Kansas City Content Marketing Agency Guild Content Owner Justin Ricklefs

Have you been heartbroken by your digital content creation partner?

Have you struggled with getting quality blog posts, reliable video production, or need help getting your podcast produced (yeah, your company should have a podcast by now)?

If you’ve ever struggled with content marketing, you are going to love this episode.

In this episode of the Local Business Leaders Podcast, we interview Justin Ricklefs of Guild Content, an award-winning Kansas City content marketing and social media marketing agency and discuss how they have solved the content production problem for their clients and their own agency.

Connect with Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content

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 Kansas City legend, Justin Ricklefs. Justin is the founder and CEO of Guild Content. I love that name by the way, we’ll talk about that. Probably the first or second question. A KC based marketing agency focused on creating content that connects and builds brands that can be trusted. His love of writing and connecting to the emotions of audiences led him to leave his front-office role in the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017 to start his agency. You can learn more of their story at GuildContent.com. Justin, welcome to the show.

Justin Ricklefs:  Dude, I don’t think I can continue after you called me a legend. What do you… I’m out man.

Phil Singleton: You are my in eyes, man. Totally. We’ll talk about a little bit more about why, but really awesome stuff. I’m just so happy. Like you said, we become kind of fast friends, I feel. I’m just so stoked because you and your company are bringing such a breath of fresh air to the Kansas City business owners. I can’t wait to just kind of spread the word out more for you guys, but at first I just really like to get into, tell us about your first steps out of school and what got you in the business world and then how you started a Guild.

The Justin Ricklefs & Guild Content Origin Story

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, man. First, I’m really privileged and honored to be with you, number one and also with your listeners. So appreciate the invite and man, happy to tell that story. I grew up in KC, North of the river, went to Oak Park, graduated in 1999 back in the day, the whole thing. Was going to go play baseball at Rockhurst and stay in KC and through some personal stuff that was going on with our family, ended up being like, dude, I got to get the heck out. So went to Mizzou and kind of chased both my older sister and a girl who ended up becoming my wife, and still my wife, thankfully. Yeah, thankfully. Went to Mizzou, started as an education major and frankly kind of wanted to do the high school coaching thing, and got two years in and this shows my ADD and my lack of process.

You’re a process guy and I’m opposite of that as you know, and so got two years in and there’s like this huge capstone, not it wasn’t called the capstone. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s some like huge project and I was like, I’m not doing that. It’s way too hard. I changed my major midstream to communications, which if you go to Mizzou and you’re a J school person, like lots of clout, lots of like people it’s a really highly regarded J school, but if you go to Mizzou and don’t go to J school and get your communications degree, people are like, really man! That’s lame. So anyhow, long story short, I can make stories really long, but the long story short was graduated from Mizzou in 2003 and met a guy who changed the course of my life really, and is still like a really deep mentor to me.

A guy named Clyde Lear. Clyde started a company called Learfield, at the time it was Learfield Communications and it kind of evolved into Learfield Sports, and now Learfield IMG. Has been kind of bought and gobbled up along the way. His passion, his wisdom, his generous spirit, he was one of in mid-Missouri and really across the country, if people know him by Clyde, like he just has this aura about him. He’s probably in his mid to late 70s now. I met him through an organization called Young Life and we were in his basement at like this volunteer retreat and he had this, essentially this party. He had like a Bob Stoops signed football on his wall and he had a North Carolina signed Roy Williams, basketball.

He had this huge sports memorabilia and I kind of grew up playing sports and that was an outlet and the thing for me. I was like, what the… Super nice house, like what the heck does this guy do for his job? So I started asking questions and he’s like, Oh yeah, we own these multimedia rights in all of these colleges and we’re growing this school business and we have awesome people that work for us. I’ll remember this forever. He’s like the motto of our company is, build the team, grow the company have fun. I was like, I’m in. How do I work there? For about six months after I graduated, I legitimately worked in a fraternity kitchen flipping burgers, working just like a cook.

It was a job because I was so desperate to find a spot at the Learfield kind of team. I kind of scratched and clawed and annoyingly hung around and interned and ended up, they hired me in 2004 as like an entry-level sales guy. I’m making like $22,000 a year with a little bit of upside. So I worked at Mizzou for three years and then they transferred me down to the University of Memphis for a couple of years, which is really cool. Our third daughter was born in Memphis. We have five kids. I feel like I’m jumping into the deep end here. Sorry, man. We have five kids, two of them were born in Columbia. Our third daughter was born in Memphis.

My wife wasn’t this dramatic, but she essentially said, we have three kids. All of our family is in Kansas City, I’m moving back there. If you want to come with us, you can. I get it, it wasn’t that dramatic, but…

Phil Singleton: I know, but I also know how that goes.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, there was this call towards home and the comfort and the support of home. So we went to KC. I fortunately had a chance to interview with the Chiefs in 2008 and took a sponsorship sales job in 2008 with the Chiefs and kind of did the corporate thing and worked my way up or whatever. Then I actually took my first entrepreneurial swing with a cousin essentially. Left the Chiefs in 2013, we moved to South Florida, which is a story in and of itself, to try to help him build this business. It was kind of my first swing with equity and growth and all this stuff. I was like yeah, I’ll do that. Let’s go do that. We moved our five kids to South Florida.

Unplugged from the NFL and all the cool stuff that comes with that. Dude, again, it’s totally a longer story than we have time for, but it was a disaster. It was a total disaster. Like a swing and miss. I missed like a million things that I should’ve seen. He misled me on things that weren’t true. It was just a bad fit and essentially kind of agreed to disagree on lots of things and then he agreed to not let me work there any longer. That was in 2014 and we kind of limped back with lots of shame and embarrassment and weirdness and not much money.

Lived in my in-law’s basement for a few months while we were trying to figure it out. I took a technology job for a year that I didn’t really love. Great people, awesome family, but not the best fit for me and ended up kind of sneaking my way back into the Chiefs world and felt like, this is something I know, this is like a backbone of a job I can go perform at. I say this lovingly, because in my resignation letter, I ended up writing like, I recognize that I’m walking away from the coolest job in the city. There’s nothing but respect that I have from the team and the time I had there, but if I’m honest, I was manufacturing at the last 18 months because I just grew this really big disconnection between what I felt like I wanted to go do, versus what was actually taking place proverbially 9:00 to 5:00.

The components that led to the start of Guild, which I think is the long winding way to your question is that the last couple of years I’d begun to just write. I didn’t really know that it was in me, man. I just started blogging. I started creating long-form Instagram posts and sharing stories about the struggles of being a young family with five kids and-

Phil Singleton: A personal blog basically.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, so like a spun up and it’s really, you will laugh at it. I spun up this little website, justinricklef.com and it needs like drastic attention. I started blogging man, and writing stories and telling stuff about the ways I was failing as a dad or the challenges that we’re through in marriage or leadership things that I’m learning, whatever. Just random more personal and emotional type stuff. I found like there’s a lot of lessons there, but the thing that I try to kind of keep coming back to with Guild and what we’re doing now, is when you create content that connects to the emotions and the experience of others that they can relate to, what happens is really magical. It creates this like audience in this community, in this conversation. Then, I mishandled some of it and like screwed up and kind of got weird and the desire to build some audience or whatever, but there’s cool stuff happening.

Justin Ricklefs: I was writing for HuffPosts and I was writing for the Today Show, and I was writing for Yahoo Parents and all this cool stuff started to happen. We had the Today Show in our living room filming us about daddy blogging stuff. It was really-

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: It was really weird. It was really weird.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. It’s so cool.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Yeah. Again, like most things, it had like some weird… There’s some mixed motives and I was trying to build this thing that I could leave my job for and then what was really just profound and good timing was, I have good friends, like we all do. We had this group that we used to call the Guild, we would meet, I named it because I’m a dork and we had this once a month, fire pit in our backyard with, hopefully your listeners are okay with whiskey and cigars. We had whiskey and cigars once a month and sat as guys and kind of had friendship and just talked and shared stories and challenges in life and excitement, whatever. Just super organic.

I had to give it a name because I’m in a dummy. I was like, man, this thing needs an identity. It kind of started naturally and organic and then it grew to like 30 or 40 guys. I was like, man, we need a name, so we called it the Guild. What started taking place in my real job, my day job, where I was getting money and 401k and health insurance from was all of these big companies that we work with. Everybody in Kansas City knows most of them, right? Like it’s Community America, Hy-Vee and Sprint. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Farmland Foods, all these big corporate partners that the Chiefs were sitting in these meetings and for the most part, it’s a generalization.

For the most part, the conversation continued to turn to, hey, how do we tell our story? How do we create content that our audience wants to read via email or on social media or on our blog. I just had this, again, not the most brilliant business idea in the world, but I was like, hey man, I’m kind of doing that on the side over here with weird stuff like marriage and parenting. I think I could write a blog about selling stake that would probably be better than what they’re doing right now. It was like the aha, right? I think those companies would pay me to do that. Again, this is in 2016 when I’m kind of trying to figure it out. So I started searching, probably companies you work with and it’s like content marketing is a thing.

I didn’t grow up as an agency background guy. I just like stumbled into this need and this pain that these companies were experiencing going, they need help connecting. We’re living in this transformational era where the power has left the brand, so to speak and it’s now fully in the hands of someone with an iPhone or an Android phone, right? If you can’t connect to their emotions and make them pay attention, they’re not mean or bad, but they don’t care if you don’t connect to them emotionally, they don’t care and they’re going to move on.

Anyhow, I kind of fortunately had a couple cool relationships that allowed me to test the concept and they were like, oh, dude! You got to go do that. You got to go write words for companies and help them get out of their own way from selling products and services and features and benefits into, their customers care about themselves, right? They’re not bad or selfish, it’s just how it is. So instead of us talking about the stakes that we have for sale, let’s talk about the holiday table that, that stake sits on and the meaning behind the meal with the family or whatever analogy or whatever story. So Holy smokes, Phil, I just rambled for a long time.

Guild Content Kansas City

Phil Singleton: No, it’s brilliant. I love it. I love it. I love it. As you’re talking, I’m looking and reading because before we even started recording, I Googled Guild because I love the name. I did this before and I’m reading a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants or having considerable power, but then an association of people from mutual aid or their pursuit of a common goal. Awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Definition B was originally the meaning behind… Again, man, I’m kind of weird and a little bit more old school than a traditional digital marketer. My desire is like there’s nothing that will ever replace the human connection that people make friendship over and sit across and eat a meal together, drink a glass of wine and say I trust you and I will do life or I’ll buy something from you, right? Nobody talks like that, but in the digital, and I was like, man, the old school craft and art of a Guild in that definition. It was the meaning. For me, it started as like fellow like-minded, again, in my particular instance, men that would gather around a fire and talk about life for an hour and a half on a Thursday night.

It’s morphed now, it’s grown. It’s evolved into like, we’re hoping like-minded businesses that have really meaningful stories to tell that kind of have either been overlooked or forgotten or maybe the big agency wouldn’t take the meeting because the monthly retainer isn’t enough. So these scrappy, hungry, beautiful storied, local for the most part brands that are looking to create a mutiny a little bit, are perfect clients for us. We love getting to help tell their story.

Phil Singleton: I love it, man. I love it too that you’re so… I mean everybody and myself too, I’ve got tell my story from time to time. Every entrepreneur has gotten their butt kicked hard and that makes you who you are, me too. Gosh, I could just, all the times I’ve fallen on my face and all the time… Yeah I love it. It makes us hungry. It makes us move forward. We learn from it, but it makes you humble too. So it makes you more appreciative of what you’re doing and use it as a stepping stone, not something to blame stuff, but I just hear all that in your voice. It’s so in your story, it’s awesome. It’s awesome.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. Thanks Phil. It has been, you don’t have enough time for me to tell you all the ways that I’ve screwed up over the last four years, but….

Phil Singleton: I’m the same way because nobody wants to hear about, I just made my first billion dollars at a lemonade stand when I was five years old. It doesn’t work that way. Every entrepreneur has got several failure stones they’ve stepped forward on so it’s great. I got to ask you a couple of things. Let’s jump right into because I’ve been around a little bit longer than you have, not too much longer, but a little bit longer.

Justin Ricklefs: Triple the time.

Solving Business Owner Content Creation Problems

Phil Singleton: Well, maybe from a business standpoint, but you guys have gotten much further along than I have in a much shorter period of time so kudos to you, man. I think that’s true to that. In fact, we’ll get to our last question, which is like if you were able to do it all over tomorrow, what would you start? What you have learned in how to rebuild Guild? Think about that one for a little bit, but really what I want to get to is I’ve been in this long enough where the same problem has existed from when I started to yesterday and that is, getting content going. For us, we build SEO driven websites, but guess what happens when we go through the process. We get 90% done and then we’re waiting sometimes days, sometimes a week for guess what? Content.

Justin Ricklefs: The words.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, exactly. Whether it’s more and more, we want video. More and more we want words and copy and that kind of stuff. We can do some of that. It’s not really what we do in house so much, but my point is, it’s just a struggle because I think a lot of people think content is hard, or there’s not good story. Every company out there has got too much content inside their company in terms of what they can write about. There are stories, there’s FAQ, there’s emails, there’s expertise. I mean, sometimes they feel like, well, we don’t know what to talk about or say. They’ve got plenty, but why is it that you guys have been so good and so successful at being able to create good quality content in the voice of the client, which is what I’ve noticed, which is really exceptional:  consistency – that’s the problem for a lot of us that are not professional content creators.

Like I’ve said before, we do it, but we do content that’s anywhere from good to… Okay, maybe sometimes it borders on great, but it’s still not our thing because it’s not what we focus on and we get to it because it gets us the results, but I want 10X return, which is what great content does. Not 1X or 2X return. The problem is, the clients can’t do it. They want to do it and they’ll say they’ll do it, but they’re busy running the business. They’re not writers and they don’t know how to do video most of the times, they don’t have to do it. So being able to get in there and develop a process where you can extract great content from the client, tell their clients stories. I mean, how are you guys do?

I mean, it’s really amazing. We’ve already talked about this. I’ve been in heartache after heartache of trying to work with other people, other companies on cases. Other agencies definitely writer after writer, after writer, and it’s the same problem that we have for literally 15 years now, but here we come and work with you guys on a mutual client, hopefully many more, problem-solved. Great, authentic content that we can take way further. That adds way more value to the client’s digital footprint and it’s coming from you guys. I want to know can you give me some insight on how you’re able to solve this problem that so many other people have problems doing?

Justin Ricklefs: I’ll answer your question with a quick story. We’ve got a guy on our board, his name’s Corey Scheer and his fingerprints are all over what we’re doing. We sat actually in this exact same room I’m sitting in now looking at the whiteboard, remembering him, he drew this… He’s like, everything comes back to Venn diagrams. He draws this Venn diagram that said, one he labeled creative, one he labeled care and one he labeled operations and he was like… This is probably 18 months ago. He’s like, you guys are beautiful at the storytelling and the creative part. You guys are first class in the care. That’s for me that the mission here is how to get, not literally invested, but telling the Lumber One story with Dan and Kevin and that group that we’re doing kind of mutually together.

It was like, my ass is on the line. I want nothing more than for everything we produce for them to be first-class and like connecting. When it does, and I feel like personally responsible. Anyway, the third circle he drew was the operations. He’s like, you guys are really bad at that. He was like that part is a huge area that has to get better in order for quality of life to increase for lower all of the things that we were kind of struggling with. We’re still not perfect at that, but we’re getting way better. A client version of the same story, a dear friend, Marcy Johnson, who’s been a client since day one. She runs the corporate communications at National Beef and we do their social media and help them with their newsletter, and it’s a really fun, beautiful project. I wrote this blog for her and submitted it to her at literally like 11:30 PM the day before it was supposed to go on the website.

I caveat it with like, hey, I’m really sorry and this and that. I’m like, all these reasons why it’s so kind of last minute and I’ll never forget. She called me the next morning. She was like, hey, couple of things. I won’t get a word for it, but she essentially said, hey, the blog was amazing. It is unlike anything that we could have produced. She’s like, but if you put me on this spot again, I’ll have to tell my website guy that he has to get it up today, it’s not going to work out for long. It was in that moment, where I realized, of course we have to produce great stuff. We’re in the content creation business.

If we write bad words or blame blogs or crappy videos, or create graphics that look like crap, of course, people should fire us. The secret and the biggest aha I’ve had in this kind of three and a half, four year journey, is like man, really 90% of this stuff is being really crisp on the execution and showing up and being thoughtful and responsive and caring. I wish it wasn’t such a low bar, but it is. It’s a low bar. It’s a low bar that people have been taking advantage of for far too long that we’re just like, hey, you have a dedicated account manager who lives and breathes and speaks your business and anytime you need them, they’re going to respond to you within… Company policy is, we don’t have many policies because we’re kind of are anti.

Really it’s me. It’s my own dysfunction, but company policy is like, hey client, you don’t go to bed if there’s a client email, I will respond to it or someone on the team responds day of and really within four hours is kind of a goal. Again, we miss that and there’s exceptions and all this stuff, but like the culture is like, we need to come alongside and be these people are desperate. Whether they have zero internal marketing people or 30, they all have too much work on their plate. They’re all spread way too thin and they just need somebody they can trust to execute the stuff that we said we’re going to do. I wish it were more complicated, but that’s been our experience is like showing up, being consistent, being thoughtful, having a plan, and then being able to execute that plan in ways that are not scramble mode, is really key for where we are.

Phil Singleton: I love that. I love that one part too. I think there’s way more to it from what I’ve seen. I think I’ve seen that a lot, which is what’s so refreshing about you guys, but you did hit the nail on the head in one thing. It’s how I feel on the web design and maybe even the SEO services side is, you can kick just about 90% of the market’s competition’s butt just by answering your phone and answering your emails. Being responsive. Do you know what I mean?

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. Yeah. Again, especially in Kansas City and I’m biased because I live here and this is where we’re raising our family, but if you like the people… The obvious caveat is, man, Phil if you and your team develop a really poor website, like you’re not going to get very many clients. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop nice websites. Lots of people in Kansas City can develop on-brand, on voice blog, but if you have a team of people who care and go above and beyond with being consistent with the way they communicate in a way that they like… I’ll give it a great example, Colin Potter on our team, he’s like this funny ninja about, he knows everybody’s birthday.

He knows their anniversaries and he sends them gifts that they care about. That’s how it started. Now this culture is like, hey, I noticed… This is a real example of our selection of this week, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up on the 16th of November. Today’s November 5th when we’re recording this, so he’s about two weeks in advance going, hey, Andrew’s birthday’s coming up in two weeks. I noticed when we did the Google Meet, he had his daughter’s Hello Kitty bobblehead thing in the background. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we sent him a Hello Kitty lunchbox, along with $100 Scooter’s gift card, because Scooter’s is his favorite coffee shop. You think when Andrew gets that in his mail at his house on the 16th, he’s going to be like, those guys suck. I hate those guys.

Phil Singleton: That’s so awesome. It’s almost like the flip side of like how to me SEO is. It’s so in the details of just noticing some stuff and that’s so beyond what people would even remember. That’s really clever. I love that. I do have another question because we run into this occasionally where your stuff and you’re so responsive that you create a monster.

Justin Ricklefs: Big time.

Phil Singleton: So you got to be careful of that too, because it’s like all of a sudden it’s like you’re able to reply so quickly that now it’s the expectation if you don’t reply in a couple of whatever it is and then all of a sudden there’s more and now you’re getting outside of the stuff. It doesn’t happen to us that, but it does happen sometimes where we got to say, hey, this is kind of… We got to kind of figure out a way, because it’s not sustainable what we’re doing type of thing or disappoint somebody, because it’s like, Oh my gosh, you answered the next day and now all of a sudden the world sky is falling. I don’t know if I…

That’s pretty rare for us, but it does happen enough or sometimes we have to have that conversation because we’re our own enemy there. You know what I mean? If there’s not some understanding of somebody saying, we got to find some middle ground where you don’t become high maintenance for us to where it’s like not a workable relationship, right? Where we don’t want to disappoint you. That’s what happens sometimes when you’re really trying to over-deliver and you over-deliver into somebody where the expectation it’s on demand little stuff. I don’t know. Like I said, assuming you’ve run into it at least once before.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh yeah. Honestly, man, it feels like you’re my counselor at this point because that’s the struggle of what we’re doing right now. It has become so, and it’s beautiful, but there’s this been kind of contagious energy to what we’re doing. The challenge is like, hey, we can run this fast for a while. Everybody can’t and our people might get burned out and our clients might feel like whatever and so that is a struggle to kind of say, okay, how do we be real? This is again where you bring so much more value in and the way you approach stuff, it was like, how do we take a big deep breath and create the process and not just like be so nimble and responsive. Nimble is great when you’re three people and six clients.

Nimble is a little bit harder and more chaotic when now we’re at 10 and client work is growing and evolving and it becomes a little trickier and it becomes a little less sustainable and some people get left out of the communication. I don’t know what’s going on. So we’ve done a lot of work and really Colin and Rachel and our team have led the effort of like documenting what is the Guild way? How do we cook the food here? What are the step-by-step ways to cook the food. I’m used to like, hey, cool. We need a blog, let’s like whip up the blog? I didn’t take the time to write down the recipe. We’re starting, it’s been like the six month journey, but we’re documenting all of our processes and exactly the steps we take.

