this point it had become a side hustle, until the day that the company I was working for started struggling in the financial crisis. Over the course of a couple years, and multiple rounds of layoffs, they finally came to me and said, “Well, Chris, we can’t afford to keep paying you full-time. We’re going to have to let you go,” which is I don’t think what anyone wants to hear. I suppose some people want to hear it, but I didn’t want to hear it.

So I was faced with a decision. Do I try to turn whatismyipaddress.com into my full-time gig, or do I look for another corporate job? Asked my wife, we sat down and talked about it. We set up some milestones of like, okay, can I grow the business enough in the course of the next year or so to offset the loss of my full-time income? We set up some milestones every three months or so, to kinda reevaluate and see how things were going. Lo and behold, by putting 30 to 40 extra hours a week into the website, I was able to earn back my day job, I haven’t looked back.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Chris Parker: It is a blast being able to work from wherever I want to.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I mean, you’re definitely living the dream from that respect, to be able to kinda … Yeah, you’ve solved a bunch of different things. You solved a problem. You turned it into a website. You got traffic, and then it sounds just kind of like by the force of the economy, or outside economic forces, that you were almost forced to to turn it into a revenue generator, and you really got serious about it, and found ways to make it, and turn it into a nice profitable business.

On that note, I’d love to talk about like what … because as you’re talking, I’m thinking, wow, okay, at some point you really knew you were onto something because the traffic probably really started to take off. You were definitely one of the first ones on there, so from a search engine standpoint, and we can talk a little bit later, you had kinda the first move or advantage, and you’re working on it. And there are probably people linking to you, and your traffic grew.

You mentioned AdSense in the beginning, so it was probably the first thing that you did to try and monetize it, right? And you realized, okay, not a whole lot of people get rich just from AdSense money, or just from display ads, but there’s all sorts of other things I’m taking that I’d love for you to talk about. Did you try … Was there any affiliate marketing, you know, upselling people, email lists, all these other things that probably have come into play maybe in recent times, or that you looked at, since you kinda did this full-time? Can you talk to us a little bit about how, how do you start monetizing a site like this once it starts taking off?

Chris Parker: Absolutely. Actually, one of the biggest challenges has been to actually monetize the traffic. Everybody jokes of like, “Well, if I just had lots of traffic, then I could make lots of money.” I’ve actually had kinda the flip problem that most people have. It’s, “Okay, I’ve got lots of traffic, now how do I make money off of this?” People immediately go, “Oh, well, all you have to do is just throw ads on the site, and you’ll make lots of money.”

Well, when 70% of your internet, when 70% of the traffic to your website isn’t in the United States, it hurts. There’s not a whole lot of money to be made in banner ads to people in India, China, Russia, Poland. There just isn’t money in that. So it’s really been an interesting challenge over the years trying to find the right ad vendors, the right ad networks.

There’s been a few tried-and-true ones, but most of them I’ve been able to work with them for a couple of years, and then they become less effective. It’s been a very unique challenge with most of the people I’ve talked to about it because that international element to it makes a complicated. The other side of it is that whatismyipaddress.com does not draw really targeted, intense traffic.
It’s not like they’re coming to my website because they’re researching a camera that they’re about to buy, and I can, “Hey, here’s a camera I can buy,” whether it’s via ads, or by affiliate marketing. That’s not the case. People are coming, “I just want my IP address. I’m going to get it, and I’m going to go. I’m not going to look on any other pages. I’m not going to look at any of your ads.” So it’s been difficult to manage that.

One of the exciting things that’s happened over the last couple of years, is a new infrastructure technology that kind of can be used to compete against Google AdSense, and that’s called Header Bidding. I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it or not.

Phil Singleton: I haven’t. I’m all ears.

Chris Parker: It’s basically when someone hits your website, it sends off a request to a variety of ad networks, and they can bid against, bid for that impression. “I’m willing to spend this much money for the impression, and then if you’re using, like I have been, Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers as an ad platform, it could then turn around and compete against AdSense. So not only do you have the ability to monetize impressions that maybe AdSense wouldn’t, it creates a little bit of competition, and right and pushes the AdSense rates up a bit.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, takes some money off the table for them, basically.

Chris Parker: Takes some money off the table, lowers their margins a little bit, and pushes your revenues up a bit. It’s kind of … the technology’s a bit in its infancy, so there’s definitely some hiccups. I think over the next year or two, they’ll actually be a lot of consolidation in all the ad networks as they and they … you just can’t have 500-600 companies competing on exactly the same product, exactly the same space. There’s going to have to be some consolidation there, but I think over the next couple of years Header Bidding will really, really coming into fruition. A lot of it’ll be done on the backend, and not on the client browser. It’ll help website owners who are monetizing with display traffic a lot.

Phil Singleton: I love that because it really seems like, and even now, when I think about it. I think of, geez, it just seems like you really can’t make the majority of your revenue, again, this is from the outside in because we don’t do a whole lot of it, but you just think, well, somebody’s … if they’re on their way they’re monetizing the website is through AdSense, then you know that that’s probably not, no matter how big, unless it’s like super huge. They’re probably not making a whole lot just from that, right? I mean because it takes a lot of displays to make to make those checks really big.

Chris Parker: Yeah, and anyone who’s been doing AdSense for more than five years can attest, the rates that publishers are making for traffic has just been dwindling over the years. We get a smaller and smaller, smaller and smaller bang for our buck for those that are in kind of that general … If you’re really, really nichey, and have really good intent, you can get some crazy good ad rates. But if you just have a very general interest news site, a general information site like I do, it’s hard to get good rates on the ads.

Phil Singleton: So a couple of things there I’d like to ask. One is, what’s interesting from the advertising perspective, from the banners and things like that, over the years Google has changed their algorithms, and just been more scrutinized a lot more, you know, what’s being presented on the space in terms of like above the fold and things like this, right?

Chris Parker: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: So, you get a lot of stuff where you maybe you get more impressions, or better ads, then they want you to push them down, and if you don’t, you kind of have this game that you’re playing versus how do I satisfy the search engine to keep my rankings up, versus they don’t want you to have a bunch of ads above the fold because they’re going to say that’s not most beneficial to the user. I guess, have you thought about that, and had to play that game a little bit? It makes it a little bit tougher for people that are selling ads, right? Because it’s like, wow, you just took that away. You’re gonna take our rankings away, and you’re going to make us put what’s valuable down below the fold. It makes it even a little bit harder, I think, if you’re relying a lot on organic traffic.

Chris Parker: Yeah, it is a challenge, the balancing act of that is a lot of give and pull. You’ve got, you know, the ad network who want as many ads and as high up the fold as possible, covering as much of the real estate as possible. You’ve got the users who want no ads whatsoever because it’s on the internet it should be free. And then me, who, well, I’ve got to pay my bills. I have to make a living. Trying to balance all that out, and my general approach has been I want as good of a user experience as I can provide, and still make a living. I definitely tried in the early days, “Hey, let’s try these pop-ups that were paying your $20 per thousand impressions, or $50 per thousand impressions.” Yeah, I could make a lot of money very quickly, but it disenfranchises the users. I’d get hate mail. I’d get, “I’m never going to use your side ever again.”

I kinda took that to heart, and said, “Okay, I can’t do that.” I’ve gotta find that balance that keeps my users engaged, and doesn’t turn them off, and hopefully they’re going to understand that I need to make a living. There has to be some ads on the site, but not so much that it becomes a horrible experience.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s what you get-

Chris Parker: We’ve all been on those sites. You open it up on your phone, and there’s like one sentence on the screen, and all the rest of it is ads. That’s a horrible experience. Those sites should be penalized.

Phil Singleton: Right, right, right. Next, we got the ads … these are when we’re talking about … Sorry, what we’re talking about right now is the banner and the ads that show up, that you’re basically being paid on the amount of impressions that you receive. Have you tried any, or do you have any where like there’s affiliate relationships, right? I’ve heard some people, obviously back in the day it was a huge thing, I think even now. I think people still do really well with it in some areas where you’ve got a banner ad you’ve got a relationship with the people that are the advertisers, and if they click through to their website, it carries over a cookie. A sale is made, and then you get a piece of the sale, right? Is that something that you’ve tried? Is that part of your current model? I mean, that’s changed a lot over the years. Can you talk to affiliate marketing a little bit?

Chris Parker: Yeah, I definitely do affiliate marketing, and it’s probably been the the quickest growing segment of my revenue over the last couple of years. I’ve tried doing it with ads, with ads kind of competing against the ad networks all in an ad server software. It’s a lot of management. I very quickly realized that I was spending a large portion of my time tweaking, a little bit more here, turn that one up, turn that one down. It really just became too much time consumption to manage the affiliate relationships within display ads. Again, I think part of it is because I have such a a non-nichey site, only in certain place up on my site could that even potentially work. In most cases it just doesn’t work at all.

But I have really worked really hard on affiliate relationships over the last couple of years, and building content which promotes particular products, which are in the same sort of vertical of a portion of our users. A lot of that is privacy, online safety; have done really well with VPN affiliate offers. I’ve tried newsletters.

Phil Singleton: That was gonna be my next question, is like build an email list, and trying to have another thing, I guess, to monetize.

Chris Parker: I have a fairly large mailing list that is really hard to get them to do anything. Again, I think that comes down to it’s a lot of international people as well on the mailing list, and while it might be more targeted than the website, it’s a pretty hard mailing list of to move to do stuff. I’ll get a lot of … great open rates on my emails, but really hard time getting clicks into affiliate offers in the newsletters, and so it’s something that’s like, there’s more bang for my buck to do other things, work with more strategic, like exit intent pop-ups, things that engage users after certain amount of time on the site through OptinMonster, and there’s a bunch of other platforms that do it. But try to catch people with with other types of interactions when it’s less intrusive than like right when you get hit the homepage.

Phil Singleton: Right, the next thing I was gonna ask is have you tried or thought about any type of premium service, upsell, software-as-a-service type model, where somebody comes in and you got the … I mean, I see on your site now, it looks like up in the bar, I haven’t checked too many of them, but there’s other things we can check on whatismyipaddress.com now, right? Are any of those premium, or is it just another way to draw more traffic, and have you thought about that model?

Chris Parker: I definitely thought about the model. Again, some of it, I’ve questioned the scalability based on the amount of effort that I’d have to put into it. So currently all the tools, all the functionality that’s mine on the site is entirely free. I just kinda like that model. I’m in talks with a couple of different data providers who provide … let’s call it the the background checks type of stuff. A little bit more in-depth than information that I can provide and an awful lot of work for me that to build it out in-house, that are offering like a white-label solutions where I can start the brand that. They’ll handle all the billing. So, I think there’s a great opportunity there. It’s something that we’re looking at in Q1 of next year in order to grow that.
A lot of it has been the amount of work to get a subscription.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Chris Parker: It’s one thing if you’ve got this great master class, and you can charge $5,000 a year membership. Hey, if you get a couple of members, you know, you get a couple of dozen members, you don’t have to scale it up. Anything that I do, just because of the niche, I’d have to scale it up to tens of thousands of people for it to be profitable. And kind of dealing with, okay, credit card processing on 10,000 transactions a month, or annual subscriptions in order to get $10 a month from people. It becomes … I don’t think the metrics work out in the long run for me.
Speaker 3: Interesting question.

Chris Parker: Oops, sorry.

Phil Singleton: That’s all right. So it’s safe to say, I mean, it’s been great. You mentioned in your bio that you’ve grown this to essentially a seven-figure business. So the majority of that seems like it’s coming from some shape or form of advertising. Is that safe to say?

Chris Parker: Yep, at this point it’s either display ads or affiliate relationships. There’s a few data things that I’m doing, but it’s kinda that one percent on the backend sort of things.

Phil Singleton: That’s really cool. Then I wanna get into a little bit in, I don’t wanna get too deep into SEO stuff, but kind of in the green room before we were talking about … Somebody that’s had a site since 2000, has seen it grow. You had a ton of organic traffic. I looked at Ahrefs, which is a tool that we’re both familiar with, that we use here at our agency. I’m looking at it, I think I can still pop it up right now. I’m going to share a screenshot of what I see, but they show that you’ve got … and this is just for organic traffic. I’m looking at it today.

You know how these things are. I mean, it’s not analytic, so it’s not gonna be like your exact numbers, but they’re showing organic traffic of four million unique hits a month. So that’s just only organic. I’m sure you guys have direct links, direct traffic, referral traffic, social media traffic, all sorts of stuff that gets you up to six million and above. Of course, we know, a lot of times these external ones aren’t as accurate as some other things, but it also shows one of my favorite metrics inside of Ahrefs is your monthly traffic value in terms … I don’t if you’re familiar with this one, but it’s one of my favorite ones in SEMrush and also Ahrefs, where they assign, basically, an AdWords value to your organic, free traffic that you’re getting.

I’m looking at it right here, and it says your monthly organic traffic’s worth three million dollars a month. I’m like, wow, okay. So they’re basically, because you get so much organic traffic, they’re cobbling together lots of probably diverse stuff that your ranking for. Obviously, to see that’s one thing, to be able to monetize into is something else, but it does show the power of what you have in terms of what you’ve been able to build and the amount of organic traffic that you’re able to get. I’m sure it’s really probably only getting, building and getting more over time, as more people get familiar with IP addresses.

It’s become a hot topic, since the last election and stuff. Things that are going online, what people are looking for, what do people know about us? It’s just more in the media right now, more people trying to understand about what people know about certain things. The more they become familiar with it, the more likely they’re going to be looking up like, “Well, what is my IP address?” Right? I’m sure you guys have benefited a little bit of that as well. On the topic of SCR, I’d just love to hear about … because you’re starting way back in the day, 1999-2000, things that you’ve seen in terms of these massive Google updates, them going after links and content, Panda, thin content.

Even in recent years, you see great sites doing really good things, but for whatever reason, you’ll see good sites with great content still get hit randomly by one of these Google updates that they do every day, and then once or twice a year they do a really big one that sends a tremor pretty much that everybody feels. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with Google, and has it frustrated you over the years? Have you had to kind of move things and change things? Did you ever experiment with stuff? Have you changed your site strategy and content based around SEO and Google and this kinda stuff? Just kind of give us a little bit of a background about how SEOs impacted or affected this business.

