How to Use Digital Knowledge Management with Rev Ciancio

David “Rev” Ciancio serves as Director, Industry Insights for Yext, where he works to ensure customer success as they deploy the Yext Knowledge Engine on behalf of their businesses.

Over his 20+ year career, he has managed business development, digital marketing, and social media strategies for a wide range of entertainment and hospitality companies.

When not preaching the gospel of Digital Knowledge Management, you can find this expert burger taster discussing the virtues of what makes a truly great hamburger on his Instagram account, @revciancio and hospitality marketing tips on his blog, burgerconquest.com.

Learn More About Yext & Rev:

 

Meet Rev Ciancio

Phil Singleton: Hey Rev, welcome to the show.

Rev Ciancio: Phil, it’s a pleasure to be here, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity.

Phil Singleton: We read through your bio here and I want to just take a little bit of time at the beginning to just understand your story, tell us your first steps out of school, out of college, what have you, and what put you on the path to where you are today.

Rev Ciancio: Man, I grew up in Detroit and I desperately wanted to be in the music business, desperately. And I was obsessed with radio and with music and there just wasn’t enough of it happening in Michigan, and it was like, “All right, well, LA or New York?” And it was like, “Well, if somebody’s gonna say, ‘trust me’, I want them to mean it so I guess I’ll go to New York.” And I got a job out here with a very small agency that no longer exists, doing radio promotions so I was calling radio stations around the country and getting them to play heavy metal bands, it was really cool. I moved out here for $17 thousand dollar salary, it was crazy.

Man, misadventures. But anyway, I did that, I was in the music business for about 11 years. I was a serial agency owner, I owned a couple different agencies hopping around. And then one day I was just like, “Man, I hate music. I hate it.” I was like, “I can’t be around it, I can’t do it. I can’t figure out how to make money in it anymore.” This is after downloads and at the time, I’d also opened a bar which is like another college dream is to, “Oh man, we should own a bar, that would be so cool.” Just like, “I should be in the music business, it’s gonna be so cool.” Boy man, the things I thought when I was a kid. Anyway, I went on this-

Phil Singleton: All of us, right?

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, totally. I own this bar and I had started to take some of the skill sets that I had learned running an agency and entertainment business and applying it to the bar and hospitality. And at the time, food bloggers didn’t really exist and influencers weren’t really a thing, social media was really just getting its feet wet, it certainly didn’t have the catchiness that it has now. Facebook timeline was still chronological, right, Instagram didn’t exist. And I was having traction understanding the hospitality universe and running this agency where I was working with artists. And restaurants started to call me and say, “Hey, can you do what you’re doing for your burger blog, for my restaurant?” And I realized, “Oh my god, there’s a crazy opportunity here to take all these things that I learned about brand building and building an audience and the catchiness of that, and apply those entertainment marketing tactics to restaurants. And I just immediately Segwayed my whole car into getting into that.

Much longer story shorter, I ended up working for a ground beef manufacturer for a number of years as the Director of Marketing, where I rolled right up to the CEO and basically I rebranded them from this multiple decade old family brand, to a brand that they were able to actually launch retail product. They saw about a 27% lift in sales the last year I was there, it was pretty cool. One of my main priorities thereafter we did this rebrand and relaunch, their customers were primarily restaurants and one of my primary functions was to provide a marketing consultancy service to their top customers. So, instead of paying an agency or paying a consultant, they could just call me and go, “What’s the best strategy for review and reputation management?” Or, “What kind of growth hack ideas do you have for Instagram?” Or, “How should we think about doing our Facebook targeting ads?”

Rolling Up His Sleeves and Doing Local SEO

I became this jack of all trades in the marketing area because what I would learn from one customer … and they were working with huge national brands and also those SMBs, and I took all of that and learned all of this really important information. And to tie this story together, I was like, “Wow, this could actually be its own business, this hospitality and marketing consultancy thing.”

As a former bar owner, I have had the pain points that their solution solves, so I knew the power of [Yext].

-Rev Ciancio

And you could probably guess what happened, I left, started that agency, and it was primarily like, “I’ll do digital knowledge management for you”, type agency. That’s not how I branded it and that’s not how I would brand it now, but that’s what it was. And I was super successful super quick, and the people at Yext, I was using their software to help my clients. They called me and they were like, “We haven’t had this happen in the history of the company, you seem pretty passionate about this. Would you be interested in hanging up the agency and coming here?” And I jumped at the chance.

I love Yext, I love what they do. As a former bar owner, I have had the pain points that their solution solves, so I knew the power of it. Then ultimately, at the end of the day, what I’m really passionate, other than pizza and rock and roll, is I like helping other businesses. It really does fuel me to get out of bed in the morning and I thought coming here would give me an amazing opportunity to really help all kinds of businesses just be better at what they do.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. Your first trip, your first gig out of Detroit was in New York and you’ve been there ever since, is that right?

Rev Ciancio: It was technically in Jersey, but yes.

Phil Singleton: Okay. Right, right. Close enough. You’re up in the area. That’s really awesome. I really do want to dig in a little bit into your personal experience, and you’re talking about the pain points, what’s going on, what challenges do people have in the hospitality industry and specifically restaurants. But before we get to that, a little more, I guess understanding or description of what Yext does. I’ve been working with Yext for years, a very powerful solution. Although I think I have probably narrow, more practical view of why it’s important to my clients and that is really from a google standpoint, getting the name, address, and phone number lined up across the internet. We all know in digital, this is really important, google ranking signal for trust and a lot of other different reasons, helps with your local rankings. From that perspective, it’s almost a no-brainer and very powerful, but I know it’s evolved and does a lot more than that now.

If you can help our audience understand what we mean by digital knowledge management and all the things that Yext can do beyond just maybe managing and making sure that you have consistency on the major directories across the internet?

What is Digital Knowledge Management?

Rev Ciancio: Sure. Let’s define digital knowledge, that’ll probably help since we’ve already dropped that bomb in here a few times. Digital knowledge is basically, it’s all the public facts about a business, like their name, their address, phone number, but even their hours of operation, their products, their services, if you’re a restaurant, your menu. Basically any information that lives online for a customer to look for and search, right? And therefore, digital knowledge management, then that’s the process by which you’re sourcing and managing all of that digital knowledge to make sure that it’s available for customers in those moments that matter.

So, when you talk about what does Yext do and how does it work, we’re witnessing this major platform shift out there, I’m sure you’re seeing it as well, the rise of these services like Siri, and Alexa, and Google Assistant that are build on AI and information servicing all over the internet. Well, it turns out for 20 years, how did the internet work? You put in a query and you got 10 blue links, organic search. And now what happens is you don’t get 10 blue links, you just get one answer, right? So if I said, “Hey Siri, best burger joint near me.” What’s gonna happen?

Siri: The highest rated one I found is McSandwich, which averages four and a half stars and is moderately priced. Want to try that one?

Rev Ciancio: There’s no web result there, there’s just an answer, right?

…how do any of these services know how to put that answer there? They’re getting it from something called a knowledge graph and the knowledge graph is essentially a brain-like database that all of these things have.

-Rev Ciacio

Phil Singleton: Right.

Rev Ciancio: How does that answer get there? How does Siri, or Google, or Waves, or any of these businesses … how do any of these services know how to put that answer there? They’re getting it from something called a knowledge graph and the knowledge graph is essentially a brain-like database that all of these things have. Whether it’s Yelp, or Facebook, or Siri, or Cortana, or Google Maps, or Apple Maps, the knowledge graph is this brain-like database that lives beneath them. That contains everything that they know about the world, including what they might know about a business. So, they service that answer based on that information.

Now, the difference is you can’t control the AI of the future and you can’t control the UI of the future, but you can control what these services know about your business.

-Rev Ciancio

Now, the difference is you can’t control the AI of the future and you can’t control the UI of the future, but you can control what these services know about your business. And that’s essentially digital knowledge management. We have a central repository, a software system, where you would put as the business owner, that information. Name, address, hours of operation, your menu, your services, your bio, literally anything that people want to know about your business. You put it into Yext, the knowledge engine, and then we power that all over the internet. We’re updating Facebook, Bing, Yellow pages, Google, My Business, and hundreds of other sites on your behalf so that you don’t have to do it. And so that information is perfect, literally everywhere.

Then once you’ve done that, which is sorta like getting off on the first level of the hotel, to get up to the penthouse, we have a whole back level system where you can manage your reputation, you can generate first party reviews, you could sentiment analysis inside of your rues that tells you what the customers actually think about your business. We have a competitive intelligence tool that’ll let you know … and Phil, this is awesome. We launched this tool where you can go in and you could say, “Okay, these are the five businesses that are my competitors.” So if you’re Subway, you’re like, “Oh, it’s gotta be Jersey Mikes and Quiznos.”, and whatever other sandwich brands are in your area.

In 100% of the cases where we’ve had a customer start to use that tool, they’ve never been correct about who their actual competitors are. Because we’re actually mining information, so if you feel like, “I’m going to eat at Five Guys today.” We’re like, “Oh, Phil likes Five Guys, he must like Burger King, and he must like Wendy’s.” If you then the next day search for a salad place, we know that, to Phil, Five Guys and the Salad Place are actually in competition for your business. It’s not that you happen to like burgers, I’m not saying you don’t, I’m just saying we see the truth. And so our information can actually tell a business who their real competitors are and then they can track how they’re performing in search based on their own keywords. See what I’m saying?

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Rev Ciancio: It gives you this really, really deep level of analytics that lets you think about your marketing.

Phil Singleton: That’s really awesome. The one thing to take it back a step, ’cause some people … you covered a lot of ground, there’s a lot of things that I think I picked up but maybe some people that are just trying to get their head around this a little bit, don’t really understand the fundamentals of how it works. And I’m gonna explain to you how I think it works and

I want you to tell me where I’m wrong.

Rev Ciancio: I love this conversation.

Phil Singleton: I think what ends up happening is, I’ve been in Yext many times and we populate and there’s a lot of rich information you put there, tons of stuff about your business. Like you’re saying, pictures, hours of operation, special offers, all sorts of stuff, that’s richer pretty much than anywhere else you would see maybe in a basic place where you would fill out information about yourself let’s say. But somehow, over the years, you guys have been able to develop relationships and almost direct API access to all the major places around the internet. So the power to me on Yext is, I go in there, literally update my stuff, click a button and update my information in this one place, and all of a sudden in the matter of, I don’t know, an hour, minutes, maybe 24 hours, all this stuff’s pushed out to the rest of the internet, and boom, everything’s really consistent. Now, is that true or false? Tell me that part where I got wrong or how even it works.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. We have a really rich set of APIs and robust workflows that connect into those systems. So, Apple Maps, Google, Bing, Yahoo, whatever, we have a direct connection, they open up their back door, we stick whatever our plug is in the back, and then we can update almost in real time in most places. So yeah, you definitely have that direct control.

Phil Singleton: And that’s really, I think one of the powers what you guys have in the back ’cause that’s what I think makes Yext unique in a lot of ways is you can’t go out and find another company really like Yext that has this ability to have this instant access into this many influential places where they can directly connect and update information like that. That’s really, really powerful.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. I believe in technical terms, that’s called a patent. But yes.

Phil Singleton: I mean, that really … and that’s one of the reasons, I don’t think people really realize or you talk about Yext, I think it’s just part of digital marketing now, it’s become a standard. I’ve told you, brought it up in conversations before, in our business it’s essentially a mandatory requirement ’cause it’s so important that people have this around the business. But it’s funny because Yext has been around a while in digital and it’s grown really fast and now it’s one of the true success stories in SaaS digital marketing place, you guys went public a year or two ago. It’s like a billion dollar company now? How many hundreds of employees? 500 employees or something like that.

