Jessica Rhodes, Founder and Co-owner of Interview Connections (Rhode Island)

Jessica Rhodes is Founder and Co-owner of Interview Connections, the first and leading podcast booking agency. The beginning? Jessica started working from home as a virtual assistant, booking her father on podcasts, so he could get exposure to his target audience and amplify his brand . . . without a lot of travel. Then added companies.

While many of her clients think they would like to be on “big-name” podcasts, Jessica feels it is important for them to be strategic about where they “spend their time” and about getting on the right shows. Rather than using a “shotgun” approach, entrepreneurs will be far better served if they can get on shows where they will be addressing 500 of their best potential clients. Most of her bookings are for mid-range shows . . . with a few hundred up to a thousand super-targeted listeners.

Jessica’s co-owner, Margy Feldhuhn, started at Interview Connections as a contractor in 2016 and hired on as the first employee in 2017. A year later, on the occasion of Margy’s first annual review, Jessica made her a co-owner. The “fit” was that good. The company hit its first 7-figure year in 2019.

Jessica notes that podcasts are not an effective marketing strategy if they are intermittent. Podcast interviews need be part of long-term marketing strategy – done with consistency and momentum. Jessica recommends doing an interview a week, 4 weeks a month, year over year. 

Advantages of podcasting: 

  • Podcasts will “live” indefinitely – as long as people continue to search for what you teach.
  • Backlinks between the websites of interviewers and interviewees boost SEO rankings. 
  • Interviews increase a podcast guest’s credibility and help establish him or her as a leading expert.
  • Podcasts attract qualified leads in a way very different from other marketing strategies

Effective podcasting is not about the ego. It’s really about “relationship-building and getting in front of the right audiences.”

Jessica believes it is very important to have clear, written systems in place before you hire someone for a new position. it’s easy to train and onboard them. Interview Connections has a full-time staff of employees. Jessica believes the full-time staff is cheaper because contractors:

  • Will constantly demand more money as they gain the skills you teach them
  • Leave for another job or for vacation at will, providing no consistency for your clients
  • Take the skills you taught them to your competition. 

Podcasting is growing every year. Jessica recommends people guest on podcasts before they “start their own show,” just to figure out where your podcast fits in.

Jessica can be reached on her agency’s website at: https://interviewconnections.com/ or by texting the word “GROUP” to 38470. You will receive a link to Interview Connections’ free Facebook group, Guest Expert Profit Lab.

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Free Money: How to Pay Your Agency’s Team with Federal Stimulus Dollars

It sounds too good be be true, but there’s really no catch to using the Payroll Protection Plan Program forgivable loan program to keep your Marketing Agency team in place and pay the rent (for free).

 

Jason Blumer is an expert in the business of Marketing Agencies, Accounting, Taxes, and more, and is here to answer the key questions of how you can use the CARES act to solidify your business in the midst of Coronavirus uncertainty.

 

Additional Resources:

How to Clean Up a Bad (Digital) Reputation

Jason Ciment, is CEO of GetVisible, a consultancy and digital agency that builds websites, drives traffic to websites through search engines and social media channels, and provides digital reputation management services. 

Most of the agency’s 10 employees started their careers as professionals working in businesses other than marketing. Jason, himself, started as a CPA/real estate specialist in a big accounting firm. He went back to school to study law, worked a summer with a large clothing factory in Sri Lanka, and spent time in the NYC rag trade before he finished his law degree. What then?

Time to start a business. 

Jason launched Magmall, an ecommerce business selling magazine subscriptions, in 1997, and dug into pre-Google search engine optimization. (Early Google became one of his clients.) Over the years, GetVisible added a new skillset every couple of years: service business website development, pay-per-click ads, social media services, reputation management, LinkedIn-associated services, and email marketing. Each time the company decided to offer a new service, it hired someone who already had the needed expertise and introduced them to the organization’s philosophy and its Assessment Toolbox Methodology, a means of discovering a client’s customers and where on the digital landscape they are to be found. 

Jason admits that the company is relatively small. Leveraging limited assets is important. A big question and challenge is always: How can they stretch a dollar and produce a higher ROI with a lower cost? 

A few innovations . . .

  • GetVisible has never had a sales force. Jason feels that salespeople focus on sales; he wants to focus on client outcomes. 
  • GetVisible uses a what Jason refers to a “transparent contract,” a flat fee, six-month contract that, rather than tallying up a total of separate service, targets producing a client’s desired results and itemizes how the client’s money has been allocated. 
  • The agency implemented a simplified wireframe process to increase WordPress site development efficiency, promote intra-page symmetry, and get early client involvement and buy-in. 

