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How Zapier Went From 0 to 250,000 Users with Wade Foster

WADE FOSTER FC RS 14

how to raise money for your business - wade foster interview

Are you looking for inspiration and specific tactics and strategies to grow your business? Want to know how to raise money for your business?

Trent interviews Wade Foster, the CEO and one of the co-founders of a rapidly growing company called Zapier. Zapier integrates SaaS tools from different vendors using triggers and actions.  It currently works with 300+ SaaS apps and is growing by about 10 apps per month.

Zapier has about 250,000 users and has raised $1.2 million. Among the investors are 2 of the most prominent venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley.

Listen now and you’ll hear Wade and I talk about:

  • (03:00)  Introductions
  • (06:45)  What did you do at the very start to test the idea?
  • (14:10)  What did you do after you signed up the first few users?
  • (15:30)  How long did it take to get to 1000 users?
  • (13:00)  What did you do after reaching 1000 users?
  • (17:30)  What was it like to be a part of Y-Combinator?
  • (19:00)  What had you accomplished by the end of the 3 months?
  • (22:00)  Tell us about the process of raising money.
  • (26:00)  What did you do with the money you raised?
  • (27:00)  What kinds of marketing activities worked for you?
  • (29:00)  What are some of the impacts of more integrations?
  • (30:00)  Tell me about the biggest mistake you’d made by this point.
  • (32:00)  How did you go about getting more integrations and users?
  • (34:30)  Why did you decide to be a virtual company instead of having an office?
  • (38:00)  What are the pros & cons of having a VC on board?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

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Transcript

Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters. Welcome to episode 151 of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation, to dramatically increase the growth of their businesses.

If you are an entrepreneur and you are looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions and profits, well my friends you are in the right place. How do I make good on that promise? What I do is I bring proven experts onto the show and I get them to explain to me exactly the tactics and strategies that they use to achieve the results that they’ve achieved. In other words I find someone for you, who have been super successful and you get to look over their shoulders, with hindsight to their benefit and see exactly how they got where they arrived.

In this episode I’m very pleased to announce that my guest is a fellow by the name of Wade Foster, who is the CEO and one of the co-founders of a very rapidly growing company called Zapier. They have about 250 000 users, they have raised 1.2 million dollars and among the investors are two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capitalists.

In this interview Wade is going to share with me the story of how they got started, how they found the idea, how they tested the idea, how they got their first 1000 users, how they got into Y-Combinator, what it was like to be in Y-Combinator, it’s a pretty exciting thing to be part of to say the least and so much more. So if you’re looking for some inspiration, or you are looking for specific tactics and strategies to grow your own business you are going to absolutely love this interview. Get your pen and paper ready because there’s going to be lots of notes that you’re going to want to take.

Before we do that: quick announcement: I’m constantly emailed by people asking me what tools and resources I use to run my businesses. I have made a list of all them and on that page some of them are affiliate links so if you to GrabTrentsBonus.com and you choose to use any of those affiliate links to buy whatever software that it is, my way of expressing my thanks to you for doing so and there’s instructions at GrabTrentsbonus.com for this.

Just send me the email receipt for the purchase you made will verify that our affiliate link was in fact credited
and you’ll have the opportunity to choose from of some of my paid products and I’ll just give one of those to you as a free bonus as a thank you for using that link. With that said please join me in welcoming Wade to the show. Hey Wade, welcome to the show.

Wade:
Hey Trent, thanks for having me.

Trent:
No problem at all, thanks for making some time to come on. We’re going to talk about the story of how you’ve grown Zapier and you can tell me if I pronounce that properly enough.

Wade:
Zapier makes you happier, is the trick.

Trent:
Being from Canada, I’ve got the French-Canadian thing in the back whenever I see ‘ier”.

Wade:
Yeah, you’re not the only one.

Trent:
Probably not. There is probably some folks listening to this who don’t know what Zapier is yet. We’re going to get into that and it’s an app that I use I think is really, really cool but before we get into that stuff and the story of how you build it, let’s first introduce you, who are you and for the folks in my audience who don’t know you are, who are you and what do you do?

Wade:
Sure, I’m the co-founder and CEO of Zapier, I was born and raised in Missouri, live in California now and I spend all my days trying to help businesses make their tools work a little bit better for them and that all happened through Zapier which is a tool to connect other tools.

Trent:
Ok, give us the simplest definition I guess, you want to call your elevator pitch, or whatever you want to describe it, what exactly is Zapier?

Wade:
It’s a tool that connects other tools, I kind of use this metaphor of triggers and actions, so you can do things like; when I get an email it automatically create a trailer card, or someone fills out my unbalanced page and automatically saves them to Infusionsoft. It works with 300+ SaaS apps, so pretty much any tool that you might be using under the sun, you can hook up and do these cool little automations between the two of them.

Trent:
Ok, so folks in my case, how Zapier came onto my radar screen, is as some of you probably know, I use HubSpot and I use Infusionsoft and I wanted to be able to connect the two so when certain things happened in terms of triggers in HubSpot, I wanted the record automatically copied over to Infusionsoft and I wanted additional triggers to happen and I wanted it all to happen automatically. For example when someone completes the middle of the final web form in HubSpot I wanted a record created in Infusionsoft and I want my cellphone to go off without writing any code at all, because I don’t know how to write any code at all.

I was able to make that happen and I to use one other tool called PlusThis.com but I was able to make that happen in five minutes. Zapier does make you happier and in my case it does. Alright, where are you at now, what can you talk about, can you talk about revenue, number of users and traction, what kind of traction?

Wade:
Yeah, the latest numbers we published is that we are at 250 000 registered users. Quite a lot grown, 10% plus month over month, adding probably ten apps or so to the platform every month; good growth and trying to go faster.

Trent:
Absolutely, which is the name of the game. You have also raised some professional capital from angels and a couple EC’s and of course that puts a lot of pressure on as well. We’re going to talk about how you did that, but before we’re get to that, now that people understand that this is a company that is going places, let’s go back to the beginning because so many entrepreneurs, they’re always wondering how I get started, how I take this idea, how do I find an idea or how I take this idea that I got and actually test it out without blowing a bunch of time and a bunch of cash. So way early on what did that look like for you guys?

Wade:
The idea was originally my co-founder Bryan Helmig’s and I know Bryan playing music and we’d gone to the same to the same school together and we were always working together on projects and things like that, he is the developer, I’m marketing. We just kind of tagged team on various things, one of the things that tended came up a lot was we’d get clients that asked things like: “Hey can you make my Woofoo contacts go into MailChimp for me?” Or “can you get my CRM contacts to go into Google contacts for me?” Just like these little import export sort of deals between two different services.

We would write the code to do that and it was more hassle than what it was worth, it was small enough and easy enough thing to do but it’s not particularly fun or enjoyable but was clearly valuable to the customers. We start to think about what would it look like if we tried to do this, is there really that big of a problem.

I remember going to 37 Signals’ high-rises, the CRM that they have and I remember going to their Hope Forum and there was a thread about Google contacts integration that was probably about four years old and it had, I think somewhere around 300 to 400 comments of people saying: “Plus one, I really need this, most important thing in my business” that sort of stuff. 37 signals’ replied saying: “Hey, we would look into this, if resources came along we might take a look at it,“ that sort of thing.

But after four years it’s clear that they do not have the resources to really make it happen and on the priorities
I couldn’t really tell you why it hasn’t happened. So I started looking at other forums for SaaS companies to see if the same thing was occurring and it absolutely is and people were asking for integration in their forums and it was just too much work for a lot of SaaS companies really.

So what we did we started by building a couple of integrations in trigger action style thing, so we started with PayPal, High-rise and sms. The three very first things that you could do on Zapier was when someone pays you, you could get a text message about it via PayPal, or you could save them to High-rise. So that’s how we started, it was only that, but it was small enough that we could start. If people had that specific problem then they had a tool that would work for them.

Trent:
Ok, so this is really good stuff. How long did it take to code that?

Wade:
We actually did it at a start-up weekend which is these 54 hour hack-a-thon deals; we have the very first prototype up in less than 54 hours.

Trent:
So you got this prototype, you tested it, you know how it works now you need to get users and when you got no users, getting users is really hard to do, so what did you guys do? Did you go back to that discussion forum and started answering these people’s questions?

Wade:
Exactly, we would jump on the comments and I wouldn’t just forum spam them and tell them you should sign up for Zapier today, I would actually try and be helpful and say to them here is the API doc’s for this service and here is the API doc’s for that service, here’s how you might go about solving this problem with existing tools that was out there.

Here is Odesk or Freelance.com or places where you can hire people that who know how to do this. Then I would also though mention Zapier would say on the very end I’m working on a project that can solve this problem, here is a link if you are interested in talking to me about it at all, you can give me your email and we can chat.

That was all we needed to do, when we would put those comments in forums, we wouldn’t get a ton of traffic from that, we might get ten visitors or so a day from a single comment, maybe even less, but about 50% of them would reply and give us an email and start a conversation with us, which was fantastic. When we just started we didn’t need 10 000 people on day one, we just needed ten people to talk to and get feedback to know if this was working.

Trent:
Yes, classic program to do things in the beginning that don’t scale, you can talk to people.

Wade:
Yeah.

Trent:
There’s no better feedback than being able to talk to people. You had some of that conversations, you get people using the stuff, what then?

Wade:
Once we had people using it, there was many months, probably six, seven months of just polish that had to go into it, the product; the initial prototype that we build out quite frankly was not very good at all. People would sign up and would be barely be able to use it, I’d have to handhold them on Skype and get them on calls like this and walk them through setting it up, which was of course is not scalable at all, but people was still eager enough to use the product and we kept refining it and refining it and making it better and fixing things that they would bring up to us.

We kept driving traffic to the site, trying to get more people to get more interested in it and after six or seven months we were able to have, I guess what we would call a V1 and it wasn’t a NVP any more, it was like something that was good, it wasn’t great but we were proud enough that we could ship it and open it up to the public and let anyone sign up.

Trent:
Got to love those early adopters, huh?

Wade:
Yeah, yeah.

Trent:
So this six or seven month window of time, is it just you and your co-founder, are you guys full-time and if you are, because there is no money coming in, where you on angel backing that point, we’re you on credit cards saving accounts, how’d you pay the bills?

Wade:
It was myself, Brian and Mike and we were living back in Missouri at the time and it was a part-time project, we had day-jobs. Mike was actually in school still, we would work after work for another probably eight hours honestly and we’d work on the weekends. We would try putting just as much if not more time into Zapier as into our day-jobs at point in time, trying to get stuff going and get the wheels turning, get a machine going that we could actually start making money.

Trent:
Were you guys all first time entrepreneurs at this point?

Wade:
Effectively yes, we’d done some freelance work, we had some mini projects but nothing substantial ever came out of that.

Trent:
OK, those 2 were writing code, what were you doing?

Wade:
I was spending a lot of time trying to drive traffic to the site and get people to talk to us and use the product, get feedback about how it’s working.

Trent:
This is a real labor of love at this point, probably three guys sitting in one room pounding back Coke’s and pizza’s on the weekend and that kind of thing.

Wade:
That’s not too far from the truth.

Trent:
Alright, you get to your V1 and you realize that there’s something here, any idea how many users you had at that point in time, after the six or seven months.

Wade:
We had about a 1000 people who had signed up and paid an amount of money to use it that was actually interesting, our Beta was paid for as well so you had to pay to get onto our Beta.

Trent:
Ah, brilliant, so you really knew that you had a product that people really needed, how much would you charge them?

Wade:
It varied, the very first one’s all paid, yeah I think the first dozen or so paid a hundred bucks, but then we moved it around after that just testing the waters and feeling where people’s paying points were, I think it got as low as five dollars at some point in time and maybe as high as $200-$300. It was a onetime fee, you paid that amount of money and we told people you get in for the lifetime of the Beta, we don’t know how long it’s going to be, but for long as it lasts, you’re in.

Trent:
Ok, so those people aren’t getting a free ride anymore now they have to pay like everybody else?

Wade:
Correct, but when we actually launched, we gave them a year free and try to be very generous with them.

Trent:
Absolutely, give the love to the early adopters as a big old thank you; they played a pivotal role on helping you figure out what to do.

Wade;
Absolutely.

Trent:
Ok, then what? You had a 1000 users, seven months deep, you get a little bit of…..was the amount of money coming in, was that enough to cover the expenses like hosting and all that kind of thing?

Wade:
I don’t think so, but we didn’t have many expenses in terms of hosting or anything either at that point in time. It was relatively small.

Trent:
So it paid for the pizzas and the beer?

Wade:
It did, it paid for very little, but it paid for something, a few hundred bucks a month at the time.

Trent:
What did you do at this point, you got a 1000 people that have given you money, you’ve validated your product, then what happened next?

Wade:
We started to think about we’re still part-time at this point in time, we really want to make this go, we got this thousand people who paid to get into this Beta, we also got an email mailing list that has about ten thousand people on it and we’ve got about twenty integrations with popular SaaS services and a lot more people that want to integrate with Zapier or that we want to integrate with them. We really wanted to go faster and so we started to think about how might we do this, we ended up applying to Y-Combinator and went through their interview process and getting in for the summer 2012 batch.

Trent:
Nice.

Wade:
Once we got in, we moved everyone out to California and that happened to coincide right with the public launch of Zapier, the V1 launch was almost at the exact time we got into Y- Combinator.

Trent:
For those people who do not know what Y- Combinator is, you want to tell them?

Wade:
Sure, it’s a startup incubator. Companies that you might have recognize that have gone through there included Dropbox, Air BNB, Reddit, Stripe, some really big internet brands have gone through Y-Combinator. It’s a bit of university for start-up if you will, but condensed into three months, but that doesn’t do it entirely justice, but that’s probably the best.

Trent:
What was that experience like because you are going to be around a whole bunch of really smart, well connected, driven people, it got to have some impact?

Wade:
Yeah, absolutely, we’re in with about 80 start-ups in our batch, they have a dozen partners or so, who has all been involved with start-ups, some really big name start-ups, big acquisitions and worked with some really smart people, you kind of just inundated with people who really know what they doing, which is a fantastic learning environment.

Trent:
Give us an example of what it’s like once you moved to California, day to day basis, how did your lives change?

Wade:
Probably the biggest thing was we rented a small two bedroom apartment and we hold up honestly for three months we’re mostly spent the time with each other, just coding and trying to get customers, just doing that pretty much twelve hours a day or something.

Trent:
Six days a week, seven days a week?

Wade:
Six, seven days a week, we pretty much took breaks when we wanted them, we’d go and see a movie here and there, but most part Zapier was the only thing we cared about for three months.

Trent:
At the end of the three months what was the outcome?

Wade:
By the end of the three months we launched publically, we had over 30 000 registered users at that point in time, we’d gone from 20 integrations to 60 integrations, we’d launched our developer platform which allowed other people to do integrations with us and then we went out and raised our seed ground of money.

Trent:
During these three months you’re in Y-Combinator, what did they give you in the way of resources?

Wade:
There’s a hand full of things, for one they had network that has hundreds of founders that are, either still running companies or have exited and are now working in place like Google or Facebook or SalesForce, so you have access to that network. You have their expertise as well, so you do office hours with the partners probably once a week, where you get to talk about the biggest problems that you’re struggling with at the time. It could be customer acquisition, it could be some tech problem, it could be whatever, some partner on the staff that has gone through that and knows that and you get to borrow from their expertise.

You get a small amount of money, but it’s honestly trivial compared to the other stuff. The biggest thing is the focus that you get out of it, the fact that we moved away from all our friends and family, for three months we we’re hold up in the apartment and weren’t doing anything other than Zapier, was probably the most important thing that we’d done. We we’re able to achieve far ship, far more code and we achieved far more in that three month period than probably any other time because of that focus.

Trent:
No kidding. And was burn out ever a problem during those three months?

Wade:
Not too much, I think because you knew that there was an end in sight, at the end of the three months its going be a little bit back to normal. You never really felt too burned out about it.

Trent:
So you get out, get your 30 000 users, you’ve got a ton of street credit because you’ve been in Y-Combinator, did they prove pivotal in raising the money that you raised next or how did that happen?

Wade:
I think that YC has best said, is it gets you a meeting, somebody will at least take a meeting with you, doesn’t guarantee that you will raise money. Interestingly enough of the people that we raised money, I think only one of them did we meet after we went through demo day, almost all of them we talked to before demo day or even before we got into Y-Combinator so they’d express interest and they’d been following along with us for quite some time.

Trent:
Were these friends and family or were they private equity guys? What kind of money?

Wade:
We had a few friends that we’ve made in the business world, so to speak, some angels that we’ve met through working on Zapier who’d been early customers or early adopters of Zapier and then we had two institutional VC’s involved.

Trent:
Give me some details, because there are a lot of people who have not been through the process of raising money and is quite amazed the first time you go through it, so give us some insight having gone through that.

Wade:
Yeah, the interesting thing is, now as a first timer you think the best thing that you can do is pitch VC’s or pitch investors or whatever, but I think that actually it is a bit of the wrong way to go about it. The best way to go about it is build a good company, build a company that gets traction, build a company that people want to pay attention to even if it’s not a ton of people at first, especially in tech, especially if you’re doing B2B tech, consumer tech that sort of stuff.

Investors are paying attention, they’re watching products trends, they’re watching hacker news, they’re listening to what their portfolio companies are using. So what was happening to us was we started hearing from investors who wanted to take meetings with us saying: “Hey, I heard about you from so and so, I really think your company has potential, I’d like to chat and see how we can partner.” Which was cool and is actually pretty flattering at first, but then you realize afterwards it’s their job to take meetings, they can invest, they have the option to invest in 100% of start-ups that they talk to and they can’t invest in the stuff that they don’t talk to. Their job is to try and get to talk to you as much as possible, but the fact that they reach out is a good sign.

Then from there a lot of what YC helped out with too is perfecting your pitch, understanding what it is that they care about and hoping you tell a story that is interesting to them when you are ready to raise money. What we ended up doing, the process that we took which may or may not be applicable to others, was that through YC while we’re going through we actually turned down all the meetings, we said, “Hey we are not looking to raise money right now, but we’ll reach out later when we are and let you know if that’s all right with you.” And most people were totally fine with that. Once we were ready to raise money we reached out to them and say: “We would like to chat, we would like to have a meeting now if you’re interested. ”

We tried to line up as many of those meetings back to back to back as possible, I think I took 40 meetings in a span of two weeks with various angel investors or venture capitalists that I could, pretty much anyone. The approach that we took was breadth first, depth second so as many, many meetings as possible to just get a sense of who’s the most interested, who might commit quick and is really interested vs. who is more just surface level interested. So by doing those 40 meetings at once, we narrowed it down to a handful of folks that we thought could really be good. Those were the ones we worked on closing and we were able to get that done in about three weeks or so.

Trent:
You raised a total of how much?

Wade:
$1.2 million.

Trent:
Are you able to disclose what the valuation was for the money raised?

Wade:
No, we actually raised on convertible notes, which is another thing you people will probably want to read up on, if you search for convertible notes, you can find out about it from Quora and I think there is pricing stuff on YC site about convertible notes as well, which is not equity, you raise at an evaluation cap that says like; the next time you raise are the amount that we invest and will convert as this amount or less, depending on what the evaluation is that you raised at that time is. It was actually raised on a convertible note and not an equity run.

Trent:
Was there any debt service on the notes in the meantime or is it just the fact that they’re locking in their conversion rates.

Wade:
Basically locking in their conversion rates is the thing that they’re trying to do.

Trent:
After you raised that money, what happen then? Did you go the status quo and started hiring people like crazy; did you spend on marketing, where did it go?

Wade:
The biggest thing that we wanted to get right away was someone to help out with customer support, at the time I was spending probably: I would wake up at about 8 o’clock in the morning and I would work from about 8:30 till 3pm just doing customer support and answering customer queries.

We wanted to get someone to help share that load that was the first person, we hired that person and then from there that actually bought us a lot of time to figure out how exactly we wanted to go tackle things. We knew we wanted to get more integration on board and we knew we wanted to do a lot more in terms of on the marketing frame, customer acquisition front and I was able to spend a lot more time on that.

Trent:
What was some of the marketing activities that you started and worked well for you?

Wade:
The biggest thing that we started doing was we got a lot more serious about how we worked with our partners, so when we launched an integration we made sure to follow a bit of a checklist, we would do a couple of things. We would write about it on our blog, we would make sure it was in our newsletter.

We would make sure that there is an in-app announcement; we’d make sure it was shared on social and things like that. In return we would ask that of partners to do these things because these things will work well, some of them would do some of them, some of them would do all of them, that was really helpful for us because our best customers are their customers.

It’s really targeted so when they send an email out to their customer base and say you can integrate with all these other things through Zapier, it is a really good messaging, really good touch point for us. We made sure that we were doing that sort of thing on an ongoing basis and doing guest posts on their site, getting listed in their market places and things like that, which would help drive more targeted traffic.

Trent:
Did you have enough traction at his point that these people were coming to you and saying, “We would like you to integrate with us” or are you still reaching out to people saying “We want to build an integration for you?”

Wade:
At this in point in time it’s probably 80% of people reaching out to us and 20% of us reaching out to them. We launched a Zapier developer platform that actually does allow them to integrate with us.

Trent:
Ok.

Wade:
That’s where we were pointing most of those people to, if they were interested its’ like go there, that’s the official way to hook into Zapier. And because we had so many integrations by then, in August of 2012 when we launched that platform, we had about 60 integrations, each month it was growing ten to fifteen integrations a month. It became work impelling for a service to hook into Zapier because of that.

Trent:
The more integrations that you have, does that mean you also have more integration to maintain, I would imagine that it does and that’s going to drive up you costs?

Wade:
Yeah, the more integrations we have, there is more of a lot of things, that’s more customers we can talk to, that’s more ways that you can hook up tools in interesting ways, there is also more support, it’s more ways that people can get confused when they sign up for the site, it causes a lot of other interesting things as well that we have to work through from a product standpoint and from trying to figure out the best ways to introduce people to the integrations that they really care about.

Trent:
So up to this point in the story, with hindsight to your benefit, what would you say is the biggest mistake that you made, because being an entrepreneur is really just a series of mistakes and hopefully not anyone of them kills you and get smarter as you keep going? We all know you made lots of mistakes. For the benefit of the audience to try and help them to avoid making mistakes, what would you say is the biggest one that you made so far, at this point in the story?

Wade:
I think probably the biggest one is we had 10 000 people on our sign-up email list, who would express interest in Zapier, which is a fantastic number for a launch list, it’s a nice beefy list to market to and potentially get to use your services once you are ready, however we made the mistake of never emailing them until we launched. Some of those email addresses were six months, nine months old before they ever heard from us.

As a result it was pretty stale, we got pretty poor open rates, pretty poor click-through rates, we got some people there, we got some conversions, simply because of the size of the list, but it was not nearly as effective as it could have been, had we been nurturing that list on an ongoing basis and staying in touch of them. If I could rewind the clock, I would have made sure that we would have at least written an email to those folks once a month at minimum.

Trent:
Yeah man, “Hey, this is what we accomplished in the last month, thanks for being interested in Zapier.”

Wade:
Yeah,I think the reason we didn’t do that, I think we just kind of got scared, someone in tech and I’m not a huge fan of getting a lot of marketing and promotional emails and things like that, so we just kind of talked ourselves out of doing it, when in reality the worst thing could have happened is someone said: “Hey I am just not interested in this anymore”. At least the ones that were, would have remembered who we are.

Trent:
Exactly, I think the mistake you made, you made their decision for them instead of letting them make it.

Wade:
Exactly.

Trent:
Because there’s and unsubscribe button and they can click it any time they want. This phase in the story, this is middle 2012?

Wade:
Late 2012.

Trent:
Late 2012, what was the next big thing that happened?

Wade:
From here the path is kind of laid out for us, at least in the short term. We know that we need to get integrations, we know that we need more users, so a lot of the things that we spent our time on doing was: how can we get more integrations on board and how could we get more people to sign up.

There’s nothing really special or fantastic about this, we didn’t have a crazy press event, some epic milestone that send lots and lots of people our way, it’s just a bunch of daily commitments to do, work on new integrations and work with our partners to continually get education and resources out there. Over time our traffic grew from smaller amounts to much, much larger amounts and our conversion rates increased and just kind of spent a lot of this stuff that you have to do on a daily basis to run a web business, just optimizing those bets.

Trent:
How many people were on the team at his point in time?

Wade:
We had four when we hired the support person and we were pretty meticulous about when we brought new people on, we brought someone in December of 2012, we brought someone on in March of 2013 and we brought someone on in August of 2013. As we felt needs, we’re spending a lot of time spending doing X, we could bring on a person who’s full time job could be X. That’s how we really thought about it, it was just a series of how can I fire myself from this thing that I am doing that is maybe a little more structured than some other task that I need to go figure out next.

Trent:
Absolutely, so no great landslide events, just steady digging in the dishes every day, coming up with a routine, executing the routine, finding people to fill the void where you need them. Have we pretty much come to the end of the story?

Wade:
There’s a lot of things that we ended up doing differently, like for instance early on we had to decide are we going to be a co-located team or distributed team, we’re a distributed team, so that was a big decision we made.

Trent:
Let’s talk about that one for a bit because a lot of people are faced with that decision. Why did you choose to go distributed vs. co-lo?

Wade:
Mike, my co-founder, when we finished YC, moved back to Missouri because he had a longtime girlfriend that was still in school there and wanted to be close to her. It was a decision made for us, we could have kicked him out of the company but that wasn’t really a decision, which was not an option in our minds truthfully. It was made up for us, he’s going to be distributed why not other people, so when we started hiring folks, we just didn’t pay attention to location.

We learned some lessons along the ways on how we do communication, how we do hiring, how you structure meetings and things like that, for a distributed team. We spent a lot of time just thinking about, not just how we build a product but how we build a company, a team and things like that.

Trent:
With hindsight to your benefit, do you think there was any downside to going distributed vs. co-lo?

Wade:
Sure, I think there are downsides; I do think the upsides far outweigh the downsides. The downside of course is when you’re in-person some tasks is a lot easier, like brainstorming tasks can be lot easier, sketching out product features and things like that can be a lot easier in person. Fortunately things like brainstorming are less important when you have a roadmap in front of you, you spend 10% of time brainstorming and 90% of your time just executing on that thing.

One of the things that we do to try and mitigate that downside is every six months or so, twice a year, we fly everyone out to a location somewhere, usually in the United States and get together for a week and brainstorm on some of those things, work on the product together, mostly just enjoying each other’s company because we don’t get to see each other except for those two times during the year.

Trent:
So it sounds like that there are maybe seven or eight people on the team at this point?

Wade:
We’re actually at thirteen now.

Trent:
Thirteen, and are you at a point where the cash coming in pays all the bills?

Wade:
Yeah, pretty much so. We mostly re-invest all of our profits into the company, so we are at about net zero every month, but revenue pays the bills.

Trent:
That’s a nice place to be. I’m curious what percentage of the 1.2 million got spent, before you were able to achieve cash flow or break even?

Wade:
Not much honestly.

Trent:
Wow, that’s nice.

Wade:
Yeah.

Trent:
It is and it isn’t because in hindsight you think why did we take all that money, we could have owned the whole thing; however I’m sure you would attest the benefits of the relationship that probably came along with that money, were they substantial?

Wade:
Absolutely, we still work with our partners, our investors on a monthly basis. I make contact with them usually more frequent than that with at least with one of them. You know with help of a partner, with help on a situation around this, just to get their advice and their feedback because these are smart people, been there done that before. They may not know our exact situation, but they can at least provide insight on how they have seen it happen elsewhere.

Trent:
Having a venture capitalist as an investor, I have in my travels read all sorts of good and all sorts of bad. What do you think the best and worst parts of having a VC in the bed is?

Wade:
There are a lot of good things, one is you get access to their portfolio companies, which can be important for us.

It’s great because you’re integrating with a lot of portfolio companies, you get to learn from their experiences, their access is really pretty, pretty, broad, you get access to a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t get access to, which is fantastic for when you have problems, you trying to learn about something, you’re trying to meet with customers, meet with partners, you can short cut a lot of that stuff.

The downside is that you’ve got someone now that’s not you, that you got to work with, I guess. It’s easier to make decisions when it’s just you, just make a decision and go, but it’s nice at times too to have outside sparring partner as well, it’s kind of good and bad on both sides of the table. Somebody give you a gut check, play devil’s advocate, things like that. The downside of course is you give up equity and some of your company but for the most part it’s worth it if you’re thinking about building a high growth tech company.