Rev Ciancio: Definitely north of that.

Phil Singleton: And a true, true success story and I think a lot of that’s built on how powerful and how much value it brings to businesses, all businesses really. Talk about big businesses, I think need this. Small businesses especially need it. But the company’s a true, true success story. Let’s dig into a little bit about your personal experience and where you think … you’re in the hospitality and it’s like you were talking about the pain points, what opportunities and what things people are still missing today in that space because it seems like it’s almost hit or miss. You see some people in the hospitality, especially restaurants that are really nailing it, but there’s a ton of them that seem like they’re almost not doing anything. Can you speak to some of that? And what some of the things that you see and how a solution like Yext can help solve some of those problems pretty quickly?

Rev Ciancio: Sure. I’m gonna give you that through a story. Anybody that follows me on Instagram knows that I’m a bit of a food influencer and so I have a couple thousand followers or whatever. Restaurants and agencies will reach out to me and say, “Hey, will you come in to our other restaurant, take photos of the food we’re serving, share it with your audience?”, in hopes that the people that follow me are gonna take the recommendation that, “Hey, you saw this pizza from East Village Pizza that I posted last night, which by the way was awesome.” And then you’re gonna go to East Village Pizza and eat it, right? That’s the idea.

Well, I went to this event one night and there was 15 influencers there and it was a high end place, and they come out with 10 courses, top shelf liquor, it was amazing. And I’m doing the math and I’m like, “This is $150 bucks a person.” So multiply that, “That’s $3000 dollars they’re spending.” Plus the agency’s there, they spent all this money in hopes that we’re gonna attract these customers for them. I reached in my pocket, I pull out the Yext app, I do a location scan, their information is 94% in accurate, which means all that digital knowledge, like name, address, phone number isn’t correct everywhere on the web. In fact, it’s in correct.

I go over the publicist and I was like, “Hey, pull out your phone. I want you to open up a browser and search, ‘cocktail bar near me’.” Now, what you need to know is that for the last 10 minutes, they’ve had their mixologist present to us how important their cocktail program is, and just the Gideon’s Bible of Drinks. I’m like, “I get it, I get it. You’re a cocktail bar.” So she pulls it out and she goes, “Cocktail bar near me.” Now, Google knows where she is, they know she’s by this bar and guess what doesn’t come up in the three pack? That bar. So we click to expand-

Phil Singleton: Right in the bullseye, like swimming in it?

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. It’s like literally you can tell where we are, “Google, come on. We were leading you to the answer.” Anyway, she doesn’t get that answer, we remove the top three, we look at the top 20, it’s not in the top 20, we remove the 4.0 rating, it’s not even unrated. Literally, if you don’t search for that restaurant by its name, you’re not gonna go there. So, what do we call that? That’s a leaky budget because here they’re spending $3000 or $4000 dollars. Now, what if you see this beautiful branzino that I post a picture of and you’re like, “Oh, cocktail bar with branzino, open for happy hour in Tribeca.” And you do a real life search, and you don’t get that place, what was the point of all that effort? What was the point of all that money, right?

Phil Singleton: Totally.

Do you know what the half-life of a tweet is?  It’s about five minutes. And the shelf life of a Facebook post is reported to be about five hours.

-Rev Ciancio

Rev Ciancio: To me, that’s what DKM is and that’s the problem that Yext solves. So I looked at her, and this is the funny joke, I was like, “You know it would cost you about $50 bucks a month to fix that.” Meanwhile you’re spending $3000 dollars to put branzino in our face. I mean, that’s what Yext does. It’s a background or a foundation to your marketing and look, I’m sure most of the people that are listening to this podcast are doing some level of social media. Do you know what the half-life of a tweet is?

Phil Singleton: Seconds? I don’t know. Minutes?

Rev Ciancio: It’s about five minutes. And the shelf life of a Facebook post is reported to be about five hours. So if you’re out there doing social media marketing for your business and you spent all this time, you have a photo shoot, and you have a link, and an ad, and I don’t know, whatever you’re doing for your business to promote it online. And you’ve put all this effort into it and then somebody goes to search it and they can’t find it, was that worth it?

Phil Singleton: It’s totally. I mean, I talk about this everyday to folks and I think some people think in this inbound world that we live in, they’ll preach and they’ll say, “Hey, some of this event marketing, trade shows, traditional media, radio, advertising, none of that stuff works. You should be doing all digital.” I don’t think that’s the case at all. I mean, I think stuff works really well and probably as good as it ever has. The problem is if you go out and create the demand, everybody comes back to the internet. So if you don’t have your ducks in a row in order to capture your own demand, it goes to the other cocktail bar you were just talking about, right?

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. Phil, I mean look, I am clearly a food influencer and half the text messages I get in the day are, “Hey, where should I go eat for burgers?” I’m almost my own search engine, but if somebody recommends something to me, I still go look it up myself.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

Rev Ciancio: I still search it.

Phil Singleton: I don’t think anybody … I mean, the old days, any type of reference … I mean, referral marketing has changed. I think even to some extent, some influencer marketing has changed ’cause some people probably are a little bit skeptical and it’s like, “Okay. Rev said this but who knows if he’s getting paid or not. I believe he’s telling us the truth or whatever, but I’m still gonna look it up online, see what everybody else is saying.” It used to be in the old days, it’s like, I’d ask for my house, first time I bought a house or whatever, I asked my dad, “Who should I get for this or that?” And I would just do it. Or the pediatrician says, “Go to this place for your … go to this specialist for your doctor.” You would just do it. Not anymore. No matter what anybody says, everybody’s doing their own research and if you can’t find it, or if you don’t like their website, or if their reviews suck, you’re going somewhere else ’cause the power is in the searcher now. I mean, that’s-

Rev Ciancio: But let’s take that one step more, right? If we’re talking about a B to B model, we’re in the middle of the funnel. Even if we’re talking about going to get pizza, we’re in the middle of the funnel, we haven’t made the decision. Once you make the decision, the only way you’re gonna have confidence then is, “Well okay, you told me to go to this pizza place, now I’m gonna go.” But I might get in my car and I need directions, where does that information come from? Or I might need to call to make a reservation, how do I get that information? Even after you’ve made the decision, “Yes, I want to go to that business.” I still need digital knowledge, I still need the hours of operation, I still need the phone number, I still need directions.
You know?

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Tell me a little bit about … I know some of the things on your list here that we were talking about before is reputation management. How does the Yext solution fit into the reputation management strategy for business?

Rev Ciancio: Let’s talk about the importance of reputation management first, I think that’ll help answer the question. We’ll look at it just from a Google perspective, so in 2016 Google came out and said, “Okay, we’re gonna add a third factor into how we determine what answers come up in the map pack.” It used to just be distance and relevance, they added this third thing called-

Rev Ciancio: The map pack. It used to just be like distance relevance. They added this third thing called prominence. Okay? And prominence is basically your public reputation. What Google is saying there, is they are literally ranking businesses against each other for search results based on recent positive ratings and reviews. So, if you’re not managing your positive ratings or reviews, you’re risking not even coming up in search at, right? So, there’s that. Besides that, not only is there the SEO benefit to having good ratings or reviews, it informs customer decision. Like we just said, if you said, “Rev, you got to try this pizza joint,” and I go look up their ratings or reviews and everybody’s talking about how good the pizza is, that’s helped making my decision, right? That moves me down the funnel.

Thirdly, the other reason why reviews are important is they can also inform a business. If you’re like, “What’s the next thing I should do with my business?” Your customers might already be telling you. Just go read your reviews. The reviews have like a three-pronged approach in terms of why they’re important. But from my Yext perspective, what can you do to manage that? We have a fully baked dashboard that’s pulling in the reviews from all of those sites that we work with. TripAdvisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook, I don’t even remember them all. But they’re all in there. And then you can go in there and you can read them, you can respond to them, you can generate first party reviews, which are reviews that live on your website. So you can have your own review platform. You can look at them by star rating, you can look at them by location, you can look at them by sentiment.

And so, not only do you have the ability to manage them in Yext, but you have the ability to analyze them and come up with strategies that can help improve your business. And then, I’m sure you’ve seen this stat floating around on the internet. But every star rating increase that a business sees is worth approximately 5 to 9% in business. So, pretty valuable.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. To me, the holy grail of at least local is you’re showing up on search and you’ve got the social proof via reviews. And once you have those two things, man the phone usually ends up ringing like it never has before. So, preaching to the choir there. That’s the one thing.

The thing is, with reviews, which is … I think, and I’d like to hear your opinion on this. I look at it and I think, “Man, reviews are really actually pretty rare.” Because if you look at it a business that ends up getting them, you see a bit local business that has 100 or 200 or even 500 reviews, or a restaurant that’s got a lot of them. It’s still only like a tiny fraction of the actual transactions or clients that they’ve had over a period, right?

Rev Ciancio: Oh, truly.

Phil Singleton: So, having some type of way where you’re easily found, or some type of a system where you can actually collect them or something. [inaudible 00:23:38] well like they incentivize people that are going to be jealous have to be proactive. Because to me, the whole systems really kind of geared for negative reviews in some ways. People aren’t really incentivized to leave positive reviews unless that’s their thing. But if they’re ticked off, they’re going to have all sorts of incentive right to bash stuff. So, I think reviews are really rare, but the fact that they’re so rare makes them so valuable.

It’s really funny. It’s like in our own businesses, we don’t go out, I think enough to say we really need to be doing this and committing to this and committing to our local online presence, this kind of stuff. Yet, it’s like a Jekyll and Hyde thing, right? When we go out and buy stuff on Amazon or we go look for a new hospital, a place to eat or something, we’re look at reviews. That’s all we do, all of us, right? So, give us some ways that you can motivate a small business owner and the things that they could do maybe on a budget, big bang for the buck to kind of help them either take the first steps forward or solve some of these problems?

Rev Ciancio: Sure. You’re definitely right. The majority of people that would be willing to leave a review for business don’t, and that’s because businesses aren’t either asking for them or giving a signal. Look, are you a parent?

Phil Singleton: Yes.

Rev Ciancio: So, I have a two-year-old, right? I look at it the same way. My kid is not going to say thanks to his mom every time she does something nice, but if I go, “Jack, why do you say thank you to mommy?” He’ll say it. You know what I mean? It’s not any different doing reviews for your business. But some ways that you can sort of get more reviews out of your customers is A, you can ask. There are some rules and regulations around that. Google and Yelp have some governance around how you can ask.

But some ways that you can ask is, if you’re a business owner and you’re responding to reviews, that’s part of what you do, and you’re responding, positive, negative, doesn’t matter. As another customer, if I see that somebody in the business is responding, I’m more likely to leave a review. There’s a stat out there and I don’t remember when it is. But people who see that the businesses responding are more likely, because A, they want to re-responded to because it feels good, right? But also, they know it shows a signal that somebody in the business really cares. That’s number one. That’s for me, ground level.

But some other ways you can do it, you can take your social media ID. You can say on Facebook, like, “Hey, people love us on Yelp. Here’s our Yelp link.” Or, you could write a blog post on your business, like, “Hey, we really value reviews and this is what reviews mean to us.” And so, you’re not saying give me a review, you’re just sending a signal to your customers that, “Hey, I care about reviews and these are the sites I care about.” Or, you could do something as simple as, Phil comes into my pizza shop and says, “Man, this is the best darn Stromboli I ever ate. I wish I could have when every morning underneath my pillow when I wake up.” I can take that review and share it to a different format and go, “Hey, check out what Phil says about our Stromboli.”

