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The Importance Of Data In Creating Marketing Campaigns

An Interview with James Kaatz

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser spoke to James Kaatz, co-founder and CEO of Illumination Marketing. James shares his experience of helping small to midsize companies get more traffic leads and sales by harnessing the power of the Internet. He further illustrates the best strategy to use data when creating marketing strategies for greater results. Watch now for some deep insights.

It’s all about growing together because at the end of the day, the money, it’s nice, but it doesn’t matter.

James Kaatz
Co-founder and CEO of Illumination Marketing
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I am your host, Matt Fraser and today I have a very special guest with me, James Kaatz. James is the co-founder and CEO of Illumination Marketing, a full service media and marketing agency headquartered in Houston, Texas. He has over 20 years experience in the marketing branding fields, helping small to midsize companies get more traffic leads and sales by harnessing the power of the Internet. When not wearing his marketing hat, James spends his free time sitting on various boards around the Houston area, leading the committee for networking businesses about for the Cy-Fair Houston Chamber of Commerce and donating to various charitable causes. James, thank you so much. It's a pleasure to have you here.

Thank you for having me, Matt. I appreciate you reaching out and inviting me on the podcast. I’m excited.

That's awesome. So, you know, you've had an interesting journey so far. We were talking about off-camera. What kind of person were you in high school?

Oh, in high school, man. That’s going way back. I’m hoping I’m ageing well. But in high school, I was a quiet kid, I was always into athletics. So I did that. I did wrestling in high school. That was exciting, where I found my love of television and things like that as I produced the high school news for a couple of years. We did a newscast every morning. We had cameras and green screens and we had music that we broadcast to the whole school it was closed circuit TV, so in high school, I really got exposure to advertising, radio and television from a very young age. And I just, fell in love with it, among many other things, in my lifetime, but it was very much the building blocks that led it to me. But I was so quiet, like, you never would have thought I would have gone into anything with sales or public or anything like that. And, you know, as I came out of my shell within the next ten years or so. But yeah, that’s the high school journey right there.

Yeah. So did you go to college with the intention of studying or learning about marketing or how did you get involved in marketing?

No. So I actually graduated. I went to school at Stephen F. Austin State University, and I worked for the radio and television programs. So I grew up in Austin, Texas, which is really known for the University of Texas. They’re a very big school and they’re a fantastic university, but they have a really good radio and television and film program. However, I really touched the equipment, or at least this is what I was told back in high school, and I believed that you had to be in the top 10% of the class, and otherwise you really just learned the theory behind it. But you weren’t really that hands-on. And I’ve always been such a hands-on guy and a hands-on learner. So Stephen F.Austin had a reputation around town of being a very good secondary option for people who are interested in radio and television. So I went up there because I could start getting on-air and doing radio and producing TV from day one as a freshman. And I’m like, okay. So I went to do that just because I was so much more of a hands-on person. So I went with the idea of wanting to go for radio and television. I knew that from my high school days and I was very entertained by it or interested in it. And my life journey up into that point as well really led to that which I’m sure we’ll cover here in a little bit.

So you got involved in television in college. You got you went to the University of Texas. That's what it's called, right?

No, I went to Stephen F. Austin State University.

My apologies. Okay. So sorry about that. But so you went in there with the intention of getting into broadcasting and TV and radio. And when you graduated, what was the next step then? Did you do any internships at TV stations or publicly on TV stations or where did that take you?

Sure. I was lucky enough in college, where our college had a radio station and it had a TV station. And so during our coursework, we would actually go in and work at these real stations. And we did semester shifts. So it was cool. I’d be like Friday night from 6 to 10 on the radio and things like that. After the next semester, I would produce the Christmas special for the TV show or something along those lines. And so there was always where you could get hands-on with the different positions and what you might want to do, which was really neat. But even taking it back a step, I didn’t ever really graduate with the intention of going into radio and television. So my biggest passion in life when I was young was professional wrestling. From such a young age, I watched and you look at all the big stars, the Hulk Hogan, the Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, you’re like, “oh, man, they’re superheroes”. And so I remember watching an interview with Iron Larry Sharpe back when I was out in seventh or eighth grade and he goes, If you want to be a professional wrestler, you need to get into amateur wrestling. And so that’s the reason I chose to go into amateur wrestling. But when I got to my senior year, I had an opportunity and I went to a local professional wrestling show in Austin I talked with the guys and they go, Hey, guess what? We’ll give you an opportunity to become a professional wrestler. I’m like, Oh my God. So I went and asked my parents and my mom strictly forbade it. And my dad, who’s usually the hardass on everything, says, You know what? Let him chase his dreams. And so my mom and dad agreed to it. So I became a professional wrestler when I was a senior in high school. So I started getting paid. Doing all the travelling and working on my character. So when I went to college, my idea was that I was going to prepare on the technical side of the radio and the television to help set me up for the media side of professional wrestling so I could go for a career. And so I wrestled my way through college. I was a professional wrestler for eight years, and it took me all the way around the United States. I wrestled several famous people. I was on TV in five different states, I went to Mexico, and I was on international TV there. I wrestled Mexican movie stars. So it was a really cool little adventure. And that’s really where I was trying to prepare myself for the radio and television to do the more technical aspect of wrestling.

Wow, that's so neat. So tell me, how did you go from being in wrestling and pursuing that as your dream to owning a marketing agency?

Absolutely. Great question. So while I graduated college, I was still doing professional wrestling. I was starting to get a little bit burned out on it. There’s a lot of traveling for not a lot of money and you’re tearing up your body, because the money is only at the high levels and it’s even the highest of the high levels, like the lower level famous guys still don’t make all that much money, or at least they didn’t back in my day and this is 14 years ago.