Trent:
And as long as you’re meeting their expectations I’m sure they’re actually quite pleasant to have, it’s when you fail to meet their expectations that it’s not so much fun.

Wade:
Sure and you know they are used to it, their business model’s is that 1 out of 10 is going to get ahead, most of the time your company’s not meeting the expectations they have, hopefully if you’re working with someone good, especially in the venture community, they’re going to help you work through a lot of those issues.

Trent:
What do you think your next hire is going to be?

Wade:
We’re actually hiring right now for a *inaudible* partner marketing, someone to really help work with our 300 plus SaaS companies to get education, help promote the partners, help promote Zapier and just do a lot of content creation to teach people of all the awesome stuff they can do at Zapier.

Trent:
What would the compensation look like for them because I’m sure there’s a few people listening to this that might think, “Hey I’m interested in that?”

Wade:
We pay very competitive salaries, depending on your experience, how long you’ve been in part; it will probably be able to meet your needs.

Trent:
And do they get equity?

Wade:
Yeah, equity is on the table as well.

Trent:
Interesting, ok, what have I not asked about that you think that we should cover before we wind up the interview?

Wade:
You’ve covered a lot of the nooks and crannies of Zapier, I’m sure we could go deeper on specific topics or marketing tactics and things like that but that could be an entire different chat.

Trent:
All right Wade I want to thank you very much for making some time to be on the show and chat with me. I found it very, very interesting and I hope that you have enjoyed yourself.

Wade:
Yeah, thanks for having me Trent, this was a blast.

Trent:
No problem at all, take care.

Wade:
You too.

Trent:
Alright, to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/151 and if you really enjoyed this episode and would like to help me spread the word, you could very easily do that at BrightIdeas.co/love and I thank you in advance for doing that. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, it’s been my pleasure to have you come back for another episode of this show and I look forward having you back for another one soon.

Take care and have a good day, bye bye.

About Wade Foster

Wade is co-founder and CEO of Zapier. His work has been featured on sites like WSJ, Forbes, Mixergy and TheNextWeb.

 

 

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Key Insights Into Buying or Selling a Marketing Agency with Paige Campbell

Paige Cambell

Paige Campbell on buying or selling a business

Paige Campbell is the CEO of Grady Britton, a mid-sized advertising and marketing agency in Portland, OR. Grady Britton has been in business for over 40 years.

Paige started as an employee and, along with her business partner, ended up buying the firm from the prior owner. Subsequently, Paige and her partner went on to buy two more agencies.

Whether you are buying or selling a business, or hoping to in the future, you are going to find great insights when you listen to this interview.

Listen now and you’ll hear Paige and I talk about:

  • (01:10)  Introduction
  • (06:35)  How did you make the transition from employee to owner?
  • (09:30)  Why didn’t you want to become an owner originally?
  • (16:30)  Please tell me about the next agency you bought.
  • (21:00)  What advise would you give potential agency sellers about starting to market their firm?
  • (24:00)  What terms are reasonable to expect as a seller?
  • (29:00)  What did the due diligence look like?
  • (34:00)  What advice would you give to the seller when surprises come up in due diligence?
  • (37:00)  How involved was your attorney in the process?

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

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Transcript

Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters, welcome back to episode number 147 of the Bright Ideas podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you are an entrepreneur and you’re looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, increase conversions and ultimately your profits; well my friends you are in the right place.
And the way that we do that is we bring on experts and we get them to share with us exactly what they did to become successful. No theories, no puffery just, “Hey here’s what I accomplished and here’s how I did it step by step by step.

This episode of course is absolutely no different.

However in this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Paige Campbell. And she is the CEO of a marketing agency by the name of Grady Britton.

We did this interview because Paige first of all was an employee of Grady Britton and along with her business partner ended up buying the firm from the prior owners because it is a very old firm; it’s been around for about 40 years.

And then subsequent to that, they went on to buy two more agencies.
The focus of this interview is whether you are looking to get bought or whether to buy, you are going to find great insights when you listen to the conversation that Paige and I have. We talk about how to get that conversation with potential buyers started as a seller in a way that does not show weakness, because that would obviously negatively impact your negotiation position.

We talk about what the buyer looks for in the due diligence process. We talked about what are the realistic expectations of the seller in terms of exit and the terms of the deal; how it is going to be structured. If you haven’t sold before, it is not all about price, the terms of payment are often times more important than the price.
For example, I’ll give you a billion dollars for your firm but I am going to be you one dollar per year over a billion years. That wouldn’t be a very good deal even though the price sounded really high.

So this is really going to be a very interesting interview for you if you are thinking of selling or if you are thinking of buying. But before we get to it just a quick announcement; I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me, “What are all the tools that you use to run your business?”

I have a list of those tools that you can get to at GrabTrentsBonus.com and as that URL name would suggest to you, when you use one of the affiliate links on that page, and I get a little commission from whoever’s software that you are buying, I give you the opportunity to choose from one of my paid products and I am going to give it to you for free as a bonus as a thank you for using my affiliate link.

So with that said please join me in welcoming Paige to the show. Oh and I should say that in this episode we had two technical glitches that I have never had in a hundred and ninety some interviews; two technical glitches so apologies in advance for the conversation being interrupted not once but twice due to these technical glitches.

Hi Paige welcome to the show.

Paige:
Thanks Trent

Trent:
It is a pleasure to have you on. We are going to talk about all sorts of interesting things here today with respect to the acquisition of other agencies, and my hope is that the folks listening to this, whether they’re looking to buy an agency or whether they are looking to sell their agency are going to learn all sorts of interesting things from the buyers perspective and that’s being you because you have bought two agencies.

But before we get into any of that, I would like to give an opportunity to introduce yourself to my audience, so that they know who they are listening to and give them some context for all the great stuff that we are about to hear.
So please tell us who you are and what you do.

Paige:
My name is Paige Campbell and I am the president of an advertising and marketing agency in Portland Oregon. The agency’s name is Grady Britton, and we have agencies that have been in business for the last forty years actually it is our forty year anniversary this year and has transitioned over the decades to be a brand focused agency. We do a lot of content development, social work, as well as digital campaigns for clients in the Pacific North West mostly with a national presents.

Trent:
Ok, so either you weren’t the founder or you are the youngest sounding seventy five year old I have ever heard of.

Paige:
Yeah it is true, not the founder, I am neither Grady nor Britton both of those names have since retired. I began purchasing the agency from the original founder who was Frank Grady about five or six years ago now and then became the president three years ago. I have a business partner Andy Askren who is our Chief Creative Officer and also owns sixty percent of the company with myself.

Trent:
Okay so let’s delve into a couple of details. Just roughly, what size is your company? How many people work there?

Paige:
The agency has 21 people, so midsized in the Portland market.

Trent:
And what size customer do you guys deal with?

Paige:
A huge range; on the larger side we work with a couple of customers. One being a large ship manufacturer that will remain to be unspoken, and the Portland *inaudible* on the B2B side is probably our largest account.

On the consumer national side we work with, clients I would say fifty to two hundred million dollars, it really depends on the industry. We do a lot of travel destinations marketing, food and beverage, and industrial B2B work.

Trent:
There is going to be some people listening to this who maybe work for an agency and would like to own one one day and I know that in our pre-interview I discovered that at one point you didn’t want to become an owner but eventually did.

So do you want to tell us a little bit about how you went from being an employee of this agency to being an owner? Let’s spend a little time on that and then I want to spend more time, probably the bulk of our time on how you have purchased two other agencies because there are quite a number of details that I want to get into in that part of the conversation.

Paige:
Okay sure, I had worked in the agency business prior to working at *inaudible*, four other agencies and worked my way up in the business from receptionist as my first job at an agency and was director of client services at Grady Britton.

At the time my predecessor Frank Grady, he was doing succession planning and he had a couple of options to be purchased himself or grow the agency to a certain size that would be more attractive to an outside party or to sell the agency to a team within or an individual within.

When he first asked myself and two other people here if they were interested in joining together and purchasing the agency my business partners said yes very enthusiastically but this has always been something that they wanted to do. Whereas I at the exact same moment said no I would ever be interested in doing this.

I think at the time it seemed a little bit overwhelming to me and I did not know the first thing about running an agency, and I had just never envisioned that for myself and so I was real quick to say no.
Thankfully I had two people, my partner now and also my predecessor who were very patient with me and gave me a lot of time to explore the notion and we had an ongoing conversation and I did some work myself, personal work to figure out if this was what I wanted.

I tried to make and educated and smart decision and eventually I came to the conclusion that I was committed to this industry, and I was not going anywhere, and eventually I would probably tire of being a director of client services and I’d be looking for something more challenging. So I came to the conclusion that the next step for me would be ownership and why not? Here I have this opportunity and it’s remarkable and there is a reason that that exists and I should probably go for it.

Trent:
So did you initially say no because you thought it would be too risky to become an owner?

Paige:
Yes, absolutely

Trent:
Let’s hang out on that one for a second because I think that is something that people would like to hear. Why did you think it was risky and as you made the transition and changed your mind and of course became an owner, did those fears end up being real or were they just fear?

Paige:

Yeah there is a little bit of all of that and what actually happened; I am definitely a conservative person by nature especially financially. For me it was incredibly risky. I am also a single mom and so most of my livelihood is in the equity of my home for example and I was in the case of putting a down payment down on the agency and such great payments and so on and I was going to become personally liable.

This is also in 2007 pre recession but as we moved forward and actually deal became more realistic and it was going to happen and I was coming to terms with that and also speaking with the PR-director who is now my partner and we were determining if we would be good business partners. There were a lot of things going on at the same time.

But the financial risk was paramount for me and I think what ended up happening in my mind was I played the game of it was like a mortgage and if I can get over the fact of the large amount then I felt I’m going to be strapped to for four years; treating it like a mortgage, every time I make a payment I am putting equity into something; then it did not seem as large and terrifying.

What happened as a result was we signed a deal and about six to seven months later the economy fell out and the agency really went through a tough time with layoffs and I had everything at stake in the business and so there was no choice. When you are in that situation there is literally no choice and you just work like you have never worked before and you dig in and do everything that you can.

And so my partner and I were both in that situation and had a lot to lose and the mental strength of not allowing that to happen. So, here we are today and the agency is thriving and we are hiring two more people this month, we will be at 23 now and we could dig our way out and made sure that we found a way to be successful.
But yeah I think that the difficulty was certainly in the fear of the financial risk and the livelihood of my family.

Trent:
So when the economy went into the tank the terms of the deal had already been negotiated and did not get re-negotiated?

Paige:
Yes. When the economy went tank the deal had been signed and immediately eight months after the deal had been signed, the agency was not worth what we had signed for. We worked under that premise and the continued payments for probably two to three more years. At that time the economy was still not in recovery mode and we slightly changed the terms of the deal; resigned on that lowering our interest rate. So now the terms have been slightly modified to our benefit.

Trent:
There is something that you spoke there that I am going to go back to because I went through it personally as well and I really want people to have a take away and you did what I call embracing economic pressure; in other words you buried yourself deeply in debt and with my last company I did the same thing.

I remember there was a point when I was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and the company wasn’t profitable yet but it was awfully close and at that point you just can’t give up because it is your economic ruin if you do and the magical thing that happened to you and it happened to me is you dig deep in and you go to personal resources that you didn’t know you had and you get it done and in your case it worked out very well and in my case it worked out very well.

So I bring that up only because I know one of the things that people that have smaller agencies or maybe they’re even independent marketing consultants really struggle with is how do I get from being this team of one to a team of a few and it might not be the right decision for everybody and I don’t dispel financial advice on my show.

But I would just say listen to what Paige just said and what I just said about embracing debt as a form of forcing commitment on yourself and maybe that debt is used to hire some additional people to help you become more productive and get more done and stop doing everything yourself. So don’t necessarily be afraid of it.

Paige:
Yes that is true and I think that I actually in the moment I honestly didn’t think of it like that I just had no choice.

Trent:
Me too.

Paige:
I had nothing else that was an option except digging down and figuring out how to survive out of this and I like the way that you framed it. And I did learn a ton about myself; I would not wish it upon anyone but I also wouldn’t have ever given up that experience. I know what it means to run lean now, I know how to do it and I know what indicators to watch in my business. There is really no better education.

Trent:
Yes you could not have bought that one at a college. Not for any amount of money. The great thing with this is that you get your tuition back, it’s called future earnings.

Paige:
Yeah.

Trent:
Okay. So now people have a little bit of an idea of how you came to be an owner of an agency, and obviously it wasn’t a horrific experience, because you have gone out and bought two more.

Paige:
Yes, as a matter of fact the acquisition was part of the strategy to get out of that place that we were. The business was changing a lot, the market was really unstable. The typical business for us would have been AOR relationships, long term contracts and such.

Those relationships worked but their budgets had moved by project basis and their internal change were being let go so I did not have projections anymore. I used to be able to look out and see at least for the quarter what I expected and to some degree for the year.

Not really having that any more, there had to be another way to stabilize the agency, and an opportunity presented itself to acquire an agency that was not fairing very well through the recession. We were not in a position of strength but we were a little bit more secure than they were.

Thankfully we have a very good reputation in town and the owners of that agency reached out to us as well as a couple of other agencies and opened up a conversation to ask if anyone was interested or able to acquire at that time. And we were interested.

The agency that offered the conversation had a nice make up of roster and talent that were very complementary to what we were doing. That was a very key thing that I know now and I should have applied that to my second acquisition that I did not. But I should have.

What was great about it was the first acquisition really complimented the services that we already had but was not duplication. At the same time they were unable to have all full internal creative teams and all full internal visual teams and they were struggling to bring a great creative product to their clients and their clients were taking note of that; whereas we had a lot of capacity for creative and digital teams in-house.

There were just a lot of places where, the puzzle pieces sit naturally together on a logistics and tactical way. On the other side of it, having a deep look at culture and what was going on at that agency and what the talent was there and to basket it with our agency. The stars really aligned nicely.

It was risky; financially we were in the thick of a recession and were looking for a way to stabilize the agency but there’s certainly acquisition cash going out the other way so, you have to figure out financially; you are buying the future there is no assets.

Trent:
Let me just interrupt you for a moment. We are going to come to the financial aspect of it in a minute but there are some other details I want to dig into from both the buyer and sellers perspective, and you now have the ability to give insight into both.

So from the buyers perspective the primary reason that you wanted to acquire this agency after they approached you was because you saw some talent and capabilities that would build in very nicely with your team and your bench would get stronger as a result. Is that more or less summed up?

Paige:
That is half the equation and the other half would be that I saw a client base that had long term capabilities to stabilize the agency financially.

Trent:
Yes absolutely, nobody is buying just expenses they are buying for revenue as well. Now having received the phone call from an agency that was struggling a little bit, what advice would you give to other people who are thinking that they might be struggling and may want to sell their agency but do not want to come across too weak or too vulnerable when they make the call or calls to potential suitors?

So what advice would you give to that person who is trying to market their company to start conversations the right way with a firm or firms that might be interested in buying them?

Paige:
Sure, I think something that is really important is start small, start with a couple of people in the industry or other peers in your city that you are friends with, that you have a relationship with, that you have competed against in respect or a couple of people that you have known in the business for a while that you can explore it with.

I think you should always come to the table with: “You know, we’re exploring a lot of options,” whether you are just tired and want out of the business, retiring or whatever the situation is, it is like “I am exploring a couple of different options in succession planning or moving this agency to the next level; one of them is acquisition, or selling and I wanted to reach out to you because I have always respected you.”

And you can approach it that way. Keep a lot of options on the table, and be open about that, so that it is an exploratory conversation and keep it that way. Then you are doing a bit of research into what is going to make the most sense for your agency, and keep your agency at the forefront of what is best for the people there or best for yourself and looking for a future match.

You are selling something that the benefit will come to you in the future too. So be really careful who you start engaging with in conversation.

Trent:
Now for the two agencies that you have purchased, and forgive me if I am getting my facts astray but if I recall our pre-interview correctly, the two agencies does not include the agency that you became a principal of. You’ve bought two more since then?

Paige:
Right

Trent:
Okay. So the second one did they approach you as well or did you approach them?

Paige:
On the second one, they did approach us but they had heard out in the market that we might be looking. So that owner had heard that via a little bit of word of mouth. It was true that we were looking so he then approached us.

Trent:
Okay and roughly what size were these companies in terms of number of people or revenue whatever you want to disclose.

Paige:
The first agency was around ten to eleven people in house at the time we acquired them. The second agency was about the same, ten to twelve.

Trent:
Okay so these are probably between a million and a million and a half dollars a year in revenue?

Paige:
Yes, I believe the first one was a little bit larger than that, I’d say two and a half million. The second one was about that size yes.

Trent:
So, when you have a company of that size to sell do you think that it is reasonable for the seller to expect to receive a cash payment and walk away? And if not what is the more likely outcome for them?

Paige:
No I do not think it is reasonable to expect that. The buying agency and you as the seller, you are selling the future possibility there and the buyer is buying the future possibility. There is a lot of things that have to work to move those accounts and that talent to actually being profitable and becoming what the buyer is looking for and in our case stabilizing our agency to another degree. So, knowing that situation and the first one, we were not interested in putting a big cash payment out.

I think the seller knew that this was going to be a buy out over a term over a certain period of time, based on the profitability or based on the revenue generated by the clients that they were selling. So, if you are selling you should remember that there is no hard assets that anyone is benefiting from that you actually should look for and sometimes sellers stay part of the acquisition for six months or something to transition the business.

So definitely if that is going to happen that needs to be considered. The competition, negotiations and all sorts of stuff.

Trent:
Did that happen in either of the two purchases or did you say, “We will pay you out over time but you don’t go to work here anymore?”

Paige:
In both situations we did say that. We will buy you out over time but we want to transition the business ourselves.

In both situations we brought over the key staff that really owned the relationships. This is unique now that I think about it, but in both cases the previous owner was not interested in coming over and transitioning the business.

Trent:
These two agencies; were they mostly project revenue models or did they have high levels of retainer income?

Paige:
The first one was more ongoing relationship. That is relationships with their clients which is what we were mostly interested in. I don’t think if they were being project to project based we probably would not have done it. We were looking for ongoing business and that is what was attractive to us.

The second acquisition was a visual agency. They were running more on a project by project basis and we were interested in that agency for other reasons.

Trent:
Like?

Paige:
They had some digital capability in house that we didn’t and we were looking at building it out and have a much more robust digital arm base. They had some developing talent and capability in there that we were attracted to.

They also which was kind of unique, they did have one large ongoing digital account that they were running a substantial amount of business with every month.

In our digital arm of our agency we had been running largely project to project. And I wanted a big stabilizing account that fed into that arm within our structure instead of running project to project. I was attracted by the big piece of business and then the additional capability that it would bring to our whole department.

Trent:
In either case of these two acquisitions before you make an agreement with the seller you know who their clients are, but you are not able to go and talk to the clients. So you have to take them at their word that the client relationship is intact and the terms of your agreement obviously are going to support that fact, in other words if a client goes away you are not going to pay as much.

What was it like once you made a deal and you started to tell the clients; I am assuming you would have acquired the key account managers that own those relationships and those people would have said to the folks at the clients that the company had been bought etc. Is that kind of how it went?

Paige:
The first part yes, of course you can’t go and speak to the clients before but you do need to do some due diligence there so what we did was of course a meeting with the owner and presidents of the agencies and we got real serious to do the due diligence around this.

We did a lot of talking about the client relationships, about the culture of the clients, about how well they thought they would transition, about the key personnel and staff, what the client was used to, what they thought they were looking for in the future, and where they had been underserved perhaps and all of that internal work and then we interviewed each of the staff members that were in relationship with or held the relationship with those clients to see if we heard re-occurring themes and information.

And in the case of the first acquisition we did we trusted the information a lot, we trusted those account managers a lot. You could tell talking to them that they really had great relationships with these clients and we felt if we could secure them and make them feel like this was going to be a great net outcome for them to actually have their agency be acquired and come into our culture and our environment, this could be successful.

They really had great solid relationships. From hearing that information their clients were looking for things that we really could provide and this account service staff were excited at being part of an agency that could really bring a holistic viewpoint to their clients. So everything lined up.
On the second one it was a little more precarious…

Trent:
Sorry, we are having a bit of a bandwidth issue here. I am not quite sure what the problem is but are you able to hear me okay?

Paige:
We spoke with the owner at length again which was a similar process and gathered a bunch of information about the clients and where they were with them and then when we interviewed some of the team that worked there we heard different perspectives.

So, this really put things into question for us because we felt that the account managers were the people in the day to day and they would have better indicators of what could be possible, and we felt that the owner was a little bit out of touch with the day to day work.

And so it was really important at that point to make a decision to bring all of the account team over. Also the agency was different, running project to project they had more of a sales approach vs. an ongoing relationship management approach.

Doing a lot of websites while in digital work it was project based they would work with the client from four to six months and then move onto the next project. So, there was not as much looking out to the future, it was more of can these people continue to sell digital work across the board.

And we were just going to transition the current projects in the queue complete them under contract, maintain the large piece of business which is what we were really attracted to in the first place and then continue to sell digital work across the agency.

Trent:
Okay, so they had one key client that was very desirable for you?

Paige:
Yes it was just a large size of ongoing month to month digital work, and that was attractive to us because our digital team had also been running project to project and always selling that pipeline and I was attracted to that idea of having a nice big stable piece of business on a month to month retainer structure to support the time between the next big project coming in.

Trent:
So what advice, when you go from letter of intent, which is like the first date of mergers and acquisitions where you say this is what I want, I’m interested, here’s the terms etc and then you go into due diligence and you uncover things that undermine your confidence or you start to realize that the person that you were about to go on the date with is a little different than you thought they were.

What advice would you give to buyers or sellers for handling the negotiation that is going to be required to alter the terms to now match the new reality? And let’s say you are the buyer, which you were so let’s give advice to sellers. So what would you say to people who were in that situation where you as the buyer now don’t want to pay as much as you said you would pay in the letter of intent because of the situation you have uncovered is different than what they told you?

Paige:
I would definitely look at it from the perspective of whatever changed in respect to the future of the business. There is always a scale, from one perspective, from the buyer’s perspective. “Yes it is greatly going to effect the future of the business.”

From the sellers you have the background of knowing your clients and knowing your team and really how solid and what situations those are in. And you can make an educated re-negotiation around that.

You have the benefit of having all that knowledge and experience that the buyer doesn’t have. So they are going to not want to take as big a risk of course, and I think that you have a lot of means to assure them if you actually think that it is not posing as big a risk or threat to the future of the business as the buyer might think.

In the case of the second acquisition that exact thing happened. There was a key talent that we were hoping to have join us with the acquisition; things were all wind-up at the last minute that creative director took another opportunity in the market and left. It was not a risk that none of the clients that the agency was servicing at the time would have jumped ship with this person; that was not what the concern was.

But that person was part of the talent that we were hoping to acquire in the transition. So the value of the company actually shifted.

Trent:
Was it by a meaningful amount?

Paige:
I think from the perspective of the seller yes. You bet. But the seller also agreed that we as an agency had done everything that we could to bring this person over and I think that they knew that and actually agreed with that and so I was not willing any longer to… that affected how I looked at the future quite substantially.

Trent:
So now let’s assume for the purposes of our discussion that you’re getting towards the end of due diligence and the buyer and seller are pretty much in principal agreed on everything. Somebody has to paper this deal up so that you can actually get it done. Is that where you brought the attorney’s in?

Paige:
Yes actually our attorney was involved from the get go from the point of the letter of intent and served as council because from that very beginning you are looking at things that you need to ask, information that you need, when are you reviewing the financial information. That needs to come up pretty early in the game and my attorney was partnered with me through all of that work.

Because you start to frame your negotiations just as that data and information comes in. You are talking about where you see risks, what makes you uncomfortable, “if we could pencil out a deal that was somewhere in this range I’d feel comfortable.” You are funnelling down to knowing that that deal is going to get the end result so I would not hesitate to get an attorney involved early on.

As you run along these things, you can get deal heat because you start looking out at the possibility of this and the possibility of that and this talent and that and you can quickly get your eye off the ball and forget what your objective was and doing the same from the beginning and having that council say “slow down” “it’s not worth it to pay this amount” to continue to provide that council and that ground in effect is very helpful.

Trent:
How much did you have to spend on legal fees?

Paige:
Let’s see. I can’t remember on the first one. My predecessor Frank Grady was still here and we were doing that deal together and I was already an owner but he worked that side of it. On the second one I probably spent fifteen thousand.

Trent:
Okay. So really fifteen thousand of insurance to make sure, roughly how much was that deal worth?

Paige:
I am not going to disclose the total. In the whole scheme of things it was very minor compared to the future benefit that we gained from that acquisition. I would easily do it again.

Trent:
So well worth it.

Paige:
The deal was definitely negotiated I feel… ((computer crash))

Trent:
For folks that want to either buy or sell are there any books or are there any websites that you would suggest and also if they wanted to get in touch with you what is a good way for them to do that?

Paige:
They can get in touch with me via my website: GradyBritton.com. On the contacts page they can reach out to me via e-mail which is probably the best bet.

Trent:
Can you just spell that for us?

Paige:
Sure. GradyBritton.com and in regards to blogs or websites or books, you know I didn’t really rely on any of those as resources through this process I had a couple of good business peers that I relied on and I mentioned I had an attorney that counselled me and kept me grounded and just other people in the business that had done it before.
I belong to a unique group of other agency presidents so I relied on them to ask for the tactical situational stuff. “Have you ever agreed to deal that comprised to something like this,” things like that.

Trent:
And it was very much the same for me. I have not bought firms, but I have sold so folks if you have questions from the seller’s perspective put it in the comments and I will be sure to answer them. I echo Paige’s comments, your legal council has been through this many times before, if you have picked the right one.

There are all sorts of entrepreneur groups that, I was in several mastermind groups and Paige has eluded that she is a member of one as well and that can be incredibly valuable. The big thing is that you really want to make sure that you talk to people that have actually done it before. Because in the scope of three quarters of an hour podcast we can talk, there are people that do workshops on this type of stuff for days.

The number and complexity of the details involved in a merger or acquisition of any kind are very, very large. Don’t let it discourage you, just go into it being aware that it takes a while.
These things do not happen overnight.

Paige:
Yes, eyes wide open for sure and yes in both cases it probably took a total of a year to go through the process from the beginning to the end to actually move in and actually have people established and see the benefit of the work coming into the agency.
It is a long deal. The second one was equally as long and actually was a bit more tumultuous. Both times eyes wide open and eye on the ball. And understand that it is going to be a large part of what you do and focus on in the immediate future for sure.

Trent:
And with that said with advice to sellers; if you think there is any way that you can do succession planning and sell your firm to people that already work there; speaking from personal experience. You are going to get more money because those buyers know exactly what they are buying you can get that deal done a lot quicker.
There is not nearly the same level of due diligence that is required. In my case the deal was done inside of thirty days. And I would encourage you to start planting those seeds several years in advance if you’re selling.

Paige:
That is right, several years so people really understand what they are taking on and their interest, passion and commitment is there and has been tested and it is a whole different beast moving from employee to ownership and it behoves both of you to try it on a little bit as you go before the deal is done.

Trent:
Alright Paige I know we are up against your hard stop now and mine as well I got to get on the phone and do another pre-interview with another founder so thank you very much for being a part of the show it has been a pleasure to have you on and I really apologise to you and the audience that you were cut off mid sentence due to my computer crash which has never, ever happened before.

Paige:
Good luck to you, thank you Trent and good luck to everybody.

Trent:
Great take care, bye-bye

Paige:
Bye-bye

Trent:
To get to the show notes for this show go to brightideas.co/147 and if you enjoyed this episode, please do me a favour and help me spread the word by going to BrightIdeas.co/love where there is a pre-populated tweet and all you have to do is click your mouse. That is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so much for tuning in it has been my pleasure as always and I will look forward to having you back for another episode. Take care bye-bye.

About Paige Campbell

Paige Campbell has over 20 years of marketing and brand development experience, which includes building communications strategies for national and regional clients such as Xerox Network Printers, Bob’s Red Milland First Independent Bank.

In her role as President, Paige oversees the strategic team providing guidance and strategy for various accounts. She believes that creative ideas can come from anywhere and she is driven to make sure that our clients are benefiting from the best business counsel and creative strategy possible. She leads the agency with an unparalleled commitment to her team, culture and clients.