Chris Parker: Yeah, I mean, definitely, like you say, there’s a crazy amount of natural search traffic. I think when you are so reliant on natural search traffic, there is always that kind of underlying fear of, you know, if I get slapped by Google, this is gonna be a problem. I think every time there’s been a major update, it’s always kind of like, “Okay, I hope this doesn’t impact me.” I think part of why a lot of these haven’t impacted me is I really tried to use kind of best practices. I don’t buy links. Maybe 20, maybe 15 years ago, 10 years ago, played around a little bit in that space, but it’s, honestly, it’s not cost-effective for me. I’ve tried to avoid just a lot of the practices that were sketchy to begin with. I’ve never paid companies to spam my links in forums and comments and-

Phil Singleton: Did you ever try and build out tons of pages that were kinda thin that way, or did that ever happen?

Chris Parker: You know, I never tried to do it as intentionally thin pages. There were some stuff that, looking back at it, that there’s definitely some pages on the site that have very thin content. But it wasn’t like, “Hey, let’s-”

Phil Singleton: Let’s build a 1,000 pages for each keyword here, and try and-

Chris Parker: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It was never that. It was, “Well, I had an article written on what is SMTP,” the way mail servers communicate, and it was like 300 words, 250 words. In my mind, it’s like, “Yeah, it’s really pretty thin. I don’t really know if that article’s that helpful to anybody who reads it.”

So algorithm changes which affect that sort of stuff have concerned me over the years. One of the ways that I’ve addressed it to go back to a lot of that content, and either get rid of it entirely, and just 404 the page, redirect it somewhere else, or have a better writer come in and write better content that’s-

Phil Singleton: Beef it up, yeah.

Chris Parker: … that’s just more useful to people. And so that’s kind of been my way of dealing with that. The one algorithm update which scared me the most, and I think all businesses and some sense should be kind of scared about it, was … I don’t know, when Google directly started answering questions. If you google right now, “What is my IP address?” Google will actually tell you what your IP address.

Phil Singleton: The knowledge boxes, now they’re starting to work in more direct stuff, and basically answering things on the page, and bypassing the source of where they’re getting the answers from.

Chris Parker: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: And that’s just been something, I don’t know the we can specifically call that like an update, where they just did this, and did it. It’s almost been something that’s been creeping into the search results, where more and more it seems like they’re trying to provide, really to me, data that has answers to it without as much maybe commercial intent to it. So it’s like you ask a question, you get an answer, so there’s no reason for you to go to a separate page. Yeah, I think a lot of people … Here, it’s funny, because this is one of those things with Google where here they don’t want you scraping content, but they can scrape content from you and show it directly in the search results before going to your page. But, yeah, so some of that stuff I could see, I guess, how that would be concerning for some people that are supplying answers to people like this.

Chris Parker: Yeah, informational sites kind of run the risk of either being scraped by other people, or being scraped by the search engine, and the search engine’s just totally bypassing you. The interesting thing about that update and subsequent traffic, is that I saw maybe a 10% hit in traffic due to that update with Google starting to answer that question. It really made me think of a couple of things. Do people just not trust Google that much that they’d rather go to my site instead of trusting a result from Google? Or, that I’m actually providing more information beyond that, which is what I’m doing.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, right. When I look at your site. I mean, I see some of the Google, sometimes when you do the Google one, it either gives you, and I don’t … and you can maybe explain this little bit better, but sometimes the IP address looks different. It’s like a longer string with colons in it versus you an actual whatever that multiple digit with the period numbers is. And it doesn’t give you like the carrier, and the map results, and I kind of stuff. So, obviously, a site like yours is giving you a lot more information than just a number.

Chris Parker: Yep. So, as a segue, or as a tangent, the short one with the period, the four numbers with four periods, that’ IP address version four. It was designed as, “We’ll never need more IP addresses than the 16 billion. I think it’s 16 billion that IP4 supports. Then magically all these internet of things devices started connecting up, and everybody’s got 20 internet-enabled devices in their home now. So slowly the transition has happened to IPV6. That’s the one that could be a lot longer with colons and sets of four digits, and you never kinda know whether you’re connecting via IPV4 or IPV6, and for the vast majority of people, it’s totally behind the scenes, and they don’t really even ever need to know. But you visit my website, and I’ll tell you IPV4, IPV6, carrier, where in the world it is, and some other interesting things that we might be able to determine about the user of that IP address based on available information.

One of the weird side effects of Google actually answering that is the quality my traffic went up because the people who were, “I just want the number, and I’m going,” didn’t come to the site anymore. So, average pages used per session went up. The click-through rates on all the ads went up because, effectively, Google carted off the worst traffic for me and kept it for themselves. So it really only upgraded the quality of my traffic. I saw almost no revenue hit from losing that traffic, which was really kind of crazy.

Phil Singleton: Nice. Alright, let’s … This is fascinating for me, I mean, just to kind of see how somebody that’s gone through it … Like I say, there’s a lot of people out there that are side-gigging, wanting to build up their own internet asset, so that they can one day step away, make a seven-digit income, and be able to do whatever they want. In a lot of ways you’re basically living the dream.

That being said, it’s like a lot of these quote-unquote overnight successes that’s taken many years to get to the point where you are today, right? It’s not like you just had an idea, popped up a website, and then made a million bucks one year. I’d love to know on that, we’ve got the $10,000 question. If you didn’t have any of your assets right now, and had to build something from scratch, and I gave you $10,000 to do so, where would you start? I mean, if you were gonna try and rebuild the empire?

Chris Parker: You know, if you were telling me I had to go into the whatismyipaddress space…

Phil Singleton: Something similar, yeah, something similar to this. How would you-

Chris Parker: I would just and wouldn’t do it, yeah.

Phil Singleton: If you’re coming late to the game, you might have another idea of it, right?

Chris Parker: I think I could probably do something in the affiliate space where I could build up content around products, and really provide some insights about those products, comparisons versus others. There’s a lot of sites that do that, to find a really nice … maybe it’s even the VPN niche because I have experience there. But to really find a really tight niche where I can really get a good understanding of the audience, really zoom in on who they are, what they do, why they do it.

Today, the ad targeting that you can do these days through Facebook and Google AdWords is just amazing. If you really know your audience, you can … I’d rather have 10 people who want to buy my product coming to a site than 10,000 people who have no intent of buying a product. I think these days there’s some crazy opportunities to make money being super nichey, super targeted. I’d probably go that route, and try to-

Phil Singleton: So you’d build a site, build some content around it, and then start just giving a lot of value, and maybe doing some really highly targeted advertising.

Chris Parker: Yep, and start working out from there.

Phil Singleton: So just off of that real quickly, you mentioned VPN. I think we talked a little bit about that in the beginning too, or you mentioned that once or twice. What’s going on in that space where there’s some interest? Why is that kind of a hot area for you, and something that sounds interesting?

Chris Parker: So the 10,000-foot view of what a VPN is. A VPN is a network, not your internet connection like your internet service provider or your wireless carrier, but it’s a company that provides transit for your data. So rather than you appearing to be surfing the web from your AT&T mobile phone, your traffic gets routed through your VPN provider, and it pops out the internet, kind of almost wherever you want it, wherever your VPN provider has servers. If I’m traveling in Singapore, and I want it to look, to the internet, like I’m on the internet in California, I can use a VPN company which routes my traffic through a server in California. So as far as the rest of the world knows, based on my IP address, I’m in California and not in Singapore.

Where this is really impacting things these days is you’ve got oppressive governments who are trying to limit access to social media and information, and so people in those countries don’t want their government spying on them and watching what they do. So they’ll use VPNs to route their traffic elsewhere, so they can get access to content which they otherwise might not get access to. I think even more so, people are are becoming more concerned about that even here in the United States as well. “I don’t trust the government. I don’t trust these big companies with my data. I wanna make sure that I’m protected,” and things like that.

Then you’ve got people who are expats. That are US citizens living abroad, and they wanna be able to access US Netflix. Well, you can’t do that from many other countries, so if you get a VPN which routes your traffic through the US, your traffic to Netflix and Hulu and the common streaming services appear to come from the US. There’s a bit of cat and mouse going on with that because the Netflix and Hulus, there’s licensing issues. They really don’t want to be distributing US content to people in other countries. So there’s a little cat and mouse game going on there as well. Usually, the use of VPNs revolve around, “I want to access something I can’t access my country. I want privacy. I don’t want people who’s website I’m visiting to know where I am, know anything about me.” Or security, like, “I’m on wifi at Starbucks or my local mom-and-pop café, and I don’t trust their ability to keep their network secure, so if I use a VPN, my devices are protected. My traffic is is encrypted, and no one can kind of sniff out what I’m doing while I’m gone at the café.”

Phil Singleton: No, it makes perfect sense. As you say this, I’m also thinking, geez, earlier this summer, you know my wife’s from Taiwan. We took a trip there, spent a couple weeks. Of course, we’ve got kids, and we have a Netflix account. Of course, if you go overseas and are trying to access your Netflix account through there, it’s like you can’t access it because you’re outside the country. I’m wondering if, okay, I wonder if a VPN would kind of solve that problem, where you could actually access something you already should have access to. They just don’t tell you, or aren’t explicit about you can’t use this traveling or traveling outside of the country type of thing.

Chris Parker: Yep, a VPN is a good solution for stuff like that. You gotta test it to make sure it works, but each one is a little bit funky, or can be funky in how they implement it.

Phil Singleton: Well, Chris Parker, this has been really awesome. Of course, I guess we’re kinda geeking down a little bit more, maybe than we do on some of the shows, but I find this really fascinating because some of this stuff also is a great lesson for … it just happens to be IP addresses, right? But it could really be anything. If somebody gets on to something that their passionate about, and able to build up traffic. It all comes back to, if you’re gonna do it full time, it’s gotta be profitable, and you got to monetize it. A lot of the lessons, I think, learned here today could apply to a lot of different folks, especially when it comes to advertising.

Can you give us … what’s the best way to kinda follow what you’re doing? I know we mentioned whatismyipaddress.com a couple times. What else do you have going on? What’s your favorite social media channels that you kind of act and distribute and share content on? Are there any other websites where people can follow you?

Chris Parker: Definitely, you can get all the social media profiles for whatismyipaddress.com down in the footer of the website, and unfortunately whatismyipaddress.com is too long to be a social media handle, in most cases. So you can find it there, we’re on all the main social media channels. If people wanna follow me personally, and kind of some of my behind the scenes and my journey, they visit cgparker.com, and find all my social media there.

Phil Singleton: Is there any particular one that you spend a little time on than others? Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or they’re all kind of mixed up?

Chris Parker: You know, if anyone is personally trying to get ahold of me through social media, LinkedIn is probably the best way. I will provide a link for you for the show notes.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, we will definitely place it. Well, thank you very much, Chris. This has been really awesome. I’m so glad we get to have a person with your experience and of your caliber on the show. I just want to thank you one more time.

Chris Parker: Thank you, Phil. I had a great time. It’s always fun to geek out on some of the technical aspects of the site.

Phil Singleton: All right, bye now.

Chris Parker: Bye bye.

Kansas City Advertising Agency Expert

Dave Wieser the founder of DW Creative Marketing,  a Kansas City-based marketing agency that helps local businesses increase leads and sales through effective marketing strategies and systems. Dave is one of Kansas City’s top advertising experts.  He has a decade of previous working experience as an account executive for Kansas City area TV stations.

DW Creative Marketing, LLC has a strong reputation of providing marketing and advertising consulting services in retail and home services. These services include:

  • Creating and implementing marketing strategy
  • Strategic “New Market Entry” communications
  • Brand strategy
  • TV & Radio Advertising
  • Direct mail campaigns
  • Crises management
  • Social media marketing
  • Reputation management
  • Web design
  • Pay-per-click advertising

Learn More About Dave Wieser

 

Meet Dave Wieser of DW Creative

Phil Singleton: Hey, Dave. Welcome to the show.

Dave Wieser: Thanks, Phil. Thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: My pleasure. Let’s just kind of get into, before we start talking about marketing and some of the services and things that you do around here in Kansas City, which is nice to have somebody that we’ve got somebody local with me we can talk shop with, tell us a little bit more about kind of your background and maybe those first steps out of school and maybe some of your early career things and what brought you to your own agency today.

Dave Wieser: Sure. Yeah, so I was actually a finance major in school. I had no ambition to go into marketing or advertising, and wanted to be a CFO or do something with managing corporate cash flow or some kind of training. We were going through kind of a mini recession when I graduated, and so a lot of the positions were not that desirable right out of college.

I needed a sales internship to graduate and the local TV station was advertising a sales internship, and I’m like, “Oh, that’d be cool to go work in a TV station.”. And I had done sales before. I had actually worked one summer in upstate New York [loss od audio]called Southwestern and did door to door book sales so that summer it was tardo I thought maybe let’s check the sales intern thing out and I worked under the national sales manager kind of learning the language of the TV. What a rating is, what shares are, what HUTs and PUTs are and when I graduated they offered me a job. And like I said, the finance jobs at that time weren’t that desirable so I said, “Yeah, let’s give it a shot”. So I worked for literally selling local air time right out of college for about two-

Phil Singleton: When you say local college was that here in around Kansas City or was that in another state.

Dave Wieser: University of Nebraska at Carney; go Lopers. So it was in the sticks really, my … the t.v. station was 13 miles south of town in the middle of a corn field. So I had to drive 15 miles before I could even get to a business. So when I started I had no, basically no billing. You’re starting from scratch and when I say I’m talking to local business owners, it’s literally Main Street. Main Street of Carney is paved with brick, so it’s everything you can think of in terms of mom and pop, right?

So that was … but the finance background actually helped me, I don’t know, maybe speak the language of business. You know, long story short, kind of cut my teeth in that small market and really kind of held accountable for selling these campaigns to, directly to the business owners. It has to work so you have to figure out how to write ads, figure out copy, placement of schedules, because we didn’t have a creative services department.

I sold there for two years and then moved to Kansas City and worked for the ABC affiliate KNBC for eight years and it was really quite different because in Carney, everything was direct pretty much. You’re dealing with the business owner directly, that’s where your sales come from. That’s who you’re held accountable to but when I got to a bigger market, well medium, it’s bigger in my eyes being from small town Nebraska, but in Kansas City a lot of the buys are transactional so you’re dealing with the media buyer, who has a media supervisor, who deals with an account planner, who deals with the actual client. So I went from 100% pretty much direct billing to 75-80% agency billing.

And that was just a big change for me so I worked at Channel Nine for eight years and then moved on to a small ad agency called Proof and learned a lot about research and brand positioning and then was there for maybe a little over a year and started DW Creative four years ago.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And since then you’ve just basically been providing general marketing services to mostly local businesses here in Kansas City?

Dave Wieser: Yeah, yeah. And we’re … we kind of look and see ourselves as an external marketing department. So I’ve had to beat the streets and try to find my strategic partners who have various areas of expertise whether it be PBC-SCO, web dev, graphic design, all that, and so I kind of have my team, quote unquote. And-

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Dave Wieser: Like you said provide any and all of the above services that the client needs to grow.

