A journey of self-actualization.

Category: Entrepreneurship

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How I’m Building A Million Dollar Marketing Firm: Branding

This article is the continuation of a series. Make sure you read the article before this one. There is a cap to how much you can do, per client, on…

This article is the continuation of a series. Make sure you read the article before this one.

There is a cap to how much you can do, per client, on your own.

This exists because there are only so many hours in a day. You only have so much energy.

Such is the case for any business, but particularly a marketing firm.

The reason why is branding. What I’ve had to learn about what branding works to actually make money in the industry.

The Bitter Truth About Branding In The Marketing Industry

There was once a client that I worked with: a marketing startup from Italy. The CEO became a friend of mine for a time, but his ego got in the way of his success.

He didn’t want to be a leader; he wanted to be a business owner. To be hands-off, with everything scaled.

Delegation is critical to good leadership, but he had gone about it backwards.

He needed to be the front man of this specific business, but he was at the backend. This meant being in charge of sales and conversions.

Before anything else, a CEO’s first duty is to bring in cash for the business. They can accomplish this in one of two ways, while delegating the other:

  • Working on the business (what I call “macro.”)
  • Working for the business (what I call “micro.”)

In this context, macro work would be developing the website. Developing content, and the strategic vision of the company.

Micro work would be working to meet the desires of clients themselves.

It’s almost impossible to do both in an effective manner on your own. Not only because each one requires its own time and effort. But, also because of the natural weaknesses of the CEO.

The CEO is human. Some may have extroverted personalities; others may have introverted.

  • Extroverts are likely better suited to work micro.
  • Introverts are likely better suited to work macro.

If we had been in a different industry, he could have focused only in macro. That would have been fine.

But we weren’t in a different industry; we were in marketing. And marketers have a terrible international reputation for being full of fluff.

Thus, clients need to see who you are, in this industry.

Think: How do world-famous marketers like Neil Patel, Derek Halpern, and Alex Becker market themselves? They’re all up in the camera. Yet, with the exception of Patel’s, their businesses aren’t themselves. They do have teams, with scaling, going on.

They’re just delegating in the reverse way that my Italian client, at the time, wanted to do it.

Why? Because that’s the nature of our industry. Because that’s what the customers want. It’s never about what we want; it’s always about what the customer wants.

The Best Way To Brand A Marketing Agency

So, for a marketing firm, it doesn’t matter what kind of personality type you have. If you want the best shots at conversions, you’ve got to put a real face at the front of your company.

This has been a huge challenge for me as an extreme introvert. I’ve tried several times to be at the helm with video content, but I fail to remain consistent with it.

This is because I haven’t mastered the ability to step that far out of my comfort zone. Not all introverts are the same. It’s a spectrum, and I’m at the extreme end. Thus, I write.

Clients want to know that the life savings they’re investing in their business are going into the right hands. Trustworthy hands.

They don’t want to speak to an avatar; they want to speak to a human.

Starting off as a freelancer on Upwork.com taught me this. I expelled enough mental energy to put up a decent intro video to my landing page.

This, combined with great copywriting, my formal education, and reviews, has worked. But they did need to see my face. They needed to see my picture, both in the profile and in the video.

Here was the video. Ignore the “Stratagem” branding. That was before we rebranded our marketing firm to OMI:

If I had hid my face with the OMI Firm mask logo only, I would have had a much harder time up until this point.

My friend, the CEO of the Italian firm, didn’t want to hear that, though. He didn’t want to be the face of his business, because that would mean speaking to clients.

If he had to speak to clients, then he was likely to have to work for them.

If he had to work for them, that all meant that he would be trading his time for money. This, to him, was not good business leadership.

I tried to explain to him the micro/macro concept. That he could work micro but delegate everything macro. But, he didn’t want hear that, either.

He wanted both macro and micro delegated, under an avatar that wasn’t even that personable.

The Unwillingness To Be Uncomfortable

Flash forward several weeks later. We’ve brought in zero sales.

Because he didn’t want to do any work himself, he burned through his resources. Imagine burning several thousand dollars on a simple brochure.

He did do some basic macro stuff, such as creating a basic strategy template. But, that was about it.

Then, I came up with an idea: Each of his key marketing strategists (including me) could represent the brand!

…but he didn’t like that, either. Because it wouldn’t be his brand that people would convert for. It’d be the individual strategists.

