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Marketing Based On Skillset & Leveraging The Asset That You Have

In Conversation with Chris Williams

Matt Fraser hosted Chris Williams, the founder of Aginto, in this edition of Ecoffee with Experts. Chris recounts his experience in developing a successful business, demonstrating the importance of leveraging one’s resources. Dive in for top tips to get you started on the road to success as an entrepreneur.

For any entrepreneur, the biggest asset that you have is time, spend it where you’re most profitable, and you’ll be successful.

Chris Williams
Founder of Aginto
Hello Everyone, welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I'm your host, Matt Fraser and on today's show, I have a very special guest with me, Chris Williams. Chris is the founder of Aginto, a digital marketing agency dedicated to helping service-based businesses to achieve growth and success, headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. He is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and volunteer who preaches that hard work solves almost every struggle in life. Throughout his journey, he's learned that it can be easy to stumble and hard to get up, but it's worth it. Because of this path, Chris is super passionate about giving back and spends 12 to 15 hours each month working with local charities and the Salvation Army trying to help others and see if they can change their circumstances. When not working on marketing campaigns for clients and volunteering. Chris enjoyed spending time with his family, obsessing over the Ohio State Buckeyes or on the basketball court. Chris, thank you so much. A pleasure to have you here.

Matt, thanks so much for having me. I’m glad to be here right now.

So, hey, Chris, how would your high school teachers describe you as a student?

I was a bad student. I was an unruly child, easily distracted. I played basketball and that was all I really cared about. I used to tell my mom, “ I think the only reason I was able to get through high school was because you had to keep your grades above a certain level to stay on the basketball team.” So, it kind of kept me in line. But I turned it around.

Yeah, well, tell me about that. Have you always wanted to become an entrepreneur? What was the turning point that made you want to become an entrepreneur?

You know what? I don’t know if I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I always had the spirit. So, I remember my first venture into it was buying. I moved out at 19 and I was buying radio equipment, stereos, like for cars and speakers and stuff, and I’d sell them to friends at a higher rate and charge them to install the equipment in their car and send them on their way. And it was just kind of a, hey, I can buy this for a hundred and sell it for two. Why not? I’m going to be an entrepreneur. It was just like, hey, this makes sense, so why not. So, I’ve always had that spirit, I guess.

Yeah. What surprises you most about entrepreneurship?

The amount of people who go into it blindly. The number of people who see passive income or get rich quickly. There’s no way for you to just start something with no money and no time and actually earn a successful income. There’s just no way to do it. You got to put in the work.

Yeah, you do. I think there are certain gurus. They have generated that belief like Tim Ferriss, four-hour workweek, I'm going to be blunt. I know what it takes to do digital marketing and business. Like, you need to hustle. Like, if you're going to start a business, you need to be working 12-hour days, seven days a week in order to get things going. And so, you know, with that being said, what's been the biggest challenge that you've faced as an entrepreneur?

When I started, it was just kind of how to get my name out there while growing my skills. Because when you start out, you know, even if you’ve gone to school or been educated or whatever, you’re still learning. In your first year in business, you’re still learning. It’s my 12th year in business and I’m still learning. But you’re learning a lot in that first year, so I was trying to do that while getting your name out there in the right way, it just seemed like there were a million things to do because you’re wearing so many hats and so figuring out a way to manage that time and that effort, optimize that effectively was a real struggle for me at first.

So, was this in your car stereo venture, or was this near the beginning days of your agency?

The beginning days of the agency. I didn’t really have any money or a place to live or anything like that. So, it was kind of like, I have to figure this out. I learned to code as a kid. So, you know, I knew some of that. Enough to be dangerous, I guess. But the main concern was how am I going to get business and how am I going to turn one cell into two, three, and four. And you know, as I’ve spoken to people in the past in interviews and stuff, I never thought back then that this was a business. When I saw that, I could turn one client into two and two and three, and then I could actually make real revenue and real income to sustain myself. Then it became, all right, well, let me put everything I can into this venture and just make a go of it.

Yeah, okay. So, there are so many questions to ask. Number one, how did you go from selling car stereos to selling digital marketing services?

All right. So, you know, I moved back down here to Florida in 2010. And like I said, I didn’t have any job, I didn’t have anybody that I could rely on. I lived in a local motel for about a year and what I did is I got a nighttime job at the Goodwill, so I would work midnight to eight at the Goodwill and people would drop off their donations and I’d be there and then during the day, I would code websites. And at the time, that’s all the agent quote agency was just me. I would code websites until 2:00 and then from 2 to 3 or 4:00, I would go business to business, and I’d shake hands and meet people. For me, the asset that I had was a lot of time and I was green. I was still kind of learning and so I walked into a place that didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on a website and say, I could do that for half the price, but couldn’t do it as well as some of the big companies. But at the time, and so for me, it was like, all right, well, I can do it in half the time and I can learn every single project, I can get a little bit better. And so, I would just go business to business selling websites. I did that while probably the first two years of the business.