Jason believes a website needs to answer 3 questions: : What is it that you do? Who do you do it for? Why are you better than anyone else?

Get Visible builds healthy online branded Google and Bing search reputations for its clients. But, what can be done when a company gets damaging listings, bad news, or bad reviews? 

There’s the clean way and the not-so-clean way of removing someone’s “bad news” from the internet. The “not clean” way is to actually try erase the bad thing that is damaging a client’s website, not an easy thing to do. The clean way? GetVisible creates a flood of “good news” content for its clients. This more current information pushes the bad news down the page. Good news won’t make “the bad stuff” disappear completely, but the bad stuff will become obsolete and irrelevant. 

Jason can be contacted on his company’s website at GetVisible.com, or through his LinkedIn profile, where those interested can sign up for his “secret newsletter.” His first book, I Need More Clients: Digital Marketing Strategies That Grow Your Business (Amazon, 2016), has straight five star reviews. 

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Good Copy that Checks-Off Google Boxes

Blake Akers is the owner of Webology, a digital marketing agency that started by “knocking on the doors” of local small and mid-size businesses. The company focuses on using Google for organic and paid search, providing scientific SEO, testing, and data analysis on the organic side and split testing ad campaigns within paid search.

Today, the agency takes its focused expertise and works regional verticals, e.g. roofing and niche legal firms – companies that typically have a high cost per click and a high per lead value . . . companies where Webology, because of its tight industry focus, knows the business.

Webology’s intention is to work exclusively with one company in a vertical in a geographic market. Blake claims that, if you know how to rank a local roofing company website, you get a lot of leads on the search engine results page (SERP) – those from organic search and those from the Maps Pack (3-pack). The Maps Pack is the group of up to 3 businesses that appear in a box at the top of the page, after the advertisements. The Maps Pack is a valuable piece of real estate . . . studies suggest if a the SERP has a local pack, that local pack will get the majority of the clicks, but the Maps Pack alone will get over 40 percent of the total clicks.

How did Blake get Webology so well-launched in such a short period of time (3 years)?

Branding.

Blake researched SEO to figure out what it took to rank a website locally and get leads for small- to mid-size businesses. . . starting with his company. He asked some critical questions:

How do we write really, really good copy that sells, but also checks off all the boxes in regards to competitor averages?

How do we enhance a page for users and still fit the averages that Google is looking for?

He started getting some answers when he reviewed everyone else’s “best practices.” But, the true answers did not come to light until after he dove deep into data science, assessed competitor averages, and identified and implemented advanced SEO strategies. This knowledge gave him the tools to help his own company grow . . . and a product he could sell to his clients. He has used his own company website a number of times to beta-test new ideas that later get rolled out to customers.

If there is one thing he would change back at the start, Blake says he would have gone after more client reviews and worked even harder at building up his brand. Today, he is a lot more proactive about reaching out to his clients and interviewing them to get those valuable endorsements.

To contact Blake, visit his company’s website at: https://webology.io/, email him directly at: blake@webology.io., or ask general questions at: info@webology.io.

 

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Asking the Right Questions

Melissa DiGianfilippo, Co-founder and President of Public Relations, Serendipit Consulting, Scottsdale, AZ

Melissa DiGianfilippo is Co-founder and President of Public Relations for Serendipit Consulting, a full-service marketing, PR, and creative agency.

In this interview she talks about the questions she asks to suss out what each client truly needs – as opposed to what they think they need: What’s the goal? Is it storytelling? Is it brand awareness? What’s unique about the brand? Does the company have sales goals? What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important? Once needs are established, what services does a client need? Media relations? Digital marketing? Zocial media? Content creation? Do they need everything?

Melissa believes that “all marketing tactics are moving in the direction of measurability.” Serendipit customizes its PR services: strategizing placement timing and geography. Melissa explains that they are “looking for a lift in traffic” at the time a TV segment airs and afterward. TV segments, difficult to track in themselves, are reposted and shared on social media. Trackable links help customers to understand the value of PR placement and the role of social amplification in strengthening placement impacts. Did the placement drive a direct increase in any of the tracked KPIs?

Melissa believes thought leadership and subject matter expertise are the most powerful kind of PR. If one thought leader in an organization is good, “more than one” can highlight a company’s diversity. Being featured on a consistent basis – in national broadcast or news or print, local markets, and industry-related publications – and talking about trends, forecasting, and your personal story may not produce immediate results. But this kind of exposure will, over time, drive influence for your brand, establish you as a credible thought leader, and boost KPI results.