So, there are ways to tell your customers that reviews are important to you without having to ask for them.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Before I ask … Bringing back the comic, I’m going to ask you something about another passion of yours, which is burgerconquest.com. To me, I don’t know how much you guys can get into this or talk to about it, but I think it’s clear to me that when somebody uses Yext and goes into their panel and really thoughtfully fills out all the information to the fullest, to the extent and makes it as accurate as possible, that there does almost always seem to be some local ranking or local visibility effect.

I don’t know how much you can speak to that or if there’s any type of stats that you have on it. But to me, it’s pretty clear. I don’t have like a mos.com budget where I can go and say, “I applied Yext to 100 different companies in the average local visibility ranking or local rankings went up X percent,” type of thing. And you guys, I don’t know what you can speak to, but I’d love to hear any comments you have on it. Because I think it’s pretty clear that when people set it up and set it up right, that they almost always get some type of local ranking benefit. Is that something you can talk to or not?

Rev Ciancio: Sure. So, there’s no average number or no guaranteed result. Because it’s all different, right?

Phil Singleton: Right.

Rev Ciancio: Here’s the thing. In New York City, we’re I’m 23rd Madison. There are no joke, I’d have to count 15 restaurants alone just on our block. If you’re trying to score for best lunch and you’re using Yext, it’s going to be harder just because of the competition. Whereas, if you’re the pizza joint around the corner from my house, it is the only restaurant on that street, it’s going to be much easier.

So, we can’t guarantee a result because it’s a situational to that business. But there is without a doubt an SEO benefit to managing your DKM. It’s why we built this. Is we knew, hey, restaurants don’t know how to do this, or any business really doesn’t know how to do this. And there’s no tool exists that puts them in control of that information. And ultimately, what it comes down to is Google specifically and all the other intelligence services. They’re looking for a confidence signal. So, if I go in there and go, “Best pizza, Rutherford, New Jersey.” If Mr. Bruno’s, which is the best pizza in Rutherford, New Jersey, if they don’t have their information everywhere, it doesn’t give Google a confidence signal.

So, Google looks at Yelp and it looks at Bing and Yellow Pages and your website. And the Hours of operation are different on Mr. Bruno’s. And then they go look at Angelo’s Pizza. And Angelo’s Pizza has the same information everywhere. Well, which one is Google going to trust, right? Well, information looks correct everywhere on this one. That’s the answer I’m going to give to my customers. And then what happens over time, and this you can actually track inside of Yext is how strong is that signal of confidence? The more times that Google gets an answer that is pleasing to the person who’s searching the query, the more times it’s going to surface that answer. So, you build signal strength overtime. One of the ways that you can do that as with Yext.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. One of the things I’ve noticed too, and again, I don’t know if you can speak to this or not, but I noticed last year that when you go into the Yext panel, and you fill out the complete form, and you actually offer a special offer promotion link and a separate link under your website, and about 30% of the listings up in there in the power listings pack, you end up getting something really special that you don’t get if you don’t use it. That is an actual standard link versus a no follow link.

So, I thought that it for my … I don’t know if that’s changed, by I do see this quite a bit where on some of the directories you get listed on, I don’t know if this is because you guys have some special API access, and you be able to put more rich data in and that’s something that doesn’t come with like a paid listing, whatever. But for sure, I’ve noticed that. Because I would tell all our clients to do this, when you go in, make sure that we fill in, have some kind of a special offer, because it seems like you get a little extra benefit from some of these sites when you have it. Any comments on that, or is that just kind of one of these little SEO hacks I think that I found?

Rev Ciancio: I don’t know that there’s aggregated data to give you what that looks like over a series of time or businesses. But I’m going to come at it a different direction. If you have a tool and we give you access to update it, you should update it, because there’s a reason why that publisher has it, right? Google doesn’t have the featured message that I think you’re talking about, but Yahoo does. And Yahoo has users and people use Yahoo. And so, if I look up on a business-

Phil Singleton: And Google crawls Yahoo.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, exactly. If I go to Yahoo to find the tacos I want for dinner, and I see, “Hey, make sure you try our new Teresa Potato egg breakfast taco.” Well, you had my attention, because I was looking you up anyway. You might as well promote to me while you have my attention. By the way, I would totally go for Teresa egg taco, but that’s a whole other story. But yeah, there’s definitely a benefit to that.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Let’s bring it back. Because I could literally talk to you all day on this kind of stuff. Talking shop, talking about how important it is.

Rev Ciancio: Me too.

Phil Singleton: I still think at the end of the day, it seems like it’s one of these things where it’s out there and people know about it. But at the end of the day, so many businesses I think, still need help. So many businesses don’t … As many customers as Yext, it’s really probably only a small percentage of the total small businesses in the country, right? Which tells me that there’s so many businesses out there that need help and aren’t even doing the basics. We see them every single day. They come into our small agency here in Kansas City. They’re not even doing the basic stuff. They come in and even on their website, they still have the page titles like home, right? Some of them maybe don’t even have websites still. So, it’s pretty funny.

So, a huge opportunity here. People just come in. And Yext is one of those, really for the agency side, it’s one of those very awesome high value for the cost. Almost, I would say, puts it almost kind of in the quick win category. So, if you’re looking for a hack or a tip where you could go out and actually get something directly, any small business can go in and sign up for one of your packages. It’s really easy to log in and fill in your information. You can immediately solve tons of problems in a short period of time. So, if you’re looking for a special kind of a hack today, that’s it, man. Go to Yext and sign up for it because we couldn’t recommend it any more highly than we do. Like I said, [inaudible 00:32:55] get the top is it’s basically a mandatory third-party service that we put on all new clients that come in.

Rev Ciancio: Let me tell two stories here that I think will frame this up in a similar fashion. I left that well-paying job with the Ground B manufacturer to go start my consultancy, to basically, I’ll do Yext for you as the agency. I went in there with no customers, no leads, nothing. And I was building about 22 grand a month in 90 days. Why? Because I knew how powerful this was, and I knew what it could do. Ans a small business, they don’t have the time to think about this stuff. They don’t have the time to learn what you and I know. They are out there, whether they’re a retail shop, or it’s an attorney or a plumber or a pizza shop or an automotive place, whatever, they’re doing what they do. They’re bringing their trade or they’re bringing their service or they’re bringing their product, and they’re selling it to customers.

They don’t have the time. They’re too busy worrying about the actual business to do this stuff. And I was like, “Oh, I could figure this out real quick. I’m good at this.” As an agency, I was super successful because it’s solved real problems, it was easy for me to manage, and I could strategize on it and then serve a consultancy fee, right? But here’s where this comes from. Why did I know all that? Where did I learn all of that? I used to own a bar. I remember being on Avenue B between second and third, and thinking, “Holy smite, there are six other bars on this street, just on the street. Never mind there’s 25,000 bar licenses in New York City. How do I get customers here? I’m just on this street.” I was like, “Well, we may not be the most creative people, we may not have a famous chef, we might not have the best service, we might not have the cleanest floors, we might not have all these other things.” But I was like, “But we are better marketers. And we are smarter than all these people.”

Honest to God, Phil, we won at two things. We won at SEO and we won at ratings and reviews. We crushed it. We were like top 10 most checked in bar in New York City for like three years running on Foursquare.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Rev Ciancio: Because we were all agency guys that bought a bar.

Phil Singleton: You knew it. You put the effort in, right? Some of this stuff, if you just have the discipline to do it, it’s surprising how it can rack up, right? I think a lot of people still just kind of leave it and they just don’t do it. They don’t make it part of the routine. But you did it, right? And it paid off big time.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. Well, here’s the thing. But at the time, there was no Yext, right? I literally had to go to Yahoo and make an update. And then I had to go to Google and make an update. And then we would add something to our menu, and I’d have to go update our website. And then I’d have to go update Foursquare. And then I have to update Yelp. It would take-

Phil Singleton: No wonder. When you saw Yext, you were probably, “Oh my gosh. Here it is.”

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. It was like all I had to do is push a button.

Phil Singleton: Where were you?

Rev Ciancio: I think how much time I would have saved, and we probably would have had even better efforts than we gotten had I had something like this. So, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have born that agency, I wouldn’t be having this conversation had I not been a small business owner and I know the power of this. Because I had the hardest at a manual level.

Phil Singleton: Got you. That makes perfect sense why you’re so passionate about it. That’s where the fire comes from. You’re literally doing it yourself, but you also saw the power of what all that hard work does and now it’s like, dude, we’ve got this packaged up in a pretty affordable thing that’s accessible I think any business pretty much. It’s like people just knew about it.

I think it’s one of the problem with small businesses too, is they get pitched so many services, so much SEO snake oil. Buy this, they try stuff and it doesn’t work. They don’t always know which ones. Yeah, but this is one of those ones that just basically works for everybody. It’s so cost effective for the amount of value that it brings for a business. This is just kind of one of those no brainer things. But at the end of the day, like you said, guys are doing this. You look at the SAS chart from the martech collages they have, I’m sure Yext is in there. If you look at that thing that’s on a PowerPoint slide, there’s like 5000 logos on it now. If you look, that thing is passed around on LinkedIn, people just don’t know.

But that’s what I’m saying. That at this point, even as famous as Yext is in the space, like basically the unicorn, the category killer, still there’s not enough people that use it, I don’t think. If they did, like I said, this is kind of one of those no brainer kind of foundational fundamental marketing pieces that I think everybody should have, because it brings a massive amount of value for the cost.

We’re going to put all these links and stuff at the show here. I do want to ask you at the very end here now that we’re here. If I were to go to New York for a while … And it’s been a long time, I actually went to school in Connecticut Fairfield University. And I went to the city all the time, but this is going back like 20 years ago, more than 20 years ago. Tell me, if I was going to New York tomorrow for three days if was going to eat a burger a day, the places I have to go.

Rev Ciancio: Oh, man. Well, I’m glad you-

Phil Singleton: I’m putting you on the spot. It has to be. I know your mind is going crazy right now. But you have to pick three now.

Rev Ciancio: I’m just glad you didn’t say, “What’s your favorite burger?” Because I literally don’t have an answer for that question. I like all burgers, and they probably change on a weekly basis. I’ll tell you the burger I probably eat the most is a place called Schnippers. They have four or five locations here in the city. Now, I do love Schnippers, let’s not mistake that. They also have a location in the same building as Yext. So, the frequency is high because the proximity. So, best burger in near me, if we were doing a search would be Schnippers. If we were asking the Rev search engine, I really do like the Schnippers.

There’s another place here called Andrew’s Classic Roadside Hamburgers. He’s had a change of name a couple of times. It’s also been Hardtime Sundays. But it’s literally a stand in a food court just north of Grand Central. I love what he does. It’s awesome.

Phil Singleton: That sounds awesome.

Rev Ciancio: He’s taken like three rounds of patties, he’s smashing them on a season grill, serving him with some onions that have a special sauce he cooks the in.
Martin’s Potato Roll Cheese. That’s a super old school. It’s the way it should be. I do really really love those burgers. And then you know what? Honestly, the last answer probably changes on a weekly basis.

Phil Singleton: What’s this week? Tell me.