In that case, why would the marketing strategist pay him for the client? That didn’t make any sense.

Well, it would have if he tracked all traffic coming through the website. Then, if he gave us each a quota, he could fire us if we didn’t bring in enough clients.

This way, even if we did cheat him, he would always have a bottom line met.

But, I did see his point.

The Only Way Forward

I told him that the only realistic way forward was for him to step up and be the face of the company.

It was the only way.

But, then came his insecurities. He thought that because he was Italian, people wouldn’t take him seriously.

Well, I responded, “Sir, I’m black and I get clients. Technically, you’re a client of mine. You found me. You didn’t mind that I was black. Hired me, anyway. Italians have a better international reputation in the business world than blacks do. If there’s anyone who should be having trouble with conversions, it’s me, not you. And if you do have trouble with conversions, you should still be doing better than me.”

…by that logic, anyhow.

But, he still didn’t want to hear it.

So, what happened? We decided to do an a/b split test.

The Test

We set up two landing pages.

For one, I was the leading face; for the other, he was.

Guess what happened? Guess who got more conversions?

…well, I did.

But not because he was Italian. It was because of my branding accolades.

I had real reviews people could track. A real education people could verify.

I had a real Upwork account that people could trust, because of third-party hour and wage tracking. An actual portfolio that people could download and sift through.

In other words, I could prove that I had true experience. I could prove that I had spent genuine time in trenches. With (at the time) nearly 50 successful businesses under my belt.

So, what I had proven was that it was, indeed, a matter of branding. Not the idea itself.

People do want help; they just want help they can trust. They want someone real.

Not a robot. No one wants to feel like they’re going through a drivethrough, treated as a nonentity.

In the end, he went bankrupt, because he simply refused to get out of his comfort zone. Or, at least, evolve to what he could of his strengths, considering his weaknesses. Which is what I’m doing.

I don’t produce video content as easily or as often as I do written, because I’m not good in front of the camera. But, at least, this is really me you’re reading words from.

I wrote this. My name is on it. You can background check me.

That’s what he didn’t get. Or, rather, he did understand, but just chose not to take that path.

How I’m Branding

So, how I’m branding is first with the development of my name on the Internet. That’s what this blog exists for.

People can get to know me, the real me, with this blog. They can read the work of a man who is willing to get his hands dirty.

Even though I’m introverted, I’m tripling down on my strengths: writing, at the very least.

I may not produce a video as often, but at least it’s something. And I’m the one who actually speaks to clients when they message or call. They speak directly to me. No middleman.

Meanwhile, I am delegating as a good leader would: in macro tasks.

I’ll split my energy into 10% macro, 90% micro.

I’ve worked hard to build a team that can create other content that I can trust for the brand. I set goals with deadlines, and then step the hell out of their way.

Read the next article for more. Follow updates on the story of my goals to do so. Leave a comment with your thoughts, and I’ll respond.

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How I’m Building A Million Dollar Marketing Firm: Starting Out

It sounds lofty, but not to someone like me. Not to someone who has an intuitive understanding of economics. Who has helped almost 100 businesses to grow in his lifetime,…

It sounds lofty, but not to someone like me. Not to someone who has an intuitive understanding of economics. Who has helped almost 100 businesses to grow in his lifetime, and counting.

There’s no secret for how to get rich in a legal way.

Here’s how I’m going about it:

  • Minimizing my living expenses.
  • Choosing a market of a certain size.
  • Developing a product or service to fit that market.
  • Starting small.
  • Scaling my ability to sell it, that product or service, over time.
  • I’ve written an answer that’s more in-depth, here.

There are two markets I target:

  • Entrepreneurs who are in the startup phase with their companies
  • Marketing agencies who are looking to white-label my skill

There have been exceptions to these two rules. However, these are my two primary targets.

I’ve been in business for about four years. It’s been a hell of a stressful ride.

I started as a freelancer on Elance. Then, Elance got taken over by Upwork.

I started off doing small jobs to get the initial five-star reviews that I needed for branding. Then, I increased my pricing from $20 per hour to ~$60-75 per hour, over time.

You can see my Upwork profile, here.

Meanwhile, I’ve struggled with two major problems:

  • Pulling in clients from my website, thus becoming independent from Upwork
  • Scaling how many clients I could take at one time

Pulling In Clients From My Website

Marketing the skill of marketing for marketing’s sake is a killer-complicated task. At least, in the beginning, if you have a low budget.