I’ll be giving one specific random example. I got really frustrated one time because I was like, hey, this blog post kind of sucked and it missed the mark. What happened? It didn’t get to the client, but we stopped it and it just wasn’t very good. I was like, guys, this isn’t that hard. Colin pushed back on me, which is beautiful. I’m glad he did. He said, you haven’t given us the ability to sit and document it. So we did it on that call and the Guild way to build a blog post and the way that we want to do it, which the end result is 400 words, or 600 or whatever it is. Is 17 steps from interview the client, to that grab the photo, to make sure the title’s right, to make sure we get three steps of editing and all this stuff. That kind of pull them back and we’ve got to become more operations and process minded like you are. Again, that’s my random answer.

Phil Singleton: Well, its like how you saw it, I mean, I think I sent you over kind of a demo proposal from us. It was like a half a page when I first started, now it’s like six or seven, but it’s more like trying to… It’s not like we have proposals, it’ll be like contracts so much as expectations to walk through. For me, what I’ve done in the past and I got my butt kicked a few times, was if you’re such a yes person, you want to be a pleaser, right? I feel like we are-

Justin Ricklefs: Which I am totally.

Managing Kansas City Digital Agency Client Expectations

Phil Singleton: You can slippery slope yourself into hell and then really turn… It’s not even the client’s fault at that point. You just kept giving and giving to the point where you gave away your value and now the expectation is… So that’s kind of how we’ve done it and you guys are doing the same thing. It’s really just trying to kind of systemize stuff and put a price tag on things and we’ll do stuff sometimes where it’s like, okay, we’ll do this one for maybe, but we can’t keep doing it this way. We’re going to have to charge you type of thing or you got to. I think that’s almost get to a point where you have to just make sure that you don’t over… Like I said, I think you can… Can you? I mean, you tell me. I guess I’m asking you the question. I feel like if you don’t, you’re at fault for making a relationship go bad because you’re the one that cheapened yourself by just overdoing it and not setting some kind of expectation or boundary up.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%, man. I am the worst at like, I’m being critical, but I am the worst about the… I am a pleaser. I am like we’re scrappy, trying to build it and trying to get the thing off the ground. I’m fortunate that I’ve had enough burn marks that I’ve put some people in my life to help me not do this again and again.

Phil Singleton: Saying yes to everything.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah, yeah. As an example-

Phil Singleton: These can stress your team out too, right?

Justin Ricklefs: Totally. Totally dude. Totally. The billable hour thing, like we don’t really bill hours. We just do projects and like stuff, but like at what point does Justin getting in his truck, I hate talking in third person. I just did it, sorry. Me getting in my truck, going to a video shoot in Lawrence, Kansas. That takes me four hours out of my day. My wife said like, are you sending them an invoice for that? I was like, yeah. I mean, right. I had no answer for it because I didn’t build the boundary in the right way, the front end. So that’s the area that as we get through a little bit through the bootstrappy hustle, money in, then you can do stuff kind of mindset. Then as we grow up, these next couple of years that’s the area we’ve got to be more disciplined and rigorous as in our own internal stuff. The client work, we’re going to kind of always be in the mind of doing it, but anyway, I’m not answering your question directly.

Phil Singleton: That’s thorough, that’s thorough.  Just being able to kind of talk shop on that, so no. Then, just good communication with clients kind of letting them know sometimes what the scope is. Sometimes, I myself, was so afraid in the past to charge people. Now, I’m a lot less because we’re trying to, okay. We can’t do that because if we do it throws these other projects out of sync, we can’t just jump in and do this thing for you unless we put a price tag on it. What I found is most people are pretty cool about that.

Justin Ricklefs: Of course, they are.

Phil Singleton: They expect to be charged, it’s not like they’re asking for something for free, type of thing. So I got out of that mindset and it actually worked out better for us, but it’s always kind talk about, see how other people struggle with that kind of stuff because of your nature, it sounds like mine is you just want to make people happy and you’ll bend over backwards, but then sometimes like you say, you can really just create a problem for yourself.

Justin Ricklefs: 100%. You nailed it. For me, from my personal relationships and also for our team, the discipline to be like, hey, let’s slow down. Let’s make sure this is in scope. Let’s make sure that we clarify on the front end what we’re going to do, what we’re not going to do. As simple as like, hey, if we have four hours of graphic design built into the retainer per month, if we go over that, it’s going to suck. We’re going to send you a bill for $125 an hour or whatever it is. When we send those now, it’s cool. Like yeah, you guys communicated, went through it-

Phil Singleton: Because they knew ahead of time, right? They knew it was going to be was there, it’s not surprising, not angry.

Justin Ricklefs: That’s right. That’s right.

Phil Singleton: So let’s wrap that up because-

Justin Ricklefs: I was going to say that’s one of a thousand ways I’m currently learning how to be a better CEO.

The $10,000 Question

Phil Singleton: All of us. That’s awesome. A couple of things like to wrap up with, one is, most of the time I’ll ask the $10,000 question, which is, let’s just say you got to rebuild Guild tomorrow, you have nothing. You’re just starting from scratch, total scratch. So you’ve got $10,000 just to rebuild the business that you have now. None of the people, right. What would you do right now, if you had to just kind of start a new company? Would you with $10,000 bucks buy a computer, go to internet, what do you do? What do you do to start making money the same way? Also, it kind of gets into what have you learned and how would you get jump-started knowing what you know now, but not having any of the employees or team or anything or resources to work with.

Justin Ricklefs: Yeah. What a great question, man. I’m smiling. I can answer it a thousand ways, I think. I think the current answer to that question would be, I would have invested quicker in video and audio as storytelling mechanisms. The words we write are always going to be like the lifeblood and kind of the like ongoing thing. I think the way we’ve been able to tell stories through video and then specifically through podcasts for clients has been really cool. I think I’d hire somebody who’s really awesome at videography. So that’s my corny answer. The other answer I really want to give is, if I had $10,000, we probably should invest knowing the wards and the challenges we have internally here is like into the operation or the financial discipline of everything, to prevent some of the stuff that we’re kind of trying to figure out now in year four, right? Like we should have just maybe hired a CFO first, not like a client service person, but that obviously. Yeah.

Phil Singleton: That’s great insight. Then lastly, I’d just like to just ask people, it used to be a little bit more before COVID and stuff, favorite places to go, but I just like to ask people now. You’ve been around Kansas City long enough, not necessarily has to be clients or not clients. I’m just wondering other companies that you know of in town here that you admire for whatever reason. It could be people of influence or a company that you look to as like, wow, this company does this great. I look up to this company for this reason. Are there a couple that kind of stand out that you… Anything specific about what you admire about them?

Justin Ricklefs: That’s great. I’d say this if I was on a different podcast, I have a huge man crush on what you and your team do. It feels like this missing ingredient for us, because I want to… Maybe you’re speaking to my ego here, but I want to be the 800-pound gorilla. I want when people think of good content in Kansas City, I want them to think about us and the way you approach the website, period. The foundation of the digital marketing engine is so refreshing and it’s a piece that our group had different experiences with other folks on. You guys are this huge breath of fresh air for the way that you do your work. I legitimately, I’ve like fanboyed on you behind your back a lot.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. I appreciate that. I wasn’t trying to set myself up for that one so much.

Justin Ricklefs: No. Then another one that just came to mind, there are a million and I don’t know this guy super well, but Matt Wegerer, I think his last name is Wegerer of Whiskey Design. They’re really like boutique design shop. When I, and I’m kind of a visual person so when I see something really pretty and visually compelling, and he and his team the stuff they produce from a visual arts perspective is just mind blowing. It’s so good.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, I’m just gonna wrap it up. Where can we find out more about you and kind of things that you’re doing and anything that you’ve got special going on that you’d like to promote too, let us know.

Justin Ricklefs: Man, again, I appreciate the invitation. Our kind of ongoing, evolving story is at guildcontent.com and we have our own podcasts and kind of do that thing there. Then me personally, I’m actually pretty silent on social personally, but I am fairly active on LinkedIn. Then yeah, man. I think that’s kind of on all the social handles as Guild Content…

Phil Singleton: Yeah, it’s pretty funny because social stuff too, for me personally, I’m on it for business and stuff, but I don’t participate in it almost at all, except for LinkedIn of course, for business stuff we do it a lot. Okay. We’ll make sure we put those links up and thanks so much for coming on the show and sharing your story, man, it was awesome. I was just listening to every second of it and it’s so great when people come and share inspirational stories like you have, because it was inspirational to me and then being able to talk shop and how you guys are really doing some special things here in Kansas City for your clients. Man, we’ve said it over and over again, but I already know we’re going to do. I mean, when people see what we’re about ready to bring to Kansas City, partnering on some of these things, I think it’s going to be like King Kong and Godzilla. That’s what it feels like.

Justin Ricklefs: Let’s go!

Phil Singleton: Let’s get ready to crush it here. So yeah, man, this is going to be really exciting. I’m already excited about some of the stuff we’ve started to do. It’s just great. I really appreciate you and your team and I can’t wait to do more stuff and I want to thank you again for coming on the show.

Justin Ricklefs: Oh man, it’s my pleasure and it’s my honor. I’m grateful that you would have me, man. It’s a blast. I’m pleased to call you a friend.

Phil Singleton: Awesome, likewise. All right, man, take care.

How to Become an Amazon Best Selling Book Author with Jon Schram

If you’re looking for information on how to become an Amazon best-selling book author, you just hit the jackpot! Learn how from Jon Schram of the Purple Guys.

Jon Schram is an IT support expert and the founder & CEO of The Purple Guys, a tech company that has grown since 2001 to become the Midwest’s premier provider of IT support services. The Purple Guys is a fast-growing, 7-digit business that has helped hundreds of companies grow by solving their IT problems and providing them with stress-free, bullet-proof tech support. Jon and his wife, Jill, have three children and have founded two businesses together.

Episode Resource Links

 

1. About John Schram & The Purple Guys

Phil Singleton: Okay. What I’d like to do, firstly, in the last couple episodes that we’ve done is really just kind of let the listeners know what we’re going to cover. So they’ll know how long they want to stick around or if they want to fast forward. And the first thing is, just to get a quick background of Jon and his experience in the business world and give us a brief overview of Purple Guys. And then secondly, I’d like to ask him about what professional organizations has helped his company grow or helped him solve problems either personally, professionally, or what have you.

And then thirdly, a special announcement, Jon has become a published author today, but also an Amazon best-selling author. And we’ve teamed up, and we’ve actually helped him do a little bit of this. And I want to go through that process with Jon and explain how we did it and get some of his commentary on the process. And all the things that we’ve done that have led up to a successful launch that we’re right in the middle of. So with that, Jon, again, welcome to the show. And why don’t you give a little bit of background about the Purple Guys and what brought you here today?

how to become an amazon bestselling author

Jon Schram: I’ll give you the brief entrepreneurial background for me. So Purple Guys has been my career for the last 20 years. So this is, as you mentioned, I’ve had a couple of startups. I refer to myself as an unintentional serial entrepreneur. What that really means is I’m a slow learner, and I’ve had really three very successful entrepreneurial startups from a financial perspective. And the first two were very unsuccessful from picking the wrong partner. And if you want to hear the gory details of that, I just did a very deep dive on that history with, with Jon Lovell on his podcast, In the Arena. So you can hear all the bits and bytes, and it’s really better with alcohol when you listen to that.

It’s also better with alcohol when I tell it. But as far as the Purple Guys go, we’re the outsourced it department for roughly 176 small businesses, and we’ve been doing this, again, for 20 years. The Purple Guys itself is a brand that came about because of our customers. We started wearing purple shirts, and our customers started calling us the Purple Guys. So I’m slow, but I’m not that slow. We became the Purple Guys and it’s been a lot of fun branding with the color.

But we help small businesses with their IT. We serve as the outsourced kind of help desk. So for when folks have trouble with anything, with a screen and an on and off switch, they call us and we help troubleshoot those issues. We take care of backups, security, anything to do with email, and basically interacting with all the different technical technology vendors. So, that’s what the Purple Guys do, and we’ve been doing it for 20 years. We’ve seen a lot of change. A lot of fun.

Phil Singleton: Yeah. And the “In the Arena” podcast episode, you really go into your experience. Then we’re going to recommend and put in the show notes and make sure everybody goes and take a listen, and a watch, to that podcast because both of you guys did a fantastic job. And it was a great place to tell a fuller version of the Purple Guy’s story. So definitely head over to In the Arena after this one.

2. Growing Through CEO Peer Groups

But what I want to jump into next is professional organizations. And I know you belong to HEMP and that organization’s done great things in Kansas city. There’s a ton of great companies and we’ve dealt with several of them in different projects. Some of them are clients and everybody that has worked with it has great things to say about it. It seems like everybody that I know that’s in that organization has been successful. And I’d love to get your insight on that one. And any other organization that you’ve joined, how it’s helped you and helped your business grow and solve problems.

Jon Schram: Yeah, well I would encourage just generically any small business owner not to be on an Island because it’s just hard. It can get really lonely. So I am just a huge fan of the peer group model of leaning on other entrepreneurs and other business owners to be able to leverage other people’s experience. So I’ve been in a lot of different peer groups. The Helzberg Mentoring Program specifically, I think is one of the best-kept secrets. And it shouldn’t be a secret, but it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Kansas city in terms of the value you get from participating in the organization.

Barnett Helzberg is just a fantastic human being and he modeled this organization off of his relationship with Ewing Kauffman. And he will be the first to tell you that he learned so much from that relationship in that one-on-one mentoring, that he created an environment where they match seasoned entrepreneurs, or seasoned business professionals and seasoned entrepreneurs, with newer entrepreneurs. And you can lean on each other. They’ve got group meetings. There’s Dr Michelle Robin, she’s awesome. Yeah, they’ve got group meetings, but again, any of these things, you get out what you put into it.

So you get paired up with somebody. You can bounce ideas off of them. You meet with them on a regular basis. You go to the group meetings. You get as much out of the group meeting that you do out of your one-on-one mentoring because other business owners… The business of business is the same across every industry. They’ve all got their own unique pieces, but the thing you can learn from other business owners are just fantastic. So highly recommend this group. And another one I’m actively involved in is called Acumen. It’s a peer-to-peer mentoring program as well. It is a CEO round table kind of a group.

And if you’re familiar with Vistage, I’ve been in that for a while. This has a similar business model to it. 12 to 13 CEOs in a room and a professional facilitator, which I think is actually critical to keeping a group of CEOs on track. Having someone there that’s paid to keep the meeting moving forward. You’ve heard the term herding cats. You get a bunch of CEOs in a room, it’s kind of hard. So having that paid facilitator in the room to help move the conversation forward and keep things on track has been fantastic. But I participate in both the Helzberg Mentoring Program and the Acumen group right now. And I wouldn’t leave either one of them. They’re awesome, awesome groups. One of the groups that I participated in the past, it was a place to come have your answers questioned.

You would show up with, here’s my issue, here’s what I’m going to do about it. Wait a minute, have you thought about this, this, this, and this, and here’s all the stuff that’s happening?

Phil Singleton: So it’s entrepreneurs, business owners, you guys are kind of sharing problems, bouncing stuff off each other. Do you bring challenges that you have and people share solutions? What’s the…

Jon Schram: So the structure to Acumen is we meet a day a month. So you commit to the time and you bring your issues. And you’ll meet with the facilitator before the meeting. You tee up what it is you want to talk about. It’s a structured conversation, so you’re just not showing up and winging it. And I will tell you, I have learned as much from listening to other people’s issues as I have bringing my issue to the table and having people specifically answer my questions because I’ll listen to somebody else’s issue, and I’ll have something that I can add to it. But I will learn from the collective knowledge of the group every time really there’s any topic. So it’s just a fantastic model. It’s the concept of a mastermind group. And it works.

Phil Singleton: I’m assuming that some of these, maybe some are more relationship or network? Is there any level of people working with each other and referring business or is that not really… Is that off the table with some of these…

Jon Schram: it’s specifically not the primary purpose in any one of them, but as with any kind of a group-

Phil Singleton: It happens.

Jon Schram: The more you gather, the more you learn about each other, the more you’re going to want to try to do business. But in all of them, it’s the important part is to be transparent. If you start doing business with somebody, be transparent so everybody in the group knows. And it’s not something that’s just in the background affecting the way you’re going to interact with each other.

Phil Singleton: That’s really cool. The one thing that the Helzberg site does, is they list lot of, I guess, mentees, mentors, and fellows. And I go through here, he has been really awesome companies that have been on here. Some of them…

Phil Singleton:
Yeah. Some of these are… Just going through, Carol Espinosa, I’ve met with her and worked on different boards. She’s really a great person. There’s just so many people on here.

Jon Schram: Yeah, there’s a lot.

Phil Singleton: You’re on here. And I’ve got a client, Robyn Schmitz from High Prairie Landscape Group. Worked with the people at Gutter Cover KC. McIntire Management Group. Gosh. MAKE Digital Group, Evan and Andrea Kirsch over there. They’re great people, collaborated with them as well…

Jon Schram: Kathy Koehler’s in there. Anybody’s bought or sold a home, she’s awesome.

Phil Singleton: There’s Mark Mcintire right here. It’s kind of a who’s who of the up and… Of course Danny O’Neill’s in here. So he must’ve been like a mentor.

Jon Schram: Yeah. Well, Henry Bloch was his mentor earlier on.

Phil Singleton: Oh, wow. So this is really awesome. So these groups are… You through here and it’s like, wow. The people that have… That’s one of the things these guys do, you go through and it’s like, wow, look at the folks that have come through here and what they’ve accomplished. Pretty, pretty amazing thing. And to think that it’s also been a networking group, a place where they’ve helped you come together, solve problems, help you grow, scale, expand. All those types of things. Really cool. So you recommend these types of groups. They’ve been a part of your business Purple Guys.

Jon Schram: Yeah. I’m not smart enough to do stuff totally on my own. No way. I would mess stuff up. I would rather get other people’s advice and learn from other people’s mistakes. And move the ball forward faster. It is a time commitment. It’s both time and money. I will tell you from my perspective, the more important thing is the amount of time I have to invest. It is phenomenal the return you get from spending the time, and again, you got to put the work in. You got to be prepared when you fill… You got to be present. You got to set your phone to the side and actually be there in the meeting. But if you make the investment and you show up and you interact, it is just fantastic.

3. Becoming an Amazon Best Selling Author

become best selling amazon author

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Highly recommended. All right. Let’s transition over to your book. I think we’re both glowing a little bit today. I think I am more than you. I’ve been telling my wife, Jon, it’s a best seller. So pretty exciting to be in the middle of this. And to those of you who are listening on the podcast, we’ve also are recording this on video and I made a really super attractive PowerPoint presentation. White and black text on here. Can you see that, Jon?

Jon Schram: I can see that, yes. You spent a lot of time on this thing I can tell.

Phil Singleton: Thanks for doing this on short notice, but you can tell we’re short notice. But what I really wanted to do here is just to make sure that I covered all the points here. And what I’d like to do for the people listening is I think we’ve done something pretty cool. I’ve helped a lot of clients and other people write books and gather their expertise, and put it in writing so they can use them for different things. In every case that we do one, we learn something a little bit different. So what I’d like to do is just explain Jon’s path from being able to… All that we did to get a book production and writing, put it all together, publish it. And actually some of the things that we did from engineering the campaign to have a good chance in actually achieving bestseller status.

Phil Singleton: So where I like to start on this, and we’ll get Jon’s commentary along the way is, why do you write a book in the first place? So one of the things is I think, and you correct me if I’m wrong Jon, but this is kind of where I came from it. I think everybody thinks about writing a book of some sort at some point in their life. Wouldn’t it be good to write a book, whether it’s on business or maybe some other type of thing? Did you have that as a…

Jon Schram: Absolutely. I’ve got quite the story and someday I want to write the entrepreneurial. It’s very colorful, no pun intended with the verbal, but learned a lot along the way. And I just think there’s good things to share. So yes, I always have thought about memorializing some of that stuff.

Phil Singleton: I think we all kind of have that in our list of long term professional goals. I’m guilty of this. It’s maybe a little bit plays into ego and stuff like that for me, certainly I wanted to kind of do it as a personal thing I wanted to try and do. But when you think about it, and you may have thought the same way I certainly did when I wrote my book, was it kind of felt like it was just a great thing to do someday. But you never really think it’s as attainable as it is. And now more than ever, it actually is with self-publishing and the Amazon network, and the things that we can do to kind of put it all together. But I’ve got this quick slide that I wrote up and it’s like, why write a book?

4. 10 Reasons Why You Should Write a Book

And I put down 10 different reasons of why I think this is a really important thing to do for people right now. And the first, most important one to me is Google. Because Google to me is a monopoly. They know everything about pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase. They know what people need to see on a website or in a company to get to buy from them. And they have a document called a Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines. And in that document really spells out what companies need to be doing in order to show up in search results.