 

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Derek Coburn on How He Built an Engaged Tribe of Raving Fans (and Paying Clients)

Derek Coburn 4in x 6in x 300dpi x FC

Do you wish there were some way to generate twice as much revenue in your business without doing twice as much work?

Derek Coburn felt the same way with his wealth management firm. He realized that in order to significantly increase his revenue, he was going to have to either work a lot more hours, or find a different way of working.

Luckily for Derek, he was able to specialize and differentiate himself from other financial advisers, which significantly increased his client retention, as well as the amount his clients valued him. In Derek’s case, this value came from what he calls “The Ultimate Tie Breaker” – he was able to differentiate himself by sending clients referrals. There’s nothing a business owner loves more than more business, right? Derek was so good at making those connections that he made a whole second business of it (cadre).

Luckily for you, Derek has shared his story with us. He includes details on cadre, which he co-founded with his wife Melanie. They call cadre an “un-networking” group, and have had great success by helping their group members help each other.

When you listen to this interview, you’ll hear Derek and I talk about:

  • (03:25) Introductions
  • (06:00) How he built his financial firm
  • (08:30) An explanation of his first networking group
  • (10:30) How to add extra value to his clients by referring them clients
  • (13:30) How he expanded the conversation with his clients, to talk about more than financial planning
  • (16:00) How he used surveys to reach out and ask how to provide extra value
  • (17:15) How he created the time to launch his second business, cadre
  • (23:30) Going from idea to reality with cadre
  • (26:40) How he used a webinar to launch the concept
  • (31:00) How he got existing members to refer more
  • (36:00) How his business model has evolved to justify $3000 upfront to join
  • (41:00) How he ran a launch meeting
  • (46:00) His plans for the future of cadre
  • (48:30) An introduction to his book
  • (50:00) The Boise launch plan
  • (1:03:00) An overview of how to be more useful to your clients

Resources Mentioned

cadre
The Thank You Economy
Care.com
Informly’s podcast
Amy Porterfield’s podcast
Human Business Works – Chris Brogan
Youtility – Jay Baer
School of Greatness – Lewis Howes

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

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Transcript

Trent: Hey there Bright Ideas hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
Podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. This is the podcast for
marketing agencies, marketing consultants and entrepreneurs who
want to discover how to use content marketing and marketing
automation to massively boost their business without having to
massively boost the number of hours they work every week.We do this by bringing on experts who share with us the story of what
made them so successful and this episode is no different. We are
going to be joined by a fellow by the name of Derek Coburn who
is a partner in a very successful financial advisory firm and
has about 15 employees and he has been doing that for quite a
while.But, more recently he’s also the author of a book and founder of
another company. The book is called “Why Networking is Not
Working” and as you might guess from the title it’s about
obviously why networking is failing and Cadre, his new business,
is predominately a DC based community of remarkable
professionals. Their members are the cream of the crop in their
industries and more interested in sharing resources than
gathering leads.So, in this interview Derek is going to share with us exactly how he
realized there was a need for this service and then how he
launched it and some of the ah-has he had along the way and
ultimately he is going to share with us his story on how he’s
making it a very successful company.But, before we get to that I want to tell you briefly about a Bright
Ideas product. If you are a marketing agency or a marketing
consultant and you are struggling with lead generation you will
want to check out my MobiLead Magnet. M-O-B-I Lead Magnet
.That’s at mobilead.com. It’s a WordPress plugin and will allow
you to build landing pages very quickly that display how bad
someone’s non-mobile friendly website looks on an iPhone and it
also shows them how good it could look if they had a mobilized
site. The idea is to use this landing page to capture their
interest and get your foot in the door to have a marketing
conversation.So, please join me in welcoming Derek to the show. Hey Derek welcome
to the show.Derek: Hey Trent thanks for having me.Trent: No, problem, man. I am jacked about this interview. We have got
a lot of really cool stuff that I want to talk about. Just
before Derek and I got on the air we were talking about how he
took himself from one business to two businesses and he’s got
two kids and he’s writing a book and he’s got a lot of really
cool stuff going on. I really want, because I know there is a
large percentage of my audience that still has a job and they’re
trying to make a transition and they’ve got a part time business
and they want that business to become more fulltime. Derek has
already gone down that trail and done it successfully. So, we
are going to get him to talk all about it.So, Derek thanks so much for coming on. Maybe just real quickly,
introduce yourself. Tell us who you are and what you are doing
to get through to all of the results that you’ve got.Derek: Thanks so much, Trent. So, I’m Derek Coburn. I own a wealth
management business with two other guys. We have been running
that for about 15 years now. We have 15 employees. Right now, I
spend about 20 to 25 percent of my time in that business, but
it’s hyper-focused on a segment of clients that I really enjoy
working with that are a great fit for me.I also co-founded what we call an “unnetworking” community in DC. I
co-founded this with my wife Melanie. It’s called Cadre. We have
right now about 105 CEOs, business owners, mediapreneurs if you
will that we bring together through offline events of different
types, facilitating connections online through our private
member community and about 90 percent complete with a book that
should be coming out in the next couple of months called
“Networking is Not Working.”Trent: And you have two kids.Derek: And I have two kids. My three year old started pre-school today
for the first time. So, I’m pretty excited for him. Time’s
flying by, but I try to make time for obviously those two and my
wife as well.Trent: Absolutely. So, for the folks, this interview is probably going
to be useful for a whole bunch of people but the ones that I
really want to speak to because I know I have a large following
in my community of folks as I mentioned earlier that still
either have a business and wanting to start another one for
whatever reason or they have a job and they want to start a
business of their own again for whatever reason. The reasons
aren’t terribly important for your and I discussion. The point
is, the desire is there and they’re trying to make that
transition.So, let’s go back to the point, so, you had a wealth management
business that you built up and was successful. Cadre did not yet
exist. How did it get created? Where was the motivation? I think
you were doing financially pretty well with the financial
advisory business, so something was tugging at your heart
strings.Derek: Yeah, so it really occurred to me back in 2008 that I had built
up a pretty good client base via cold calling and some referrals
from existing clients. I was focusing my growth strategy in
terms of meeting new clients by attending networking events.
Towards the end of 2008 that was the very beginning of what
would end up becoming the biggest sort of one of the worst
financial markets, if not the worst, financial markets since the
Great Depression.

The wealth management business, at least for me, is a recurring
revenue model, which is good. In fact, we use that same model
for Cadre. What it means is that if we are not providing good
value and a high level of service for our clients they can take
their money and go somewhere else.

So, obviously at that time there was a lot of additional hand holding
that was needed. We had to spend more time with our clients and
we wanted to really. We wanted to make sure that they had their
money and we were making the recommendations and providing the
advice that was in line with what they felt comfortable with.

So, what I realized was I was running out of time in my day. For a
variety of reasons I had to rethink really everything that I was
doing. What I realized, the average financial advisor has close
to about 400 clients. At that point, I had about 100 to 120 or
so.

The nice thing is cold calling and growing your business when you’re
first starting off, it’s great. You will almost work with
anybody. But, once you get a taste of what a really great client
relationship looks like, that’s sort of when you don’t want to
cold call anymore. That’s where you want to try to focus if you
can on only adding new clients who are going to be aligned with
you and are on the same page as what you are providing them.

Essentially, what I did was I said, I don’t want to be this guy
that’s working 70, 80, 90 hours a week with 300 clients that are
sort of all over the place. I began to really focus on quality
at that point. I slowed my growth and I realized that going to
these larger networking events was not a great use of my time.

And I ended up a way that I could fill both services or both
activities if you will in terms of providing great value for my
existing clients while also meeting new people that would be
ideal clients for me was I formed my own networking group of
about 20 or 25 people. This was not Cadre, but it was an event
where I brought together some of my great clients, some of their
top advisors and some other professionals that I had handpicked
and I was facilitating getting connections and adding value in
ways above and beyond the core service that my clients were
expecting of me.

Trent: Okay, and so was there some kind of a structure you had? What
did you tell these first 20 people when you said hey, I want to
start this networking group?

Derek: I had this big ah-ha moment for me. It’s what changed
everything. A client of mine, who I’ll call him a landscaper,
called me up. He was one of my best clients and he said, “Derek
I got a call from one of my really great clients and their
brother-in-law does what you do and they asked me if I would do
them a favor of meeting with their brother-in-law. I told them
that I really had a great relationship with you. I was happy. I
wasn’t looking to make any changes, but it was one of those
things where they were a great client and they said no
obligation whatsoever you would just be doing us a favor if you
just took the meeting.”

So, he told me about it ahead of time which was great. He called me
up the day after he had a meeting with this gentleman. He said,
“I got to tell you what happened, Derek. 45 minutes into the
meeting which was a pitch which is pretty consistent with the
way a lot of folks in the financial services industry would
approach a first meeting. He got to the end and the conclusion
that he drew was if I had my money invested with him instead of
with you, Derek, for the past couple of years I would have
earned an extra 2 to 3 percent a year in my portfolio.”

My client responded and said, “here’s something else that you might
want to take into consideration. Derek has referred me to
clients, to my business, over that time that have resulted in
over 2 million dollars of revenue for my business. If we were to
look at the big picture, Derek,” which I did not do by the way,
but “Derek could have lost half the money in my portfolio my net
perspective would have still been better off working with Derek
than working with you.”

He was laughing. He was saying that I had nothing to say. It made me
realize I am doing this without a lot of intention for a lot of
my clients right now. I’m focusing on their business and how I
can add value for them above and beyond what they expect of me.
What if I just started really focusing on it and building out a
process and trying to identify clients who in addition to
providing great value and a great service in terms of investment
planning, financial planning, what have you, that they have
businesses that I understand and I get and I might be able to
affect their business by identifying clients and being an
extension of their business development or marketing department.

Trent: Seems like a very good idea.

Derek: So, I call that the ultimate tie-breaker. If you think about
it, it’s also a great thing to be able to say from a marketing
perspective as long as you can back it up. So, I wasn’t going
around saying this to everybody, but most professionals, most
entrepreneurs, probably a lot of folks in your audience, they
probably feel like one of the best things that could happen to
them in their business is to get a great referral for a great
client.

I think that just to take that a step further and say gee, probably
the best thing that could happen for my clients, right now,
would be for them to get a great referral and if I am the one
that’s providing them that great referral you are going to have
a client for life and you are going to have somebody that’s
motivated to help you and somebody that’s going to be interested
in finding ways to help you succeed either through introductions
or additional business for them.

Trent: So, when you got nose to the grindstone with your financial
business. I think you described it that you were working pretty
hard. Was it a decision at this moment in time that you were
going to start referring clients to your clients or had you been
doing that all along with your 120 clients?

Derek: I certainly wasn’t doing it for all 120. I was doing it for the
ones where there was maybe a more obvious way to do it. But,
what I did was identify clients that I had yet to do this for.
That I felt like I might be able to help. I sat down with them.
I interviewed them. I got more information from them and shared
with them this additional role that I was going to be serving in
terms of the value and the deliverable that I was going to be
bringing to the table.

Trent: Was Cadre born out of your desire to do this, because I do want
to shift to that. But if it’s not I want to talk about how you,
I guess for lack of a better term, structured it? How did you
actually refer? Did you have a process that you used or a habit
or whatever to refer your clients? Obviously, they are going to
love you for that. That’s a no brainer. But, I want to know how
you actually made it happen.

Derek: Once again, for anyone that’s in a transaction business, when I
say transaction I mean you sell something one time and you are
never going to sell something to them again, I don’t think
that’s very many people, but because even if you sell something
to somebody now, there’s a pretty good chance you have another
service, another product 6 months, 12 months from now you could
potentially reach out to them in terms of an ideal client.

Really, for me, it was all about expanding the conversations that I
was having. What else is going on in your life? What else is
going on in your business? I think in any industry if you are
somebody that can help your client solve other problems they are
having. Whether you can provide the end benefit if you will or
not, then you are going to become important to them. Once you
start showing that with an individual one time, two times, then
you have these individuals that are reaching out to you.

My clients started calling me every time they had to make a decision
about anything. I’ve referred a great car salesman, probably 20
or 25 opportunities over the past few years. Anywhere from
larger purchases for companies all the way down to baby
photographers.

It takes a little bit of time, but if you just focus on what else can
I do for my existing clients and the important people to me in
my network, then you are going to find yourself in a position to
do this and to start adding value for them and then they are
going to start coming to you more often and referring people to
you, etc.

Trent: So, let me just make sure I understand this. Let’s say for
simplicity of this, you have two clients. One of them sells
mattresses. I brought that up because I bought a king size
mattress on line before we started this episode and the other
one needs a mattress and you find out there’s one of your
clients that needs a mattress and you know there’s one of your
clients that sells mattresses, so you say to your client that
needs the mattress, “Hey, I’ve got a really great source, a
client that sells mattresses, you should call him.” Is that
essentially what you are doing?

Derek: That’s fairly straight forward and that definitely happens, but
if you think about it a lot of us wait until we have something
to sell or it’s just an annual check in with our clients and its
always about how they are doing in relation to what we can do to
help them.

So, if you start reaching out to your clients, I know you’re big on
surveys. I’m big on surveys, getting information. Finding out
what else is going on in their business. They will appreciate
the fact that you are reaching out to learn about how you can
help whether you can help them or not. They will still hold you
in really high regard for doing that.

But over time as you build out your network you are going to be in
the position where you can start helping them and you are going
to be the go to person when they have really any sort of
business decision or personal decision for that matter that they
are going to reach out to.

Trent: So, the reaching out to wasn’t necessarily always on with one
on one phone calls. The surveys are a very time effective way of
telling your client that you are thinking about broadening the
conversation.

Derek: Yep.

Trent: Okay, cool. I’m just making a quick note here, all right. So,
at what point did you decide hey, I want to start Cadre?

Derek: All right, so we started Cadre back in 2011. My smaller
networking group was going really well, but the thing about the
wealth management business is it’s highly regulated. Compliance
departments are really on you about everything. Because of the
handful of individuals in my industry that like to try to take
advantage of people and take advantage of the system, they sort
of ruin it for everybody else.

Trent: Yeah.

Derek: I had the editor from the Washington Business Journal reach out
to me to offer the opportunity to write a weekly column for them
in the form of a blog. They were calling it a column, but it was
a blog. I went back to my broker dealer and just like 99 percent
of financial advisors out there right now, that just aren’t
completely independent, they said no chance.

The reason is pretty ridiculous. The reason is we can approve the
initial article, but we cannot approve or monitor the comments
in the blog. If somebody leaves a comment and says hey for me
and my situation how would you handle this and then I answer
them specifically, they are worried a year from now someone else
is going to search, find it, and think that answer applies to
them and make a terrible decision. So, that’s how ridiculous it
was.

I had been reading a lot of great books. The Seth Godin’s all of his
books. “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan. I saw this other way.
Gary Vaynerchuk wrote his last book, “The Thank You Economy”. He
said, “if you are in legal or finance you better really love
what you do, because those are the two industries, that you are
really not going to be able to take advantage of all of the
other opportunities from a marketing, word of mouth, etc.
standpoint that other businesses can take advantage of in terms
of one line awareness in marketing.”

That’s when I said you know what I have way too much information and
I see all the great ways that I can be growing my brand, finding
clients, and I’m not going to be able to do this if I just have
the wealth management business. But, I like the business and I
like my clients so I’m going to figure out a way to start
another business. That’s sort of what happened at the very
beginning that had me thinking, okay, I want to do something
different.

Trent: I think a huge, let’s compare your wealth management business
to, I don’t know if this will be a fair comparison, but we’ll
try it, to “your job.” I’m trying to make it so that the people
who have a job can relate to where we are going to take this
conversation in the next few minutes. How is that you’ve freed
up time in bread and butter number one so that you had the time
and mental energy to start bread and butter number two?

Derek: So, the answer that I give you might not directly benefit those
with a job, but for me I had some good revenues coming in at the
time with the wealth management business and because I also had
two other partners, we were able to pool our resources together
and hire people that were really good at a variety of things.

So, it’s really been a while since I’ve sat down and rolled up my
sleeves and really taken a technical look at my client’s
portfolios. I do that at a high level but we have really smart,
awesome people covering a variety of topics, a variety of areas
that we counsel clients on, in place.

For me, I wrote a 300-page systems manual for that business. I got
very specific about who would be doing certain things and I
wanted to set up my financial advisor business so that it was
similar to going to the doctor, right. Where when you go to the
doctors you doctor doesn’t check you in and say fill out this
form and I’m going to take care of you. Your doctor has other
people in place that are perfectly capable of doing all those
things so the doctor can focus on the high level really
important health issues and really the reason why you are there.

I do think clearly, through virtual assistants, I figure out to this
day what am I doing right now either personally or
professionally that I can pay someone else to do? For example,
through a website called Care.com, which I think is a national
website, I found a housekeeper. She works 10 to 15 hours a week
for us. She comes in. She takes our dry cleaning. She picks
after the kids. She cooks for us one night a week. Really, just
takes care of all of these things that I would have to do if she
wasn’t doing them. We pay her $15 an hour.

I think that for a lot of us, especially if there is another
business, another idea that you have or that your listeners
have, take a look at it. If this works and we can start
generating money from this what am I doing with my time right
now that I can find someone else to do and pay them so that I
have that time freed up and I’m going to make more money to
justify the difference in that cost.

Trent: Makes perfect sense. You need to have your time make more than
$15 an hour which is not terribly difficult to do, especially if
you are selling something to a business person.

Derek: Absolutely.

Trent: So, for the folks we used the term Cadre and I know we
introduced it at the beginning of the show, but I want to make
sure people understand what we are talking about. Briefly
describe what Cadre is and then I want to walk through the idea
on a napkin to the 100 plus paying members that you have now.

Derek: Sure. You had mentioned, I think it was one of your recent
interviews, I think it was with Andrew Warner, you had a comment
that said, “just build what you want to be a part of that does
not currently exist.” Even though things were going well in the
wealth management business and with my smaller networking group,
which didn’t have a name by the way. I planned round table
lunches. I hosted wine tastings. I did some things on line. We
can expand this and there’s not really anything out there where
I know I can go into a room or to an event and I can be around
people that all have the same intentions that I have when it
comes to developing relationships.

Not trying to push their own agenda, not trying to sell me something
or get their business card into my pocket as quickly as possible
but people who were successful who had a really great business
and had a pay it forward approach and I can take the time to get
to know you and help you and knowing you are going to do the
same thing for me.

I reached out to a handful of individuals that were in my current
networking group, and I said I want to do what we are doing now
but I want to do it on a larger scale and I need your help. I’m
not sure it’s going to work or not because it sounds like
rainbows and unicorns. It sounds like this happy place where you
can walk in and everyone there is going to be on the same page
as you. They are going to have a good business. They are going
to be interested in learning more about ways they can help you
and your business.

I didn’t want them to recommend other folks from their network and
have them pay us unless I really felt like it was going to work.
I was skeptical. I felt like they are going to invite people and
maybe 50 percent of them are going to still try to take
advantage of the situation and try to sell everybody else on how
great they are.

We just did round table lunches at the beginning. That initial group
with the help of these individuals, we had about 60, 70, 80
people on a webinar where I introduced the idea. We said for the
next two months you can go to one lunch a month. You will have
five or six to choose from each month. Based on your
availability we are going to assign you and put you together
with other individuals who are participating. You are going to
have 5, 6, 7 minutes to share your story. What a good
opportunity for you looks like. What your ideal client looks
like and then you are going to have the opportunity to hear that
same information from 8, 9, 10 other people.

We did this for the first two months. We didn’t charge anybody
anything. We asked everybody who’s in and we had about 80
percent commit to remaining a member.

Trent: I don’t know if this sounds or not, but did you let them take
it home and try it and make sure they like it and if you want to
keep going then pay.

Derek: Yep. It was still a very low risk situation for us because it
was giving us an opportunity to meet 50, 60, 70 individuals that
we previously didn’t know. Even if it didn’t work we decided not
to move forward with it we were going to expand our network and
meet some pretty great people in the process.

Trent: Absolutely, you were. There is not a lot of downside to
reaching out to successful business people. Let’s talk briefly
about the webinar. How did you get people on it and what was the
core message that you shared?

Derek: The way we got people on it is something that I still do to
this day that works better than just about anything else.
Whenever I have anything that I want my network to help me out
with, to share, to promote. So now we are doing larger events
with best-selling authors. I’ll say here’s a link to share on
Twitter. Here’s a link to share on Facebook or LinkedIn or other
places.

But, if I actually type out an email that is verbatim, in most cases
they don’t make any changes to it. If I type out an email that
looks like it is coming from them and they can copy and paste
that into an email I am allowing people that are willing to help
me I’m making it incredibly easy for them to do this because I
am doing all the work. I think a lot of times we say you have a
referral for me, that’s great, or you have somebody you want to
introduce me to or a business you want to introduce me to, and
we sit around and wait for it.

What I realized is we have and I have probably 30 or 40 different
types of emails like this saved as templates that if I do the
work ahead of time and I’m making it really easy for you to do
it then you are much more likely to do it assuming that’ I’ve
done enough on my end to warrant me doing a favor for you.

Trent: Yes, if I like you and you send me an email and say, Trent, cut
and paste this and send it and I think you are a good guy
chances are pretty high that I’m going to do it.

Derek: You still might do it otherwise but it’s still work on your end
and you have to make the time for it and it may or may not
happen. I equipped these individuals that I was asking them for
help. I gave them the email and made it easy for them to send
along. The other great thing about this strategy whether it’s an
introduction, referral or whether it’s come to my webinar, you
are framing it on your terms. You are able to specify the action
or the next step that you want them to take.

A lot of times, if I hadn’t done that I would have gotten many emails
that said meet my friend Derek; they are putting together a
networking group that I think you would like. You should reach
out to them then what are they going to say? They are going to
say, “Oh that sounds interesting. Let’s get on a call or let’s
have lunch sometime.” I certainly did not have time to meet 75
people for lunch to tell them about my idea. The way that the
introduction was made was if you want to learn more then sign up
for one of these webinars and that’s how you can learn more
about it.

Trent: Do you remember what the wording of the email template was that
you gave to these people.

Derek: I have it somewhere. I can probably share it with you if you
want to include it.

Trent: Yeah, send a copy to me and I will include it in the shows.

Derek: I will give you another example if you think it will be
helpful.

Trent: Sure. Please, go ahead.

Derek: When we started expanding Cadre and we went from 70 to 100 we
had been asking our members were loving it, what we had put in
place. They were getting a tremendous amount of value. They
wanted to help. They wanted to make some introductions. We were
asking people they were saying they wanted to do it for a lot of
the reasons I just described. We were getting some but not a
lot.

In August 2011 or 2012, it was in August is all I know because I
documented this. We created an email for them to share to invite
prospective members to learn more about Cadre by coming to one
of our events and learning more there and the results was we
ended up having 60 interested individuals, 60 referrals that
came to learn more about Cadre. About half of them ended up
joining. What I always like to say is that all of my members
they didn’t like me more in August than they liked me in June or
July. I just made it incredibly easy for them to help me in
doing something that they were willing to do.

Trent: Absolutely. If I remember correctly, months ago when you and I
talked about this, you had mentioned to me back then some type
of incentive for the early adopters to become a paying member of
Cadre. You have gone through your two months. You are saying to
your members this needs to be commercially viable in order for
it to keep going, therefore there is going to be this cost. If
you get on board now, it’s this. If you get on board later, it’s
this. Am I remembering this correctly and if so can you explain
what the inside looked like?

Derek: Absolutely, so everyone at the end of that two month period,
everyone that had participated, the offer that we gave them was
to be what we called a charter member. Charter members were
going to pay $249 a month and then as soon as this two week
period was over on accepting Charter members, and any new
members after that would be paying double that $499 a month.
It’s something that we’ve never changed.

Once again, it worked for two months, but let’s create some incentive
for these individuals that started with us from the beginning.
And it also created some sort of incentive for them to go off
and say hey I’ve been coming to this for two months now and it’s
great and you should think about joining also. So, they were
able to bring some other individuals to the table at that lower
price point, if you will. Now in fact we’ve evolved where we
were just $500 a month, then we were $1000 up front and $500 a
month, now we’re $3,000 up front and $500 a month, month to
month.

Trent: Wow. We are going to get to that in a minute. I want to make
sure I understand the charter business part of it. So, after the
two months how many people were going to lunches? You could
chose, you could go to how many lunches per month could you go
to during this free period?

Derek: One.

Trent: How many lunches were happening per month? The lunches were
only 8 to 10 people each right?

Derek: Yep. Including those first two months going through the end of
the first year, we hosted 79 lunches. There were anywhere from 7
to 11 lunches per month that we were scheduling and we were
giving all of our members the opportunity to say these five
would work for me and then we would try to slot them to a lunch
where they could meet people and try to keep the repeats at a
minimum.

Trent: You had a lot of logistical legwork to make sure you had the
right people at the lunches, seated at the right tables. Did you
guys actually show up to the lunches or did you just have the
people say hey I need to be at the whatever restaurant at
whatever date at whatever time and 10 of them would show up and
just chat at each other.

Derek: We were at every single one.

Trent: Yeah, because you need structure.

Derek: Sure.

Trent: Okay. At that point in time 79 lunches in the first two months.

Derek: No, no, no. Not in the first two months. That was for the first
year.

Trent: Okay.

Derek: That was for the first nine months. Let’s call it six lunches a
month for those first two months.

Trent: Okay, so six lunches per month. Where I’m trying to go with
this is how many people converted from free to pay. I think you
said about 80 percent, right?

Derek: It was about 80 percent.

Trent: So, then you got some cash flow on which to now continue to
grow this business. Over time you have ratcheted up the price
for new people. The guy or gal that’s joining today, they are
going to fork out three grand up front which is not a small
amount of money and then $500 a month. What are they getting for
that?

Derek: The model has changed significantly since we started off. Our
intention was never to have larger events at all. We are now
doing larger events. We built out a pretty robust private member
only community online. It’s not another Facebook. It’s not
another LinkedIn. There’s a lot of other stuff that’s in play
right now, than when we first initially set it up. Quite simply,
$3,000 is a lot of money to some people and it’s just the right
amount for others.

Trent: Yep.

Derek: Before we got up to $3,000 we very strategically were charging
$499 a month without a long term contract. Part of what we were
selling was engagement and fit. We wanted to make sure that
everyone that was participating, what I was selling to everyone
else was you are going to meet other people like you that are
going to be engaged, that are going to be interested to help you
and to provide value for you. And if they are not or they don’t
feel like it’s a good fit for them or a good use of their time,
we want them to be able to leave and we wanted the ability to be
able to ask them to leave if they weren’t. So, there are other
organizations that charge an annual fee upfront. It may be 6
grand or 10 grand or 20 grand and I think what happens a lot of
times if it’s not a good fit or their not the right type of
member well you have to let them play out their contract.

Trent: Yeah.

Derek: We wanted people to just drop out if they didn’t think it was a
great fit. In 2012, I started conversations with 25 people,
proactive conversations, ranging from you’re no longer a member
to hey what’s going on. If you are not able to start attending
or getting back in touch with people no harm no foul but it’s
not going to be a great fit. 25 people and the majority of them
were at the $499 rate. We basically said goodbye to $150,000 of
annual revenue for the sake of maintaining culture and making
sure that what we were selling was actually true.

Trent: Absolutely.

Derek: Along those lines I think pretty consistently the goal is that
for anybody that looks at $500 a month and says okay this is
something I can do, I think the main thing we are selling at
this point is access to a phenomenal network of experts of
individuals. Some of them have been on your show before. Our
roster from top to bottom is phenomenal. I think there are a lot
of successful entrepreneurs and successful business owners that
would pay $500 just to be in a room without all of the rift
raft. Just to know they’re not spending their time going places
where they are not being pitched, they’re not being sold, or
their not meeting anyone that’s not relevant to their business
or their clients.

Trent: I couldn’t agree more. I’ll make this comment for the folks
that haven’t attended a lot of these networking events. Back
when I started my company I attended a ton of the banker board
of trade events. There are no CEOs going. It’s all the business
development guys and gals who are looking for new clients. If
you are a CEO and you are looking for other CEOs where you can
have CEO level conversations about business challenges, going to
the local board of trade isn’t the place to be.