There is unbelievable competition when trying to pull clients from your website.

The reason why is because marketers are a dime a dozen. We all know many of the same basic tactics, which don’t exist in other industries.

For instance, don’t even think about trying Google AdWords if you’re first starting out. The prices per click in the marketing industry are much higher than they’d be in other industries.

You’d be bidding against a ton of people who all have the same Google certification that you do.

That’s not to say that it’s impossible. Of course, it’s not.

You just have to be ready to enter the marketing industry from your website. You’ve got to have the capital to do it right, the financial fuel to make the cost per acquisitions.

What is Cost Per Acquisition?

“Cost per acquisition (CPA)” is a term used to describe how much money you need to invest in marketing to make a sale.

For instance, let’s say you’re using Google AdWords:

  • You’re targeting a keyword that costs $3 per click.
  • You have a 3% conversion rate. This means that 3% of people who see the ad, click on it.
  • Out of that 3% conversion rate, 15% of them actually become an interested lead.

What this means is that you’re going to have to pay $300 for 100 people to click your ad.

Then, out of that 100 people, only 15 show genuine interest enough to contact you.

Then, let’s say that only one, out of those 15, converts into a genuine contract. Your “price per acquisition” or “CPA” is thus $300.

This means, at the end of the day, you’re paying $300 per customer.

To make any profit at all, that customer better generate over $300 of revenue. Not just $301, but $300, plus whatever resources it takes to serve their needs.

So, for me, let’s say that the average contract is worth $2,000 in revenue. Some may be worth a little less; others may be worth a little more. But, let’s imagine that the average revenue generated by one client/customer is $2,000.

Moreover, let’s say it takes $200 to serve them. Excluding the price of my education needed to develop my skills.

That’s $500 I’m paying, total. Per customer and completed contract.

This means $1,500 in profit.

$2,000 – (CPA + Cost to serve) = $1,500

But, first, you need the $500 of capital sitting ready to get that first contract. Assuming that your branding is already perfect.

Why It’s So Difficult For Newbies

If your branding is bad, people aren’t going to convert, which can lead to an infinitely higher CPA.

If your CPA gets too high, you won’t be able to make any profit, even if you do land a client/customer. This means going out of business.

Why this is so hard for startups in the marketing industry is because they don’t have the branding they need. They’re new.

They have little to no reviews. Little to no content. Nobody knows them.

They have to create all the content. Earn all the reviews. To go through the process needed to come off as a truly trustworthy brand.

Then, they can hope for a CPA as cheap as $300 in an industry as competitive as marketing. Competing against other marketers doing the same exact things.

Is it impossible? No.

But, is it damned difficult? Absolutely.

And it’s not a path I’d recommend taking if my family’s food is on the line.

If You Don’t Have Capital

If you don’t have the starting capital, then you’re going to pay its equal in time. Building links in the marketing industry is just as difficult as paid advertising.

And for the same reason. Everybody in the marketing industry knows how the marketing industry works.

You have to work harder to come up with better ideas than anywhere to get links to your content.

What is a link? By “link,” I mean a hyperlink. You know what that is; we use them all the time.

But get Forbes to link back to your company. Get Inc. Magazine.

You see what I’m saying? Get those brands to acknowledge you enough to post content on their website that links back to you.

It’s damn near impossible. And most fail.

So, if time equals money, then you’re going to have to pay in one way or another:

Your time, or your money, or both.

Thus, freelancing websites are the best way to start small, in the marketing industry, at least. They typically cost nothing to get started. And you have the opportunity to pitch your skills directly to job offers.

That’s what I did. That’s how I started:

  • Minimizing my expenses, drastically.
  • Starting as a small-time freelancer.
  • Saving money over four years, and reinvesting into scaling.

By the fourth year, I was making six figures with a team that I’ve built. But I’ve still run into a problem I’ve only begun to solve:

Scaling how many clients I could take at one time.

This has been a big one. Unless I started thinking in scalable systems, I wouldn’t ever be able to break the six-figure barrier.

Read the next article for more. Follow updates on the story of my goals to do so. Leave a comment with your thoughts, and I’ll respond.

2 Comments on How I’m Building A Million Dollar Marketing Firm: Starting Out

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