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rebecca geier

How Focusing on One Niche Helped Trew Marketing to Achieve Extraordinary Results

rebecca geier virtual agency interview

Are you trying to decide if you should focus on a niche market? Are you considering starting a virtual agency?

Today we interview Rebecca Geier, the CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing headquartered in Austin, TX. Trew Marketing is a full-service marketing agency serving engineering, science, and technology companies. Learn why they selected this niche and how it has helped their company grow.

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

  • (01:00)  Introductions
  • (04:10)  Why is your agency virtual?
  • (09:00)  What is your background?
  • (10:20)  How did you get your agency started?
  • (18:20)  What happened when your sales pipeline went dry?
  • (26:40)  What were some of the prospecting tactics that you used back then?
  • (32:30)  Why did you say ” No to grow “?
  • (37:20)  Why is niche focus so important? How should you pick one?

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 back to episode number 152 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’re an entrepreneur looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions and profits well you’re in the right place. So how do I make good on that promise? Well, each episode I bring on an expert guest to share with me exactly the strategies and tactics that they used to become successful and many of my guests are entrepreneurs just like you. So it’s really a fantastic opportunity to be able to“look over the shoulder” of another successful entrepreneur so that you can model what they did in an effort to achieve very similar results.

On this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Rebecca Geier; she is a co-founder of a very successful marketing agency called Trew Marketing based down there in Austin, Texas. In this interview Rebecca and I are going to talk about the very beginning of the agency, how they made the transition from being employees of a corporation to running their own company. We’re going to talk about what they did when their sales pipeline went dry, very early on, which was as you can imagine a pretty scary experience.

We’re going to talk about how much of a pay cut she took and how long it took her to regain the level of her salary and of course how much beyond that she has now gone thanks to taking the plunge and running her own business. We’re going to talk about why they focused on a niche, what that niche is and how incredibly beneficial focusing on a single niche has been to their organisation and so much more. This is really a wonderful interview and I think that you are going to get a lot out of it.

Before we get to that, quick announcement; I get a lot of emails from people asking me for recommendations for typically software to use in their business, for landing pages, or video hosting or split testing, you name it. I have a list of all of the tools that I use and you can get to it at GrabTrentsBonus.com. The reason for that funny URL is that many of the links on that page are affiliate links, so if you use those links to make a purchase, I get paid a little bit of money.

My way of expressing my appreciation to you for using the Bright Ideas affiliate link and there is instructions at Grab Trents Bonus on how to do this, but basically you send in your receipt and then I give you a choice of a couple of my paid products and you can choose one of them, which I will then give to you as a free bonus as a thank you for using the affiliate link.
So with that said please join me in welcoming Rebecca to the show. Hey Rebecca, welcome to the show.

Rebecca:
Thanks Trent

Trent:
It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I’m excited.

Trent:
So we’re going to dive into the story of how you have built your agency into the success that it is today. But, before we get into all the details of what it is that you have done, and how you got there I’d love my audience to know who they are listening to so please take a moment and just introduce yourself.

Rebecca:
Ok, my name is Rebecca Geier, and I am CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing, a marketing agency headquartered here in Austin, Texas, but we actually have a team of people all over the country.

Trent:
So you are a virtual agency, everybody works from home?

Rebecca:
We are, we’re home office and virtual with people in Boston, Denver, Portland, and LA as well as Austin.

Trent:
I’m going to take a sidebar here totally of the scripted questions, do you ever have clients that are concerned about that? You and I both know that it doesn’t make a hell of a difference and I think most clients do, today?

Rebecca:
Yeah

Trent:
Has that ever cost you a deal?

Rebecca:
Never, and in fact it is interesting because a lot of our clients, as we will get into our story more and you will see they’re very conservative people and they’re intrigued by it. They actually think it is cool, so no; it has never hurt us at all.

Trent:
So lesson number one for any would be consultants in the office: don’t ever worry about the fact that you work from home. On the show I have interviewed countless, very successful agencies, all doing 7 figures, many of whom are entirely virtual, don’t have an office and never will.

Rebecca:
Cool, that is good to know. It is reassuring. It was a leap for us when we started because we came from a big corporation but being in Austin, it’s interesting because one of the earlier doctors have virtual settings of all people, of all companies as IBM, and they’ve been doing it for years. If I would say it is an advantage, certainly on the expense line as well as inner coolness.

Trent:
Yeah, and in my own experience with one of the people that I hired, at my agency recently which is also virtual like yours, was able to get someone very talented, that I probably couldn’t have afforded, if I said you have to drive and she doesn’t even live in the town we live in. If she did, which would have made it harder to find someone of this particular skill set and experience, she would have wanted more money. She says: ‘I place a massive value on being able to get the work done when my schedule allows for it to be done”.

Rebecca:
Yeah, we have found that it is a significant appeal for certain people who have a long commute, who maybe are looking for more balance, who want that flexibility in their lives. Being virtual does not withstand being very professional and I think people sometimes think well if you are virtual or you’re home office in some ways there is a risk there of seeming not professional.

We take it very seriously, our audio mic’s, all the logistics, to make sure that we sound clear on the phone, that we’re professional in all that we do so that we still give that perception and create that value around professional working. That would be one thing that I would say is that you can’t skimp on a good headset, good internet access and making sure you have all the right infrastructure. That would be one cavy I would say.