Derek: I would also say to if you are a business development person or
you are in sales the CEOs in the companies you are selling to
probably aren’t the decision makers and probably not the ones
you are wanting to meet either. The quality of any networking
activity I think is it’s all based on are you surrounding
yourself with people that are in a similar situation to you in
terms of the market they serve and do they take the same
approach that you take when it comes to developing relationships
and strategically working together with other professionals.

Trent: I want to skip back a minute. I realized there was a question
that I skipped past without asking.

Derek: Sure.

Trent: When you were doing these lunches and it’s back in the first
two months when it was free you said you attended all of them
Obviously you’ve got to make the right, there’s a message you
needed to communicate. How did you do that? What did you say at
these lunches so that the people realized hey this is something
I want to be a part of?

Derek: I think that the main thing we were guarded against at that
time was that we wanted to make sure that we had the right
people and I would say that I mentioned 80 percent earlier in
terms of what we converted. Ten of the remaining 20 percent or
50 percent of the remaining 20 percent we didn’t even extend the
invitation to. Because they were either following up with
everybody in a salesy way or they weren’t showing up to the
lunches.

It was really about quality and really about hey I have this other
business that I’m running and I’m not talking about I’ve never
positioned myself as a financial advisor inside of Cadre because
I never wanted anyone to think that my reasons were for doing it
were a back door way to get additional clients to that business.
In fact, there are other financial advisors in Cadre that are my
“competitor” in my other world.

I wanted to be very clear that I was doing this because I was
passionate and I enjoyed helping people and I felt something
like this was missing in the marketplace. One of the basic
things I communicated was we want to encourage and we want to
embrace the idea of our members hiring each other and working
together, but we also don’t want it to be a pitch fest and we
are not going to be a leads exchange group.

So, what does that mean? That means anyone that you meet at any of
our functions you cannot follow up with them and say great
meeting you at the lunch. Can we meet again next week so I can
tell you more about how awesome I am? It has to be, I was really
intrigued by your story and think you are somebody that I can
help or that I can see us collaborating on some different things
together so let’s see if we can jump on the phone and come up
with a way to expand on that relationship.

Clearly, if somebody did not have a good story or they weren’t
connected or it was never going to work for them that’s where
that whole they could drop out whenever they want thing comes
into play. If somebody just says I’m a CPA and if you know
anybody that needs a CPA, they would be a great client for me
and you can refer them to me and that would be great. Well,
that’s different than the CPA that says I like to work with
business owners that have revenues between $500,000 and $5
million that are going through X, Y, and Z and they are painting
that picture and they are describing in more detail what an
ideal opportunity looks like. They are going to get a lot more
mileage than one that doesn’t do that.

Trent: Yeah, that’s true. That’s really being clear who your customer
is and that’s something that everybody should be doing because
that makes it easier to get customers because when you find them
they are going to get so much more out of what you are saying.

Derek: The message then and the message today is that we are one of
the only professional organizations that I know of that is
vetting for intention and quality in addition to some of the
more tangible metrics. There are a lot of organizations out
there that are similar to ours, not really a competitor but they
are similar and it’s hey do you make X amount of money per year?
Do you have a certain role? Do you have a certain number of
employees?

I think that our price point automatically gets us to the right
people because clearly if somebody has a business where they are
making a certain amount of money that $500 would be 10 or 20
percent of their revenues they are not going to do it. We don’t
have to say you have to be doing this or you have to be doing
that. But, we are the only ones that aggressively vetting for do
you believe in word of mouth marketing? Are you in a position
where you can add value for other people because you are
informational with your clients and within your network? Are you
somebody that’s willing to do that knowing that you are going to
be around others that are going to be doing that for you?

Trent: Feverishly writing notes again. Wish I could write faster. Let
me keep the questions rolling. So Cadre started off from what I
understand as a very localized business because you needed to be
able to come and attend these lunches. You live in DC so I’m
guessing in the beginning it was only in DC?

Derek: Still is.

Trent: Still is?

Derek: Yep.

Trent: Do you have growth plans or do you plan to scale it nationally?
Where are you going from here?

Derek: I think we’re finally to the point now that we are feeling like
we are going to be able to do that and that’s the next move.
We’ve decided a while ago, if we wanted to loosen up on our
ideals or our culture of who we are looking for we could have
150 to 250 members at this point. Mark [has shared] and you’ve
had on this show before as a member of Cadre. He talks about
assignment selling a lot, which is this idea of you want to
really aggressively tell people that are not a good fit for your
business or for in my case for Cadre you want to let them know
on a website you want to let them figure that out.

Between the website and a phone call with me I’d say 70 percent of
the people, I’m making that up, but I bet 3 out of every 4
people that are interested in learning more either go to the
website or have a conversation with me end up not being a good
fit. So, getting DC to like 200 members was never a big goal but
what we’ve been doing with DC is we’ve been through heavily
surveying our members and having conversations with our members.

We actually closed off entry for any new members for a period of
about six months and we just reopened that about a month ago
because we were so focused on evolving our model and sort of
taking that next step. You can almost look like what we’re doing
in DC right now that’s how we’re establishing our product and
really honing on who is our ideal member? Who is going to really
benefit the most from this and how do we communicate with them?
How do we find the message that we want to deliver them? We are
basically using DC and continuing to evolve DC to help us get it
exactly right for when we want to take it to other markets
across the country.

Trent: You are writing a book. Does the book also play a role in that
or what’s the purpose behind the book and please do name the
book for us?

Derek: The book “Networking is Not Working,” where I’m stressing the
not part. It’s everything that happened. A lot of what I shared
earlier, what took place in my wealth management business. It
will mention Cadre very briefly just to establish some
additional credibility. Okay, if you are growing your business
and you are attending networking events, there’s probably a more
efficient way to do that. Here’s what I did in my wealth
management practice where I freed up the time. Because you had
asked this earlier too, a big part of the way I freed up my time
to do this is I stopped attending networking events two times a
week.

Trent: Yeah.

Derek: I stopped playing golf one or two times a week which was 5 or 6
hours of time each time I did that. That’s really where I was
focused and wanted to share in the book or the process I used to
build out this 25 person group that I had and the ways that I
was integrating the value that I was delivering to my clients
with my networking efforts to meet more of the right types of
individuals for my practice.

Trent: So, let’s use me as a guinea pig for an example. I’m going to
get super selfish here. Tomorrow my wife and I pack up the
moving truck and we move from San Diego to Boise, Idaho. I
basically know nobody in town. What should I do? I really would
love to build good, deep, meaningful relationships in the
business community. Many of whom will never buy anything from
me, but that’s just fine because I want I want to have those
relationships anyway.

Derek: Good for you.

Trent: I love the idea of having a Cadre of my own, but let me not
taint your answer. What should I do my first 30 days in town?

Derek: Well, I still feel like that spending time online is a great
way. I don’t have to convince you or your audience this is a
great way to meet people. I think Twitter is the greatest, large
networking event that anyone can participate in or “attend”
because you get to see who’s on there, what they’re talking
about. You’re not interrupting conversations that are not
relevant to you. You can see who shares your interests, who
shares your passions, and use that as a way to meet them. You
already know that so I won’t spend a lot of time saying okay go
to Twitter and meet people that way.

The larger networking events, honestly I mean I’m not going to tell
you to go to a Chamber of Commerce event, not that there’s
anything wrong with them. There will be other people there that
would be good for you to meet, but there’s probably going to be
a lot of people there that are going to waste your time and are
not going to be a good way for you to spend a couple of hours
talking to them or a variety of them, if you will.

I think it’s something that you have to have a long term approach to
this but anytime you can go to a larger event where’s there’s
something else there, there’s additional ways to “win” if you
will, that’s what I’ve always looked for. It’s not like I don’t
go to larger networking events anymore, but if I do go I am
going to attend the ones who have speakers, who have material
that I am interested in learning more about. That way if I don’t
meet anybody, if I don’t get any quality connections out of
that, out of attending it, then hopefully I learned something.
Then I can say it was a good use of my time because I got some
great ideas. Do you have any clients there now?

Trent: No.

Derek: If you do get some clients, if you do get some individuals that
might be prospective clients or just good people to talk to,
start asking them which events are you going to or I found this
event. Then they can bring somebody else along, or you can bring
somebody else along and it’s a way for you to expand your
network where even if this event ends up being a total stinker,
then you are spending additional time with somebody that you
already had a relationship with and you are able to get to know
the person that they brought along and they are able to get to
know the person that you brought along.

Trent: So, let me tell you what I was thinking as far as a plan and
you can tell me what you think.

Derek: Let’s do it.

Trent: They have a vibrant technology sector in Boise, much to my
pleasant surprise. I was planning on finding who the CEOs are of
the fastest growing companies reaching out to them all asking
them to be on my show. Of course, then having lunch with them
and then having a conversation of who else in town I should
meet. What events should I go to? What groups should I
participate in and just letting the garden grow from there.

Derek: Clearly, I wasn’t sure if, because you are in a very unique
spot, so you have this great podcast and it’s a great way for
you to add value so you absolutely should take that approach. I
think if I were you I would say look, I’m new to town and I have
this podcast. You want to have a conversation with them first
and you have some pretty aside from me you have some pretty
amazing guests on your show on a regular basis, so you want to
be somewhat selective on who you have on and who you are having
these conversations with, but the types of people you want to
meet it’s going to peak their interest and make them want to
learn more about you and give you the opportunity to learn more
about them.

Trent: You are right. It’s true. Having a podcast makes an unknown
door very easy and it’s one of the reasons why I encourage my
listeners to start a podcast because it is the most powerful
networking tool I have ever discovered. You can literally tweet
people in 140 characters or less and they’ll come on your show.
I’ve done that over and over again. You say I have all these
fabulous past guests. That’s how I got a lot of them. I just
sent them a tweet. Either they are doing it for selfish reasons
because they want to get exposure, which is fine. If they have
value to add, I don’t mind giving them the exposure.

But, there’s also a lot of them out there that simply just much like
yourself have a good message and want to share it if for no
other reason other than to help other entrepreneurs succeed. I
think that’s a common trait among successful entrepreneurs. They
really want to give back. They know when they were young and
getting started other people played a huge role in helping them
become successful. So it becomes a huge part of the DNA.

So, if you are not yet doing a podcast out their audience I really
encourage you. It’s not a hard thing to do at all. The equipment
costs, you can do it for under $100. It doesn’t sound quite as
good as this but you can spend under $100 to get a really nice
microphone.

Derek: Okay, something I’m thinking about man I feel like you are
talking to me as well.

Trent: You should be, Derek. You certainly have the voice for it. It’s
not that hard. It’s like anything. It’s uncomfortable the first
time that you try it and then you get better. Then you get an
email like I got the other day. I got to tell this. Some guy
wrote me and he told me I’m so incredibly boring that he wants
to chew his arm off when he listens to me drone on. I hope that
he is listening to this. The only reason he listens to my show
is because I have such incredibly interesting guests.

Derek: That’s awesome.

Trent: Normally I get emails that are the opposite of that they have
a lot of really nice things to say about the show, but that one
was the first.

Derek: I completely disagree. I like your personality and I like the
show a lot. I’m trying to think where I heard this. Maybe it was
a podcast with Seth Godin a couple of weeks ago. He said anybody
that gives you one star on Amazon or one star on iTunes they are
never going to buy your products or be a customer of yours or do
anything with you. He’s actually gotten to the point where he
doesn’t even read them anymore because it’s so
counterproductive.

It’s great that you are laughing about it. I’m sure that it’s a lot
easier to laugh at something like that when you are getting as
many great notes and all the great feedback that you are getting
from everyone else it complete dwarfs that number.

Trent: That is the truth and also when you decide to become a blogger
and a podcaster you in essence become something of a public
figure in your own little world. There’s always going to be
people out there that don’t like your stuff and some will have a
mission to tell you that they don’t like your stuff. It hurt in
the beginning. You don’t like hearing that. You get to the point
where you look at it, I actually called my wife, I was laughing
so hard, and I said you’ve got to come read this. This is
probably the best one ever.

Now, in his defense I don’t think he’s a bad guy. He’s probably
listening to this, so I don’t want him to think I’m hating on
him or anything because he actually, the next episode he
suggested that I stand up. So the next episode I stood up to see
if I could make my voice any more exciting. When I introduced
this show I made sure I put more inflection into my voice than I
normally did. I turned down the bass a little bit on my mixing
board, because I thought maybe I was making my voice sound a
little too much like that. So, I kind of messed around with
things a bit. It’s not like I didn’t pay attention to what he
said and he didn’t write it in a malicious way. I wasn’t
insulted. It was taken as constructive feedback but at the same
time it was pretty damn funny.

Derek: It was nice that you took his advice you were able to do that.
I am often told that my super hero trait is that I’m the guy who
will tell you that your baby is ugly. I don’t think I would tell
anybody that their baby is ugly but people come to me
specifically to shoot down an idea or strategy or something that
they are doing. When your feedback is positive and its good
those people tend to like the fact that you are doing it. It’s
like when Simon Cowell on American Idol tells you that you are
really good, it carries so much more weight than when Paula
Abdul tells you that you’re good.

But then the problem is that when you start telling people what they
don’t want to hear, then they don’t like it as much. I am trying
to get better at massaging how I am providing feedback or
criticism to those individuals without taking away from the
charm of being the guy that will tell you that I think what you
have stinks.

Trent: Absolutely. Let’s wrap this up. There’s going to be a link in
this show. Derek it might be helpful for you as well. I’ve
written how I’ve podcast in the past. My guide to podcasting,
but a past podcast guest of mine by the name of Dan Norris, this
guy is a content creation machine. I’m going to put a link to
his guide to podcasting because it’s better than mine. It goes
into so much more detail than I did. I would encourage anyone
who is listening to this that wants to have a podcast to go and
check that out.

Also, in the show notes that invitation from you Derek, so please do
make a note to send us that. The email template on how you got
the people to come to the webinar to get your Cadre off the
ground, so to speak. Before we wrap up I’d like to ask you two
more questions. One is, are there any other podcasts that you’ve
listened to and would recommend?

Derek: I assume you want me to answer that one first.

Trent: Yeah, go ahead.

Derek: Without being completely obvious let me think here. I listen to
several but I am trying to think of who I can recommend that
might not, I think Amy Porterfield has a new podcast that is
really good, that I get a lot out of. I would also say Rich
Brooks has started one recently on marketing agents. Do you know
Rich?

Trent: No, I don’t. If you would like to make an introduction that
would be wonderful.

Derek: Sure thing. I have a lot in my rotation. Entrepreneur on Fire,
I love Smart Passive Income, I love. The Human Business Way
from Chris Brogan. All of them are great. There are about 15 or
so I can keep going if you want but those are a few for you.

Trent: Okay. I’ll include links to all of those. So, sorry the Human
Business Way?

Derek: The Human Business Way is a podcast that Chris Brogan does.

Trent: Okay, all right I’ll link to all of those.

Derek: I like Lewis Howes a lot, School of Greatness.

Trent: Okay. I’ll put that one down, School of Greatness. Then let’s
finish up with one book recommendation.

Derek: One book recommendation. I got to tell you it’s fairly new and
so it’s unlikely anyone has recommended it yet but Jay Baer new
book “Youtility”. Have you read it?

Trent: I have not.

Derek: Have you heard of it?

Trent: I have.

Derek: Youtility spelled Y-O-Utility. The basic premise is that so
many of us in business spend so much of our time trying to be
mind blowingly awesome. Over the top special. What Jay suggests
which I completely agree with is that we could probably get a
lot more mileage on focusing on how we can just be more useful.

I gave an example of that I think with the ultimate tie breaker where
I could have stayed awake for an extra two or three hours a
night and focused all my time, energy, and effort on how to
create a financial plan that was .001 percent better than it
already was or I could spend that time learning my clients
businesses and figuring out ways I can add value for them above
and beyond what I do.

So, the premise in the book is a lot of great suggestions for whether
it be apps. Whether it be events. It just a lot of great ideas
for ways that you can be useful and add value for your clients
and prospective clients.

The other sort of angle is that you Youtility is about creating
marketing that people want and there’s this huge competition and
you’re competing against friends and parents and spouses and
everyone else. Your email, Facebook and all those people are
already interesting to your ideal target audience. If your
emails or your newsfeed updates are going to remain relevant or
get opened by your community, then what you are sharing has to
be as relevant as what they are sharing.

I think obviously with the changes recently made by Gmail and
Facebook we already all know that they are not showing your
updates to 85 percent of your fans anyways. Just really figuring
out how can I remain relevant and useful and really help the
people that I want to reach so when I do have something I want
to sell they are much more likely to open it and be interested
in it.

Trent: Very good advice. And, finally if people would like to learn
more about Cadre what is your link to that?

Derek: Cadre is C-A-D-R-E-D-C.COM. CadreDC is also my Twitter handle.
I am going to be shifting especially as we look to expanding and
grow Cadre. I am going to be shifting my platform over to my
name dotcom, derekcoburn.com. That should be up in about a
month. I am going to start blogging. For people that go there
and give me their email address. It may come eventually, Trent,
after listening to all the benefits of your show. I don’t have
Infusionsoft set up right now. I am not going to be sending out
any sort of immediate emails. It’s just give me your email
address and I’ll let you know when the book is coming out
because I am going to have it available for free for 48 hours on
Amazon.

Trent: Cool. All right I want to thank you very much, Derek, for
coming on my show. Hopefully no one had to chew their arm off
because I was too boring.

Derek: Or because I was too boring either.

Trent: I’ve done over 100 of these things. I think we did a good job.
I don’t think we have to lose any sleep that anybody is going to
lose any arms today. Let’s wrap it up. Thank you so much for
being on the show and I want to keep in touch with you.

Derek: Great, man. Same here. Thanks’ for the opportunity, Trent.

Trent: Take care. To get to the show notes for this episode all you
need to do is go to brightideas.co/73. If you really enjoyed
this episode I would love it if you would head over to
brightideas.co/love where you will find a pre-populated tweet
and also you will find a link to the iTunes store. That’s
probably even more important than the Tweet. If you would take a
moment to go and leave a five star rating in the iTunes store I
cannot tell you how much I would appreciate your taking a moment
to do that. It helps the show get more exposure.

That’s it for this episode. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid. Thank you
very much for being a listener. If you have not yet visited my
blog you can get to it at brightideas.co. I look forward to
seeing you there. Make sure you become a subscriber so you never
miss another episode. I look forward to seeing you in another
episode soon. Take care.

About Derek Coburn

DerekCDerek is the Co-founder and CEO of cadre, an un-networking community for successful professionals in Washington, DC, a partner with Washington Financial Group (a wealth management firm) and author of the soon-to-be-released book, Networking Is NOT Working.

Derek is married to Melanie (the other co-founder of cadre) and has two boys and a pitbull mix.

You can reach out to Derek via Twitter (https://twitter.com/cadredc) or visit his website at www.derekcoburn.com.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Grow a Remarkable Agency Using Proven Small Business Marketing Tactics with Mike Michalowicz

mikefeatured

Each year Americans start one million new businesses, nearly 80 percent of which fail within the first five years. Under such pressure to stay alive—let alone grow—it’s easy for entrepreneurs to get caught up in a never-ending cycle of “sell it—do it, sell it—do it” that leaves them exhausted, frustrated, and unable to get ahead no matter how hard they try.

This is the exact situation Mike Michalowicz found himself in when he was trying to grow his first company. Although the business was making steady money, there was never very much left over and he was chasing customers left and right, putting in twenty-eight-hour days, eight days a week. The punishing grind never let up. His company was alive but stunted, and he was barely breathing. That’s when he discovered an unlikely source of inspiration—pumpkin farmers.

After reading an article about a local farmer who had dedicated his life to growing giant pump­kins, Michalowicz realized the same process could apply to growing a business. He tested the Pumpkin Plan on his own company and transformed it into a remarkable, multimillion-dollar industry leader. First he did it for himself. Then for others. And now you. So what is the Pumpkin Plan?

Listen to the Audio

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

Ask Me a Question

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How CallLoop Used Infusionsoft to Achieve a 10x Increase in Lead Generation

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ChrisBrisson

Have you ever taken a moment to think about what makes Apple, Amazon, DropBox, Zappos, and GoDaddy so successful?

Each of them is well known for one particular thing. Take DropBox, for example. Early on they realized that the only way to compete was to create a viral signup process.

Judging from the fact that everyone and their dog is now using DropBox, I’d say they got it right.

What do you think these other companies are so well known for?

In today’s episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Chris Brisson, CEO of Call Loop – a fast growing software company that integrates services you already use to help grow your subscriber base automatically, while making it easy to send targeted voice and text messages. Call Loop was just awarded best in class for online sales by Infusionsoft for their 2013 Ultimate Marketer Awards, and I asked Chris to be on the show to share what he’s doing and why it’s working so well.

In Chris and I’s conversation, you are going to hear us talk about:

  • his sales funnel and why his firm was selected as best in class for online sales
  • why he chose each of these well know companies to model
  • which part of each company he is modeling
  • where he’s spending time to discover their strategies
  • how he’s using their strategies in his own marketing automation
  • how he is using webinars to generate sales
  • which software tools he’s using to automate every step of the pre-webinar and post-webinar process
  • why multi-channel marketing is so important
  • how to get started with marketing automation and Infusionsoft
  • and so much more…

If you want to hear from a guy who eats and sleeps marketing automation, then this interview is not to be missed.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Watch Now

Download and Listen Later

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About Chris Brisson

ChrisBrissonCofounder of Call Loop, Chris Brisson started his first internet venture in 2002 at the age of 19 out of his college apartment in Tallahassee, FL and 3 years later he sold this company to a private investor. Chris is known for his cutting-edge marketing strategies and over the years has launched several brand new products for himself and clients which went on to become six figure and many cases seven figure businesses.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

Ask Me a Question

If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can share it by clicking here. We’d love to hear from you.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Start an Online Business an Interview with Bryan Allain

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bryanallain

Have you ever thought about how to start an online business, but find that you are held back for one reason or another?

Do you have a family to support and wonder how to make the transition with the least amount of risk?

Would you like to hear how a guy who worked as a chemical engineer for 14 years successfully made the switch?

In this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Bryan Allain, long time blogger, husband, father of two and founder of Killer Tribes.

In this interview, you are going to hear Bryan and I discuss:

  • the financial plan that he and his wife came up with to minimize the risk of the transition
  • how they built planks on their transition bridge before finally taking the leap
  • how’s he’s building a loyal following of bloggers who buy coaching and consulting from him
  • how he has sold over 4,000 copies of his first book on Amazon
  • how he launched a live conference in Nashville (not his home town) in his first year and actually turned a profit doing it
  • the breakdown of the cost to host his conference, as well as the revenue he generated
  • how he recruited speakers to come present, either for free, or for a fraction of their usual fee
  • how content marketing should play a role in your business
  • how to find ideas to write about
  • how to easily create thoughtful and informative posts that people will love to read
  • and so much more….

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Watch The Interview Now

Download and Listen Later

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About Bryan Allain

How to Start a Online Business with Bryan AllainBryan Allain is a 36-year old former Chemical Engineer who now makes a living helping other people find their fans, extend their reach and build their killer tribes.

He launched Killer Tribes in 2010 because he loves helping people find their voice, share about their passions, connect with others and grow their brand. There are so many folks out there with a valuable message to share who aren’t sure how to get that message to more people.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

Ask Me a Question

If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can share it by clicking here. We’d love to hear from you.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: The Top 3 Proven Strategies for Growing an Agency with Tony Mikes

tonymikes

Are you part of a small agency team with a burning desire to create a larger agency?

Do you wonder about the best strategy to grow your firm?

Would you like to hear from a veteran who’s owned agencies as well as consulted for over 700 others?

In this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by industry veteran Tony Mikes, founder of Second Wind, a firm dedicated to helping your company be a better agency.

In today’s thoughtful discussion, you are going to hear Tony and I talk about:

  • His 3 Step plan for growth
  • A process for how to make your agency more interesting (so you’ll get more business)
  • The importance of systems and how to know which ones to focus on
  • How to develop a Management by Objective (MBO) plan to guide your agency in the future
  • The biggest challenge faced by small agencies and how to address it
  • The top 2 services that agencies should be offering to their clients on retainer
  • A blogging strategy that will virtually guarantee your prospects see you in a favorable light
  • The top 3 trends Tony sees for agencies in 2013
  • And so much more…

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Watch Now

Download and Listen Later

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About Tony Mikes

tonymikesSecond Wind’s chief guru and managing director Anthony P. Mikes is a former advertising executive who spent twenty-five years managing and owning advertising agencies and graphic design studios. Mr. Mikes came to recognize the value of shared information as it relates to successfully managing an advertising agency. Second Wind (Mr. Mikes’ second life in advertising) was the result.

Eighteen years later, Second Wind continues to help its members succeed and grow by sharing its collective industry wisdom.

Mr. Mikes conducts agency management workshops, serves as a management consultant to individual agencies, and has addressed many advertising associations and trade organizations. He is also a contributing writer to numerous industry trade publications.

Mr. Mikes shares his industry know-how monthly in The Second Wind Newsletter, an overview of the advertising and design industry from the smaller agency principal’s viewpoint. You can read the compiled wisdom of Mr. Mikes in The Small Agency Survival Manual, LifeBlood: A 365-Days-A-Year New Business Plan for Small Agencies and The Account Service Bible.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

Ask Me a Question

If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can share it by clicking here. We’d love to hear from you.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Disrupt an Industry and Make a Million Dollars Doing It: An Interview with Jeremy Yamaguchi

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JeremyYamaFeature

Imagine running a company that generates over a million dollars per year in an industry where your competition barely has a clue how to keep up with you.

What would that look like?

In today’s episode, I interview Jeremy Yamaguchi, founder of GoldenShine.com and in this interview, you are going to hear Jeremy tell the story of how he started his company as a side project 3 years ago, and, thanks to some very smart online marketing, combined with some clever automation, the business is on track for 7 figures this year.

And to think, it all started because his wife was laid off.
This is a fascinating interview, and the lessons that Jeremy is going to share are applicable to virtually any local service business.

In this interview, you are going to hear Jeremy explain:

  • how he came up with the idea
  • what the first version looked like
  • how he knew that the opportunity was bigger than he originally thought
  • what he did next to capitalize on that opportunity
  • how he drives organic traffic to his site
  • how he’s expanding into new markets (and driving traffic)
  • and so much more…

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Watch Now

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Enjoyed this Interview? Here’s How To Leave us a Positive Review on iTunes!

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Transcript

Trent: Hi there, Bright Idea hunters. Thank you so much for joining me for
this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and
this is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to learn how
to use online marketing and sales automation tactics and strategies to
massively boost their business. And on the show with me to tell you exactly
how he has done that is my friend Jeremy Yamaguchi. Jeremy, welcome to the
show.Jeremy: Hey, Trent, happy to be here.Trent: All right, after much trouble I think we have the sound figured out.
So, for the folks in the audience, Jeremy, who don’t know who you are,
please tell us who you are and what do you do?Jeremy: So, my name is Jeremy Yamaguchi. I have a background in user
interface design, web programming, new media marketing, branding, and logo
design, somewhere along those lines. I actually ran a website design and
development firm for a number of years and I’m currently running a company
called Golden Shine Cleaning Agency. And what we’re doing is we’re taking a
high-tech, high-touched approach to a traditionally low-tech sector of
being household cleaning services.Trent: All right. So, gut reaction. Now, I know the story, so I know
there’s a big story here, but somebody listening might be going, “Household
cleaning, yeah, what’s the fun of that?” But you’ve achieved some pretty
phenomenal results, so talk to us just real quick about the business model,
how it works, and how much revenue you’re generating, and how many
customers you’ve got.Jeremy: So, it’s essentially housecleaning. That’s what it comes down to.
It’s as interesting as it sounds, let’s say. And the beauty of the business
model in and of itself is that it’s recurring in nature, so you don’t have
to continually replace your client base. Once you sign up a customer, you
can retain them for years, assuming you’re doing your job well. And in
terms of our performance as a company, we have been revolutionizing the
local industry, to put it simply. We have been around it for about three
years and we have over a million dollars in projected revenue for 2012. We
have over 4,800 customers and really we’re disrupting the space.Trent: Four thousand, eight hundred customers, that’s plenty of customers.
And you really the core of your business how these customers are finding
you, and the whole marketing, and that’s why you’re on the show, is
everything is happening online, is that correct?Jeremy: Oh, absolutely. That’s where the high-tech part of high-tech, high-
touched comes in. Yeah, that’s a story in and of its self, and I’m sure
we’ll talk about that.Trent: Indeed, we will. All right, so for the people – there’s going to be
people in this audience who maybe haven’t started a business yet, and there
are some people in my audience who are already running a business. They
always want to know more about the guest and your background. I know you
just alluded to it very briefly, but what were you doing before you started
this company?Jeremy: Well, I do have a background in web development and interface
design, so that spans prints, old media, new media, all of that. I ran, and
actually still continue to run a new media marketing firm. We build
websites. We do branding. We do SEO. We do all sorts of stuff. I handle
social media campaigns, and that’s my background. I would traditionally
work with I guess you would call it, “clients in more sexy industries,” as
it were.And that is really where the opportunity came in is applying that sexy to
what is probably somewhat less than sexy of an industry – housecleaning.
So, that’s really my background and where my skill set comes in.Trent: Do you think, though, how much of having that background enabled you
to be successful in this business, because building your websites are not
particularly tricky these days?