Yes, probably still.

Yeah, I’m sure it is. I hadn’t talked to them in a while, but so I was doing that and I got through college because everyone, everybody told me to have a backup plan, even from the professional scouts, the Tom pitchers of the world. Rodney Mack was a guy who was a personal mentor to me and all of them stressed always have a backup because you never know when you’re going to land on your head, you’re next gonna be broken and you’re going to need your brain for the rest of your life. So, that’s what I did. I went through college, I graduated college and I moved to Houston because of the opportunities for wrestling, Houston’s a hub for the United States, it really is. So you can go anywhere you want. You’re 6 hours from New Orleans, 4 hours from Dallas, and 3 hours from Austin. You can really get anywhere. You’re 8 hours from Mexico, so you can get anywhere from Houston and that’s traveling by car. And so I moved to Houston and I got a job here at an Ad agency in town because I graduated. I’m like, I am never going to use my college degree, like what a worthless college degree radio is like. And then even if you get a job in great, intelligent, most jobs, and especially in a small market, you’re making like $10 an hour. So you’re going to be broke the rest of your life at that point. So I got lucky that I got in with a company called Ad Results here in Houston and what they did was live radio endorsements for big companies. And so I started off as a traffic coordinator where I would listen to ads all day. And the client that I was assigned from the very beginning was Carrabba’s, Italian Kitchen. So picture this. I was listening to one-minute commercials for Carrabba’s Italian food for 8 hours a day.

Just wait a minute. You were listening to commercials from one advertiser for 8 hours a day.

Yes, and I was logging it in to make sure that they ran correctly, they said copyright because these are all live radio endorsements. So it’s the DJ going, “hey, you need to check out this product, they have this this this, feature. Come out today” and they were required to do it live every single day. So my job had to audit them every single day. We used a service called Media Monitors that does real-time monitoring and uploads the feed within an hour, so we could go back and we could listen almost in real time to make sure that the client was getting exactly what they paid for. So my first job there was what we called the traffic coordinator, and I would go listen to these ads. So starting on Monday, I’d listen to 8 hours of food ads, and then by Friday I was starving every single week and I go, Oh my God, I have to go eat Carrabba’s. And it became like my Friday night dinner spot every single week. And this is how I figured out that advertising worked because when you listen to that many commercials, it makes sense after a while. And so I had to go try it. And then I found this with all the clients that I ended up getting assigned to because I worked on more than just Carrabba’s. Eventually, I was probably one of the top traffic people at the agency, and I’ve always been a very ambitious person, so they promoted me into a media buyer position. I would go place the ads with the different radio stations and negotiate. Rates and things like that. And some of my clients ended up being AT&T, and SodaStream. We helped launch Joe’s Dream here in the United States, Arby’s Sleep Number, FanDuel, and helped relaunch Zest in Canada. So that might be a cool project. That was around 2011- 2012. So a bunch of different really cool projects that I got to work on.

That's interesting.

Yeah. So I went from that at some point in that I’m like, You know what? This wrestling thing just ended up paying the bills like I was hoping it was. And the truth be told, I’m 6’2, 240 so I’m a big boy. When I was wrestling, I was 275. So I’ve always been a pretty stout guy. I never had the bodybuilder look. Like they want you to look at the legacy members of the world or was it now John Cena’s and the Rocks and the Randy Orton, you know, those guys who look like frickin superheroes because they have the bodies of superheroes. And I never had that body. So I was never prepared to get the right opportunity for me to go into it. So totally on me. But it ended up like everything, right? One door opens when another door closes and it becomes an opportunity in disguise. So I quit midway through. I quit wrestling about midway through my stint at that ad agency. And I was really just enjoying that. That was really my foray into the professional and advertising world. And then just to make it transition, I got laid off with a lot of the company, which is another long story, probably shouldn’t be airing all their business, but we got 66% of the company got laid off at one time because we lost an advertiser which eventually came back. But I was part of that 66%, But again, when one door shuts, another door opens. I got a job at a marketing agency that was based in the automotive vertical. He helped to transition it from being a video portion of the company that we were working at to a data strategy portion. The year 2012, and 2013 was revolutionary for what we were doing in the industry. No one was doing that yet. And so that was my first foray into marketing. And when we started putting all this data strategy in, I realized that was just putting a puzzle together to reach the right people, the right amount of times, which, you know, I discovered from the advertising portion that marketing is really frickin cool. And it led me to really discover that marketing is like three things that ultimately meet. Its math meets psychology that meets art. And when you get those three things in unison, you make loads of money.

Yeah, absolutely. It's a lot of fun, isn't it? Sometimes though I think that clients don't, like when you mentioned you're in the automotive industry and I shared with you and everybody knows the business that I was in the market director of a car dealership and I think that the people that don't know how marketing works especially digital marketing, they think that they don't know what we do and they think that we just push a couple of buttons on a keyboard and make things happen. Certainly, we use a keyboard, but there's so much more to it in regards to coming up with the right creative, figuring out the right audience of who you want to reach and what message you're going to reach them with, and interpreting the data, you know what I mean? Like but that's why it's so much fun because it is like building a puzzle. Like if, for instance, if you're going to do marketing automation and figure out the customer journey and what parts of that customer journey you're going to create content for and what part of it you're going to automate and where are you going to have your conversion goals and take the customer through the journey and end up eventually being your customer. You know, it's complicated. It's not easy to do. Do you find that it leverages both sides of your brain, do you like it because you're using the analytical side of your brain? I don't know if this is true anymore. I've had some people tell me this isn't true anymore. Left brain, right brain, whatever. You know, your left brain is more analytical, your right brain more creative. Do you find that it stimulates both sides of your brain and that's why you enjoy it so much?

