Episode 13 – Justin Seibert – lets talk digital marketing – a few digital advertising predictions, how to stay ahead of the curve in a digital world and keys to building a company with happy employees

The Talent, Sales & Scale Podcast returns for Episode 13 with Justin Seibert! Host Bryan Whittington is joined by Justin, President at Direct Online Marketing – to talk – you guessed it – marketing! 

Not just marketing – Justin and Bryan cover a ton of valuable topics on this episode: 

-Justin shares his story of getting started in digital advertising and marketing – the “wild wild west” early 2000’s 

-Mistakes made along the way that YOU can avoid – Justin is as authentic as they come!

-A few key predictions on the future of digital marketing and advertising

Direct Online Marketing’s website:

You can connect with Justin on LinkedIn here:

Read Full Transcript

Bryan: Hey, everybody! Bryan Whittington here with The Talent, Sales and Scale show. And today we have a real treat. We have Justin Seibert. Seibert, not Seibert.
Transcriber’s Note: Bryan pronounces the latter as See-bert.

Bryan: Although we have a Seibert road, it’s Seibert. Correct, Justin?
Justin: You nailed it;, yes, sir.
Bryan: All right, cool. So Justin comes from Direct Online Marketing. You also know him as Dom—DOM. And really what he talks about is the pay per click. How do you leverage all of these Google tools to drive opportunities from a pay per click advertising standpoint, as well as paid SEO? He also does some social advertising as well as analytics. And that’s really the thing I was most interested in, the analytics side, because Justin, I’ll ask you here in a second. But what blew me away the first time that we met a couple years back was how you use analytics, how you use data to really drive the science—not necessarily the art,--but the science behind lead generation in marketing tools. So Justin, with that said, welcome to the show.
Justin: Hey, Bryan, thanks for having me. Obviously I’m a big fan of yours. I really appreciate you making the time today to talk a little fun marketing sales stuff.
Bryan: You got it. So this is what we live and breathe and die by, right? So this is especially right now with what’s going on, the second wave of COVID coming around. Nobody knows what to do and how to do it. So this is a very, very timely conversation, so I appreciate it.
So, I guess, let’s talk a little bit about your background. I mean, everybody and their uncle says that they can do sales and marketing, and everybody has an intern or a cousin who does some of this stuff, right? And you spent a lot of years on it. So I guess question #1 is, how did you develop your expertise? And why in the world should anyone listen to you, Justin?
Justin: Yeah. So I went to school at Vanderbilt University down in Nashville and I graduated in 1999. And I wouldn’t say I was the best student there ever was, Bryan.
Bryan: Yeah.
Justin: So afterwards I decided to move to Los Angeles just because I wanted to see Los Angeles. And about two years in I ended up working at a firm that sold gold and silver. And they just hired me because they liked me. They didn’t really have a spot for me at that time.
And they said, “We’ve been really successful in long-form radio. But for us to grow we need another marketing leg. We think it’s the Internet. Go, figure it out.”
So this was back in 2001, right?
Bryan: Okay.
Justin: The Wild, Wild West days. They were all trying stuff out. And it was awesome because you could see what was working and what didn’t work, and you could just really experiment a lot.
So I did a whole bunch of dumb stuff. But I did some stuff that worked out pretty well. And what was really neat were two things. 1. I saw the numbers, going back to what you were saying before about the analytics. I knew whether something was working or not.
But the second part was that I sat right next to the sales floor. So it wasn’t about creating a funny ad. It wasn’t about doing something that’s going to win an award. I would get an earful if the leads weren’t good. So I had to know whether something was working, and whether it paid off or not.
And so fast forward to almost five years later. We had our first child in Los Angeles. My wife became pregnant for the second time. We didn’t have any family in L.A. So we didn’t want to stay in Los Angeles. Not that there’s anything wrong with that for people that do raise their families there, but we wanted to go somewhere else.
And so at that time in 2006 I looked at the numbers. And when I started with that company in 2001, they were doing $25 million a year of total revenue. In 2006 they were doing $35 million in revenue just attributed to Google.
Bryan: Nice.
Justin: So we aren’t all that far removed from Y2K. Is the Internet still really a thing? We had all the .coms burst. And people are wondering. Does it make sense? Well I knew it made sense because I saw it.
And I’m not giving these numbers to brag. It was a tremendous sales team, an awesome sales force. I’m just saying that I saw it, and I knew that it worked. So when I was moving back to the Pittsburgh region, it was an opportunity for me to take what I’d learned and to try to share that with other companies.
Bryan: Yes, and I love it. So a couple things that I heard you say here is 1, I knew the numbers. 2, I sat right beside the sales team so I had to produce quality. And there’s a quick feedback loop , right? There’s always that tension, that tug of war that you hear all the time between sales and marketing. “Well, your sales teams suck,” right? “Your salespeople can’t close anything.”
“Well, it’s the marketing leads; they’re horrible.” So it’s that quick feedback loop of blameless problem solving I’m hearing you say, that we all work together to get that thing done. Then lastly, why we talk about talent, sales and scalability is that we need a great leadership team, a great sales team, and a great execution of the whole entire process to be able to grow that quickly. And I know the company that you’re talking about, and all of you listeners likely would as well; it’s a pretty well-known company. So that was beautiful growth off of that. So that’s great stuff.