Trent:
The other thing too, I think you can make the case for being virtual requires that you be even more organised and have better systems and processes, and that should give a client comfort, and the great thing about doing what we do is that what we do for ourselves is ironically we’re doing the same thing for our clients that we do for ourselves so when we show them all of our internal processes and checklists and they are interested to see it we’re going to say, “Hey this is the same stuff that we’re going to be using to manage a relationship with you.” I think that goes a long way to giving people comfort like, “Wow, these people are really organised.”

Rebecca:
Yeah, what I like to say at Trew, we try to model good marketing behaviour and so we do the same thing using ourselves a lot.

Trent:
Alright, rabbit hole number one, and who knows how many more there will be. So, Trew Marketing, where are you at today, just so that the audience has some idea of how big or little your company really is?

Rebecca:
We are on our path to 7 digits, that’s our goal this year. We are a team of about 20, a mix of partner and employee and like I said we’re all over the country with our team and we have a very unique niche. At Trew Marketing we are a full service marketing agency, very specifically working with a very narrow market of scientists and engineers and companies who are targeting very technical audiences, so that’s a little bit about Trew.

Trent:
Let’s talk a little about your background because I’m sure that there are some people listening to this, who might be a marketer at a corporation and thinking: “Man, I would really like to go to it on my own” and then there are obviously some others who are consultants, I know I have a fair number of consultants and independent freelancers etc. that listen to the show. So, what did you do before and let’s talk a little bit about the transition, because it’s a really scary part, for especially for people who have never been an entrepreneur, that going out on their own kind of thing for many of them it’s just too much and sadly they never end up doing it. So, a little bit about your background and the transition.

Rebecca:
I can totally relate, I’m so risk averse, so the fear is huge for me, but to backtrack; I came out of college, had a few different jobs at Start-up at actually one of the large ad agencies here in Austin and then I got into a position at one of America’s best companies, a company headquartered her in Austin, called National Instruments. I worked there for 14 years in a variety of different roles from product positioning and go to market strategies, building campaigns around technical products both software and hardware as well as on the communications side, from corporate communications and executive level to Wall street and even internally with employees; a wide variety of marketing roles.

We had a phenomenal team internally and they still do today and they did almost all of the marketing internally, so even though I was more focused on the communications and the product launching side of the business, I was sitting around the table day in and day out with the people heading up events and the web and content and design, so I was in direct marketing etc. I was exposed to all of integrated marketing which was a huge benefit for me, a real blessing.

That gave me the background to be able to go out and have a good understanding of integrated marketing as we started the full service agency. We made a very specific decision, a very intentional decision, to not start an agency that is just PR or just content or just web. We really believe holistically in integrated marketing and so we like to say we channel diagnostics starting with business schools of an organisation trying to understand; what are they trying to accomplish, who do they want and need to be in their market, what does the competition look like and then how can marketing serve those goals, and then picking the channels and the right mix that make sense in an integrated way, to achieve those goals.

Trent:
Tell me a little bit about the transition, what was it that gave you sort of the courage to jump off the ship, so to speak and go into the rubber dingy?

Rebecca:
It was definitely a really, really tall ship and a vast ocean with I would even say a life preserver. I had been at the company, at National Instruments for 14 years, and I could easily have been there 14 more and have a wonderful career, but for me personally, I was looking for a challenge.

I really want to have a challenge, I want to be adding value and I also got to a point; and this isn’t uncommon in larger organisations, I became much more focused in my day to day and in my time, and managing other people in hoping to clear paths for people to be successful, in being in a lot of meetings, slow moving decision making and again not to any large company; it’s just that is how it needs to be the right decisions come out that way.

But I had really moved away from the craft of marketing and I really love and I’m very very passionate about marketing and it was such a phenomenal company that I was at, and my business partner Wendy, the thought of going to another company was really big shoes that they had to fill to entice me to come over, so we just started talking over long lunchtime workouts and late night happy hours and just started talking about it. She’s more open to risk than I am so we’re a good mix in that way in our business, even today. We really just balance each other out, but we kind of went back and forth between: “Ok we’re ready to do this,” and mostly me taking a step back; “I’m not sure.”

In the end it was a matter of just getting an Excel spreadsheet out, trying to crunch some numbers on what we’ll need compared to our existing salaries, what our families could withstand for a year or two in a greatly reduced income. Just the hard facts, the hard discussions with our spouses of moving out of the really comfortable safe corporate job to the scary world of business ownership.

I decided in the end, and this may be helpful for people listening: ok, I know I’m a smart person, I have been successful in marketing so far and it’s not that I’m new to marketing and so I had the foundation to build on. My husband and I sat down and we decided, “Ok, I’m going to do this for a year, if it fails, that is ok; I will have learned a lot, I will have spread my wings, I will have had a great challenge.”

I knew there might be an opportunity for me to go back to the company that I had come from, or I may decide to spread my wings, small business didn’t work out, I know I could go and do something else. I took the pressure off myself of; I have to build a successful company and instead I’d try to break it down into a smaller chunk and say:

“I’m going to take a year off from what I’m doing and I’m going to try something really scary and really exciting for a year,” and if I don’t like it or if it doesn’t work out financially, or I wasn’t at good at marketing as I thought I was, for whatever reason; that’s ok. Then I’m going to give it a year and I’m going to do something else, or may, like I said, go back to the company.