And you just presented it as a less expensive offer and then just learned as you were working.

Yes, learned as I went. Those first four sites look like hell.

Yeah. Was that back in the days before CMS?

Yeah, I remember the first time I saw WordPress, I’m like, holy crap, this a game changer.

Oh yeah. Oh my gosh. Back in 2007, I looked at WordPress and I was like, wow, whatever time WordPress 2.7 came out, I don't know when that was, but that was my introduction to WordPress. And I remember when WordPress 3 came out, that was huge. Now we're up to like WordPress 6. I don't even know what's out right now, but anyway.

Yeah, I don’t either.

So, did you always know how to sell?

I got a little bit of both, so I’m very comfortable in any room with any person. I don’t care if our backgrounds are different or if anyone is a millionaire or whatever. I’m very comfortable in any room, comfortable in my skin. But I did spend some years working in the industry and that can be a hard sell, for you only get a few minutes in front of somebody, they walk in the door and you’re trying to get them to see the goal at the end of the year or whatever. So, that certainly helps. But I am not a salesperson, I don’t like sales. I just don’t like the sales side of biz dev. And so it’s funny, I was just talking to a group a couple of weeks ago that I don’t think I’ve asked for a sale in five years. I just like don’t ask for the sale.

So, is the business just been built up to the point where it's just referrals now?

Well, certainly we outrank everybody. You know, on Google, we’ve been around for a long time. Got a good rep. Yeah, we get referrals, absolutely. So, it’s a mixture. But, when I sit down with a potential client, I’m just trying to provide them with value. They come in and they’ve got a revenue goal of, as you know, they did 1.2 last year and they want to do 2.4 next year and they have no idea how they’re going to get there. I’m just providing them value. Here’s what you’re currently doing, here’s where the areas of growth are, and here’s what your competitors are doing. I literally give them the entire recipe just in the hopes of providing them value, and they can certainly take that information and run. But the type of client that I want is too busy. They’re busy running their business and they need an expert to come in and handle that for them. And so I just continue to provide value until they ask for the sale.

That is amazing. You went from door to door for like two years, knocking on small business owners' doors, and then at what point did you start to realize you needed an employee? Like, how did you make that transition?

You know, the first employee I hired was a content writer. And that’s because the content is such a big component, we generally call it SEO. You know, I kind of look at that term SEO it’s an older term that’s been around for so long. I can sit down and write something professional but is that what I’m really great at? No. And, you know, it was not worth it to spend all my time trying to write an article about when to change out your HVAC unit or whatever. So, when I got to that point, as I’ve always been a stickler on time management or whatnot. So, I saw that and I hired a content writer, that was my first hire.

Wow. And so in regards to developing the things that need to be done in your agency, like your SOPs, what was that process like in regards to knowing when you had a position for someone to be able to fill to be able to hire for?

So, the SOPs piece was something that I want to say. I didn’t start developing until about year five. Okay. I just would bring somebody on and I’m like, okay, well, I can just train this person. That became such a grind to train a person and then think like, oh, did I train that person on this? And what about this element? As you know, this industry changes a lot. And I remember a mentor of mine asking me to describe, create, or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remember this really clearly. And I told him, you know, you get your bread out and you put your peanut butter on one side and your jelly on the other. And he’s like, All right, that’s not right. Like, where do you get the peanut butter from? I said, Publix. It’s like, what aisle? What type of peanut butter? What type of knife do you pull to use? Where do you find the butter knife and how much peanut butter? What type of bread? Every little detail, every little detail has to be there, so that it can be conveyed to the next person. And so, I started to put that together then.

What impact did that have on your business when you start to roll it out?

It was huge and then I have to explain every little detail to every single person. And for any entrepreneur, the biggest asset that you have is time. Even for your time up and spend it where you’re most profitable, you’ll be successful.

Absolutely. We can end it right there. That was a golden nugget.

The president.

So what advice would you give to someone then who's just starting out in business?

Just starting out in business. It’s got to be something you love. I always hear about like, oh, if I could just find something that the world needs or build a better mousetrap or whatever, then I’ll make it. But really, any venture becomes a job at some point. You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve got a routine, I come into the office, and so on and so forth. It becomes a job unless you enjoy it. If you enjoy it, then working 12 hours is not a big deal because you’re having a good time. You’re enjoying it.