Rev Ciancio: There’s a place called San Matteo Pizzeria e Cucina. I need to back the story a little bit. It is one of my two favorite pizzas in New York City. I can’t get enough of it. And there’s certainly a lot of pizza.

Phil Singleton: A lot of pizza man.

Rev Ciancio: There’s certainly a lot of pizza here. But the pizza there’s phenomenal. It’s without a doubt, it’s my favorite pasta in New York City. The two reasons I go there primarily are pizza and pasta. One night, I’m in there, and Fabio, the owner and chef, he’s like, and has this thick Italian accent, “You know, we have burger.” I’m like, “Well, okay, I want to eat it.” He made it for me, and it was unbelievable.

Phil Singleton: You were like, “What?”

Rev Ciancio: Yeah. He’s using Piedmontese beef, which is the Italian style beef. Go look it up. It’s a really high-end animal. He’s using the special cheese, and he’s using special onions, and there’s really nothing like it. But it’s somewhere between a steakhouse burger and a really high-end chef gourmet burger.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. All right, let’s wrap this up and tell us best way to follow you, where we can find more information, about Yext. I also want to put the show link in for the … You guys have an awesome app that you mentioned. It’s probably more for agencies. But the location scanner, which I obviously have on my app right here, right now, where we can go get that. And in fact, give it to me after show, I will make sure that we got a link as long as it’s still available and still free.

Rev Ciancio: Oh, yeah. No, it’s definitely free and definitely available and it’s awesome. Just to tie that together for people that are listening, if you download the app, you can put your business in it, and it will tell you how inaccurate or accurate your listings are. But you can also put any business you want. So, your competitors, your best friends, whatever the business you happen to like. It also has a location scan. I should say that a different way. If you walk into a business, it knows where you are, and you could just pull it up from a list. You don’t have to type in any information. So, you want to check places on the go, I’m a nerd like that, I do, you could just open it up and pull and see how those businesses are doing.

Phil Singleton: So, we’ll say immediately your shortcomings are your own business. But that’s kind of cool. I hadn’t really ever used it for competitors. But that’s a great thing. It’s not just for agencies, it can be for anybody. That’s great.

Rev Ciancio: Well, if you’re an agency and your prospecting, it’s a great way to prospect.

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

Rev Ciancio: Hey, Mr. business owner, look what I just saw. Information.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

Rev Ciancio: But, yeah. You download that, it’s in Google Play, it’s definitely an iPhone as well.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Rev Ciancio: The best place to find out more about Yext is just yext.com, Y-E-X-T.com. If you want to ask me a question, I throw my email out there all the time. I really don’t care. I love talking to people. It’s rev@yext.com, R-E-V@yext.com. You can email me anything, I’m happy to answer questions. And then if you just want to consume gratuitous amounts of food porn, follow me on Instagram, it’s my screen name I’m @revciancio, but I’m also that screen name on everything. So, you go to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook.

Phil Singleton: You get burgerconquest.com. I was looking at the site, are most of those pictures your own pictures or they’re just a bunch of stuff?

Rev Ciancio: No, they’re not. It’s almost all entirely mine.

Phil Singleton: Pictures, or are they just a bunch of stuff?

Rev Ciancio: No, it’s almost all entirely mine.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. There’s some really cool pictures on there.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, and then it’s sort the difference between my Instagram account and anybody else’s. If you just look at it, yeah, it’s burgers, pizza, steak, you know French fries, chicken sandwiches, but typically a couple times a week, I don’t just write, “Hey, go eat this burger. It was good.” I write marketing tips. So it might be like, “Hey, here’s what you need to think about if you want to be voice search ready.” Then it’s underneath a picture of pizza with pepperoni sliding off the sides.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And those pictures on your site, it that just off a camera, or are you taking a big camera around your neck you’re taking out?

Rev Ciancio: No. It’s an iPhone. I will not upgrade to a DSLR. It’s not that I don’t love them, I’m just not a photographer, I don’t want to be a photographer.

Phil Singleton: Well, they look pretty awesome.

Rev Ciancio: I’m happy to do it on my phone.

Phil Singleton: All right, Rev. You’re the man. Really enjoyed talking with you. And hope to have you back. Because it feels like when you start to open things up, and there’s so many different things we could talk about, but this was a great episode with tons of knowledge bombs, and I’m sure our listeners are going to really enjoy this one. So thanks for coming on today.

Rev Ciancio: I appreciate. I know this almost became like a Yext commercial. And I hate that if somebody walked away thinking that. I truly am passionate about this solution. It really does what it’s doing. And for you and I to sit and talk about this, to me it’s no different than me and my best friend talking about our favorite movie.

Phil Singleton: Again if it weren’t, like I say, it’s basically a mandatory service. It’s so important that I think all businesses do this, and i hate, I don’t want to make this sound bad, but you guys essentially have cornered the market. You’re a category killer. You’re essentially almost a monopoly in this space, so that, I guess, has some good connotations and bad connotations. But, so does Google. So it’s just one of those things I think people need. If there’s something that’s that good, and it’s like that because you guys have set it up the right way and added that much value. I wouldn’t make it like an advertisement unless I truly thought, and there’s few tools out there that provide a monster amount of value for what you pay for them.

There’s other ones that you pay a lot for, and they don’t either do enough, or you under utilize them, or they give you a lot of information you don’t use. But this one truly is one of those things that you pay for and you don’t have to pay a lot and you get a ton of value off of it. So that why I don’t mind really highly recommending it. Because nobody’s going to go out there and buy this and then regret using it or not use it or not get some kind of benefit out of it. I’m not an affiliate marketer for you guys, or any other type of benefit other than they do this because it adds a tremendous amount of value.

I think the real hack there is, I mean there’s a lot of agencies out there that probably use Yext and either upsell it or upcharge it or do that kind of stuff, which is a normal thing for people to do, but any business owner that’s listening to this, you can go out there and buy this directly and manage it yourself. I mean, that’s where the knowledge piece of this is, is you can go sign up, and it’s really easy I think for anybody to go and pay for it. For me, I think of things that we do, I think it’s within just about anybody’s capability to sign up for this and actually fill up the information, as long as their going to take the initiative to maybe upload and take a couple pictures and figure out where their logo and stuff is. It’s not like you need coding knowledge to fill it out. You just need to be able to commit and put the time. In. It’s pretty easy. And maybe you and I are too far up and we think, but I think it’s really easy and anybody can use this.

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, I mean, I played with Legos a lot as a kid, and the more I played with them, it felt like the harder it got to use them. And I couldn’t do it without an instruction manual, but this is like Duplo blocks, man. You just open it up, fill in information. It’s super easy.

Phil Singleton: Fill interesting blanks. I mean it’s like anything. Awesome really great stuff, and thanks for kind of pulling the curtains behind it a little bit and telling us how it works and why it’s so important. We all know voice is all coming up so the extent that you can get in early and maybe build up a lead, because you’re doing this stuff, more power to you. So thanks again, Rev.

…if you’re a business owner that’s super focused on actually running your business, and you know you need marketing and you have a budget, get an agency.

-Rev Ciacio

Rev Ciancio: Yeah, here’s the last piece of advice I give if basically you just listen to this commercial for Yext and you’re considering it, here’s how I would look at it. If you’re a small business and you have a passion for marketing, or you have time in your day for marketing and you think you can manage this on your own because you’re managing other things. Yeah, sign up, get in there, do it. But if you’re a business owner that’s super focused on actually running your business, and you know you need marketing and you have a budget, get an agency. Because you probably need more than just this. You probably also need content or social or PPC, or Facebook ads. And let an agency mange this for you, and let it be part of your overall solution that you’re hiring them for. So call that agency and go, “Hey, do you have Yext? No? Get it, or I’m going to another agency.”

Phil Singleton: We’ll take the agency commercial. All right, man. Thanks a lot, Rev.

Rev Ciancio: Thank you.

Using Print Media To Build Trust, Authority & Personal Branding with Katie Bean

Katie Bean is President and Editor of Thinking Bigger Business Media, a resource for Kansas City small business owners. Her background is in the newspaper journalism industry, which she supplemented with an MBA from UMKC in 2017. She loves to learn about businesses, and help connect business owners with people and strategies that they the need to grow.

Learn more about Katie Bean:

 

Meet Katie Bean

Phil Singleton:  Oh, this is going to be really awesome. First of all before we even get started, because I want to hear a little bit about your background, and kind of what you first started to do out of school, and what brought you to your current position with Thinking Bigger Business Media, but before we do that, I mean, just a special note to folks that … we have listeners kind of all over the place, but a lot of them are in Kansas City … people are going to be familiar with the magazine Thinking Bigger Business. I actually just got the newest, latest issue in my mailbox today. It’s sitting right in front of me, but certainly this has been a fixture in the Kansas City business area for years. I’ve been able to contribute to it a few times in the past with articles, and we’ve had lots of clients we referred to, and everybody’s had great things to say.

You guys, I know, do a lot more than just the magazine, and we’re going to get into all those other types of services that you guys do and how you help local business owners in the area. But first, I’d like to hear a little bit more about Katie and what your journey was that got you here today.

Katie Bean:  Sure. Well, I would say my journey started with a focus on journalism back in eighth grade when one of my friends told me, “I’m going to be on the high school newspaper next year.” I was like, I want to be on the high school newspaper, so I went through Journalism 101, got on the high school newspaper, worked from a reporter to a copy editor to editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper, and just have continued that focus on journalism in my career. I chose to go to KU, which has an excellent journalism school, and especially for me, who I really love copy editing, so they have a very strong program there. I learned all about fact checking, and you know, all those tips and tricks that lay people might consider stalking, but journalists consider a part of their job. I went to KU, and then when I got out, a lot of my professional connections were in this area, even though I grew up in Texas.

My first job was at a weekly newspaper called the Lansing Current in Lansing, Kansas, outside of Leavenworth. I was a reporter there, did a little bit of copy editing. From there I went to the Lawrence Journal-World, and was there for probably seven or eight years doing copy editing, moved up to assistant features editor toward the end, and at the end of my tenure there I had a friend who was working at the Kansas City Business Journal. I had worked with her at the Lawrence Journal-World. She said, “Hey, I got a new job. Do you want this job at the Business Journal?” I also had another friend working at the Business Journal who, same day, contacted me, and she was like, “Katie, you need to apply for this job.” I did, and it was great there working at the Business Journal.

When I first started working there, I had enjoyed working in community journalism because it’s very important. I think it’s important to know what’s going on in your community. A city like Lawrence, a lot of things revolved around KU, the university, and then you also need to know what City Commission is doing. How else are you going to find that out unless you attend every City Commission meeting or are somehow very plugged in? So I thought community journalism is what people need to know, but every time I would go and talk to people and say, “Oh, did you read about such and such that happened? It was in the Journal-World.” People would all the time be like, “No, I don’t read that.” What? Where do you get your news?

..if I say why do you do this, no one says, oh, I’m just in it for the money. No one’s ever said that.

– Katie Bean, Thinking Bigger Business Media

As soon as I moved to the Business Journal, which at first I thought, well, you know, business journalism might be a little bit boring, you know, just writing about earnings and how much money businesses make. I don’t know if it’s as important as what I was doing before, but the hours are better and I get Christmas off, so we’ll see how it goes. I found out when I started working at the Business Journal that it’s really the same. We’re telling people stories, and especially talking to business people in Kansas City, they love what they’re doing and no one has ever once told me when I’m talking to them or interviewing them for a story, if I say why do you do this, no one says, oh, I’m just in it for the money. No one’s ever said that.