Taking that pressure off myself of a long-term salary that I have to start bringing in, and just trying to think of it as a pilot for a year, I had the benefit of being able to do that, that really helped.

Trent:
How much of a pay cut did you end up taking in that first twelve months?

Rebecca:
My business partner stayed at the company about four to six more months after I left, so we split her salary. I had a couple of customers that were more aligned to my service area, so I left first and we were able to start bringing in some income and then we started to look at the pipeline. Then Wendy ended up leaving and joining me, so then we lost her salary, I would say a good 75% pay cut.

Trent:
How about in year two?

Rebecca:
Year two was the year after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and everything want to hell in a hand basket economically so probably again 75%, maybe 50% towards the end of that year.

Trent:
How about now?

Rebecca:
Probably 50% greater.

Trent:
Yeah, I knew there had to be a role model there somewhere.

Rebecca:
I was back to salary in probably in year three, in year four I was passed it and now we’re 50% more and probably will double.

Trent:
Early on and I asked you about this in the pre-interview, your first six customers came from the corporate role at ex, people that you knew and then your pipeline went completely dry and you kind of had a really big A-ha. I think it was after a mentor or competitor asked you a question. What was that question?

Rebecca:
This was another agency here in Austin, a very good friend of mine, Austin has a very entrepreneurial collaborative business environment, we’re all very friendly and supportive of each other and he invited me down to his office and said: “Ok Rebecca, you’ve been in this about six to nine months, who are the next three customers that you’re going after, that you want in your portfolio?”

I had absolutely no answer to that question, and it was at that moment that I realised; and as I went back and told my business partner: “Do you know the answer to this question?”That we realised that we had been very reactive.

Again it was a blessing, we came out and had some great opportunities and we reacted to those and we’re executing on those. We didn’t have our eyes ahead and we were not being pro-active and intentional about who we wanted as customers, as first as who we could get and that was very transformational for us.

Trent:
What did you do to solve that problem?

Rebecca:
We took a real hard look in the mirror at what is our unique value-add. There’s wonderful marketing agencies out there in Austin and all across the country, what can we uniquely do that compliments what they do? Not necessarily better, but what do we uniquely bring to the table that other people just can’t bring?

When we had that hard reflection in the mirror and with each other, we realized that what we’re passionate about is marketing, but more specifically we’re very passionate about working with engineers and scientists. The people who are literally improving health, improving life, improving safety, doing phenomenal work in services and in products in our country and certainly across the world.

When we started thinking in that way then we said; “Ok, who were the companies that we want to have working, that we want to work for, that we want to help that we know we can uniquely add value to,” and we started to carve out those companies and an event that they were going to be at and put up a plan together of how to go after them.

Trent:
Do you have a piece of advice for; let’s say that there’s another young agency or young consultant listening to this episode, and maybe they are good at marketing, but maybe they don’t have the experience with science or engineers that you have, and they are listening to this and they are going: “You know, that’s a good idea but I don’t know how to figure out the answer to that question.” Is there any advice that you would give them?

Rebecca:
I would just go back to that very first question which is: “Who are the next three customers that, if you had the choice you would have?” It could be a size of company, it could be a geographic location, it could be a particular marketing need that they have or it could be very specifically related to skill set that you have.

Maybe here the first thing you would do is make a list of twenty and then you start to prioritize and maybe even number them on to twenty and then sit back, and try not to think about why, just number them; gut feel. Once you numbered them then sit back and say: “Ok, why is that one company, why are they number one or why are the top five, why are they top and why are the fifteen to twenty ending up down there?”
What is it about, and try to extrapolate out the why; of why some companies seem more appealing to you than others?

You might start to be able to deduce what that unique interest or capability or attribute of those companies are that might be a good guide post for you, to try and find more like them, maybe you can get those ones or others like them, it starts to give you a base of criteria.

Trent:
At this point for the audience’s benefit, I would like to interject a book that I’ve read and it’s called: The Ultimate Sales Machine by a guy by the name of Chad Holmes and for those of you that have been following my posts on building Groove, you’ve heard me talk about the term Target 100, and I learned that from Chad. I would really encourage anyone who wants more meat on this particular point, to grab a copy of Chad’s book, read it, learn about the Target 100, learn about a thing called: The Core Story and you’ll find immense value in that part.

There’s only a couple of chapters of the book which really is the most salient, so it won’t take you long to read at all. I can’t underscore the importance enough of having that core group of people whether it be ten or twenty or fifty or whatever, but it’s not 500.

Rebecca:
Trent, what’s the name of the book again?

Trent:
The Ultimate Sales Machine, and one of the central points; I’ll hijack here a little bit, one of the central points of the book is this thing called The Stadium Pitch. If you think about it, if you were on stage and there was a 1000 people in the audience, you could say: “Who here is in the market for a car right now?” About 3%, according to Chad’s research, about 3% of the room is going to put up their hand. Who is looking for a house? Who is looking for a dentist? Who is looking for a plumber? There is always about 3% of a given audience that knows they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution.

There is about another 7% that are open to the idea of making a change or buying something new. The other 90% of the audience really is not open at that point in time, so to try and sell them is a waste of your breath. Part of the idea of having a core story is that instead of having a sales pitch that’s about features and benefits etc. you want to use education based marketing.