Phil Singleton: So let’s dive if we can a little bit into … cause I’m really intrigued, I don’t know much about it, I’ve always been really interested in … traditional advertising because you know I think a lot of folks think, “Oh, it doesn’t work and it doesn’t work like it used to”. My personally think that creating demand out in the market place is never gonna go away. Somebody’s got to go out there and try and like spur sells … stuff that’s open … and yeah, sure it’s changed a lot because people come back online to research stuff or verify or look for social proof, but somebody’s always got to be out there creating demand.

And then you’ve just gotta make sure that I guess you’re in the right places to capture it if you create it. But how’s that changed to you? Just TV, TV advertising … how do you see things people are doing right and wrong and kind of where are we with it? How would you explain it to somebody who hasn’t used it for their business or even a marketer like myself. I have no experience with any form of TV advertising, I just kind of love to hear your thoughts on it.

Dave Wieser: Yeah, it’s … traditional has really been beaten down. Kind of feel bad for the traditional media reps. It’s kind of like Apple/Mac commercials, you’ve got the kind of stuff [inaudible] versus digital to start where everything’s trackable too so, but when you look at the numbers. When you look at really at how people consume media these days, and that’s I think a place that really gets overlooked. The latest I think I read was people are on TV seven hours a day. The average adult. People are still spending an hour a day with radio; over the air, terrestrial radio. So that’s a lot of time. That’s a lot of consumption and obviously they’re consuming with the phone in their hand or their on a laptop and that’s obviously changed the approach that a local marketer has to take. In terms of dying, TV or these traditional channels, they’re still very, very much alive but it’s how a local advertiser approaches it.

So one of the biggest issues I see with local advertisers and traditional approaches is dipping their toe in the water. TV is definitely not a platform where you try it, quote unquote for a month or two or three. It’s a long term game. You need to be … you need to understand that you’re building a awareness. You’re building a brand. You’re building that type of mind but it doesn’t happen in a month or two.

Phil Singleton: It’s probably always been like that to some degree, no? Or is this-

Dave Wieser: Always. And that’s the challenge because in the digital context you get immediate analytics right? I know how many people came to my website off this display ad, or I know how many people downloaded a PDF for some kind of dated content. So that’s a completely different part of the funnel for a local advertiser who … if they’re not on the list, if I’m shopping for whatever category, could be tree service or a piece of furniture … if you’re not on the list in the consumer’s mind you really have no [inaudible] but again that’s where the digital approach comes in. So that’s what I think has for right or wrong has changed.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Dave Wieser: But the advertisers, they need to understand that it’s not dead, and the two pronged approach, the traditional impacted with a solid digital footprint, can be very, very powerful. And if you look at the top leaders in any market, most of the guys who are number one, number two, share wise within a category, they’re doing some sort of traditional.

Phil Singleton: Yes. And just like I said … of course we’ve got listeners all over the place, but a lot of them are in Kansas City. Just out of curiosity … I know the answer to this is all over the place but I mean if somebody did want to like to get started and dip their toes into a way that was like perhaps could be somewhat meaningful, what is it like investment wise? I mean is it usually like a few couple thousand dollars a month to tens of thousands a month? Is it like almost like some of these people come out like myself, you go out and try to build a website, well it could be a $500 website or $50,000 website depending on who you call and what you’re try to do. Generally start calling around figuring out what people do and you kind of understand, okay, I get an idea of like what an investment might cost to make sense but-

Dave Wieser: From a dollar perspective it’s really, really tricky. Because in Carney, Nebraska I remember selling Good Morning America 30 second commercials for $35.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Dave Wieser: I mean that dollar is the same there as it is here, right? But you’re paying for the high balls. It’s just far less high balls in Carney, Nebraska versus Kansas City.

Phil Singleton: How does it work in Kansas City? Are you doing like a zip code or a city or is it city wide or is it like one channel, multiple channels? How does it … how does one even go about like figuring out who’s gonna see what, where, and what channels?

Dave Wieser: Well any station can provide you with the coverage map and the way Nelson breaks it up is what’s called DMA’s. Designated marketing areas, and for Kansas City it’s gonna be your major counties and beyond. So you’re gonna have some spill over. There’s no doubt.

Phil Singleton: Look, I’ve seen some commercials that seem to be like, when I’m flipping around or even on a cable station, they seem to be playing on different channels. Is that something because you’re buying it through like a cable … how does that work? Or should it only … am I not seeing this right? Am I only seeing it on one channel and thinking that I’m seeing it on multiple channels?

Dave Wieser: So your local broadcasters … that like your ABC, CBS, your big four. If you buy an add on the ABC station, that ad is gonna run on the ABC station in that market. It’s not gonna matter if you’ve got Comcast. It’s not gonna matter if you have Sure West or AT&T or Google Fiber, or any kind of paid TV for provider. That ad is going to run the whole market.

Phil Singleton: Just on the one station, okay.

Dave Wieser: Yeah, just on that one station and that’s why they talk … that’s why the reach is so powerful. But let’s say-

Phil Singleton: So do most companies pick a station or do they do all three or how does it-

Dave Wieser: So you asked on the approach to what’s the cost, and I’ll back up a little bit and I’d completely ripped this off from Jim Doyle and Associates. You can look them up. They have what’s called the glass theory. So local advertisers should really look at their whole budget, and it doesn’t even really matter what it is. And most of the time … and you even see it in bigger advertisers … is they’re splitting up that budget between glasses. And each glass is a different platform. Your PPC might be a platform, your SCOs a platform. Any kind of traditional, so a radio station is a glass. All these are different glasses and they take their budget which is a pitcher of water and they just dip a little bit in each of these glasses. What they should do is, from what my experience is … the biggest impact if you’re kind of approach this tradigital approach is just strip away a bunch of glasses and just overflow one TV station. One program, and own it. And be something to somebody. As opposed to just, how many of these direct mail opportunities are there. These shared mailings … there are thousands of opportunities locally for any advertiser to spend money. It’s overwhelming. But from what I’ve seen the biggest success are those advertisers who strip away those glasses and just vest in very few areas.

Phil Singleton: So then what … the company like yours … I don’t know how this would be more … let’s say the you’ve got a company like mine that wants to do perhaps … I don’t know if it makes sense for a web design internet marketing company to do a television ad … but let’s say you do and he comes in and says, “Okay, I want to do a TV ad in Kansas City”. Is it like you gotta do research to see make sense on what station. Do you just pick one? Is there like you go over a business channel? How is that part of that approach? I guess some of it might be … is there anything where there could be a couple different channels and there’s somebody might give you a better deal that they’re running on right now, so you run with that or? I know I’m kind of throwing a bunch of stuff out there. I’m just kind of thinking how does this even work?

Dave Wieser: Well you’re gonna approach it the same way you would any kind of marketing planning. Is you start with the customer, right? Who do you sell to? Whose your ideal customer? What do they look like? Describe them for me? What’s the age, demographics, psychographics?

Phil Singleton: Do they have better data now because stuff runs through cable a lot? Do they know stuff really better than they would without cable or does that make a difference? I’m just wondering how well stations like know what their demographics is versus like-

Dave Wieser: A lot of them will commission … I mean have you heard of Scarborough … that’s probably the biggest one where it’s qualitative research. So they’re gonna be doing surveys throughout the market a couple of times of year. Marshall Marketing is another one. You can dip into what is the demographic profile of a certain program. And with TV, because programs change from every half hour or hour or whatever it is, you’ll see audience changes between those programs. So we have to do the homework up front to understand what program might make a lot of sense to reach the ideal customer.

Phil Singleton: Interesting. And then, how … cause I can imagine … and we talked about this before … working on our previous conversations, Dave, and kind of even before we started recording the show and that is … to me it makes no sense to do any kind of traditional demand creation if you don’t have something on the internet to make sure that you capture your own demand. Cause it’s like … So kind of speak to that a little bit. Do you agree with that? Is it like when people are out buying media now … do you think they could do a better job of driving stuff to a website or is that something that’s still missed? Is people doing a better job of that? How has that kind of changed since you originally got in the business versus how it is now.

Dave Wieser: That is massively important. I think I even heard you, Phil, on another podcast talk about this. And it makes zero sense at all to invest in mass media and have a very weak digital footprint.

Phil Singleton: You think people are still doing that? It seems that some do.

Dave Wieser: I absolutely think they’re doing it. I see it every day.

Phil Singleton: I mean I can give a perfect example of a company that I know that I’ve seen recently do advertising and then go to look them up on line and they haven’t really worked on their reviews at all. So it’s almost like they do this thing, sounds compelling, do a brand search, they pop up. They’re getting killed on reviews because they’ve only got three reviews and they’re not so great where they should have like 50 and all of a sudden that money that they spent just went to the competitor. [inaudible]That has 50 or 100 reviews that’s been working on their digital presence and all of a sudden those guys just stole the TV dollars from the guy that I just saw.

Dave Wieser: Happens every day. Something as simple as buying your own brand and Google ads which cost nothing, you know. The SCO part is again massively important because that’s automatic trust. Consumer’s gonna Google and if the maps don’t show up or if it’s not that kind of relevant search but you’re in the top … you’re ranking for these key words … well Google says they’re, I should be seeing them right away then I should probably put them on my list. There’s a little bit of … I don’t know if the local advertisers are thinking that my TV advertising or traditional advertising is kind of going to take care of that for me. It won’t. You have to have a completely separate digital strategy to-

Phil Singleton: It’s almost like what good is the brand awareness that you create if you haven’t stacked the deck in your favor on the internet. If your website sucks, no good content, you don’t have good reviews, you’re not participating in social media, I mean you could do brand awareness all day long on mass media and all of a sudden the guys that are doing it right look ten times better than you. So that’s what I was getting at in the beginning is yeah, I think demand creation works. It’s like, “Oh, yes I do need a plumber”, but I’m not gonna go from the TV to the phone like I used to. I’m gonna go from the TV to the internet to the phone. So it’s like-

Dave Wieser: Well, nobody ever goes from the TV to the phone unless your somebody-

Phil Singleton: They probably used to though to some degree, right?

Dave Wieser: Maybe if you’re [inaudible] pets right? It’s just not that kind of platform. I have never thought of it like that. It’s an influencing, perception changing, attitude changing, platform. It’s ones that shapes opinions about a brand over time, whether it be positive or good based on the message. If you look at … I cannot stand bringing up political … we’re in a mid-term … you’re gonna see a lot more political ads. But these politicians have one chance, one chance to win. They’re gonna put three-fourths of their budget into TV. That can be backed up. Look at any study. And they do that because they’re trying to change the perception but obviously-

Phil Singleton: That works, right? Obviously they wouldn’t put so much money into it.

Dave Wieser: So that’s for a local advertiser. They have to be committed if they wanna … they can’t dip their toe in … they would have to be committed on almost in perpetuity to be committed to these traditional platforms.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, you never see in a mid-term election or an election, one advertisement. I mean those guys are of course are going on a time frame but they are doing a lot of it consistently over the time that they’re going after versus just kind of dipping their toes and hoping oh that one or couple commercials is gonna do what it takes to get the vote. It doesn’t work like that.

Dave Wieser: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Well, one thing I was gonna say is it seems like it’s gotten better, although maybe not … over the years it was almost laughable where the quality difference between a national commercial versus a local one, was almost comedic in terms of how bad it was. And I’m sure there’s still some of that to this day but it seems to be that it’s gotten a little better. There’s local companies now that have TV commercials that seem like the production quality has gone up some, that are really good, but you don’t see so much the really, really bad ones, I guess. Or maybe I’m noticing less or maybe I just don’t watch as much TV anymore, but any comments on that? And how do you go about making sure that you’ve got a good quality commercial if you decide to do something let’s say in a local market?

Dave Wieser: Wow, quality commercial … equipment technology has gotten so much better and cheaper so there’s a lot more I guess, democratization of the creative services opportunities. So you can get really good production for a relatively low cost. Local advertiser for the best local TV commercial might be spending 25 grand or even more. Can get something easily less than 5. No problem. I’m definitely not an expert in that area, in terms of the actual technology and how they shoot. It’s just, I look at the ad. Is it distractingly bad? Does it pass that test? Is the message crystal clear?

Phil Singleton: Well that’s when it helps to have a marketing person like yourself come in and actually try and … cause I could see some companies saying, “I’m either gonna like go direct and do my own commercial” and maybe the TV station says, “yeah, sure, we’ll do the” or somebody will just say well … and it’s just kind of like the production is just kind of whipped together just to kind of get it going. Almost like if you do like a magazine ad in some cases. I don’t know, I’m just saying sometimes you can spend some time on the good advertisement for the magazine. Do it up or sometimes you can just be like okay the magazine got you to commit to it and all of a sudden everybody else says we’ll whip something up for you and put something in there and all of a sudden it’s done just to get it done, type of thing. Or am I oversimplifying?

Dave Wieser: Well still, all the stations, all the platforms are gonna have … they’ll approach you to do the ad for you.

Phil Singleton: But you can do your own I guess, is that how it works or they’ll do it for you?

Dave Wieser: You should do your own. You should definitely … and that’s something I had to learn over time is what is the point in investing all this money into shaping perceptions and not and just … it’s almost like the message is an afterthought. So yeah, it never made any sense to me why a local advertiser shouldn’t put a little more thought and effort into the actual ad itself.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well look I’m just gonna bring it back to close the interview out and just kind of things that … anything you want to talk about or like about. I ask people favorite things in Kansas City. Is there … it’s funny cause I’ve asked people that have lived here … what they’re favorite restaurants are and like five people in a row told me Q39. I’d never been there until last night and it was really good. I don’t know if it’s my favorite BBQ place right now. I still like Smoke Stack, probably feels a little more like … maybe it’s been part of growing up type of thing … but yeah, any types of places that you like, anywhere? Businesses you admire? Anything, just tell us what you like about Kansas City.

Dave Wieser: I like Kansas City because it’s a big little town. You have … commutes aren’t terrible, you do get some kind of the small town kind of neighborhood feels within different pockets. But you still have national things going on with professional sports and the arts and entertainment districts that make it feel bigger, so I mean that’s why … it’s still got the Midwestern feel though.

Phil Singleton: Any places that you like in particular that are you favorite local … no national franchisey type things but any favorite restaurants or nothing you can ring off.

Dave Wieser: Well-

Phil Singleton: Bars, anything, I don’t know.