They all have greater goals of job creation, or creating something lasting for their family, being able to give back to the community, whether they do that just by the services that their businesses offer or a lot of times businesses have philanthropic goals, too, and programs that they use to implement that, and of course, the money that they do make, a lot of people are reinvesting it back into the community through their business and through philanthropy. That’s one thing that I really have loved about working in Kansas City and in the business community is getting to know all these stories like that.

Moving from the Business Journal to Thinking Bigger, it’s the same kind of stories that we get to tell, except we’re telling it about the small business community, which are working on a different scale than some of the companies that the Business Journal covers. But I love writing about small businesses, because all of these small business owners have a niche and a reason for doing what they do. A lot of them are very specialized, and so it’s just cool to learn about all of these businesses and, you know, that people can have a business that just designs water slides, things like that.

Phil Singleton:  Yes, I’m sure. You mentioned a lot of different reasons people, what motivates them and stuff. I’m sure passion is probably one of them, too, because a lot of folks get in there and kind of find something they really love. Hearing those stories has to be really inspiring. Of course, that’s what I get out of your magazine, too, sometimes is kind of hearing what people’s journeys have kind of been to get them to where they are, you know, to be able to look up to that. It’s got to be part of it, too, I’m guessing.

Katie Bean:   Yeah, absolutely. The passion is what drives a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners, because a lot of them get into their business by looking at the market and saying no one’s doing this thing that I want them to do, or people are offering this service, but not to the level that I want it, so they get in and want to offer that to the community and other businesses. They do have that passion because their whole reason for doing it is because they wanted to do whatever they do the best.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome. I’ve got one question before we continue on with a few other things. When we say at a newspaper like copy editing … I know this is going to be a silly question … is that like transcripts of an interview? Is it more somebody else writes it, and then somebody goes in and makes it like better and more readable? What’s the technical definition of copy editing? Sorry to ask that, you probably know that.

Katie Bean:  Oh, no. I think there’s a lot of things about journalism that most people probably don’t know because there’s a lot of things about accounting in businesses that I don’t work in that I don’t know. How copy editing works is generally, especially at a newspaper or magazine like here, a reporter will write a story. So they create it the way that they think it should flow and with the most important facts and interesting stories from the person that they interviewed, and then they send it to a copy editor who (a) will fact check. That’s the person who is going to be double-checking name spellings, your company name spelling. If the story says that the business is on Main, but it’s actually on Walnut, the copy editor’s the one who looks that up just to make sure.

Then, also, the grammar, the spelling, the flow of the story to make sure it makes sense. What I find myself doing when I copy edit is if I start reading a story and I can’t get into it, I just power through and then figure out what is the interesting part of the story, because that’s what needs to be at the top to draw people in and keep reading.

Phil Singleton:  Okay. I was guessing it was something along those lines. Thanks for clarifying that. In my mind, I’m thinking about the reporters out there are kind of like the hunter, and the copy editor is kind of like the chef or the cook.

Katie Bean:   Yeah, I like that analogy.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome. All right. Let’s get into and talk a little bit about Thinking Bigger. A lot of people, small businesses in town, of course they’re going to know the magazine, because that’s one of the kind of flagship products, one that we’ve all kind of been a part of us in growing and doing business here in Kansas City, but I know … and I haven’t been a part of them as much as I think some other companies … there’s a lot of other things that you guys do. Can you expand on that?

What we’re really doing is connecting people to people and businesses to businesses.

– Katie Bean, Thinking Bigger Business Media

Katie Bean:  Yeah, absolutely. I just joined Thinking Bigger in November, so I’m kind of newer here, but it really makes me happy when people tell me, like you do, that they love Thinking Bigger, and that it’s been an important part of their business or telling the story of their business. That’s what we do is we tell stories about businesses in our magazine, which we have a monthly magazine. We also, in the monthly magazine, have a section called Smart Strategies. That’s where we try to find local experts who are able to talk about a part of their core business that they’re expert in that if you were in a plumbing company, you are probably an expert in plumbing. You aren’t necessarily up-to-date on all the legal aspects, and HR, and tax finance, that maybe you need to be, because when you’re an entrepreneur, you have to do all those things. You wear all those hats. We find people who are experts in all the different topics you might need to know as a business owner, and have them submit content to help other business owners. What we’re really doing is connecting people to people and businesses to businesses.

The other products that we have, one is an annual issue. It’s called the Thinking Bigger Guide for Entrepreneurs and Growing Businesses, which has a lot of those strategy and tips articles, as well as a directory in the back of all kinds of resources that you might need to access as a business of resources that you might need to access as a business, from chambers of commerce to the Women in Construction Association to … you know, incubators or funding resources, if it has a compendium of all that information in one place that you can keep on your desk all year and refer to it, especially if you are a person who likes print more than just Googling. You know that that’s a curated list that you can go to and we double check, like we talked about with copy editors, we’ve looked up all their information and we know that it’s accurate and the most recent contact info.

Phil Singleton:  It’s a great resource, I mean it’s one of the ones I think I have on my desk here, and yeah, I think one cool thing about Kansas City, and again, this might be my own perspective. I think a lot of us if we can, we prefer to do business with other people in Kansas City, of course if you’re looking for somebody that’s really an expert to grow, you basically go wherever you need to go and that’s why business is kind of cool these days, where you can hire somebody in a different part of the world if you need to. That being said, you know, when you can buy something or work with somebody local, that’s just much better, a much better option. I don’t know if that’s uniquely Kansas City, it feels like it is, I hear it from other people. They like to kind of buy local too whether it’s business to consumer or even business to business thing.

So having a resource like that where you can go to it and find somebody where there might be a local alternative to something is something I think is really cool.

Katie Bean:  Yeah, I hear that a lot to, that when possible people like to work with businesses that are also in Kansas City because they … you know, you kind of get them, you know what they’ve been through, you know the funding challenges that they might have had or finding the right office space. So you just have something in common with them automatically and so another way that we helped to connect businesses is through our events and that’s where you might meet someone in person who you could do business with potentially or at least learn something from. So we have events throughout the year including our big breakfast, which is a panel of CEO’s, people who have been on our cover of the magazine and those are really good. Obviously I’m a little bit biased, there are a lot of other good events in town, but what I really like about ours is that these entrepreneurs come and they are always willing to be real with you, so we ask them questions about what are some of the challenges that they’ve run into, they’ll tell you and they’ll say I did this, you should not do that.

And so I think it’s been very valuable, a lot of people come up to me afterwards and tell me I really enjoyed that, I definitely got a few things out of it I didn’t know before.

Phil Singleton:  The “Big Breakfast” series, are those monthly or …

Katie Bean:  That’s quarterly.

Phil Singleton:   Quarterly, that’s right, okay.

Katie Bean:  And another quarterly event we have is called Brew 30, where we go around the city to different breweries, distilleries, and wineries and the next time will actually be at a coworking space with our brewery and our winery serving because neither of those had locations where we could host the event, but we are bringing them to our audience.

Phil Singleton:   Is that a newer one or maybe I just haven’t been paying attention, sorry?

Katie Bean:  It’s been remote for about two years, so it’s newer, and yeah.

Phil Singleton:  It’s probably really popular I’m guessing.

Katie Bean:  I think we have about 70 people each time.

Phil Singleton:  Nice.

Katie Bean:  And so that’s one thing that is really cool about it, that there’s so many people, but that also means we can’t go to every brewery because their tap rooms don’t always hold that many people, so we’re looking for other places like East Brook Collaborative is hosting us this month and that way we’re able to bring in a brewery and Joller Creek Winery, which … they have a winery in the north land, which might be a little bit of a drive for some people, especially if you work or live south. So we’re bringing it to a little bit more of a central location.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome.

Katie Bean:   Should be fun. Also, at those … some people who have been featured in the magazine also get to speak and we just ask them each a few questions including if there’s one thing that you could ask from people here, not sales, what would it be, you know. We could all use more sales but people are able to say like well, what we’re really looking for is a new space because we’re offering our current space or we are looking for people to hire in these areas, and again, that’s where we really see the connections being made because people will come up to them afterwards and say oh, you should talk to so and so, I know they have a building and they are only using part of it, so there might be enough space for you to work in that same place.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome, I know you guys also have the 40 under 40, right, that’s pretty well known … wait a minute, it’s the 25 under 25, am I right?

Katie Bean:  That’s right, so our event is the 25 under 25 for 25 outstanding businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Phil Singleton:  And that’s another kind of a fixture, it seems like it always gets pretty good buzz around town every year?

Katie Bean:  Yeah.

Phil Singleton:  So it’s an award but it’s also an event ceremony?

Katie Bean:  That’s right, it’s an award and we have a big … we have several events leading up to the award ceremony and there’s a big gala, it’s on a Saturday night, it’s black tie, and that’s in February, and we’re just getting ready to start the cycle for 18th annual 25 under 25 awards.

Phil Singleton:  18, that’s awesome.

We have a lot of alumni of our 25 under 25 program who end up making connections through the program and have ended up working together.

– Katie Bean, Thinking Bigger Business Media

Katie Bean:   Yeah, nominations begin August 1st and 25under25.com, and you know, what I learned from working at the business journal and now doing the 25 under 25 awards is … if you can get your name out there by winning an award, that is so valuable as far as the marketing you get out of it, you can’t pay for it. We have a lot of alumni of our 25 under 25 program who end up making connections through the program and have ended up working together. We have heard stories of people who invested in each others businesses, you know, and just growing and doing better business together, so that’s one way that people are making connections but also I see it on a lot of peoples marketing. They have like 25 under 25 award winner, and people in town know what that means, because it’s been around for 18 years and they know that’s a great small business.

Phil Singleton:  Yes, that’s a great segway into some of these other things we were talking about, kind of in the green room before we started recording. Is the … you know I was talking about it, it seems like everything out there, especially in traditional media, gets under attack by some inbound or new form of marketing out there and I’m going to step back and say I’ve been web designing SEO for quite some time and every year I hear that SEO and Google is dead, and we all have to deal with that, but print is the same thing to some degree because part of it is just driven by some of the stories or the mass media … bigger newspapers probably have struggled quite a bit on that piece. On the other hand, I know, we know locally, and I’ve actually seen this myself, that there are a lot of local and or niche magazines that are actually really thriving way more so than kind of the big, the giant magazines that are trying to be everything to everybody or newspapers too. I think those ones probably are suffering and continue to suffer.

But the niche ones seem to be doing really well, you guys have been doing it for 18 years, and obviously still like you said, a fixture in the very important part of the business community here, comments on that. I mean you’re coming from the industry, what do you think has changed, what do you think print kind of fits into small business owners kind of overall marketing these days?

Katie Bean:  Yeah, I mean I have been hearing that print is dead or print is dying for my whole career, but it’s been like 18 years and it’s still here.

Phil Singleton: Right.

Katie Bean:   So it’s not dead yet, one thing … people still like to pick up a newspaper or a magazine or a book, so it’s not dead. Some of the benefits of advertising in print is that it sticks around for a long time, so with our monthly magazine and with a lot of magazines, you know, people get it, they read it, they put it down. Somebody else gets it, they read it, they put it down.

Phil Singleton:  Yeah, nobody throws away a magazine or you know, that kind of stuff, it stays around for a while.