Melissa credits Entrepreneur Organization with contributing to her company’s success. After 11 years in business, Serendipit has over $4 million in annual revenue, high profitability, 30 employees, and a culture she describes as “enviable.”

Melissa is candid about her company’s mistakes. A few years back, when the company decided it wanted to go to “the next level,” they hired an expensive “expert” to lead the charge. BIG MISTAKE. Nine months of BIG MISTAKE. Melissa says that owners need to know that they don’t need to hire a high-ticket “name” to pull an organization up. Employees have the capability, within themselves, to grow their skills and ramp up an organization. A structured commission program has proven to be win-win . . . for employees, for clients, for business partners, and for the agency.

Another mistake? Melissa and Co-founder, Alexis Krisay, love business development. Melissa warns that when agency owners sell to customers, they may tend to sell themselves and not their agencies. Which is what Melissa and Alexis did. Then, when the “unknown” Serendipit team started working these projects, clients were not happy. Weren’t Melissa and Alexis supposed to be leading the initiative? Today, Melissa and Alexis bring the teams in early during the sales process.

Melissa can be found on her company’s marketing-education-content-rich website at: www.serendipitconsulting.com, by following @serendipit on Instagram (or for Melissa’s longform stories, @melissadflip on Instagram), or on LinkedIn.

 

 

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Franchise! How Small, Local Business becomes Big Business

Location 3, is a digital marketing agency that “delivers enterprise-level strategy with local market activation. In its 20th year in business, the Google-Analytics Certified agency works primarily with franchisors to understand their business objectives and facilitate enterprise strategy alignment and with individual franchisees, to promote hyper-local-level marketing activation. Services include business listing management, SEO, data and analytics, and driving new revenue through paid search, paid social, local programmatic buys – and anything else that makes sense for boosting local level revenue.

How big is the franchise market? Alex notes that over 50% of all US retail locations are part of a franchise organization. Only about 30% of the approximately 750,000 franchise locations in this country are in fast food/casual dining. Almost anything, Alex explains, can use the franchise model. Location 3 focuses less on fast food and more on services or franchise systems with measurably higher customer lifetime values.

In this interview, Alex explains how Digital marketing at the local level is interesting, but also complicated. Unlike direct mail, where someone can walk into a store with a traceable coupon, programmatic vendors (e.g., Google and Facebook) can claim, based on their technology, that someone saw or engaged with your ad or website on their platform, and ended up in your location. When promotions are on multiple platforms, how does one tell which one actually drove the store visit? And how should the proportion of spend be tweaked to maximize revenue growth? To facilitate optimal decisions, Location 3 provides franchisees with full turnkey campaigns across a broad variety of platforms, tracks return on ad spend, and shares that information with it clients with full transparency.

Location 3 developed a franchisee-facing software platform, LOCALACT, which serves as a hub of local digital data. Franchisees can use this tool to see their local page analytics, how their local Google My Business is performing, and where their traffic is coming from; respond to reviews; and buy additional media.

Alex can be reached on his company’s website at: https://location3.com/, on YouTube, or at 820 16th St. Suite 300, Denver, CO 80202.

You can always check out our website. We’re very active. We have a pretty active YouTube account. We put up some video content. We go to pretty much every franchise tradeshow that’s out there, so if you’re in the franchise space and we haven’t met you, I’m sure we will soon. Very active in that community, the tradeshow community. If you’re ever in Denver, we’re right on 16th Street Mall right downtown.

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Courting Clients with Marketing Strategy Workshops

Ten years ago, when the real estate bubble finally burst, Jeff Pulvino closed his decade-old real estate investment company and sweated through the “Now What?” people face when they find themselves out of a job. Social marketing was in its infancy. Jeff pivoted his company, and, using the strengths of its internal marketing department, jumped into Facebook marketing, and, ultimately, built a full-service digital marketing agency. It was not an easy climb.

Eight years into agency life, Jeff realized that, without a strategic plan, the agency was just “marketing in the dark,” and often failing to deliver what customers wanted and expected – a specific goal had never been communicated. Today, most of their 4- to 5- year-long client relationships start with a marketing strategy workshop, a 30-day, low-level engagement where the parties can mutually get to know each other, discuss objectives and strategies in depth, and determine if there is a “fit.”