So now that we’re listening, talk to us a little bit about this. I mean, what should we know? I mean, how do we pick an online marketing or an out-source marketing company like you? What should we expect? I mean, we don’t even know what we don’t know. What should we be looking for here, Justin?
Justin: Yes. The challenge is (and I’m very familiar that my industry has been filled with snake oil.) And so it makes it really difficult when #1, you don’t know what you should be looking for, as you’re saying exactly, and on top of that not knowing who to trust. And that makes it really difficult.
And then if you go out there and you try to actually interview and talk to different agencies, it’s so difficult. I tell people all the time that I feel bad for them when they’re in that process, because they’re just trying to do the best job they can to find the right fit.
But it’s not apples to apples comparisons, because we all have our different models; we all have different ways that we talk about what we do; we have different pricing. It’s not even apples to oranges. A lot of times it feels more like apples to chain saws.
So I think that the big thing you need to be looking for is what’s the right fit. So talk with the company. Who do you have a comfort level with? And understand what you’re going to get out of it. To us, one of the giant pieces of this is communication.
So what kind of reporting are you getting? Are they going to use jargon? Are they going to speak to you in plain English or Spanish, or whatever the appropriate language is? Are they going to be a true partner to you and work to find solutions, or are they just going to put everything on you to figure it out and tell them what to do??
Well, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are they not even going to listen to you and just move forward with whatever they think makes sense? I just talked with a woman on Thursday of last week. And she’s saying that she was really frustrated with her agency because she doesn’t even feel like they know the main terms, the main things, the products that they sell.
And I asked her how long she’s been with them. And I heard her grit her teeth, and she said, “Four years.”
So I think you need to get into a situation to where you feel like you have a real partner on that team. And so whatever you can do to interview companies, to check out their ratings and the reviews, to maybe do some reference checks, look at case studies, whatever gives you that comfort level to back up what the person is saying to you, you need to look for that right fit.
And I’ll tell everybody; I’ll tell them frequently. I’ll say it to you right now. We’re not the best agency for everybody. We just aren’t. I’ve been around this too long. I turn down companies all the time because I don’t think we’re the right fit, because getting some short-term gain isn’t worth it if you’re then going to be unsatisfied with the results.
And then you’re not going to stick; you’re going to bounce. You’re probably going to bad-mouth the company because you weren’t happy with things. And we don’t want that. We want to set ourselves and our clients up for success. We also want to have these long-term relationships.
Bryan: Yes; I love that. So it’s really identifying the right fit. So in order for you to have the right fit you need to know what are your goals? What is the reporting structure going to be? How do you define success, right? And then from there how do you ensure what their process is, because these are out-sourced. If they don’t have industry experience, --and let me just pause on this,--industry experience. How important is it? Or are you running systems and processes where you can learn that jargon pretty quickly so industry experience may not be as necessary? So industry experience—need it, don’t need it?
Justin: There are two schools of thought on this. So there are places that will specialize in just one particular industry. And there’s some benefit to that. When you do that you know that industry really well. Your team is going to know all the jargon. They’re probably going to understand what’s important to you.
But the flip side is that sometimes they don’t have as wide of a view of things that are working in other places. They might be able to try it there. Sometimes they are going to have a more difficult time with coming up with custom solutions for you, and have your best interests at heart. If they’re doing this for other people that are competing with you, or even if they’re not competing with you it’s just a copy, a cookie-cutter approach. They’re going to take one area to the next area.
So I’m not saying that one is better than the other. I mean, I lean more towards being open. I think it’s great if there is some industry experience, but not necessarily all they do. But again I understand the appeal to some people who might like the other.
Bryan: Yes, and I’ll come back to the summation of this as well. But is there a specific process or system methodology that you follow? So for example, just the other week, we had a potential client of ours say, “You didn’t even ask me too much about our environment.” Well, that comes down later on in the process. And because we use systems and processes, within five minutes, maybe 90 minutes maximum after an onboarding, I likely know and can sell better than most organizations, than somebody two, three, five, ten years in the industry? Is that a similar case for you? Or what does that look like on the digital marketing side?
Justin: Yes, it’s absolutely the same. You know, when I first started the company gosh, fourteen years ago, I thought, “We’re marketers; we’re creative; we’re smart. We’re just going to figure it out and use our creativity.” And I couldn’t have been any wronger—more wrong? What happened is that we weren’t doing it consistently from time to time. And so we weren’t always getting the best effort.
Sometimes it was going great; sometimes it wasn’t going so great. And it was just inconsistent. It’s a really horrible place to put your clients in.
So I had to get past what my own hang-ups were. And I really did learn the importance of process. We’re huge into process here. We’re huge into systems. We have a custom strategy that we always have in place for 60 to 90 days. We update at the end of every month.
And some clients like seeing it; some don’t. But it ends up being almost GANT chart, where it just lays out what are all the things that we need to do on a daily, weekly, quarterly and monthly basis, to make sure that we’re not letting anything fall through the cracks.
So we developed it just as our own internal accountability tool. And I think that with any business you’re in it’s incredibly important to have that.
Bryan: Okay. So going back to that summation of what you said is, how do you identify the right fit? It’s really knowing what those goals and reporting structures are going to be. And you just threw out every 60 to 90 days, a check and a quarterly checkup, which is ideal. And then setting expectations and being able to verify that along the way. And then in terms of being able to understand the product or being a partnership, that’s going to go a little bit back to expectation. But then also, how do they understand me? So what’s their system and process for onboarding new clients and really understanding that system? Is that a good summation?