Jeremy: Sure. Well, let’s just say that we build a lot more than websites.
Part of our advantage in this business – it’s multifaceted. There are two
sides to it. There’s the client side, which is our advertising advantage
and the fact that we can present ourselves in a fashion that a lot of our
competitors can only dream of. And then, there’s the operation side the
back end. And that’s where being a web programmer has been very
advantageous.

I built an operations management system. It’s proprietary web-based
software that automates a ton of our processes, and it not only makes us
more efficient and builds our profit, but it also allows us to provide
profoundly better service than our competitors can through the use of
technology. You know that’s our distinct technological advantage.

Trent: Okay. So, let’s walk through – well, I want to start at the
beginning. So, I know you got this idea I think when you said your wife was
laid off. She – correct me if I’m wrong – she said she liked cleaning
houses, and so originally, you just kind of threw up a quick site, put some
ads on Craigslist and you got some leads and some business from that, is
that correct?

Jeremy: Exactly. It’s a classic recession story, almost. My wife was laid
off for a day at work. We needed to fill that gap and said, “Hey, what do I
like doing? I like cleaning, maybe that’ll work.” And I said, “Why don’t I
build a website and see what kind of traction it gets.” And we posted it to
Craigslist, got a substantially larger number of leads than I expected, and
that’s where I guess the – that’s where it clicked, as it were. And I
realized that this industry is in fact pretty ripe for disruption, and
we’ve been going strong ever since.

Trent: All right. So, the key take away from that, that I really wanted
people to understand is your first version was really cheap and really
fast. Throw up just a bare bones – you didn’t build any of this back end
automation or any of this fancy stuff, correct? You just put up a basic
website, put an ad on Craigslist.

Jeremy: Sure, absolutely. Yeah, it was I mean I’m not going to say it was
hideous, because as a designer and something of a perfectionist it was
okay, but it was okay in that it was built in a day, so you could take that
as far as you can, but it wasn’t amazing, no.

Trent: The point is, is you were able to get a lot of real validation that
you – that this business had plenty of opportunity before you invested a
bunch of money. And that’s something that I think is very – it stands in a
lot of people’s way, in that they think that they have to do too much and
put too much capital at risk. Where they spend doing market research, and I
think that the best market research in the world is to throw up a shingle
and say, “Do you want to buy?”

And in your experience that’s exactly what happened, all right. So, you did
that for a while, and then you figured out, “Okay, we need to grow this
business, and bring in some automation, and some more advanced technology.”
So, kind of walk us through that process. What happened next?

Jeremy: You know it’s not so much as a single next step as much as it is a
continual iterative process of improvement. It goes from improving our
marketing on the SEO front. That’s a story in and of its self. You know how
to rank great, and as someone familiar with SEO you know that all too well,
improving on our rankings, getting a lot of great leads through web search,
through other advertising channels. And then it’s also iterating on the
back end.

Really, it’s in a sense kind of akin to the whole lean startup approach of
building as you learn. You do something. You assess its impact on your
business, and you either replace it with another test or attempts or you
keep it if it’s performing wonderfully. And you have this feedback loop
where you continually try to improve all aspects of your business from your
presentation from the client side, to the operation side, and it’s a daily
process. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working to improve this business on
every end of it.

Trent: Yeah, that’s the joy of being online is that we never lack for data
on what’s working and what isn’t working.

Jeremy: Sure.

Trent: So, what was the next step? And so we’ve got business coming in from
Craigslist, and then you realized that you – did you realize you needed
more business or did you realize you needed more automation, because you
were already finding inefficiency with the first business that was coming
in?

Jeremy: Well, it was probably more business, because while I originally
built this site as an experiment to see, “Hey, can I get my wife a cleaning
job or two?” You know I quickly realized that that wasn’t the end goal,
here, and that there was much greater market and opportunity that I could
pursue. And at that point it was – it started drawing a lot more of my
focus from my other business to this, pursuing all the marketing efforts,
all of which have – well, most of which have been totally web-centric, up
to this point.

And from Craigslist we basically started an SEO campaign. Built out a
sizable website with a lot of great content, and started doing various
things to rank. That was essentially the next step, as far as I remember.

Trent: Okay, okay. That’s what I was looking for was that next step. So,
your SEO strategy was it – well, you go ahead and explain it, I’m assuming
it’s probably a long-tail strategy of some kind, but I’ll let you explain.

Jeremy: You know it’s actually all of the – it’s all of the tail. You know
if you search for the generic term “housecleaning” at the moment, and
you’re in San Diego, Google considers that to be a geo-specific search
term. So, it’ll give you a local result, and we have the number one result
for the head term “housecleaning” if you’re searching from our service
region. Also, we have targeted a ton of long-tail. I mean long-tail being
what it is that it’s hundreds and hundreds of keywords that we ranked for
that are more obscure, but that do add up to quite a significant amount of
traffic. So, we’ve targeted that, as well.

Now as far as how we target that it’s the whole smorgasbord of SEO
optimization from getting authoritative articles and back links, to we’ve
created some amazing info graphics that have actually received some great
traffic for us across Twitter, the social media sphere. And that’s resulted
in some great traction for us, and a definite jump in rankings. We really
tried a lot of things and a number of them have worked sufficiently well
that we are now ranking amazingly for the terms that we care about.

Trent: And how much content is on the site, currently? How many posts?

Jeremy: I couldn’t answer that off the top of my head, but I would say
we’ve probably got 60 blog posts, and we’ve got maybe 40 inner pages across
the site. It’s not a shallow website. It’s got some depth to it. Of course,
it could be. It’s not 10,000 pages or anything like that, but we also have
somewhat of a stringent quality standard that doesn’t allow us to just
explode out with tons of copy. We don’t release anything that doesn’t sound
– that doesn’t have the tone that we’re aiming for as business. We try to
control that – our message very, very tightly.

Trent: And in terms of ongoing content, so do you have an editorial
calendar? Are you continually adding new content, and if so what frequency,
and how long are these articles that are – that make up a post.

Jeremy: Yeah, we add content on a regular basis. We’ve actually expanded.
We’re not just in San Diego. We’ve expanded the operation now Orange County
and Los Angeles, and each of those expansions come with their own website,
complete with unique copy, which is a lot of copyrighting, and their own
blog. So, we try to post at least every other week to our blogs, and those
are three blogs, at the moment.

As we continue to expand we’re going to have maybe five or six blogs
running concurrently, and that’s a lot of high quality that you are going
to have to create. We don’t post anything that doesn’t – that isn’t
awesome. And maybe, it’s not all awesome. You can’t expect everything to be
amazing, but we have very high standards for the stuff that we release, and
that has proven to be one of the greatest challenges that we’ve faced, is
coming up with really great high quality and contextually relevant content
to post across our various websites.

Trent: So, you mentioned more than one blog. You mean GoldenShine.com not
the only blog, now. There are others?

Jeremy: No, as we’ve expanded to other regions we actually have – there’s a
few different you can take on SEO when you want to target various
geographic regions you can go with the subdomain, or the subfolder. So, you
could do GoldenShine.com/orange-county as our Orange County recommended
profile. I opted to go with whole domains, so we have
cleaningorangecounty.com is our Orange County website. We’ve got
hellocleaning.com as our L.A. website, and as we expand we’ve gone the
route of standalone domains, with very geo-specific content. As I tend to
think that that is a better approach to ranking across geographic regions,
rather than just creating more targeted content under the goldenshine.com
domain name.

Trent: Okay, and for the listeners who are listening to this and don’t have
access to the web right now, I’m just pulling up some of those other sites,
and the name on them is still Golden Shine, and the branding is still
consistent. So, you’ve kept that consistent across these various blogs.

Jeremy: Oh, absolutely. It’s an optimization effort. In a perfect world
we’d be under one domain, with one brand, but this was something that I
decided to pursue as I think it’s more advantageous on the rankings front
than going with Orange County subsections under the goldenmshine.com
domain.

Trent: Okay. Now, you talked a lot about just a minute or two ago, about
producing this high quality content. So, talk to us a little bit about how
it’s produced. Are you using 1099 riders? Are you going to Elance? How are
you getting it done?

Jeremy: Actually, I’ve tried just about everything. I’ve used professional
copywriters. I’ve used Elance. I haven’t tried Fiber yet, as I’m not
certain that the quality that you would get for five bucks would be – would
meet our standards, but I have a – actually we have some employees who
we’ve hired for a variety of functions, one of which is good copywriting
skills. And they actually write a lot of the copy for our blogs. And we’ve
been very lucky in that they’re pretty good. And they’ve been able to
consistently deliver high quality content, that has been to our standards,
and that’s how we actually get a lot of the content that we post, now.

I do also work with various 1099 copywriters, and freelance copywriters, as
well, because we are kind of an insatiable beast when it comes to web copy.
We can use as much as can get. So, I really – I’ve used most of the options
available at the source for great copy, and while it’s hard to find, you
can find the people who do, in fact, write very well at reasonable rates.

Trent: And are you when you decide to add a new piece of content, are you
choosing the keyword first, and then creating content around that keyword,
or how do you decide what you’re going to write about?

Jeremy: You know honestly I think our foremost concern is to create
something that is interesting to our customer base, and also that’s
contextually relevant. You know that has to do with cleaning of some
variety. Maybe it’s cleaning tips like how to clean your wooden floors, and
that’s somewhat of a niche article in that not everyone has wood floors,
but we found that that’s interesting enough to our client base that we’ll
get some decent interaction from our audience both in the form of shares in
other social media distribution.

And that’s really how we enter into all of this. We want to create
something that’s interesting to the read first and foremost. With SEO being
the secondary benefit. We’re not just creating posts for the sole fact that
we might be able to get some long-tailed keywords stacked up a random
searcher once a year. It’s more that we want content that puts us in a
position where we are authoritative. Where the reader and visitor does
understand that we know what we’re talking about. That we have experience
in this industry, and that boosts our credibility and it also provides a
value to the reader. It’s genuinely valuable content that they will take
away good information from and hopefully share with their friends.

Trent: Plus it’s going that when you have good quality content you’re going
a long way to nurture your needs. I was interviewing a fellow by the name
of Jay [Baer] yesterday, and in the interview we were talking about this
topic of lead nurturing and he said, “You know everyone has questions that
they want answers to before they’re going to buy anything from you. And
there are some people have three questions, some people have 10 questions,
some people have more than that, and your content, if it’s well-written,
I’m assuming for you guys, is doing a good job of helping to answer these
questions, and therefore establish trust credibility and rapport with your
perspective customers.

Jeremy: Sure. Yeah, that’s one of the goals, and certainly, I would say the
primary goal of any content that we write.

Trent: So, in looking at, and I’m on Hello Cleaning, right now. How much of
the traffic is coming to these sites from SEO versus say paid media buys?

Jeremy: Well, it varies per property. So, for goldenshine.com, which is our
San Diego website and really the mother ship, if you will. So, it’s
majority organic. So, we get a lot of traffic from organic search, because
we’re ranking so well, organically. The other sites because they’re recent
expansions, organics can take a while to do and materialize, regardless of
how well you optimize. So, that’s a mix of PBC and other media buys across
the web, as well as some offline marketing, actually, some old media stuff
that we’ve been piloting and seeing how it works out.

So, it varies from property to property, but I would definitely say we’re
paying more for our visitors on the newer websites than we are on Golden
Shine, which happens to rank much better.

Trent: Okay. So, when I arrive at Golden Shine, however I get there, I’m
going to land most likely on a blog post as opposed to the home page, if
I’ve come organically pending upon the search term that I punched in. Would
you say that that’s accurate, or where are people landing most commonly?

Jeremy: I think the whole site is pretty well optimized, but the home page
is the authoritative page on the website, as you would expect. So, it
definitely sees the most traffic of any given page across the site, but I
guess that’s the whole long-tail versus head term question. Does a long-
tail add up to substantially more traffic than the head term, even though
the head term in and of its self, it worth more than any individual long-
tail term. I would say that it’s probably almost 50/50. We get as much
traffic from the head terms, the housecleaning, or the San Diego
housecleaning, or housecleaning San Diego, San Diego maid service stuff
like that, then as we do from longer tail terms, like how to clean hard
water deposits, or stuff like that.

Trent: Yeah, so let’s talk about the conversion process. The traffic’s
coming to me the call to action looks like the “get a quote” button or the
phone number. Both are in the top right hand portion of the screen. Is
there another call to action that I don’t see, or is that it?

Jeremy: That’s our ultimate goal for any given visitor. We want them to get
a quote. And they, yeah, they can call us. They can do it through the
website its self, that’s their choice.

Trent: Do you have metrics on the percentage of leads that you’re getting
from the “get a quote” button versus the phone number?

Jeremy: Yeah, I think we get about 50% of what we get by phone that we get
from web based conversions. So, you know if 100 people convert online,
we’ll get another 50% back on.

Trent: Okay. So, when you talked earlier in the interview about automation,
and that’s the area that I want to dig a little deeper into now. Because in
a service business like this where you are using a large number of
subcontractors, are they subcontractors or employees? Because I know we
talked about this a while ago. You had an incident, you had – so, which one
is it?

Jeremy: Yeah, they are independent contractors. We are what’s called the
domestic referral agency, which is a specific big business-type that we can
form in the State of California. And it allows us to refer independent
contractors to homes across Southern California.

Trent: Okay. So, you have a – there’s a reasonable number of people in that
pool of subcontractor so you have a lot of moving parts to manage,
scheduling, quality assurance, payment all that stuff. So, can you talk a
little bit about some of the back end automation, how you’ve made this
business more efficient so that you can actually turn a decent profit at
it.

Jeremy: Well, the system that I’ve built it’s called our operations
management system, for lack of a better name. But it automates things from
scheduling to it’s a CRM, so it handles customer records, feedback. It
handles alerts. It’ll e-mail our customers before their jobs, and they’ll
know to expect our housekeeper, which reduces the lock-out incidence rate.
You know so housekeepers don’t show up and have no one there.

It handles all sorts of stuff from reporting both on our conversion
tracking, and performance on that front, as well as it has some pretty
awesome feedback loops for housekeeper performance, as well, which allows
us to provide better, higher quality housekeepers to our customers.

So, because it allows us to analyze their performance and continue on with
those who are doing amazingly and give them preference when it comes to new
clients. If someone who has a great record and gets like some of the great
feedback, requests a job, they’re going to get it over someone who has a
lower quality performance record. So, that ensures that we’re sending the
best possible housekeeper to our clients, and it’s a great quality boost on
that front.

Trent: So, if I’m understanding this correctly you’ve got for lack of a
more detailed explanation, kind of an Amazon type rating system where your
customer is coming back after the fact and saying, “Hey, that was a four
star cleaning, or a five star cleaning, or no that wasn’t a very good
cleaning.” That information’s then going into the database and in some way
interacting with the record for each of your subcontractors, and assigning
them a score. Would that be fair to say?

Jeremy: Yes.

Trent: And then, when new jobs go into the schedule, and these
subcontractors are receiving I’m guessing some kind of notification that
there are new jobs for them to go and grab, somewhere in the math you have
made it so that those subcontractors who have a higher score can take
precedence in some way shape or form to get the job or do they get the
notification? How does that work?

Jeremy: Well, as part of the system it’s not just on our end. This
operation software actually is extended out to the housekeepers that we
work with, and plus jobs. So, as the job comes in it’ll be visible to all
of our housekeepers and they can say, “Yeah, I want that Thursday at 9:00
a.m.” And we will see that six or seven housekeepers requested a specific
job, and we can dispatch to the highest performing housekeeper as opposed
to just sending to the first person who contacts us and say they want it,
so then – go ahead.

Trent: Okay, so then. That’s what I was trying to understand the dispatch
process is that still a human interaction process where someone on your
team is saying, “Hey, we’ve got this job. It came from 123 Some Street in
L.A. and here are the six subcontractors that are bidding on it. This one
has the highest score therefore I’m going to assign the job to that
person.”

Jeremy: Exactly. Yeah, there has to be the human review, because you’ve got
to make a judgment call and say, “Is this the best person for the job?”
There’s also an additional factor in here, which is that across the level
of good housekeepers, there are fast housekeepers who are just very
efficient and get through homes real quickly, and that there are really
slow but incredibly detailed housekeepers that will clean things with a
toothbrush.

And what constitutes good, is somewhat relative to the [home]. So that’s
where our office staff has to come in and do a great job. And they do a
great job of this, of pairing housekeepers to customers for their tastes.
So, it can’t simply be boiled down to ratings, the five star housekeeper
always gets the job, because you might have a few five star
housekeepers requesting a job and it’s a matter of interpreting the needs
of the customer, and pairing them with the best possible housekeeper for
their needs. And that’s how you get great result, all around.

Trent: And repeat customers.

Jeremy: Precisely, which is the bread and butter of the business.

Trent: All right. So, we could probably continue on down that rabbit hole
of automation for ever and ever, and ever, but without people being – for
those who are listening to this – without seeing interfaces and so forth,
it would probably be not as beneficial. So, I’m going to shift gears here
and I wanted to ask you about the product launch. Did you have any kind of
formal launch for this? Or was this very much just an organic, it just kind
of built slowly over time?

Jeremy: It’s entirely organic and that’s probably due to the fact that it
was a secondary pursuit for me for a long time, because of the demands of
my website design and development firm. That sucks most of my attention,
and this was something that I saw as an opportunity and pursued kind of
with gradually greater interest. You know as time progressed and then as I
saw more and more traction, and began to realize the opportunity, I was
able to devote more and more time to it. But it wasn’t something that I
spent six months building, and then tech-crunched out of the gate to get
things off. It was very organic in that sense.

Trent: And how about the new site in Orange County, and L.A? Was there a
launch strategy for those? Was there anything you did in particular or did
you just simply put the sites up and then start to purchase traffic, start
to optimize by creating content, and over time traffic just sort of built?

Jeremy: That’s mostly what we do. I mean we’ll throw out a press release
and let people know, but given the noise it’s not exactly brand new news
that’s going to be repeated everywhere that you get your news that a
housecleaning company expanded to another geographic region. So, we haven’t
beaten too many drums over the patch, but it is definitely something that
we throw some stuff out there and we get some interest. And it’s mostly
just launching all of the region is the primary effort there when we do
build a new site and expand into a new region. It’s a lot of work and it’s
getting all of that set up and humming along smoothly that’s really the
launch, effectively.

Trent: Are you building a list of perspective customers with this? Like, I
don’t see what you see is so common. As you know, “Hey, download free
report, give me your e-mail address, that kind of thing.” Are you doing
anything like that? I just haven’t seen it, yet?

Jeremy: No, we don’t have any white papers or anything like that. In a
sense our credibility builder as it were is our blog or our various blogs,
and that’s where we build an audience. That’s where we establish ourselves
as experts in the field, which we quite frankly are. And that’s what we do
in lieu of a download or something like that.

Trent: But, without a list if you wanted to offer a special or a coupon or
this or that or the other thing, you can’t reach out and say, “Hey, come
get this discount coupon for this weekend.” And I know in my business the
list is everything. It’s the most valuable asset, so why wondering why you
chose not to go down that road.

Jeremy: Well, the thing is, is that we do in fact have a mailing list, and
it’s first and foremost we have our mailing list which is our existing
customers, and up until very recently we had an opt-in box on the website,
“sign up for our mailing list for news, tips, tricks and deals from Golden
Shine Cleaning Agency.”

And we did see some interest there, but that was a call that I made to
remove that sign-up list, quite frankly because we didn’t have the time to
reach on the regular basis to our existing list. We weren’t essentially as
much advantage of it as we could. And being that that was the case and had
been for some time, I made a call to remove the mailing list call to action
from the site, because it did detract from our primary call to action,
which is to get a quote for your home.

And as the saying goes, “When you emphasize everything, you emphasize
nothing” and I wanted to reduce the things that we were emphasizing and
kind of pitching to a website visitor in order to focus on the things that
were really the most important to us.

Trent: Okay. Every business owner has a period I call it the, “Oh, beep
moment.” Where stuff hits the fan, things go drastically wrong, and I’m
wondering if you had an incident like that at all in the last three years,
or maybe you had more than one?

Jeremy: The Valley of Sorrow. Yeah, you know we – yeah, I’ve definitely
been through that. In our particular case it came in the form of a letter
from the employment development department letting us know that we were
being audited for employment classification purposes. So, they just wanted
to make sure that the housekeepers that we work with are correctly
classified as independents, so we’re operating under all the regulations
and that we’re in compliance with the civil code that we operate under as a
domestic’s referral agency.

And thankfully, we were. We passed that audit just fine, because we were in
fact compliant, but it’s never a pleasant thing to receive a letter from a
state or government agency, particularly if it has “audit” in the title.
And that I would say is definitely the “Oh, bleep moment,” as it were, so
far. I’m sure there’s going to be a few more occasions where I have my day
promptly ruined by something I received in the mail, but as of yet, that’s
been the primary source of stress. But that’s behind us; thankfully I’m
proud to report.

Trent: So, we’re going to wrap up here quickly – fairly shortly rather. I’m
having trouble speaking today – fairly soon, and before we do that a couple
things. I want to know in case there are people who are listening to this
who are thinking that, “Hey, maybe they want to be able to do some kind of
business with you, or they want to partner with you.” What are some of your
plans for this future, and how can people get a hold of you?

Jeremy: Well, right now it’s now of what we’ve done to date. We are working
on expanding out to other geographic regions. We’re currently focused on
California for the moment, but we certainly are interested in scaling on a
more national level given the opportunity and the time, really it’s what it
comes down to.

And then, we’re also still at the continual process of improvement,
iterating on what we’re currently doing, and figuring out a way to do it
better, whether that’s our customer service, and the way that we deal with
problems when they do arise, or the way that we attract new clients in our
marketing, the client facing end of things. That’s something that I think
there’s always room for improvement on that front. And that’s something
that we are definitely pursuing on a continual basis.

If people feel like they can help contribute in that sense, I am all ears.
I’m always open for new ideas to see what kind of products people have that
can help move us forward in any of those various directions.

Trent: Okay. One last question just popped into my mind. The software, are
you using open source, and putting existing objects together or did you
just start with Note Pad and write from scratch?

Jeremy: Blank slate.

Trent: Really?

Jeremy: Yeah, white screen writing it up from scratch. That’s not to say
that we don’t use tools. We use stuff like JQuery and existing libraries
that developers provide to help make programming easier, but we haven’t
built off of preexisting CRM systems or anything like that. This is all
built from the ground, and it kind of had to be that way I think because of
how specific our needs are. It’s allowed us to tailor things very well to
fit our needs and that isn’t something we could of necessarily could have
done if we went with and out of the box solution.

Trent: Did you look at Infusionsoft in any detail before you built your
own?

Jeremy: The CRM?

Trent: Yeah.

Jeremy: I didn’t. Although, I did look at Salesforce, Zoho, and a few of
these other various CRM systems, and they’re great as far as CRM’s go, but
we needed something that is like a CRM on steroids. The CRM is probably
only about 25% of what our system does. The automation that comes in on the
provider side, on the scheduling, and on the reporting side is something
that it’s too specific to our needs to have been solved with an out of the
box solution, I think.

So, we programmed it. Yeah, it was absolutely a great investment of time.
It’s been years in the making, but it’s our distinct technological
advantage. Having built it, this is what separates us from the competition.

Trent: The only reason I bring that up is there’s going to be some people
who are listening to this who would be daunted – overwhelmed by the idea of
maybe building their own custom solution. If that’s you I don’t obviously
know Jeremy’s back end business processes, but I’ve interviewed quite a few
people that use Infusionsoft. I use Infusionsoft, and it is a CRM system on
steroids, and it is amazing what you can do in terms of customization, work
flows automation.

So, don’t let the fact that Jeremy built software from scratch discourage
you from getting into this or any business where you think that you want
that back end automation, because it can be had without being a programmer.
And there are obviously more than one platform. I just happen to be
familiar with Infusionsoft, because I use and again, because I’ve
interviewed a lot of people that have used it.

Jeremy: Well, I definitely agree. I think you can certainly choose an out
of the box software that will solve your problem for 90% of the use cases.
And it’s just we chose to go this direction to get to the 99%, but if you
can get 90% of your problem solved without investing years into developing
custom software, that might be a better decision, arguably.

Trent: Yeah, okay.

Jeremy: Yeah, do not feel daunted.

Trent: Last thing is how do people – what’s the best way to get a hold of
you, Jeremy?

Jeremy: You can actually contact me at Jeremy@goldenshine.com. That’s
probably the best way to get a hold me. You can also just LinkedIn me,
Jeremy Yamaguchi, and I’m pretty accessible through that format, as well.
So, pick your choice.

Trent: Okay, terrific. Jeremy, thanks very much for being a guest here on
the podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you on.

Jeremy: Thanks for having Trent, appreciate it.

Trent: All right. Take care.

Jeremy: Bye-bye.

Trent: All right, if you want to get the show notes for my interview with
Jeremy, just go to brightideas.co/19, and the other thing that you’ll want
to do is head over to brightideas.co/massive-traffic. If you enter your e-
mail address there you’re going to get free instant access to my massive
traffic tool kit.

So, here’s what the tool kit is. It’s a compilation of all of the best
traffic generation strategies that have been shared with me by my guests
here on Bright Ideas. And the best part about it is you don’t need to be an
SEO guru to be able to implement any of the strategies. So, you can get it
at brightideas.co/massive-traffic.

So, that’s it for this episode for the Bright Ideas podcast. I am your host
Trent Dyrsmid. If you enjoyed this episode, please do me a small favor,
head over to iTunes and leave us a five star rating along with some
feedback. Every time that you do that it helps the show to get a little bit
more exposure in iTunes and with more exposure we can help more
entrepreneurs to discover Bright Ideas to help them massively boost their
business. Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure. We’ll see you in the next
episode.

Recording: Thanks very much for listening to the Bright Ideas podcast.
Check us out on the web at brightideas.co.

 

About Jeremy Yamaguchi

JeremyYJeremy started as a web designer and developer, as the founder of Aeron Creative.  Jeremy has a strong design aesthetic and the ability to create highly functional web apps. These skills have provided him with a distinct technological advantage when applied to the household services sector.

As founder and president of Golden Shine, an employment agency for household-related services, over the course of a few short years Jeremy has grown the business to seven figures.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

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If you have a question, comment, thought or concern, you can share it by clicking here. We’d love to hear from you.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: How to Increase Lead Conversion, Work Less, and Automate More: An Interview with Jay Baer

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Jay Baer

What if I told you that you would have a better chance of growing your revenue if you focused on getting fewer leads?

You’d think I was nuts, right?

Well, not so fast there grasshopper!

In today’s episode of the Bright Ideas podcast, I’m joined by Jay Baer of ConvinceandConvert.com to talk about his exact strategy for maximizing lead conversion (notice I didn’t say that we were going to talk about his exact strategy for getting the maximum number of leads).

In addition to the above, Jay and I also talk about:

  • how to spend less time working IN your business and more time working ON it
  • which automation tool Jay is using to do this (I use the same one)
  • a great example of content marketing with bricks and feathers
  • how to persuade more clients that going on retainer is a good idea for them (as well as you)
  • Jay’s favorite tools and resources for small agency owners
  • how to ensure your business is worth more when it comes time to sell it
  • what books he’s reading right now
  • and so much more

Don’t forget to leave a comment so Jay and myself get to hear what you think of the interview 🙂

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Jay Baer, president of convinceandconvert.com.