Katie Bean:  Exactly, you know, that’s why when you go to your doctors office there’s a people magazine from 2013 because no one ever throws them away. So it has that longevity to it, especially with a glossy magazine like ours, so you know … that’s one way that … that’s one of the benefits of print advertising. I know some of the criticism is that you can’t measure how many people see it, you know, that’s why some places are really leaning towards digital advertising, because people who are into data and metrics know this is exactly how many clicks our ad got and this is how many clicks I wanted and it either performed or it didn’t perform. So with print advertising it’s a little bit more of an art, we can’t tell you the exact number of people who actually looked at your ad, we can tell you our circulation numbers and that you know … since we send our magazine to other businesses, a lot of times like we said, it gets picked up and put down and passed around the office and so more than one person sees every copy of it.

We also can tell people that our advertisers tell us that every time they run an ad they get a response. We’ve recently had someone say, you know, I can’t run my ad right now because I don’t have enough capacity for the calls that it gets, you know.

Phil Singleton:  Nice.

Katie Bean:   Every time I run that ad I get a response and we just have too much work right now so we can’t run an ad.

Phil Singleton:   Awesome. There’s just so many intangible things that come along with what I think what’s become really important with marketing these days and everybody, especially small businesses, but really anybody that’s trying to become a leader … things like building authority and personal branding, the branding side of the company. That stuff is a little bit intangible but with the magazine, the magazine cover that gets distribution, especially around Kansas City, once you get that kind of coverage in a magazine that’s been around as long and is know as well as Thinking Bigger, I mean that obviously adds to this thing that’s helping, that’s becoming kind of a standard piece of inbound marketing and that is how do we build, how do we separate ourselves, how are we perceived as an expert, you know, in our … in the space that we’re in. I think some of those things are just kind of intangible but you can … it’s proof of it when it lands in your hand, right, when they are in there and you see that and somebodies stories is in there or somebody gets coverage in it. That’s just a physical proof that there is branding and authority building that goes along with that, that doesn’t come out in an analytics report.

Katie Bean:   Yeah, exactly, I mean we consider the magazine a premium product as far as advertising, and part of that is because of the cache that you get from being in a magazine. So when your ad is flashing online 10,000 times, people might see your logo but they don’t necessarily know if you’re local ….people might see your logo, but they don’t necessarily know if you’re local. They don’t know, is that a real business or is that one of those things where, if I click on it, I just go to this weird website, that I got into this weird rabbit hole and I don’t know I got here, but when they see your ad in a magazine it lends some legitimacy to it, because it’s one of those weird rabbit hole websites. It’s not going to pay the money to be in a local Kansas City magazine, so when they see your ad in Thinking Bigger, they know that you’re real and you’re local, and that if they call, somebody is going to answer the phone. It’s not just like some bot online.

Phil Singleton:   Another cool thing that you guys have been doing for a long time, at least since I’ve really started reading it, is like you were saying at the beginning, which is there’s a lot of sharing. There’s a lot of expertise that comes into it, which is the way that I think a lot of us, if you’re going to get a lot out of any kind of a print or maybe kind of a sponsored type of a strategy is that you’re essentially kind of selling by teaching.

So yeah, you want to have that brand building and stuff that you maybe see in a traditional ad and that kind of really supplements stuff, you’ll see it over and over again. Eventually you get the numbers, if you’re committed to a strategy where you’re out there, getting in front of people all the time. So like usually, I’m going to say for most cases I’m thinking that one ad in the magazine not as beneficial as having one that’s consistently there overtime, where you’re almost kind of in a way building a relationship with somebody each time they read it.

But what I’m really getting at is, some of that educational content that’s in there, like you were saying, where people are sharing some of their background and giving some of their best tips and advice out there, as almost kind of like contributors and stuff, or even that they’re getting covered in the story, telling that some of the things, the stumbling blocks, the way they succeeded or things they’ve done around stuff. That, I think is really helpful and really helps you, I think build a relationship with the people that are in there, even if they know it or not.

Katie Bean:  Yeah, absolutely. Just to clarify, in our magazine you can’t pay for coverage, so the people that are on our covers, we have chosen editorially, but the point is still true that being in our magazine, if we have contacted you to write about your company, to be a cover story or the Made To Last, which is about small businesses that have been in business a long time, or entrepreneurial journey, any of those stories, or if it’s one of the smart strategies where, like you said, you’re sharing your expertise with other readers. You know, we ask you to do that and we don’t compensate you and you don’t have to pay us to be in that. But it is part of a marketing strategy, if you use it well, because you’re getting your name out there in the community, and you’re sharing what you know with all the other readers and other business owners, and people really connect to that.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome, and also as a second piece of it, which is you’ve got a web presence, a lot of the information. Is all this stuff in the magazine end up on the website at some point or another or is it-?

Katie Bean:   Most of the stories do end up on the website. Some of our briefs in the front on the magazine don’t make it online, at least right now. That’s something that I’m kind of weighing as far as our strategy. Some of those are just such small bits of information.

Phil Singleton:  Sure, kind of hard to make a full….

Katie Bean:   Yeah, exactly. So some of that is just trying to weigh what’s the most useful for readers of the magazine and of the website and things like that. But for the most part, our main articles all go online after the issue is published. And the smart strategies are there too.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome. Anything else that you guys have coming up that’s new, that you might want to talk about or anything else you want to like maybe promote that might be coming up in the next-? This might be a good time to just kind of tell us what’s on the horizon, the things you guys might be kicking around or have announced recently?

Katie Bean:   Yeah, our Brew 30 is coming up this month. I mentioned that earlier. So that is July 26, and we’ll be at Eastbrook Collaborative in the Northland with Torn Label Brewing and Creek Winery. So it’s a great place to meet and connect with people.

Our 25 under 25 awards, the nominations open August 1st. So there’s only a few weeks, and then you can start telling us who the best businesses are that have less than 25 employees.

Then, I guess the only other thing that’s new is that, we’re working on raising our visibility, because there’s a lot of people like you in town who have been reading it for a long time and are aware of the value that Thinking Bigger has. Then there’s also a lot of people I’ve met since I started who … I would say it’s about 50/50, people who know and understand and love Thinking Bigger, and then there’s about the other 50% say, “Oh, did you just start that?” Or, “Oh, you have a print component, too?”

Phil Singleton:  You guys got to do marketing, like the rest of us have to do, right? I get it.

Katie Bean:   Exactly. Yeah. So there’s still that same aspect of getting our name out there and making sure people understand what we’re bringing to the table and how we can help them.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome. So the only other piece I like to kind of bring it the end is, you’re from Kansas City or you live in the Kansas City area, anyway. Any kind of favorite places that you like to go?

It’s pretty funny because I asked this a lot and I had, embarrassingly enough, never gone to Q39. I’ve been asking this question to a lot of people who live in Kansas City and like five people were telling us this is a favorite restaurant. I had never been. But I actually went 4th of July, was my first time and it was awesome. So I actually like asking this question selfishly, just to figure out what place great places are in Kansas City that I haven’t been to. I still think there’s plenty.

But just other ones that, places you like, companies that you admire. Anything that somebody would come out of town, it’d be like, “Oh, you gotta go here.” Give us some Katie Bean Kansas City favorites.

Katie Bean:  Okay. So let’s see, if you’re coming in from out of town, I highly recommend the World War One Museum. That is a great museum, one of the new museums that’s interactive in the way you experience it. So it’s really cool. I highly recommend that. If you’re not afraid of heights, it’s also pretty cool, because you can go all the way up in that tower and get a great skyline picture.

I also really love the Nelson Atkins Museum, our local art museum, which is free every day, and they have a great collection. They also have been working on different ways to get people engaged. I think it’s coming up later this month, there’s the Big Picnic, which is a picnic right outside on the lawn of the Nelson Atkins. So that’s where they have all the shuttlecocks, which you can’t touch, because they’re sculptures, but you can get a great picture with it. I mean it’s July and it’s hot, but there’s actually a lot of shade on the sides of that lawn. So, that’s what I recommend, if you go is get-

Phil Singleton:   Age groups?  What age, can kids go? My kids, I’ve got twin boys that are eight. We didn’t take them to a lot of stuff yet in Kansas City, because they’re still … but now they’re kind of the age where … and we have been taking them more places, several … but those are two places we haven’t taken them yet. But I guess eight’s probably, just wait little bit longer?

Katie Bean:   For the picnic, it’s definitely a good time to go. There’s food tracks, and I think they have badminton set up outside, with  regular size shuttle cocks that you could play. So that’s kid friendly.

I would say, because the museum is free, it’s a good one to go to, because you can do just one or two sections at a time and that way you can gauge your kids’ interests. So if you take them in, you go through the African art section, because that has some cool, weird stuff. You can take them through there, see how they do, and say like, “Okay, now we’re going to go back through the modern art piece.” Take a look, and if they’re done after that, you can leave and you don’t have to feel guilty because you didn’t pay anything, and you can come back again later to see all the other parts.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome. That’s on the list now. It already was on the list. A few other people, at least one or two, that was one of their top Kansas City faves.

Katie Bean:    Oh, they also have this cool glass maze outside. That’s one of the outdoor sculptures. So that’s cool. I thought it was cool, but I’m sure eight year olds would like it, too. Just make sure they don’t run, because the last time I was there I did see this poor little girl who started running towards her mom and just smacked her face.

Phil Singleton:   Wipe out?

Katie Bean:  A little bit. It was a little traumatic for her.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well tell us, as we wrap up here, tell us the best place to kind of read more about the Thinking Bigger and kind of where the best places are to kind of follow you, and how you guys, maybe, where you’re most active on social media and stuff like that.

Katie Bean:  Yeah. So our website ithinkbigger.com, and that has links to all of our content that we talked about already. We also are active on Facebook, if you like to follow Facebook. We’re on LinkedIn as well, and so you can see a lot of our stories posted there. That’s good access point to remind you about what we’re writing about. We also have Twitter. I know not as many people have Twitter, but we’re on there at, @ithinkbigger, and I’m on Twitter as @katiebeankc.

Phil Singleton:  Awesome. Katie, thanks so much for spending time and sharing your story and the great things that Thinking Bigger is doing. We just really appreciate you having you on the show, and we’re going to make sure that we’ve got all that stuff, links back to your site and things in the show notes. And thanks once again.

Katie Bean:  Yeah, thanks for having me Phil. It was fun.

 

Building an Agency, Coaching & Crushing it on LinkedIn with Mod Girl

Mandy is the Founder and CEO of Mod Girl Marketing, an inbound marketing consultancy based in California. Recognized as a Top 8 SEO Expert by Search Engine Journal and a content marketing influencer by BuzzSumo, she has helped thousands of marketing entrepreneurs and business owners exceed their goals by sharing the lessons she’s learned in over 10 years in the industry.

In addition to successfully scaling her own 100% remote digital agency, Mandy has developed premium digital programs to help fellow marketing entrepreneurs find dozens of qualified leads a week, land 6-figure dream clients, scale their business through modern outsourcing, and more.

In her newest membership, Remote Agency Society, Mandy shares her personal insights and systems to help smaller agencies scale faster.

She also operates one of the top digital agency groups on Facebook, Mod Agency Insiders. Continue reading “Building an Agency, Coaching & Crushing it on LinkedIn with Mod Girl”

Growing a Digital Marketing Agency from $100K to $3 Million+

Kade Wilcox is the owner and CEO of Primitive Social, a digital marketing agency in Lubbock, Texas, focused on helping companies grow through software development, website design and development, inbound marketing, and sales enablement.

In 2011, Kade and his wife Lacey started Primitive Social, providing social media support to small local businesses. In 2013, Kade and Lacey connected with Jerred Hurst (now co-owner of Primitive Social) and decided to focus on growing the company. Over the past six years, Kade has helped transform Primitive Social from a 2 person team into a multi-million dollar company with nearly 50 employees.