Justin: Yeah, absolutely. Just one thing. I think we’re on the same page, but I want to make sure for the listeners as well.
Bryan: Yes.
Justin: So on a strategy piece yes, we’re updating at the end of thirty days. And we are taking a look at some things on a quarterly basis. But you know, on a communication basis it’s really important for us to make sure that we have that weekly communication, in some places daily communication with the client depending on the scope, depending on what their preferences are. But the frequent communication beyond just the strategic talks are really critical for success.
Bryan: Yes. So my thought is that you have to go from the strategic plan, that strategy. What’s your goal for market strategy? What’s the plan? And then bring that down into the execution plan where you’re saying, “Hey, we need weekly and daily feedback as to what’s working and what isn’t so we can make those tweaks and adjustments.” So even though you’re not sitting in the office with them, you’re acting as part of them. So you’re making those quick updates and adaptations as they would go along, leveraging the experience that you have. So you’re probably able to do that faster than what they might otherwise be able to do in house. And then looking at that strategy, what’s changed over the last 60 or 90 days, because as we’ve seen, from the beginning of the year to the end of the first quarter, the second, (Laughter), now into the third here as we close this out, I mean, massive changes. And it seems that in this COVID time that a quarter is almost like a year right now. So that really fast feedback loop is what I’m catching from all of this.
Justin: Yeah, I love it. And I love the way that you talk about that quick feedback loop. And you just took that out of my story at the beginning.
Bryan: Right.
Justin: My origin story, if you will. It’s really, really critical. And I would say that we’re not successful all the time, right? some things for whatever reason sometimes don’t fit. But what I will say is that where it has most often not worked out for us has been that there has been a breakdown in communication.
And we used to not be great at it. Frankly, my industry is not great at it in general. And I finally wised up several years ago; it’s getting closer to a decade ago now. I said, “This is stupid. We have full control over how much we communicate.” We can’t necessarily make the client communicate back with us. But we have to be sharing with them and open, and make sure we’re getting updates, we’re getting reporting that makes sense, and doing all of those things.
So I just think the communication piece is absolutely critical, and like you said, getting that feedback on the other end, because if we aren’t in a lead generation situation, we might see the numbers coming in and think we’re doing a great job. But the client is really frustrated because the leads are all bad.
On the other hand, we might be sensing a small lead flowing through. But they’re all becoming marketing-accepted, sales-accepted. They’re moving through the funnel; they’re really excited. And we don’t necessarily know that unless we’re having those conversations.
Bryan: Yeah. And I think back to those expectations. It’s also knowing that you’re on the same jargon, the same vernacular, because sales-accepted, market-accepted, is that the same as MQL, SQL? So who cares, right? (Laughter) We’ll just get some language down that everybody gets. And make sure they’re all on the same page. So we need to put them in that translator. I love it.
Now I think that hits reporting. Now let’s talk about goals. What goals should people expect? I mean, we talk about the math of sales. the meaning of the math of sales is that I know that for x amount of outreach I’m going to get through this percentage of people that are going to either pick up the phone and have a conversation, or they’re going to open an email and have an engagement rate. So I know outreach to that initial conversation . From the initial conversation a certain percentage of those are going to go to a first-time meeting booked. That first-time meeting booked is going to go from that meeting booked to a meeting kept. And then a certain percentage of those are just going to go from that meeting kept to the pipeline opportunity, pipeline management. And then of those a certain percentage is going to go down to a closed won or closed lost. And then that goes back up to the nurturing campaign.
So I know what those numbers are. We call that the math of sales.. Is that the same in digital? Can we expect the same and put our goals against that? What does it look like from a digital, pay per click, paid SEO? I mean, what does that look like in your world?
Justin: Yes. It’s similar in that the structure of it is going to be the same, or at least similar, depending on what the goals are going to be. But there are a lot of variations in terms of this. In this industry you know your lead conversions, right? So we’re talking about what percentage of people that click on an ad or click through to the website, what percentage of those fill out information.
Bryan: Right.
Justin: And if it’s ecommerce, then obviously that’s a different thing as well. But if that happens there’s a different rate for different industries.
It’s the same type of thing with the “cost per click.” If you’re running an advertising campaign, that’s one of the big components—how much you’re paying per click. Well, that has a huge variation. Depending on the source, depending on the vertical, depending on the competition, you might be paying a cent per click. You might be paying over $800 per click. And we’ll talk about what reasonable expectations are, if you want to. But the point is that one industry might have an average $2 cost per click in a search campaign. Another one might have $60. Obviously, even if all the formulas are the same, that’s going to have a huge impact on what the end results are going to be, and what a reasonable expectation on a cost per lead would end up being.
Bryan: Now then, are there certain people based upon that, Justin, that shouldn’t do the digital marketing side? Because for example, in our world I know for a fact that there are some people who, if they use their full scope, if they’re not making $7,000 profit per sale, or a $20,000 lifetime profit over a three-year period per sale, they likely shouldn’t use their full scope of services. Is there that same mix on digital, or can everybody do this?
Justin: Yes, absolutely. I would say that I’ll start with my agency first. And then I’ll go and answer the question just in general.
Bryan: Yes.
Justin: Absolutely. There are times when it doesn’t make sense to use us. The costs are just prohibitive, and it’s not going to make sense for them based on the research that we do, based on our experience, based on what their goals are, and maybe sometimes just based on the business model frankly, and where they’re operating in terms of their metrics.