But the most important part of this is since they know the whole purchase process, they’ve got this concept called… That they’re focusing on these days called EAT, which is expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. And that to me is the number one reason why I try and get my clients to get on this path is because I know that if we get a person like Jon, who is actually a client, if we can get his EAT score, which is an actual score on Google to raise up, his website’s going to do better. His website’s going to get more visibility.

The people that see stuff and see that he’s an author are going to be more likely to buy from him. And so all of these things that happen are the main reason… There’s other reasons for it, but this was my main reason. You may, Jon, get some kind of a commentary on what attracted you in the beginnings. I think you’re seeing some other things that happen because there’s a cascade of wins that we’re going to talk about. But is there anything in particular that when we first talked about this, say several months ago, you thought was a good idea? Any comments on that?

Jon Schram: Well, the biggest thing for me was that you had a process for getting it out there. And how to build the chapters together, and actually create something, and make an actual book. Because just the thought of, oh, I got to write a book. Where do I even start? So your structure that you brought to the table was fantastic.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So that made it feel like, oh, this is actually doable.  “Don’t just throw a book project on my plate. I’ve got other things to do right now. ” We bring it and try and make it easy. Hey, there’s a process where if we have a strategy, we can be basically writing a book on our sleep. But when we get to the why reason, this again, it’s the EAT reason for Google. It’s personal branding. This is one of the things that Purple Guys has done really well from a corporate standpoint, I think. Purple Guys everywhere, you see it on the road, you see the color purple. They’ve got great character, brand recognition. Jon’s out there. His face is recognizable, but there are pieces to I think the personal branding campaign that we’re bringing to it, that a book is actually going to do.

And we’ve seen this with the book that we’re writing right now. You see it with the podcast guesting that we’re doing right now, doing podcasts. You’re going to have a podcast. You’re going to be on more podcasts. This is as much about the Purple Guy’s brand, as it is about personal branding. And that becomes really important these days in an influencer economy. It doesn’t matter if we’re B2B or B 2C. So when we talk about EAT, we’re talking about writing a book, man, it’s the definition of authority. You publish one out.

It creates a massive ripple effect, behind the scenes on the internet. That again comes, if we point it back to the website in the right way, we’re raising that internet authority of the company and for the author. Eventually you’re going to have, and this is the next step of it. You’re going to have, I’d mentioned Robyn Schmitz here of High Prairie Landscape Group, a great person. Another, I think HEMP. I think she might’ve graduated already, but she’s got her ebook, but she’s actually got a physical book which you’re going to have. So we’re going to be able to pass that out and say, look, I’m holding…

Jon Schram: I have one of those!

Phil Singleton: You have one of these too? You’re going to be your own book in your hands. This, by definition, is an authority, right? So you got the physical proof of trust. It’s a big differentiator against competitors. You already have a lot of differentiating factors, but why not stack the deck, right?

Jon Schram: Oh, absolutely.

Phil Singleton: I love it as a pre-sales closing tool. So one of the things we did with your book intentionally, Jon, is that when somebody reads through it… Because we’re going to use it, we use it for authority building, but we also want to use it on your website so that when people come to it we can send it to them.

So if they read through it, they basically are going to read about all the reasons they should choose you, or what red flags to look for. So it warms people up by the time they… It saves people. It should save sales guys, 30 minutes to 45 minutes on the phone where they would be explaining all this stuff. Now we’re going to have a tool to send out ahead of time and say, hey, before we scheduled this call, take a look at this free book or whatever, and read through. It’s going to help whether you choose us or not, you’re going to get the best. So some of those things. Of course, having a great sticky thing, business card on steroids. You’ve already done some of the podcast, guesting. This is a great thing. Once you become an author, you’re by definition an authority and an expert, it’s much easier to get you booked on third-party podcasts as a guest expert because you’ve written a book on the subject matter.

And then finally, as we’ve seen today, and we’re going to talk a little bit more in the next slide is we can actually engineer a bestseller. Now it’s not super easy. And you’ve seen what we’ve done behind the scenes, right? There’s been a lot of hustling, got a lot of emails over the weekend, going back and forth and circling the wagons and stuff like that. But it can be done if you got the right strategy. So any other comments that you have on why to write a book? Would you recommend people to do it?

Jon Schram: I highly recommend it. Again, the structure that you put in place allowed me to just see that, all right, we started here. We’re going to finish there. There’s a timeline. I knew we could get it done. So it made it very achievable and I highly recommend people do it.

Phil Singleton: And then you got… I don’t know if you’ve been there, but some of you guys start to write one. You’re just like, you know what…

Jon Schram: I already got the second one. Absolutely. We’re doing another book!

Phil Singleton: All right. All right. All right. Yeah. This is the one thing I wanted to let people to walk away from is… And I thought about this after we’ve done it, we’ve done it many times for other people. In your case, I really think we’ve honed it down to more of a science. And this is what people should be doing. You got to start off with an optimized website and a digital footprint. So to be in fairness, to get to this point, you and I have been working together from your website from the keyword research. And that goes all the way through. It gets a bit tougher to try and say, let’s go tackle a giant project like this at once. But when we’re working it into a holistic marketing plan, and it’s working in the scenes, and we’re chipping away at it a week in and week out, it’s being done while we’re doing other stuff.

5. 10 Steps You Must Take to Create an Amazon Best-Selling Book

Phil Singleton: So in your case, worked on the website, we figured out what the keywords are. We developed… This is something you’re already familiar with. We figured out what we wanted to write about in terms of a blog series, which essentially is the title. And then we’ve got standalone blog posts, which are actually the chapters. So we’re able to use the blog chapters as blog posts that can be distributed as social media. So you’re getting that win off of it, right? Then they go out to social media, we get a point back to the website. So we get that win. Then we stitch them into an ebook. Now we’re in the stage where we actually stitched in together. And by the way, your team, Paige Lee in particular, did a fantastic job with your Kindle. In fact, your guys’, the production value… If you want to see an ebook, a Kindle version that’s taken it way further than I’ve ever seen in terms of a graphic version, you guys killed it on the design.

It took me beyond our current skill level. We’re at three guys that we work with to try and put these together formatting them, weren’t able to do it. And we actually figured it out in-house. But I’m glad you guys pushed us to do that because I think we came up with something actually really incredible in terms of, it’s basically a magazine quality book with great content and great graphics and stuff like that.  So we can stitch those together in ebook, and then we publish it up on Amazon. Again, a little bit of strategy behind making it a best seller. We publish it on Amazon. Now Jon’s already got a little bit ahead of the game on this where we’ve got him on a podcast guesting tour, right? So normally we would publish the book, be a best seller if we get to achieve that, and then use that to get on other guesting shows.

Phil Singleton: You’ve already been doing that just as a guest expert. Now we’re going to have a little bit more of a advantage to get you on hopefully bigger and better shows because you’re going to be a published best-selling author. And then the next step of it is getting you your own podcast so that you can start being the interviewer. So we’re getting that ying and yang of the podcast. And podcasts, that’s a whole nother probably thing we could talk about, but there’s tons of extra benefits that come of having a podcast. And the last one is really launching the podcast up on the podcast hosting site, all the other things that happen in and around it, that really are the benefit if you tie everything together.

So any comments on how that played out? We’re in it, we’re doing some of this stuff. Now you see it in front of you. If you look at it, it seems like we’re doing these things week in and week out, but now you’ve seen these 10 steps in front of you. Is there any comments that you have in terms of expectations that other people might go through, or parts of it that were easy or harder than others?

Jon Schram:  The process itself… And again, until you see the end product, I knew the structure of the book, I knew the chapters, I knew what we’re going for, but until I actually saw the final copy of it, and Phil can attest to this, I’m kind of anal-retentive when it comes to checking periods and spaces….

I know. So I would say I probably slowed the process down being very picky. But seeing that, and then kind of just understanding, all right, well, we’re going to push launch, and then we’re going to try to get it to be a best seller. Can we really do that? And then actually seeing it hit today being number one on a couple lists is freaking awesome!

Phil Singleton: Heck yeah. I’m going to show a couple of screenshots. That’s going to be the cherry on the top here, but I want to leave the listeners, and the people, and the viewers in this case, with some simple tips on how we got it to be a best seller. And one is, we talked about this, right? When you talk about we’re both big on StoryBrand. I love StoryBrand too, but you can’t forget about Google, right? You have to put practical language in there that people are searching for. And this is, I think we’re StoryBrand and SEO and Google need to work together because you can come up with much cooler copy that doesn’t have anything to do with, it’s more clever if people get it. But it’s not as practical. So you guys did a really good job I think of working on it.

Phil Singleton: And if we didn’t have to worry about Google and stuff like that, maybe we would have come up with a different title. But look, Amazon’s a search engine too. If somebody is looking for IT, support and IT support book, don’t you think it’d be helpful to have IT Support in the name? Which is why we titled your book the way it is. So you guys were really flexible on that, but we got to be practical. And this is one of the reasons why stuff works is because you marry those two things together. So you got to optimize your title. You got to optimize your book page. In our case, we… In my case for SEO, and in your case for technology, we’re in a less competitive niche, right? So it’s not like there’s a ton of people that want to cozy up by the fireside with a glass of wine and read an SEO book or an IT support book.

So we’re lucky to be in a smaller pool where we can get out there and a smaller amount of sales can help us raise it up. So in any case, when you’re trying to write a book and you’re going for best seller status, you definitely don’t want to go too broad. Broad sounds great, but no, you want to narrow it down and use those categories to your advantage, which we did I think masterfully in your case. And it’s one of the reasons why we were able to kind of get that bestseller. If we went for a general business listing, we would’ve never broken the top hundred. So I think launching on a Sunday really helps. I don’t know what other people think, but I’ve done these many times now and getting them up and making sure that they’re able to get published and give the amount of time so that you got a Sunday to hit it, a Monday to hit it.

And then the rest of the week to carry that because there’s… This rolls into point number five, which is Amazon’s also an algorithm. So they’ve got their own freshness component, which when you launch a new release, it’s got a little bit more weight. So if you get a certain number of sales during that new release period, which is about a month, but really it’s weighted towards the first five or 10 days, if you do it right, you can basically Spock pinch the Amazon algorithm. And pool those things in a way that you can get the maximum amount for the amount of sales that you gather together, which gets into point number six. You know we spent a lot of time circling the wagon. So we’re going to go out and promote and do the things that we do know to promote it.

But you got to beg, borrow, and steal, ask all your friends, promote it like crazy. And again, try and get as many as you can in those five day periods. And it has to have enough. They don’t let you say, I’m just going to go at one or two sales in a two-year period. It doesn’t work like that, but you do have to coordinate stuff and it can be done so in a way that if you set everything else up right, you got a really good chance at achieving best seller status. So what does that mean? Promoting an email, promoting social media. You guys already did a great job. I think you’ve got three reviews already encouraging people to get more and more reviews. And then doing what we’re doing right now, leverage podcasts. You’re already on your own virtual speaking tour, which I can’t…

Phil Singleton: That’s a whole nother podcast we could maybe do another time, but there’s just so many benefits to getting… Again, that by definition is a way to get in front of another audience to get more sales, to get your own listeners out there. As you see now when you’re on other people’s podcasts, they have you on as a guest and then they do all the work on their platform promoting it, right? So you get back links and all sorts of stuff, but it also helps you sell books. And I’m going to jump over now and show people, tada… What this looks like. Hey, guess what? I purchased one on December 6th. That’s kind of the way it works, but we’re the number one new release in computer network security. In fact, we’re number one in network security, we’re number two in information technology.

Phil Singleton: We’re number 12 in computer network security. So that’s really cool. You’ve got this thing up in here. Then if we jump over and look at the actual Amazon bestseller, it’s like, boom.

Jon Schram: That’s awesome.

Phil Singleton: Number one!

Jon Schram: That is totally awesome.

Phil Singleton: Oh man. I spent my whole week on this. This is so cool, dude. You did it…..KC represent!  And what’s cool is it couldn’t have happened to a… You deserve it. You’re an expert. You wrote a really good book. This is another piece that you should have anyway. But the fact that we worked hard over this, over the course of weeks, and then it worked, right? We did it the right way and you are more than deserving of anybody else to actually do it. It’s a great book. And again, for anybody that… The content itself is awesome in terms of what people learn.

But I think I mentioned this already. The design quality of this Kindle will blow your mind. I’ve never seen anything like it. So that’s just a great example of how far can you take a Kindle design? Well, I think you’ve taken it as far as it can go.  Now, this is the one thing people. I talked about Google’s EAT being really important. And one of the most important thing to me, and this is getting back into my little world of SEO, is in the fact that you get the best selling list, you have your own book page, but one of the things that Amazon gives you as a published author now is an author page up on their domain 99 authority website. So what that means for you is you’re up there. You have your listing up in here, you’ve got it.

You’re a published author, but guess what else they let us do? They let us put our RSS feed up on the site. And every time you post a blog post on your website, comes up and we get a link back to your blog posts. Your site was already very well-engineered with SEO. Now we’ve got another… It’s not a silver bullet, but that’s another piece of that SEO pie where we’re saying, “Jon’s an expert. Purple Guys are an expert.” Now all the more publishing that we do on your website is going to get more expertise, more visibility, because we’re demonstrating to Google and the rest of the internet that you are a true expert in your niche.

jon schram amazon author page

So to me, this is actually the coolest thing that happens is getting an author page up in here and being able to drive backlinks to your blog every time we publish a new post on your website. So this is another main reason people should do it. So that’s kind of me wrapping that part of it up. I’d love to get your feeling as where you are in any parts of the process. You haven’t seen the whole benefits that are going to happen as a result of this, but you’re seeing some of the shiny parts of it now.

Jon Schram: Well, and again, I’m blown away that we hit number one the way we did. Which again, it was the execution of your strategy and it worked and it’s been awesome. So I’m anticipating in additional… From these backlinks and having it out there, just that additional little bit that everything is cumulative over all the different platforms, different things we’re doing, but it just helps to just notch the brand up a little bit higher, a little bit higher. Stay top of mind, stay present.

And that’s what drives business for small business for small businesses. And it we’re a small business and we’re trying to be top of mind for other small businesses when they need IT support. So every one of these little things helps. So I’m excited about what this does for our SEO, for our website, for visibility. We’ll eventually get some hard copies we can hand around. That’s just kind of gravy. This is all part of the visibility and stuff that’ll be out there. It just helps build our business.

Phil Singleton: Really cool. Is this fair, it’s work, but it’s attainable?

Jon Schram: Absolutely.

Phil Singleton: I don’t want to say it’s easy, but it’s not that hard. It’s not like you can just do it, but when you got…

Jon Schram: You’ve got to have a framework. You got to have a coach. There’s no way I would’ve got it done if you hadn’t been coaching along the way and had…

Phil Singleton: And there’s no way. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without having a true expert with good content and stuff like that too. So it’s kind of that mix and match. So awesome. And this is so great. We’re able to get it out here and we’ll be publishing this podcast within 48 hours of you publishing the book and becoming a best seller. So this is really awesome for you. It’s really awesome for us. I hope we can bring this to the other small business owners to understand, you should be doing this. Every people should be doing this and doing so in a way where it’s like, don’t drop everything and try and write a book. Work it into your plan so it’s happening over time.

Jon Schram: I still ran the company while we were writing the book. I did not take a month off and write a book. Now we had a lot of other stuff going on.

Phil Singleton: Well, let’s wrap it up with bringing it back to Purple Guys and you. I always like to tell people, hey, any particular things here in Kansas City, or really anywhere, where you… People that you admired. Other businesses that have done things a way that you maybe have modeled your business or stolen or used ideas from, that kind of thing. Just anybody that comes to mind in terms of it’s been inspirational or somebody that you think could help other business owners that you’re taking stuff from in terms of admiration.

Jon Schram: Well one, we crossed him on the Helzberg Mentoring Program, Danny O’Neill on Roasterie. Talk about somebody that knew and understood guerrilla marketing. And now Roasterie and Messenger have been combined over the fair wave umbrella, which is just kind of cool, two Kansas city brands. What Danny O’Neill was able to do with his brand and his passion for coffee. And again, if you ever heard Danny speak, it was very clear he was passionate about coffee. He’s passionate about a lot of stuff, but totally passionate about coffee and about his brand, which was super exciting. And I would say I took some stuff away from Danny on the branding side and the guerrilla marketing thing of just being present at a lot of places. So I’ve learned a lot from him.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, on that note, congratulations on your book and here’s to your next one.

Jon Schram: Yeah, I’m excited to do number two now that we have number one under our belt.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And I’d love to do a followup on this, on what the print version looks like. And you’re early in on your podcast guesting campaign. You know we have ambitions to have your own podcast for a lot of different reasons. So maybe we’ll do a followup on this if you’re gracious enough to do so where we can say, hey, we went from the book and here were these other parts of the whole master plan that includes podcast hosting, podcast hosting and some print stuff. And we’ll look back on this and see how things have affected the business from today.

Jon Schram: Yeah. I’m happy to. This has been fantastic.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Thanks a ton, Jon.

Jon Schram: All right, thank you.

 

Ex-Paypal & Airbnb SEO Manager Tommy Griffith on Online Courses

Tommy Griffith has been doing search engine optimization for more than 10 years. He previously managed SEO at PayPal and Airbnb, and now runs ClickMinded, a digital marketing training platform for marketers and entrepreneurs.

Tommy started ClickMinded as a side project while working full-time at Airbnb. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary. Two years ago, he quit Airbnb to go full-time on it and ran into a number of problems in trying to grow the business from there.

Learn More About Tommy Griffith & ClickMinded

 

How Tommy Griffith Got Started

Phil Singleton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Local Business Leaders podcast. I am your host, Phil Singleton. Today, our featured guest is Tommy Griffith. Tommy has been doing search engine optimization for more than 10 years. He previously managed SEO, PayPal, and Airbnb, and now runs ClickMinded, a digital marketing training platform for marketers and entrepreneurs. Tommy started ClickMinded as a side project while working full time at Airbnb. He grew it until it started generating more revenue than his annual salary. Two years ago, he quit Airbnb to go full time, awesome, and ran into a number of problems trying to grow the business from there. We’re going to talk about that today. Tommy, welcome to the show.

Tommy Griffith: Phil, what’s going on, man? Thanks so much for having me on.

Phil Singleton: Let’s just take a few steps back and talk to us about your journey, your first steps out of school and into the business world, kind of quickly run through PayPal and Airbnb and then what got you here today in creating and building ClickMinded.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. It’s always kind of funny and weird talking to internet marketers about how they got into the game because everyone’s kind of a weirdo, you know?

Phil Singleton: Here here.

Tommy Griffith: Right? No one has a very traditional path. It’s always very kind of strange story. Yeah, I started … I was studying finance, graduated in 2008 while the banks were crashing. Like a lot of internet marketers, I got started by reading this book, The Four Hour Work Week. Are you familiar with it?

Phil Singleton: Yep.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so that’s a lot of … For the uninitiated or anyone that hasn’t read it, The Four Hour Work Week was kind of this, I think it was written in 2007 maybe, but it was kind of the catalyst for a lot of internet marketers. Today, it was one of the first books to put into place this idea that you could build a remote business, and travel while you build a business, and kind of sell something online sort of thing. It’s probably pretty out of date now, but the general concepts are still fairly strong.

Phil Singleton: That’s a Tim Ferriss book, right?

Tommy Griffith: Tim Ferriss, yeah.

Phil Singleton: Right, okay.

Tommy Griffith: Tim Ferriss, Four Hour Work Week, yep. I decided to not do finance or any banking or anything like that because I couldn’t find any jobs and the economy was crashing. I sat in a hammock in my home in New Hampshire and read this book and was kind of thinking through different ideas of what I could create. I ended up writing a very dorky e-book and started trying to sell it and get it to the top of Google so I was searching around for how to do that. This was back in 2008 and for like a more…the exact match domain update hadn’t happened yet. This is one of these moments in time where you could just pretty much put your-

Phil Singleton: There was a silver bullet in SEO.

Tommy Griffith: There was. There was a hole in the matrix that we all found. It was to buy a domain name that had your primary key word in it. I didn’t know that, but bought a domain name with the primary key word and got one link. Within like four days, it was ranking two. I was like, “I am a genius.” It was pretty funny. That sent me down the road. I ended up starting a business with a friend of mine shortly after that failed miserably. I was in this very lucky situation, my parents paid for university, I graduated with no debt, but I ended up putting myself into debt after graduating university trying this very dumb business idea.

Tommy Griffith: But, I guess the upside was I learned internet marketing. I spent a year learning SEO, learning paid advertising, but ran out of money, did the desperation call back home after a bunch of traveling and working with this business. I got a bail out from my dad for $400 for a one way ticket home. From there, it was just kind of right place right time. I was applying around like crazy for jobs, miserable, and in debt, living on mom and dad’s couch. Yeah, just at the time PayPal was hiring for SEO manager. I had been doing SEO, taught myself for the two years prior, and that started the catalyst. I moved to San Francisco and then for six years managed search engine optimization for two years at PayPal and then four years managing search engine optimization at Airbnb.