Dave Wieser: There’s so many good restaurants but I’m a big … I love MicroBrew … and so Beer Station … it’s actually right across from John’s office.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, exactly, he mentioned that in his … he likes Beer Station too so that’s-

Dave Wieser: If you like good beer, these guys always have rotating taps and it’s the best beer selection in town in my opinion. I know that would probably get me blown up in the beer tasting KC social media page but-

Phil Singleton: Naw, that’s cool. That’s a favorite. That place has already got like two or three votes on my podcast so-

Dave Wieser: One thing that I do kind of want to close out with is … we talked about what works the best and that’s a hard question to answer because of all of these different influences that drive a consumer purchase. So there’s two key metrics that every business should be looking at. The first one is the advertising to sales ratio. So a retailer, a furniture retailer is gonna have a different threshold of pain as to how much advertising they can spend, versus maybe an air conditioning company or plumber. You should know that number. So if you’re spending money on advertising whatever in all of these places, and you’re growing and you’re still hitting … you’re not overspending, then your advertising is working.

Phil Singleton: Right, okay.

Dave Wieser: If you are not growing and you are … one, not growing or you’re over spending and not growing. You’re over that advertising to sales ratio, then you really need to look and see what’s going on.

Phil Singleton: It gets tricky though, cause if you do the advertising say on traditional media and mass market and it works and it drives people back to the internet where a lot of them are gonna go. And they click on SCO or they click on PBC or they click on PBC on social or whatever, there’s a cost to that but it’s all kind of working together, right, cause you-

Dave Wieser: That’s where messaging comes in. That’s where positioning comes in. Like how are you different. And so there’s this eco system of marketing … it’s really complex and it’s just never as easy as we’re gonna advertise in this place or do these things and expect to grow. So there’s just so many factors that we need to look at and that’s probably-

Phil Singleton: So look at advertising to sales, and if the sales and if the stuff’s working-

Dave Wieser: Advertising to sales ratio. And different businesses would have different thresholds. If you wanna grow maybe that ratio is higher. It just depends on how mature the business is and your propensity to grow … put more money into it.

Phil Singleton: You mentioned one thing as I close out … I’ve done this for some of my clients before … is there are a lot of businesses out there that spend money on TV and some of the ones I noticed that don’t do a good job on the back when it’s my client, we’ll go out and if we see somebody doing a campaign, we’ll bid on their words while they’re doing TV. Especially if they’re not doing a good job picking up on the web presence.

You gotta kind of look out for that stuff too. So if you’re out there creating demand and you’re not catching it online, there’s gonna be other people that are in, especially digital marketing, that are gonna see you create that digital demand and they’re gonna try and steal your marketing dollars when they come back online if you’re not taking care of that other piece of the pie basically. You mentioned, Dave, and I really should have been on your own bat, your own brand works … you should because smart other guys that are trying … are gonna probably bid on your … if they see you doing mass marketing, they’re gonna come back online and bid on your words if you’re not. Or in addition to you. Just kind of another thing that I’ve done myself so I know people are doing it if I’m doing it, other people are doing it.

Dave Wieser: Oh absolutely. And that’s another thing that a local advertiser … if you’re bidding on competitors key words are those really converting. That’s where call tracking comes in and that’s where recording conversations come in, so it just gets more complex by the day.

Phil Singleton: Well, that’s awesome. Some really great conversation that we haven’t had anybody come on the show and talk about these pieces and kind of how they tie together. Tell us where we can learn more about you online and follow what you’re doing.

Dave Wieser: Twitter is @DWCreative and can find me online at DWCreativemarketing.com.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. We’ll put all that stuff up on the show notes. Dave, thanks so much for sharing your experience and all these great tips.

Dave Wieser: Thank you, Phil, really enjoyed it.

Bidsketch Proposal Software Founder Ruben Gamez

Ruben is the founder of Bidsketch, a bootstrapped SaaS app that’s used by thousands of freelancers, agencies and sales teams to create professional looking client proposals. He launched it on the side nine years ago, working nights and weekends, and grew it into a profitable product shortly after it launched. He’s also now starting a new SaaS called Docsketch, which is an electronic signature product that gets sales documents signed 40% faster.

Learn More about Ruben & Bidsketch

Meet Bidsketch Founder Ruben Gamez

Phil Singleton: Ruben, welcome to the show.

Ruben Gamez: Hey. How you doing? Thanks for inviting me.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s going to be really fun. First, I’d just love to get just a little bit of your background, like whatever happened your first steps out of whatever your last stop and kind of the academic world is. Whether if it was high school, college, graduate school, whatever that was like and jumping into the real world, like how you started. Was it in a different direction, jumped somewhere else? Tell us kind of how your path that led you here today was.

Ruben Gamez: Sure. I never went to high school, so I was 15-ish or something when I was done with that and I started working construction actually, in California. That’s how I started out. It wasn’t until years later where I moved to South Florida and I was working … I was at the time, I think it was in my early like 20, 21, just getting into all sorts of trouble. I sort of grew up in a bad area in California. Lots of gangs and all that stuff.

Ruben Gamez: Moved to Florida to kind of get out of trouble and got back into trouble a bit for a little while. Then just got tired of it. Decided that I needed, I should probably go to school or do something. I decided to get a job as a security job, because that’s a good … I could do that at night, do my homework, get paid, then eventually get a job in something. At my job being a security guard, I met this programmer at it was an American Express building. He asked me what were my plans, what was I thinking of doing. I told him going to school. He said, “For what?” I said “I don’t know.” I didn’t really come from that world. I didn’t know any people who had gone to college or stuff like that.

Ruben Gamez: He took out his paycheck from his pocket and showed it to me. He said, “You should get into programming.” I saw that and said, “Wow.” As far as legit money made, that was the most that I had ever seen. I didn’t know that people actually made that much money, so I decided okay I think I’ll check into this. I did, but I went to this really crappy technical school where they have programming. I did that for about a year, and then …

Phil Singleton: What was that like? Pulling your hair out? Did you figure out it was something you wanted to do? Was it like I’m not sure about this?

Well I didn’t know anything about computers. I didn’t have a computer, so my biggest fear was that I’d start school day one and they’d ask us to turn on the computers and that I would just be standing there not knowing how to turn on a computer.

– Ruben Gamez

Ruben Gamez: Well I didn’t know anything about computers. I didn’t have a computer, so my biggest fear was that I’d start school day one and they’d ask us to turn on the computers and that I would just be standing there not knowing how to turn on a computer. So because I didn’t have a computer. What I would do is I would write out programs on a notepad at home, and then when I got back to class I typed them all out and of course they had errors and stuff like that. It was about six months before I was able to get hold of a computer to be able to start thing that way.

Ruben Gamez: Then I met somebody and got a job doing technical support for Compaq. It was just like $12.00 an hour or something like that, but it was a lot of money to me at the time. I thought I made it. That’s it. I stopped going to school after about a year. Through there I met somebody else who had his own website. I asked him how he did that. He just like…you can teach yourself all sorts of web stuff. I just got fascinated with it and spent a lot of time doing it. Built up a couple of websites. Did a lot of stuff with computers and all that stuff. Just self-taught. Actually I’m studying between calls and all that stuff at that place.

Ruben Gamez: Now after about a year, year and a half or something like that, I created a thick portfolio and got certifications for the past and got certifications for programming for different things and got a job doing development. They hired me at a payroll company. It’s a privately held payroll company in the United States. They hired me … At the time it was small at the time. Just a very small amount of people. They didn’t have a developer, so I was the first one that they hired. They said that they really didn’t plan on building their development team around here. It was kind of like a test for them. Definitely a test for me. Then over the next few years I spent there eight years. I learned more-

Phil Singleton: At that time you must have really been picking up some hard skills at that point, so that was a nice-

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. Once I got into it, like when I first got the tech support job I spent all day, all night just programming.

Phil Singleton: Wow okay. You’re off and running then.

Ruben Gamez: I have an obsessive-type personality. Over the years I hired a couple people. I became a dev lead then hired more people. Then I had dev leads, eventually I ended up where I was managing the web development department, managing managers as well as business and other things like that. That’s where I realized that I was making a lot of money, but I didn’t like what I was doing because I wasn’t programming anymore and all that stuff. Read a couple books about just starting your own business and doing products and did that on the side and had some success. Grew it for about a year and a half, and then there was enough to replace my salary. Then did that and grew a team there and all that stuff.

Phil Singleton: So that last job at the payroll company was when you started the sketch on the side that was the birth of …

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. After being there many years and getting promoted and getting bumps in salary. I got to a point there like okay money isn’t really … Because when you’re poor it was a big deal. But then once you start getting at once you have it, if you’re not doing something that you don’t really enjoy, then …

Phil Singleton: Days get really long.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome, dude. That’s the most, probably the most amazing story I think I’ve heard in tech firsthand like that. Really cool and inspirational how you totally … You bootstrapped the app. You have it up in your bio, but you basically bootstrapped an entire career from … It could have gone a totally different direction if you didn’t have the ambition and tenacity to make it happen. That is so awesome. Wow. I’m blown away. I didn’t know that was your whole story. I mean, I’ve known of you and known you kind of, for a few years now, but I didn’t know that part of your story. Thanks for sharing that. That’s amazing.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah of course. It’s always hard to know where to start when somebody asks about … Go back to where school or wherever you started and say …

More About Bidsketch

Phil Singleton: That’s the thing, is like where you’re … yeah. So awesome. Let’s talk a little bit about what Bidsketch is, because like I said, a lot of our listeners, probably half or more are digital marketers and they have their own agency, whether its web design or SCO or that type of thing. We played around with doing … I never really committed to getting one, course I probably now am going to sign up for Bidsketch and really make this happen. We still, embarrassingly enough, still do stuff in documents, right. We do a lot of proposals. Tell us what, how Bidsketch would make my life different and maybe some other freelancers or agencies that are still doing it the hard, old-fashioned way.

Ruben Gamez: Sure. Most people that really like Bidsketch, they use it because basically the biggest benefit that most people get is that it cuts their proposal time by a lot. On average we say in half a lot, but there are a lot of people that say they go from hours to really just minutes. That’s the reason we do that in Bidsketch is because it lest you save up parts of proposals and entire proposals. It lets you set up not just templates, but also sections of proposals and sort of piece together, mix and match sections, images, stuff like that very quickly to create proposals. Then also automatically as you’re doing that … Let’s say as you’re putting information or templates that you have, it will automatically replace the main address, different fields, so that you’re not manually having to update that. Also getting to update that because it’s a common thing. When people are working with proposals, where they’re renaming or copying to update something. Of course that’s an embarrassing situation when you’re unable to Along with that, also helps in notifications. You get to know when they actually open the proposal, when they read it, how long they read it, if they downloaded it. Then it makes the whole-

Phil Singleton: Are you sending them to an HTML place to look at, or is it a PDF?

Ruben Gamez: It’s a link. Once it’s done, they can either send it directly through Bidsketch or they can grab sort of and share the link.

Phil Singleton: Then when they open the link, that’s how you snag the analytics of how often they checked it-

Ruben Gamez: Right. They email all that and it’s viewable on the Bidsketch website.

Phil Singleton: Then they can download it? It sounds like they can download it-

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, they can download the PDF version of it as well. Then once they’re okay with it, they approve it, there are things like optional fees so they can just select, which is good for upselling and stuff like that. That’s helpful. All the people like that. Then the electronic signature part of it where they can just approve, sign really quickly without having to download the whole print, fax, email back.

Phil Singleton: Is there anything like, hey okay I did it online. I signed it, let’s say electronic signature, something that would trigger say some of us have a web development project we do fixed fee and half down type of thing, tie-in to an invoice-type situation, or …

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, we integrate with Fresh Books with Zapier, and then we have the zap integration so that taps into over a thousand apps at this point. Most any invoicing app can be integrated using the Zap integrations.

Phil Singleton: So it kind of works like that, where you could get a down-payment right like on an action or something? Let’s say I signed a proposal. Then what?

Ruben Gamez: Then you can either send the invoice through Bidsketch, but if you have an integration tied in, then you will send it through your integration. Or, some people they have an embed or payment for link that they add to their approval message. In Bidsketch, you can have approval …

Ruben Gamez: Their approval message, so in Bidsketch, you didn’t have approval messages. Once something gets approved, you can have like, “Okay, great. The next steps are steps; download this or whatever, and please fill this out” and you can have a payment button or link there. You can basically put in HTML in there.

Phil Singleton: Sweet. So most of your clients, what are they like? Professional Services? I could see that some might not work for a home services or a plumber or something like that, but for agencies, freelancers-

Ruben Gamez: Definitely we do have a fair amount of home services as well. We have-

Phil Singleton: Oh for like, okay they’re doing projects or something like that, like maybe a remodeling, right? And then they would have a proposal.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, like remodeling … All sorts of stuff. It used to be very specific to mostly freelancers and agencies, marketers, web designers. Over the years, we’ve gotten more variety. We still have that segment as well, but we not necessarily having more sales teams join the system, and home services and different types of businesses, and basically anybody at this point that sends out client proposals.

Ruben Gamez: At the very beginning we were for creatives, specifically.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Let’s get into how you got this launch and how you ended up getting clients and the digital marketing part of it because, here you’ve got a great tool that can help people grow their businesses by helping them save time and streamlining the process, but at some point, even still today we all wanna grow some more. What got you started in terms of getting new customers and getting the ball rolling, getting some traction sales wise, and what thing are you doing today, to keep new clients and leads coming in?

Ruben Gamez: Sure. At the very beginning before I had started building out any part of the app, I was reading books about marketing and starting with marketing first. So I don’t remember what I had come across but there was something related to SDL that I’d read and I thought it sounded too easy. You do a little bit of research, you find out what people are searching for. Then write some content that targets that key word, or those key words and then you’ll start getting traffic.

Ruben Gamez: Before building the product, what I did was just do a test. I did that exact thing. I wrote a post, I put it in out there and within two weeks it started ranking on Google and getting some traffic, so I thought “wow, this actually works. This is actually pretty cool.” I put a landing page of small email us, and just started with content a little bit. Then immediately did some research to just figure out if this is something people will pay for because at the time, there was nothing like this. Initially it was a little rough to where I wasn’t sure if people … I was getting mixed feedback, but decided I was getting good enough feedback more importantly, from the traffic that I had gotten. I started getting not a lot, it was just a little, but from when you’re starting from zero, any amount of traffic is great. And just the people that were signing up to email us, when’d they’d reply there was excitement there. That’s where it was like encouragement.