In digital in general, I would say that there are some things that probably make sense for most businesses—not all, but most businesses. But there are others that don’t necessarily.
So pay per click is a perfect example. It might not make sense. It might be too expensive for a business model because of too much competition. Search engine optimization, depending on what you’re able to put out, (and the fact that you don’t need to use an agency for any of this, by the way; you might be able to do this in house), but search engine optimization draws people in. We’re not going to have to pay per click. But you’re reaching to people that are actually looking for what you’re selling, but not for you. So if they don’t find you they’re going to find your competition. I think that in most cases, unless you’re a brand-new product that people aren’t searching for, you probably would want to have that search presence. Now you might have to pay for it in blood and sweat and tears. But you want that audience coming to you.
Bryan: Right. So boy, there’s a lot there. So off of that, it’s really going to depend on industry and goal to market, meaning are you direct? Are you e-commerce? What does that thing look like? Your cost per click, that’s really going to depend on the source of the click, the vertical, the competition. So whenever you say “source,” is that through LinkedIn? Is that through Google? All of that stuff.
Now what else from a goal perspective should we really look for, then? Can I set an average number of meetings or an average number of leads, and then the likelihood of that percentage of leads that should be good? I mean, is that available to me?
Justin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we use kind of an Excel spread sheet that frankly, if you really look at it, comes down to back of the napkin math.
Bryan: Right.
Justin: Putting in assumptions and putting in some buffers for where we think you might end up on some of these variables. But what I will say is, the more that you can come to an agency, or to your in-house team that’s doing the marketing for you, or just to yourself if you’re running yourself, the more that you can come with those leads and have that crystal-clear picture of what you’re trying to accomplish, even if you don’t necessarily know what the cost per lead needs to be, you at least know how many leads there are going to be that you need to have to fuel everything.
You should know what you need in terms of revenue. The more that you have that, the better off you’re going to be. And how I would encourage you, there are some times where the business doesn’t want to share that with their internal team or with their external team. And I think that sometimes it’s out of a place of fear. If I share with them what I’m looking for, then they’re not going to keep working as hard when they get it. Or they’re going to start wanting to charge me more, or whatever those are going to be.
And I get it, right? It’s human nature. But I’m saying that you’re really chugging with one hand behind your back if you’re not sharing that kind of information with the team that you’ve hired, that you’re working with, to help you meet the goals that you’re looking for.
So the term we use all the time is transparency. And we’re going to be completely transparent with our clients. And we ask our clients to be as transparent as they can with us as well.
Bryan: Yeah. That’s funny, right? So how many leads do you need? As many as you can give me. Well, that doesn’t really help, right?, because if you want an unlimited number of leads I could probably do that for you. It’s just that what’s the marketing spend that you’re going to want to have? So it’s really that realm of possibility.
So the other side of that is, let’s pretend that Justin and his team do a killer job, which they’re going to do. Well, can you handle it? What’s your through-put, right? How many can you handle, new client on-boarding is some of the most – You know, as a former pilot, the most challenging times were takeoff and landing. That’s whenever you have the highest likelihood of dying.
It’s the same with new client on-boarding. That’s the likelihood, the highest time that you’re going to crash and burn, because there are missed expectations and communications and all of these things. And it’s so vitally important to get that right. And if you are task-saturated, bringing on too many net new people because Justin and his team are doing so well, you’re going to have wasted spend and these leads that go nowhere. I don’t know; maybe there’s an owner or two that know that their sales team only follows up with them two or three times and then just gives up. But now you have this really expensive list that isn’t doing anything, right?
Or you have this list of leads that aren’t even followed up. Or you have these leads that are followed up, and then worse yet, getting really bad service. So now your online presence, your reputation, is getting tarnished. And the current clients that you do have aren’t going to renew.
So there’s so much peril that doesn’t come out of a lack of communication. But you know, that’s a bit of a soapbox. Sorry, Justin; you might hate that idea or agree with that; I don’t know.
Justin: No, I’m 100% in agreement. I mean, just to use your example, there are definitely times that we had to have the campaign shut off because they couldn’t handle any more.
Bryan: Right.
Justin: We’ve had these situations where, like you said, you talk about the beginning of the call, and you know, sales and marketing sometimes fighting with one another. “Well, we got you the leads.”
“The leads aren’t any good.” And I would say that’s one of the other (not to go off on a tangent), but I feel like that’s the classic struggle. Most organizations have it in some form or another. But it makes everything so much more difficult. And so the more as a business that you can align on your marketing sales teams so that they feel like they’re working together, the better off you’re going to be.
Bryan: Yeah, a hundred per cent. Okay, so the goals are really going to depend on your industry, your go-to-market strategy. It’s really going to depend upon the cost per click because of source vertical competition, as well as what’s your average sale value, what’s your lifetime value of a client. My guess is probably also your cycle time that’s going to have a plan there; I don’t know if that’s right. Okay, so sale cycle time is there.
But then always knowing a crystal-clear picture of who you’re targeting. So you might call it an “ideal customer profile,” or I don’t know; you can correct me here. Is ideal customer profile, the ICP, the same as persona? Is that different? What’s that about?
Justin: They’re similar. You know, when I think about ICP—and I know people think about it in different ways,--I’m thinking about that from the company perspective. And when I’m thinking about personas I’m thinking about it from the buyer’s perspective.