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If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

An Interview with Jay BaerT: Hey there Bright Idea hunters, thank you so much for joining me for the Bright Ideas podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast for business owners and marketers who wanna learn how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their business.On the show with me today is Jay Baer from ConvinceandConvert.com. Jay, welcome to the show.Jay Baer: Thanks Trent, I appreciate that you have me on the show.T: No problem. It’s an honor to have you here. So for the folks in the audience who maybe don’t know about you yet, can you tell us who are you and what do you do?J: Sure. My name is Jay Baer. I am the president of the social media and content marketing accelerator firm Convince and Convert. We work with major corporations all across the world helping them understand the social media and content strategy. Then we also work with a number of different ad agencies, PR firms, marketing firms all across North America helping them kinda get in price and stuff and sell social and digital services. We have award winning blog at ConvinceandConvert.com, weekly podcast on social pros and a daily email newsletter called one social thing.

T: Alright so you’re audience and my audience is the same group of people and we wanna help them do the same thing. If you’re running an agency we wanna help you run a more successful agency. More clients, more profits, more revenue and a better lifestyle. So wtih that in mind in the study of agencies that I have done and they’re very similar to the business I was just talking to you about off camera that I used to run, big challenge how to get leads, leads, leads. Everybody wants more leads. So can you share with me what you’ve seen agencies have particular success with when it comes to lead generation?

J: Well I think actually I would debate the premise a little bit.

T: Sure.

J: I feel like agencies are, in many cases too focused on leads and not focused enough on conversion rate. I was in an agency at one point where we just went through the string finishing second over and over and over again, right? And you’re just sort of burning stuff time and burning resources at that kind of point. So I would challenge people and we do this with agencies and corporate clients all the time. We just say you know what, don’t worry as much about leads until you know that you’ve got the conversion process dialed and that you know that you are closing the maximum percentage of business that’s seriously you’ll never gonna get them all, obviously no one converts a 100% of their leads, but figure out whether it’s market automation or the nurturing or being smarter about content or how you interact with leads in the funnel. Spend time making sure that once you’ve spent the time and resources to create a lead that you’re actually closing them.

Setting that aside in terms of the lead generating vehicle I always feel like the best way to do that is demonstrate your expertise in some way but to do it in a, and I just have this conversation with my agency clients this morning, to do it in a focused specifc manner. So agency blogging for example, very popular now, it didn’t use to be but of course now almost every agency has some sort of blog or some sort of thought leadership program which ostensibly creates leads and many cases it doesn’t because the blog doesn’t really have sufficient call to action they didn’t do it.

But I find the biggest problem with most agency thought leadership program is that it’s about everything the agency knows. And if your thought leadership is about everything it is by definition about nothing. So even though your agency might actually offer 25 different services you really ought to pay attention to 3 or 4 that really makes sense that you really wanna go long on and create content, create thought leadership, create ebooks and blog posts and podcasts and videos about those topics because then you can actually get enough density of content and enough lead generating inbound action to adopt and make it work.

T: In other words find a niche and make sure that you go really really deep on that niche or topic whatever word you’d like to use.

J: Yeah and there’s really sort of X Y and Z axis on that potential niche so you can either have a geographical niche were all about Alabama or were all about Houston or whatever your story is. Or you can have a vertical niche or you can have a services niche and I think the best agencies that generate the most consistent stream of leads are those that apply all three of those contents. We’re the best agency at search engine optimization for health care in Texas. Now are you gonna have the most leads? No you’re not. But your lead conversion rate is going to be massively higher because you’re saying this is what we stand for, we are the best in the world at this one thing. And I think that’s a better approach.

T: I’m gonna guess that you have read Good to Great.

J: Yes absolutely.

T: Because this is the hedgehog strategy in the book.

J: Yap exactly.

T: Okay so for anyone who’s listening if you haven’t read that book yet it’s a really fantastic book. Now you mentioned something that is near and dear to my heart early in your answer. You talked about lead nurturing and automation. A whole another interview we could go down with that good one and maybe if the calendar permits we’ll come back to that. But can you give us a short answer for people who might not know what lead nurturing is and how would you automate lead nurturing?

J: I think the easiest way to conceptualize it is to say nobody becomes a customer of anything, of twizlers or an agency or a car or anything in between. Nobody buys anything until or unless the questions they have about that product or service have been satisfactorily answered. Period always. So what you need to do as a business owner of any kind of business and I think that’s even more acute in professional services is to say let’s walk it back and for somebody to higher agency what do they have to be satisfied with? Well they have to be satisfied with their expertise. They have to be satisfied with our deliverables. They have to be satisfied with our price. They have to be satisfied with the talent of our staff. They have to be satisfied with the way we do business. They have to be satisfied with the fact that we know things that apply to their industry and there’s probably 2 or 3 other things in that chain.

So at some point from the lead generation to signed deal process those questions have to answered. The way agencies have historically tried to do that Trent to say let’s get together in the conference room and we’ll have the whole conversation and we’ll kind of throw a bunch of things against the wall and we’ll tell you how great we are and hopefully we’ll convince you. You know, we’ll convince them in the conference room.

T: In other words, we’ll close you.

J: Yeah right we’ll close you over donut or whatever. Lead nurturing marketing automation says sure you’re gonna have that human element at some point but the human element is much farther down the consideration found in this classically kind of the case. What you do is when someone becomes a lead we know that you are interested in this particular agency service because of either information you provided in your lead form or what web pages you were looking at before you filled out that form and then we put you into a business rules governed sequence which then delivers to you information that answers some of those questions that need to be answered without me having to do it face to face.

So in my case we use infusion soft because of marketing automation software company that handles our email marketing and our follow up sequences. If somebody, I just put out a new ebook today and if somebody signs up for that ebook they’ll go into a special follow up sequence, they’ll get another email from us a week later with some different information. Then a week after that we’ll give another email with some other information then a week after that we’ll give another email. So we are leaving them down the consideration path of very strategically and very specifically because not everybody is ready to have a meeting in the conference room 2 seconds after they fill up the lead form which is usually what happens in an agency environment. Somebody says those are our contacts I’ll say call these guys right now get them in, let’s get a meeting set up. And in some cases people want dinner and movie first.

T: I’m an Infusion Soft user myself.

J: Oh great.

T: And I absolutely love it.

J: They have a conference next year. I’m looking forward to it.

T: Terrific. I’ll see you there. And I’ll tell you if I would have understood back when I was running my agency equivalent if I would have a tool like Infusion Soft and understood how much power it had I could have done a lot more. So for the folks again that are listening to this, if you haven’t checked out Infusion Soft yet go get yourself a demo, go sign up on a webinar. It is amazing. When people open those emails and they can click on links you can apply this thing called tags and all you’re really doing is segmenting and segmenting and segmenting and you can cause automated sequences to occur based upon links they click and things they do and all can run on auto pilot for you on the background.

Which segues into my very next question, is that many small and not just agency owners, Jay, but many small business owners they get so consumed with doing everything themselves that they spend all this time working in their business and no time spent working on their business. So with your clients, how do you get them, coz you can either have lots of control and not much growth or give up some control and get a lot more growth. How do you coach them through that process?

J: Yeah I’ve been through that process myself trying, I mean this is my 5th professional company that I had started. I’ve got $5 million agencies in a row from scratch and I read the e-myth years ago, right, which is where that premise comes from and I didn’t believe it at first. I mean it makes intuitive sense that you gotta kind of step away and let people blossom and I literally said you know what, I’m just ripping off the band aid. And I said I’m just gonna try it. I don’t believe it but I’m just gonna try it. And I just went into this massive empowerment phase like I don’t have to do everything and maybe it won’t be exactly how I would do it but it will be just as good as is so why and it was. And we experienced explosive growth as a result of giving up that kind of control and I have subsequently had it purposely done that I’d moved out of state and then a bunch other things that actually prohibit me now from having that kind of control and it’s been really really effective.

And I have agency clients that are really good in that principle and that sort of empowerment principle and working on their business instead of in it. And I have agencies that are not very good at it. It’s both sides. And what I find is it’s not so much about a particular thing you can do in the agency, it really is cultural. It really is about what kind of life do you wanna have as an agency principle and you find it in here to let it go. Coz you can read all the books you want but you gotta believe it. You have to believe inherently that the people you have hired are good enough to put your name out there even if you don’t actually work on that particular project. And some people can get that and other people just can’t. I mean there are people I know who have been trying to get there for 10 years and can’t. It’s not because they’re not smart, they just can’t get past it. They just can’t get past that sense of work. I wish I had a more specific example for you other than just ripping off the band aid as I didn’t say look I’m going to take 2 or 3 projects that I work on now and just stop working on.

And I think the easiest way to get there in theory is to do an audit of your activities as a principle to say okay. And a lot of agency owners don’t do this. They don’t really know how they spend their time. They think they do but they don’t really so a lot of times all I do is say okay let’s actually keep a time sheet for yourself and real strong audit of your involvement and then go back and say are the things that you’re doing things that you are uniquely qualified to do. And for me that’s always the filter. That’s how I try and run my businesses. I try and minimize doing things that I am not uniquely qualified to do. And if you sort of use that as a filter do I get involved, do I not get involved, that helps I think having that sort of light switch approach.

T: And that’s an approach that I’m trying to do here with Bright Ideas. I’m uniquely qualified to host the interview but somebody else can edit it, somebody else can create the post, somebody else can publish, review, share it on social networks. And if you’re listening to this and I talked to a guy yesterday, he was a one man agency, he was doing almost a $150,000 a year, and he said Trent, I’m klilling myself. I work, work, work all the time. So if you relate to that story but you can’t get wrap your mind around hiring a full time employee I really encourage you don’t hire a full time employee, go to Odesk, elance, freelance.

J: I run my services that way. We’re doing a million dollars this year and I’m the only employee. But everyone is 1099. This idea that you have to own a resource, lots stock and buy that resource has to sit in your office is an *inaudible. With the advances that we’ve made and in video conferencing like this and a sacred as communication is much more accepted than it used to be. You don’t have to have mediums of the same kind the way they used to. Things like base camp and other tools allow you to manage projects synchronously. All of those kind of advances that are partially technology and partially cultural in the way that this gets done really allow for partial ownership or resources in ways that was really crazy even 5 years ago.

T: And the really great thing about this and I’m sure that you already understand this and I do now but I didn’t before is when you can give up the shackles of a physical location and the shackles of employees that show up to that location and you embrace online marketing and lead nurturing and so that you don’t have to have that face to face meeting and you get leads coming to you, now you can live anywhere you wanna live. You can get clientsfrom anywhere you want them. And more likely they never want you to come and sit in the boardroom. They’re quite happy because they’ve consumed all of your thought leadership on their own schedule and then they contact you when they’re ready to go. You’re gonna charge a higher fee, you’re gonna work on your schedule and life just gets a whole lot better.

J: We actually won’t go to see clients generally speaking. That’s part of our deal. We’ve got people all over the country, if you need us to come sit in your conference room we’re probably not the right consultancy for you and we say that from the very first call. And now every once in a while we have to fly out and do some monster presentation but I don’t think we’ve ever seen any client more than once ever.

T: Yeah.

J: In 5 years.

T: But you and I, we’re not in the same room, we’re not in the same state. I don’t know how this conversation would be more enriched if we were sitting across the table from each other.

J: Yeah and I think a lot of it is expectation management. For people who are familiar with this kind of technology they’re like great. I don’t know very many people who have gotten involved into this kind of technology and then sit outside for me. I’m sure they exist I just don’t know many of those people. But for potential clients who haven’t done a lot of work like this that sort of expectation management it’s like it’s gonna be fine, trust me, you’re gonna love it. Because ultimately it’s more efficient for them too.

T: Absolutely it is. No commuting and so forth. Alright for this interview and just research in general I came across a hubspot report and it talked about some really pain points for agencies and one of them were unpredictable revenue and we’re gonna get to that in just a second. But before we get to that, for the folks that are listening to this who are also looking for really great campaign ideas that they can take to a client, can you talk about a recent client, could be one of your clients or a client of one of your agency clients, I don’t care who, but if you could think of something where the campaign was particularly successful and we’ll frame this with the content marketing mindset. Coz so many people are talking about content marketing these days and I know I’ve kinda put you on the spot because I didn’t give you more than one minute before our interview to think of this.

J: Oh that’s okay that’s easy. That I can just finish a whole new book about this topic not before last so not a problem. One of the things that we talk about in my company that I think will be useful to yours Trent is premise of bricks and feathers. So there’s 2 kinds of content. There are feathers which are like a feather. They are lightweight, they are a femural, they are disposable. Feathers are things like a blog posts or a facebook status update or a series of photos, things like that. They’re just kind of poof and they’re not gonna get printed out. They’re most likely not going to get printed out and taken to decision maker. They are top of the funnel kind of bait.

And then you have bricks. And bricks are like bricks. They’re heavier, they’re more tangible, they have to be crafted. There’s no brick tree. You have to make a brick. They have a shelf life and they can be picked up and carried and taken places up the decision making chain. They can be passed along to other people in the organization. So where we’re at in this point in the kind of content marketing renaissance I will say because it’s not new, we’ve been doing content marketing for a hundreds of years it’s just we decided to talk about it lately. Where we’re at in this renaissance is that almost everybody is doing feathers. So everybody’s got blog posts and sort of lightweight kind of content but not enough people are doing bricks like the kind of work that you do here with video show, ebooks and slide share and infographics, things that actually has some production value and some shelf life.

So I remember a post not too long ago about how an agency should balance bricks and feathers and I really believe that you’ve gotta invest in 4 or 6 kind of solid bricks a year as an agency thinks that that generate meaningful lead generation and pass along and then have a shelf life and then actually stand for something. Not just a blog post that tomorrow’s another blog and the day after that’s another blog post. But things that are really of high quality.

Soon the question becomes what’s that brick about. Well I’ll give you an example that we did in our own company. So I did a presentation, I do tons and tons of public speaking probably 75 a year and I did a presentation of the content marketing world conference last fall. And it was about how to measure content marketing. What are the metrics for content marketing. So I took that presentation which was in powerpoint and then I partnered with a content marketing institute who puts on that conferences on their popular blog about content marketing. Then we turned it into an ebook. And that ebook we put on slideshare and we’ve now generated hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of leads from people who clearly are interested in content marketing strategy which is what I do and content marketing metrics which is partially what we do because they have downloaded this particular ebook.

So then we took the brick which is the ebook and then created feathers around it. So we’ve got blog posts around it, we’ve got tweets around it, we have facebook updateds around it, we have other excerpts around it so it’s the center point of what we’re doing this quarter. And next quarter we’ll have something else and next quarter we’ll have something else.

T: Very interesting. Mike Stelzner talks about the same thing. If you may have read his book launched he calls it primary fuel and nuclear fuel.

J: Yes exactly.

T: And he uses something called the social media marketing industry report as one of his bricks. I’m working on one as well, the marketing agency industry report which I’ll talk to you about after the show.

J: Yeah research is a really good way to create bricks like that because it’s not terribly difficult to put that together. The other one I like I lot that I’ve just talked about this morning with somebody is rankings to say okay here’s the deal. Well normally a blog post can turn it into a brick by saying once a month we’re gonna publish whenever the top 40, like the one I used as an example this morning was a lady, a small agency owner, who publishes every month on her blog the top 40 I think it is convention and visitors bureaus participating on pinterest by number of followers. So ordinarily a blog post about cvb’s on pinterest is a feather but because she turned it into the top 40 rankings once a month it becomes a brick because people now want to pay attention to that and they’ve sent to their boss and now she can turn it into a pdf which then goes into some slideshare which spreads around. So that kind of ranking idea I think is really really easy to execute and almost any agency can find again with that xyz axis can find a place that they can sort of own the rankings if you will. You can give ap polls for whatever.

And the other one I would encourage people to think about from my brick’s perspective is just what you’re doing Trent, these interviews. Every agency in the world could have a great podcast if they just spend 1 hour thinking about it, right? Say everybody, interview your clients, interview people in your industry and it’s difficult to master but easy to do. And not nearly enough people are plugging along those lines of thinking yet.

T: And I gotta say I’m ambitious and lazy all at the same time and that’s why I do this interview format. I get a phenomenal feedback on these interviews and including post production I’m done in like less than 2 hours. I cannot write a really awesome 2500 word blog post in 2 hours. And edit it, put fun images, and do the research. I just can’t do it. Nor do I want to go and do a podcast where I simply talk for 45 minutes like an extended monologue. But the conversation, we’re all human beings we all know how to have conversations.

J: We use a software program I see you’re gonna ask about tools later but it’s alright I think I’ve blown your format.

T: No problem.

J: You can tell I do a podcast coz I’m used in trying to do a format. So on our podcast, social pros, where we interview somebody once a week who is the social media manager or content marketing manager for a big brand. So today we’re gonna interview Katrina Walter, she’s head of social media strategy worldwide for Intel. So every week we interview somebody. So we use speechpad.com.

T: Yap I use them too.

J: And it’s transcripts but not only do you have audio but now you’ve got the full written press and naturally I use speechpad for my book, for my new book. So we did 50 interviews for the book, did them all over the phone and then speechpad records those calls and give me the written transcript so I had a 100,000 words of book interviews fit in html where I just copy and paste in the manuscript. Made it a lot faster to write this book versus my first book.

T: Yeah. Now I actually have a mentor who’s guiding me through that process coz I’m doing the same thing for a book. He’s been doing this. His book is called marketing wizards, sorry market wizards. It’s about this hedgefund manager. And he talks a lot about the importance of editing those interviews prior to putting, coz a conversation like this isn’t necessary as interesting to read as it is to listen to. So did you have an editor go through and get rid of all the ums, yeah, buts and all that kind of stuff out of those transcripts?

J: I just took them out of the transcripts and clean out myself. So I read every interview and then bolded the actual passages that I thought made sense in the book narrative and then cleaned them up a little bit when I paste them in the manuscript. I use scrivener for book writing software which I love. It’s really amazing. And that was enormously helpful. It does automatically compiles it in the manuscript format and you can have multiiple windows open and has kind of like virtual sticky notes and things like that. It’s really excellent for organization. That’s scrivener.

T: Okay I’ll be checking that out.

J: That’s great. I really really wish I would have it with my first book. I don’t even know if it existed then but I wish I’d had it. It’s a lot easier this time.

T: How long did it take you to write this 2nd book?

J: Not very long because I had it all in my head and I mentioned that I do a lot of speaking. And so this book is basically the book version of the keynote presentation I’ve been doing for 2 or 3 months so I actually again using speechpad recorded myself giving that keynote presentation and transcribed it. So I used that as actually the back bone of the book and I put the book around the keynote speech. So between the interviews and again my researches which has helped me a lot with the interviews, between interviews and putting it all together probably took me 6 weeks.

T: That’s pretty good.

J: But I just turned in the first half to the publisher and then hopefully they won’t say we hate it and start over. We’ll go on them next week. The portfolio was published in it so we’ll see how it goes.

T: Oh I wish you the best of luck on it.

J: Thanks.

T: You mentioned the woman who does the top 40 list, do you know her blog url?

J: I’ll probably find it in one second. Do you edit this out when we’re doing searches?

T: No just send it to me. I don’t edit the show in the middle.

J: Hold on a second, I can do it right now. I just talked about it this morning.

T: Okay.

J: Yap it’s cvb’s on pinterest. Her blog is annehornyak.com.

T: Great.

J: And she’s at DG Morgan, still in that agency, social media and tourism consultant.

T: Okay. Alright so I promised a few minutes ago we’re gonna talk about this challenge of unpredictable and this was in a technology services space. This was a huge problem. And so I’m just gonna preface of my own story line.

J: That’s why I got out of the web design business right there. That exact reason.

T: Yap. If you don’t have recurring revenue in your business, you don’t have a business that somebody else is gonna want to buy.

J: Oh yeah and you have no ways and strategy.

T: Exactly. So in other words you’re leaving a ton of equity, in my case it was over a million dollars worth of equity that I created when I sold my business because I had $78,000 every single month that came in on the first day of every single month. And that was we didn’t have any products that we coded or anything like that. It was delivering services but it turned all the way to automate some of them by using tools but we just convinced our customers that it was a better deal for them to be on a retainer.

So in the agency space I know that this is a huge issue. I know lots of guys, gals out there, they’re web designers, they’re this, they’re that and they’re on the time and materials model, what advice Jay can you give them to help them, first of all they gotta make the transition in their own mind and then they can make the transition in their profit loss statement?

J: Yap. It’s difficult. You have to understand or believe that ultimately it’s about arbitrary. That ultimately the retainer model is going to benefit you just as much as about more than it will benefit the client. What I mean by that Trent is that the reason why some people don’t wanna do a retainer is they’re like what if it takes us 80 hours then we’re only getting paid for 40. Well you have to believe that you’re good enough business. That more often than not it’s gonna go the other way. And if your business isn’t good enough operationally then it won’t go your way more often than not. Then you probably shouldn’t go on retainer. You should really spend some time figuring out how come you can’t predict how long it’s gonna take you to deliver services. You know what I mean?

The agency model really only works if you can deliver services consistently, right? You can’t have purpose in what it requires you to deliver coz then you can’t get absolutely upside down on the retainer model. But assuming that you have a good sense of what it takes you to deliver and you can do that fairly consistently you have to realize that ultimately it’s gonna benefit you as much or more than the client from an economic stand point. Not just from a flatting of the revenue curve but also just from your yield. Coz ultimately when I say it’s about arbitrary it’s about you, it’s about what is the agency actually paid for an hour of time. That’s the whole model. And yes the retainer takes that out of the day that their conversation but ultimately you backed that out. So okay these retainers lump together compared to the number of people that retained and what are we paying those people and that is sort of how you sort of figure out your overall P&L.

The key is to make clients realize that it’s in their best interest. And the way you do that is to not say look if we spend, and this is how agencies typically say about retainers, we’re gonna put you on retainer because that way you know what your cost certainty is and I don’t know they just come up with other weird excuses. I think the best way to do it is to say look, especially if your agency is a little bit or a lot on the digital side of the aisle where higher level of experimentation less degree of certainty in terms of what you’re gonna do day to day, month to month coz new things come along all the time.

So the way we always insist to argue with is, and this is the line I give with every client in my previous digital agencies, I don’t know what’s gonna work for you but I know how to find out. I know exactly how to use testing and optimization to figure out what is the perfect digital marketing strategy for you and your business. But that takes time. And you don’t want to pay me by the hour to figure out what works coz if it takes us longer to figure out the magic formula for you it’s gonna be more expensive. So if we do this on retainer so that you’ll know what you’re gonna pay and we’ll know what we’re gonna get, the time that we spend to figure this out is at my expense not yours. So me being a great marketer is at my expense not yours. That’s how we used to give it and used to explain it.

And the other thing is really important on retainers coz all of our agency clients are on retainers as well is a lot time clients are reluctant to sign retainers coz they feel like it’s a prison cell. So our deal is look you’re on retainer but everybody’s a 30 day out so nobody has a contract. It’s like look here’s the deal, you’re gonna pay us every month come hell or high water but the second you’re not finding value, stop paying us. And it’s amazing when you put that out there how much that takes away people’s inate and natural fear of retainer business. If they’re not getting value stop paying us.

T: So one of the thought I wanna add to that for the folks in the audience, think of your portfolio clients like a portfolio of investments. The big huge stumbling block that you touched on was what if I do to many more hours if I don’t get enough retainer. Well that won’t happen if you get good at your systems and processes which Jay pointed out. You may have lots of work it bleeds over but there’ll be other months when you hardly have to do a thing for some other client in your portfolio so it’s about the yield on the overall portfolio not the yield on every single client you have in your portfolio.

J: That’s right. That’s why when people measure job cost profitability or even individual client profitability you’re kinda doing yourself a disservice mathematically. Yes you wanna pay a 10th to that but I would put much more stock in what’s the revenue per employee or what’s the yield for the entire organization as opposed to what’s the yield for this one client. Coz you’re exactly right that will lead you to say that we need to make sure that we did $42,000 over a month of work for these guys this month but we only got paid 18, that’s gotta stop. Well that only has to stop if that continues for a long time or if that’s happened more than once. So you gotta take a little bit of a mongrel term approach to these kinds of questions.

And in too many agencies, it can be agency owners think about client profitability in 30 day incurrence which is absolutely the wrong way to think about it. We look at it in 6 or 12 months and say okay a year end of this do we feel like we’re making money on these guys. If not we’ll go somewhere else but when we start thinking did we make money this month on this client no you can’t do it, you can’t run this like that. This is too variable of an industry.

T: And it’s not the way you’re selling to your clients coz you’re saying to your clients

J: We’re partners.

T: Correct.

J: We’re partners to the next 30 days and then we’ll see.

T: Yeah. Alright so that last answer pretty much boils down to this. Have a conversation with your customers that says I don’t know exactly what to do to make your perfect campaign but I know how to figure it out. Let me put that time risk on my shoulders and let me give you credit predictability and now we’re partners.

J: That’s right. And that approach very much works better if you agree with the client from the outset on what this success factor is gonna be. If you say look we’re gonna figure out the magic formula you have to agree on what the ingredients of measuring that formula are. Are we looking at leads, are we looking at sales, are we looking at, there’s obviously a number of different ways to measure marketing and that’s a different podcast for a different time but you need to agree with the client on what those measurements are out front.

T: And all of this is stuff you could be producing blog posts on, well in advance with your conversation with your client so that you’re actually nurturing, nurturing. Even your existing clients need to be nurtured to your current way of thinking in the way that you wanna run your business.

J: I would say that perhaps more so. In fact I’ve written about this with a link on my blog that agencies really should turn this upside down and try and create content and blog post more for their current clients and think about blogging and thought leadership as a client retention and client cross sell vehicle as opposed to a new lead generation.

T: Coz I think something that people forget and I probably was guilty of this, I have my customer but my competitors are prospecting my customer. So just coz they’re my customer right now doesn’t mean that I can stop pursuading them to continue to be my customer.

J: Or persuade them to buy something different from you. I can’t tell you how many times this happened and it continues to happen to me and I’m not very good at marketing automation to current clients and very few people are. We tend to do that through blogging in my company which is probably in the state but it happens all the time that current clients read something that I wrote in the blog and I say that I didn’t realize that you guys did that. Let’s talk about you doing that for us. So now you have a blog post that theoretically was written as a lead acquisition tool is actually a retention and cross sell tool.

T: And for anyone listening to this who thinks oh I’m not a good writer, could you have a conversation about your client with something that you did for them that worked well for them? Guess what? Now you have a podcast. You can do it on skype. You can do it on go to meeting as I do it right here. Like you could just do it on the phone and record it. Every conversation can become reusable content, feathers if you will, that really can benefit your business a long term. So if you’re not doing that now I think Jay and I are both gonna say you really need to be doing it.

J: Oh absolutely. And it’s funny you say about the telephy. I’ve worked with a lot of chief officer marketing types and things like that of big corporations and they go we don’t have time to blog. And I go okay if you have time to talk it on the phone for 3 minutes a week you do. You absolutely do have 3 minutes talking to the phone. So press this button talk into the phone, press another button and here’s a blog post while somebody claim to that. So that idea that you don’t have time to create content is 100% untrue. You just choose not to make time.

T: Correct. I couldn’t agree more. Alright so you stole my thunder a little bit on my tools and resources.

J: Oh sorry. I kind of wove it in more like organic. I got more. What do you want?

T: Alright favorite tools and resources, we’ve talked about infusion soft. You talked about scrivener, what else?

J: Scrivener for books. I’ve talked about speechpad for recording stuff. And I love buffer app. Buffer which is a great tool for sticking social media posts. So the content curation, a great way to create feathers. So every morning I read dozens and dozens of emails including Mike Stelzner’s and other people. I can find things I wanna tweet or facebook or linked in status update that day I use my buffer app where I just click click click and it time release capsule them all from today from about 2:00 3:00 5:00 etc. That’s a great tool. Love it.

T: Why use that instead of Hootsuite? I mean they both basically do the same thing. Is there a reason from one over the other.

J: I think buffer is easier to use and sort of purpose built for that. That’s all it does. It’s very specific to that circumstance.

T: Okay.

J: And has really nice kind of web post and the other software things like that. One of the things that agencies are interested in nowadays is finding other bloggers. So maybe you’re gonna do a blogger outreach campaign for your clients, things like that. Actually I’ll write a blog post tonight about these guys called group high. It’s grouphigh.com. Outstanding I think the best database blogs and bloggers available. It’s 5 grand a year which is a pretty affordable for agencies are gonna use it for a number of clients. And you can find bloggers by type, by city, by number of twitter followers, by number of instagram followers, by number of pinterest followers and then actually create a list of those bloggers that manage those relationships within the tools and send them emails and did we hear back from them and we’re gonna follow up. Very very nice business software.