Ruben Gamez: Then I started building the product out and at the same time I was doing some back and forth, of product work and marketing. I didn’t wanna just entirely … I kind of understood and it made sense that marketing was important. So it was mostly SEO I did some AdWords back then too, just learning about AdWords and started off with the really high cost-per-click and through a course that I was taking at the time. I’m like “Okay you can get that down like with most things in marketing, your first attempt is probably not going to be the best, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: It’s gonna start off a little rough, but as long as it’s close, it’s like “Okay, I can improve on this, and get it better.” And that’s exactly what I did. Not having the experience, for me, just trusting the stuff I was reading online or wherever out I was coming across it. Just doing the work. With doing the work and making a good effort and doing some research, it started working a little bit too. Nothing was working to this huge amount. It’s just a little bit of traffic, some traffic through paid ads, some traffic through FCO, but certainly enough to keep me interested and it’s like, “Wow, okay, I’m getting something. Some people are setting up to the email list.”

Ruben Gamez: When I got to the point of where it was time to launch, I followed a game plan that from Balsamiq mockups had done a year before, and he wrote about it, which was basically just email a bunch of blogs and tell them that you’re launching … This is funny, back then, this was way more effective than it is now, as are a lot of things … and offer discounts, ask them if they want to write a review about it, and all that stuff. People would. So I only got three people, I emailed I don’t remember how many, we’ll say fifty blogs, that got a good amount of traffic, that had the right type of customer and I got almost no replies, at all.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Ruben Gamez: It was not … my pitch probably wasn’t the best and that was not very encouraging, but I did get a couple of replies and one of them was a write from About.com and they said yeah, they’d be good. So that was just-

Phil Singleton: That’s a nice one, yeah.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. It was really big back then. Then they wrote about it; I launched it in … it wasn’t until weeks later that I got one reply back and then another replied back, some of it was from the original emails. I don’t know why they were so delayed, but it’s like “yeah, well write a review about it.” At the time I was just focusing on designers, so it was like design blogs mostly. The way it works, a lot of times, is that once one writes about you, or once you’re being seen in the right place, the others immediately start following.

Phil Singleton: Okay. Snowball a little bit.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. So that got like that. That counted for some good early traffic … customers. When I launched I did a whole beta period for two weeks, and then the first day I, by the end of the launch, it ended up with 22 paying customers. I did a whole drip campaign that I just ripped off from a friend of mine, who had launched a educational product, but he was following … What’s the guy that’s really famous for his … He’s known for his launch sequence … I think it’s called Launch, literally. I can’t remember.

Phil Singleton: I’m drawing a blank myself.

Ruben Gamez: He’s an internet marketer type guy, but basically, the method is you take a self letter and you put it in a drip campaign, is what it is. Following that, got some good results for someone who’d never done it before, or anything like that. Then after launch, I started getting good reviews, and I started emailing other apps that had similar audiences to us, asking them if they were interested in cross promoting.

Phil Singleton: By this time though, had you had a big break or was it slowly snowballing a little bit?

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, just snowballing. There was no explosion of anything; just pushing, pushing, pushing, hustling. But this is all within the first few weeks of it launching. Got those write ups all within let’s say the first couple of months. I’m emailing a whole bunch of blogs, I’m emailing people who had similar products asking if they wanted to cross promote. Started doing integrations, started doing some integration marketing to where we’d ask them, “we’re thinking of building out an integration with you. You’re one of our top integrations but we’re trying to find out which ones to prioritize so just wanted to check in and see what you can do on the promotional side to help out.”

Phil Singleton: Wow that’s great.

Ruben Gamez: Most of them promoted us because we did that. The biggest one was Fresh Books.

Phil Singleton: Yeah they’re great!

Ruben Gamez: They said, “Yeah we’ll promote you” which is really cool because they had millions of users at the time.

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Ruben Gamez: And when they send out their email to their email newsletter, I was getting so many sign ups, I though our server was hacked.

Phil Singleton: That was a great break!

Ruben Gamez: That one was a good one, and it was just through sending a bunch of emails doing integrations, but [crosstalk 00:23:51] integrations, but actually before we even did the integration, making sure that the ones we’re gonna do first are the ones that are gonna promote us.

Phil Singleton: Right. That’s really smart.

Ruben Gamez: Then more SEO; we worked on proposal templates which that was a big focus and just created a lot more of those because people were searching for that.

Ruben Gamez: SEO. All throughout this period we’re still also doing SEO, but all those other things helped because they helped us get mentions and links, and things that just help Google say, “Hey, there’s a lot of activity around this brand” so any SEO efforts we had going on would be more effective as well. SEO turned out to be the thing that was working the best. All the other stuff was pretty manual, but very useful when you’re getting started and when you’re starting from nothing or very little.

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Ruben Gamez: Then once well sell, okay, we can get a lot more leverage through creating content focusing on very specific types of key words and where the intent is closely aligned to somebody who will pay for a product, and that’s where we just spend all of our time and had the most growth through that.

Phil Singleton: Nice. You still do that a lot today, but on the content I see, you’re obviously blogging on your site. I see blogging on authority websites as well. I mean you put-

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, but I would say the blog side of it would be more of an indirect benefit, more branding related actually, than for customer acquisition. Other content that’s not on the blog is much more effective for converting to paid customers. This is the same for most people that I know that have a blog.

Phil Singleton: You mean when you’re getting published on other people’s websites?

Ruben Gamez: We did that. A lot of guest postings and stuff like that. But I just mean on.

Ruben Gamez:  We did that, a lot of guest postings and stuff like that. But I just mean on our site, like by other people, they’re not typical, like what you typically see on a blog. Which is a lot of top of funnel content, you know?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: Just content like what they, even content within the blog if it’s closer-aligned to somebody who’s going to be a paying customer. So, we might have, so something that did really well for us in the early days when we were focusing on designers was how to write a web design proposal. Right?

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Ruben Gamez: And it’s because there’s somebody who’s searching for this and that’s what they have to do right now. And a lot of them find the information useful but if they also come across a tool that helps them do this…

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Ruben Gamez: Right, just, it’s perfect for that. Compared to like how to do proper upselling for your client. How to follow up on your proposals. How to…

Phil Singleton: Gotcha.

Ruben Gamez: Even though it’s proposal related, it’s a little more top of funnel, and the conversions are less. So we have content that does, so we have content like, we have a post on networking, we have a post on creating sort of like customer profiles and narrowing down and targeting your ideal customer as, you know, as an agency or whatever. And each one of those, let’s say, gets, one of them gets about 2500 uniques a month, the other one lights up, gets about 3000 uniques a month. Not that many conversions compared to content that maybe gets 500 uniques a month. But that is more closely aligned with…

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: …somebody who’s going to be a customer.

Phil Singleton: Gotcha. I mean, I’m putting you on the spot there but you think of one that’s like a topic that’s more, so top of funnel ones I can get more traffic, less conversions. But is there one you can think off the top of your head that’s, here’s a like a sample and we could actually link to, there’s like, oh here’s one that’s got, you know? Maybe not as much traffic cause it’s not top of funnel, but, you know we can…

Ruben Gamez: So just like our proposal templates.

Phil Singleton: Those get, okay.

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. So we have…

Phil Singleton: A page on that, that gets good…

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. So I’m just thinking about like our agency proposal template. When I did the keyword “research” for it, there were at the time, it changes over time, but at the time it was pretty low. It was not that high. And of course it was easier because nobody was really targeted because there’s just not that many searches for it. Created something for it because it’s like, “Okay, this is the right type of customer even if we’re not going to get a bunch of traffic.” I see this all the time. This happened to us several times.

Ruben Gamez: So something that’s, okay, there may be 90 searches a month or something. And generally, nowadays I wouldn’t target something like that as much unless it’s just really perfect.

Phil Singleton: Yes.

Ruben Gamez: And created it, put it out there, started getting traffic to it over, nowadays it takes a lot more time to get.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: Starting from zero. But then, turns out, oh, we’re getting more than that. Let’s say we’re getting like 500. So five times or ten times the amount that is shown on there. It’s just better. But not just that, it converts really, really, really well.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Ruben Gamez: The type of customer is good. So we have pieces of content that are like that.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Is there anything else that you’ve tried? I mean, do you ever try any, like, traditional things? Trade shows or any kind of paid stuff? I don’t know. Any like cold calling back in the day? You ever try any of that? Just out of curiosity. Anything that kinda?

Ruben Gamez: Did a lot of AdWords, and it just over time got really expensive, so…

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: Do a little bit of it nowadays. But not as much. It used to be more effective for us. Facebook ads, have done a lot with Facebook ads and we’ve just not been able to make it work at scale. So we can make it work for, so, if we were starting out from nothing, or had very low volume, then it would be worth the effort to continue to do the Facebook ad campaigns that worked for us.

Phil Singleton: Facebook’s really, really tricky like right now. I hear a lot of people complaining that, you know…

Ruben Gamez: Yeah, it’s getting harder and harder.

Phil Singleton: You’re not, people aren’t seeing stuff they even want to see now. It’s like so scaled back organically. Like just recently.

Ruben Gamez: Right. It’s all leaning towards ads. But we, so we can get ads to work, but at a small scale. Once we turn up the scale, like they stop working, they get too expensive. But because we were sort of like a SAS business and we need a large number of trials and large number of customers to move the needle, if, you know, we’re just adding five a month or ten a month, it’s just not worth our time.

Phil Singleton: Got, yeah, ends up being more to…

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. But if it was the early days, then, you know, great.

Phil Singleton: You gotta do it.

Ruben Gamez: Right. But once you get to a certain scale you sort of stop doing the things that, you know, take, it’s about like opportunity costs. Okay, how much time is this taking compared to other things that we could do that are just come out? Give us a bigger return. But like my wife is starting to do photography and I experimented with Facebook ads, the Messenger Facebook ads, recently.

Phil Singleton: Like the chat bot stuff, yeah?

Ruben Gamez: Yeah. Those were really good. Those were super effective for her. And very cheap. Very cheap. I was surprised. So I think I’ll, you know, I’ll be trying some of that with our software products as well. But as far as like a services business, that was pretty easy. Now that’s kind of newer, so that’s the way it kind of works, right? Like…

Phil Singleton: Right.

Ruben Gamez: Things that are newer, or just cheaper, and Facebook sort of wants to encourage people to do that more. So they’re gonna be more effective. Then everybody gets on board and they get less effective, you know? Then you have to look for the next thing.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Dude, this has been really awesome. I really appreciate sharing this much insight with us. How, where’s your favorite places that people can find you and follow you, you’re most active? Is it LinkedIn, Twitter, socially? And tell us again your website?

Ruben Gamez: Sure. Probably Twitter, @earthlingworks on Twitter.

Phil Singleton: Okay, I’ll make sure I include that.

Ruben Gamez: Bidsketch of course for proposals, and Docsketch for electronic signatures.

Phil Singleton: So is that, yeah, Docsketch, is that out yet, or what’s the?

Ruben Gamez: It’s in early access. So it hasn’t launched yet, but… So that one was interesting because we’re just starting, we’re starting from scratch. Right? So it’s a new website, new brand, no traffic, and we’re now up to like 5000 uniques a month.

Phil Singleton: Nice.

Ruben Gamez: And starting to scale that up. But it’s really the same sort of strategy that I laid out in a recent post, where we basically said, “When you have competitors, it’s really nice.” With Bidsketch we didn’t have this luxury, there weren’t that many, there weren’t any competitors, direct competitors. But the way I think about competitors now differently nowadays. It’s just like anybody that has the same type of traffic that you want, look at their site through tools that can tell you about how they get customers and traffic and all that.

Ruben’s Favorite Software Tool

Phil Singleton: And what are some of your favorite tools to do that?

Ruben Gamez: My favorite, number one, is Ahrefs.

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Ruben Gamez: That’s really the best tool for that. And it’ll tell you what are the top pages, how much traffic are those pages getting, what keywords the site is targeting, where are they getting links, links are really important. And you’ll find all sorts of stuff that is accidental for other companies that you can just sort of double down on.

Ruben Gamez: So like I was doing research on this other product that I’m probably going to be building out. And it’s just for sign up forms, you know? So it’s signup.com and SignUpGenius are the two biggest companies. And they had a couple of pages that were like, that they had written and posted about sign up sheets. But they didn’t have anything else on their site about sign up sheets. Just drilling, using Ahrefs, it’s like, “Okay, this gets some good volume, it’s not very competitive, and they wrote a post about it but they weren’t really targeted. Sort of like an accident. And then they don’t have any other content targeting it.”

Ruben Gamez: So then I just, using a keyword research tool, just sort of like, what types of sign up sheets are people searching for? I found all sorts of different types of sign up sheets, a ton of volume, not very competitive. So we’re gonna be, over the next few weeks, building that out. But it’s, that’s…

Phil Singleton: Just a serendipitous…

Ruben Gamez: Happens all the time. All the time.

Phil Singleton: We see an opportunity through just knowing SEO.

Ruben Gamez: That’s why competitive research like that is really, really, really good. Because a lot of sites get traffic by accident that they’re not taking advantage of. And tools like Ahrefs can tell you where it’s coming from, and you can, like, maybe it’s an accident for them, but we can do it on purpose.

Phil Singleton: In your case you can not only create better content and outrank them again, but you can build a new business around it.

Ruben Gamez: Right. Exactly. Yes.

Phil Singleton: That’s really awesome. So we’re gonna check out Docsketch too, and, you know, link to that and stuff, and any articles that you have as an example of anything else that we talked about, please send those so we can put them in the show notes as well. But Ruben, so awesome man. This has been really, really cool. I so much appreciate you joining us and sharing your experience with me and our users, listeners. Great, great episode. I can’t wait to promote this one.

Ruben Gamez: Alright, well, thanks, thanks for inviting me. It was fun.

Brad Burrow Real Media Kansas City Video Production Services

Lear more about Brad Burrow and Real Media:

Meet Brad Burrow

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of The Local Business Leaders podcast. I’m your host Phil Singleton. Today our featured guest is Brad Burrow. Brad has a full range of experience and a wide range of production disciples from broadcast, film and TV commercials, to high end B2B and B2C communications. He’s directed national spots for Biton USA, did I say that right?

Brad Burrow: Biton, correct, yeah.

Phil Singleton: All right. ESPN, Lowe’s and the Golf Channel. Experience as a writer, director, producer and editor. 18 years building a successful production company. Has a variety of working experience with a range of talented people including Ken Griffey Jr., Trace Adkins, Joba Chamberlain, did I say that right?

Brad Burrow: “Jobba” actually.

Phil Singleton: Joba, sorry. I thought that sounded wrong when I said it out loud. Josh Beckett, Bill Curtis and George Brett. He’s also worked with a variety of clients including the Cincinnati Red, the KC Chiefs, woo! The KC Royals, Kansas University, Maryland University and many more. Brad, welcome to the show.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: I don’t think I even mentioned your company name here so I’ll make sure I mention that at the beginning. It’s Brad Burrow from Real Media, right here in Kansas City.