Bryan: Oh, interesting. Okay, so ICP is more from the company who’s trying to generate and find these to create the list. And then the persona is more from the client profile or the customer profile of how I word this message, this right to attract them into the conversation.
Justin: Yeah. Now ICP being Levis, and the persona being Suzanne and Tarik and Joe and all those different people that work within the organization.
Bryan: Okay, got it. That’s helpful; I didn’t think about it that way. Well, let’s hit on that. It’s a bit of a tangent and I’ll bring it back. So persona then is really me selling from the buyer’s perspective, of being able to put myself in their pants in this instance, (laughter), and being able to get them to lean in and tweak things, having the perspective of their vantage point to drive better messaging, , drive better leads, so that whenever we do get a lead that’s a better piece. Is that an accurate understanding there?
Justin: Yeah, absolutely, because if you take just even LinkedIn, for example, you’re going to know where the person works. You’re going to know the size of the company. You’re even going to know their seniority level, what their title is, all of that information. That’s just one example where you can start building what that persona looks like, and then stuff you know better than I Do, Bryan. Then you can develop your own set of questions and objectives that you’re likely to hear, and all those other things to the persona, and arm your sales team with that.
Bryan: Okay. And then by doing that then the buyer’s journey—that’s what they talk about—is critically important, because my sense is—and this is my idea, so you can push back on it,--my sense is that the buyer’s journey in today’s day and age is really going to be the end-all and be-all, because everybody tries to commoditize everything. And you know, I can’t out-pace your technology, right? I can duplicate your technology, I can duplicate your messaging, I can duplicate virtually everything. But I can’t duplicate your team and I can’t duplicate how you interact with my client, right? That’s going to be completely differently made up.

So really nailing that persona and understanding that buyer’s journey, and reducing as much friction as humanly possible from the lead gen all the way through the conversion and the cart, or the conversion on the sales end, seems to me to be a vital key differentiator. I don’t know if you would agree with that or not. But that’s something I’ve been messing around with.
Justin: Oh absolutely.
Bryan: Got it. Okay, so that’s persona from the buyer’s perspective. Okay, now what other goals should we have? What else should we be looking for here?
Justin: I think the big thing—and again we’ll use lead generation because it’s obviously going to be different; e-commerce is a different set, right? But let me just say that even in both cases a lot of times when people come to us they’ll say, “Hey, I need so much traffic.” Or even worse, “I need so many likes on Facebook,” or something along those lines. And it’s understanding. “What did that traffic get you?”
“Well, I need more traffic because it’s going to get me more leads.”
“We need more leads because it’s going to give me more sales.”
“I’m going to give more sales because we didn’t hit our numbers the last two quarters. And the board is going to have my head on the chopping block if we don’t get there.”
So the more that we understand what those things are and what’s important to the client, the better. And I would just say that based on the experience of talking with people these last fourteen years that I’ve had the agency, or even just general conversations with associates, sometimes you’re not so clear on it yourself. And if you’re not it’s better to have those conversations with somebody that can help you really drill down and understand what they are, because there are absolutely numbers behind everything. You just have to understand what they mean and what you’re going to try to get to.
But to bring it around to your original question, I do think that the amount of traffic is important, for example. Another one we hear is, “Do you have rankings?”
“Yes, yes, yes.” Those things matter. But they only matter as a means to the end of what you’re trying to achieve. So we want to know what your conversions are, what your return of(app) spend is going to be, customer lifetime value. Are you making money on this or not?
And the beautiful part about digital is that nobody has completely figured out attribution. I don’t think that anybody will ever completely figure out attribution about which source gets which credit, that they saw a billboard but then searched you online, you know, all of those things that go in. But the reason I fell in love with digital fourteen years ago is because we can measure everything, or virtually everything.
See, I always tell people that digital might not be right for you. But if you’re running a good campaign you’re going to know in a fairly short period of time whether or not it paid off for you.
Bryan: So what would you say to the marketing person that says, “I can’t give you any of that. It’s going to change so much. Who knows?” What do you say to that person? Are they legit? Or through some clarifying questions I can get down to the heart of it.
Justin: Yes, we try to get through the clarifying questions as much as we can, because at the end of the day it’s tough for us to perform if we don’t have that clarity of what we’re trying to do. Now there’s a reason that Direct is part of our company name. We’re out there to fill a mission and to do direct marketing to help sales efforts, to get people to their goals.
So the clients can say they’re happy. But if we’re not hitting the numbers, first of all we’re not going to be happy. That just doesn’t matter, right?; the client doesn’t care about that. But what happens when their boss comes to them, or they have a new boss come in, or whatever?
“Was it successful?”
“I don’t know.” Or “Okay, so I saw that traffic is up. But what does that mean for the bottom line?”
“I don’t know.” I think it’s important for the person to have clarity for himself. But it’s absolutely important for us. And we can help them if they don’t know it. We can help them devise what we think are realistic targets. We can tell them what metrics we think are important. And we can refine all of those targets as we go along and see what the numbers actually are, and what we can do to improve. But there has to be at minimum some give-and-take there.
Bryan: Yeah. I wholeheartedly agree with that. So if you don’t know your numbers, reach out to Justin or a person of choice. Reach out to me on the knowing your numbers sales side. If you don’t know those we have a calculator on our end that we can pop over to you. I don’t know if you have one. Is there a calculator that you could use, or have anything like that set up, Justin?
Justin: We have one internally that we use that we walk through with our prospects.