Yeah, absolutely. Even my wife tells me the same thing all the time. She’s like, there is no left brain, right brain anymore. I’m like, okay, well, whatever. But it’s funny. I have what you call the golden brain, and the theory uses both parts equally. And the reason that I discovered this is when I was trying it when I was a kid, I was trying to do everything left-handed when I was growing up and my parents decided it was a right-handed world. So they would always take everything out of my left hand and put it in my right hand. And so I would naturally try and gravitate left and then I’d be forced to use right. And now I can even I’m ambidextrous, so I can throw a football with both hands, I can shoot basketballs, I can even write with both hands. So I like to believe that that has some type of effect on the creative side and the analytical side coming together. And because of that, marketing was the perfect outlet for me, because it’s like you said, if we’re using the automotive as an example, right, that was your moment of truth or whatever. The study came out years ago, but there were 16 different touch points someone had to go through before they were willing to buy a car. I found out some would only go to 1.4 dealerships before they were ready to buy. So someone’s put on a lot, you know that it was your sale to lose. And the reason people buy is because of salespeople and the reason that people leave is because of salespeople. So as a marketer, it’s our job to figure out those 16 touchpoints and to put the content in front of them at the right time, which could be a 6 to 9-month buying period. And to nurture them along into the path where they’re comfortable enough to come to the dealership to talk to us. So how cool is that? You get to use the psychology to figure that out and then buy real artwork that you’re going to create is going to influence those people differently through each step of that process. And so if you want them to move quicker, use more reds and yellows, if you want them to trust you more, use more blues. Like there’s all these like colour psychology and shape psychology and everything that goes into creating the artwork as well as the offers and the urgency that you put behind it to really get someone to take action. And that’s marketing in a nutshell. That’s really so cool because it’s more than just saying, “hey, I’ve got this, come buy it”. It’s when you really weigh more into it. A good marketing program that has that figured out. The sky’s the limit for revenue.

So you've mentioned a couple of times now, the importance of data. Even off camera, I think we were talking about data. So could you tell me a little bit more about that and how the data, how you were able to use data and how you use data and the importance of data in creating marketing campaigns that are going to work?

Absolutely. And this is where it really stimulated my mind when I started that company. So I started there, and I became pretty good at reading the data. And the data had several different options to read this data. So we had to do the dealership DMS data, which is just their data management system, which they’re recordkeeping. And so we found what person, where they lived with zip codes, how old they were and what kind of age range wanted to buy a car. What kind of colour car did they want to buy? And we could start to figure all of this out to start targeting like people to put out that data in front of them. So we combine that with something called POC data, which is registration data, that data is required to collect from automotive dealerships. And so we could cross-reference that dealership DMS data with that POC data. And it began to give us a really solid start to a data program. Then you can start layering that with just different things like the Experian data and Azeri data, zip code profile data, all of this to see what’s the ethnicity of the zip code that you’re going out. So if you know, you might be trying to go after this one specific zip code for 25 to 35-year-old mothers who are predominantly white, who are making $60,000 more a year, that gives you a heck of a targeting opportunity to really focus on and so what we used to do is we used to say it was taking the sniper approach to market versus the shotgun approach. The shotgun approach is the spray and pray. It’s just traditional. Throw everything on the wall, see what sticks and then how it worked. Right. Well, when you do it with a more sniper approach, you know exactly who you’re shooting for, and you’ll hit them, you know, 50% of the time. And then that way you don’t have to spend the million dollar budget anymore. You can spend the $10,000 budget and get the same return, the 10 million, except it’s more because of the opportunity cost. And then, once you figure that out, you can scale that data up massively otherwise. And it goes for industries other than just automotive. They have dental industry data, and they have data in all different types of industries that you can use to tell the story.

What about companies that, like you and I, are very familiar with the amount of data that car dealers get from you, knowing they like by the time you go to buy your car, nine times out of ten, you've made a financing application and they just they know what you do for a career. They know how much money you make. I don't think no people know that, and it goes into the DMS, as you and I talked about, and hopefully goes into CMS. Hopefully, the dealership is either sinking that data, those two things together or handling it in some way. But the point I'm trying to make is if they buy a car or a house, people find out a lot about you. A mortgage broker finds out a lot about you. What about people like smaller businesses who have smaller budgets? And I'm going to give you a for instance and I know it is a classic, for instance, because everybody always says Dallas plumber. So like let's just say a plumber or even a home renovation company. What about a small mom-and-pop shop that doesn't have access to all that data to build? Not around. What is your strategy for helping those types of businesses?