Brad Burrow: Yep, you got it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well give us a little bit background about how you got started into the business world. Your first days kind of walking out of college or what have you and kind of what put you path to where you are today.

Brad Burrow: Well you know it’s really interesting, I paid my through college playing in bands and really my goal was to try to get signed and become a recording artist so I spent many years working on that. I played full-time for 15 years and wrote music and did all everything you could do in the recording industry outside of getting signed. Through those processes I learned the creative process. Learning how to write music and lyrics and things like that which then kind of translated into learning how to connect with an audience. Learning how to create content that people enjoy and would respond to and that was kind of how I cut my teeth into getting into video production and storytelling.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And then tell us about Real Media, how did that come about?

Brad Burrow: Let’s see how. I started Real Media in 97, before that I’d actually, like I said, played in bands and stuff but I had started a little company called Video Doctor, which I fixed video tapes for Blockbuster Video and ended up having every Blockbuster from Minneapolis to San Antonio and Houston sending their broken video tapes to my house in Olathe, believe it or not.

Phil Singleton: Wow.

Brad Burrow: I was on the cover of the Business Journal. It was a pretty crazy thing. The problem with that business is that it was pretty short lived because video tapes were going to go away. Technology was changing so I realized that I needed to do something different. I’ve got a marketing, bachelor’s degree in marketing from Wichita State, computer science minor. One of the things you learn in case studies is that business there’s a cycle to the businesses and so I knew I’d better do something, learn something different so I went out and bought a video camera and a little editing system and I learned how to make videos and that was the beginning of my career as a director and video producer. That was probably 25 years ago.

Phil Singleton: So that’s pretty much self-taught almost it sounds like. I know the internet didn’t probably have a lot of courses and things like that and blogs that could teach you. YouTube where you could basically self-study your way in a short period of time.

Brad Burrow: Very true. Actually the interesting thing about that, I made a lot of mistakes. I had to learn from my mistakes a lot and but I also don’t have kind of the baggage that comes with somebody that’s gone through film school. When you go through film school you think there’s only one way to do something. Well I never had that so I didn’t ever have that one way. My style was a lot different and still is today because of that. I go, I’ll work with somebody that’s actually come through a legitimate film school and will say, “Well you have to do an edit just like this.” Well no you don’t. You don’t have to do it like that. A lot of my work is based on feel and if it doesn’t feel right I keep working with it til it feels right and then usually it’s pretty impactful at that point.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And how do you think things have, obviously you’ve been doing it for 25 years and 25 years ago the internet wasn’t what it is today so I’m assuming that’s changed video a whole lot. The way it’s consumed. Where it is. How it’s produced. Any comments on that piece of it from your perspective?

the quality of video on the internet now is way better than it ever used to be.

– Brad Burrow

Brad Burrow: Well technology in general but even the internet has changed. It used to be for example that if I wanted to have the potential of getting work from somebody, I’d have to send out a VHS tape with our demo reel so they could watch it see, oh yeah, these guys are good. None of that anymore. I can be on the phone with somebody and send them a link and they’re looking a video piece or whatever it is. It’s changed the selling cycle a lot which makes it a lot easier to sell. And the quality of video on the internet now is way better than it ever used to be. We used to spend hours compressing video to try to get it optimized so it play back good. It would take forever. Now, none of those things are issues.

But I tell you one of the challenges that we have as a business is that the barriers to entry to get into video production have come way, way down and it used to be you’d have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get high end cameras, editing systems, edit bays, all the stuff that would go into just making a basic high end piece of video. Now you can go to Best Buy and buy a little camera and laptop and you’re a video production company. It’s really forced us to rethink our business model and rethink how we deliver content and all that. It’s the way technology changes and you got to roll with it and you learn to adapt. Ultimately still comes down to being able to tell a story and being able to impact somebody.

Phil Singleton: That’s a great point. One thing I think we can segue into, from my perspective doing web design, digital marketing, videos has become so hugely important right now as a way that, all talking about trying to get, everybody wants to get targeted traffic to their website or drive demand and drive traffic back to generally speaking the kind of companies that are doing it right, you’re trying to some way, shape or form are driving you back to the web presence which is usually their website. Video’s become so important because once you get somebody to a website, well you got to get people to know, like and trust you quickly and video’s one of the best ways to do that. Like you said, to tell a story or maybe see who the people are behind the company and get really quickly, build that trust up as quickly as possible.

Even though we and you and a lot of people in marketing know that’s really important, I still think not nearly enough of small businesses are doing this. I have my own personal opinion and that is I think people think a lot of this stuff these days is actually still expensive like it was and they’re just thinking, okay, man to write a book, that’s a huge project, maybe I’ll do it someday. To get it right, like a proper good commercial quality video for my company cost prohibitive. I’d like to do that. Sure I know it’s important but way too expensive maybe for the small business owner or podcast or whatever it is. The barriers I think are small but I still think they’re much more attainable than maybe some of the business owners or the small business community thinks they are. Can you speak to that? And what things small businesses can be doing to start incorporating video into their marketing and their business model.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. The first thing I would say is that the power of video and converting even in a eCommerce site. You have companies like eBags, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, we’ve got several of their bags.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: And I think largely because probably my wife saw their videos and bought them.

Brad Burrow: Exactly right. You see they’re very simple. One camera, sometimes two cameras but it’s somebody on camera that’s demonstrating all the features of a backpack or something like that. And you’re like, “Wow, that’s cool.” Well, they’re conversion rates are way higher than their competitors because of those videos. We’re visual learners that’s the big thing about video. It’s like I think one second of video is worth 1.8 million words. Our minds process the visual images so much faster and at so much more depth and retention with video and movement than from reading something that we can make decisions quicker.

If you’re not using video you’re missing out on a big opportunity especially on the eCommerce side of thing. Any small business. But most, like you said, most small businesses think it’s I can’t afford to do something like that. Well actually can. One of the challenges that we’ve had as a business model is figuring out okay, we’ve been a high end production for over 20 years. We’re doing TV spots. I’ve had spots with a 80 to $100,000 budget before. What happens is, the big, big brands are spending that kind of money. Well a lot more than that actually, on production but a little small business can’t really do that.

I wanted to come up with solutions for small businesses so we came up with a business model called Stream Stage which basically is about 10% of the cost of normal production. The great thing about it is, is you can create all this video content that’s still high quality. It’s still broadcast quality, you can see it on a national network but it’s very affordable. The way we do that is by doing it more in a live production environment. Understanding, we understand that there’s a big need for video and it’s only going to increase but the challenge is how to provide that at a cost that a small business can afford.

Real Media’s Stream Stage

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I definitely obviously full disclosure here, Brad and I met a short time ago, I think we’re already kind of like minds and very excited about collaborating and do a bunch of things. I am so excited about Stream Stage. Already referred clients to them and we keep doing so because I think this is such an important of the business. I’ve done some video, if you visited our site, our homepage, you’ll see that we’ve tried to do a little bit. I’m looking forward to work with Brad to do some more that’s better and more thought through because in the video that we’ve done on our website, we’ve noticed our conversion rates have gone up quite a bit. And we just barely scratched the surface.

And that’s one thing, like Brad you’re going to talk about a little bit more too, I think it’s like, it’s one thing to be careful I think about any type of content that we put out there that people will say is important or is helpful in terms of maybe generating leads or helping conversion. Sometimes we’ll say things like, every company needs to be blogging. I do believe this is really important to be blogging but once you just kind of say that word blogging then people just think like, they just do more blogging. I think it’s just like video. You just go out there and say, “Oh he said video important. Just go run out and do videos.” So they’re out shooting mindless stuff on an iPhone and dropping it on their website. That’s not really what anybody’s saying. You got to be thoughtful about the things that you’re doing.

Some of the things I think, and you can speak to this more, I think might be important forms of video are something where a person sees you talking. I always think it’s important to be able to see the staff myself. If it’s a doctor or a lawyer are somebody, at least at some point you can see the person talking. See their voice. Look into their eyes. Also, testimonial videos where you have other people saying you’re awesome, I’ve worked with you. And then maybe some types of things, you have a lot of experience with is just trying to figure out marketing message or maybe even trying to build story into something, some marketing videos.

Can you speak to those types of things? What people should really be working on ’cause I think it’s like, you just don’t want to always say video’s important, just go run out and get some video. Then you get price shop some video and then you get something that doesn’t have a lot of strategy baked into it. You put it up on website. You said more video, we did more video, we put it on our site. Nothing happened. Well it’s not just about the video. There’s got to be some strategy behind it. Can you speak to that a little bit?

It’s just like that in storytelling. If you’re going to create content that really impacts an audience, you’ve got a message and you need to know as much about your audience as you can because we want to know what kind of fish we’re trying to catch.

– Brad Burrow

Brad Burrow: Right. Yeah, you’re exactly right. I use the analogy a lot of fishing. If you’re fishing let’s say you want to catch bass. Well you have a pretty good idea where you’re going to fish. You know what kind of bait you’re going to use. You’ve got a good idea of how you’re going to get them into the boat. It’s just like that in storytelling. If you’re going to create content that really impacts an audience, you’ve got a message and you need to know as much about your audience as you can because we want to know what kind of fish we’re trying to catch. Are they a stay at home mom? Are they a business owner? Are they a millennial? For example. And then what’s your message and how does that message need to be communicated to that audience so that they’re going to be interested? That’s the bait.

The type of fish is the audience, the message is the bait or the lure and then the call to action’s how we get them in the boat. What we do to get them to bite? The more that we can know about those things up front, the more effective we can be in telling a story that’s going to impact. I call that storytelling with purpose. We want to tell them a story and there’s all kinds of studies and things that talk about how storytelling can impact our brains. It actually a story impacts our retention in different parts of the brain much more effectively than reading or even watching something.

There’s real power in that but if you know your audience and you know your message and you can tell a story that is going to really impact them in a positive then your call to action’s going to be a natural thing that’s just going to automatically kick in. You ask them to do something, they’re going to do it ’cause you’ve impacted them and you understand them. That’s what we try to do is really, really understand the audience and then everything are just tools that we use to do that.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome because that’s it’s such a deliberate repeatable process that you can just, that makes perfect sense. Okay, you go through this. We’ve got these steps. It pretty much works for everybody. Obviously I think storytelling’s really big all the way around and marketing in general is a really hot topic but you really help bring it to video in a way that’s really easy to understand. But then I kind of even see in my mind right now, it’s like okay, you got this process with the fish kind of analogy and then you bring that into a production environment that’s lower cost for small businesses. Let’s just say if you’re in Kansas City. I don’t want to hone too much in on Stream Stage thing. I do think it’s really exciting to talk about that because it just makes it so much more attainable for small businesses to get that really crucial piece of video content that I believe will really, really help people convert sales a lot more.

If you’re in a small business and you end up figuring out a way to get a good website, maybe get good traffic to your site and you’re just really trying to get that way to get people to convert, well some of things Brad’s talking about like the storytelling or having something quality enough that really resonates, that’s sometimes all you really need to help get people, push them that little extra distance to get them into the sales or the education funnel. You think about the things that really work for folks and you’re just like, gosh, I wish I had this piece to be able to put on my website to be able to benefit the way like some of these really high end production pieces are. Man, if you’re a local small, medium size business, got guys like Brad with his great company Real Media, it’s attainable. You can do it. It’s a great investment and I think it’s really important.

That’s one of the things we’re so excited with working with you because you finally got this piece of the puzzle in a way that can really help clients out. Really appreciate you coming to the show and sharing your story.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Real Talk – The TV Show

Phil Singleton: Where can we learn more about you in terms of like your website and maybe places that you like to hang out social, online? So people can follow.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, at Real Media we have our websites realmediakc.com, not Real Media but realmediakc.com/streamstage if you’re interesting in seeing how that works. That’s a place you can check that out. Go to our website. We have a LinkedIn page. We’re actually doing a, we’re using Stream Stage to create a show on LinkedIn called Real Talk. If you go to our LinkedIn page you’ll see show where we’re interviewing CEOs. Actually we’ve got Joel Goldberg from Fox Sports that comes in and interviews CEOs so we release videos every week on that which is going very well. And then Facebook page, Twitter and all those things as well. It’s a full-time job just keeping up with the social media side of this thing.

Phil Singleton: Right, right. And before I let you go, I like to ask all my Kansas City based guests, just kind of some of their favorite places to go, things to do in Kansas City. Places that kind of make them love being here. Places I guess if they’ve been away awhile that they’d either come back to and one of the first places they’d go maybe to eat or grab a bite or get a drink or refer a friend from out of town to.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Well I’ll tell you, I have people come in from out of town all the time and everybody’s here’s about barbecue. Of course we’re the barbecue mecca. My favorite barbecue place right now is Q39 which I know you’ve heard about too. We live out in on the south part so they just moved out to the Antioch & College Blvd there.

Phil Singleton: Sweet.

Brad Burrow: Man that place is awesome. We could eat there every night every night.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Brad Burrow: And be just happy.

Phil Singleton: I think I was telling you, that’s like you’re probably the third or fourth person that’s been their favorite. I have yet to go there. It’s pretty funny ’cause on Father’s Day I was trying to figure out a place to give my parents. And I think they’d said they’d been there, maybe the original one once and it was like, ah, kind of too busy. They didn’t have good, super good impression of it. Course here it’s like, I’ve heard like three or four times it’s like the people’s favorite restaurant. I got to get out there and try this place out.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Sounds really awesome.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, you need to try it out for sure.

Phil Singleton: It’s on my list on the short list.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Thanks again for being on the show Brad. Looking forward to hear more from you. We want to welcome you back maybe and dig a little deeper into some of these other video marketing topics.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, love to do it. Thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

How to Use Podcasting as Your Ultimate Sales Trojan Horse

Stephen Woessner is the founder and CEO of the Digital Marketing agency Predictive ROI and host of Onward Nation, a top rated daily podcast for business owners. He’s also the author of several books, one on search engine optimization, another one on viral social media and viral social networking. And his most recent one, which we’ll talk a little bit about today is Profitable Podcasting, a book that I just recently read and loved and we’re going to talk some more about that as well.

Episode resource links:

 

Meet Stephen Woessner

Phil Singleton: Stephen, welcome to the show.

Stephen Woessner: Thanks very much for the invitation to join you and thanks very much for being such a great guest on Onward Nation, you know, a few weeks ago. I really appreciate our time together and that was just awesome for our listeners. So hopefully I can return the favor for yours.