Absolutely.

The second thing is time. You know when I started Aginto, I had lots of time that were the asset that I had a hold of. So, lots of time to go out and do business or build a website or whatever it might be. As the business grew, I had less time, but I needed more income, and more revenue now. So, I could take that asset and put it into social media ads or pay-per-click or whatever. I use that asset now and deploy it practically. So, whatever asset you have. It’s time you get to deploy that effectively.

Yeah, right on. Do you think it's important for entrepreneurs to give back to the community?

I think it’s the most important thing. And you know I’ve talked with some people. I’m not a karma type of do per se. There are you know but there is something to giving back you know giving back to the community that is supporting you. If you’re a local business and you’re in Topeka, Kansas, and you’re growing, that’s because Topeka, Kansas is taking care of you. So, it’s imperative that you give some of that back to the community and help somebody up in the process. Plus, there’s certainly something to who you’re giving back. When you’re out in the community volunteering, who’s next to you? That’s another business owner or maybe that’s a potential customer. It doesn’t have to be, you give back just to give back. But certainly, it has opened opportunities for me.

That's awesome. Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, where he talked about every time he was in a pinch or he didn't have an opportunity or something, he gave away money. Something would come of it. He told us one story about how he gave some money when it opened up this huge door. So yeah, I think there's something to be said for reaping and sowing or karma, whatever you want to call it. In that regard, what are some of the ways that entrepreneurs or what are some of the ways that you've given back to the community?

Well, you know, I started volunteering just in, like a soup kitchen at the Salvation Army about 18 months in the business. So, it’s probably 2012- 2013, I guess. And that was just simply out of you know, I saw that there was a need. I had a little bit of time, I was on my feet and I had an opportunity to get back, so I started there. As time has gone on, my personal time has become limited. I’ve transitioned into more board seats, so I sit on the board at an organization called Parenting Matters, they strengthen families through parenting education and then I’m the board chair at the Salvation Army in Manatee County.

All right.

Still volunteering in a kitchen, once or twice a month, but, you know, not a couple of times a week like I used to.

Awesome. So, do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who want to think about giving back to their community?

Yeah, I mean, it depends from one community to the next. But in any, especially here in this country, just about any community is going to have underserved, underprivileged people. I would start there. You know, where can you provide help? Take your time and think about it. Serving in the kitchen doesn’t take any particular skill or anything like that. But if you’ve got a skill, like I was at the Salvation Army yesterday and there was a guy there cutting hair. So, if you’re an entrepreneur and you have a skill of a barber, take your skill and see if you can apply that and help somebody out no matter what that is.

Yeah. You know, it's interesting. There's this huge thing going on right now, for lack of a better word, people thinking that capitalism and entrepreneurship is the evil and not to get into politics, not to go that route too much. But it's just encouraging to see you doing this and that as entrepreneurs and business owners and people who have benefited from the work, we do to be able to give back. And I think that entrepreneurship can be used as a force for good and not just for dirty capitalism and whatever. Of course, there's an evil side to everything, like on the economic and social spectrum, and political spectrum. But I don't think it has to be. I think that Capitalism, if you look at it, has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other economic system or political system in the history of the world. People can challenge me on that, but I could go and show research that does that. So, I'm just saying because I'm saying that it's so refreshing to hear that you're doing these things and that we can encourage other business owners, that you don't just have to make it all about you and take. You can also give back.

And you don’t have to be a millionaire or either it doesn’t have to be a financial investment. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be in your time, It can be your skill, your strength, whatever it might be. But, use it. Use the blessings that you’ve received for good to pass that on.

You know what's interesting, it's funny you bring this up because I have an appointment to give blood tomorrow. And that's one thing that I do in order to give back because it's something I have and it's something I can give.

And there’s a need.

I take a picture every time I do it and I upload it on Facebook just to encourage others. And I think that agencies as well, we could donate too. I know this one guy; he donated a whole bunch of website builds during COVID. He did something crazy. He's in the UK, he developed 300 websites for non-profits during COVID. He did an interview, it's not live yet, but he did that. So, instead of worrying about getting clients and everybody was not spending money, he's like, well, I'll just help nonprofits and be there and be a source for good. But the amount of business that he got from me and the amount of PR was huge.

Priceless.

Absolutely. So, I know we touched on it a little bit, Chris, but what inspired you to go to the digital marketing side of things, just because it was a coding thing that started out? Is that what it was that you were building websites and then they needed digital marketing? Were they like, now you build me a website? How do I get around that?