Sure, absolutely. So it depends on the industry. So certain industries have more data provided than other industries. As I said as an example, the dental industry produces all the same data that the automotive industry does. For plumbers a little bit different. I haven’t found any plumber data. I’m saying these are the people that do it, but it’s the same type of concept. So the first place we tell everyone to start is to get a CMS management system. The customer management system, if it’s HubSpot or the one we use a lot is CRM. But there’s HouseCall Pro, there’s billions of them for different industries and so you start there and that way you can start logging your jobs because you have to have some way to keep track of the record anyway. Right. It’s we’re not living on paper tabs anymore. And so if you start doing that, you collect just the most basic demographic information. What’s your birth date? Where do you live? And so just those two pieces of information alone, you can start to layer data on top of other things to start to tell the story. And I mean, we’re not talking about breaking the bank right here. I think it’s not just that you can get 40, or 50 bucks a month right now. As you get bigger and bigger, it scales up with you. So you’re not breaking the bank upfront until you have clients, which is the beautiful part of living in this data age that we live in. And so you can start doing that. And then when you build a website, you put something called Google Analytics on there, which helps you track all the data. So where do people come from? What cities do they come from? If you don’t live in a big metro area, let’s say you live in a smaller area, we’ll tell you all the surrounding cities that people come from. And so you can again start to layer that data so you can look at zip codes and all that, and that tells you where to start targeting. So depending on what strategy you want to develop, either a short-term or a long-term strategy, you can use that data for like a short time. You can start targeting on social media by zip more, by a radius of an address, or something like that. Suppose you want to go a little bit bigger. In that case, you can start doing television programs where you can start targeting by cable systems now, which is going, Hey, I want a ten-mile radius of this location and they can more or less do that now or zip code and then they’ll show it to all the video on demand platforms. So if you want to do a real long-term strategy like SEO, you can start building your SEO strategy, specifically local SEO strategy around these local places. So as an example, where in Houston, if you want to build out the, I’m trying to think of what’s like the biggest little town around Katy area of Houston you can start targeting all about Katy or you can start targeting all about Cypress or you can start targeting about Pearland instead of trying to hit the whole city. You know exactly where your customer base is coming from. So you can layer all that data to really start, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist, you just have to be aware that it’s available and you can use it and then just get creative with it.

Yeah, there's I'm sure with a population of over 2 million in Houston, a plumber isn't going to want to go to one side of the city and then the next and then, I mean, you have to try and target people and hopefully you can target people are in the same way within a ten mile or 15 miles or maybe 20-mile radius. To get enough business to make it economically profitable for you to continue to operate and expand with other offices as you in other territories when I mean territories, other sectors of the city and hiring other staff. So yeah, it's so important. Are we able to leverage data? For instance, let me transition back to the cars for a moment in regards to creating buyer personas based on the data, is that something that you assisted? Because I know you worked with an automotive marketing agency that specializes in helping car dealers and other such people. Were you able to create how were you able to leverage the data to create buyer personas, if at all? Just curious.

Absolutely. And that’s what we did. So after, I guess about a year and a half there or maybe two years. I got promoted into management and talked to a section of the company, and I helped transition further away from the video platform to the data management side. And so we ended up when I took over, I think we 3 X to r X, the number of accounts we had. I helped to take my section of the company from losing $40,000 or something like that into a very bad position. Yeah, we had a very bad partnership deal with an agency out of Florida that was bleeding them dry, and they didn’t know any better at the time. And we elected to get out of that agency deal about a year-end. And then that’s where I helped to transition to the data strategy portion. And so once we got out of that, we could sell it differently. And like I said, 4X the amount of accounts we had. We’re making just under 2 million, maybe from my section of the company alone. And the two years that I got into management. And we saw that our average dealership grew 6% in market share within six months, which is just astronomical when you look at how competitive the industry is. And the reason for that was to build the personas and tell the stories. So we were able to leverage the zip code data and the buyer personas that they put into place with our data to start to hone in on what people were interested in. And so it goes further than just demographic data. It goes from psychographic data to how they feel about certain things. Do they follow certain people? When you start targeting those example business owners, do they follow Tony Robbins and make more than $100,000 a year? If so, we want to target them for this vehicle and set that up. And this was back before the Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook. So we upload those customer lists once we figure it out and match that criteria and then match that data. So we could 1% match it, and we could find that everybody in the market within about a 15-mile radius, depending on the city who would drive it to get that kind of car. So we leveraged it very successfully into growing. And like I said, that 6% is just an astronomical goal. Yeah. Because there are only so many cars sold in a month, right? It’s like a big pie, and you can only have your piece of the pie. But what happens when you make that piece of the pie? That piece of the pie? Well, I’ll tell you what happens. Millions of dollars. It’s a high-interest, highly competitive industry.

Always very highly. I am someone who worked in for seven years as well it's incredibly competitive, and I'm pulling that off is amazing. Cambridge Analytica kind of screwed things up for a lot of us. And I wouldn't mind talking about what's happened now. I haven't been in the game for a little while here because of the pandemic and other things and haven't managed the car dealer's campaign. But it's only you know, it's possible anymore. But we were segmenting the data, that you're talking about and we had the Facebook pixel, so we were creating audiences based on like if they're interested. So for us, we were breaking down into vehicle types cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans. But if they hit the VP, which is a vehicle detail page for those listening and watching, it is like a single product page on an e-commerce store. But instead of calling it a single product page, the car dealers call it a vehicle detail page or a vehicle product page, whichever you want. But anyway, it's EDP, and so if they hit the EDP. and they didn't hit the thank you page for a test drive or whatever other conversion there was, such as a finance application we had those all set because they didn't hit any conversion metric. We retargeted them with an audit with a group of similar vehicles, and we did that for use by type and new buy models. And I will tell you, we did that and then created lookalike audiences. Based on the visitors, traffic visitors. And then not only that, we took the data from the CRM and uploaded it, and we uploaded it to create lookalike audiences there. And we even segmented some of the people because they had already bought. I mean, so there's like so many things we're able to do. It was just absolutely incredible, and we were able to create service-based campaigns, based on people who had bought by uploading them and using them as an audience that we wanted to reach. Now, is that all dead because Cambridge Analytica is uploading lists to Facebook dead now?