Phil Singleton: Right. That’s awesome. Right in the heart of it, man.

Tommy Griffith: Right in the heart of it, yeah. It was kind of a wild story. It went from try my own thing, to failing miserably, to working at a big, slow, kind of bank-like company, and then over to Airbnb where it was pretty wild. I joined at a time where it wasn’t as known when I joined in 2013. My friends hadn’t heard of it yet. The first week I joined Airbnb it was subpoena-d by the State of New York for their data and then the last week I left, we worked on a Superbowl ad, and Beyonce was staying at Airbnb’s, and everyone knew about it by that point. It was kind of a wild time to be there.

Phil Singleton: You were there before and after. That’s so awesome. Where are you now?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, so I’ve been traveling around the last two years, mostly through Europe and Asia and based in New York. I’m in Honolulu, Hawaii right now.

Phil Singleton: So awesome.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: I love that. I spent 10 years in Asia myself, but I’ve been based back in Kansas City here for the last 15 or so, but I love traveling too so that’s really cool. It’s so awesome that you’re having … maybe get into that a little bit later, but having kind of your own job on your own here and being able to have that kind of lifestyle. Literally living the book, right?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: You’re probably putting in a little bit more than four hours or have at least in the past.

Tommy Griffith: Oh man, the biggest … probably the most click bait title of the world is Four Hour Work Week. Tim Ferriss openly admits he’s never worked four hours a week in his life. He’s like an 80 hour a week guy. He’s nuts.

Phil Singleton: Right. If you’re doing stuff that you love and you’re into it where you’re not in a cubicle … I don’t know want to knock people who are working in a cubicle and stuff like that, but I came from that. I was miserable for three years working at an insurance company and I was like, “Oh my gosh. This is just never going to work.” I didn’t like what I was doing so the clock went really slow. But then, you end up loving … finding what you really truly love to do. It doesn’t feel like work anymore and you’re up at 5:00 because you’re excited about it. I mean, that’s how a lot of people work.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly. Yep, that’s totally true.

Phil Singleton: Let’s get into ClickMinded, man, because I’ve got a lot of things I’m personally interested that I’d like to talk about and get some free consulting from you out of. I’d also just like to go over what it is, who you target, and how it came about, and what you guys are up to right now.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, sure. When I first joined PayPal, I was in this situation where I had had a bunch of debt. I had started from the old company and needed to pay it off. Man, ClickMinded was probably idea number 15. I tried so many different ideas and this was just the one that stuck. It’s interesting how I came about it because I think there’s a little bit of a balance. On one hand, I was very neurotic, and ADD, and wanted to try a lot of different ideas. It really didn’t start to take off until I had forsaken everything else and really went all in on it. There’s a funny way to test this, like to test how neurotic you are as an entrepreneur. If you go into your web hosting account, check how many unused domains you have.

Phil Singleton: I’ve used it. That’s so funny. I have said that before too. I was like, “Man, how many of us have … our old domain accounts. There’s just so many half-baked ideas in there that are domains somebody thought about and bought.” I probably have 100 in there myself.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Same idea, right? It’s crazy.

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: You’ll never feel bad for having that.

Tommy Griffith: Well, that’s the thing is you need that to some degree, but if you … you can sort of test your neuroticism by how many you have. Yeah, I was the same way. You have a couple beers with someone, you buy the domain name, and then you don’t do anything about it, and then when the annual renewal comes up to pay the $12 you’re like, “I’m going to do something with this this year,” and you renew and you never do it, right?

Phil Singleton: Guilty as charged. I’m still doing that.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, exactly. We’re all hoarding digital real estate.

Phil Singleton: But, to your point, I think we all know this, nothing really works unless you give it 100%. I mean, there’s no easy way in anything. I don’t care what it is, not an SEO, there’s just nothing that really … unless you get truly lucky for a short period of time, I mean, no business idea, no business really works unless you put at least 100% into it. Am I-

Tommy Griffith: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Am I wrong?

Tommy Griffith: You’re not wrong at all. That was sort of the issue was, okay, the neuroticism and the ADD was good in getting me to try a bunch of different things, but what I found was … this was sort of the story, I ended up … my boss had asked me to do a brief at training on SEO to my colleagues at PayPal, an in person class around 2011. I did it and I got a lot of really good feedback on it, specifically that I had made a nerdy, kind of hard to understand topic interesting and sort of fun. I took that and ran with it. I ended up teaching physical in person classes at coworking spaces in San Francisco for a while.

Tommy Griffith: It was kind of Saturday, all you can SEO, start ups and entrepreneurs who come in, and we would just nerd out on search engine optimization for a few hours. The business, that actual business was a terrible business. It didn’t work, it didn’t scale, there were all kinds of problems, but I really liked it. I really enjoyed it. It ended up just being right place, right time with this kind of online course renaissance that we’re in now. Udemy had just started to take off, I had been physically teaching these classes in person and ended up filming one of them and turning it into a Udemy course, and that sort of spiraled up from there. I think that-

Phil Singleton: That’s kind of where you started to get some initial traction, was from Udemy?

Tommy Griffith: That’s right, yeah. The whole course started on Udemy. It’s interesting just stepping back a minute to the giving 100% stuff, one example, I mentioned ClickMinded was kind of like idea number 15. One example was, before then, one of my other ideas, I had this idea an iPhone app development lead generation site. It was 2011, iOS apps were really starting to take off, every company wanted their own app, people were interested in learning x-code and how to develop their own apps. I saw the search volume, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to rank a site for iPhone app developers, and iPhone app development cost, and iPhone app development companies,” and get it ranking really high and then maybe sell the leads.

Tommy Griffith: I got it up, I got the site running, I got it ranking, it was generating traffic, it started to work, but then like every Saturday morning I would wake up to go work on it and i just hated it. I had no passion it, I had no interest in it. It was really, really hard to find the motivation to work on it. There’s this kind of trope in Silicon Valley and in a lot of start up world now around markets. They say like, “Okay, I would take a mediocre product and a mediocre team in a great market,” but when you’re starting a side project, I actually disagree with that.

Tommy Griffith: I think your own personal interests in the market is huge. It’s a massive piece to get started. That first zero to ten thousand dollars, or that zero to a hundred thousand dollars, or whatever it is, it’s all you and it’s all your personal interest in it. What you were alluding to earlier, Phil, around there’s just no room for anyone to not give 100%. It’s completely true. The world is getting so polarized that there’s just no room to suck anymore. People are too good at everything so you have to find these unfair advantages where you really enjoy what you’re doing, otherwise you’re kind of toast. You know what I mean?

Phil Singleton: Like you said, the information out there, literally. I mean, you have to be good and have passion because it almost into the courses and the things you’re talking about. I was talking about this with another guy before on a different type of business where it’s just so different, businesses today, because you can go out there and get great info from places like your website, let’s say, but if you don’t have the passion in SEO, you’re not probably good at it. If you’re not trying to start a business at it, you’re probably not going to succeed at selling those types of services. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t known it and it can help you better at what you do, type of thing, but in terms of making a career or business out of it, you just have to have passion anymore.

Tommy Griffith: For sure. You absolutely do. I really like this idea of Naval Ravikant, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with him, but he’s like a tech visionary, venture capitalist guy and he’s like all over Twitter on a lot of philosophical stuff now. His whole angle is, you have to find your unfair advantage, and more specifically, what other people view as work should feel like play for you.

Phil Singleton: Love it.

Tommy Griffith: If you can do that, you just have this natural out of the gate advantage where over the long term, you’re going to kick everyone’s ass. That’s sort of the angle I ended up taking and it ended up working.

All About Clickminded

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Let’s get right into ClickMinded. Tell us a little bit about what you guys do, what the course is about, kind of who it targets. One thing I’ve noticed about even writing an SEO book, it was really hard to satisfy a whole broad audience because it’s like people will either know some, or know a lot, or know nothing. It’s kind of hard to hit the mark with the message you’re trying to give sometimes because people come in with different levels of knowledge. When somebody takes a course through ClickMinded, what’s one of the modules or whole kind of bundled package that you sell? Who is it for mostly?

Tommy Griffith: It’s really interesting that you had that problem as well. Yeah, it’s been funny to get feedback. We’ll get back to back feedback from users. ClickMinded is now eight years old. We have more than ten thousand paid users and we’ll get feedback on the same day, “Hey, this was way too hard and complex and you move too fast,” and then five minutes later, “Hey, this was way too slow and too easy. What are you guys doing?” It’s like, okay.

Phil Singleton: That’s tough.

Tommy Griffith: Those are very minor critiques. The vast majority of users love it, but it’s because we really dialed in our customer avatar. ClickMinded is a digital marketing training platform. We started as an SEO course. As I mentioned, it started as an offline course and then became an online course. I continued to use it at PayPal and Airbnb to train up my own teams. Everyone who joined the SEO team, part of the growth team at Airbnb, all the data scientists and designers and engineers that joined would take the ClickMinded SEO course. Two years ago, I went full time on it and we now do seven types of digital marketing courses; SEO, paid ads, content marketing, email marketing, social media, sales funnels, and Google analytics.

Tommy Griffith: Our model is we try and use world class experts that do this stuff every day. The social media course is taught by the former head of social media at Airbnb. The content marketing course is taught by the former content strategist from Lyft. We kind of try and focus on entrepreneurs, in house marketers, and consultants or agencies that want to either get better at one particular topic or they want to train up their teams. That’s sort of the angle that we take. 35 hours of HD video and then we do life time updates for free. When you enroll, you get access forever and every time we push out an update, you get it for free. That’s kind of the angle we’ve taken. It’s been a lot of evolution and iterating on it for sure. It’s been eight years and so it did not happen overnight.

Phil Singleton: You’re constantly probably updating. Stuff happens all the time. The book that we wrote, we were talking about Google Plus in 2006. We’re not talking about that anymore.

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: You’re probably constantly tweaking, and updating, and changing stuff.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Which is why that’s valuable.

Tommy Griffith: That’s got to be really tough for you to write a physical book. We can barely keep our blog posts up to date.

Phil Singleton: Right?

Tommy Griffith: I don’t know how you can do that with a book. That’s tough. That’s really tough.

Phil Singleton: Talk to me about the people who do join. Is it kind of all mixes? Are they mostly digital marketers? Do you get people that work in companies that are trying to learn more about it?

Tommy Griffith: It’s about a one-third, one-third, one-third split. Entrepreneurs is about one-third, in hours marketers, like you know, people on the marketing team at Coca-Cola, and Proctor and Gamble, and stuff like that, and then consultants and agencies. That’s usually on the smaller side, like two to a hundred employees.

Phil Singleton: Great.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. Our model … Are you familiar with this guy, Ramit Sethi? He’s a personal finance blogger. He wrote this book called, I Will Teach You to Be Rich. It’s a corny sounding title, but it’s actually a great read. It’s kind of like millennial, personal finance sort of stuff. Anyways, his model around how he does it is he says, “Okay, 98% of everything I do is free for users, but if you’re looking to get the results, the other 2% is for the paid product.” That’s sort of how we operate as well. We have at on of checklists, templates, cheat sheets, downloadables, free mini courses, free webinars we do all the time.

Tommy Griffith: Then, we say, “Yeah, all this is free, but if you want to get the results faster or if you want to train up a whole team, here’s the paid product.” We’ve had a lot of success with that so it’s cool to give people a ton of value for free, but then if they’re already further along in their business and they want to train up a bunch of people or they want the results even faster, then we have a paid product for them. It’s been a lot of fun and all of that is done through our online course.

Phil Singleton: Okay, awesome. I’ll have to ask you, what would you do differently if you had to start over again? How would you set it up? This is probably not … Let me rephrase this a different way because you’ve already gone through a ton. You probably, I don’t know what the site’s built on or what program you use to power it. For just the average person like myself that maybe has a book or wants to build a course on something like WordPress or something else, how would you get started into taking your knowledge and turning it into a course or taking a book that you’ve written into a course? What are the steps?

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: Are you so far removed from that that now?

Tommy Griffith: Actually, no, not at all. It’s every day and I have a lot of strong opinions on this now. I’m very passionate about online learning as well because I think there’s so much room for this stuff. I am an avid … I am so angered and motivated by the graduate school education system in the US. I think this is a massive … student debt problem in the US and graduate school is a complete scam. It’s horrible. I say this as a former graduate school, right? I used to teach at a grad school in San Francisco. I taught an elective, an internet marketing elective. I think there is so much room for entrepreneurs to create online courses and completely destroy secondary education.

Phil Singleton: You’re like freaking me out. It’s almost like … We were talking about a zoom … What was it? Some kind of security breach and being able to hear and see people. It’s almost like we’re so like-minded that you’ve been listening to me. I’m so zeroed in on the same thing. I was just having this conversation with somebody else where it’s like, there’s so much good information that you could get out. The time that you would spend in college or even graduate school, I mean, you can go and people like yourself, you’re giving it up and selling it to somebody that could then turn around and turn that into real money.

Phil Singleton: The tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that you would go into debt could be a complete swing the other way because you’re out of high school learning a real skill that people need. There’s so many people that need all sorts of services, but digital services in general. It’s like, what is the point? I just don’t get it. I’m like, man, I’m totally just like lit up because I couldn’t agree more. I want to be part of that too, where’s like, “Hey, you know, we’ve got the same thing. I can actually teach somebody a skill that’s made me some money,” pass that along, make a little bit of money, maybe scale it up a little bit where somebody can totally bypass all the heartache that we’re reading about right now.

Phil Singleton: Who wants to go to school? I don’t want to knock college too much, but I didn’t really learn anything when I stepped out of college. I couldn’t have started making money the day out it, right? I had somebody else had to train me for like six months before I was any use to anybody. Even then, it took me a couple years worth of experience to really start making any kind of a difference.

Tommy Griffith: Absolutely. It makes no sense. The economics have been upside down for almost a generation. An entire generation of people are putting their life on hold for it. It’s horrible across every category. There’s a handful of exceptions, rocket scientist, and pediatricians, and things like that.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, doctors and lawyers, I mean, you’re going to walk out, but you’re learning something you’ll probably have to go to school for. That probably makes a little bit … you need to do other things.

Tommy Griffith: For sure, but the vast majority do not need it. I mean, there’s 50 … There’s more than 50 graduate school degrees in the United States that offer a Master’s Degree in digital marketing. They range from 40 to 100 thousand dollars and they are completely useless. They are … We’ve hired people at PayPal and Airbnb, I’ve hired people in my own company. No one respectable in this industry would ever glance at this degree. It means nothing. It means absolutely nothing. It’s an opportunity … Think about from the university’s perspective. It’s an opportunity. It’s a move in a new vertical. They have no idea what they’re teaching, but you’re a 22 year old kid, you’re at a university in Florida, you get an email your senior year that says, “Get a Master’s Degree in social media. We’ll give you financing.”

Tommy Griffith: You think, “I don’t want to go start my work yet. They would never give me a loan if I couldn’t afford it. I’m good at Facebook,” and you take the offer. This is happening … This is close to my heart because it’s digital marketing, but this is happening across a lot of other categories. We’re on a bit of a tangent here, but because of this online learning renaissance that we’re in, people can compartmentalize their knowledge and scale it up to this massive amount of leverage and teach people. I have a lot of strong opinions on this and I think the market is big, but I think it has an opportunity to be hundreds of times bigger than we could ever really conceivably imagine because of, what are we at? More than a trillion dollars in student loan debt, with a T, trillion with a T.

Tommy Griffith: It’s like, inconceivable amounts of opportunity. The way I would … The first thing I think I would note is that it is so much easier now today to launch an online course than it was when I started in 2012. It’s incredibly simple to get going. I really love Teachable. I use Teachable as my learning management system. I’ve tried everything else and Teachable has been-

Phil Singleton: Teachable? Is that something like a Kajabi or something like that?

Tommy Griffith: Those are all in the same ballpark.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Tommy Griffith: Teachable, Thinkific, and Kajabi. I really like Teachable. I’m friends with the founder. I was on Udemy and after trying many different other WordPress learning management systems, had a lot more success with Teachable. It’s just one of these kind of, it just works. You can make some customizations to it if you want. If you want to be a real power user, it’s probably not for you, but one way I heard it described is as like the Shopify or the Square Space for online courses.

Phil Singleton: It is their platform and you kind of pay a subscription type of thing?

Tommy Griffith: Yep. You pay a subscription, but the way we do it so our site is WordPress, our core site is on WordPress, but our product is on a sub domain of our site, which is Teachable. I don’t know how technical you want to get here, but you can just change a C name record in your hosting and set up the course on a sub domain. You can customize it to a degree, but the actual course is happening on a sub domain on our site. You’re not going to teachable.com or anything to do it.

Tommy Griffith: It’s been … It’s just really nice to just pay someone else to handle all this because I have … I spent a year and a half managing user login credentials and dealing with payments. Then, a WordPress developer changes one thing and everything breaks and that kind of stuff. I just refuse to go down that road again. There’s probably other alternatives, but I really highly recommend checking out teachable first because we’ve had a lot of great success with them.

Phil Singleton: That’s literally something you can just upload your course and your slice it up how you want, your content, people can pay through it and pay their subscription or however they do it, and it all kind of is done through Teachable.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, exactly. It’s really the 80/20 of getting going the fastest. They have all the payment processing there as well. It’s improved a lot over the last few years.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. What things … How do you market it? You’re out there and you’re known, you’re very obviously an expert in SEO, you’ve done things like podcasts, you’re on one right now so that’s really good stuff. What things have worked? How have you marketed it from the beginning and what things are kind of working recently?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, I mean, the majority of our sales come from SEO. YouTube and YouTube SEO as well, which has been an interesting one recently. We’ve done other stuff, too. We’ve done interesting partnerships, JV partnerships. Over the last year, we’ve actually really focused a lot more on our product and our bottom funnel and our middle funnel and how users experience the site. We’ve almost become a webinar and an email marketing company now. We do a lot of webinars and we’ve had a lot of success and they’re a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing them quite a lot. Our email marketing game has been very, very strong. We run everything on Drip. Drip is an email marketing software and CRM. Even though they’ve had some stumbles this year with pricing and some technical problems that we’ve been a little grumpy with them about. But overall, Drip is fantastic and it’s been a really good way to kind of manage our business. All of our automations and all of our flows flow from Drip. We’ve had a lot of success there.

Phil Singleton: In terms of when you get started, pricing, because I know a lot of times … Because like I said, we did a little bit of … Let me take a couple steps back. One of the things I think is really interesting about some of the digital marketing modules out there, kind of like you said, even in this space, there’s all sorts of … they don’t really … a lot of them just don’t compete directly. I noticed on some of them, they’ll come in and maybe to basics and somebody like Moz has some training where they focus a lot on maybe selling the SEO services or digital marketing services so there’s a whole training on that. Some of them don’t have it.

Phil Singleton: The other guys like Brian Dean out there who really kind of zero in on all about this content piece that he does type of deal. There’s other ones that are kind of teaching the broad basics. There’s another one out there that we saw that’s almost more on creating the processes on the back end so it’s really heavy on operations and setting up the business side. It’s like, how do you actually deliver SEO services? They all kind of are pitched in and around digital and SEO. I think it’s really interesting how everybody’s got their different perspective, right? There’s different ways and different things you can learn in digital where you can’t just really stop at one sometimes if you really want to get the whole picture and other things that are working.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. That’s an interesting way to think about it. Brian’s course is great. We’re buddies and he’s just such a great leader on so much of this stuff and created a number of different tactics and techniques around content marketing and link building and a lot of that.

Phil Singleton: There’s so many angles, there’s so many different ways to skin the cat. I mean, so many people have different ways to do things. Especially, with digital in general. Everybody’s got their own recipe and they all can all work really well, right?

Tommy Griffith: For sure, yeah. For sure. It’s been a lot of fun, too, because I love chatting with digital marketers about how they do stuff. We get inspired by a lot of different people on how they do it. Brennan Dunn has been a great leader for us, in terms of how to run a lot of different automations. Andre Chaperon has a course called Auto Responder Madness. He’s an incredible copywriter on how to write emails. We pick stuff up from a number of different sources, for sure.

How do you set pricing for online courses?

Phil Singleton: One of the other things that I want to talk about that’s related to this is how do you suggest people price things? It’s funny because I’ve thought about doing a course. At some point, eventually we will. You see all sorts of things where people kind of will go to the three, six thousand dollar things that they have. Hot spots seem to be $997 or around a thousand for something. You’ve got people who are focused maybe selling on the modules or just monthly subscription type of a thing. You’ve probably experimented with different types of pricing. Do you have any suggestions for those of us who are thinking about creating a course? What is a good price point or a good pricing strategy that people will bite on?

Tommy Griffith: Pricing is fascinating. I still have not figured this out. I wrote a blog post a while ago on my pricing progression and how to think about this. The only real conclusion I came to is always get it wrong. Yeah, I mean, we’ve played with a lot of different things. The one thing I think …. so, I don’t know what your pricing should be. I’ve seen so many different models like Brian Dean is a very high priced product and he only does it through launches so you can only enroll a couple times a year. That puts a real scarcity behind it and that definitely works for him. The other thing, too, to keep in mind is how you want to manage your business operationally.