Kade is happily married to Lacey and has a beautiful 7 year old daughter named Selah and an incredible 5 year old son named Kase. Continue reading “Growing a Digital Marketing Agency from $100K to $3 Million+”

Facebook Messenger Marketing with Chatbots

About Larry Kim

Larry Kim is the founder of WordStream, which is a suite of online marketing and advertising tools that helps businesses manage search engine marketing campaigns.

More recently, Larry is the CEO of MobileMonkey.

Mobile Monkey is the worlds best Facebook messengers marketing platform for marketers and companies of all sizes. It’s free and easy, it’s an online service that enables you to create powerful chat-bots without coding.

Larry Kim is one of the best and brightest minds in digital marketing. He’s the Google whisperer, the Albert Einstein of AdWords and the Pied Piper of unicorns.

If I could only follow one influencer now until the end of my days, it would be Larry Kim, that is how good his content is and how much advice has helped me over the … his advice has helped me over the years. Continue reading “Facebook Messenger Marketing with Chatbots”

From Local Store to $200 Million in Online Sales with Danny Govberg

Danny Govberg is a pioneering force of the contemporary watch industry. His vision and insatiable passion for watches and technology enabled the evolution of Govberg from a Philadelphia-based retail shop to one of the world’s premier authorized dealers of both new and pre-owned timepieces.  Danny recognized years ago that selling new watches was only one way to support the life of a watch collector and set in motion a tech forward, pre-owned strategy that inspired the evolution of WatchBox. Continue reading “From Local Store to $200 Million in Online Sales with Danny Govberg”

How to Grow a Multi-Million Dollar Agency

 

Meet Greg Gragg

Greg is CEO of Blue Chair, he has more than 30 years of entrepreneurial experience in startups, acquisitions, business development, and takeovers. Starting with Gragg Advertising in 1992, Greg has started four additional technology companies, purchased one and helped develop over 20 proprietary products focused on good practices in performance marketing. Greg has been nominated Entrepreneur of the Year twice and has received numerous accolades and awards over the years. Greg’s companies have been noted in Kansas City’s fastest growing companies for the last 20 years. Most recently, Lever1 was listed as the fastest growing company in Missouri by Inc. Magazine and was the 40th fastest growing company in the US. In addition, Integri Shield was listed as one of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies in Inc. Magazine. Continue reading “How to Grow a Multi-Million Dollar Agency”

How to Get Client Results & Grow Your Own Agency with Content Marketing

Brandee Johnson is an entrepreneur, a marketer and a speaker. Since 2015, Brandee has owned and operated Limelight Marketing, a growth agency based in Pittsburgh, Kansas.

Limelight Marketing helps companies develop brand stories to attract and convert customers.

Prior to owning the agency, Brandee spent 15 years working for leading brands in national and global corporations including Lego.

She has implemented and integrated a variety of marketing and IT systems including marketing automation, CRM, and eCommerce platforms. Continue reading “How to Get Client Results & Grow Your Own Agency with Content Marketing”

Physical Therapy Marketing Strategy, Tips & Ideas for Private Practices

Phil Singleton: Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast. I’m your host, Phil Singleton. Today, we have a special guest with us once again.

David Straight is a doctor of physical therapy, he’s an author, speaker, and a marketing expert.

He’s also the co-owner of e-rehab.com.

…AND the marketing director of a seven-location private practice.

David and his business partner own and operate a digital marketing agency that serves the physical therapy private practice market. He and his company provide websites, email newsletters, SEO, reputation management, video marketing, and social media marketing for over 1,600 locations across North America.

He’s the author of “Booked Solid, the Fast and Easy and Affordable Way to Use the Internet to Drive More Patients in the Door.” He’s presented on multiple, national, state, and local professional conferences as well. His passion is to help people understand that physical therapy is the best first choice for neuromuscular conditions.

Resource links:

 

David Straight: Yeah, that’s good.

Phil Singleton: All right. We kind of read through your bio at the beginning. Can you give us kind of a quick three-minute overview of those first steps out of college and into the real world and how you got to the agency that you built today?

David Straight: Sure, well, first of all, Phil, thanks for having me on today. As a physical therapist, I graduated back in the early ’90s and love treating patients, helping them out. Found what we do is a specialty and something that really no other profession does. But during the course of treating patients for over 15 years, I found that a lot of people weren’t getting physical therapy. I had numerous people that I spoke with as well as people that came in the door with patients that had problems but never saw a physical therapist. So, I saw that as an opportunity to help educate my community on the value of seeing a physical therapist first.

You don’t have to look very far nowadays in the news to know that there’s all kinds of problems with healthcare costs, while physical therapy costs, 50 to 75% less than the traditional care that … for example, a back pain patient might get in the medical industrial complex. Then of course there’s the opioid epidemic where we have, I think what, last year 63,000 people died. More people died from opioids than cancer, from breast cancer and car accidents. So, we as physical therapists are there to solve problems so people don’t have to take on those types of treatments.

I realized, during the course of my physical therapy career that nobody was really promoting private practice online.

David Straight

I realized, during the course of my physical therapy career that nobody was really promoting private practice online. I had created my first website for my practice way back in 1995, and then started doing an email newsletter, and … you’ll like this one, I was doing paid ads on the Go To Network, which became Overture and then Yahoo. And then Google, of course, came along, and overtook them. But we were generating two to 3% of our business way back in 2001 from paid ads. One, it was the wild west and the cost per click was less than a dollar. I started e-Rehab in 2003 with some friends of mine in the PT community and then in 2005 sold my interests back to my former partner who I’m now the marketing director for again, and created e-Rehab and found a great partner. We’ve been in the business now … we like to say we’ve been around longer than Facebook and Yelp, which, I think says a lot, as you know. A lot of people that are doing websites and stuff.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I was actually listening to a podcast the other day and I was telling this guy how I basically got a D in computer science and then kind of run my own agency that I make a decent living from. He’s like, yeah, you’re the kind of guy that I wanna learn from. You don’t want to learn from the … and he can use that almost like somebody that diets. You don’t want to learn how to lose weight from the guy that’s had 3% body fat since he was born. You wanna learn from the people that have been in it, have done it, and struggled through it, and that’s what’s interesting about what you said. You came from the other side so you know exactly what some of these guys are going through and then you went kind of the other side and now help them grow their practices, which is really, really awesome, and lends to, I think, to a ton of credibility rather than, like, an outside marketer that really doesn’t know what some of these guys go through.

I’m guessing it’s kind of unique. I’ve to run into a couple of physical therapists over the years. I do know that it just seems like they’ve got slightly different marketing challenges, and even like margins safe to work with I guess maybe than other forms of, say even kind of in the medical practice world. But, can you kind of just start diving into it? If you’ve seen a lot come and go, what kinds of things for a physical therapist are working in terms of, let’s say, lead generation.

In the physical therapy market it’s kind of unique because, for almost 100 years we’ve generally been a referral based business.

David Straight

David Straight: Sure. As a marketing consultant that it’s really important to have a total online presence. In the physical therapy market it’s kind of unique because, for almost 100 years we’ve generally been a referral based business. Meaning, physicians have referred patients to physical therapy. Over the last 15 to 20 years, lots of clinical research has come out that says, hey patients should go to physical therapy directly. So, it’s a balancing act for private practices. They get most of their business, at least the first time a patient comes in, from referral sources. You certainly need to make sure that you have a referral marketing program in place, but online you need to have a great website so you make that great first impression. 80% of people that go to a PT website go one time. You don’t sell anything on your PT website for the most part so people aren’t gonna come back.

But, what we like to say too, or the second component, is, if you look at web analytics, Google is most PT practices’ home page. It’s the first thing a majority of people see online when it comes to a PT practice. So, having a great Google presence, ranking for physical therapy in your local market, ranking for your business name, of course, and then leveraging all of the great new tools that Google My Business is providing, that’s the second thing we would say. So, first a website. Second would be Google My Business and SEO and search rankings. And then the third thing that we found is reputation marketing. You and I know well with our training and experience with duct tape marketing that lead conversion is something that a lot of people don’t consider. They think of marketing as lead generation only, but really, like we have explored for many years, since about 2009 the idea of lead conversion and using reputation to help people that are considering a practice to actually choose them and not go to another website.

So, making sure that you get good ratings and reviews are social proof and it’s out there on the internet, on Google for example, on your website, on social media, is important. Then a nice email newsletter that goes out month after month. It’s so low cost and so easy to do, is something that we highly recommend because of the time it takes to do it is next to nothing. And the ability to get it out there, the cost is so low. Then there are other things you can do. Social media of course has been the rage for years, but looking at web analytics and also what Google says, 99% of searches are done on Google and Bing and not too much search for physical therapy practices or what we call utilitarian services are done on social media.

So, it’s important to have a Facebook presence, Twitter presence. We’d love you to because video’s a great way to build a like and trust in John’s elegant model, you know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, refer. Having video can actually show who you are and what your thoughts are and what your expertise is. So, video marketing is something that we really like. And actually say it’s more valuable than Facebook or Twitter, just because of the way people seek out and utilize the web to find PT practices. So, those are-

Phil Singleton: Yeah, you think for a doctor, especially, anything where you can like see or hear the doctor…

David Straight: Yeah, that’s really simply and well put. Absolutely. So, websites, SEO, have a simple email newsletter go out. Build your reputation, lead conversion. It’s really changed a lot of practices. It’s the best investment they say they’ve made if they buy into it. Then, having a social media presence, as much as anything for SEO. Then, using leveraging video is really nice. Nowadays, as you know, we’re doing this awesome podcast, you’re halfway across the country, technology’s available to do video and quality video for a very low price as well. Those are the things that typically work well for that. A referral based utilitarian type of service versus a hedonistic service.

The other way to describe it is nobody wants to see an emergency plumber or a locksmith or endodontist, or an orthopedic surgeon, or of course, a physical therapist. They need those services, and once a need is fulfilled, then they hope they never go back. If you contrast that to, like, a restaurant or a fitness center or a personal trainer, people want those things, you can induce demand for them.

If you understand your market, and those different segments and how they consume your services and what your ideal targets are, then its pretty easy for us, you and I especially, to recommend how to leverage these tactics and these tools

David Straight

It goes back to what, again, you and I have learned and know well. If you understand your market, and those different segments and how they consume your services and what your ideal targets are, then its pretty easy for us, you and I especially, to recommend how to leverage these tactics and these tools that you and I use and provide for others so well.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. I love the referral marketing thing, I’m sorry, the reputation management. I’m obviously really big on that, too, but it’s like … I don’t even think it’s just for any doctors, right? Just recently, one of my twin son was diagnosed with some kind of mild asthma. Our pediatrician referred us to the allergist that they refer people to, and I think maybe going back 10 years or so ago, I would have just gone because my doctor said go there. Right?

David Straight: Right.

Phil Singleton: But I did what I think pretty much everybody does, is I went and I looked up online this allergist specialist that they referred me to. They had horrible reviews. So, they lost the referral because they weren’t taking care of business on their own. And I would have gone there if it looked even halfway decent ’cause I trust my pediatrician a lot, but, it’s like any referral based thing. Who doesn’t go online to double check what your friend said or what your doctor said, or something like that? And that’s probably especially true for any form of medical thing. It’s just too easy to do a little bit of due diligence and see are these guys a nightmare or not. And these guys were. The other allergist that they sent me to was just, like, it was like terrible reviews, like many. It wasn’t like one or two that they could have explained away or one or two and no other good ones. It was like there were some good ones but the majority of them were bad. I was like, I’m not even gonna waste my time, right?