No. You can still upload lists. They’re just not as effective as they used to be because it wasn’t the Cambridge analytical thing that necessarily killed it. It was the iOS 14. It killed it. Now, half of everybody who opts out just isn’t tracked. So the tracking just isn’t where it used to be. So that’s interesting.

So it wasn't Cambridge Analytica.

It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I guess, with the IOS, And it was the start of the hole in the dam was Cambridge Analytica.

Yeah. Do you think Facebook is going to survive?

Absolutely. It’s one of the biggest companies in the world.

Yeah, I know. But you know there are companies that have failed that have been much bigger than them. I don't have any stories but there's a guy who wrote Good to Great, he wrote a book about From Good to Great, and he wrote another book about companies that failed. That then in their time got bought up and they made this mistake or that mistake. So I know they're still around, like a behemoth company.

Blockbuster is the perfect example.

There you go, that's a blockbuster.

If they don’t change with the times, they could die. Or if they do what Enron did, they could implode, things like that but Facebook has always been a very progressive company, with some very smart people working for them. And so they are always trying to innovate because they understand that if you don’t innovate, you’re going to die. And so every time, you know, a tick-tok platform comes along because, as musically 3 years ago, it became tick-tock and then exploded. And so they go, we’ve got to do this. And so now they do that. They bought Instagram. How many companies they’re buying all the time to try and improve their technology? So yes, their acquisition like they they do things from at least the outside perspective. They do what you want to do when you own a giant business. Your mergers and acquisitions are spot on. You’re always innovating in what you do. You have a very loyal audience and you have a platform that’s giant and it’s become, a verb instead of a noun. Let’s go, Facebook

Exactly, it's pretty amazing. So what other ways can data be leveraged, then that you've seen in your career and in working with your agency, and your clients besides some of them have already mentioned?

Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, I have a more diverse experience, too, because I got tired of the automotive industry for a while.

Yeah. Okay.

Overtly creative. And I don’t know if your you’re aware of this, but especially being in management at the company I was in, if your strategy is not right. You miss your target on the first week of the month, auto dealers tend to get very upset because we’re talking billions of dollars here, right? And the automotive industry is a lot like sports and that everybody’s job is on the line every single month. And so if you start that poorly, you’ll have auto dealers, GM’s calling at you, cursing you out, saying unkind things about your character, your family, and at some point, it was just not an environment conducive to personal or professional growth anymore. So I ended up, I got my EMT and my firefighter license while I was working in the automotive industry. I’m a very ambitious person and I like helping people. So I volunteered while I was doing that and I got a good background in health care. So I’m like, what if I could do marketing in health care? And so the opportunity came up for me to go to a company here in Houston that built software for community health centers in addition to the GE Health Care platform. And they also were building a revenue cycle management program, which is the people who build out hospitals and community health centers and then call them and bring in the revenue. And then they take a percentage of the tickets they collect, and that’s how they get paid. And so this company was stagnant. It had been stagnant for a few years. And my wife happened to work for them at that time, and she went, “Hey, you need to talk to my husband”. They sat through a marketing presentation at the company meeting, and some and everyone was falling asleep. It was boring to them, according to what my wife said. And so marketing should be fun. Marketing should never be the most boring.

Never, ever be boring.

Yeah, exactly. It’s the exciting part of business, which is why I love it so, my wife said, Hey, you need to talk to this guy. He’s helping all these auto dealers make tons of money, and he’d be a great fit here. So I went in, I met with this company, and we had a great rapport right off the bat. And so they ended up hiring me to be their marketing executive. And the first year we came in, and we redid the whole strategy from everything. So we redid the web design, we redid the trade show materials, and we read all the fliers. We started a paper campaign, we redid the SEO campaigns, we redid our content, and this was me being in marketing.

One, how did you make the decision to redo everything game? Was it data?

No, not quite. So part of marketing is that pizzazz, is that pop. Okay, so all this time, everything was very sterile, so it was white with a light blue. Their company colour was blue. That makes sense. But that’s health care. That’s when you think about health care. You think white and blue, right? Well, what if they were doing all blue projects? Like one of the things that they specifically did was use Tableau and they called it data analytics that they focused on for these centers in order to help these companies bring in more patients and get more revenue and all these cool things with it and so I’m like, “hey, this is exciting”. It’s software. It’s not traditional health care, so why don’t we start marketing it as exciting? So we ended up doing 3D rendered videos of all these things flying through for revenue cycle management, for data management. After we get off the podcast, I’ll send you a couple of links so that you can look at it, to see what it is you want to include in the post or anything. So we redid it, and we made it exciting, and then we knew that our number one target was tradeshows. That’s where we were going to meet people and then we knew that we had about an 18-month buying cycle just based on the data that we had.

Okay, Here's a key market value. How long your buying cycle is?

It was government contracts. It’s a community health centre, which is they serve the underserved population of America. So the people who can’t afford to go to the nice hospitals, you always have to have somewhere to go. And so the government funds these community health centres, which are a wonderful, beautiful thing. I’m a huge fan of the value they provide just the general world. They’re great for that, and so you can go and get your dental health, cardiologist health check and any other health checks that you need with a primary care all in one place or you can go to even community hospitals so you won’t get turned out. So they serve a great purpose to the community. And so, but we knew it took about 18 months because it was a cycle, the buying cycle. We come in my goal was to revamp the material and then shorten that buying cycle to nine months because I thought we could do it. I was shooting for 12 months. But, you know, I tell people nine months just to be aggressive. So we re-did all this material. And one of the biggest things we did was shoot a bunch of testimonial videos at the conferences. So the conferences, is where we would make the majority of our contact and the majority of our sales? One of the things you can do at almost any conference is buying the attendee list, which is invaluable data for exactly what you know, because they’re in the market to buy what your product is, even if they don’t know about your product.