Phil Singleton: All right. Just to get started here, can you kind of fill in the gaps and let us know how you got started in a digital and what brought you here today into the business that you have?

Stephen Woessner: I think kind of like, you know, most business owners sort of being an accidental business owner but yet entrepreneurship really truly is in my family DNA. Predictive ROI is the fifth company that I’ve owned but I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I mean everybody, back from when my grandfather immigrated here from Istanbul, Turkey and so we’ve all, you know, the 10 grandkids, we’ve all been business owners and so it truly is part of our DNA in my family.

And Predictive ROI really started when after I wrote my first couple of books that you just mentioned, I was at the University of Wisconsin at the La Crosse campus. So as part of faculty and academic staff and when the first book came out and then the second book came out, you know, it turned into consulting opportunities and speaking engagements and I wasn’t pursuing any of those.

And I just said thanks, but no thanks. I didn’t want there to ever be a conflict of interest with the university or anything like that. I was concerned about that. But then after a while it was, it was like, Gosh, you know, this could be kind of interesting. And so you know, one weekend one of the readers of my SEO book said, “Hey, could you help me build a keyword list?” And I said sure. And I said, “But you gotta pay me up front.” “Okay, how much?” And I said “$300,” and he hit me up for $300 on PayPal. And I’m like, oh my gosh, this is awesome. And then it just kind of started from there. And that was, I don’t know, about 10 years ago now. And Predictive ROI has been growing ever since.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So that’s how you get started. It was basically just helping somebody off basically some SEO and it’s rolled into your own agency. And now, I mean, what do we do now? Can I ask like what’s your agency look like? What’s your ideal client look like? What kind of services are you providing?

Stephen Woessner: Well, you know, when we started the business here again, like most entrepreneurs, when you’re just starting out, you know, prospective clients come to you and say, “Hey, could you do this,” and “Hey, could you do that?”

And the typical response is “Yes we can and it’ll be this much.” And then pretty soon, you know, two, three years in, we’re doing all kinds of stuff in digital, right? And in just about everything that would fit into the quote unquote ‘digital bucket’ we were doing. And I don’t say that from a braggadocious perspective, I say that as a “Geez, that was kind of a problem in our business model,” perspective because, you know, we’re doing all of this stuff and doing it okay, but probably not doing it as well as if we really focused on a few things. And now we’re really focused on a few things.

We really focus on helping clients get very, very clear about what their point of view is, like, why they do what it is that they do, what their thought leadership is. And then we help them plant that flag firmly in the dirt.

– Stephen Woessner

We’re not a creative shop. We really focus on helping clients get very, very clear about what their point of view is, like, why they do what it is that they do, what their thought leadership is. And then we help them plant that flag firmly in the dirt. Like, “This is what we do here, this is who we do it for, this is who we don’t do it for.” And then we helped them develop thought leadership around that. We call that cornerstone content: content that we’re creating on a consistent basis, likely weekly and as either, you know, audio, video, blog content, whatever, that really pounds that stake solid in the dirt.

And then we’d create a channel agnostic strategy around that. So if it’s a podcast, we turn that into a hub that, yes, there’s episodes, but then there’s so much more than that, like you and I talked about during your episode on Onward Nation where the podcast episode like that one piece of audio, that’s cool, but can you turn that into Google reviews? Can you turn it into a blog post that drives then organic search? Can you turn it into a social campaign? So, we take all of that stuff and then ultimately how does that drive revenue back into their core business? So there’s always a monetization strategy. So that’s what we’re focused on now. And it’s been really, really good for us, being that focused on it.

Phil Singleton: Are you finding, is podcasting a part of it for a lot of these folks that are your clients or is it a part of … Does it work for some, not for others? Do you think it’s one of these things it’s more universal for most companies? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Stephen Woessner: I don’t think it’s universal for everybody. And the reason being is because certainly there’s some skill sets involved. Not everybody’s going to feel comfortable having a podcast and I totally get that. And and so there is some comfort level there, but it also needs to fit well with the business model too. And so we’re super, super focused on business to business.

So you had asked me before, and I didn’t answer it, I’m sorry, you asked me what our ideal client is and that’s typically an owner of a business to business professional services firm, across the number of different industries, but typically a B2B professional services firm owner that is doing about a million to $20,000,000 a year in revenue. They’re beyond the startup, but they’re not too big that we can’t support them any longer.

And then the podcast and the monetization strategy around it needs to drive business back into or drive revenue, excuse me, back into the core business, whether that is interviewing their top prospects as guests on their show and having a system that doesn’t feel schmutzy, but having a system downstream that then opens the door for an opportunity to do business together.

Perhaps it’s sponsors, perhaps it’s live events, perhaps it’s books or webinars or workshops or whatever. But there needs to be that strategy that absolutely without a doubt connects with the content and into their core business.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And that’s really what I want to dive into a little bit more today, is kind of pick your brain on podcasting in general. And the first thing I want to ask is how you get about talking to somebody like me who say a little over a year ago I felt that podcasting was almost kind of a fringe marketing tactic or something that I didn’t realize was as mainstream that it is or becoming.

And then of course I got involved with it and it’s like, oh my gosh. Like, holy cow, what have I been doing and literally I tell people some of the things we’re doing with podcasts and is the highest ROI things I’ve ever done in the 12 years I’ve been doing this. But how do you get some … I mean, you know, for me, I did a little self study, read things from some thought leaders like yourself, but it didn’t take until you actually step into it and realize what’s happening

How do you convince people now that are like, that were like me? To be like, “Hey, this isn’t a fringe type of a thing. You do have to look at it.” And how do you get people to jump into it where I think a lot of people still just kind of have that like wall where they’re like, “Okay, podcasting. Yeah, sure,” type of thing?

Stephen Woessner: I think you’re exactly correct that sometimes there is a wall. So we certainly go through a process of sharing data, sharing what growth rates are, talking about expectations.

Phil Singleton: Do you get that though, when you bring something to a business owner that’s and they’re kind of scratching their head like, “Do we, would we consider?” And you know in your head that they’re probably like a super awesome prospect for it because they are a thought leader. Maybe they come out, they got the skills, they’re charismatic, but they’re still kind of thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

I didn’t mean to cut you off, but you must run into that sometimes where where people are are feeling like that. I’m just curious how you can get them to get over that.

Stephen Woessner: I think part of our strategy is that we’re never trying to sell a podcast just like we’re never trying to sell search or we’re never trying to sell a video. So our business development strategy, if you will, our pitch is we’re always focused on, the client’s data points, the client’s metrics, the client’s business, how they make money, how they’re helpful to their clients, how them being helpful to their clients helps their clients be helpful to their clients, and really understanding their industry. And once we understand that and how they drive revenue into their business and what their growth and so forth is, or what their goals are, excuse me. Then and only then do we talk about video, podcasts, SEO and so forth and how we might be helpful in how we can help them with point of view, thought leadership, cornerstone content, so forth. So we never ever, ever are out to sell somebody-

Phil Singleton: leading on a tactic, so to speak of type of thing.

Stephen Woessner: Right. Never ever, ever, ever. We’re always focused on how we can be the most helpful and then through that conversation we uncover, well it might be a podcast, it might be a video series, it might be none of those things.

Phil Singleton: And then when you bring it … I’m just curious. When you do do the research and you come up and you do come up with a list and podcasts might be one of the tactics that can be good with it. Do you do have to almost sell or pitch why it might be useful because you’ve already identified that it would be good for them? I’m just wondering how you get … or do they normally come around once they’ve seen that and you show them the benefits and all this kind of stuff?

Stephen Woessner: I think if we’re at that stage of the conversation and I’m not talking about a 10 minute conversation, then all of a sudden we sell a thing, you know, typically our conversations are over a period of time, there’s trust building. They’ve had some familiarity with who Predictive is. I mean that’s what’s given us the permission to have that conversation in the first place.

And so sure, there are certainly are going to be some questions about what is the right strategy? Is it a podcast? Well, what’s the advantage there? But again, we’re not selling a podcast. What we’re showing them, our client or prospect, I guess at that point is how this piece of cornerstone content, in this example, a piece of audio in a podcast, how that piece of audio can then become, if they have a vision or desire to become a best selling author, well, how can we structure the editorial calendar behind that show to create the chapters of the book?

How can we use that as a way to have influential thought leaders on your show that can compliment the content that you’re creating for your book? How can then lead to workshop content? How then could it lead to webinar content? And so forth, so it’s never about “Geez, Phil, I’d love to sell you a product.” It’s always about how that cornerstone content can really take their thought leadership and explode it over time?

Phil Singleton: And also I’m thinking you’re … I mean, you’re actually practicing what you preach too, right? Because you got all this great stuff and education, but you’re doing all of it yourself and you’ve been able to grow your business based off of some of these things yourself. You’ve got a book, you do podcasts and you’ve got your own substantial audience. You are a thought leader in your space. So it’s really easy for you to say like, look, you know, if you’re a good candidate for this, it does actually work because we’re doing it for our own business. Right? I mean, so that’s a great thing to kind of be able to fall back on.

Stephen Woessner: Well and that’s a great lesson that you’re sharing with your audience right now and I hope your audience takes what you just shared and puts that into their business that no matter what it is that you do in your business, you need to be the supreme example of that.

Last week, I was back in Ohio visiting some family and my cousin took me to the gym where he normally works out, Powerhouse Gym, and he has a professional trainer who works out with him and it was oh my gosh, an excruciating workout. This guy really knows what he’s doing. Okay. But during a side conversation, Jerry said to me, like my cousin’s working on his sets and Jerry says to me, he’s like, he goes, “I got to stay in tip top shape because I am a walking billboard for what it is that I do.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what Phil just now said,” you. We are all walking billboards for what? Like you could not go out and sell SEO if you sucked at it.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. In my case-

Stephen Woessner: If you sucked at it.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. In my case, I really only feel confident selling things that I’m actually using that work for me and I know some people are good at not … they’ve got the cobbler’s use story and they’re able to market and do things and maybe not do it for themselves, but I’m just not that.

Yeah, I don’t have the sales part in my genes so I’m able to say, “Look, I’m doing this.” I’m not the ideal guy that can go out and so you know, the whatever they say, the ice cube to the Eskimo type of guy, but I have to be able to show, “Hey, I’ve done this. It’s working for me.” I’m actually an introvert. I wouldn’t be on podcasts or building on my own personally unless it didn’t work and there was a lot of ROI attached to it and that’s the only way I can really sell it and prove it.

Of course you’ve taken it to another level type of a deal, but I think … It really does show that it works.

Stephen Woessner: Yeah, I completely agree with you so that when you’re sitting across the table from, you know, a prospect and you’re talking about his or her business, not only can you show the results that you’ve generated for clients, but you can also tell your own story and how you have to show how Google reviews, how asking a host like Stephen after finishing the interview to give you a Google review in the impact of that review has had for you and your business and now using that as a, “Hey, Mr. or Ms. Client, this is why we need to do this within your business and my team? Yeah, we know exactly how to do that,” because you do it.

The Trojan Horse of Sales

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Now I really want to dive into something I’m really super excited about because again, it’s one of these things that you talk about in your book. And I was like, yes, I’m doing something right and you gave me tons of great ideas. I mean, anybody that has any thought about doing their own podcast or trying to understand why it’s so important and how it opens up so many other doors than just the podcast. When people hear podcasts, it’s like this one dimensional blinder thing. Like it’s just this audio thing, but there’s just so much. So many different angles and so many things that give … You’ve gotta read Stephen’s book. It’s just awesome. It’s the one book I wish I would’ve read a year ago. It’s already making our process better and is enabling us to squeeze more ROI out of it. But the one thing that really lit me up in the book, a money thing, but one thing that I’m excited about is the way I’ve been using my own podcast.

I think I told you when you interviewed me, a big part of my initial strategy for podcasting was being guested because the hosts do all the work and would access to their audience and all those things that we talked about, the benefit of being a guest. But then there’s this other whole part of having your own show, right?

And I was dumb in a way because I didn’t have my own show at the beginning when I did this guesting campaign because I could have had access to all these other podcasts consumers on the sixth year shows that I’ve been on or whatever. But my point I’m getting at is, last year I tried to do some outbound marketing. I hired a person for four straight months. I figured, “God, I’ve got this. We’ve got 100 and some odd reviews. Bestselling book. I’ve got a plugin that’s been downloaded on SEO 150,000 times. If I just go call people even around our city and just tell them what I do will just be like, be able to double or triple our…”

I had hired somebody that made phone calls, 40, 50 phone calls a day, one meeting, zero sales informed us.

Stephen Woessner: What?

Phil Singleton: It’s just hard to call somebody up and try and pitch. It’s just hard. But then we came back to it and I said, “You know what? I’m going to use this podcasting way as a way to ask,” you’re going to love this because this is exactly the things that you teach and coach and help people do. As soon as we started this podcast up and I chose the name specifically, I didn’t call it SEO something or web design or WordPress Gurus, this and that. I called it the Local Business Leaders podcast so that when we started making calls to book guests who are, again, this is coming right out of your playbook, potential clients because half of our guests are experts like you where I’m literally picking your brain, trying to get very valuable, free advice for myself and my listeners, that’s half of my guests.

The other half are ideal clients that were hanging the phone up. Now when we call people up and say, “Hey, can we have your executive be on the Local Business Leaders podcast?” Can you guess what the response rate is? It’s like eight out of 10.

And just the fact that they’ll engage and talk with you and understand it. I mean, the value of that is immense and I want you to talk to our audience about how that’s worked for you, how that works for your guests. It’s explained in the book. And just talk about how it works for folks. I’m just starting to see the kind of the power of the access I guess. But again I’ve just been doing this for a few months and I want to get some coaching tips for myself and my listeners because I have been talking a lot about podcasting because it’s just been a huge boom for a business over the last year and I think I’m just scratching the surface.

But I want you to help me with some advice now on what else we can be doing. Are we doing it right? What are the types of things that you’ve seen for yourself and your clients in terms of using this tactic as an access tool? Sorry for that long winded question.

Stephen Woessner: No. It’s a great setup to the lesson for your listeners and, and we call this strategy the Trojan horse of sales and you really illustrated the power of the Trojan horse and I think most people know that story out of Greek mythology but the reason why that’s so impactful is because you are no longer Phil the owner of an agency in Kansas City who’s looking for the new account. You are now Phil the host of a media channel, which represents an audience who that fellow business owner wants to be in front of, you know, he or she was like saying yes to you because now you are a journalist.