Jeff explains that “most entrepreneurs, business owners, and established businesses come . . . for marketing, but they have no real defined marketing strategy.” As an additional challenge, these clients often come to Boost when declining sales have left them strapped for cash. They may know the results they want . . . and desperately need to survive. They may even by hyper-focused on some particular technology, but often fail to have an understanding of realistic timelines.

Boost Media Group takes a step back, looks at the realities of cash flows, calculates how long it will take to generate a return on investment, and then crafts programs that address a client’s current cash needs and long-term growth objectives. Starting with this workshop session has exponentially increased Boot’s close rate and its ability to attract new customers. One of Boost Media Group’s sub-brands, Fitness Media, helps “big name clients” in the fitness industry develop their funnels and monetize their brands.

In this interview, Jeff identifies some of Boost’s keys to success. In the early years of the agency, he focused on sales. Over time, he has learned that it is not about how much the agency sells . . . it’s more important to make sure clients are a good fit. He credits having a robust technology stack of project management tools, templates, and proven processes . . . and iteratively improving those processes to meet the needs of his employees, clients, and his company . . . to being able to consistently deliver great results.

Boost recently acquired another agency, SearcherMagnet, which is “highly specialized in direct response lead acquisition.” Jeff says that acquiring another company brought with it experienced, high-level, passionate team members that Boost never would have been able to hire. He looks forward to expanding more this way in the future.

Jeff can be reached on his company’s website at: https://boostmediagroup.com/, by phone, on Live Chat, or by filling out a Contact Us form.

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Stalling? Rebrand. Relocate. Rethink Strategy.

John Hernandez is Owner and Partner at On Advertising, a marketing and advertising agency that has, over the past 26 years, rebranded itself, leveraged “new identities,” survived a recession, and increased and changed its client base.

In this interview, John talks about his company’s “humble beginnings” and reveals the strategic decisions that helped it grow.

Ron Meritt, a television meteorologist, started NPR Public Relations in 1993 as a side gig. He provided traditional PR for nonprofit organizations . . . working out of his house with 1 client.

In 2002, John accepted Ron’s invitation to join the business and quit his job at the television station. They took out an SBA loan to cover payroll, rebranded the company as PRfect Media, and offered a flat fee “one-stop-shop for everything” marketing solution for small businesses. In addition to traditional marketing services – billboards, TV, radio, PR, and support – they utilized video, a technology application new for marketing. John’s television-world experience – in graphic design and in scripting, shooting, and editing video – provided a differentiating and cost-saving advantage for both the agency and its clients: They didn’t need to hire outside firms for those services.

Six or seven years ago, the agency was doing a lot of non-traditional work, but people on the outside perceived them as a traditional PR firm. What to do?

How about doing the same thing the agency would do for its clients?

John and Ron tasked the agency’s employees to rebrand the company and On Advertising was born: The employees set the color palette, the logo, and the brand. In a bold move, the agency took out a revolving loan and relocated the company from a commercial building in the Phoenix suburbs to a downtown high-rise, putting their signage on a street with heavy traffic all through the day. That move almost doubled their business: they were now visible, accessible, and re-defined.

John says On Advertising has two growth strategies: to build the business organically and to expand its client base and capabilities through mergers and acquisitions. The agency still maintains its revolving credit line to even out the cash flow and to facilitate these acquisitions and mergers.

John lists a number of keys to On Advertising’s success:

He believes the company gets traction as long as it treats itself as a client: spending money on itself; boosting its website presence, Google Analytics, and social media presence; and embracing media marketing technology.

He emphasizes that it is as critically important to have “trustworthy team members on the outside” (CPA, attorneys, PEO) as it is to have good employees.

And, to weather a recession, as this company did in 1987-88: John recommends developing multiple streams of income.

John can be reached on his company’s website at: https://onadvertising.com/

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Entrepreneurship: Planning + Process = Profits