I didn't even know you could do that.

Absolutely. So you could start getting them into your funnel, and then send them email marketing because we had their contact information. Then we could upload their cell phone numbers to Facebook, and run targeted ads, retargeting to those specific people. And then it’s just the frequency that we need to go. So there’s something called the marketing rule of sevens, I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but for your audience, you might not be. So the marketing rule of sevens was a maxim developed in the 1930s by the movie industry, and it saw that someone needed to see a movie poster at least seven times before they would take action to go into the theater and watch the movie. And that was 100 years ago. What is it now, with the invention of television and cable and the internet and video on demand and YouTube and everything? So when I was working at the ad agency, we saw that the average flight of a commercial, which is how long you would run a set of commercials for, would be played out at around 2600 GRPs or gross rating points, meaning that the average person, the market saw it about 20 times. So the answer to that question of how much someone needs to see probably falls somewhere between 7 and 20. That’s the exposure that we have to shoot for. So we know that over the 18 months they would see them, they would send a quarterly email. This was before I got there. They would send a quarterly email. They might do a social post once a month. They’d see them at a trade show every two months. So the frequency just wasn’t there to be able to get there. Eventually, they’d say, Yes, I’m interested. They’d give the ability to go sign up with or talk to a sales agent, and they’d begin the sales process. Our goal was to cut down that time frame, and that’s exactly what we did. We went to one of those conferences and we pulled everyone into a room, and we shot about 12 testimonial videos. Part of the biggest sticking point for this company was that once we got to the sales process, they would have to call at least three references to be able to comfortably move forward with it. It’s government work. It takes a while. So by shooting these testimonial videos, what we did was to create the need for them to actually call these people, and they go, You want to hear from perfect people? Perfect. We’ve got 12 testimonial videos of this service that we’ll send you right now. And that alone cut that buying cycle in half because they no longer had to call those people and get a hold around and schedule a time to chat. It was instantaneous.

They heard them already. So they are using their endorsement. That's brilliant.

Exactly. And so we use that data strategy to figure out those people and to keep reaching them and to keep reaching them and we know that testimonial video is going to be the last step. So not only did we reach them after that when they were in that buying cycle. In that purchase stage, we can hit them with those testimonial videos over and over until they go, “Hey, you’ve got to see this. And they take it to their boss. Their boss would sign off on it and we would get a contract. So this worked really well to the tune of we made about 1.3 million more in first-year contracts. Granted, they signed three-year contracts, but 1.3 million is what was tracked that first year I was there en route, and I believe it was their first $20 million a year and their 20-year company history. And much of that was being tracked back to the revolutionary side of marketing. We did. Plus, they hired a couple of really, really talented salespeople, and they carry on developing all these awesome standalone products that community health centres had never seen. And so you combine those three factors at once, and it just saw explosive growth for this company, and it was really amazing.

So, I heard you correctly, they went from 1.39 million to 20?

They added 1.3 million first-year contracts, more than anything they’ve ever done in their company history in a sales cycle. So I don’t remember the exact numbers it was five or six years ago, but it was $1.3 million, and it could have been 16 or whatever it was. It ended up at their first $20 million year and their 20-year company history.

Yeah. Which is significant.

Obviously.

This whole time you're working for all these different companies and gaining experience, which is one of the most when you talk about film and television. Most of the most valuable thing in film and television, correct me if I'm wrong, are credits. They don't give a crap for anything else. But how many credits do you have? What I mean credits. How many credits have you been credited in a movie or TV show, whether you've been a director and actor or all those things? Now, of course, winning an Oscar and Golden Globes and all that thing. But is that true, though? The statement I just made is that when you first start, it's the credits that you want to get in this kind of experience.

From an acting standpoint, probably. And then, once those doors open, it’s easier to maneuver around. There’s also a thing called cue ratings, which is how favorably an audience responds to you. Now, I don’t even know if they still use it, this is what they taught us in college. But those cue ratings are how the audience responds to you, and then they look at the box office. Ultimately, revenue is the driver. It drives everything. And then, in TV, the type of advertisers you can bring in with the quarter-hour rating. Yeah. So you look at quarterly, and it’s almost instantaneous day data now so that you can do it.

The point I'm trying to make is, yeah, to a degree, people care about whether you have experience because credits would dictate experience to me anyway. Somebody has no credits and somebody has credits. They have experience. You're getting experience from doing all these things. At what point were you motivated to start your own? Like, did you just realize you're good at something and you're like, I don't want to say the word, but like Ice Tea in this video on YouTube. The name of the video on YouTube was all effort video. And the explicit word is like, you know, you reach this point, where you going to ask that girl out and say leave it, I don't care if she says no I'm going to do it anyway. At what time did you reach that point where you're like, Screw it, I'm going to start an agency?

Yeah, that’s a great question. And so my wife had quit that company by that point. I was in my second year or something like that, and we saw that we had a very successful year. And granted, this company was paying me well, and my wife was a big driver. And I’ll tell you why in just a minute.

Okay. Yeah, very interesting.