Tommy Griffith: For example, and full disclosure, with our business, we don’t have a Facebook community, a forum, or a way to interact with the community. We answer email questions and take support tickets all the time. That stuff is all cool, but we don’t have an ongoing management piece. The reason why is because we would suck at it. We know what we’re good at. We know what we want to work on and so we leave out those aspects that we know we wouldn’t be great at. People say this all the time, “Why don’t you create a membership product, or a Slack channel, or a Discord channel, or a Facebook group that costs zero to 99 dollars a month?”

Tommy Griffith: Outside of the opportunity and the totally addressable market around it, think about what you want to work on. Think about how big you want your team to be. Think about what sort of services you want to offer. Are we leaving money on the table by not having a monthly recurring community? Probably, but I’m not convinced it would be good. I’m fairly convinced it would be very mediocre. We’re not going to do it. The precursor to how to do pricing is to first think about where your unfair advantages are and what you actually want to work on, and then you can start from there. In terms of pricing, yeah, we started the courses on Udemy way back at $99.

Phil Singleton: A lot of those seem to be lower priced stuff. Usually it’s like, whatever it is, $29.99.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. I have a lot of strong opinions about Udemy. Udemy has really hurt the online course marketplace. We got into a very public fight. They kicked me off the platform. I’ve got some Jerry Springer level drama with Udemy.

Phil Singleton: Oh wow.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. I wrote a blog post actually about how … It was titled, My Revenue Increased 300% After Leaving Udemy. That was obviously much higher than now.

Phil Singleton: I can’t imagine ever using that now, but I guess at one point it was probably the place to go and it probably still is maybe for some folks who just don’t have any access to-

Tommy Griffith: It’s interesting. I actually … It was the place for a while and Udemy really … The reason why I’m so mad at them is because they really were positioned to kill grad school. They could have done it. They decided to do these vapor wear level deals where everything is $10. It’s all these very mediocre Photoshop courses and things like that. There’s a handful of exceptions of great content out there. What they really did was they hurt the creators. They hurt the course creators. You just … There’s so many platforms out there where you can really build a business and lifestyle. You can build a lifestyle on Uber, on Airbnb, on YouTube.

Tommy Griffith: You cannot build a lifestyle on Udemy. You can’t do it. There was a moment in time where you maybe could have and you no longer can. They take too high of a revenue share. They don’t let you price whatever you want. You don’t get access to the email address. I used to recommend using them to get started-

Phil Singleton: Do you guys take a really big cut? I don’t even … or is it reason?

Tommy Griffith: It changes all the time now. They’re really fumbling now and their CEO was let go a little while ago. It’s varied a lot the last couple of years. I have no idea what it is now. It was too high even back in 2014. I’m not sure where they are now. Anyways, we started at kind of the $99 mark. We moved up and down. It was too low for too long. What we found, all the way up to $500 was that sales went up the more you moved the price up, which is fascinating. Refunds go down, people complete more of the course, so it was really kind of fascinating for us, and people commit to it. It’s been really interesting.

Phil Singleton: On yours, I’ve noticed that you’ve got what a lot of people do is you kind of parse them out, you can take modules, and you’ve got like a bundled price, which is really attractive because it’s half or third or whatever all of them together would be, right? Is that a big part of sales? Do most people kind of go for that? I mean, I guess I probably would, but I’m not every buyer either.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, it is. It is. What people realize is … You know, we do a ton of free stuff, and free mini courses, and things like that. People get a taste of what our style is and our style is really good, world class people that do this stuff every day that take technical concepts and make it pretty easy. They know they’re going to get that with all the courses so we’ve bundled them all up into one and it’s lifetime access so any time there’s updates, you get them for free. People say, “Okay, I’ll have lifetime access to this and all these topics free forever for this one price? Okay, I’m in.” We’ve found a lot of success with that and a lot people take it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. One of the things I’d like to ask about your opinion too, because what I’ve noticed in, again, trying to maybe create my own course at some point is it seems like a lot of people who go the course route do something different than you’re doing. That is, they’ll do the course as a way to get … actually as an entry level lead generator almost. To pay for itself and make some money off of, but the real track that they’ll tell you to making money is getting those folks to come in, having them join a group, like you were saying, and then maybe turning it into some kind of master mind where they become big ticket consulting clients that you’re making tens of thousands of dollars maybe or ten thousand dollars a year.

Phil Singleton: To me, that didn’t ever become … It’s not appealing because that’s a lot of time. I mean, how many people … If somebody’s going to spend X amount of dollars on a master mind group and really try to make a decent amount of money on it, they’re going to need a lot of your time. Well, if you’re already stretched out on other businesses that require “100% of your time” that gets really tough. You’re able to do this, it sounds like, without really having any of that. My understanding is a lot of these guys that are doing it do have that kind of master mind backend.

Tommy Griffith: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: It actually ends up being more than the front end piece. That’s what I love about what you’re doing. Do I have that right?

Tommy Griffith: You have that completely right, Phil. It’s fascinating to me because somewhere someone … at some point, someone laid out a sales funnel where they said, “And by the way, on the back end, you can invite people to an island and charge them ten thousand dollars for it,” and everyone started doing this. I think … I’m not going to sit here and say it’s wrong, but I think two things; one is, we’re just very clear about who our customer avatar is and what’s best for them and the best way to help them, and then two, we’re very, very certain about where we’re good and where we suck.

Tommy Griffith: I think what a lot of entrepreneurs do when they start to get some success is they continually say, “How do we 2X? How do we 2X? How do we 2X? Where are there other opportunities?” Of course, that’s fine, that’s great, that’s doing what’s best for the shareholders and all that, right? There’s a point where if you’re constantly valuing your own time at zero and it’s just this relentless pursuit of revenue, you end up doing a lot of BS you might not want to do. We’ve found we really like what we do. Everything we do we scale up and we write really evergreen content and tutorials. We don’t do master mind calls, and we don’t do the big annual retreat, and we just stick to our basics. We are definitely-

Phil Singleton: That, personally, is just not appealing to me because you just took the scalability out of it and put a bunch of consulting work into it, which yeah, then it gets to be like, well, what’s your time worth? Can you really scale this out? That’s what I love about what you’re doing. If you’re not doing that, your eye’s on the ball, which is making the best possible course that you can to really good job, like what you said, stay away from the stuff that you suck or you’re not going to like at. Stick at the things that you’re really good at. Keep making that really awesome. Then, all of the sudden, that’s the really scalable piece of the business that you have is the one that you don’t have to worry about, like the groups, and the customer service, and the master mind stuff, and all the people that might asking personal questions at the end of that piece.

Tommy Griffith: Right.

Phil Singleton: That’s really, really appealing. In my mind, when we’ve been kind of researching this, I was like, “That just doesn’t appeal to me at all,” but that’s what’s pitched by people who have kind of coached or given some advice on. I was like, “That’s just not me.” It’s awesome to see that somebody’s doing it this way and the front end is kind of … that’s where the value is, right?

Tommy Griffith: Right. Yeah. I’ve never thought of it that way, but that’s a really good point. There’s other funny things to think about. When I go to a retreat, when I go to an island, I don’t want to be hosting master mind calls. I want to be drinking Mai Tais. You know what I mean? It’s very … I think a lot of this, too, comes to the fact that when you’re out there working for yourself and dragging it home every night and it’s all on you, but you don’t have any obligations, it can change your mentality a lot. When there’s no investors to have to email and there’s no one else but you. You kind of realize it’s just on you. It just becomes a little bit more clear.

Tommy Griffith: There’s other funny examples, too, like we do promotions or joint venture email marketing things sometimes. Sometimes we’ll get questions. People read through the FAQ, they’re considering something, and they’ll send an email or they’ll post a comment and they’ll say, “Why isn’t there a Facebook group? Why isn’t there an ongoing community? Are you going to offer one soon?” I’ll just reply back and say, “No, we don’t plan on offering one soon.” I’ve seen multiple replies that are like, “Smart. That’s pretty smart.” It’s like, even the people who are demanding the extra things are like, “Yeah, I get it. I get it. I would be that awful customer that would ruin your life. You’re a smart man. Touche, sales man.” It’s just like … We’re just very open about what it is and people seem to get it.

Get in touch with & follow Tommy Griffith & Clickminded

Phil Singleton: Tommy, this has been awesome. These are my favorite ones where we talk shop a little bit with literally someone who looks at the world the same way I do, I think, and obviously got the same level of passion that I have for SEO and digital marketing. This has been especially cool. I’m so appreciative that you came on and chatted with me. Where can we follow you? What have you guys got going on? How does somebody follow you and what do you have on your website in terms of people maybe getting a little trial, a try before you buy or sign up, or getting a little taste of what you guys have to offer?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Phil. You can find us at ClickMinded.com. On Twitter, I’m @TommyGriffith. We have … Actually, we just launched these, they’re pretty cool, we launched these retro looking, 8-bit digital marketing and SEO strategy guides. They’re modeled after these old school, Nintendo powered video game strategy guides from the 90’s with kind of the 8-bit characters, these free strategy guides. Maybe I can send you the links and you can link them up in the show notes, if that’s cool.

Phil Singleton: Oh, big time. Any particular social platform that you’re more active on others that people should look out for you on?

Tommy Griffith: Yeah, probably Twitter, @TommyGriffith on Twitter.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Tommy Griffith: We’re at ClickMinded.com.

Phil Singleton: We are going to have all these links in the show notes and once again, thank you so much, Tommy Griffith, for coming on the show and be sure to check out his website ClickMinded.com and check out one of the best digital marketing courses out there.

Tommy Griffith: Phil, thanks a lot.

How to Get Content From Your Clients

About James Rose & Content Snare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode Resources & Links

 

Meet James Rose

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

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

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

James, welcome to the show.

James Rose: Thank you for having me, Phil.

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

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

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

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

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

James Rose: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem: Getting Content for a New Website

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

James Rose: Oh yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Oh yeah.

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

Phil Singleton: Yeah, right.

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

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

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

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

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

James Rose: Yeah.

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

James Rose: Absolutely, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Rose: Yeah-

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

James Rose: Oh yeah.

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

James Rose: Definitely.

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

James Rose: Yeah, that’s right.

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

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

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

James Rose: Oh, this is a touchy subject.

Phil Singleton: I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Nice.

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Sure.

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

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

James Rose: Oh yeah.

Phil Singleton: Travel to and go to and …

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

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

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

Phil Singleton: Yeah.

James Rose: Whereas if you were doing.

Phil Singleton: A hundred dollars, sure.

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

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

James Rose: Oh, yeah.

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

James Rose: Definitely.

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

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

The Agency Highway Podcast

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

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

James Rose: Agency Highway.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Rose: Yeah, totally.

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Even if it is better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: So awesome.

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

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

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

 

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Meet Brad Burrow

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

Brad Burrow: Biton, correct, yeah.

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

Brad Burrow: “Jobba” actually.

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

Brad Burrow: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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

Brad Burrow: Yep, you got it.

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

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

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

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

Phil Singleton: Wow.

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

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

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

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

the quality of video on the internet now is way better than it ever used to be.

– Brad Burrow

Brad Burrow: Well technology in general but even the internet has changed. It used to be for example that if I wanted to have the potential of getting work from somebody, I’d have to send out a VHS tape with our demo reel so they could watch it see, oh yeah, these guys are good. None of that anymore. I can be on the phone with somebody and send them a link and they’re looking a video piece or whatever it is. It’s changed the selling cycle a lot which makes it a lot easier to sell. And the quality of video on the internet now is way better than it ever used to be. We used to spend hours compressing video to try to get it optimized so it play back good. It would take forever. Now, none of those things are issues.

But I tell you one of the challenges that we have as a business is that the barriers to entry to get into video production have come way, way down and it used to be you’d have spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get high end cameras, editing systems, edit bays, all the stuff that would go into just making a basic high end piece of video. Now you can go to Best Buy and buy a little camera and laptop and you’re a video production company. It’s really forced us to rethink our business model and rethink how we deliver content and all that. It’s the way technology changes and you got to roll with it and you learn to adapt. Ultimately still comes down to being able to tell a story and being able to impact somebody.

Phil Singleton: That’s a great point. One thing I think we can segue into, from my perspective doing web design, digital marketing, videos has become so hugely important right now as a way that, all talking about trying to get, everybody wants to get targeted traffic to their website or drive demand and drive traffic back to generally speaking the kind of companies that are doing it right, you’re trying to some way, shape or form are driving you back to the web presence which is usually their website. Video’s become so important because once you get somebody to a website, well you got to get people to know, like and trust you quickly and video’s one of the best ways to do that. Like you said, to tell a story or maybe see who the people are behind the company and get really quickly, build that trust up as quickly as possible.

Even though we and you and a lot of people in marketing know that’s really important, I still think not nearly enough of small businesses are doing this. I have my own personal opinion and that is I think people think a lot of this stuff these days is actually still expensive like it was and they’re just thinking, okay, man to write a book, that’s a huge project, maybe I’ll do it someday. To get it right, like a proper good commercial quality video for my company cost prohibitive. I’d like to do that. Sure I know it’s important but way too expensive maybe for the small business owner or podcast or whatever it is. The barriers I think are small but I still think they’re much more attainable than maybe some of the business owners or the small business community thinks they are. Can you speak to that? And what things small businesses can be doing to start incorporating video into their marketing and their business model.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. The first thing I would say is that the power of video and converting even in a eCommerce site. You have companies like eBags, I don’t know if you’re familiar with them.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, we’ve got several of their bags.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: And I think largely because probably my wife saw their videos and bought them.

Brad Burrow: Exactly right. You see they’re very simple. One camera, sometimes two cameras but it’s somebody on camera that’s demonstrating all the features of a backpack or something like that. And you’re like, “Wow, that’s cool.” Well, they’re conversion rates are way higher than their competitors because of those videos. We’re visual learners that’s the big thing about video. It’s like I think one second of video is worth 1.8 million words. Our minds process the visual images so much faster and at so much more depth and retention with video and movement than from reading something that we can make decisions quicker.

If you’re not using video you’re missing out on a big opportunity especially on the eCommerce side of thing. Any small business. But most, like you said, most small businesses think it’s I can’t afford to do something like that. Well actually can. One of the challenges that we’ve had as a business model is figuring out okay, we’ve been a high end production for over 20 years. We’re doing TV spots. I’ve had spots with a 80 to $100,000 budget before. What happens is, the big, big brands are spending that kind of money. Well a lot more than that actually, on production but a little small business can’t really do that.

I wanted to come up with solutions for small businesses so we came up with a business model called Stream Stage which basically is about 10% of the cost of normal production. The great thing about it is, is you can create all this video content that’s still high quality. It’s still broadcast quality, you can see it on a national network but it’s very affordable. The way we do that is by doing it more in a live production environment. Understanding, we understand that there’s a big need for video and it’s only going to increase but the challenge is how to provide that at a cost that a small business can afford.

Real Media’s Stream Stage

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome. I definitely obviously full disclosure here, Brad and I met a short time ago, I think we’re already kind of like minds and very excited about collaborating and do a bunch of things. I am so excited about Stream Stage. Already referred clients to them and we keep doing so because I think this is such an important of the business. I’ve done some video, if you visited our site, our homepage, you’ll see that we’ve tried to do a little bit. I’m looking forward to work with Brad to do some more that’s better and more thought through because in the video that we’ve done on our website, we’ve noticed our conversion rates have gone up quite a bit. And we just barely scratched the surface.

And that’s one thing, like Brad you’re going to talk about a little bit more too, I think it’s like, it’s one thing to be careful I think about any type of content that we put out there that people will say is important or is helpful in terms of maybe generating leads or helping conversion. Sometimes we’ll say things like, every company needs to be blogging. I do believe this is really important to be blogging but once you just kind of say that word blogging then people just think like, they just do more blogging. I think it’s just like video. You just go out there and say, “Oh he said video important. Just go run out and do videos.” So they’re out shooting mindless stuff on an iPhone and dropping it on their website. That’s not really what anybody’s saying. You got to be thoughtful about the things that you’re doing.

Some of the things I think, and you can speak to this more, I think might be important forms of video are something where a person sees you talking. I always think it’s important to be able to see the staff myself. If it’s a doctor or a lawyer are somebody, at least at some point you can see the person talking. See their voice. Look into their eyes. Also, testimonial videos where you have other people saying you’re awesome, I’ve worked with you. And then maybe some types of things, you have a lot of experience with is just trying to figure out marketing message or maybe even trying to build story into something, some marketing videos.

Can you speak to those types of things? What people should really be working on ’cause I think it’s like, you just don’t want to always say video’s important, just go run out and get some video. Then you get price shop some video and then you get something that doesn’t have a lot of strategy baked into it. You put it up on website. You said more video, we did more video, we put it on our site. Nothing happened. Well it’s not just about the video. There’s got to be some strategy behind it. Can you speak to that a little bit?

It’s just like that in storytelling. If you’re going to create content that really impacts an audience, you’ve got a message and you need to know as much about your audience as you can because we want to know what kind of fish we’re trying to catch.

– Brad Burrow

Brad Burrow: Right. Yeah, you’re exactly right. I use the analogy a lot of fishing. If you’re fishing let’s say you want to catch bass. Well you have a pretty good idea where you’re going to fish. You know what kind of bait you’re going to use. You’ve got a good idea of how you’re going to get them into the boat. It’s just like that in storytelling. If you’re going to create content that really impacts an audience, you’ve got a message and you need to know as much about your audience as you can because we want to know what kind of fish we’re trying to catch. Are they a stay at home mom? Are they a business owner? Are they a millennial? For example. And then what’s your message and how does that message need to be communicated to that audience so that they’re going to be interested? That’s the bait.

The type of fish is the audience, the message is the bait or the lure and then the call to action’s how we get them in the boat. What we do to get them to bite? The more that we can know about those things up front, the more effective we can be in telling a story that’s going to impact. I call that storytelling with purpose. We want to tell them a story and there’s all kinds of studies and things that talk about how storytelling can impact our brains. It actually a story impacts our retention in different parts of the brain much more effectively than reading or even watching something.

There’s real power in that but if you know your audience and you know your message and you can tell a story that is going to really impact them in a positive then your call to action’s going to be a natural thing that’s just going to automatically kick in. You ask them to do something, they’re going to do it ’cause you’ve impacted them and you understand them. That’s what we try to do is really, really understand the audience and then everything are just tools that we use to do that.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome because that’s it’s such a deliberate repeatable process that you can just, that makes perfect sense. Okay, you go through this. We’ve got these steps. It pretty much works for everybody. Obviously I think storytelling’s really big all the way around and marketing in general is a really hot topic but you really help bring it to video in a way that’s really easy to understand. But then I kind of even see in my mind right now, it’s like okay, you got this process with the fish kind of analogy and then you bring that into a production environment that’s lower cost for small businesses. Let’s just say if you’re in Kansas City. I don’t want to hone too much in on Stream Stage thing. I do think it’s really exciting to talk about that because it just makes it so much more attainable for small businesses to get that really crucial piece of video content that I believe will really, really help people convert sales a lot more.

If you’re in a small business and you end up figuring out a way to get a good website, maybe get good traffic to your site and you’re just really trying to get that way to get people to convert, well some of things Brad’s talking about like the storytelling or having something quality enough that really resonates, that’s sometimes all you really need to help get people, push them that little extra distance to get them into the sales or the education funnel. You think about the things that really work for folks and you’re just like, gosh, I wish I had this piece to be able to put on my website to be able to benefit the way like some of these really high end production pieces are. Man, if you’re a local small, medium size business, got guys like Brad with his great company Real Media, it’s attainable. You can do it. It’s a great investment and I think it’s really important.

That’s one of the things we’re so excited with working with you because you finally got this piece of the puzzle in a way that can really help clients out. Really appreciate you coming to the show and sharing your story.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Real Talk – The TV Show

Phil Singleton: Where can we learn more about you in terms of like your website and maybe places that you like to hang out social, online? So people can follow.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, at Real Media we have our websites realmediakc.com, not Real Media but realmediakc.com/streamstage if you’re interesting in seeing how that works. That’s a place you can check that out. Go to our website. We have a LinkedIn page. We’re actually doing a, we’re using Stream Stage to create a show on LinkedIn called Real Talk. If you go to our LinkedIn page you’ll see show where we’re interviewing CEOs. Actually we’ve got Joel Goldberg from Fox Sports that comes in and interviews CEOs so we release videos every week on that which is going very well. And then Facebook page, Twitter and all those things as well. It’s a full-time job just keeping up with the social media side of this thing.

Phil Singleton: Right, right. And before I let you go, I like to ask all my Kansas City based guests, just kind of some of their favorite places to go, things to do in Kansas City. Places that kind of make them love being here. Places I guess if they’ve been away awhile that they’d either come back to and one of the first places they’d go maybe to eat or grab a bite or get a drink or refer a friend from out of town to.

Brad Burrow: Yeah. Well I’ll tell you, I have people come in from out of town all the time and everybody’s here’s about barbecue. Of course we’re the barbecue mecca. My favorite barbecue place right now is Q39 which I know you’ve heard about too. We live out in on the south part so they just moved out to the Antioch & College Blvd there.