And of course we ended up going somewhere else because the other people took care of business, you know what I mean? We’re in the business so we know kind of how to look behind the matrix a little bit but still, we’re looking for the same stuff and if you read enough of them you get the gist of it. I think that’s just so huge, but especially for medical. I think a lot of people just don’t realize … yeah, you gotta have the referral thing lined up, because it still works, but if you’re not set up online to capture your own referral demand, you’re not gonna get all your referral leads. You’re gonna lose them, right?

David Straight: Absolutely.

Phil Singleton: And I think that’s huge, huge I think, in your space.

94% of buying decisions are influenced by some sort of online situation.

David Straight

David Straight: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. You mentioned that, what’s a good piece of advice for any type of service based business nowadays. 94% of buying decisions are influenced by some sort of online situation. A great resource for people that might be listening, small businesses is brightlocal.com. They just have all kinds of wonderful statistics about how ratings and reviews and reputation influences buying decisions. So, it should be, between the common sense that you articulated and the data that’s out there, and the cost to implement the program. It’s cheap nowadays to do these things, and there’s no reason why people shouldn’t do it. It does take a change in your processes, but it can really, if you have two, three, four, five hundred visitors a month to your website, wouldn’t it be nice to spend a few hundred bucks and maybe convert two or three more percent of those people into paying customers? It’s, like I say, it’s a no-brainer for me.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. Now, I’ve got to give you one example. I love what you’re doing because it’s your niche and I’m trying to get more into that and a couple of spaces nationally for what we do, but here locally, in Kansas City, it’s tough to be in one metro area, I think, and be a niche in something unless that’s big enough. But, we do get, in Kansas City here, at least we get to talk to a lot of different businesses and our portfolio is a diverse business base.

I’ve talked to some physical therapists, I think, over the years, and one I can remember … I’m always trying to figure out, because you talk to other businesses and some of them have different types of marketing budgets, dependent on what the margins are and it goes for any business, especially in medical. But I know in this case, I think we were talking about doing a new website for these guys. For us, it’s maybe like a 7,500-dollar investment for a website and all the SEO and upfront stuff, and I just remember the gentleman that owned the practice was similar to a lot of small businesses, which sets a lot up front. But, I remember him telling me, “Man, that 7,500, that’s more than I spend the entire year on marketing.” This is like a two location, I think, physical therapy practice.

Tell us a little bit about this niche and the things that work for them and what’s kind of reasonable; how big of a plan can they have and what type of investment … not to get in specific dollars but what kind of things can they be doing? This guy in particular, he was really interested in getting involved and rolling up his sleeves and doing some of his own work, which is great when you got a client like that, right? Because they’re willing to do some of it, and you’ll get maybe some of the best content if they’re just not trying to do things 100% passively. It did strike me as, okay, maybe there’s not the budget to work with me or the margins are a little bit thinner.

This is more, I don’t wanna say like a commodity type of a medical service but maybe it’s not like the guys that do cosmetic surgery or, I know some of the guys, like in bariatric surgery their margins are a lot higher so they can dump a lot of money in different places. In this space I don’t really know where these guys are, but what things work? How robust can their plan be? And I guess it probably would depend on, is it a single location, multiple location, how long they’ve been around. But, can you give us a little bit of insight? I was like, what do I tell a guy that’s got a marginal budget but we’re always trying to help people out. What things can they be doing on their own? And then when is it time to, like, maybe contact a guy like David Straight? Say okay, you’ve got enough here where we can actually help you out?

There’s no opportunity to really, to over-treat, or see people for additional visits because that kind of strategy typically ends up backfiring when patients should be done with you but you’re asking them to come in for more. So, the only real strategy for physical therapy private practice is to increase volume.

David Straight

David Straight: Yeah, absolutely. You’re obviously a super smart marketer and you just nailed a lot of things with knowing very little about the market. First of all, fee for service medicine, which is defined as anybody that takes insurance, to a great degree is a commodity. There’s no opportunity to increase billing. There’s no, for a particular date of visit, because fees are set by insurance companies already. There’s no opportunity to really, to over-treat, or see people for additional visits because that kind of strategy typically ends up backfiring when patients should be done with you but you’re asking them to come in for more.

So, the only real strategy for physical therapy private practice is to increase volume. So, what I tell practices like the one you’re referring to, is to think about when they’re most profitable. And, in a service business their primary costs are their staff and their rent. So, the goal is to book your practice solid or to work to really increase your schedule to capacity, because once your profitable, if you have unused scheduled visits on your calendar there, that’s just purely lost profit. The value in online marketing, even in the referral based business like physical therapy, is to help you get your name out there, which you can do at scale for affordable rates, and then book your practice solid.

Obviously, if you have to bring on more staff, then it’s again, you’re gonna have to save for that and you’re gonna increase costs there. But, gotta book your practice solid, and the internet is … or, those are wonderful tools to convert to get your name out there for people that are comparison shopping, the doctor gave them a list and said pick from the list. You wanna stand out on that list. They found you in the insurance book. Make sure that you’re the best first choice there, especially with reputation. Then, as far as your budget goes, well, once you’re dealing with pass break even, then that’s when you should really step on the gas and spend money on marketing, and then get yourself up to that capacity.

Your budget, I think it’s lazy to say you should spend X percentage of money on marketing. I really think what it is, is you wanna spend as little as possible to get the job done. But, most professionals, to some degree they resent marketing. They go to school, they spend a lot of years becoming a specialist, and when they come out then they realize, “Gosh, I’m in the real world and I have to compete. I don’t wanna spend money on marketing.” So, they look at things from cost-centric standpoint, and they really typically don’t budget enough or at all.

So, Jim Collins, “Good to Great,” he always talks about how small businesses fail primarily because they’re afraid to spend money because they think they’re throwing money away. There’s just too much data out there to say now that’s not the case. You should have a good budget. Work yourself up to capacity, leverage those tools online-

Phil Singleton: I know we’re talking about being lazy about a number … but, just out of curiosity, is there anything that’s in the physical therapy space? Because it’s so tough. Some margins are like, consumer software, let’s say, that are really high, right? I mean, there’s a large affiliate. So, they can like give 20, 30% commissions off of a sale, on top of other marketing and stuff like that. Not just small, other businesses, I mean, is there any kind of a range you would say, that somebody could just do a gut check themselves? You’ve got a lot of locations and a lot of clients in this niche. So, I mean, low end, 5%, 10%, 20, is there anything, any gauge that way? Because, I think some people are like, just looking for any type of idea, like, in the space.

But I know what you’re saying, you can’t really…. especially if you’re not even break even yet then a percentage, even a range, doesn’t even make any sense, whatsoever. But, any kind of a benchmark in there that just would give, would 10% of an established business be anywhere close to it or is it more than that? Just a gut reaction?

I would say if you’re not spending five to 10%, somewhere in there of your revenue or 15, 20%, again, it depends on the size of the practice, your margins, you’re just not gonna survive…

David Straight

David Straight: When people ask me this question and that’s why the value of having a marketing consultant matters so much, but, I would say if you’re not spending five to 10%, somewhere in there of your revenue or 15, 20%, again, it depends on the size of the practice, your margins, you’re just not gonna survive because-

Phil Singleton: Right, so if somebody came out and says I’m only gonna spend 1% or 5% of me … that’s almost like going fishing without any bait on the hook, to me. It’s like at some point you gotta put something out there.

David Straight: I’d say it’s like going fishing and not having a pole. It’s not gonna happen. Physical therapy is in a unique position as a profession. So, all the data says we provide so much value. So, what we’re seeing is a corporate roll-up in physical therapy. When there’s a corporate roll-up you have an executive level expense there, and so what happens is the quality of care goes down.

Well, physical therapy private practice, the small ones, they think they can’t compete with them, but in the review economy we live in, they have clients that are competing with giant corporations. They’ll never outspend those giant corporations. They don’t even have marketing people, but they can compete with them because they can rank online affordably, and they can stand out as having the best reputation in the community. So, that’ll keep them in a position where just spending that money on that type of strategy can actually keep them afloat, and keep them booked solid, or working at capacity where they’re-

Phil Singleton: I absolutely love that, ’cause I’m thinking right now, I’ve got a couple of dentists on and they … when you focus on and you do the things like you’re talking about, especially on the reputation management, they like crush franchise ones, ’cause the people don’t have the same level as their employees that are not owners, I think to some extent.

David Straight: I would totally agree with that. They’re just not as engaged as an owner, and the big corporations, reputation isn’t even on their radar. And if it is, then it’s a massive changing of course of the ship to get everybody on board. So, smaller businesses have tremendous opportunity just to bake into their culture the simple strategy of asking for ratings and reviews the right service.

Phil Singleton:  Yes, and then what you can do is end up stealing some of the demand-creating marketing that people do. Like I was saying, somebody else generates your referral, they don’t take care of business, we’ll steal that when it gets filtered back to the internet because we did take care of business, right? So, you’ll be the hundred-review guy and maybe didn’t have to spend as much on marketing because the other guy did it for you. And you just stole it when it came through the internet. So, that kind of stuff is awesome and it works.

David Straight: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just not difficult. We know this so well. It’s just a tremendous opportunity. I would encourage people to, you know, they’re listening to this and they’re in your communities seek you out. You get it. I mean, have the conversation.

Phil Singleton: It definitely helps …Every business niche is different and you are a true expert in this space. So, anybody that’s a physical therapy space, please reach out to David and make sure you contact him, because he’s the top expert, I think, in the country on what he does and the best of what he does.

I gotta wrap it up with this, but tell people how they can contact you, and anything else that you got going on to promote, or books or eBooks or anything where they find out more about you or get a little taste of your services.

David Straight: Sure. The best thing they can do is go to our website e-rehab.com. If they want to talk to me specifically, set up a time with me, they can even call me, 760-585-9097. I got a second version of my book coming out the second or third quarter this year. It’s in draft right now. If you’re in the physical therapy private practice space and our ideal target market is the five clinics or less, I am certain that we can help you out. If nothing else, giving you some good advice but in most cases providing you with some great services that will help you build your practice.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Ladies and gentlemen, David Straight, e-rehab.com. Thank you so much for giving us … there’s so much in this episode to consider and think of or enact on, I wanna really appreciate you spending the time with us this morning.

David Straight: Thank you very much, Phil. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and hopefully this information will help the small business owner out there that’s struggling with bright and shiny objects and just is looking for a strategy to move forward.

Phil Singleton: You heard him, folks. Check it out, e-rehab.com, David Straight.

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

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

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

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

To learn more about educational programs for entrepreneurs at the ECJC, visit www.ecjc.com.

And check out Melissa on Twitter:

Introduction to Melissa Roberts

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Sure, yeah.

The Enterprise Center of Johnson County

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Right.

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

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

Melissa Roberts:  Right next to Stroud’s.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Non-Profit Marketing Tips

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

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

– Melissa Roberts

Phil Singleton: Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Melissa Roberts

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

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

Melissa Roberts: Comes full circle.

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

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

Melissa Roberts: Exactly.

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

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

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

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

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

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

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

Melissa’s Favorite Place in Kansas City

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

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

Phil Singleton: Yeah?

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

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

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Melissa Roberts: Those are my top two.

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

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

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

Melissa Roberts: Yep.

The 10,000 Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

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

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