Chad wrote this book quite a while ago; I do not know what the exact published date was but well before this whole content marketing buzz word thing became so very, very popular and if you educate rather than sell, you’re going to appeal to a much larger percentage of the stadium and have a greater opportunity.

So if you combine two key concepts of having this list; he calls it the Target 100, that you’re pursuing on a ongoing basis and instead of saying sell, sell, sell, you are educate, educate, educate you are much, much more likely to get some of that commodity that is so incredibly difficult to get to their attention. Of course, once you have their attention, conversations increase, engagement and relationships and obviously the ball starts rolling in the direction that you need it to.

Rebecca:
That’s super; I’m definitely going to read that.

Trent:
We talked as well in our pre-interview about some prospecting tactics, do you remember that part?

Rebecca:
I do.

Trent:
I want you to talk a little bit about the prospecting tactics that you used, and I, sadly in my notes I don’t remember whether you did this for a certain phase of time in the beginning or whether you still do this, I can’t recall.

Rebecca:
This is something that we primarily did in this transformational time of really narrowing our focus. We still do some of it online, but we found that it works best when you have an established awareness of each other and maybe even a relationship in the past. When we looked at our pipeline and thought about this question of what were the three next customers that you want, we put a list together like I was talking about and many of them were partners of the past company that we had worked for.

They have a large partner network of hundreds of partners but they have a small subset of really well established, sophisticated, growing partners that were right in our niche that were growing in their marketing and needs.

The corporation was interested in seeing them really growing their brands and become more established and sophisticated in their marketing, so it was a good match. We identified those, about twenty companies and between Wendy and I discussed who had the better relationship or history with maybe the owner, or one of the sales people or someone that could introduce us.

We found people, if we didn’t know them personally, we found people that would introduce us to those companies and then we offered to do a scoped audit of their marketing. They had to fill out a questionnaire, so there was some skin in the game for them, they would fill out the questionnaire, we would do some audit of our own, do a cursory audit of our own.

There was an event here in Austin in August where they all were going to be at, so we asked for a one hour consultation with them, where we would share our findings. What we also brought to that meeting was a brief scope of work of what it would cost for to hire us to implement those recommendations. We probably ended up having ten meetings, or so, maybe eight to ten and of those three converted to customers, and two of those three are still customers today, six years later.

Trent:
Very nice. I want to hang onto this one for a minute; think about if you have, because Rebecca have just imparted some incredibly good advice in these last two questions. What a lot of really inexperienced people do is, they just spray and pray and they figure that success is in the numbers so they don’t have this list first of all. If you think about it intuitively, you will look for an event in your town and look at who is going to attend the event and then the great thing about marketing is that you can look at a company’s website and you can look at their marketing.

Rebecca:
Absolutely.

Trent:
You can pretty much figure out if they suck or not. You then make your list of your twenty companies that really aren’t doing very well with their marketing and then you find this event that they are going to be at. You focus yourself on engaging them on social, and sending helpful articles to them and basically just being helpful. Just because who doesn’t want someone to be helpful? Everybody is receptive to good ideas. It’s not going to take long until these people know who you are and you attend this event.

Now they meet you, and maybe your next step is asking for a meeting, or maybe your next step like one of my other guests did when she first started was a webinar. She only got twenty attendees to her first webinar, but three of them converted to clients, so all I’m trying to say is that the power of concentration can be very, very effective when combined with the right education based message.

Rebecca:
This is actually something that we don’t do the audit per se and ask for the consultation, but we have some very targeted trade shows, primarily in the bay area that we’ll take the expense. My business partner heads up more of this Davens Hillside and we will just take the expense, we’ll have some people helping her on the team, we’ll go through the entire exhibitor list.

Exactly what you are saying Trent, we’ll go to the website, we’ll look at their PR, we’ll look at their social accounts, see what they’re doing, when was their last news release. We have a list of just ten or fifteen things that we go through and do just from the information that’s available online. Then we see if anyone from those companies is in our database and then we do a very targeted email to them, we go in LinkedIn and try and find their email address of some person in marketing.

A trick is often you can find the person who has contact information on a news release, so if you actually go in and open a PDF, and often it will say for more information for the media to contact, they will actually have an email or phone number in there. Between that and LinkedIn we will find a person that we can email, and we will email them a very direct custom email just to them.

We will do about twenty of these asking for a meeting, we’re going to be at the show and we would like to stop by for fifteen minutes and introduce ourselves and learn more about your company. Those have been fairly successful for us and I’m not going to lie; there are shows that we spend 750 dollars on hotel and flights and head out there for a day and a half and come back.

In the near term it didn’t looked like anything happened but even then sometimes we’ll get an email back six months later. It takes patience, but that very targeted custom approach has really paid off for us.

Trent:
Absolutely. So at some point in time when you do all of this stuff, you start to get some momentum, and you start to get some clients and you start to get some referrals. You made a decision to, as you said: “Say no to grow”.

Rebecca:
Correct.

Trent:
What does that mean?

Rebecca:
That means that we stayed true to our niche, and we refer business on to other agencies, or other partners that we have, who are a better fit for that organisation. The way that this came about was that we did the audit, we went to the event and in 2009 we had great success coming out of that. At the same time I’m an avid Wall Street Journal reader and they were doing a contest for small businesses to nominate themselves in particular describing how they not only have survived but thrived through the downturn.