Yeah, they were paying me well, and they go, you know, thank you for all the hard work you made with this first year with this company. As a thank you, we would like to give you an $8,000 raise. And then I started doing the math, and I’m like, $1.3 million, $8,000. And the scales of justice seemed a little bit off with everything we were doing. And, you know, I was doing the job of about five people on the marketing team at that point. I’m just an incredibly hard worker, and I know I’m a busybody. So I’ll do everything, learn how to do everything. But because of that, you know, my wife being the smarter of the two of us, she goes, Why are we making all of this money for everybody else and making pennies on the dollars for us? And I go, Yeah, you’re right. And the light bulb went on, and a new beginning was born. So there are two real reasons that were going to be the first one. So my wife said many unkind things about my character to me that I needed to hear about my lack of fortitude. You know, it takes a lot of risks to quit a six-figure of your job, to go out on your own. Especially her, she was doing a full time at that point and so there was no fallback plan. So it scared me a lot. But she said many things that I needed to hear, and I am forever grateful to my wife for doing that. And so that was the catalyst that got us to start. The second is that I have an autistic daughter and we were living pretty close to an area of Houston called City Center at that time. There was a wonderful place called the Houston Texans Grill, and we loved that place. It was in the city center.

Houston Texans Grill, Okay.

It seems like they can have everything you could possibly want. They had a great location. They had a great bar. They had great food that came out. They even had the Texans come in on a Tuesday to do live radio remotes. It was fantastic, we loved it, it was one of our favourite places. Our daughter being autistic and about ten years old at the time, didn’t eat a large variety of food. Anyone with an autistic child knows it’s always a struggle to try and get them to eat anything. But this is one place that she loved. So it became one of our three rotation places when we ate. Yeah. So one day we went up there, we went up the elevator, We looked, and there’s just the sign on the door. She goes to open the door. The door’s locked. We read the sign that says, “Thank you. For the last five years we’ve gone out of business”. And she goes, I don’t understand. Why can’t we go in? I want to go in. And my daughter, she’s smart as a whip, but she took a second for it to register what it is, and we had to explain business economics to her. And then I and my wife and my daughter went to one of our other places and they, my wife sat down, and we started talking, and we go, “Why did this place go out of business? They had probably everything that you could possibly want.” And then, we figured it out. They didn’t do any marketing, even though they had the Texans name and all of that, they didn’t do any marketing. And everyone knows that the big nights are Friday, Saturday and Sunday at a restaurant. And so if you don’t market for those nights, you will go out of business. We’ve told us that several restaurants have gone out of business. So it’s like, man, we have a skill set that could have helped these people keep building your dream and to keep. pushing the food and the community and everything. We could have helped this place stay in business. And so it was those two factors that drove us to want to start a company, to help more than just big corporations make money. But we also wanted to help the little guys at the same time. And then we could end up leveraging some of the big corporation’s money coming through us to help some of the smaller guys go up in status to where they could become bigger and help hire people in the community. And then we all grow together. And so it’s just moving money throughout the community, and we take our little bitty share of it. Keep pushing it along. And it was, it was a great decision, and I am forever grateful that my wife did that, and I’m forever grateful for the health care company that hired me away from the automotive space. I’m forever grateful for the automotive space that hired me off to the advertising line.

So and everything was like built upon one thing after another to give you even more and more experience and more and more skills and, you know, more and more exposure to be able to get to what you're doing today. It's amazing how Rome wasn't built in a day, they say. And, you know, there's a lot of young people now that would just want to do. They want to be in it, at least from my experience. And when I understand and read about the work ethic for some younger people, now I'm not going to label on this way, but it's right. They want to everybody wants to be a social media influencer like right now. They want to make the $50 million a day. I'm being facetious, of course. Yeah. Without doing the work, the preparatory work that got them there, you know, I mean, like this, the stair staircase is.

It took me 20 years to become an overnight sensation, like hearing the stories of it.

Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

And that’s like, especially in the professional wrestling world, right? You have to be ready for when the WWE or whoever it is now called, you know, that means that you had to put 20 years of bodybuilding into getting to the position where when they call you, you’re ready to go. And so it takes all of that time. And some people are a little bit luckier than others. But, you know, unless you believe Jim Simmons, there is no luck. It’s only when preparation meets opportunity.

Yeah, that's interesting. Jim Simmons has a very interesting philosophy as well. There is no such thing as luck. It's when preparation meets opportunity.

So when I approached the owner of the company for that health care company going, “hey, I think it’s time that I leave to go start my own thing”. It’s interesting because the first thing he said to me is I knew from the day I hired you that you weren’t going to stay here for long, but I knew that you were so talented that we had to do it. And so I’m like, I always took that as a giant compliment. And I go. And since I was in a marketing team at that point up. He didn’t want to be left out. They take a while on their decisions, on who to hire and what to do. And so I started talking to him. I’m like, would you be interested in considering, you know, coming on as our first client, at least for the interim, to help you transition over to whoever you want in-house? Because they, really, really wanted someone in the house which, you know, you needed to be able to walk into his office and go, Hey, I need you now, because he wasn’t the best at returning phone calls, right? You have to be that kind of guy. He’s busy. So he goes, You know what? I’d be willing to do that. He goes, What would you charge me? And I was making six figures a year at that point. I’m like, okay, how about this? And he goes, Don’t you think you should charge a little bit more if you’re going to be doing this, this and this, and there’s no overhead? And he gave me an immediate business lesson without me even realizing it. So he started me off with a five-figure-a-month contract to launch our business. And that’s why, till this day, I just rave about how good of a person this guy is. His name is Joe Kerrigan.

Shout out to Joe. He probably will never watch this podcast, but he’s amazing and Laraine Craig too, his wife, she runs it with him and Cam Hendricks, who is their chief strategy officer. All of them together gave us that opportunity which launched our company. So we’ve never had a month under five figures since we started our company and most marketing agencies don’t have that luxury.

No, they don't, James.