T: Yeah and very cool. I haven’t heard that one before. So there’s my little nugget for this interview.

J: See there you go.

T: Thank you. Alright so we’re just about finished up here. Two more questions and then we’ll wrap. What are you most excited about these days in your business? Where’s the opportunities?

J: Really excited about the new book and which is all about truly helpful marketing. So what if your marketing was so useful that people would theoretically pay you for it. And there’s a lot of companies that are doing that and talks all about how to do that and how to really make your marketing a utility. Excited about that and there’s gonna be lots of conferences and things about that next year so that’s exciting.

And then we’re also doing a lot of work with corporate clients and I think agencies can really start to offer the systems service over time around employee activation in social media. So social is becoming de-centralized. It started off as a job, somebody is the social media person in the company and now it’s becoming a skill. It started as a job becoming a skill and that’s fairly typical in business. And so one of the things that we get involved with a lot for corporations is finding employees throughout the enterprise who are pre-disposed to using social media and training them, activating them to speak on the company’s behalf across the social network. So how do you train somebody your company to give a respond on twitter or facebook or write blog posts or just sort of broaden the basic social participation. I think that’s an area that agencies can really help their clients with as well. So we’re excited about that Trent as well.

T: Okay. What book or books are you reading right now?

J: What books am I reading? I have the Good Fortune I guess to get sent lots and lots of books from publishers who want me to review them which is fantastic. Hold on, I’ll be back, I’ll show you.

T: Amazing things will happen, okay.

J: I just got this book from my friend, C.C. Chapman. His new book Amazing Things Will Happen. All about how to live a happy life. I very much recommend this for all agency owners. C.C. has tremendous agency experience and you will become a better after reading this book.

T: I think I’m gonna put that one on my own reading list.

J: And I’m also reading a couple of other books around trust. Don Peppers and Rogers have a new book out about trust and how trust is sort of the key currency in business now. And Jonathan Salem Baskin also has another book also around trust. So there’s two great books out on the same time. Don Pepper’s and Rogers Baskin both around trust as a business currency which I think is an interesting trend to look forward.

T: Don Peppers and Rogers, Jonathan Salem Baskin?

J: Baskin like Robin. No relation I don’t think, that would be crazy. Pretty sure he’s not an ice cream scion but you never know.

T: Alright. Well Jay I wanna thank you for making some time for your first appearance here on the Bright Ideas podcast. I sure hope this will not be your last appearance on the show.

J: Hopefully there were bright ideas. Hopefully there were actually bright ideas. I’ll just see through with the comments.

T: I guess we’ll have to wait for the comments to find out.

J: That’s right.

T: Alright. Terrific thanks very much for being on the show Jay.

J: Thank you and I appreciate it. Take care.

T: If you wanna check out the show notes for my interview with Jay just go to BrightIdeas.co/16. Now I think I wanna very quickly tell you about is the massive traffic tool kit. If you’re looking to get more traffic to your website go to BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic, enter your email and you will get instant access to the tool kit. So what is it? It is a compilation of all the very best ideas that have been shared with me by other expert guests here on Bright Ideas. And the really great part about the tool kit is you do not need to be an SEO guru to be able to make all this stuff happen for yourself. So just go to BrightIdeas.co/massive traffic, enter your details and you’ll get instant access.

So that wraps up this episode. I’m Trent Dyrsmid, your host. If you loved this episode please do me a favor. Head over to itunes, give it a 5 star rating and leave a comment. If you do Bright Ideas goes up in the itunes store and more people will discover the show and more people that discover the Bright Ideas podcasts the more entrepreneurs that we can help to massively boost their business. Thank you very much I will see you in the next episode.

About Jay Baer

Jay BaerJay Baer is a hype-free social media and content strategist, speaker, author and the President of Convince & Convert. Since 1994, he has worked with more than 700 companies on digital and social strategy, including 29 of the FORTUNE 500. As social and content accelerators, Convince and Convert helps tie social business to real business.

He is the co-author of the NOW Revolution, 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter and More Social (Wiley, 2011) a leading book on social business. Jay speaks to more than 75 groups each year about how social strategy is changing business forever. He is also an active angel investor investing in approximately four start ups a year.

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The Story Behind the Creation of vWorker.com with Company Founder Ian Ippolito

ianippolito

Would you like to learn what goes into creating a website that does over $11 million a year?

Do you ever wonder how such a business attracts so many customers?

To hear the story behind vWorker.com, I interview company founder, Ian Ippolito in this episode of the Bright Ideas podcast.

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

In this episode, I interview Ian Ippolito of vWorker.com

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If you enjoyed this episode, click here for more information on How to Leave Us a Positive Review on iTunes! Your review will help to spread the word and get more entrepreneurs like you interested in our podcast. Thanks in advance - we appreciate you!

Transcript

Trent: Hey there, Bright Idea hunters. Thank you so much for joining
me for the Bright Ideas podcast. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is
the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to
use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively boost their
business.Now in this episode I am joined by Ian Ippolito, the founder of
vWorker.com. If you’ve ever used one of these sites to find outsourcers,
vWorker is one of the most popular of those sites. Now in this particular
interview, Ian is going to share with us his particular strategy for how to
design the perfect product for your customers. Many companies go down the
road and they build in features that customers don’t end up wanting and Ian
is going to share with us his process to avoid that.The next thing is early on in vWorker’s life there was a very deep-pocketed
competitor that came in and they could outspend vWorker 10 to 1, but yet
vWorker prevailed. Ian’s going to share with us the strategy he used to
make that happen.Finally, if you’ve been considering starting an affiliate program for your
site, you really want to listen to Ian’s ideas on how to create the
ultimate affiliate program. Affiliates are the largest source of revenue
for vWorker and in this episode, Ian is going to share with us exactly how
he created it. So please join me in welcoming Ian to the show.Hey, Ian. Thank you so much for making the time to do this interview with
me. You’ve got a very successful company you’re at the helm of so I’m super
stoked to get into that and find out how you built it.Ian: Thanks, Trent. It’s a pleasure to be here.Trent: Just for the listeners who are, I shouldn’t say “listeners”.
For the people who are watching this, you’ll notice that Ian is a little
blurry. We did do our best to figure that out before we decided to record
but, sadly, neither one of us could make it happen so this is the best
video that we’ve got for you for today.All right. Ian, you’re the founder and, I’m assuming, still CEO of
vWorker.com. This has become a pretty big site so for the people who maybe
haven’t heard of you and don’t know what this, can you tell me how much are
you doing in revenue right now, how many years have you been in business
and what does the business actually do?Ian: Sure. We’ve been in business since 2001 and last year we did $11.1
million in revenues and what vWorker does is we connect together typically
business, so sometimes small businesses, sometimes larger. A lot of times,
just entrepreneurs with remote workers and these remote workers can do all
sorts of things for them a lot cheaper than bringing someone on-site to do
the same work.Trent: OK. That’s something that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve had
remote workers on my team for probably 18 months now but, man, 2001, wasn’t
even on my radar screen. I was the CEO of my last company then and I, in
hindsight, probably could have saved a bunch of money if I had known that
stuff like yours existed. So I have to guess that back in 2001, was this a
really foreign concept for people back then?Ian: Yes, it was. It really wasn’t something that anyone would think
about. Outsourcing or just kind of getting a remote worker is something a
really big company could afford but nothing that the typical sized company
or the entrepreneur would ever even think of.Trent: OK. That leads me into the story that many of us think about
is, “How on earth did you come up with the idea?” Let’s go back to 2001,
you’re a coder by training if I’ve done my research correctly. You’re a guy
that liked to write software.Ian: Yes, that’s right.Trent: You started off with, I think, Planet Source Code. Was that
your first kind of entrepreneurial venture or had you kind of done a bunch
of stuff that did or didn’t work before that?Ian: That was the first entrepreneurial venture that did halfway decent.
Yes, I did a bunch of other things beforehand. I think I was like most
entrepreneurs. I tried a whole bunch of things and learned a lot of lessons
from things that didn’t succeed.Trent: Yes, absolutely. I learned most of my lessons from the mistakes
that I make. All right. In the early years, you started off with this thing
called “Planet Source Code” and then did that eventually, because vWorker
started as Rentacoder, that was the original brand, did Plant Source Code,
did it sort of feed you into Rentacoder? Can you talk a bit about how that
transition happened?Ian: Yes, you’re exactly right. It not only physically fit in, like not
only did we physically move the people in but even conceptually. Basically,
the idea for what was vWorker, which was Rentacoder back then, was that, I
owned the Planet Source Code site and I was a computer consultant.I was just, I guess you could say, minding my own business. I would
constantly get these e-mails and these e-mails would be, “Hey, Ian, you’re
the webmaster of this site. I like it. I just don’t have the time to use
it. Could you do some programming for me?”That was my job and yet I was so busy, I turned it down. I got e-mail after
e-mail, the same thing over and over again, people asking the same thing.
They needed some help and I didn’t even know really where to turn them to.
After probably, maybe, about 20 or 30 of them, turning them down and
turning them down, I finally thought, “Ooh, you know what? I think I’ve got
this all backwards. There’s an unmet need here and people really, really
need this.If I could come up with some way where they can hire someone, obviously
they can’t hire me, but if they could hire someone else and if somehow I
could guarantee it or make it safe because they’d be hiring someone that
they don’t know and do it over the Internet, wouldn’t that be awesome.”That was basically the idea. That’s how it started. I just kind of one day
just did something on my laptop, kind of typed it all up and made a little
prototype and thought, “Hmm, I think that could work,” and I put it out
there to try it.Trent: OK. So for the folks, and I’m going to put myself in this camp,
who aren’t familiar with Planet Source Code, if I did my research
correctly, you had built that into a fairly popular, highly trafficked
site, is that correct?Ian: Yes, that’s right. That’s a whole story in itself, Planet Source
Code, because this was in the first dot-com crash. It was before the dot-
com crash so pre-2001 and back then, as long as you had a high traffic
site, you could make really, really good money just putting up ads.To give you an idea, for example, I remember Microsoft and Oracle were
advertising on this website, this website for computer programmers, and
they would pay 60 CPM, so $60.00 to show a little 468 x 60, which is a tiny
ad by today’s standards and that site was doing at least a million visitors
a month, it was doing very, very well pre-dot-com crash.It was a great business model. Basically, it was just myself. I had a
second employee who kind of handled the paperwork and the accounting and
that was it. It was a great business model but, also, unfortunately, it was
a little bit doomed to failure because the dot-com crash came and all of
the sudden now all of the people that were advertising on the site couldn’t
pay their bills.I had my own bills that I needed to pay because I had purchased these
things called “T1 lines”. T1’s are like high-speed lines because back then,
you didn’t have high-speed to your house or anything like that. Each one of
those was $1,000 a month yearly contract and I had six of those.My advertisers were drying up, my expenses were still about the same and I
was like, “I need to do something here. I need to find some other way to
monetize this audience. I don’t want to end up as a casualty of this whole
dot-com crash.”Trent: As many did. Your decision =then was to transition your
business model completely away from advertising to helping connect people
who needed talent and talent that needed work.Ian: Yes, exactly. Rather than advertising, an actual service, which was a
lot more difficult but it also provided a lot more value, it ended up being
a lot more lucrative.Trent: OK. Let’s talk a little bit about the business model that you
had back then because you had this traffic so that wasn’t really going to
be a problem, per se. Well, let me think this through. Because you have to
connect two different parties, you’ve got people who can write code and
people who are going to need code. The traffic at Planet Source Code was
probably people who were going to write code because they’re coming there
to get snippets of code that they can use in whatever projects that they
were working on. Is that correct?Ian: Yes, that is correct. It was only half of the audience I needed,
basically.Trent: In the other half, you’re pretty much a startup, and these are
the guys with the money.Ian: Yes. Yes, exactly, and without them, it’s a chicken and egg because
it’s like I don’t know which side you have to develop first. You kind of
have to develop both of them at the same time. Yes, the ones with the money
were not there. I had to find some way to generate those and bring those
people in.

Trent: All right. Let’s talk about the first year. You’ve got lots of
people willing to write code, nobody who wants to hire a coder has ever
heard of you. You had to get the word out and that’s a challenge that so
many of us, well, everybody who’s in business is faced with this. What are
some of the things that you did to make that happen?

Ian: This was awhile ago, this was 2001. It was actually before Google ads
were even out there. The equivalent back then was called “Overture”. I put
out a bunch of ads on Overture and it was really cheap by today’s
standards. You might pay $0.05 or $0.10 a click, which anyone that does
Internet marketing today, if you can do $0.05 or $0.10 a click on something
that’s converting, you’re just printing money.

This was the early days of it and it was very cheap. Even then, it was
difficult to drive enough traffic to it because Overture just wasn’t
Google. They didn’t have all the traffic that Google has today. I tried
that. I tried e-mailing to people but a lot of it was actually, and
especially at the beginning, probably more of our customers were like kind
of on a word of mouth thing.

I told you I had all those people in Plant Source Code requesting things so
I was like, “OK. Send out e-mails to them. Get them coming in,” and they
told other people and they told other people so that’s built. It wasn’t
fast but it was something that slowly built. Then we kind of got our first
break, our first lucky break, which was one of those people that they
referred happened to be a guy from The Wall Street Journal.

He used the site and he was like, “Wow,” and he was so amazed by the fact
that he could hire someone that he didn’t know, he asked them all sorts of
questions, got him to send pictures of himself and then wrote an article
about it. That was the first big break that just “boom!” popped up the
visibility of the site.

Trent: What did that do to your traffic, do you think? Yes, let me
just leave the question there.

Ian: Yes, it was instant spike. It was almost too much to handle because
the servers were only built to a certain capacity. It isn’t like today
where you could probably just ramp up a server virtually and things like
that. We had physical machines that all the software was on and it was
tough for them to handle.

I think when that article came out, the phones started ringing off the hook
and instantly the traffic just went “pfft”, through the roof, probably
about four or five times.

Trent: It’s not the worst problem in the world to have.

Ian: It isn’t the worst problem in the world but at the same time, as a
business owner, you are running frantically trying to make sure everything
can keep up because the customer service people couldn’t keep up and if the
website went down it’s almost like not having a building open to welcome
your customers. Yes, it was exciting but it was also worrisome too at the
same time.

Trent: Before that article, do you remember what revenue looked like
on a typical month? And then do you remember what revenue looked like after
that article?

Ian: It started very slowly. I mean, it was profitable from the first
month but it made something like $50 on month one and probably a little bit
before the article I would guess maybe it was making a few thousand dollars
a month, around that line, so it definitely popped it up. What was
interesting, I did that and at the same time I also kind of started a whole
marketing strategy, which was based on a book that my brother had given me
called ‘Crossing the Chasm’.

Which is a book about tech startups, why so many tech startups, kind of,
just start off, and they have this great idea and they get a few early
adopters to kind of be interested in their product. Then, they just can’t
get the momentum to keep going, they kind of fall in this thing that the
author called “the chasm”. Awesome book. It was perfect timing. So we had
that big, lucky break with The Wall Street Journal and then at the same
time, try to take advantage of it with some of these techniques.

Trent: This is obviously now ten years ago, can you think back, was
there any particular strategy that you learned from Geoffrey Moore’s book,
I think that’s his name . . .

Ian: Yes, that’s right.

Trent: That was really helpful to you back then?

Ian: Pretty much all of it was helpful. I was clueless. Like for example
the idea of the whole product, so so many companies will go out there and
they’ll say, “Look, I have a great idea,” and they develop a few of the key
things that are needed. They open up shop and try to get everyone to come.

What happens is people come, and they’ll go, “Wow, you’ve got three of the
things that I need but without these other two things, it doesn’t really do
what I need it to do,” and what they find is these people won’t come back
two months, three months, or a year later when they actually have that
stuff up. They’ve kind of blown their opportunity.

It’s a coupling of the lean startup methodology, which is do the minimum
that you have to get something out there, but at the same time, that
minimum, make sure it really does meet their needs and there isn’t
something in there that’s missing that’s going to make them say, “Oh, why
should I hang around?”

I spent a lot of time thinking about the whole product. It has a good
section in that book explaining how you analyze who your target market is
and you kind of identify what those markets are and then you figure out
what are their needs and what product features did they need in order to
develop the whole product. It worked really well.

Trent: It did. When you were going through this phase and I always
think of cash flow and what a challenge it is, especially in the early
years or what I call “the lean years”, did you have just you as a full-time
employee and then maybe a couple of contractors? What did overhead look
like back then?

Ian: I had the Planet Source Code already, so I already had my CFO.
Remember, I said there was one person doing the books. I brought her over.
There was her and then there was a part-timer who was a contractor. That’s
how it looked, just running out of a room in my house, yes.

Trent: Was it cash flow positive back at that point after The Wall
Street Journal article came out? Were you able to run the company off what
it was bringing in?

Ian: I guess I was very lucky. It was actually cash flow positive even
from the beginning just because, in a way, the Planet Source Code, I had
already invested all of the money in Planet Source Code for the
infrastructure so it was like I already owned the software, I already owned
the computers.

I had this CFO already so then when I brought them over to here, really the
only extra overhead was this extra contractor so it was positive from the
beginning but not much, very tiny, tiny amounts, not enough to make
anything.

Trent: Did you take a salary back then?

Ian: No, no. There was very little left over. All that money was being
saved.

Trent: OK. If you accounted for your time, it wasn’t cash flow
positive.

Ian: Oh, no, no, no. It was definitely cash flow negative. I was investing
huge amounts of time in there. I was probably investing 60 and 70 hours a
week.

Trent: Yes, my first three years of my last startup, I didn’t see a
dime so I understand what that’s like. Alright so you had in your first
year you were very fortunate to get some exposure from The Wall Street
Journal but you also had a really big issue and it nearly put you out of
business.

Ian: Yes.

Trent: You want to talk a little bit about what that issue was?

Ian: Well, it was credit card fraud. What had happened was we were
starting to gain a little bit of momentum and then starting to do a little
bit better and numbers were starting to look better, starting to get larger
and larger projects and just when momentum was going really, really well
there, I thought.

We had a little bit of momentum, we had a really big order and I was like,
“Wow, this is awesome!” Very big order. At the time it was a big order for
us, $1,000. So this $1,000 came in, I said, “Great. Awesome. This is
probably going to be a great month.”

End of the month came, and the way we work is we take money in, so we take
$1,000 from the employer and we give the worker their percentage of it and
we take a percentage of it. We take anywhere from 6.5% to 15%, so we did
that.

The worker was supposed to get paid so they got probably $900.00-something
out of it and we got maybe, whatever we got, $100.00 or something.
Everything seemed fine and then the next day, the credit card company sent
us a fax and they said, “Oh, by the way, that $1,000, that was from a
stolen credit card. That money’s going back.”

Trent: You’ve already paid the worker at this point.

Ian: Yes, yes.

Trent: Wow.

Ian: Not only were we just out the $1,000 but we’d already paid the worker
the amount so not just out our profit but it was a big mess so I was like,
“Wow, this is a crazy concept. They can just take our money back at any
time. That certainly can’t be right.” I called up the credit card company
and ended up arguing with them for a long time but in the end they were
like, “Well, no, this is a stolen card.” I said, “You said it was fine a
month ago.”

They said, “Yes, well we found out since then that it was stolen.” Yes, so
they were like, “There’s nothing we can do. You’ve lost that money.” I
thought, “Whoa, OK. I’ve lost that money.” I was already feeling a little
bit depressed just from that and then next day I got another fax and it
said, “Oh, this $700.00 charge that you thought that you had, that was
fraud too.”

Trent: Oh, man.

Ian: The next day came another one. Within a period of four days, about
$5,000 worth of these fraud transactions came through, one after another
and there didn’t seem to be any end to it. In fact, it seemed to be getting
faster. I guess the big problem is, on the Internet, you don’t know who
anybody is. Everyone is completely anonymous.

What I did was I closed the account of the guy that did the $1,000 one but
then he comes back and creates a brand new account as someone else, creates
a fake e-mail address, pretends he’s from another country and starts over
again.

I thought, “Oh my goodness. We are going to be out of business at the end
of the month if we don’t figure out something.”

Trent: This fraudster, he was his own worker as well. It’s not like it
was a legit worker where you could say, “Hey, man, you didn’t do any work.
Give me the money back.” He was basically using a stolen credit card to pay
himself.

Ian: Yes, that’s exactly right. He was using us as an ATM basically.

Trent: Yes. Wow. That’s tough. How did you solve this problem?

Ian: Basically, I did a lot of research. I just sat down with Zoey [SP],
my CFO, and we researched on the Internet and we were like trying to
understand how do people do these things, how do they steal credit cards,
and we found out that actually, it’s very easy to steal a credit card.

You can actually pay not very much, about $0.50 per stolen credit card. You
can go to these sites where people just have thousands of these things. You
buy a bunch of them and then these thieves will then go to sites and try to
use them as quickly as possible before the credit card company finds out
about them and try to extract as much money out of the vendors as they can.

Understanding that, we thought, “Well, you know what? OK. What separates
them from a real credit card user? They don’t physically have the card.” We
were like, “OK. Well, this is what we’ll do. For every person that runs
through a card, we’re going to ask them, turn over your card, take a look
at it and tell us the name of the bank that’s on the back and give us the
bank phone number.” We didn’t know if it was going to work but we tried it
and it did. It stopped that guy and whoever, maybe that group of people. It
worked well for probably about three or four months.

Just as we had kind of stepped up our game, then thieves decided to step up
their game too. Then all of the sudden they were able to pass that test so
we’re like, “Hmm, OK. We’ve got to take it to the next level here. What are
we going to do?” We thought, “OK. You know what we’ll do? We will force
them to give us a phone number because a lot of these thieves, they’re from
another country. They pretend they’re from the United States or wherever
they steal the credit card from. We’re going to require the person to give
us a phone number and we’ll just call them just to make sure that they
authorized the card, that way we know that they’re in the right country,
gives us a little bit more protection.”

Again, that was something that worked well. That one probably worked for
another six or seven months and then they found another way to get around
it, which was there started to become available these phone numbers that
you could buy and you could say, “Hey, I’m going to buy a phone number in
Colorado. I’m going to buy a phone number in wherever you wanted to be.”
So, even that stopped working.

Again we had to go to the next step which was, we were like, “OK. Well what
else can we do? OK. They don’t physically have access to the account so
what we’ll do is we will charge a small amount,” and this is something that
happens on a lot of sites these days but back then we had to kind of figure
it out ourselves because we didn’t have other sites to model, but we’re
like, “We’re going to charge a small amount on the credit card and not tell
them how much it is, a number between $0.00 and $5.00, then we’ll refund it
back and if they can tell us what that amount is, then they have access to
the card.”

That one stopped it for a good two or three years but I regret to say even
today, we deal with people who I think what they’ve done is they basically
hijacked people’s information to log into, for example, like their Citibank
account or whatever. Not only do they have access to the credit card and
can run through everything on it, but they can look up things and go, “Oh,
this charge was $1.27.” It’s always a cat and mouse game.

Trent: OK. There’s no super happy ending. It’s an ongoing issue of
something that you have to deal with.

Ian: Unfortunately not, no.

Trent: OK. How long does it take you to get the company to its first
million in revenue?

Ian: First million in revenue was probably around, I would guess . . . I’m
sorry?

Trent: We’ll call it like the ‘million dollar run rate’. You’re doing
just under $100,000 per month times 12 months is a million dollar run rate.

Ian: Yes, yes. It was probably, I would guess it was around the fourth
year, third or fourth year.

Trent: Really?

Ian: Yes. It took awhile to get it going. Even with that Wall Street
Journal article, what we noticed is that we had a huge amount of traffic
but then it tapered off so we had to find ways of generating the traffic
ourselves. A lot of it, like I said, was that word of mouth and some of the
marketing that we were doing.

Trent: Expand a little bit on, because I’m really interested, as I’m
sure the audience is, because the lean years are always the toughest years.
People say, “Oh, when you got lots of revenue, you could just buy lots of
ads. How hard can it be?” In those first three or four years, I’m guessing
. . . when you were doing a million dollars in revenue, was it a very
profitable company?

Ian: It was OK. I was still working as a consultant up until like maybe
year two and a half. It was doing OK but not enough to pay me where I felt
like I could let go of all the other work that I was doing.

Trent: OK. It’s not like there was money sloshing all over the place
so you couldn’t just go and be the free-spending maniacs on marketing. What
were some of the other marketing activities that you were doing in those
first three or four years?

Ian: I mentioned some of them. So kind of keeping up with how advertising
on search engines was evolving, so it was evolving from Overture to Google
and things like that and Yahoo. Making sure we were seen on the search
engines.

A lot of search engine optimization, so I learned a lot about, “OK, how do
I make my site friendly for these different keywords? What keywords do I
want to target?” creating specialized pages that kind of catered to the
people that would be looking for those things, paying for search results
and at the same time, trying to drive it up from the bottom with organic
results, trying all sorts of things, basically.

What I found was interesting because a lot of times things would work, kind
of like with the credit card thing. You find something good and it works,
it can work for two or three years and then it stops working so you always
have to kind of reinvent. I remember one thing that worked awesomely at the
time, which was that I was like, “Well you know what we could do?” We were
just Rentacoder, so we didn’t necessarily do all the types of things we do
now, people looking for a programmer in my city.

I created this thing that would basically show all the programmers in, say,
New York City and then optimize searching for that, so a very local thing,
which is much cheaper to advertise on. But, again, it was one of those
things that worked great for a few years and then had to be reinvented
because it stopped working as well. Everyone else starts doing the same
thing and then you have to find something new to do.

Trent: Especially with the Internet and really business in general, I
think everyone listening to this who is in business is probably already
nodding their heads up and down going, “Yes, that’s just life. The only
constant is change.” I wish we could just put things on autopilot and have
them work for years and years but it just does not work that way, which is
why I do all these interviews. There’s always new stuff to be learned and I
want to learn it all and my audience wants to learn it as well.

You’re now at third to fourth year, doing about a $1 million, how long to
get to $3 million?

Ian: Let’s see, third or fourth year was a million so I would guess maybe
that was around year five or so, maybe year five or year six. Yes, that’s
what I would guess at. It definitely took awhile. The other thing that was
happening around that time too were competitors, new competitors, new
people popping up. New people popping up that didn’t run their businesses
the same way, vWorker was always run off of profits.

The new competitors didn’t even worry about profits, they kind of had that
spigot that you were talking about where they could just blanket ads
everywhere that they wanted to and kind of crowd out our ads. There were
definitely a lot of challenges.

Trent: Yes, so let’s talk about that because there are probably some
good lessons in there. You’re one of the earlier companies that’s got this
particular business model. Now all these, I’m assuming they’re probably
venture-funded organizations who they don’t care about profits, especially
in the early years, because they’re really just looking to build revenue
and then get acquired.

Ian: Exactly.

Trent: These guys are spending, as you just described, a ton of money.
What was that like? How did you compete with them because you didn’t have
their marketing budget, obviously?

Ian: Yes, yes. The first reaction is, “Oh, this is no fun.” It’s like,
“Not fair. They can overwhelm me with firepower.” I thought about it and
it’s a little bit like warfare in a way. It’s asymmetrical warfare. They
have certain advantages but also because of their advantages they have
disadvantages. They’re larger companies and they take a long time to make
decisions and adjust where vWorker could be very nimble. It’s a smaller
company so we could be more flexible.

I tried competing head-to-head, foolishly, on different things and I was
like, “This is not working. They can just overwhelm. They can outbid me
anywhere.” Then I realized, “I need to be where they are not. So I need to
figure out what they’re overlooking.”

For example on Google, there’s obvious places to advertise and then there’s
kind of what some people might call the “long tail keywords” or the places
that are less obvious where, for us, an obvious place to advertise would be
“programmer” but we can totally get outbid there so instead we will look
for a long tail thing that they haven’t thought about yet. That’s how we
kind of rise up from the nooks and crannies.

Trent: OK. Did you happen to read the book “Blue Ocean Strategy” back
then?

Ian: No. I haven’t read the “Blue Ocean Strategy”. Is that basically that
idea?

Trent: It’s been quite a few years since I read it, but essentially,
if I remember correctly, it talks about red oceans versus blue oceans and
red oceans are where everyone’s competing, there’s a lot of noise, a lot of
competition and it’s expensive. Blue ocean is you’re trying to find, as you
said, the nooks and crannies where people, they’re not aware of them yet so
when you’re bidding for keywords, yes, that would be long tail keywords.