You have to remember that this was the fall of 2009 so we were still on the throws of the downward trend line. I decided, on a whim, with about two days to go before the deadline that we would nominate Trew. I had one of our interns who helped me, who did a phenomenal job; we got it in just by the skin of our teeth.

We waited a couple of months and low and behold we were selected as one of the ten most innovative entrepreneurs in America, Wendy and I, my business partner. In that interview with the Wall Street Journal she asked what set us apart and why I think we were selected was I think the irony that in a downturn we turned business away, and that was really intriguing to the Wall Street Journal editorial staff.

The idea was that every time we take an opportunity that is outside of our niche, it’s less reinforcing to the sceptical engineer who doesn’t really believe in marketing, doesn’t understand it, thinks it’s expensive, they are very formulaic and marketing is becoming more and more formulaic but certainly there’s a lot of qualitative intuition to it as well and there’s a lot of best practice and methodology to it.
The more examples that we can show of engineers placing their trust in us, the more that another new engineer will be more open to the idea of working with us.

So if we have a children’s hospital or a non-profit or a municipality or hotel; come to us and they see that on our website, engineers they don’t relate to that, but if they see these are just some of our customers doing Wi-Fi into human implanted medical devices, or they see customers testing the arming on the F35 or they see customers testing dynameters of automobiles, or doing embedded software of highway machinery like massive John Deere tractors, or measuring the vibration of the earth.

They may not necessarily know what all those applications entail, or how to do them, but they understand that we are working with people that are like minded and that was really, really important for us. In that Wall Street Journal interview in our nomination, we said: “We say no to grow” and that has been the key to our growth and success. Absolutely.

Trent:
And to your profit margin too.

Rebecca:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Trent:
Before we wrap up, what haven’t we covered; if you were a brand new agency and you’re listening to this interview, you would have loved to have heard or even just an entrepreneur, not only an agency, an entrepreneur looking for inspiration and for ways to grow their business?

Rebecca:
It’s a great question and I get this question a lot and certainly meet with a lot of people here in town and actually I have a meeting tomorrow with someone in Chicago for the same reason. It really comes back to a saying that the CEO of National Instruments said that was really an inspiration for us and was an inspiration for them and now they’re a multibillion dollar company and it’s this idea of determining what your niche is and then dominating it and then growing from there.

The Target 100 that you talked about Trent or the making the list of twenty, extrapolating out from that what your unique capabilities are or what the unique appeal of those top 5 companies are that your really intentionally want to be working with.

It’s hard, it’s scary to turn down an opportunity and I certainly don’t recommend it when you are first starting; you got to take the opportunities that come to build up your services and your operations and just bring in cash.

That’s just the reality of that, but as you grow and you can really refine what your brand is as an agency and what you want to mean to people and what you don’t want to mean, it’s very powerful. It doesn’t have to be something that you do overnight, you can grow into it, but having that and really taking some time out to think about that vision of who you really want to be, can be very, very rewarding both just professionally but also financially as you mentioned.

Trent:
I want to chime in on this one as well as I do get quite a number of emails from people who are listeners and readers saying: “How do I pick a niche, how do I pick a niche?” I would say you don’t sit down on a weekend when you’re starting out and pick a niche, I think that there’s an immense amount of risk in doing that because if you pick it wrong, you’re going to spent all this time going after a niche where you maybe just don’t get any traction for whatever reason you were unable to predict beforehand. I think, Rebecca, what you just said is right, look at your first year and say first of all we need oxygen so that we do not die and cash flow is oxygen.

The mistake that I think you didn’t make and a lot of people make is at the end of that first year they still haven’t picked their niche and they are still taking anybody and everybody, because they maybe didn’t even just think about the strategy behind their growth, they are just taking client after client; they’re on the treadmill they’re running.

The take away that I hope people get from listening to you is that: once you get enough oxygen that you know the patient is not going to die, take a moment and start thinking about who do we like working with the most, what is the best mesh of our personalities, what type of clients are most profitable, what are the trends that are in the industries that we are dealing with and are those trends headed in the direction that we would need them to be if we are going to be focused on this niche?

Maybe talk to some of those customers and ask a few of them for referrals, just use the feedback that you get from the people who are already dealing with you to assist you in making the decision of what is this niche that you should focus on.

Rebecca:
I think that’s exactly right and Trent, you just hit on something that I think would also be a recommendation that
I would have. One of the things I mentioned early on is I’m totally risk averse, I am the kid that sits in front of the class, turns the homework in a day early. I’m the most risk averse person to start a business.

One of the things I told my business partner is: “You know what, it will make me feel better, I would like to meet with three or four people who own businesses before we start and just ask them a bunch of questions, it will help us as partners, hear from each other and reflect on what they are telling us, it doesn’t even have to be in marketing”.

We had probably three or four hour dinner meetings with people that we trusted, family, friends, an agency here in town who has been a mentor to me for years and just asked them so many questions; “How much cash did you start with, what would you do differently, what’s the best part, what’s the worst part, if you had it all over again would you do it?”

We had twenty to twenty five questions and we just asked them and we learned so much. You can do that with as you’re thinking about starting your own business with other business owners but I like what you said Trent; think about the customers that you would like to have and pick a few whether they are on your target list or are similar to them or maybe it’s a friend and take them to lunch, use that time to work through your questions. In that period of time also ask people what they think your strengths are, if they know you in a professional capacity.

You can really start to learn a lot about yourself by hearing what your brand means to other people and what they associate you with and start from a position of strength and build on that.