You’re not a salesperson. And that is a game changing moment when that happens. And so the reason why that yes is so much easier is because you’ve changed the context of that relationship. Now, what’s really important for your listeners to know too, is that, you know, I think that what you’ve done, Phil, is really smart. You’ve got half your guest list as your dream prospects. Awesome. You’ve got half your guest list as thought leaders who are going to add value to your audience, and certainly your prospects are going to add value to your audience.

Phil Singleton: What do you think about it? Is that the right … That’s just me.

Stephen Woessner: Absolutely, that’s right. It’s absolutely right. Now, the important thing that your listeners need to know too is that just because you have your best prospect or your dream prospect on the show, it’s not, “Hey Stephen, thanks very much.” You hit stop record and or stop on the recording button and now all of a sudden it turns into a sales pitch. That’s going to get schmutzy in a hurry.

And so your listeners need to know that that interview is the Trojan horse you’re now past the city gates of Troy. That’s great, but you don’t jump out of the belly of the horse and start trying to sell and so forth. No, that’s going to get schmutzy.

Instead, what you’ve done is now you’ve architected the start of a two, three, four month relationship where you can send them ongoing content, other great episodes. You can send them eBooks. You can send them other pieces of your thought leadership that tie back to the show so then three or four months later Phil can loop back and say, “Hey Stephen, thanks again for being a guest on the show. Really loved our conversation. In fact, my team and I were just listening to it this morning and you know what? When you mentioned x, that got us thinking about Y. We do Y really well here. Is there a day or time next week that we could sit down, maybe have lunch or whatever and talk about why and how we might be able to do that for you?”

Phil Singleton: And this is again, you’re kind of a couple of contacts later until you get to that point where it’s-

Stephen Woessner: Exactly. Because otherwise, it’s schmutzy. And then of course Stephen’s going to say, “Well, yeah, I’d love to sit down with you and talk about that because you know what? My team is struggling with Y.” And then he or she feels really great about that because you’ve nurtured the relationship. You started off with a really solid give by having them on your show and then you’ve loved on them for months since then. Why wouldn’t they say yes?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Just in terms of like specific steps as an example, I know everybody’s probably a little bit different, but is it a thank you email? Is it a gift? I mean, what are some typical things that you would do over the course where you think you’d soften them up and how much would you contact them? You think it’s not annoying? I mean, your show is so awesome because it’s so professional in terms of the lead up and the follow up and some of the things, of course I’m just going to steal directly from you. I haven’t done quite yet, but I am curious because … What things that you recommend to potential clients in terms of, you know, setting up, is it like a three or four email sequence?

I’ve got one of these things. Again, I’m trying to give them stuff away in terms of free advice, that idea, this might be cheesy, you tell me how it works, after every show I have a guest on, I’m holding this up, I give like a, it’s like a stone coaster that I make featured featured guests and I send them out.

It’s another thing to kind of follow up and get in front of them and have something to hold type of deal and then maybe it will be an email or something, you know, following up and again, social tagging and things like that. But again, for me, I’m kind of just testing things out, see what works, but I know you’ve got some things that probably work in terms of how many touches and what kind of touches and what things do you do after maybe in terms of that kind of an access podcast. Can you give any insight there?

Stephen Woessner: You bet. It’s about five to six, you know, different touches. And you mentioned a couple of them already. Certainly a sincere thank you email and certainly the social tagging. And so we’re writing Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, we’re writing a lot of tweets, you know, 10 tweets off of each of the episodes. We’re tagging the guest in all of those and lots of times in that first conversation I’ll hear, “Hey, thanks for all the tweets,” you know, because people like that, right?

And it’s not about me on the episode. It’s about their nuggets and pearls of wisdom that they shared during the episodes. Right? Okay. So then, I mean that’s just like kind of the ante, that just sort of gets you in the game. That’s just being a good host. That’s just a nice thank you.

And we have a Dream 25, you know, that as part of our overall guest list, the Dream 25 who we are really, really loving on. And so then this is how we take that even further.

Phil Singleton: And Dream 25, is that thought leaders or that’s a client? Dream 25’s a … prospects?

Stephen Woessner: Prospects. Yeah, these are the people we would really, really love to do business with. 25 of them and they’re seeded into our overall guest list. I mean, we’re airing 200 episodes a year, so about 10% of our guests lists are in that category. Okay?

So then then how do we take that deeper? Next is, we’ll take the 25, we’ll break that into five or six different eBooks. So we’re highlighting nuggets and pearls of wisdom. Again, it’s not about me and what Predictive does. It is about we’re taking those … across the 25, we’re seeing commonalities and we’ll come up with five groupings and five guests featured in each ebook.

Phil Singleton: Wow, that’s great.

Stephen Woessner: Complementary thought leaders. And so then there’s the book of like, “Oh my Gosh, I’m …. holy bananas. I’m in an eBook with Gary Vaynerchuk or you know, Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank. Wow.”

And so there’s the coolness factor of that. Right?

Phil Singleton: And how do you go about, do you set it up? Do you tell them you’re doing it, you just send it to him and say, “Hey, we’ve included some of your stuff in the ebook?”

Stephen Woessner: The latter.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Stephen Woessner: Yup. The latter. And now when we’ve got this really cool ebook with their stuff in it. Awesome. Then, we highlight each of the Dream 25 in our weekly email list that goes out to our full distribution. We make sure that they’re on that distribution list, so they receive it and then we also forward it to them to make sure that they saw it.

And again, another thank you. So, so now we see that we selected their episode. Out of all of the episodes we selected their episode as amplification to the entire Onward Nation community over 120 countries. So that’s cool, right?

And then we’ll take that and turn that into like a LinkedIn article and we’ve got 24,000 plus connections on LinkedIn, additional amplification of their thought leadership. Maybe we’ll invite them to co-teach a webinar. Right?

So there aren’t you know, like tangible gifts and not that that’s a bad strategy, right? Your strategy of sending that out is cool. And I have some like, you know, that people have sent to me on other shows, right? So I think that that is cool and that’s a nice touch and then being able to amplify the insights and wisdom that they shared with your community, the audience that-

Stephen Woessner: -and wisdom that they shared with your community, the audience that they said yes to in the first place coming onto your show is huge.

Podcast Encore Interview & Following Up

Phil Singleton: Yes. That’s awesome. Another thing I noticed you do on your show that gave me an idea, too, is you interview a guest, and I don’t know if you do this on every one or just on occasional ones, but I was invited back to do an encore. That’s awesome because then you get somebody to come back. Now they’ve kind of … it just makes you feel … it definitely changes the game. That’s the only person that’s done that in the 70 shows I’ve been on, but it also kind of makes you feel like you’ve got an upcoming deal and more attached to the whole part of it. I don’t know if that’s my feeling or that’s by design or how … why do you do that, I guess, basically, because it seems really smart.

Stephen Woessner: It is by design. Well, a couple of things. You were a guest who shared phenomenal insights and strategies, but in my mind, what really made you different is you weren’t afraid to get tactical, and I love that. I love it when guests do that. So when I think about that, I’m like oh my gosh, I know there’s more here, and I want to learn more, and I know our guests, excuse me, our listeners are going to want to learn more, too. So that’s one piece of the encore.

The second piece of the encore is I walked out of that interview thinking this is a guy I need to learn more about personally as a business owner. Are there opportunities between predictive and what he’s doing in Kansas City? I want to explore those. An encore opportunity is a good way to keep us in our own sort of intersecting spheres. So that’s the other thing.

And then we also use the encore for our Dream 25.

Phil Singleton: That’s what I was thinking, too.

Stephen Woessner: For prospects. And so we reserve that, and that is a way for, again, for our Dream 25 to come back so we have an opportunity to learn more about them, them learn a little bit more about us, and vice versa. It’s just a circle of goodness.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Stephen Woessner: But it’s never ever ever a sales pitch. It’s always about how we can be helpful to our guests, to our audience, to our partners and all of that, never ever ever a sales pitch.

Phil Singleton: And how much do you think in terms of your experience are opportunities coming as a result of the process and that followup, and how much of a part of your process is maybe actually taking that initial step to be like you had mentioned before, hey, you’re kind of being a little more proactive on trying to initiate a meeting or a call, versus a complete inbound thing. Like you went through the process. They were like okay, I understand, you guys are what we need, let’s … you know what I mean? There’s that two-part thing where you’re maybe trying to push it a little bit and they’re the ones where they’re coming right at you because they fell into the inbound funnel and it worked totally passively.

Stephen Woessner: Yeah. I would say it’s 90% proactive.

Phil Singleton: Really?

Stephen Woessner: Yeah. And it isn’t because everything downstream doesn’t work or anything like that or whatever. But when it comes to [biz 00:29:15] [dev 00:29:16], we will never leave something to like well, we didn’t get any calls today. You know, I mean, we are … I don’t want to say ambitiously pursuing, because now it sounds like we’re selling. But we’re ambitiously developing relationships with our Dream 25, so they know that we want to do business with them.

Phil Singleton: But that’s just a huge, huge lesson, because I mean that’s a weakness I think that we have, maybe a lot of owners have is that you get something good, and you’re still waiting for the stuff to come in. It’s a huge missed opportunity for you, not following up and doing stuff, because that’s probably where most of the business is, I’m thinking, if you’re not proactive about it. And that’s just one of those things you’re telling me right now where I’m just like that makes perfect sense, knowledge bomb, where it’s a waste. It’s a total wasted opportunity if you just think you’re going to keep putting stuff out there and it’s just going to come and fall on your lap without any kind of proactive … because these guys, like oh their business, and some of the things you hear and you know, you know you need to be doing it. But unless somebody’s prodding you along and making sure that you keep it top of a mind, you’re just going to fall off with one of these other tactics or opportunities, or maybe they just get back into the work zone, and they don’t realize [crosstalk 00:30:24]

Stephen Woessner: Yeah, we kind of take it for granted. It’s like how often do any of us wake up, feet hit the bedroom floor, thinking, wow, I have got to call that vendor about whatever, I can’t wait to get in touch with him. It’s narcissistic for us to think that our prospects are sitting there just obsessed with us and can’t wait to pick up the phone. Stop it. They have businesses to run. They have the same challenges in their life just like you do. You, you need to court them just like your spouse did not chase you down for you to marry him or her. Right? There’s a courting period to that. You need to show some interest. You need to demonstrate some value. You didn’t propose on the first date. It’s the same thing here.

And somehow business owners get that all discombobulated in their brain thinking that somehow it’s going to be different with this type of relationship. It’s not. We’re people.

Phil Singleton: That’s blowing my mind a little bit, because I’m actually sweating a little bit on this. I’m just like … it’s like there is no real benefit to the full inbound marketing process, which I’m really just realizing right now which is kind of embarrassing, unless there’s an element of that pursuit. Because we do well at our range, but it’s literally the stuff that falls in our lap. Our followup is terrible. Great access and great in the lead generation, probably really terrible on the followup and the touches because I’m thinking, well, we do stuff well enough that they’ll just come to the door when they’re ready. That’s just such a …

Stephen Woessner: It does happen, 10%.

Phil Singleton: Right. And it’s guys like you are out there that are doing it saying there’s got to be the followup, there’s got to be that pursuit, otherwise, and it makes perfect sense, because people pursue us. People close stuff on us as a result of their persistent pursuit, because if I’m really not interested, I’m going to shut them down.

Stephen Woessner: Right.

Phil Singleton: If I’m kind of thinking about it, I let them kind of pitch me for a while. Maybe I don’t do it, but it might take a long time, right? The other guys that are doing it successful to us, we’re not doing it to our prospective clients, and that’s really an eye opener and an action item that I’m going to take right away, and thank you … I should be writing you a check for this episode. That’s some really great insight to really open my eyes up. Some of these things we have to be open to because like I say, a year ago, podcasting was not on the radar. Now it’s the third largest source of our leads and sales coming in. It was not even on the books. SEO, referrals, and now it’s coming off podcasts, which was huge, because there’s other things that we have to generate leads and sales.

So this is another one of those things, like how much money have you left on the table, but not having a followup pursuit process in terms of … because you open these doors up with these great opportunities that work, and these guys, especially those guys, they’re not going to say oh I went on your show, looked at your website, we’re going to hire you next week type of thing unless we’ve got some really good followup plan in place. So that for putting something at the top of my list today.

Stephen Woessner: You’re welcome, my friend.

Phil Singleton: So that’s a ton of stuff. My head’s spinning right now. I’m sure our listeners are too. How, in wrapping this up, tell us how people can reach you and something you’re doing right now and how we can learn more about things you’re doing?

Stephen Woessner: Some pretty simple ways. Your listeners can find my books at Amazon. Just go into Amazon, search for Stephen Woessner. You’ll find all three of them there. At predictiveroi.com, that’s our hub. You’ll find our podcast, our blog, all of our helpful resources and whatnot that are free there at predictiveroi.com, and then please feel free to look me up on LinkedIn and drop me a connection request, and I’ll accept.

Phil Singleton: That’s pretty much your favorite social channel. It is mine now.

Stephen Woessner: LinkedIn is my favorite. That’s where deals get done, and deals get done really quickly. And so we’ve invested a lot of time and effort in building that. Those are probably the three best ways.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Everybody, Stephen Woessner. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really, one of the things I’m most passionate about is talking about podcasting, which is kind of funny because podcasts about podcasting type of deal. It has been a game changer, and you’re one of the guys who’s really helping folks like myself and businesses all over the place set it up and do it right, but make sure we’re doing … you don’t just do podcasting for the sake of podcasts. It’s got to be worked into the whole business strategy, and you’ve also got to be talking about making sure that you’re taking advantage of all these other things, and not just doing that one-dimensional piece of it. And this is all stuff that you cover in Profitable Podcasting, which is why I recommend that everybody that is interested in podcasting, is thinking about doing a podcast or everyone has, should we be doing this type of a thought in their head, you definitely should read this book, and it will open your eyes on why a guy like myself, who doesn’t like to spend money on anything unless there’s a huge ROI involved, why I’ve gone hook, line, and sinker into podcasting. It’s really changed my business and everything that we basically do in terms of our own business and even delivering services to our clients.

So Stephen, once again, thank you very much. We’re going to put all the notes here up and links to your book and website on the show. I hope we can talk to you again at some point once I unpack some of this and figure out more questions I want to ask.

Stephen Woessner: Well, thank you very much for the invitation. I look forward to crossing paths again when the timing is right. But thanks for the invitation, and thank you again for when you were my guest on Onward Nation and our listeners, I hope, had a very similar experience to what I was able to share with your listeners. I know that they did. You were so practical and tactical and step by step, which again, we love.

Phil Singleton: Thank you for the kind words, sir.

Stephen Woessner: Oh my gosh, it’s awesome. Thank you, my friend.