The book goes on to give many, many examples, again, a long time ago that I
read it, of things that weren’t so much relevant to keywords as they were
the niche, the type of customer that you would want to pursue versus what
your competitors were pursuing.

Like as an example of that, yesterday I interviewed a guy by the name of
Mike Michalowicz, author of a book called “Pumpkin Plan”. Before that he
was running a technology services company, much like I was. We didn’t have
a lot of differentiation and what he figured out was by going after
specifically hedge funds and hanging out where the hedge fund guys hung out
and reading what the hedge fund guys read and getting a couple of different
skills that the typical IT service guys didn’t have.

Like, “How to set up a trading desk.” He did all these things where his
competitors, they weren’t necessarily going, and he cleaned up, absolutely
cleaned up.

Ian: Awesome.

Trent: Yes. It’s a strategy that I always try and do when I’m doing a
business. I don’t know if I always get it right every time but it’s sure
something that I’m trying to think about.

You went out into the long tail to try and compete against these guys who
were basically happy to spend more money than you. Was that the only thing
that you were really doing that was getting the results at that phase or
was there other stuff that you were doing?

Ian: That was definitely just one thing but the other thing was trying to
compete on . . . it’s like, “Well, if we can’t compete on that kind of
firepower, we can still compete on serving our customers better.” I
invested a lot in customer service, making sure that every single day that
there would be somebody that could answer the phone when people had
questions, improving the speed of the turnaround of the e-mails.

Then the other part of that was also the features of the site so it was
like things that people wanted, I wanted to be able to say, “Look, here’s
us and here’s them and here’s the things that we do differently that nobody
else does. We have a 100% guarantee and nobody else does that,” things like
that.

Spent a long time developing those, then creating marketing strategies to
try to present them, even though I just said that kind of very simply right
now, it took a long time to get even that thing of a free guarantee kind of
in my head and get the company aligned with that.

Trent: Well that’s a nice segue because coming up on our interview,
we’re going to be talking about product development in a little bit more
detail, how did you figure out what features to add, of all the features,
how did you know which ones to choose. Then we’re going to be talking much
more about your current marketing strategy, what’s working for you today,
whether social media is coming into play, PR, that kind of thing. So for
the listeners, that’s what’s coming.

Let’s dive into this a little deeper. So product development, because,
you’re right, you could make features that somebody else doesn’t offer that
might give you an edge in some way, shape or form so you’re got this big,
blank white board but you have a finite amount of resources. It’s not like
you can just throw 10 coders at it and say, “Go nuts, guys.”

What was the process that you went through with either on your white board
or in your head or with your team to figure out, of all the opportunities
for product development, these ones seem like they’re going to have the
least amount of risk and the highest rate of return?

Ian: I think the good thing that we did there was I was kind of inspired
by that book, the Crossing the Chasm book, was understanding who our target
customers were and trying to get into their heads as much as possible,
talking to them as much as possible too because a lot of times we guessed
and we didn’t quite guess correctly. It starts with trying to understand
them first and kind of having a mental picture of who they are, their
needs, their desires, what worries them and what problems they have.

Trent: Did you do this with surveys or did you just literally go into
the database and call people up and ask them?

Ian: Both. Yes. The first thing was kind of like just even just
generalizing and saying, “OK, well you know what? A lot of our companies, I
could say this big buckets of companies are the entrepreneur and these
people who, they’re not 100-person companies but they have very specific
needs. So then I went into the database and said, “OK. Here are all the
people that meet that criteria.”

Sent them surveys but also talked to a lot of them. I still do that. About
once a week, I’m still talking to a customer, trying to keep my pulse on
what they want.

Trent: Yes. So what were some of the things that you learned, say,
around this point in time when this competition was coming on to the scene
that were kind of the bigger takeaways or the more pivotal features? Is
there anything that stands out to you there?

Ian: There were so many. I’m trying to remember if one or two were
pivotal. I remember the biggest thing was just trying to make things
easier. Make it easier. Make it simpler. A lot of people don’t really want
to think about what they’re doing and a lot of the sites at the time
required them to think, or at least to read. Even today, it’s a never-
ending process, always trying to make it simpler, always just trying to
refine it and make it even less and more to its essential core.

I’m trying to think of some key features. One of the big ones was the
rating system. So at the time, we just had a normal ratings system just
like everybody else, just like eBay, and we had the same problems that eBay
had, which is that people lie on their ratings, people cheat, people trade
ratings.

They might say, “Hey, I’m going to give you a higher rating if you give it
to me,” even though the transaction didn’t work well. The opposite happens
where they go, “Hey, you stink. I’m going to give you a really, really bad
rating,” even though the person didn’t deserve it.

We were like, “We need to solve this problem with the ratings somehow where
we can make it so that other people can rely on.” That was a feature. We
talked with people. We came up with the idea, “Hmm, what if we made it so
that the whole problem with trading ratings and retaliatory ratings and
things like that is the other person knows what the other person rated
them.

What if we made it that both of them have to rate because neither one gets
to see what the other person rated them.” That’s what we did. That got rid
of all the retaliatory ratings. It got rid of all the trading of ratings
because now you couldn’t trust that the other person would actually do what
you were hoping that they’d do. Things like that were features that we
added.

Trent: Let me make sure that I understand that. You and I are on
opposite ends of a transaction and I get the little e-mail and you get the
little e-mail that says, “Hey, go and rate your transactions.” I rate mine
but you can’t see it until you rate yours.

Ian: Yes, exactly.

Trent: Obviously if I’ve rated first, as soon as you’ve rated, I can
see your rating. Once I’ve rated it, I can’t go back and change it. If I
was unhappy with your reciprocal rating, it’s too late. Mine’s done. Is
that correct?

Ian: Yes. That is exactly right. You are rating me just based on your own
impression of me and not based on anything I said about you.

Trent: OK. Were you able to, from a marketing perspective, were you
able to leverage that little piece of differentiation or did you
competitors knock you off so quickly that, yes, it gave better customer
service but it didn’t end up translating into something that we could talk
about to say, “Hey, this is one of the reasons why you should use us versus
them”?

Ian: They actually didn’t copy that one, which I don’t know why. One or
two of them did but it wasn’t one that got copied across the board. Then we
definitely had that challenge which was like, “Well how do we communicate
this to people and do in an effective way that makes them want to use us?”
Then the other challenge with that is there’s not only that one feature.
There’s like about 50 of these different things so the competitor matrix
became a really good tool.

Trent: There’s the fly I told you about. He’s been bugging me the
whole time. Like I said, people are going to think I have Tourette’s.

Ian: I can vouch for everyone, it’s a fly. I heard it before.

Trent: Go away. I’m being taunted.

Ian: Anyway, it was a challenge to try to get that one little piece of
information out there to them and so we created a competitor matrix. There
are about 50 different things there, compares us to all the different
competitors and how we are different and the things that we do better than
them. Then the next evolution of that was, “Well, even that’s too
complicated. I don’t want to read 50 things.”

The next evolution of that was, “Well, let’s take just the top main three
things and compare it to each competitor,” and we started marketing that
and then people that want to read more could then read the detailed
information.

Trent: OK. I want to shift now, because we’ve been a fair amount of
time here and I really want to kind of bring this up to speed on the
current stuff that you’re doing in marketing because in online marketing,
everyone’s got kind of a sales funnel, the nurturing process. You’ve got a
lead and then there’s a bunch of stuff that happens between getting the
lead and converting that lead to a customer. In your case, your customers,
they’re the employers with the money. Is that correct?

Ian: Right.

Trent: In your organization, do you see the developers as customers as
well or do you think that they have their stuff up on everybody’s site
anyway and so you don’t necessarily look at them that way?

Ian: A lot of them do have it up on every site but they are our customers
too because we need both sides in order to function. If we don’t have the
developers or the writers or the translators and the designers, no business
is getting done. We have to treat everyone as a customer.

Trent: Let’s talk here first about your number one marketing activity
to attract more employers. What are you doing there?

Ian: It’s actually the same thing that’s worked well for both of those.
Like I said, what’s worked well has changed over time. Things that have
worked a long time ago worked for awhile then stopped working but the thing
that’s working now, and it’s gone through a couple iterations to kind of
get it there to the point where it’s working, is an affiliate program.

This affiliate program, it started off as kind of just the typical
affiliate thing, “Hey send us an employer. We’ll give you a certain amount
of money.” I forget how much it was, $25.00 or whatever it was. We rolled
that out and then so did the competitors. Pretty much everyone had the same
thing so it was a situation that, “OK. I need to take it to another level.”
But the challenge, again, is these competitors are so much better funded,
how do we actually make it so it’s more compelling and yet be able to do
it.

I thought, “You know what? We do have an advantage over these competitors.
We have one of the highest repeat business rates in the industry. It’s
really, really high. It’s above 80%. It’s like 85%, 89%. I thought, “Hmm,
maybe we can take advantage of that.” I thought, rather than giving them a
one-time fee, we’ll make them true partners so that everyone that they
refer, they will get a portion of the money that we make off of them for
the rest of their customer lifetimes.

I thought, “Wow, it’s not us paying an upfront fee but over the long-term
we could end up paying out hugely a lot more than any competitor could.” So
that’s been working well for us.

Trent: OK. We might want to dive into that one a little bit more right
when we finish up if there’s more. So let’s go on the contractor side. What
are some of the things – actually, no. I want to stay back because I’m not
sure yet that I understand. Let’s say an affiliate refers you a lead, well
I guess it’s going to become a customer, otherwise they’re not going to get
paid, but do you have a sales funnel? Does an employer come to the site and
are they opting in and getting a report or going to a webinar or what
happens when someone shows up the first time?

Ian: We have a number of ways that they can come into the site and
something that’s worked really well is exactly what you’re talking about.
You can just bring them to the site and hopefully they’ll sign up but much
better is to bring them in, offer them something of value.

We have something that we give them something for free that’s of a lot of
value to them. What it is, it’s a project management guide that show the
average failure rate in the software industry is really high. It’s like two-
thirds of projects fail. We’ve got it to the point where almost 90% of
projects will succeed using this methodology so, yes, they can just totally
turn around.

We give them this very, very valuable free information, this guide, and
it’s not short. It’s probably about 30 pages long with all these different
things that they can do if they’re interested in it. They sign up for that.
That is kind of the thing that establishes us as someone credible and we
now have the right to kind of talk to them a little bit more. We can send
then an e-mail and they’ll look at it and say, “Hmm, maybe I will consider
signing up.”

Trent: After they get the guide, now they’re into the sales funnel,
are there other things that happen after the guide that are happening on an
automated basis because you’ve predesigned the sales funnel?

Ian: Yes, so there’s e-mails that go out to them so we send out an e-mail
to them saying, “Hey, since you enjoyed this guide, maybe you’ll enjoy this
other guide that we have that’s kind of similar on another topic and, by
the way, you might want to check us out. Here’s how you do it.” Then they
download the guide, maybe they don’t. We send out another e-mail.

The first e-mail goes out pretty quickly. I think it’s like a week after
and then the next one will wait about a month. The month one is like a real
pitch and at the point we’ve kind of established enough trust where they’re
not going to hit delete. “So here’s our deal for you. We can save you this
amount of money. Click here to sign up right now.” It’s a pitch.

Trent: They don’t get a pitch like that before the first month?

Ian: Not a hard core pitch, a very soft pitch. It’s like, so in that
manual for example, on every page it says vWorker and blah blah blah blah”
and on the very last page of that manual, if they read through it, they’re
like, “And if you would like to actually hire someone to do this, here’s
how we can do it and we can guarantee it safely.”

The other way, it’s subtle is in the manual, we point out, “Oh, well, you
can do this yourself or you can just do it on vWorker and it’s done
automatically for you. If you want to be covered with a contract, if you
want to have a guarantee, all these things.” It’s more of a subtle pitch
rather than in the face.

Trent: OK. They go into a drip campaign. How long does someone get e-
mails for if they don’t become a customer? Forever?

Ian: No, I think they end up getting maybe three or four and then after
that point, maybe we’ll change our strategy at some point but it seems like
the ones that tend to actually respond, it kind of dies off the longer it
gets and after awhile, it becomes less valuable. We don’t send them
forever. We don’t want to bug people too much.

Trent: Three to four e-mails, if you can’t convert them at that point,
they just become a dead lead.

Ian: Yes. They’re there, we may decide to use them in the future but we
don’t right now.

Trent: OK. Are you using webinars in your marketing mix at all?

Ian: No. that’s something that actually we have thought about. Maybe it’s
something that we’ll be doing soon. It’s definitely something that people
have asked for.

Trent: OK. It’s something that a lot of people, I’m sure you’re
already aware, a lot of people are using with a lot of success. It works
well for myself and many of the people that I interview. You can do them
live or you can also make them look live. There’s various software packages
out there, Stealth Seminar is one of them.

If you’re going to go that road, I use what I call automated webinars but I
don’t say they’re going to be live. I just say, “Sign up for my next
webinar.” I don’t say, “Sign up for my next live webinar,” because that’s
not true.

Ian: Right. OK.

Trent: They work and the software’s actually quite well developed
where the experience that they receive is very interactive and it saves you
because why say the exact same thing every week? It’s not like you’re going
to say any different or say it any better.

If you record your webinar, it’s not like it’s any less value to the guy
that watched the recording that the person that watched it live because
it’s exactly the same message. It just didn’t seem to me like an effective
use of resources, because I was doing them live, to say the same thing over
and over. It gets really boring, as a matter of fact.

Ian: Now what software do you use?

Trent: I use something called “Stealth Seminar”.

Ian: OK. I’ll make a note of that.

Trent: I think it’s like $60.00 or $70.00 bucks a month. It’s
developed by a guy by the name of Geoff Ronning. I have an affiliate link
for it if you’d like to use it.

Ian: OK. I’ll go to the website. Yes, there we go.

Trent: It works very well. I have one of my low-end products, it’s
just a $10.00 a month product on one of my other sites and every week a
couple more people sign up for that. It seems to work just fine and I know
that in the marketing space, a lot of people use these with a great deal of
success. Live webinars can work incredibly well, also, just depending on
what your frequency is going to be and how often you want to do them.

Ian: That’s a great tip.

Trent: Now, in your sales funnel, what I’m curious about is in every
list, there are lots of people and they don’t all want the same thing. They
don’t all have the same timeframe. They don’t all have the same objectives,
etc. The best lists are lists that are segmented, you know, blue people,
red people, green people, whatever, just to use metaphors. Are you doing
any of that kind of segmenting or someone who opts in, there are four steps
and everybody who opts in goes through the same four steps?

Ian: It’s not as sophisticated as that. I wish it was. I guess there’s a
challenge in the beginning with try not to scare them off by gathering too
much information, but at the same time, you need the information in order
to be able to do that segmenting. I wish I could say we were doing a better
job at getting that information.

Probably right now, we are maybe erring on the other side, which is try not
to bother them but also not being able to do as much segmenting as I’d like
to.

Trent: Yes. OK. Again, I’m supposed to be interviewing you, so I want
you to give all the answers but I do want to throw this out for you because
this might be useful. I use Infusionsoft. It is really wonderful for
segmenting. You can basically allow your list to totally self-segment
themselves by the links they click, the forms they fill out, the pages they
view, all of that stuff allows you to get really, really targeted and then
based upon, and it uses a system called “tagging”, which is really just a
way of categorizing.

Then you can have other follow-up activities and sequences and campaigns
automatically fire based upon what tags get applied and those tags are
applied based upon the actions that the person has chosen to take.

Ian: You have a tag on every page on your site, basically, so you can
watch their behavior and then based on that behavior, they then become
tagged and then you can do actions based on that. Is that right?

Trent: Every time they click their mouse, a tag can be applied. Every
time they fill out a form, a tag can be applied. Depending upon what plug-
ins you’re using, if you’re using a membership site, Infusionsoft out of
the box doesn’t necessarily allow you to apply a tag when you visit a page
but there are certain plug-ins that work with WordPress or if you’re using
an Infusionsoft membership site software called “Customer Hub”, I believe
it is, you can tag based upon pages that are viewed. What precedes a
pageview? It’s a click. They’re clicking a link. You can tag on a link.

I interviewed another fellow who’s the founder of a fitness chain called
“Iron Tribe Fitness” and their funnel is amazing. Ninety percent of their
leads come in through the web and they all go through this funnel based
upon the links that they click and the videos that they watch. Then once
they sit them down for a consultation, their close ratio is 98%.

Ian: Wow! That’s awesome.

Trent: There is another guy by the name of Jermaine Griggs, who I know
of him but I haven’t interviewed him yet and he runs a company called “Hear
and Play.com”, which teaches people how to play music by listening to it.
The person I interviewed yesterday, the name’s escaping me because I’ve
been doing a flurry of interviews this week, tells me that Jermaine works
only about four hours a week and his sales funnel is apparently
[inaudible/simultaneous audios 51:58]

Ian: Well, I know what made it not successful at the beginning and I think
avoiding some of the things were very helpful.

Trent: Perfect. You should talk about that.

Ian: One was I really should have thought a little bit more about the
whole competitive landscape rather than just myself. I kind of got into
that where I was like, “Well, this is how it’s going to work and this seems
like a great deal.” Then pretty soon everyone copied it and it dried up.

I think one of the real important things was really taking a look at the
whole industry and thinking, “Well, if everyone copies this idea, what can
I do differently that’s going to make it work?”

The other thing is it didn’t just happen. There was a lot of work that went
into, like, chasing down people that I thought would be good affiliates.
Certain companies might just hire an affiliate manager and that’s what
their job would be but we are a smaller company. I didn’t really know what
I was doing. I kind of wanted to oversee the process. That’s the way a lot
happens.

At vWorker, basically pretty much every job, I was the first person to work
in that job and then once I felt that I was doing it well enough that I
could write it down and describe exactly what needed to be done and hand it
off to someone else, then it gets handed off to someone else.

The affiliate thing was the same way and I kind of wanted to try it. Could
I be the affiliate manager and learn what that is and then maybe eventually
we would hand that off to somebody else. That was a big thing. Rather than
just posting it out there and hoping people would come, I would go on
Google and say, “Hmm, it would sure be nice if we were on this keyword or
on this,” and just target these people.

Trent: Let me make sure that I understand what you just explained. You
would chose a keyword, type it into Google. It’s going to give you a list
of results. Did you then individually contact those companies and say,
“Hey, I notice your ranking for this word. Here’s a way for you to turn
some of that traffic into revenue that you maybe aren’t getting at this
point in time.” Was that more or less what you did?

Ian: Yes. That’s it. That’s exactly what it was. If they were, like,
especially high up and on a really great looking keyword or topic, then I
might say, “Oh, well you know normally you would come in on the affiliate
program at this level but you look like you’re going to be bringing in a
lot of traffic. I’m going to bring you in at a higher level.” It kind of
gets their attention, you know? I’m already giving them special attention,
which they like. Everyone likes attention.

Trent: Yes, no kidding. That’s a very smart idea. I like that. It’s
not one I’ve ever thought of and I’ve never heard anyone tell me that
before.

Ian: Oh, good, I’m glad it’s useful.

Trent: There’s our golden nugget. I always like to try and get at
least one real super golden nugget that if people who are listening, they
forget everything else, if they remember that one thing that they go, “You
know what? I’m glad I listened to this interview while I was commuting to
work or riding my bike or sitting in front of my computer or whatever
they’re doing while they’re listening to us.” I want to thank you for that.

Ian: My pleasure.

Trent: Before we sign off, is there any other golden nuggets in your
affiliate program that we would want to quickly talk about?

Ian: I think that was the biggest one. Just not expecting it to work but
going in and working it. Yes, that’s about all that I can think of there.

Trent: My follow-up then on that is when you contacted these
companies, I’m assuming they didn’t all respond to you right away, did you
take on average three contacts? Did you use e-mail? Did you use the phone?
Did you use direct mail? What were some of the activities that you did to
try and make that contact successful?

Ian: I used e-mail and phone. Maybe direct mail might be another way,
another avenue to get them but e-mail’s the fastest and easiest so that’s
what I did first. With one or two e-mails a decent number, maybe about 25%
of them would at least respond and say something back.

If they didn’t do that, then we’d try a phone call, some people wouldn’t
respond favorably to a phone call. Some people don’t really want to be
bothered by a phone call. Everyone’s different. That’s kind of as far as it
got. It never got to the point of direct mail. That might be an interesting
thing to kind of work into the mix there.

Trent: Yes, there are lots of guys out there who talk about direct
mail. I’m reading a book by Dan Kennedy right now and he’s obviously been
around forever in the marketing space. There’s a thing called 3-D mail.
People have a higher propensity to open lumpy mail.

We all get so many e-mails, we don’t get as many letters so I think the
probability that people are going to open your direct mail is probably
higher than they’re going to open an e-mail but, of course, you’ve got to
spend money to do it.

Ian: I know someone, his company is called “Enthusin” and what they do is
exactly what you’re talking about, the 3-D mail. They send just a little
kind of open-up postcard with a link on it and it really kind of gets
people’s attention because they’re like, “What is this weird postcard?” An
invitation for you, and then they open it up and they click on the link and
it takes them to a webpage that’s a customized invitation for whatever it
is that you’re trying to target them for.

Real good way, if what you’re selling is not a low dollar amount thing. It
takes considerable work to customize it but if it’s a higher dollar amount
thing, it’s a really nice way to get a good return.

Trent: Yes, and actually I’ve just been reminded of something that I
read about years ago. I don’t remember the name of the firm, he ran a
market research firm and his data was valuable to large businesses that
wanted to sell their wares to small businesses. The value of his sale was
very high.

What he did was he found the 100 customers that he really wanted to have
and then he bought a drill, like an actual tool, a drill, put it in a box
and the branding on the outside of the box had a picture of some guy’s head
from behind with a drill bit, no blood and guts or anything, just basically
looks like he’s drilling into his head with the phrase, it said, “Get
inside the head of small business.” Everyone who got a drill called him.

Ian: I can imagine. Wow!

Trent: So 100 drills, what are they, like $50.00 each so that’s $5,000
but one of those customers is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars a year
to that guy. That was a pretty awesome campaign, I thought.

Ian: That was awesome. Very smart.

Trent: Yes. I wish I could remember who it was so that I could go and
interview him today. All right. If anyone wants to get ahold of you, what
is the best way for them to do that?

Ian: I have a profile on vWorker.com so they can contact me there. If they
want to call, if they’re interested in vWorker itself, we’ve got the
customer service lines open but ianippolito@vworker.com.

Trent: You said that pretty quickly. You want to spell that out again
just for the folks?

Ian: Sure. It’s ianippolito@vworker.com.

Trent: Terrific. Ian, thank you so much for making some time to do
this interview with me. That was a really awesome golden nugget and I hope
that people who are listening to this are able to put that and all of the
other ideas you shared into action.

I want to thank everyone who listens. It’s a privilege for me to be able to
do these. Of course, if you have any questions for Ian or myself, there
will be a comment form, below the page that hosts this video and I’m sure
that if you make a comment there that one of the two of us will get an
answer to you.

That’s it for now. We have many, many more interviews coming. Thanks so
much for being a watcher or a listener, whatever way it is that you’re
consuming this content. We’ll talk to you soon.

All right. If you want to check out the show notes from today’s episode,
just go to BrightIdeas.co/13. Another thing I want to tell you about is the
Bright Ideas Massive Traffic Toolkit. If you go to
BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic and you enter your e-mail address, you’re
going to automatically receive access to the Massive Traffic Toolkit.

What is that? It’s a compilation of all of the very best ideas that have
been shared with me by prior guests here on Bright Ideas. The really great
thing about all the ideas in the Traffic Toolkit is you don’t have to be an
SEO guru to be able to do this stuff. It’s really a very smart collection
of traffic generation strategies. To do that, just go to
BrightIdeas.co/massivetraffic.

That’s it for this episode. I’m your host, Trent Dyrsmid. If you could do
me a very small favor, please head over to iTunes and leave a 5-star rating
and a feedback comment for the Bright Ideas podcast if you’ve enjoyed this
episode.

It’s really important because every time you do that, it helps the show to
get a little bit more exposure in the iTunes store and we attract a few
more entrepreneurs every time and the more people who are here to consume
all these great ideas, the more entrepreneurs that we’re able to help.

Thank you very much for being a listener and a subscriber. I look forward
to seeing you in the next episode.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this episode:

How to Target Customers with Perfectly Designed Products and Overcome Bigger Competition

An excellent product is crucial to the success of a business. This is true for a business that provides a product to a customer or for a business that brings two parties together to complete a transaction. This is what Ian’s business is all about; vWorker brings employers and contractors together from different parts of the world. He has managed to bring together workers and employers successfully together via his online system.

Listen to the show to learn Ian’s process of designing products that perfectly target the needs of his specific customers.

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vWorker was massively successful at connecting remote freelancers with jobs.
Image source: 123rf.com

vWorker wasn’t a large company when it started. It was just Ian himself, an assistant and a part-time contractor. Over the course of ten years, it grew from just $50 the first month to $11.1 million in revenue. Being the small outfit that it was, it was constantly being copied and bullied by larger competitors that had much deeper pockets.

Watch the interview to learn just how Ian not only managed to keep his business afloat amidst all the big competition but actually achieved success far better than his well funded imitators.

Getting the word out is always the necessary step before customers know that your company, products and services exist.

Listen to the show to learn about how Ian got the word out for vWorker in 2001 prior the DotCom crash and how he has kept the business fresh in the years since.

When working with remote customers and remote methods of payment, there is always a threat of fraud. vWorker was at the receiving end of a rapidly growing problem of fraud that posed a real threat of snuffing out the business’ early success. Watch the interview to find out what security measures and system developments Ian and his team implemented to fight against the wave of internet fraud that was threatening to shut his business down.

In business, you need to recognize problems and then constantly adapt and change to these problems in order to survive and become profitable. Through the early years— or the lean years, it can be difficult to make a profit.

Listen to the show to discover the methods that Ian used to sail his ship safely through the tides of the lean years.

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Ian beat back big competition.
Image source: 123rf.com

vWorker had no real marketing budget and yet the competition were big and backed up by financiers. It made Ian cry foul, but he stuck to his guns and waged war against his competition. He developed a strategy that his competition didn’t expect. He was a step ahead of his competitors and imitators which allowed him to beat the larger competing companies.

Listen as Ian describes how he blindsided other larger companies with his business strategies.

Ian developed a multitude of features for vWorker that allowed him to compete with his competition and win. He made many changes to his system and added in features that his customer liked. In trying to find out what his customers liked, Ian also developed his system of keeping a pulse to what his customers wanted.

Listen to the show to find out how Ian gathered his information to learn what features and additions need to be put in place.

A Sales pitch is massively important for a business to promote its products and services. This is why emails and offers sent to the database of customers need to pitch customers every now and again. Listen to the show to learn just how often and by just how much Ian pitches his customers to his site, affiliate program and online system.

Increasing web traffic was a massively important part of vWorker's growth.Image source: 123rf.com

Increasing web traffic was a massively important part of vWorker’s growth.
Image source: 123rf.com

Attracting customers and achieving high yield marketing is always one of the most crucial goals in marketing a business. Online entrepreneurs need to learn how to increase web traffic to their sites to increase visibility, brand recognition, click throughs, registrations, business and profit.

Watch the episode to learn how Ian attracted customers and increased his business by exploiting his advantages to attract customers through his very own affiliate marketing program.

Ian shares with us his effective affiliate program that has allowed him to turn his hard work chasing down customers and companies into his current $11 million dollar revenue. Communication is key to any business; this is especially true for Ian’s vWorker that has two sets of customers to take care of.

Learn the special twist that Ian adds to his Affiliate Programming to bring in larger customers and companies as high-profit affiliates.

About Ian Ippolito

Ian Ippolito is the founder of vWorker.com (recently acquired by Freelancer.com) and is a highly successful serial entrepreneur.

While at the helm of vWorker, the company was called “One of the 100 smartest, most innovative, hands-down brilliant companies on our radar” by Entrepreneur Magazine. vWorker was ranked as an Inc 5000 company for four consecutive years, and has done over $139 million in business.

Join the Conversation

One of the things that I love most about hosting my podcast is participating in the conversations they provoke. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this: Question: What part of your business are you struggling with most? Please share your answer by clicking one of the social icons at the top or bottom of this post.

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