What kind of marketing agency picks Wichita, Kansas – a city very close to the geographic center of the
continental United States, for its headquarters?
How about an agency with 4 media buyers, providing everything marketing from traditional media buys
to a full-range of digital services including online presence and reputation management, and serving an
extremely diverse clientele.
What kind of employees would choose to work for such an out-of-the-way agency?
Could be people who enjoy a slower pace, a shorter work week, a culturally-rich/affordable life-style,
extended benefits, and a five- or ten-minute commute to the office.
Advantage Marketing strategizes with diverse client companies about what needs to happen with their
businesses, collects a “lot of information,” and develops a “lot of data” to determine when and where to
place ads to reach the target client base. Customized, multiplatform marketing initiatives blend
traditional marketing with newer, “personalized” digital plans. “bridging from one media to the next.”
Cori outlines a number of promotional targeting strategies she is excited about for the coming year. As
an example, she expects a “boom” in OTT (over the top/subscription) and DTV-connected television,
which allows focused zip code and contextual targeting and cross-device matching.
Cori started her career as a sales rep in broadcast television. After 5 years, she joined an agency. After
five years there, still not “settled,” she started Advantage Marketing. Her partner, Amy Hoefer, who has
a background in cable television, joined the agency in a year later. Cori believes that an in-depth
understanding of media buying planning has been critical to her agency’s growth and that it is important
to establish and document processes to ensure scalability and continued organizational success
In this interview, Cori explains the process she used to grow her agency fast – and increase its service
offerings at the same time. In 2017, four years after agency started, Cori and Amy decided the best way
to “grow” would be to acquire another agency. It wasn’t something they wanted to do “on the fly.”
They selected a “great accountant” and a “great attorney,” discussed with them their goals and
objectives, and targeted a successful company whose owner wanted to retire. They signed the
necessary non-disclosure agreements and requested and reviewed the company’s client list and
financials. Advantage had the capital to purchase the agency, but Amy has had a number of
entrepreneurship classes, done a lot of research, and learned this: “Don’t spend your own money. Get a
loan.” Makes sense. A “loan” leaves an intact “cushion” for dealing with daily business expenses.
Cori took an SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Emerging Leaders Program last year to learn
more about scaling her business, planning growth, and getting the agency’s processes documented and
in place. She relies on the SBA (Small Business Association) for valuable information on how to run her
business and, interestingly, still gets periodic mentoring from the woman who owned the agency she
bought.
Cori can be reached on social media, on her company’s website at: https://admarkict.com/ 0r by phone
at: 316.729.0500.

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Branding Advocacy (on Purpose) with Attitude

Josh Belhumeur is Managing Partner at Brink, a creative group that uses culturally relevant art content and experiences through a variety of initiatives to engage audiences and build brands for products, political candidates, and progressive causes. 

In this interview, Josh explains how his agency, which started as three guys in a Tucson garage doing web development, evolved into a full-service, “all things media, all things internet, all things digital” agency with attitude and two physical locations. Only recently has the leadership at Brink started to understand who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to create . . . and it is the nexus between brand development and socially-responsible advocacy.

A consultancy branch of the organization works with C-suite level executives to discern product market fit and develop an organization’s ability to innovate. An indie film “wing” distributes about 150 titles worldwide and on subscription platforms. 

On the agency side, client-focused teams (a UX lead, an art lead, a producer, and a strategist)

  1. Help brands identify their purpose and bring that purpose to market 
  2. Produce excellent, timely, relevant, and digitally-rooted creative work

Josh joined Brink (2006) to work on strategy and business development. He moved to Washington, D.C. to expand the agency’s client base and found “a lot of government, a lot of politics, a lot of advocacy” and a lot of “learning.” In Washington, organizations often align under the same brand – a for-profit, a nonprofit, and a super Political Action Committee – separate entities, but run side by side. This provides the flexibility for the organization’s “branches” to have separate missions and do different things while utilizing the same internal knowledge and resources.

Brink grew up with the internet. Around a year and a half ago, troubled by the power of the internet to distort truth, Brink launched a 501(c)(3), now managed by Josh’s partner, to address what Josh refers to as the 4 destructive forces of the internet/ social media:

  1. The filter bubble: Social media platforms will push content to you that matches your beliefs. You are more likely to interact with this content. They make more money
  2. The sensationalist skew: People are more likely to react to the outrageous. Again, more money
  3. Binary thinking: Digital platforms will push people into little boxes. If Facebook senses you are considering buying a home, its algorithms will push content related to home-buying.
  4. Unclear authority: The proliferation of fake news makes it hard to know who and what to believe. 

The goal of the Brink Foundation is to educate people on these four destructive forces and then target messages to offset the harmful effects of the internet and reduce political polarization. Knowing their “purpose” has lost clients for Brink . . . but gained new clients who are better aligned with the agency’s interests. Win-win.

Brink’s unique value ad? The ability to work with brands, introduce activism, help them brands guild out activism programs, and unify that activism into their brand strategy. According to Josh, “Being an activist brand is the strongest way you can find a tribe.”

Josh can be reached on his agency’s website at: https://brink.com/ , where you will find information on the agency, the consultancy, their films, and the Brink Foundation.

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