Trent:
Yeah, I could not agree more. Alright Rebecca, let’s wrap it up here. I think that we’ve covered everything that I had hoped to cover in this interview and I would like to thank you very much.
Rebecca:

Thank you.
Trent:
If people would like to get a hold of you is Twitter a good way to do that?

Rebecca:
Sure, Twitter is fine, it’s RebeccaG.

Trent:
Ok, I’ll put that in the show notes. RebeccaG. Ok Rebecca, have yourself a wonderful day and thanks for being on the show.

Rebecca:
You bet. Thank you so much Trent.

Trent:
Alright to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/152 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 tweet awaiting the click of your mouse. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so very much for tuning in. I look forward to having you back for another episode soon.

Take care, have a wonderful day, bye bye.

About Rebecca Geier

With 20 years of global marketing experience, Rebecca leads the TREW team in building strategic, thoughtful, and sustainable plans for a wide variety of projects, from redesigning an organization’s website and leading in-depth research to defining the positioning and messaging for companies, products and campaigns.

Rebecca and TREW co-founder Wendy Covey were named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the Ten Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and TREW Marketing has been named as a Top B2B Agency multiple years.

EVAN OWENS

How Evan Owens Built a $3.5 Million Digital Agency

Evan Owens has built Centresource to $3.5 mil revenue last year by attracting the right clients and employees. Centresource is a digital agency that makes, markets and measures digital experiences for companies.

In today’s episode I get Evan to share the type of work Centresource does, who they work for and how they generate leads. We also discuss how content marketing plays a role in their business, how they pick which local networking events to attend and how both of these strategies generate leads. Pay close attention and learn a very smart thing Evan does once he builds a relationship with event organizers.

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

  • (03:00) Introduction
  • (04:30) What type of work does your firm do?
  • (07:30) How do you structure the billing of your software development projects?
  • (08:45) What KPI’s do your customers focus on the ensure they are getting an ROI?
  • (10:34) Which areas of healthcare are you getting traction with?
  • (12:00) How are you generating leads in healthcare?
  • (15:15) How do you find events to attend?
  • (19:00) Please describe your process for content marketing.
  • (27:00) Please tell me about how you go about hiring salespeople.
  • (34:00) Should an agency choose just one niche?

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

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

About Evan Owens

Evan Owens is the CEO for Centresource Interactive Agency. Founded in 2003, Centresource helps their clients merge technology and marketing strategies to produce measurable results in the areas of growth, retention, efficiency, training and analytics. Throughout his career, he has helped a broad base of organizations such as Adobe, Healthways, Singer Sewing, Mapco, and SESAC revolutionize their marketing and technology strategies.

Under his leadership, Centresource has expanded to a national client base and is privileged to be named in the INC 5000, the Hottest 100 Companies in TN and the Inner City 100 Fastest Growing Companies in the US lists. Also in 2010, Centresource was selected as a finalist for the .NET Design Agency of the Year.

Evan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Belmont University. Outside of Centresource, he is the co-founder of Reboot Combat Recovery, a non-profit dedicated to helping service members heal from the spiritual wounds of war such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and combat trauma.

ALAN VITBERG FC

How to Grow Your Agency’s Revenue From $100K to $300K with Alan Vitberg

alan-vitberg-interview_0

Alan Vitberg rapidly grew his marketing agency from a $100K to a $300K firm.

He shares:

  • why he chose his specific niches
  • how he generates leads
  • his content marketing strategy
  • his LinkedIn strategies (and mistakes he made)

If you’re an independent marketing consultant who would like to build a team and really grow your agency, you will definitely want to listen to this podcast.

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

  • (04:25) Introduction
  • (05:55) Overview of his firm and strategy
  • (07:55) Why did you pick CPAs?
  • (11:55) Please describe your content marketing strategy
  • (17:10) Please give me an example of a compelling TOFU offer for a CPA
  • (25:25) How do you promote your content?
  • (34:25) How should the solo operator start to build a team to deliver services?
  • (35:55) How do you go about building relationships with other partners?
  • (37:05) How did you land your first manufacturer as a client?
  • (39:15) How do you prioritize your time?

Resources Mentioned

  • avitberg@vitbergllc.com
  • GrabTrentsBonus.com

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

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

About Alan Vitberg

Alan Vitberg is owner of VitbergLLC, a marketing agency for B2B and professional services firms. He is a nationally recognized marketing executive, speaker, and author, specializing in helping clients grow their top line though design and execution of lead generation campaigns, “get found first” internet strategies, installation of inbound marketing programs, and laser focusing marketing budgets for more ROI.

Alan is one of the nation’s foremost experts on designing and building websites for lead generation, and is a specialist in content marketing and the use of social media for lead generation.

Prior to VitbergLLC, Alan was the award winning Chief Marketing Officer for a Top 100, mega regional CPA firm (The Bonadio Group). During his tenure, the firm grew from a $12 million/110 person company to a multi-disciplined, $43 million/6 location firm employing 350 people. In addition to branding, strategic, and tactical activities that helped secure a position as the market’s dominant leader for accounting and consulting services, he developed and installed one of the first inbound marketing programs in the nation for professional services firms.

Prior to Bonadio, Alan worked in both B2B and B2C environments, for firms including ALEON Corporation, and Young & Rubicam. His responsibilities included lead generation campaigns; sales support and collateral; brand building; niche building; and both traditional and e-based advertising, collateral, and public relations activities.