Of yeah, kind of. So, there’s a story to it. I was about two years or so into business and I was on the highway driving down the road during the workday and you know, I had one of my old clunky phones or whatever and I couldn’t hear the guy. I was on the phone with a potential client. I took an exit and it was breaking up. I took an exit and pulled into the library here in Sarasota and got out of my car. I was in a good spot, I can hear this guy and finish my conversation. I got to get back in my running vehicle and the door was locked. You know, back then, at any time you don’t want to burn that gas. I needed to get to an appointment, kind of flipping out. So, I grabbed my phone and searched for a mobile locksmith and I don’t remember the company to this day. I don’t know if they’re still in business or still around or whatever. But I do remember that his website looked like hell, it didn’t look great. But at the top of the page was a blacked-out, call me now, click right here. And I click the button, I called the guy, he came out, he saw my problem and he got my money because he had my solution and he was easy to contact. And it hit me like in that transaction, it hit me like that it doesn’t matter what your site looks like, it doesn’t matter if you have a site, all that matters is if the phone rings. That’s all that matters and so I began to evolve the agency into what it is now, where we focus on making the phone ring and we build pretty websites. Yeah, absolutely. We still do some of those from time to time. But yeah, it’s all about making the phone ring from whatever type of business it is.

Yeah, it always blows my mind in a way to see business owners. Like when I was in BNI, there were so many businesses or just so many ugly websites and they didn't care. They didn't care.

Maybe their phone is ringing.

Yes, it doesn't matter as long as the phone is ringing. And then obviously if the customers don't care, why do they care? If they're really broke, don't fix it. All that matters is if the phone's ringing and no matter if the website looks ugly. Those sorts of things I had to overcome. Well, that's pretty amazing. I was going to ask you, what do you think has been the biggest change in digital marketing over the last few years?

The biggest change in digital marketing over the last few years. I would say it’s happening right now. Tik Tok coming on with an interest graph rather than the following graph that we’ve all been accustomed to. It used to be I wouldn’t even say bad. I don’t remember my space very well. Like, I remember it, but it was more of a personal me out of business thing at the time. So, certainly Facebook and Twitter, and every other social network have been based on your following. I create content, you see it or you might see it and that’s it. There’s no other reach beyond that until you engage with my content. It’s hard coming along with the interest graph and making that change to whether you follow me or not, if your behavior shows that you are interested in the content that I’m creating, that’s going to put it in front of you. That’s changed the game and you see other platforms like I’m a Twitter user, I’ve always used Twitter and Twitter’s videos now have a swipe function and the people that I swipe are not people that I follow, but it is content that I’m interested in. So, I feel like it’s a major shift and I think that all of the platforms that we currently have will migrate to that and any future platforms will be based on that. And that’s huge, that’s huge. It’s no longer about acquiring followers. It’s about creating actual content that provides value.

Yeah. You know, Mark Zuckerberg, I read an article that he was saying that he underestimated and did not prepare for Tik Tok. He said he plainly said he got it wrong and the thing in business is somebody is always coming to steal your lunch. I don't know if you agree or not. You know, I meet some agency owners who are like, well, we're just interested in organic growth and we're not really interested in growing. And I'm like well, then somebody is going to come and steal your lunch until the point where you don't have any more lunch.

That’s right, it happens and it’s 100% true. And it happens, substantially more when there’s a technology shift. As Kodak.

Oh, gosh, they invented the digital camera.

Yeah. Think about that. The shift is right in front of them and chose not to focus on that and they lost. Unfortunately.

They did. From a business perspective, I think we need to really keep the focus on what it is we're doing and try and be as innovative as possible. Here's what I want to say I think Mark Zuckerberg made a mistake in focusing so much time on the metaverse and not as much time focusing on fixing how Apple put up its paywall to stop effective advertising with 14.5 and not focusing on being innovative. Because it seems like he's always trying to either copy or buy the others.

Yeah.

Rather than himself being innovative and I think that the metaverse is too far out according to resources. Is that correct or not?

I agree with you and I’ve been researching. Yeah, it’s out there, and it’s interesting too but what’s here now is Tik Tok or at least the interest graph. And one of the things I’m really intrigued by is human behavior. I don’t think that any human behavior has dictated that the metaverse is going to be here tomorrow. There are people interested in it but the masses are still on that mobile device, and I don’t see that changing tomorrow. It’ll change soon but there’s no reason to believe that it’s going to change into that full gaggle or anything like that any time soon.

No, it's maybe five years away.

At least.

At least. So, it's like, why are you focusing so much time on that?

We going to be prepared for that but not today.