Bryan: Okay. So you can leverage these internal tools. So do that, because if you don’t know those numbers then you don’t know if you can really have a forecastable revenue number, right? If you don’t know the numbers that it takes to get a closed 1, because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. I don’t care what my brand recognition is. I don’t care what my number of likes are. I don’t care how many leads I get, whether it’s through demand generation, lead, generation, digital referrals, it doesn’t matter. What matters is how much revenue comes in through the bank and how big my pipeline is through a replicable process to go from A. to Z. that’s going to go from leads all the way to revenue generation so I can forecast that. I don’t know if I’m off or not on that, Justin.
Justin: No, that’s exactly right. And look, we will turn down prospects sometimes, because we’ve talked with them. We uncover. We tell them, “Here’s what we think are realistic expectations. You’re going to be in this kind of range,” right?
And a lot of times that leads to the client saying, “This doesn’t make sense for us, with you or anybody else.” I feel like that’s a win, because I’ve just saved them a bunch of money.
Bryan: That’s right.
Justin: I’ve been saving them a lot of money in not doing something that wasn’t going to pay off for them. And so I feel like I’ve done my good deed for the day. But you don’t know any of that unless you can get the numbers up.
Bryan: A hundred per cent. So then again, don’t feel badly if you don’t know your numbers. Nobody does, right? Because I don’t know if you have this, Justin, but it just shocks me to no end to have people talk about their customer acquisition costs, and they really have no idea. I mean, they throw numbers out there and they think they know. But at the end of the day they truly don’t know what their customer acquisition costs are whenever they put in technology and people and labor and digital, and this and that and everything else. They generally don’t know what their customer cost of acquisition is and how expensive it can be, and why this system and process and knowing your numbers is so vitally important. I don’t know if you see that, or is that just on our end with the sales side?
Justin: No, absolutely; it’s one of my favorite things to watch with the kids—“The Profit” with Marcus Lemonis. And you know, you’ll see that thing where they start asking those numbers. And you just see them staring off in the distance because they really didn’t know what they were. And they thought their profit was this, and it really was a negative down here because they really didn’t understand those numbers.
Bryan: Now it’s funny. Growth sucks cash. Growth is the biggest strain on cash flow. And if you don’t know your numbers, if you don’t know your cash flow conversion rates, you could literally be selling your way out of business. And most organizations think that just sales will fix everything, and that’s not the case. And that’s where knowing your numbers, knowing process, knowing how this works, your go-to-market strategy, oh my goodness! For my founders listening to this, if you don’t figure this out it’s going to be a lot of work and frustration. So, you know, really figure that out. Justin’s really good at it. Go ahead.
Justin: And Bryan, I just want to add on that note. I’m not coming off like I know all this stuff, right? I still need help. I still work with people who explain it to me. And so we look at our numbers to make sure that we understand them and what we can do.
But I had no concept of any of this when I first started out. And it’s amazing that we stayed in business! I’m just super lucky; that’s the only thing that I can figure out. We did some good work for our clients. They liked us; they kept us on. And they referred us to other people.
But based on how little I knew, financially and otherwise, I still shouldn’t be in business today. And part of it was, I felt embarrassed, right? Because I owned a business I should know all of this information. And that’s just crazy stupid! And it wasn’t until I started opening myself up and not being as embarrassed about what I didn’t know that I could start to learn, that I could start getting good advice from people. And I could really start transforming my business.
So if you’re out there and you’re feeling that way yourself, most people feel that way. And hopefully it’s just something that you can get over. And don’t feel like you have to know everything.
Bryan: For those who don’t feel that way, you will soon enough. (Laughter) That’s great; all right. So let’s hit that then; let’s transition. What are some of the biggest challenges or lessons learned, things that you’ve learned so we can keep from stubbing our toes and not repeat those same follies?
Justin: The two that I bring up all the time is the first one that I was just talking about, right? Don’t be embarrassed about what you don’t know. Get outside advice. Be transparent with people. What I say on all my videos is, “Be generous with giving and accepting help.” Be open and don’t be scared of that. And don’t let ego get in the way of things, because there’s nothing, or few things harder in life than running a business. And it’s really easy to feel like you’re on an island because it’s very lonely. There are very few people that you can talk to about it.
And maybe you’re talking with a spouse. And I have an amazing spouse. She’s so wonderful in so many ways. And I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for her and all of her support over the years, which included some very tough love at certain times. It’s just tough to do that. So the more you can open yourself up and get help would be #1.
#2, (and I swear I’m not saying this because I’m on your show, Bryan; I say this all the time.) But for me the second thing that I wish I would have done many, many years earlier was to get sales training. And I can’t believe how much money I dropped and didn’t get to grow with because I didn’t do enough. Not that I’m some great salesperson now, but thanks to you, Bryan, (Laughter), and some other resources I’ve gotten better.
Bryan: Thank you.
Justin: The person may already be good at sales. But if you’re good at sales then just figure out what that one thing is that you don’t know—if it’s finance, if it’s HR, if it’s culture, if it’s any of those things that are really important. And like you said, you can absolutely sell yourself to bankruptcy. But the other phrase that my old bosses used to tell me is that revenue cures a lot of ills. Not all ills, but a lot of ills.
Bryan: Right, yeah. Revenue helps a lot. In running a good business, especially with a lot of revenue, that’s good business, because you can cover up a lot of sin with revenue. Whenever things switch up like they have this last half-year here, you’ve got to know those numbers. I love that.