Kurt Theobald

How Kurt Theobald Built a 30 Person Agency by Focusing on One Niche

kurt-theobald-interview_0

With eCommerce success story Classy Llama, Kurt Theobald has hit one out of the park. However, it didn’t happen overnight. Kurt had plenty of failures along the way, which of course means that he learned a ton of valuable lessons along the way (listen as he reveals his biggest mistake in our interview).

One of the key ingredients in Classy Llama’s success was that the company focused on one single niche. As I’ve shared recently, the power of focus cannot be underestimated.

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

  • (02:50) Introductions
  • (04:20) How did you come up with the name?
  • (06:04) Why did you choose to focus on Magento’s Ecommerce platform?
  • (07:20) How did you validate the viability of the niche?
  • (08:50) Please tell me about how partnerships helped launch the company
  • (14:19) What are you doing now to attract new leads?
  • (15:30) What does your revenue model look like?
  • (17:40) Please tell us about your new content strategy
  • (23:50) Which online properties are most valuable to you?
  • (27:50) Please tell me about your biggest mistake in business

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

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

About Kurt Theobald

KurtTheobaldKurt Theobald is the Co-Founder and CEO of Classy Llama.  A visionary to his core, Theobald has delivered eleven businesses failures and one success over the last ten years, and while his batting average has suffered and his wife has learned patience, the one hit has been a home run (think “Babe Ruth”).

Classy Llama is an eCommerce agency consisting of salt-of-the-earth, efficiency-driven eCommerce veterans committed to delivering more by doing less.  As one of Magento’s earliest partners, Classy Llama has helped over 80 companies achieve success on the Magento platform. You can learn more from Kurt and the Classy Llama team at their blog, live weekly Llama Commerce Show, and Twitter page.

As a husband, father, and businessman, Theobald offers huge innovative energy, uncompromising integrity, and a commitment to unity in all aspects of his life.  Tempered by the guidance and counsel of his team and advisors, Theobald disrupts the status quo with visions of the “better”.

Kurt lives near Springfield, MO with his co-adventurer and wife of ten years, Jessica, and his two children, Benjamin and Eliana.

Chris Heiler

How Chris Heiler is Growing Landscape Leadership into a Successful Inbound Marketing Agency

Chris-Heiler-Interview_0I’ve talked about the benefits of focusing on a niche, and this podcast really hits home just how important that is.

Chris started Landscape Leadership, a marketing agency specifically for clients that work in “green” industries. This is a prime example of someone who looked for a need in the market and designed his company around it. If you are considering starting a business and haven’t chosen your niche yet, or you’re in business and aren’t focused on a specific niche, I highly recommend listening in on this episode.

In addition to his niche, Chris and I cover how he got started, how he’s blogging, and what he sells first so that his clients keep working with him.

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

  • (02:45) Introductions
  • (04:45) How did you start your marketing agency?
  • (07:45) How did working with your first client position you to get more?
  • (09:30) What do you think focusing on just one niche is so important?
  • (12:30) What are some of the benefits of focusing on a single niche?
  • (14:30) What does your blogging routine look like?
  • (18:25) What do you see as the biggest opportunity for your agency?
  • (19:30) What does your initial sales conversation look like?
  • (24:15) What service(s) do you try to sell first?
  • (25:30) How do you on-board a new client?
  • (28:25) What advice would you give to people just getting started?

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

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

 

About Chris Heiler

Chris Heiler GreenChris Heiler is the founder and president of Landscape Leadership, an inbound marketing agency that combines website design/development, social media, content marketing, and search marketing into integrated and measurable campaigns for green industry clients ranging from landscape construction and maintenance companies to lawn care operators and garden centers. 

Landscape Leadership has clients across the country with all team members working remotely. Heiler lives in Austin, TX.

Additional Resources

Niche

How to Test the Viability of a Niche Marketing Without Wasting Valuable Time and Resources

Once you’ve chosen your niche, I suggest you test that niche in the way that I’m about to describe before fully committing to it.

The reason for this is that I often see people putting a great deal of time and effort to building a complete website for their chosen niche before ever running any tests. As you might guess, pursuing the wrong niche can turn out to be a massive waste of time and resources.

To avoid what could be weeks or months of wasted time building the site, creating blog posts, and in promoting those posts, you can greatly minimize the risk of picking the wrong niche by putting up a few landing pages and then driving traffic to them.

In my book on marketing automation, I cover in detail how to create landing pages and lead magnets. What I will be covering in today’s post is quick and easy way to drive traffic to these landing pages so that in a very short period of time you can determine, with a high degree of certainty, if a given niche is worth pursuing.

Two Ways to Generate Immediate Traffic

There are two ways that I commonly use to drive traffic to a landing page in the shortest possible amount of time. While neither method is free, the cost of testing a niche using the method that I’m about to outline pales in comparison to the cost of putting weeks and/or months into pursuing the wrong niche.

Use Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC can be a great way to test your niche. (image source: 123rf.com)

PPC can be a great way to test your niche.
(image source: 123rf.com)

Depending upon the niche you’re going after, you’ll want to try Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn paid advertising to drive traffic to your landing page. If your business is B2B, I would suggest that you use LinkedIn because you can target your ads very specifically.

If your business is B2C, I suggest you use Facebook for exactly the same reasons.