Phil Singleton: Sweet.

Brad Burrow: Man that place is awesome. We could eat there every night every night.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Brad Burrow: And be just happy.

Phil Singleton: I think I was telling you, that’s like you’re probably the third or fourth person that’s been their favorite. I have yet to go there. It’s pretty funny ’cause on Father’s Day I was trying to figure out a place to give my parents. And I think they’d said they’d been there, maybe the original one once and it was like, ah, kind of too busy. They didn’t have good, super good impression of it. Course here it’s like, I’ve heard like three or four times it’s like the people’s favorite restaurant. I got to get out there and try this place out.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Sounds really awesome.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, you need to try it out for sure.

Phil Singleton: It’s on my list on the short list.

Brad Burrow: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: Thanks again for being on the show Brad. Looking forward to hear more from you. We want to welcome you back maybe and dig a little deeper into some of these other video marketing topics.

Brad Burrow: Yeah, love to do it. Thanks for having me.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

How to Use Podcasting as Your Ultimate Sales Trojan Horse

Stephen Woessner is the founder and CEO of the Digital Marketing agency Predictive ROI and host of Onward Nation, a top rated daily podcast for business owners. He’s also the author of several books, one on search engine optimization, another one on viral social media and viral social networking. And his most recent one, which we’ll talk a little bit about today is Profitable Podcasting, a book that I just recently read and loved and we’re going to talk some more about that as well.

Episode resource links:

 

Meet Stephen Woessner

Phil Singleton: Stephen, welcome to the show.

Stephen Woessner: Thanks very much for the invitation to join you and thanks very much for being such a great guest on Onward Nation, you know, a few weeks ago. I really appreciate our time together and that was just awesome for our listeners. So hopefully I can return the favor for yours.

Phil Singleton: All right. Just to get started here, can you kind of fill in the gaps and let us know how you got started in a digital and what brought you here today into the business that you have?

Stephen Woessner: I think kind of like, you know, most business owners sort of being an accidental business owner but yet entrepreneurship really truly is in my family DNA. Predictive ROI is the fifth company that I’ve owned but I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I mean everybody, back from when my grandfather immigrated here from Istanbul, Turkey and so we’ve all, you know, the 10 grandkids, we’ve all been business owners and so it truly is part of our DNA in my family.

And Predictive ROI really started when after I wrote my first couple of books that you just mentioned, I was at the University of Wisconsin at the La Crosse campus. So as part of faculty and academic staff and when the first book came out and then the second book came out, you know, it turned into consulting opportunities and speaking engagements and I wasn’t pursuing any of those.

And I just said thanks, but no thanks. I didn’t want there to ever be a conflict of interest with the university or anything like that. I was concerned about that. But then after a while it was, it was like, Gosh, you know, this could be kind of interesting. And so you know, one weekend one of the readers of my SEO book said, “Hey, could you help me build a keyword list?” And I said sure. And I said, “But you gotta pay me up front.” “Okay, how much?” And I said “$300,” and he hit me up for $300 on PayPal. And I’m like, oh my gosh, this is awesome. And then it just kind of started from there. And that was, I don’t know, about 10 years ago now. And Predictive ROI has been growing ever since.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. So that’s how you get started. It was basically just helping somebody off basically some SEO and it’s rolled into your own agency. And now, I mean, what do we do now? Can I ask like what’s your agency look like? What’s your ideal client look like? What kind of services are you providing?

Stephen Woessner: Well, you know, when we started the business here again, like most entrepreneurs, when you’re just starting out, you know, prospective clients come to you and say, “Hey, could you do this,” and “Hey, could you do that?”

And the typical response is “Yes we can and it’ll be this much.” And then pretty soon, you know, two, three years in, we’re doing all kinds of stuff in digital, right? And in just about everything that would fit into the quote unquote ‘digital bucket’ we were doing. And I don’t say that from a braggadocious perspective, I say that as a “Geez, that was kind of a problem in our business model,” perspective because, you know, we’re doing all of this stuff and doing it okay, but probably not doing it as well as if we really focused on a few things. And now we’re really focused on a few things.

We really focus on helping clients get very, very clear about what their point of view is, like, why they do what it is that they do, what their thought leadership is. And then we help them plant that flag firmly in the dirt.

– Stephen Woessner

We’re not a creative shop. We really focus on helping clients get very, very clear about what their point of view is, like, why they do what it is that they do, what their thought leadership is. And then we help them plant that flag firmly in the dirt. Like, “This is what we do here, this is who we do it for, this is who we don’t do it for.” And then we helped them develop thought leadership around that. We call that cornerstone content: content that we’re creating on a consistent basis, likely weekly and as either, you know, audio, video, blog content, whatever, that really pounds that stake solid in the dirt.

And then we’d create a channel agnostic strategy around that. So if it’s a podcast, we turn that into a hub that, yes, there’s episodes, but then there’s so much more than that, like you and I talked about during your episode on Onward Nation where the podcast episode like that one piece of audio, that’s cool, but can you turn that into Google reviews? Can you turn it into a blog post that drives then organic search? Can you turn it into a social campaign? So, we take all of that stuff and then ultimately how does that drive revenue back into their core business? So there’s always a monetization strategy. So that’s what we’re focused on now. And it’s been really, really good for us, being that focused on it.

Phil Singleton: Are you finding, is podcasting a part of it for a lot of these folks that are your clients or is it a part of … Does it work for some, not for others? Do you think it’s one of these things it’s more universal for most companies? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Stephen Woessner: I don’t think it’s universal for everybody. And the reason being is because certainly there’s some skill sets involved. Not everybody’s going to feel comfortable having a podcast and I totally get that. And and so there is some comfort level there, but it also needs to fit well with the business model too. And so we’re super, super focused on business to business.

So you had asked me before, and I didn’t answer it, I’m sorry, you asked me what our ideal client is and that’s typically an owner of a business to business professional services firm, across the number of different industries, but typically a B2B professional services firm owner that is doing about a million to $20,000,000 a year in revenue. They’re beyond the startup, but they’re not too big that we can’t support them any longer.

And then the podcast and the monetization strategy around it needs to drive business back into or drive revenue, excuse me, back into the core business, whether that is interviewing their top prospects as guests on their show and having a system that doesn’t feel schmutzy, but having a system downstream that then opens the door for an opportunity to do business together.

Perhaps it’s sponsors, perhaps it’s live events, perhaps it’s books or webinars or workshops or whatever. But there needs to be that strategy that absolutely without a doubt connects with the content and into their core business.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. And that’s really what I want to dive into a little bit more today, is kind of pick your brain on podcasting in general. And the first thing I want to ask is how you get about talking to somebody like me who say a little over a year ago I felt that podcasting was almost kind of a fringe marketing tactic or something that I didn’t realize was as mainstream that it is or becoming.

And then of course I got involved with it and it’s like, oh my gosh. Like, holy cow, what have I been doing and literally I tell people some of the things we’re doing with podcasts and is the highest ROI things I’ve ever done in the 12 years I’ve been doing this. But how do you get some … I mean, you know, for me, I did a little self study, read things from some thought leaders like yourself, but it didn’t take until you actually step into it and realize what’s happening

How do you convince people now that are like, that were like me? To be like, “Hey, this isn’t a fringe type of a thing. You do have to look at it.” And how do you get people to jump into it where I think a lot of people still just kind of have that like wall where they’re like, “Okay, podcasting. Yeah, sure,” type of thing?

Stephen Woessner: I think you’re exactly correct that sometimes there is a wall. So we certainly go through a process of sharing data, sharing what growth rates are, talking about expectations.

Phil Singleton: Do you get that though, when you bring something to a business owner that’s and they’re kind of scratching their head like, “Do we, would we consider?” And you know in your head that they’re probably like a super awesome prospect for it because they are a thought leader. Maybe they come out, they got the skills, they’re charismatic, but they’re still kind of thinking, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

I didn’t mean to cut you off, but you must run into that sometimes where where people are are feeling like that. I’m just curious how you can get them to get over that.

Stephen Woessner: I think part of our strategy is that we’re never trying to sell a podcast just like we’re never trying to sell search or we’re never trying to sell a video. So our business development strategy, if you will, our pitch is we’re always focused on, the client’s data points, the client’s metrics, the client’s business, how they make money, how they’re helpful to their clients, how them being helpful to their clients helps their clients be helpful to their clients, and really understanding their industry. And once we understand that and how they drive revenue into their business and what their growth and so forth is, or what their goals are, excuse me. Then and only then do we talk about video, podcasts, SEO and so forth and how we might be helpful in how we can help them with point of view, thought leadership, cornerstone content, so forth. So we never ever, ever are out to sell somebody-

Phil Singleton: leading on a tactic, so to speak of type of thing.

Stephen Woessner: Right. Never ever, ever, ever. We’re always focused on how we can be the most helpful and then through that conversation we uncover, well it might be a podcast, it might be a video series, it might be none of those things.

Phil Singleton: And then when you bring it … I’m just curious. When you do do the research and you come up and you do come up with a list and podcasts might be one of the tactics that can be good with it. Do you do have to almost sell or pitch why it might be useful because you’ve already identified that it would be good for them? I’m just wondering how you get … or do they normally come around once they’ve seen that and you show them the benefits and all this kind of stuff?

Stephen Woessner: I think if we’re at that stage of the conversation and I’m not talking about a 10 minute conversation, then all of a sudden we sell a thing, you know, typically our conversations are over a period of time, there’s trust building. They’ve had some familiarity with who Predictive is. I mean that’s what’s given us the permission to have that conversation in the first place.

And so sure, there are certainly are going to be some questions about what is the right strategy? Is it a podcast? Well, what’s the advantage there? But again, we’re not selling a podcast. What we’re showing them, our client or prospect, I guess at that point is how this piece of cornerstone content, in this example, a piece of audio in a podcast, how that piece of audio can then become, if they have a vision or desire to become a best selling author, well, how can we structure the editorial calendar behind that show to create the chapters of the book?

How can we use that as a way to have influential thought leaders on your show that can compliment the content that you’re creating for your book? How can then lead to workshop content? How then could it lead to webinar content? And so forth, so it’s never about “Geez, Phil, I’d love to sell you a product.” It’s always about how that cornerstone content can really take their thought leadership and explode it over time?

Phil Singleton: And also I’m thinking you’re … I mean, you’re actually practicing what you preach too, right? Because you got all this great stuff and education, but you’re doing all of it yourself and you’ve been able to grow your business based off of some of these things yourself. You’ve got a book, you do podcasts and you’ve got your own substantial audience. You are a thought leader in your space. So it’s really easy for you to say like, look, you know, if you’re a good candidate for this, it does actually work because we’re doing it for our own business. Right? I mean, so that’s a great thing to kind of be able to fall back on.

Stephen Woessner: Well and that’s a great lesson that you’re sharing with your audience right now and I hope your audience takes what you just shared and puts that into their business that no matter what it is that you do in your business, you need to be the supreme example of that.

Last week, I was back in Ohio visiting some family and my cousin took me to the gym where he normally works out, Powerhouse Gym, and he has a professional trainer who works out with him and it was oh my gosh, an excruciating workout. This guy really knows what he’s doing. Okay. But during a side conversation, Jerry said to me, like my cousin’s working on his sets and Jerry says to me, he’s like, he goes, “I got to stay in tip top shape because I am a walking billboard for what it is that I do.” And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what Phil just now said,” you. We are all walking billboards for what? Like you could not go out and sell SEO if you sucked at it.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. In my case-

Stephen Woessner: If you sucked at it.

Phil Singleton: Exactly. In my case, I really only feel confident selling things that I’m actually using that work for me and I know some people are good at not … they’ve got the cobbler’s use story and they’re able to market and do things and maybe not do it for themselves, but I’m just not that.

Yeah, I don’t have the sales part in my genes so I’m able to say, “Look, I’m doing this.” I’m not the ideal guy that can go out and so you know, the whatever they say, the ice cube to the Eskimo type of guy, but I have to be able to show, “Hey, I’ve done this. It’s working for me.” I’m actually an introvert. I wouldn’t be on podcasts or building on my own personally unless it didn’t work and there was a lot of ROI attached to it and that’s the only way I can really sell it and prove it.

Of course you’ve taken it to another level type of a deal, but I think … It really does show that it works.

Stephen Woessner: Yeah, I completely agree with you so that when you’re sitting across the table from, you know, a prospect and you’re talking about his or her business, not only can you show the results that you’ve generated for clients, but you can also tell your own story and how you have to show how Google reviews, how asking a host like Stephen after finishing the interview to give you a Google review in the impact of that review has had for you and your business and now using that as a, “Hey, Mr. or Ms. Client, this is why we need to do this within your business and my team? Yeah, we know exactly how to do that,” because you do it.

The Trojan Horse of Sales

Phil Singleton: Exactly. Now I really want to dive into something I’m really super excited about because again, it’s one of these things that you talk about in your book. And I was like, yes, I’m doing something right and you gave me tons of great ideas. I mean, anybody that has any thought about doing their own podcast or trying to understand why it’s so important and how it opens up so many other doors than just the podcast. When people hear podcasts, it’s like this one dimensional blinder thing. Like it’s just this audio thing, but there’s just so much. So many different angles and so many things that give … You’ve gotta read Stephen’s book. It’s just awesome. It’s the one book I wish I would’ve read a year ago. It’s already making our process better and is enabling us to squeeze more ROI out of it. But the one thing that really lit me up in the book, a money thing, but one thing that I’m excited about is the way I’ve been using my own podcast.

I think I told you when you interviewed me, a big part of my initial strategy for podcasting was being guested because the hosts do all the work and would access to their audience and all those things that we talked about, the benefit of being a guest. But then there’s this other whole part of having your own show, right?

And I was dumb in a way because I didn’t have my own show at the beginning when I did this guesting campaign because I could have had access to all these other podcasts consumers on the sixth year shows that I’ve been on or whatever. But my point I’m getting at is, last year I tried to do some outbound marketing. I hired a person for four straight months. I figured, “God, I’ve got this. We’ve got 100 and some odd reviews. Bestselling book. I’ve got a plugin that’s been downloaded on SEO 150,000 times. If I just go call people even around our city and just tell them what I do will just be like, be able to double or triple our…”

I had hired somebody that made phone calls, 40, 50 phone calls a day, one meeting, zero sales informed us.

Stephen Woessner: What?

Phil Singleton: It’s just hard to call somebody up and try and pitch. It’s just hard. But then we came back to it and I said, “You know what? I’m going to use this podcasting way as a way to ask,” you’re going to love this because this is exactly the things that you teach and coach and help people do. As soon as we started this podcast up and I chose the name specifically, I didn’t call it SEO something or web design or WordPress Gurus, this and that. I called it the Local Business Leaders podcast so that when we started making calls to book guests who are, again, this is coming right out of your playbook, potential clients because half of our guests are experts like you where I’m literally picking your brain, trying to get very valuable, free advice for myself and my listeners, that’s half of my guests.

The other half are ideal clients that were hanging the phone up. Now when we call people up and say, “Hey, can we have your executive be on the Local Business Leaders podcast?” Can you guess what the response rate is? It’s like eight out of 10.

And just the fact that they’ll engage and talk with you and understand it. I mean, the value of that is immense and I want you to talk to our audience about how that’s worked for you, how that works for your guests. It’s explained in the book. And just talk about how it works for folks. I’m just starting to see the kind of the power of the access I guess. But again I’ve just been doing this for a few months and I want to get some coaching tips for myself and my listeners because I have been talking a lot about podcasting because it’s just been a huge boom for a business over the last year and I think I’m just scratching the surface.

But I want you to help me with some advice now on what else we can be doing. Are we doing it right? What are the types of things that you’ve seen for yourself and your clients in terms of using this tactic as an access tool? Sorry for that long winded question.

Stephen Woessner: No. It’s a great setup to the lesson for your listeners and, and we call this strategy the Trojan horse of sales and you really illustrated the power of the Trojan horse and I think most people know that story out of Greek mythology but the reason why that’s so impactful is because you are no longer Phil the owner of an agency in Kansas City who’s looking for the new account. You are now Phil the host of a media channel, which represents an audience who that fellow business owner wants to be in front of, you know, he or she was like saying yes to you because now you are a journalist.

You’re not a salesperson. And that is a game changing moment when that happens. And so the reason why that yes is so much easier is because you’ve changed the context of that relationship. Now, what’s really important for your listeners to know too, is that, you know, I think that what you’ve done, Phil, is really smart. You’ve got half your guest list as your dream prospects. Awesome. You’ve got half your guest list as thought leaders who are going to add value to your audience, and certainly your prospects are going to add value to your audience.

Phil Singleton: What do you think about it? Is that the right … That’s just me.

Stephen Woessner: Absolutely, that’s right. It’s absolutely right. Now, the important thing that your listeners need to know too is that just because you have your best prospect or your dream prospect on the show, it’s not, “Hey Stephen, thanks very much.” You hit stop record and or stop on the recording button and now all of a sudden it turns into a sales pitch. That’s going to get schmutzy in a hurry.

And so your listeners need to know that that interview is the Trojan horse you’re now past the city gates of Troy. That’s great, but you don’t jump out of the belly of the horse and start trying to sell and so forth. No, that’s going to get schmutzy.

Instead, what you’ve done is now you’ve architected the start of a two, three, four month relationship where you can send them ongoing content, other great episodes. You can send them eBooks. You can send them other pieces of your thought leadership that tie back to the show so then three or four months later Phil can loop back and say, “Hey Stephen, thanks again for being a guest on the show. Really loved our conversation. In fact, my team and I were just listening to it this morning and you know what? When you mentioned x, that got us thinking about Y. We do Y really well here. Is there a day or time next week that we could sit down, maybe have lunch or whatever and talk about why and how we might be able to do that for you?”

Phil Singleton: And this is again, you’re kind of a couple of contacts later until you get to that point where it’s-

Stephen Woessner: Exactly. Because otherwise, it’s schmutzy. And then of course Stephen’s going to say, “Well, yeah, I’d love to sit down with you and talk about that because you know what? My team is struggling with Y.” And then he or she feels really great about that because you’ve nurtured the relationship. You started off with a really solid give by having them on your show and then you’ve loved on them for months since then. Why wouldn’t they say yes?

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Just in terms of like specific steps as an example, I know everybody’s probably a little bit different, but is it a thank you email? Is it a gift? I mean, what are some typical things that you would do over the course where you think you’d soften them up and how much would you contact them? You think it’s not annoying? I mean, your show is so awesome because it’s so professional in terms of the lead up and the follow up and some of the things, of course I’m just going to steal directly from you. I haven’t done quite yet, but I am curious because … What things that you recommend to potential clients in terms of, you know, setting up, is it like a three or four email sequence?

I’ve got one of these things. Again, I’m trying to give them stuff away in terms of free advice, that idea, this might be cheesy, you tell me how it works, after every show I have a guest on, I’m holding this up, I give like a, it’s like a stone coaster that I make featured featured guests and I send them out.

It’s another thing to kind of follow up and get in front of them and have something to hold type of deal and then maybe it will be an email or something, you know, following up and again, social tagging and things like that. But again, for me, I’m kind of just testing things out, see what works, but I know you’ve got some things that probably work in terms of how many touches and what kind of touches and what things do you do after maybe in terms of that kind of an access podcast. Can you give any insight there?

Stephen Woessner: You bet. It’s about five to six, you know, different touches. And you mentioned a couple of them already. Certainly a sincere thank you email and certainly the social tagging. And so we’re writing Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, we’re writing a lot of tweets, you know, 10 tweets off of each of the episodes. We’re tagging the guest in all of those and lots of times in that first conversation I’ll hear, “Hey, thanks for all the tweets,” you know, because people like that, right?

And it’s not about me on the episode. It’s about their nuggets and pearls of wisdom that they shared during the episodes. Right? Okay. So then, I mean that’s just like kind of the ante, that just sort of gets you in the game. That’s just being a good host. That’s just a nice thank you.

And we have a Dream 25, you know, that as part of our overall guest list, the Dream 25 who we are really, really loving on. And so then this is how we take that even further.

Phil Singleton: And Dream 25, is that thought leaders or that’s a client? Dream 25’s a … prospects?

Stephen Woessner: Prospects. Yeah, these are the people we would really, really love to do business with. 25 of them and they’re seeded into our overall guest list. I mean, we’re airing 200 episodes a year, so about 10% of our guests lists are in that category. Okay?

So then then how do we take that deeper? Next is, we’ll take the 25, we’ll break that into five or six different eBooks. So we’re highlighting nuggets and pearls of wisdom. Again, it’s not about me and what Predictive does. It is about we’re taking those … across the 25, we’re seeing commonalities and we’ll come up with five groupings and five guests featured in each ebook.

Phil Singleton: Wow, that’s great.

Stephen Woessner: Complementary thought leaders. And so then there’s the book of like, “Oh my Gosh, I’m …. holy bananas. I’m in an eBook with Gary Vaynerchuk or you know, Kevin Harrington from Shark Tank. Wow.”

And so there’s the coolness factor of that. Right?