So, what do you think marketers should do and how we should pivot them with the changes that are happening with the interest graph?

You know, I think it goes back to just creating content of value. So, whether that is endless and where you just deploy and distribute that content certainly depends on your industry and your audience. And, you know, we can go on and on about falling statistical data about that. But at the end of the day, the content, the collateral is what’s going to matter. So, if your audience is on Tik-Tok, you’ve got to create video content that is X number of seconds long that engages that audience. It provides value to that audience. If your audience is intent-driven and they’re doing a Google search, then maybe you need to create more content that is of written value. But at the end of the day, it’s content that provides value and you’ve got to create it at scale. No longer acceptable. I remember eight years ago, I pull up a website and they’d have a blog and that blog would have once-a-month articles going back.

Yeah.

Once a month article going back five years. No longer is that acceptable.

No, it's not. Even HubSpot did a case study, that the more you blog, the more money you make.

Absolutely. The more content.

Yeah. That was just on blogging, wasn't even on videos or anything like that.

Video and other media. I mean, at the end of the day, you can take a video. Videos are great because there are so many visual learners, and so many people turn in. I actually believe in the video for further reasons because of its repurposing value. You know, if we sit down with somebody, and they pump out a three-minute video, fantastic. But we could turn a 3-minute video into 30-second clips for social media, we can transcribe that for written content. We can take snippets out of that written content for social content. A 1–3-minute video can be repurposed in so many ways. That’s the beauty of video for me.

Yeah, well, that's all we do with these episodes. Exactly that.

Yeah.

With that being said, with technology and everything happening, what are your thoughts on AI-assisted content? For instance, Jasper just became a $1.5 billion evaluated company and did $165 million in Series A round funding. What are your thoughts?

It’s cool. You know, the only thing about it is certainly any news that comes out, I’m going to review it. I play with Jasper, it’s cool. I think there is some real application in terms of changing the ad copy in your pay-per-click ads or changing the copy on a redistributed piece of social media content. I think it has some really powerful value there. I don’t think there’s value there yet for creating long-form, valuable content. And at the end of the day, it’s just going to come down to somebody doing the research and writing or sitting in front of the camera or on the mic and talking. It’s going to be better than any AI today. A year from now who knows?

Yeah. I think it's GPT-4 coming out which is the new AI from open AI. Which I'm only going to assume Jasper is based on. So, it'll be interesting to see what happens there.

One thing I’ll add is any time we have been faced with an opportunity to automate a process. You know, when we talk about SEO, the way it used to be was all backlinks. And the more backlinks you got, the more thumbs up you had and the more thumbs up you had, the higher you would rank. Until those automated processes came along and started just pumping out backlinks by the thousands and Google changed the algorithm. And so I would bet based on Google’s behavior, that if a year from now, an AI platform like Jasper, for example, is able to create long-form written content that is valuable and original, Google would probably change the algorithm. And so we’d be right back to square one. I think at the end of the day, it’s just creating your own original content.

Yeah. It seems like there's this battle always between SEOs and Google. That could be for another episode. There are probably 30 other questions I have lined up to ask you, but I know we're coming to the top of the hour. So, what's one big takeaway you want listeners to get from this episode?

As you said, there are so many. The biggest thing I would say is twofold. Enjoy what you do or you’re going to do and the time management. You have to find a way to spend your time where you are most profitable, and that’s whether you’re a start-up, a brand-new entrepreneur or you’ve been in business for 20 years. You’ve got to find a way to manage time so that you are most profitable while you’re working and you’re focused and locked in or whatever it is. Like when I’m working on a task, I’m 100% on that task. When I’m sleeping, I’m trying to be 100% sleeping, nothing else. You’ve got to be able to block your time off effectively and when you do that it’s going to spill into everything else. You’re going to be able to finish your tasks on time, you’re going to be able to bring on new clients, create revenue, and so on and so forth. Lead your team. All that stuff comes into play when you maximize your time.

Right on. Maybe we can have you on for another episode talking about time management strategies and agency management strategies. That's going to be awesome.

Anytime.

I would love to. So, how can our listeners connect with you online if they choose to do so?

Well, certainly they can go to our website at any time. It’s Aginto.com. And like I said, I’m a Twitter user and a LinkedIn user. So, you can connect with me on Twitter, at Chris is bored

That's oh, cool.

But I’m very engaged on LinkedIn. And you could just look me up. Chris Williams, here in Sarasota, Florida.

Fantastic. Well, make sure to put those information links in the show notes. Thank you very much for coming to the show today. It's been a pleasure having you.

Thanks for having me, Matt.

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