And to piggyback off of that is 1. Be open to give and receive feedback. That’s critically important and we can talk about it here in a second—some different ways to do that. But 2., whether with sales training or like you just said, the financial side, you know, constantly be learning.
We’re pretty decent at sales. I used to be ten years at sales training, coaching and consulting under the tutelage of John Rosso. So if you want sales training check out John and a whole bunch of other people out there.
But even still, every single day we practice half an hour a day to do our job better. We’re constantly practicing. And the difference in the professional athlete is that every single day they practice more than anybody else. That’s their trade. They have coaches, they have mentors. They’re getting training, ongoing, reinforcement, however you want to do it. Boy, I couldn’t agree with you any more there, Justin.
So what are other challenges or lessons learned that we should watch out for so we can avoid those same things?
Justin: I guess the other thing that I didn’t respect—and again I sort of feel stupid saying this,--you know, I look back every year and say, “I can’t believe how stupid I was last year!” (Laughter) But when I would go back really far I was really dumb, right?
But one of the first things that we fixed here was culture. And I’m really proud to say that we have an amazing culture. And your point is that we don’t rest on our laurels. We’re always looking at ways that we can get better. But we have an amazing culture because there are awesome people here that really care about each other. They care about our clients. They care about our communities. They care about our company. So it’s really fixing that culture.
In the beginning I said, “Well, I really care about my people. But I also know that the boss/employee relationship, it’s not friends, it’s not whatever, and it’s a little bit different. And I didn’t want people to feel like I was being nebby, right? Saying, “I have to tell Justin this thing.”
I looked at it more like well, people can come in and they can do their work and then be gone. And that’s a really horrible way to run a business, even though I thought it was the best thing at the time. And this was flat-out wrong.
So we really had to work at how we build up a great culture. You know, sure they would still rather be at the beach if they could. (Laughter) But having to be off of it, how is it that they want to be in our office? And so I think that the more that you can build that culture early on it’s just going to help everything else.
Bryan: I love that, I absolutely love that, which goes wholeheartedly into that talent/sales side. So let’s talk about this business hack for talent, sales or scale, or all of those. What’s the one hack, if you wanted to maybe elaborate a little bit more on culture? What would you like to hit on there?
Justin: Yes. I think that for culture and for talent acquisition we’re really, really big fans of the Predictive Index. And I know there are a lot of different job behavioral disc profile things that are out there. And whichever one you’re happy with I think is great; just use one. To my dying day I will continue to sell and promote Predictive Index.
But when you use a tool like that you can find out what a person’s strengths are, what they are naturally adhering to, because everybody can be good at something. What you’re trying to do is put them in a role where they’re going to naturally be aligned with their talents and their desires so they can be successful, because even if they have the skills—and I’ve learned this the hard way!—even if they have the skills to do other things, they’re going to be emotionally misaligned. And you can be that for a little while; you can’t be that over long periods of time.
So using a tool like that to #1, get the right people in the door to a particular position that you’re hiring for, but #2, using it internally. Everybody has it displayed by their desk, if we ever go back to desk, (Laughter) for anybody who’s seen “Willy Wonka.” But have it displayed. What is their archetype?
And I keep looking at reports where I’m having trouble communicating. I just don’t feel like I’m getting through to this person. So you can run reports that show you what are the ways that you’re naturally going to be aligned? Where are you going to have friction? And what are the best ways that you can communicate with one another. So there’s a lot that you can do with that type of tool.
And again, with Predictive Index, one of the reasons I like it is that a person can take it in under five minutes.
Bryan: Yes.
Justin: So it’s not something they’re going to have to sit down for, or whatever. I just tell everybody that it’s like witchcraft; it’s voodoo. I don’t know how it works; it just does.
Bryan: Well, I’ll tell you what. It’s fairly amazing whenever you can start to figure these out. You know, with that talent side or that culture-building side, there are a couple of times where it breaks down. #1, there’s a cultural misalignment, meaning they just don’t fit in with your culture. And it’s absolutely a misalignment there. So you have to make sure they’re the right people for the organization.
And then on the other side of that there’s the right seat. Are they executing in a particular role? And if they aren’t, is it a training issue? Is it that culture issue? Or is it the person? No matter how much I train them, they’re just not going to get it. Or I don’t have time to build them up into that position, so can I put them in another seat if they’re the right persons? Or do I have to put them somewhere else where they can absolutely thrive and be competent, because you’re not going to get me off of this belief.
I’ll lie to myself even if it isn’t true. I don’t think anybody shows up intentionally trying to do a bad job. I think it’s our job as leaders and business owners and managers to help that person be all that he is possible of being. So I love what you’re talking about there, Justin.
Justin: Well, I appreciate it. I mean look, I can name ways that I’ve screwed all of those things up. It wasn’t the right person for the cultural fit. It wasn’t the right positional fit. You know, “Jim Collins, drive people on the bus; get them the right seats.”
But even just to the point you’re saying, I’m not the right manager for that person. And I’m not going to give them what they need to be able to succeed. And to your point of people wanting to do a great job, that’s not fair to them. And so unless I can build the resources and get them in a better situation, or help them get the resources to self-teach themselves to be able to get, it’s just not going to work out. We try the best we can to figure those things out and move forward.
Bryan: Yes. And whenever they don’t happen, when you mess up (and you will because there are a lot of people), and even if they are right for this season, things change. They might be wrong for next season. You can do it equitably and helpfully, in a helpful manner to where everybody wins. And I know your heart, Justin; I’m preaching to the choir here, that kind of thing. So I got it.