Phil Singleton: And how do you go about, do you set it up? Do you tell them you’re doing it, you just send it to him and say, “Hey, we’ve included some of your stuff in the ebook?”

Stephen Woessner: The latter.

Phil Singleton: Okay.

Stephen Woessner: Yup. The latter. And now when we’ve got this really cool ebook with their stuff in it. Awesome. Then, we highlight each of the Dream 25 in our weekly email list that goes out to our full distribution. We make sure that they’re on that distribution list, so they receive it and then we also forward it to them to make sure that they saw it.

And again, another thank you. So, so now we see that we selected their episode. Out of all of the episodes we selected their episode as amplification to the entire Onward Nation community over 120 countries. So that’s cool, right?

And then we’ll take that and turn that into like a LinkedIn article and we’ve got 24,000 plus connections on LinkedIn, additional amplification of their thought leadership. Maybe we’ll invite them to co-teach a webinar. Right?

So there aren’t you know, like tangible gifts and not that that’s a bad strategy, right? Your strategy of sending that out is cool. And I have some like, you know, that people have sent to me on other shows, right? So I think that that is cool and that’s a nice touch and then being able to amplify the insights and wisdom that they shared with your community, the audience that-

Stephen Woessner: -and wisdom that they shared with your community, the audience that they said yes to in the first place coming onto your show is huge.

Podcast Encore Interview & Following Up

Phil Singleton: Yes. That’s awesome. Another thing I noticed you do on your show that gave me an idea, too, is you interview a guest, and I don’t know if you do this on every one or just on occasional ones, but I was invited back to do an encore. That’s awesome because then you get somebody to come back. Now they’ve kind of … it just makes you feel … it definitely changes the game. That’s the only person that’s done that in the 70 shows I’ve been on, but it also kind of makes you feel like you’ve got an upcoming deal and more attached to the whole part of it. I don’t know if that’s my feeling or that’s by design or how … why do you do that, I guess, basically, because it seems really smart.

Stephen Woessner: It is by design. Well, a couple of things. You were a guest who shared phenomenal insights and strategies, but in my mind, what really made you different is you weren’t afraid to get tactical, and I love that. I love it when guests do that. So when I think about that, I’m like oh my gosh, I know there’s more here, and I want to learn more, and I know our guests, excuse me, our listeners are going to want to learn more, too. So that’s one piece of the encore.

The second piece of the encore is I walked out of that interview thinking this is a guy I need to learn more about personally as a business owner. Are there opportunities between predictive and what he’s doing in Kansas City? I want to explore those. An encore opportunity is a good way to keep us in our own sort of intersecting spheres. So that’s the other thing.

And then we also use the encore for our Dream 25.

Phil Singleton: That’s what I was thinking, too.

Stephen Woessner: For prospects. And so we reserve that, and that is a way for, again, for our Dream 25 to come back so we have an opportunity to learn more about them, them learn a little bit more about us, and vice versa. It’s just a circle of goodness.

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Stephen Woessner: But it’s never ever ever a sales pitch. It’s always about how we can be helpful to our guests, to our audience, to our partners and all of that, never ever ever a sales pitch.

Phil Singleton: And how much do you think in terms of your experience are opportunities coming as a result of the process and that followup, and how much of a part of your process is maybe actually taking that initial step to be like you had mentioned before, hey, you’re kind of being a little more proactive on trying to initiate a meeting or a call, versus a complete inbound thing. Like you went through the process. They were like okay, I understand, you guys are what we need, let’s … you know what I mean? There’s that two-part thing where you’re maybe trying to push it a little bit and they’re the ones where they’re coming right at you because they fell into the inbound funnel and it worked totally passively.

Stephen Woessner: Yeah. I would say it’s 90% proactive.

Phil Singleton: Really?

Stephen Woessner: Yeah. And it isn’t because everything downstream doesn’t work or anything like that or whatever. But when it comes to [biz 00:29:15] [dev 00:29:16], we will never leave something to like well, we didn’t get any calls today. You know, I mean, we are … I don’t want to say ambitiously pursuing, because now it sounds like we’re selling. But we’re ambitiously developing relationships with our Dream 25, so they know that we want to do business with them.

Phil Singleton: But that’s just a huge, huge lesson, because I mean that’s a weakness I think that we have, maybe a lot of owners have is that you get something good, and you’re still waiting for the stuff to come in. It’s a huge missed opportunity for you, not following up and doing stuff, because that’s probably where most of the business is, I’m thinking, if you’re not proactive about it. And that’s just one of those things you’re telling me right now where I’m just like that makes perfect sense, knowledge bomb, where it’s a waste. It’s a total wasted opportunity if you just think you’re going to keep putting stuff out there and it’s just going to come and fall on your lap without any kind of proactive … because these guys, like oh their business, and some of the things you hear and you know, you know you need to be doing it. But unless somebody’s prodding you along and making sure that you keep it top of a mind, you’re just going to fall off with one of these other tactics or opportunities, or maybe they just get back into the work zone, and they don’t realize [crosstalk 00:30:24]

Stephen Woessner: Yeah, we kind of take it for granted. It’s like how often do any of us wake up, feet hit the bedroom floor, thinking, wow, I have got to call that vendor about whatever, I can’t wait to get in touch with him. It’s narcissistic for us to think that our prospects are sitting there just obsessed with us and can’t wait to pick up the phone. Stop it. They have businesses to run. They have the same challenges in their life just like you do. You, you need to court them just like your spouse did not chase you down for you to marry him or her. Right? There’s a courting period to that. You need to show some interest. You need to demonstrate some value. You didn’t propose on the first date. It’s the same thing here.

And somehow business owners get that all discombobulated in their brain thinking that somehow it’s going to be different with this type of relationship. It’s not. We’re people.

Phil Singleton: That’s blowing my mind a little bit, because I’m actually sweating a little bit on this. I’m just like … it’s like there is no real benefit to the full inbound marketing process, which I’m really just realizing right now which is kind of embarrassing, unless there’s an element of that pursuit. Because we do well at our range, but it’s literally the stuff that falls in our lap. Our followup is terrible. Great access and great in the lead generation, probably really terrible on the followup and the touches because I’m thinking, well, we do stuff well enough that they’ll just come to the door when they’re ready. That’s just such a …

Stephen Woessner: It does happen, 10%.

Phil Singleton: Right. And it’s guys like you are out there that are doing it saying there’s got to be the followup, there’s got to be that pursuit, otherwise, and it makes perfect sense, because people pursue us. People close stuff on us as a result of their persistent pursuit, because if I’m really not interested, I’m going to shut them down.

Stephen Woessner: Right.

Phil Singleton: If I’m kind of thinking about it, I let them kind of pitch me for a while. Maybe I don’t do it, but it might take a long time, right? The other guys that are doing it successful to us, we’re not doing it to our prospective clients, and that’s really an eye opener and an action item that I’m going to take right away, and thank you … I should be writing you a check for this episode. That’s some really great insight to really open my eyes up. Some of these things we have to be open to because like I say, a year ago, podcasting was not on the radar. Now it’s the third largest source of our leads and sales coming in. It was not even on the books. SEO, referrals, and now it’s coming off podcasts, which was huge, because there’s other things that we have to generate leads and sales.

So this is another one of those things, like how much money have you left on the table, but not having a followup pursuit process in terms of … because you open these doors up with these great opportunities that work, and these guys, especially those guys, they’re not going to say oh I went on your show, looked at your website, we’re going to hire you next week type of thing unless we’ve got some really good followup plan in place. So that for putting something at the top of my list today.

Stephen Woessner: You’re welcome, my friend.

Phil Singleton: So that’s a ton of stuff. My head’s spinning right now. I’m sure our listeners are too. How, in wrapping this up, tell us how people can reach you and something you’re doing right now and how we can learn more about things you’re doing?

Stephen Woessner: Some pretty simple ways. Your listeners can find my books at Amazon. Just go into Amazon, search for Stephen Woessner. You’ll find all three of them there. At predictiveroi.com, that’s our hub. You’ll find our podcast, our blog, all of our helpful resources and whatnot that are free there at predictiveroi.com, and then please feel free to look me up on LinkedIn and drop me a connection request, and I’ll accept.

Phil Singleton: That’s pretty much your favorite social channel. It is mine now.

Stephen Woessner: LinkedIn is my favorite. That’s where deals get done, and deals get done really quickly. And so we’ve invested a lot of time and effort in building that. Those are probably the three best ways.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Everybody, Stephen Woessner. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Really, one of the things I’m most passionate about is talking about podcasting, which is kind of funny because podcasts about podcasting type of deal. It has been a game changer, and you’re one of the guys who’s really helping folks like myself and businesses all over the place set it up and do it right, but make sure we’re doing … you don’t just do podcasting for the sake of podcasts. It’s got to be worked into the whole business strategy, and you’ve also got to be talking about making sure that you’re taking advantage of all these other things, and not just doing that one-dimensional piece of it. And this is all stuff that you cover in Profitable Podcasting, which is why I recommend that everybody that is interested in podcasting, is thinking about doing a podcast or everyone has, should we be doing this type of a thought in their head, you definitely should read this book, and it will open your eyes on why a guy like myself, who doesn’t like to spend money on anything unless there’s a huge ROI involved, why I’ve gone hook, line, and sinker into podcasting. It’s really changed my business and everything that we basically do in terms of our own business and even delivering services to our clients.

So Stephen, once again, thank you very much. We’re going to put all the notes here up and links to your book and website on the show. I hope we can talk to you again at some point once I unpack some of this and figure out more questions I want to ask.

Stephen Woessner: Well, thank you very much for the invitation. I look forward to crossing paths again when the timing is right. But thanks for the invitation, and thank you again for when you were my guest on Onward Nation and our listeners, I hope, had a very similar experience to what I was able to share with your listeners. I know that they did. You were so practical and tactical and step by step, which again, we love.

Phil Singleton: Thank you for the kind words, sir.

Stephen Woessner: Oh my gosh, it’s awesome. Thank you, my friend.

 

 

HARO, Alex Flash Briefings & Cutting Edge Website Leadgen Technology

Mike Kawula is the founder of , and co-founder of Dinner Table MBA. Michael is an entrepreneur whose last three businesses each hit seven figures in under three years, with this past being ranked the number 144th fastest growing company by Inc magazine in 2012. He’s an author. He’s been featured on CNN, interviewed by Anthony Robbins, and featured in over 100 publications in over the last few years. Michael has been an entrepreneur since September 10, 2001, has a strong passion for marketing, start-ups, his family, and the Florida beaches.

Episode resources

 

Meet Mike Kawula

 

Phil Singleton:  So, we were already kind of in the green room, initially talking about some things I thought I wanted to ask you about. Then, we got on the topic of personal branding, authority, specifically in how important I think and you think becoming an author and using that as a platform for your own business and personally to build up authority and branding, and all the stuff that comes with it. Can you speak to how important you think that is?

Oh wait a minute, before we do that, I’m going to take one step back. Fill in the gaps and tell us a little bit about your journey, and then were going to jump into the, I got so excited about talking about the book that I forgot to even ask you about your background.

Mike Kawula: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: I do want to fill in the blanks and tell us a little bit about kind of how you got your start out of school or whatever, in business, and what brought you to kind of where you are today.

Mike Kawula: Yeah, natural-born entrepreneur, I guess you could say, back to seven, eight, nine years old doing the lemonade stand, doing newspaper routes. Just always a strong passion for really to be honest with you, money.

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Mike Kawula: I remember at age nine, I bought my first stock. It was Toys R Us, ticker TOY. Unfortunately now it would have been a bad investment. In the early 80s it was a really smart investment. And I remember going to my Dad to ask him to teach me how to buy stocks, and he had said, “Well, if you want to learn, go learn how to learn.”

So yeah, I went to school, spoke to my teachers, one of my teachers took me under his wing and after school every day taught me how to read the Wall Street Journal. So yeah, I was super excited about that. But throughout high school I had done different things. I had worked at Cutco selling Cutco knives, had a perception that I wasn’t a good salesperson. So, I figured how could I make a lot of money doing this. Let’s say if I was 50% worse than every other good sales guy out there, how could I still get the same results? So, what I ended up doing was over the border in New York was a place called Mansi. There were a lot of Hesitic Jews, and they all practiced being kosher. And so, if they bought one set of knives, guess what? They were buying two sets. One would be kosher, one wouldn’t. So, ended up, leaned a lot about sales, became a good sales guy, and was one of their top distributors. Even had the opportunity to open my own office.

So, bounced around, did different things. Worked on Wall Street ten years. Nine, teen, 2001 came home. Learned my wife was pregnant. And we were about to have our first child. Went in on 9/11, quit my job right before 9/11 even happened. Thank God that they loved me and asked me to stick around, because it’s probably one of the worst times to start a business. But leaped into it.

Since then I’ve owned several businesses. Some have been big wins. Some have been big lessons, I like to say. But I’ve done everything from online to offline, do a local cleaning company where I had 50 plus employees throughout South Jersey. Online office supply stores selling 20 million dollars plus in office supplies. To our software company where you and I met, I believe which was where we helped people on Twitter. But throughout that process, there’s one thing that’s always helped me in every business, and that is having my own brand, right? So, and how have I don’t that? It’s being really everywhere. A podcast, writing a book, being on social media. Really letting people know who I am and what I stand for.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. I’m really interested too, and it always seems like my first job, so my first professional job was basically an internship when I was in college. And it was basically working for a company called Paine Webber that was bought by UBS. I don’t know what it is now. But anyway, it was essentially doing cold calls for investment guys that were in the organization that basically said they would come in and work for us during school and just make a bunch of phone calls. So, that really, doing that kind of really just thickens your skin.

Mike Kawula: Oh my God.

Phil Singleton: Doesn’t it?

Mike Kawula: I used to do, and this is, you’ll be blown away by this, 150,000 phone calls a year. So, we did 500 phone calls a day, six days a week, sometimes seven if we were bringing a company public. It just didn’t matter. Every day, didn’t matter how you feel. You get up, you go into there, and you just dial and smile. And like you said, it builds a lot of thick skin. My very first real J-O-B, I think I was 13 or 14, working above a bagel shop making cold calls to sell ads for the yellow pages at the time, I think it was. I don’t even know what the company was. But every night I remember after school just heading over there and for three hours would be on the phone and yeah, it taught me a lot, but I think everything. Today people are soft, right?

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

Mike Kawula: With online, I think. “Oh, let me go behind Twitter or let me go on Facebook and make a post and wait for the business to come in.” And they just forget. You had mentioned I was interviewed by Tony Robbins, I was actually interviewed by Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes together. And Chet Holmes wrote a book called The Ultimate Sales Machine and it was very humbling, because they tore my business apart. I’d just made Inc’s fastest-growing company and thought they were going to come on and just talk to me about my journey and success, and instead they just tore my business apart. And one of the things that Chet had said is, he had called me soft. He’s like, “Why don’t you have a sales team for your online business.” It just hadn’t crossed my mind. I had done direct mail, which most people weren’t doing in the online world, but I never thought of building a sales team, and during that one hour interview with them, immediately afterwards I put together a sales team and that took our business to the next level.

Phil Singleton: That’s really awesome. Actually I mean, I’ve only interviewed, and I’ve probably interviewed probably for the show now about 40 different entrepreneurs. Some of them haven’t been published yet. But one thing I’ve noticed, I think just about every single successful one that I’ve had on the show has had some experience with hitting the phones. You know what I mean?

Mike Kawula: Yeah.

Phil Singleton: There’s nobody out there that seems like that hasn’t had to either struggle at one point and said, “I own the company, I got to step up here and really do it,” and they just go back to the phone. Or have some experience with the cold calling and reaching out. I just think that’s a really important piece.

Mike Kawula: I’m doing it with my new business, I mean, it’s you know what I mean? Here’s a thing also. And I forget who it was, this morning I was listening to a podcast interview, and even he had said, and his company’s doing 80 million dollars a year, that he still gets on the phone. I still got on the phone with my previous company and my previous company before that, because you learn the most when you’re speaking to either prospects or customers about feedback on your product or feedback on your pitch. And as an owner, I think we all have to be doing that.

Phil Singleton: So it never stops, but I also think when you’re young, I mean that’s what thickens the skin. It also builds confidence. You do it enough and you hear no enough, then you stop hearing it or you start feeling, you want to kind of, it just motivates you versus kind of makes you feel bad about yourself, I would think. I’m probably not saying that the right way, but I do think in most cases, it really is a great lesson. Because if you can figure, that first time that you’re able to get a real lead or close a sale over the phone, I mean I think it changes you to some extent, and it really is very important.

Mike Kawula: Oh my God. I remember getting my first seven figure client. And I’d never met the guy. And this was through a cold call and dialing and smiling. He was a cardiologist and he invested with a company that we had bought public and then eventually moved over a little part of his portfolio to us. And it was all through cold calling. To me, sales, they say don’t begin until you obviously hear that word no. That’s when sales begin. Otherwise, you’re just a glorified customer service rep.

Phil Singleton: Exactly.

Mike Kawula: But good sales people, they know what to do once you hear no. And I think that helps also when it comes to creating websites and copy, right?

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Mike Kawula: Because now you’re talking –

Phil Singleton: Well, you’re right at the ideal customer, you know what the challenges are,

Mike Kawula: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: you know what they need to hear, all that kind of stuff. Great idea, what content to write, and stuff like that. But you mentioned before, I do think what I see in some of the younger folks that maybe we’ve tried hiring is there is a reluctance to get on the phone. There is kind of more like, “Hey, if we do this stuff,” they go off and think about the influencers out there that just have one piece of content or one photo or whatever and can do stuff passively. And the great things happen to them. They just fall in their lap. Not the way it words for most, I think entrepreneurs.

Mike Kawula: No.

Phil Singleton: And that’s never going to change probably right? What do you think?

Mike Kawula: I don’t think so. And I think again, it’s the big reason for a lot of failing is that people are just looking at social media and thinking social media and ads is the only way to do it. And I just think people are forgetting cold calling still works. I’m a huge fan of still direct mail. I think the mail box has become less cluttered, which creates more opportunity for the savvy marketer, right? So –

Phil Singleton: Yeah. Good targeted stuff.

Mike Kawula: Oh my gosh.

Phil Singleton: I mean, if the message is right, then it works really good. Doesn’t matter what it is.

Mike Kawula: Exactly.

Phil Singleton: Emailing works awesome. It sucks if you mass mail. If you can send a direct cold email to somebody that’s a decision maker and pack value into it, I mean that’s how I’ve got some of my best clients. You know what I mean?

Mike Kawula: 100%. Does mass emailing work? Obviously it does. I mean, that’s why folks do it. But there is nothing better than looking at somebody’s website for instance, and sending them a 20-minute review of stuff that you think is pertinent to them. They’ll find value in it, and it works.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, let’s segue into the book, because that’s the thing that I’m most excited about. I share with you kind of before the show in the green room that I’m a big believer, because I see it working for myself in terms of, and I’m a guy, I’m going to step back one. You sound like you’re a bit more outgoing, got a lot of charisma. I came out of this a scared guy at a high school. I’m still kind of introverted by nature. Of course, Google changed a lot of things and I went from being able to do some stuff in the bat cave and never have to talk to anybody to now having, because things have changed quite a bit and the importance of personal branding and authority building. That just almost can become like a foundation of modern marketing almost to me.

Tell me your experience, because you were, so there’s a bunch of passionate things about at the end of your current book, tell us the title, tell us what it’s about, and tell us some of the things we were talking about in terms of how its helped you generate leads and then use it as a platform to kind of grow your business and your own brand.

Mike Kawula: Yeah, so the name of my current book is Self-Employed. NOW WTF. And WTF stands for where’s the future? Where’s the flexibility? Where’s the freedom? I mean, isn’t that why we all get into business and entrepreneurship, right? But a to of folks I feel when they step into entrepreneurship, they don’t have the flexibility or the future or even the freedom that they have expected. They’ve just got themselves another J-O-B that’s doubled the number of hours and doubled the amount of responsibility. So, the book just walks through my philosophies on building businesses. And the beginning part goes through the mindset because I believe there’s a lot of obstacles that hold us back such as, I talk a lot about even when on LinkedIn this morning, I spoke about I wasn’t eating my own dog food. In other words, one of the parts of the book, I talk about is eliminate the naysayers in your life. Those who are just putting constant negativity on us. And we all see it in business, right? We go to somebody, as them for advice..we all see it in business. We go to somebody, ask them for advice. Maybe we’re thinking of launching something or making a new website. It’s like, you know, those naysayers that just kind of like … They get under your skin. Sometimes that naysayer could be the person in the mirror. It’s the self-doubt that we have.

The first part of the book we go through that. Then the second part of the book we talk about my four part strategy of growing a business, which is how do you get traffic? How do you activate that traffic? Once you activate it, how do you wow and delight the customer? Then how do you create virality into a product. I think it’s if you do those four things, it doesn’t matter as long as you have a good product or service. That’s obviously number one. But anybody, if they follow those four steps, can grow a business.
The problem is, what I like to call, shiny object syndrome. We all get it. It’s like, “Oh, what everybody says I have to be on Instagram,” so they run over now on Instagram. “Everybody says I have to be on Twitter,” so they run over there on Twitter.”