As a last resort you may also want to try Google Adwords; however I suspect you’ll find the costs are excessive when compared to either Facebook or LinkedIn; especially given the fact that you cannot target your audience nearly as well with Google as you can with the social platforms I just mentioned.

When using a PPC campaign to drive traffic to a landing page, you need to be aware that there are several variables that you’re going to need to test before you can determine if the experiment was a success or not.

Test Several Variables

The first variable that you want to test is the image in the headline of your ad. I would suggest that for the first part of this test you keep your headline consistent and use anywhere from 10 to 20 different images. Once you have identified the top performing image that I would suggest you test different variations of the headline.

After you are getting a satisfactory click through on your ads, you’re going to need to look at the conversion rate of your landing page. I cover how to split test the landing page in detail in my marketing automation book.

Direct Mail

Some niches will be easier to reach with direct mail than with PPC advertising. For these niches, I suggest you use three-dimensional direct-mail, otherwise known as lumpy mail.

Old fashioned mail is another great way to test a niche.. provided you use it the right way! (image source: 123rf.com)

Old fashioned mail is another great way to test a niche.. provided you use it the right way!
(image source: 123rf.com)

The reason that 3D mail works so much better than conventional mail is that the recipient of your direct mail will be pretty curious as to what is inside the envelope and, as such, the likelihood that they are going to open your envelope is substantially higher.

The costs of sending out 3D mail will, of course, be higher than the costs of sending out conventional mail or postcards; however, I believe that the increased response rate will be more than worth it. (And yes, you could actually split test this, too!)

When choosing a 3D object to including your mailing, I suggest that you find something that closely relates to the captivating headline you put at the top of the letter you are going to include in the mailing (you should also split test your headlines over time).

The more creative you are, the better your results are going to be, so be sure and put sufficient time and effort into coming up with

ideas for what you’re going to send before you reach into your wallet.

There are numerous suppliers from which to choose (Google the term “3d mail” or “lumpy mail”). The one that I am currently using is www.3Dmailresults.com.

In our case, the call to action in the letter is just the same as it would be with the PPC ad, and that is the landing page URL – which we personalize to the recipient.

How to Maximize Landing Page Conversions

To maximize conversions, we’ve built landing pages that are customized to each individual. On these landing pages we display a video was specifically created for the intended recipient. As we are attempting to test this niche’s appetite to outsource their marketing to our marketing agency, the video shows 3 to 4 minute review of their website. In the videos we identify the 5 to 7 critical factors that are wrong with their site, and share how each factor is costing them money.

As with all the marketing that I do, this strategy relies heavily on some ninja marketing automation tactics to increase its effectiveness. To be able to replicate what I’m about to explain you’re going to need to use Infusionsoft, FuzedApp.com and Wistia.com.

Wistia is the company that I use to host the video, which I embed on the landing page. Producing the video takes less than five minutes. All I do is have a look at their site, make a list of the deficiencies, and then record the screen share where I introduce myself and explain what these deficiencies are and their negative impact.

This video is then exported to a dropbox folder, and, thanks to FuzedApp.com, it is automatically uploaded to the appropriate folder in Wistia. I then use FuzedApp.com to set up video tracking so that I can apply the tag in Infusionsoft if my prospect watches more than 75% of the video. (I chose 75% but you can pick any percentage you like.)

In each case, we have done our best to obtain a working email address for the prospect. The way that we do this is to go to their contact page and then view the source code to find an email address (search for “mailto:” and if an address is available in the code, you’ll find it). This is the email address that we use in their contact record within Infusionsoft as well as in the URL of the landing page. To mask what is now an ugly landing page URL, we simply create a “pretty link” (easy to type) that includes their name. To do this, you’ll need the Pretty Link plugin for WordPress.

Using Automation to Track Video Engagement

By taking this approach, when a prospect receives our lumpy mail and then visits the landing page that we have specified, if they watch more than 75% of the video we receive a notification from Infusionsoft.

The goal of the landing page is to get them to opt in and download our lead magnet – which is highly relevant to the niche. When they download the lead magnet, we will have captured their preferred email address and then an automated follow-up campaign begins in Infusionsoft.

The reason the video tracking is helpful is because if they do not opt in, we are still able to tell if our prospect visited the landing page and watched at least 75% (or whatever we specify) of the video.

If, over time, we see the videos are being watched and we are not capturing leads, we’ll know that our direct mail is effective at getting them to visit the landing page, however, the landing page is not effective at getting them to give us their contact details.

Conclusion

There are unlimited niches out there, but not all are good targets - pick wisely! (image source: 123rf.com)

There are unlimited niches out there, but not all are good targets – pick wisely!
(image source: 123rf.com)

As I hope you can now see, testing a niche using either of the methods that I have outlined above will give you immediate feedback on whether this is a niche that you can get traction with – and, best of all you will not have had to build an entire website.

It’s not enough to believe that a niche needs your help, or that they can afford to pay you for it. If you cannot acquire a customer at a cost that is less than your average customer value, you will not be in business long!

Moreover, if you really want to grow, you are going to need a system for attracting customers on a regular basis, as opposed to just getting one every now and again via personal relationships. Niche testing will tell you if this is likely to be possible.

If you succeed in getting traction using this test, then it is a good idea to dive in, build a site and begin creating and promoting your content on an ongoing basis as I describe how to do in my new book.