I want to be cognizant of your time and I can’t thank you enough; you’ve brought us some great stuff. Well, winding this down, resources. Any resources that you would recommend, whether books or organizations or podcasts or guides? I mean, what resources can help those who might be wanting some help in any of the topics that we hit?
Justin: There are two things that had foundational impact on our business.
Bryan: Okay.
Justin: And the first is The Golden Sacks Ten Thousand Small Business Program. It’s amazing! It basically runs for the course of five or six months. You do a lot of online learning with other entrepreneurs, depending on where you’re located. For us we went up to Babson College, one of the best entrepreneur schools in the world outside of Boston. And we spent two weeks up there learning, and just tremendous faculty.
They asked me—and other people had different situations,--but for me they said, “What does your exit look like? What’s your ideal scenario?”
And I’d never even thought about that before. Again, I felt stupid, because I like what I’m doing.
Bryan: Yup.
Justin: But the whole point is, what can you do to build this company to really be what you want it to be? And I hadn’t done that. So that had a major impact on that in many, many other ways. And it’s a free program. So if you’re a business making I think at least $250,000 a year or $350,000 a year, and you have at least two or three employees, that’s something you can apply for. It may not really be for the seasoned been-in-business-for-fifteen-years person, but I’d encourage everybody to check it out for small businesses.
Bryan: Nice.
Justin: The second one that I would recommend is Vistage. And I’ve really had good success with it. I have a tremendous share in Robert Powell; it’s great for our business. But we learn also from all the other entrepreneurs. Hopefully I’m able to share some things with them, too.
So my group is a tremendous group of people. And it’s a huge source of value for me and for the company.
Bryan: Love it; a little bit of pure accountability in there, so that’s a great one, too. So thanks for that. Now how can you help us read the tea leaves. I mean, what trends should we be watching for? What’s coming down the path here?
Justin: The first thing is that my crystal ball is in the shop, right? (Laughter) But I’ll tell you what I think is going to happen. One of the major changes that everybody is trying to figure out (and I can speak at a higher level, but this is something that I can hopefully explain in a way to advertisers so they’ll know that the impact is coming), is that a lot of the work that we’ve been doing to the advertisers and marketers digitally has been based on the concept of the cookie, right? So if the little piece of information that you can find out about a person who has visited your website before. For example, at a very high level it means if the reason that you see ads for that shirt you were looking at after you leave that website, that could be done through a cookie, for example.
What’s happening is that they’re all going to walled gardens. So before you could track what the person has done all through the Web. And now Google is saying, “Well, we’re not going to share our information with other people.” Amazon is not going to share it’s information with other people. Facebook is not going to share it; Apple is not going to share it. And so you’re going to have a lot less information that you can pool. And it’s really going to have the impact of consolidating advertising dollars and impact in those few major players, until we figure out what’s going to be on the other side of this post-cookie world in a way that you can use digital advertising effectively. But over this short- to mid-term, I think it’s going to have a major impact on people.
Bryan: Interesting. I know that whenever they pixelate emails and that email is opened, there’s all kinds of technology coming down the pike. So this is going back to a little bit earlier where you talked about sales training. I don’t care what type of training it is. How are you staying ahead of everyone else? Because what we don’t want to be is that next blockbuster, right?, where we’re the 800-pound gorilla wiped out, right? So that’s really, really sound advice; I like that. So yeah, keep us in the loop on that one, because I hadn’t heard that. Great impact; thank you.
So all right; let’s close it out with this, Justin. Awesome, awesome show; awesome input. Thanks so very much. So who should reach out to you, how should they do it, and why should people reach out to you, Justin?
Justin: So if you’re looking to say, “What can I do better at digital advertising and marketing?”, we’re always going to have a conversation with you, listen to what your goals are, try to figure out what your needs are, and give you recommendations, whether or not we even think we’re going to be a good fit for you.
So I’ve had people literally say, “Wait, where’s the sales pitch?” at the end of a call.
And I’m like “Well, I’m just trying to give you advice. I don’t think you’re a good fit for us.”
So I think that if you’re just wanting another set of eyes from some experts that can say, “Yeah, you’re doing this well. Here are some opportunities that you have.” That’s the reason to reach out to us.
You can do so on our website. The easiest way is

The word direct, o as in online, m as in marketing.

And then just personally, I love to connect with people on LinkedIn and Twitter to a lesser extent as well. So any way that I can personally be of help to people, I believe it’s one of my jobs in life that I am to help others. And the way that I can do that is particularly looking at digital marketing, and what the things are that you can do to make your business more successful and your role more fulfilling.
Bryan: Yes. And I’ll tell you what, for the listeners out there Justin is one of the most authentic people that you’ve ever met. The key takeaway that I got from him is that whenever we were working together back in the day, he was really working on taking accountability. I don’t know if that was a book that you read or what changed. But everything that Justin does he says, “Wait; let me say that better.” And he takes ownership of everything. So you’ll find one of the most authentic, others-minded people in Justin. So I’ll sing your praises there.
So Justin, awesome show, awesome stuff. Thank you so very much. Wrapping it up, this has been Bryan Whittington with The Talent, Sales and Scale Show, thanking Justin Seibert with Direct Online Marketing. Thanks so much, Justin.
Justin: Thanks, Bryan.
Bryan: We’ll see you.

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