That’s only one part of the strategy. When somebody hits your website, everybody’s first thing they should do, I think before they even make a website, is make some type of opt-in that really speaks to your customer and what their pain point is, what they’re running away from, or what they’re trying to run towards faster. When you can identify that and create a piece of content around that, and now people start coming to your website. They’re giving you their email. We spoke about that earlier. I still believe email is king. Get that email address.
In this book, we walk through this whole philosophy on how do you do this all and how do you stay focused to assure that eventually you do have the flexibility, the future, and the freedom that entrepreneurship can bring you.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. We’re definitely going to check that out and have the links to the book and going to recommend that everybody that listens to the show read it because some great nuggets of advice in there. But tell us, now that we’ve got that part of it, tell us how the book has helped you. It’s like to me, writing a book these days is partly about writing a book and putting your best content in there. But it’s not really ever to me anymore, for most people, about trying to make money off of the book. It’s about using it for other thing-

Mike Kawula: It’s leads.

Phil Singleton: Right, it’s leads. It’s sharing your knowledge.

Mike Kawula: Opening your door.

Phil Singleton: Right. Tell me how’s that … You mentioned before that you felt like the book had actually generated leads for your business, your businesses, and other ways maybe it’s opened doors. Tell me about that part of-

Mike Kawula: I was speaking before of this thing in the bat cave when we were talking before we hit record here. Yeah, I told you I was speaking to an agency in New York recently, telling them they should do this for all their key salespeople inside of the company. Because it literally helps you stand out above your competition. The word, I know folks may be listening to this who might be a little bit more savvy, might say, “Oh, well it’s uploading a book onto Amazon and then having CreateSpace print me out my book, it’s so easy nowadays.”

But you know what, the fact is, is that 99% of the world still has never written a book. Being a published author sets you apart from everybody else and builds your authority. Imagine this that there’s five people going to get an account, whatever your business is, and you’re the only one with a book that walks into that presentation or is able to after getting off the phone, send your prospect a book. That literally makes stand above all of your competition.

I know a marketer who just markets for resorts, golf clubs. He has a book. His book has helped him propel his business unbelievably because of the fact that he is the only one in his niche that has written a book specifically towards golf clubs and how they can actually market their business. He wrote exactly to them. It’s not a huge audience. That’s the thing. Let’s say if your audience size is only 5,000. It doesn’t matter. Write that book to those 5,000 people that will help them, and it makes you stand above. It’s so easy.

I told you earlier that my book, we are now going to have on the website, and we’re going to give the book away for free and just charge shipping. There’s two reasons for that. First of all, every marketer out there that says they’re giving you their book for free, they’re really not. Because if I charge 7.95 for shipping … Well to ship a book, I used to ship tens of millions of dollars a year online. I know how much shipping is. This book is going to cost me anywhere between a buck 90 to $3 max to ship. How much does this book cost me on CreateSpace, because I’m the author, to buy it direct from them? $2.50. When we add that all up, what is that? $4 and change. If I’m charging, $7.95, I then have $3 extra that I can then use to run ads on Facebook to drive traffic to that page.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, that’s brilliant.

Mike Kawula: I don’t want to make $3. Then when they come and they buy the book and they put 7.95, guess what? On that 7.95 page, there’ll be an upsell. It’ll say, “Hey, do you want the audio version? Add that here for an extra $39.” Then inviting them into a group. Every marketer does it out there. They do that because it’s a lead funnel. It makes you stand above.

Number two, inside of your book you can also have calls to action to get people back to your website and give something away for free. My very first book drove me a tremendous amount of leads. Here’s how I wrote the book, which is kind of funny. Are you familiar with HARO, Help a Reporter Out?

Phil Singleton: Yes.

Mike Kawula: Okay. I love HARO. I recommend everybody does it on a regular basis. It’s probably one of the best ways to build links that most folks never talk about.

Phil Singleton: Do you still use it now? I’ve used it in the past. I probably should get on it. I haven’t used it recently.

Mike Kawula: I use it tremendously. Right now with my new business, Entrepreneurs GSD, it’s a podcast, I want to get links to it. Here’s what I do. I tell folks everybody says in the PR world, “Oh, it’s a great way to sell your product or service.” Listen, you’re never going to sell your product or service by being featured in Forbes, CNN or what have you.

What it does is it builds your authority, number one. Number two, if you’re really good in answering the reporter’s question, and then you sprinkle your keywords into the response that you have, that you want to rank for. Think about it this way. If I want to rank for business coaching, which is important for me, and I’m going to start trying to rank for it, if I have … Let’s call it domain authorities. Forbes is, I don’t know, they’re probably in the 90s, right?

Phil Singleton: 90s, yeah.

Mike Kawula: TechCrunch, whatever, so Wall Street Journal … Think about it this way. If I have 50 different domain authorities of 80 and above pointing to me for three, like a key word phrase of three words that I want to rank for, what’s going to happen when somebody goes to Google? Google’s going to say, “Well, my website talk about this. Oh, and all these important sources are pointing to him.”

Help a Reporter Out, I think, is so useful. But here’s the thing. Back in 2013 or 14, if you have a domain, if you have an Alexa ranking, meaning you are in the top one million websites in the world, you can use HARO also as a reporter. What I did is because my site was in the top 100,000, is I became also what is considered I guess somebody in the press. I could go on there and ask questions. What I did is I asked, “How do you use Facebook as a small business? How do you use Pinterest? How do you use Twitter?” I did it for the seven main-

Phil Singleton: What’s the limit on that? Is it you have to be in the top million or the top 100,000?

Mike Kawula: You have to be in the top million. As long as you’re in the top million, you can also be considered a reporter-

Phil Singleton: Then you apply? I never even thought of, that’s brilliant.

Mike Kawula: Oh, but here’s the thing. I had hundreds and hundreds, every time I basically went and asked a question, you would get 50 to 100 responses. If you’re CNN, CNN gets thousands of responses. It’s real important when you do get the email from HARO, whether you do the morning, afternoon or evening one, to be one of the first people to respond. So CNN came out to my house, Christine Romans … I don’t know if you know her?

Phil Singleton: I kind of remember that name, sure.

Mike Kawula: Yeah, she’s big in business. She came out to my house and did an interview. It was funny. They were at my house for four to five hours for a three minute interview. But me and her were just sitting there chitchatting for a while. I had said like, “When you put that question on HARO, how many responses do you get ’cause you’re CNN?” She’s like, “Mike, after I look at the first like 20, 30, we don’t even look anymore.” She goes, “We’re probably getting thousands.” That’s why it’s real important if you want to get on something big, is that you respond as fast as possible, number one.

Phil Singleton: So, just step back there. I haven’t been on HARO for a while and when the way it works, or the way it worked, hopefully it still works, is you basically sign up, for your account, for the list or whatever, you come in, you get an email three times a day and you see it, right?

Mike Kawula: Right.

Phil Singleton: You basically have to be, if you really want to get involved, don’t you have to basically be looking at the emails and then jumping on this as quickly as possible, I guess? Is that still the way it works?

Mike Kawula: Exactly. Today, I actually just did a podcast on it. But what I recommend is pick whatever. So for me, I’m not in the email during the day. I just find email a distraction. I do the first one in the morning, which comes at 5:30 in the morning because by then I’m done with my coffee and I’m ready to go for my walk. But I won’t leave for my walk until I get that HARO email. Once I get it, I answer the questions that are applicable, and then I’m off and I’m gone for two hours.

Phil Singleton: That’s the key, right? If you get one, say you got a bunch, let’s say I got one, I haven’t my email in a couple of days and I’ve got like five or six. Well, go ahead-

Mike Kawula: Don’t bother.

Phil Singleton: Don’t even bother. Yeah, that’s makes sense.

Mike Kawula: It’s a waste.

Phil Singleton: Somebody’s already answered and moved on. All right.

Mike Kawula: They’ve moved on. Then also, when you respond, make sure that you response to add value. For instance in Forbes, there was a writer, her name’s Cheryl Snapp  O’Connor. I wanted to be interviewed by her. What I did is when I saw a question that she asked, it was about mobile marketing in 2014. Now, I didn’t know much about it, but I knew this guy named Greg Hickman, who at the time had a very big podcast on mobile marketing. I said to her, I went to Twitter, I said, “Hey, I saw your question on HARO. I can’t help you. However, I’m very good friends with the leader in mobile marketing. His name’s Greg Hickman. Do you want me to make an introduction?” She was so appreciative of that.

What I did is, between you and I, is I kept a Twitter list of every major reporter that I wanted to be interviewed by. Occasionally, I would favorite their content or retweet their content. I used a lot of automation to do this also. But then what I would do is when she asked another question, I not only replied right away, but I went to Twitter and followed up with her and said, “Hey, I just responded to one of your questions. I hope you like it. If it’s not what you were looking for, let me know. I’ll find you somebody who is.” She’s like literally said, “Give me a few minutes. Let me go find you a response.” She replied back. She’s like, “That isn’t what I was looking for, but I love it so much, can I write an article about that?” She did an article.

Anyway, here’s the thing. 2013-14, what I ended up doing was I asked a question about each one of these major social media sites. Then I took all the answers that I loved, put it into a book. I had a ghost writer basically put it all together. We quoted everybody’s tips. It was just a book of tips. But what we did is the day the book was released on Amazon, we reached out to the 70 people quoted in the book and said, “Hey, you’re now a featured person in this book. I want … Here’s a logo you can use on your website to say that it was top ranked. Although we’re not top ranked yet, we need at least 50 reviews. Guess what? We need at least 50 reviews. And guess what? Of these 70 people, 50-plus of them left me a review, and the book shot up to number one. And then, now you can use that and say I’m a top ranked author, so for my new book, it was ranked number one under business entrepreneurship, right? I can use that now, and so it makes you stand out as an individual. So that’s why I think whether you’re a solo-preneur or even if you’re working inside of a corporation, your company should pay to have somebody help you create a book and brand yourself, because it’s going to make you as an individual stand out among the competition.

Phil Singleton: Absolute no-brainer. I couldn’t agree more on that. I want to ask one more thing on HARO.

Mike Kawula: Sure.

Phil Singleton: First, how much time do you think is reasonable to spend on it because it gets … There’s a lot of stuff. You can spend a lot of time on it if you wanted to, I think. But you’re probably, what, saying I’m going to read it, see what applies, apply that, and move on really quickly, or-

Mike Kawula: Less than five minutes, so that one in the morning is … A, I love the ones in the morning, because again, I’m up early, and not as many people are, number one. Number two, I love Friday nights, the one that comes out, because most people have left for the evening, so like last Friday I answered one and had a response over the weekend from the reporter, and she scheduled an interview with me.

Phil Singleton: You’ve got to be disciplined about it, right? Because some of them just don’t apply, so you might get three or four days in a row or just say no, no, no, no, so you hit … How often do you think you’re replying on average?

Mike Kawula: Probably three, four times a week. But here’s the other thing that I do. I’m a very big … I believe relationships is everything in life, right? So what I also do is whenever I see something that’s applicable to a friend, or somebody I know online, I message them and I let them know. I’m like hey-

Phil Singleton: This is for you, yeah, they’re looking for this.

Mike Kawula: Yeah. I thought this would be useful, and that just strengthens the relationship. I do it for customers, too, like I have people who I’m coaching that I’ll reach out and just send them a quick email, and they’ll be like, oh, it’s just so, it strengthens the relationship, so-

Phil Singleton: That’s awesome.

Mike Kawula: … so it’s less than five minutes, it’s awesome, and plus it’s fun, too. You learn a ton, and it also gives me ideas on content that I want to create. So for instance, one of the things I’m all goo-goo over right now is the Alexa Flash Briefings, and I just did a podcast interview with somebody on it, on how you can have your own Alexa set up in under an hour, and so every day you could be on Alexa basically, people’s news in the morning, right? And not a lot of businesses are doing this yet. So similar to podcasting that you and I are doing, imagine had you been one of the first podcasts back in 2006, right? Your podcast would be huge. Right now it’s a very competitive space, right, to rank.

Phil Singleton: Alexa Flash Briefings, that’s something that’s new to me. I’m gonna check that out as soon as we hang up here.

Mike Kawula: Yeah, listen to my podcasts on it. The lady I had on, her name’s Jane-

Phil Singleton: Well, we’re gonna link to that one for sure.

Mike Kawula: It’s phenomenal, and literally it takes less than an hour. We have one being set up right now that I think’s gonna be a lot of fun, and again-

Phil Singleton: Is that audio? Video? What’s the medium?

Mike Kawula: Audio.

Phil Singleton: Audio, okay.

Mike Kawula: So it’s just like you would say, in the morning, somebody would roll over in bed, and for me, I love Alexa, and so my whole house is all of it. And so I get my news that way, and then this way also I don’t have to listen to the biased news, because mine is motivational folks, business people and business. I don’t have to listen to the negative media about garbage I don’t want to listen to, right?

So it’s just a lot of fun, and again, it’s being an early adapter. And what’s interesting just so you know as an SEO guy, you can rank for certain keywords in Amazon and even in Google for Alexa, and again, it’s brand new. I don’t foresee that happening long term as more of us get into this space, because marketers as what’s his name, Gary V, says ruined everything, but at the moment we haven’t ruined this platform, so I really think it’s something. Think about it from your business standpoint, whatever type of business anybody listening to this is, I mean, if you’re in the fitness niche. What if you just gave everybody a one to two minute tip on fitness every morning, or whatever your business is, there is something out there, and there’s an audience that will love to listen to it. And the number one gift this year for the holidays was what? Alexa. So it’s a … Oops, and she’s turning on now. Sorry.

Phil Singleton: That turn it on. That’s funny. One other thing, I just want to jump back to the HARO really quickly, because this ties in. Do you think it helps, since we’re on the book topic, too, when you reply to a reporter that you have a relevant comment or some advice to give that you put in there, Phil Singleton, author, best-selling author of SEO for Growth, or your book or whatever where you’re actually a published author and putting that in there. Does that make you more attractive, you think? Or when you reply, what’s the … Obviously, you gotta give some information about yourself, right?

Mike Kawula: I really don’t very much at all. I just make sure that I know that I am honestly answering that question the best possible so that I stand out above everybody else, and then I’m also, again, I’m following up on Twitter. Nobody does that. So I go find that reporter, and I’m putting them on a list, and then I’m also tweeting to them, so now it’s kind of like they’re gonna recognize my name-

Phil Singleton: I love that.

Mike Kawula: … looking down, and that’s just one hack, but two is definitely, like, everybody’s pitching themselves, like, oh, I’m an author, I’ve been featured here, and they don’t care. You know what? A writer for a publication has a job, and part of their job also now in the press, whoever they write for wants to see that they’re sharing the publication, right, and that’s getting out there, and that they’re getting love. So they really just want to know that you can provide the most value to help them look good, and then if you’re sharing their content also, that makes them look even better, and they love you.

Phil Singleton: It reminds me of a hack that I have right now, which is going after the guys that are contributing and writing on Forbes or wherever it is, and then finding out if they’ve got a book or they’ve got an e-book, right? Then going to them separately and saying, “Hey, I’d liked to book you on my podcast and talk about your book,” right? Then they’re really-

Mike Kawula: 100 percent.

Phil Singleton: Yeah, same idea, right? You’re following up and making the … You’re offering them something of value, and then hopefully they get to know you, getting on your show, I mean, well, this guy’s an expert. Maybe I can write about him.

Mike Kawula: Do you have sales people listening to this?

Phil Singleton: A little bit, but it’s mostly other agencies and small business owners.

Mike Kawula: Okay, and so other agencies, whatever your niche is, whoever your target customer, who’s trying to create a podcast also, invite those people onto your show. You build that relationship, and then when the show is over, guess what? There’s an opportunity to possibly do business, right? And now you have that know, like, and trust, so that’s what a book is. That’s what Alexa is. It’s all about just being everywhere that you can without overwhelming yourself.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. Well, this is already one of my favorite episodes, because there’s just so many nuggets that you shared with us. This is awesome. Can you tell us just as we kind of wrap up other things that you’re doing, other ways that we can kind of contact you? What’s the best way to follow you and keep up with you?

Mike Kawula: Yeah, so it’s, again, be everywhere, right? So I’ve got a podcast. It’s called Entrepreneurs GSD, and GSD obviously stands for get you-know-what done, but also stands for we all grind, we all sacrifice, we’re all determined, but do we actually all GSD, get shit done in our business? And so that’s what the podcast is about. It’s a six to eight minute show every day that share something that you can do in your business to move your dial forward, so that’s very good.

I’m working on some new technology right now, which is kind of interesting, and it’s the ability for if somebody hits your website, wouldn’t you love to know who that individual is, because the fact is, 98 percent of people that hit websites leave, right? And a majority of them leave without even filling out a form, so you don’t know who that is. So if you’re in a B to C space, what I’m able to do is identify who that individual is, because they’ve opted in somewhere else throughout the worldwide web or possibly offline also for their information to be shared, and I’m able to figure out who that individual is, what their email address is, what their physical mailing address is, and a ton of other data points like wealth, and what type of car they drive, and everything. And so we’re working on that technology right now to share that with people in the B to C space that want to know more about who’s hitting their website.
Phil Singleton: That sounds really amazing, so I’m looking forward to learning more about that. We’ll make sure that we maybe have you on as a follow up once if and when you release this new product, because that’s killer.

Mike Kawula: It’s rocking right now. We’re doing it for a jewelry store that’s having amazing, amazing conversions and a couple of auto dealerships, and they’re loving it.

Phil Singleton: Awesome. We’re looking forward to learning more about that. Is it public? I mean, can you share that right now, or is it not fully launched yet?

Mike Kawula: Yeah, just hit me up. Just go to my site, mikekawula.com.

Phil Singleton: Awesome.

Mike Kawula: You’ll link up in the show notes, and we’re out there and selling it right now. Believe it or not, it starts at just under 500 bucks.

Phil Singleton: For all that info?

Mike Kawula: Yeah, depending on the website traffic, so the bigger the site, it’s really based on traffic, so for sites that are getting 100,000 or more visitors, it’s more, but the data is king, right? And now, again, imagine if somebody hits your website, they’re thinking about your product, you know, like when you’re on Amazon, and you leave, and you haven’t bought that product, it follows you throughout the web.

Well, now, not only can we target for you so is that you can remarket to them online, but imagine if the next day, you’re able to send them an email that is adding value, right? And then they’re like, “Oh my God, I was just on that person’s website, ” and then two days after that, they get a postcard or a piece of mail that says something from your company. It’s just touchpoints, right? It’s staying in front of folks. And I know a lot of folks sometimes might be like, oh, that’s kind of creepy, but it’s the world we live in. And for marketers that really want to get in front of their target avatar, this is an incredible way to do it, I feel.

Phil Singleton: Because it’s like you said, one thing is the awesome lead tool where you can now follow up on cold traffic because you have some information on it, but then also, many, that kind of data’s killer because for all of us they’re trying to … My business, being able to set up a website and get targeted traffic is a big part of it, but any more, man, we gotta figure out ways to convert that traffic, right, into sales and leads. So people that bounce off, you don’t get a lot of good information on it, right? But if you can get that kind of data off the people that are bouncing off of your site, well, then all of a sudden, great, we can go and maybe do some more on page conversion stuff, better content, more understanding of the cold traffic type of thing versus a lot of what you’re gonna get off of analytics and some of these other third party tools that don’t give you a whole lot of that information.

Mike Kawula: And detecting is that traffic really real, which is something else we can do. So a majority of the web is, as we all know, is bots, right?

Phil Singleton: Sure.

Mike Kawula: So even when you go and you are paying sometimes for traffic to your website, a lot of that could be bots. So now we’re gonna be able to actually give back to agencies, is this … So you can use it against your competitors. Is it really the real traffic that they were getting? And they’re gonna want to know that.

Phil Singleton: It’s so awesome. We’re definitely gonna have a link to your site to learn more about that, because I’m actually interested in it myself.

Mike Kawula: Thank you sir.

Phil Singleton: Thank you very much, Mike Kawula, for coming on to the show. This has been absolutely fascinating. You’re very generous in sharing some of Awesome X, although my feeling is we probably only scratched the surface, and you’ve probably a ton more ideas on how to generate business and get more leads and sales for people, for entrepreneurs and sales folks, as well. So thank you very much for coming on this show, and I hope to have you back sometime.

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.

 

Podcast Guesting is the Best SEO Link Building Tactic You’ve Never Heard Of

Podcast guesting is a content marketing tactic that involves targeting, reaching out and getting booked on podcasts that are relevant to your niche.

Podcasting is bigger than ever, but still massively underrated in the marketing community – and almost ignored in the SEO community in terms of being an SEO tactic.

But when you combine the link building benefits with all the other other benefits that podcasting guesting provides, you can see why our agency believes that this is one of the highest ROI marketing tactics of all time.

Before we get to link building and backlinks, what are some of the benefits of a podcast guesting campaign? Continue reading “Podcast Guesting is the Best SEO Link Building Tactic You’ve Never Heard Of”

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”