So while we were doing that, we sold our first client while I was still working at the health care company. And it was a local Mexican restaurant in the northwestern part of Houston called Embry Social Mexican Kitchen. And so they signed on with us, and we got that client. And so we were rocking and rolling. The first month we came on with Ambriz, we helped them raise revenues by 23.3%, and they were making roughly 24 times what we were charging them. And so we knew from that first client that first day, plus that one opportunity, that we would be set for the rest of our life. Because if we can help other people make money, we’ll all be able to get a small portion.

As you said, If you can help enough people get what they want, you'll get what you want, and you'll become very wealthy doing it, you and I both know that the most expensive part of the business is what? Customer acquisition.

Customer acquisition, you know, new generation, specific.

New Generation, it costs more money to acquire a new customer than it does to sell to an existing one or get a referral from an existing one. It's when you have that skill set of being able to do the things that you're talking about. It's no wonder doors open for you. Here's a question, though, that I hope you don't mind and you don't have to answer. You can plead the Fifth. And although it's nothing incriminating.

I’m pretty open.

Well, you know, but this is personal, though. You've mentioned this person several times, your wife. Did you meet your wife before you were like doing marketing? Because I know she's your business partner.

Yes, absolutely.

So I want to know how you met her in like, for instance. It's interesting that the two of you do the same thing and have similar skill sets. Like my wife, she's in pharmacy. Like, she's not in a pharmacy right now, but, I kind of tried to teach her what I do a little bit to help me in some ways, but it's just staffing. And so I'm just interested in how you met her, how you came together because you have such similarities and how you have been able to overcome the challenges of working with your spouse?

Absolutely. This is a question we get asked all the time at networking events and things like that. So my wife is probably the most charismatic person I’ve ever met, and she is supremely talented in everything she does, and she discounts herself so much on her skill set. But she’s truly just the most amazing person I’ve ever met. So, fun story while I was wrestling. So we’re looking back around 2005-2006, I had a tag team partner. Well, I guess I didn’t start talking with him till 27, but he was one of my best friends. He was my best friend at the time. And what he did on the side to generate money outside of wrestling was he was a music teacher. And so my wife was dating another guy at that point, and she went to his house to have a music lesson while I was hanging out with that guy recording music. I also play the guitar. We were in a band for a while, so I was in one section of the house recording some tracks while he was doing a lesson. But I saw my wife from across the room, and they, Oh my God, she’s the most stunning woman I’ve ever seen. You know, no exaggeration. I’m like, that is my dream woman looking at her right there. So it took a couple of years for her, and that other guy broke up. And I was helping out with a band camp for children that summer, and she decided she wanted to come down and see one of the performances that the kids were doing. And so she came down, and we started hanging out on the beach, and we started talking. We just said, Hey, we should go on a date sometime. And she’s like, perfect. And so we ended up getting back past the summer, and we went on a few dates, we went on three dates, and then I kissed her at the end of the movie that we watched, and then I’m like, Oh man, this is the greatest. And I’ve always been a stupid, shy person up until the last few years because now I’m like, What the hell? I’ve got nothing to lose. But at the time, I was still crazy shy, especially with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. Kissed her. It took me three days to work up the courage even to do that, just because I thought she was amazing. So we did that. I tried to call the next day. Nothing. I’m like, Well, that’s weird. I thought this date went very well. I tried to call the next day, but nothing. I tried to call the next day. Nothing. And she wasn’t on my phone calls. I’m like, Well, I guess I screwed this one up. And she ended up dating another guy. So we broke up. We just stopped dating. We kind of got dis-communicated there for a while, and that was in 2009. And so we both went on to different do different things. She wanted different career paths. She went on to date that guy for a while. I went on to have another long-term relationship. Eventually, she broke up. She got out of a relationship. This is in 2014, at the same time I did in 2014, and we managed to get reconnected through Facebook. And then from then on, from day one, we did a little bit of growing up, and we became the right person for each other. And so she went through her career path. I went through my career path. We kind of intersected the career path at the health care company. And then it was that one big defining moment that she used to manage bands and she used to do marketing for all different types of small businesses. And she has a diverse background, she’d be a great interviewee too if you ever decide to talk to her.

Oh yeah. I was thinking about that. Excuse me.

Yeah, absolutely.

Because we always love hearing people's lives, hearing people's stories.

In 2014, it became the right time. And you know, in 2017, we decided to start our own marketing company together. So how do we do it? There are some days it’s tougher than others. I have a different office set up. She has a different office set up. So we don’t work in the same office anymore. We work in the same building. And then even at the house, we have different offices. So my office is downstairs. Her office is upstairs so we can separate any time we need to. And then we come back for important things. We have meetings and things like that, but we set the boundaries of we to need some space sometimes. I love working with my spouse. It’s amazing. She’s my best friend, and she’s everything I could ever ask for. She is charismatic and just perfect. But, you know, people who spend so much time together, sometimes it can be challenging so that those boundaries, too, where, you know, you have a little bit of different space, whether it’s me going to a different sales meeting or her going to a different sales meeting or whatever it is. And then you come back together at the end of the day, and if you spend only 15 hours together instead of 24 hours together.

Sometimes, you know, there's a fine thing between time in regards to like in regards to marriage, not that this podcast is about marriage. But, it's like baking a cake. If you put the cake in and leave it in, don't put it in long enough. It's not going to bake properly. And if you leave it in too long, it will burn. And I have frankly found that it's the same with relationships and marriage. If you spend too much time with your significant other, you will drive each other nuts. If you don't spend enough time together, well, then that's going to be a problem as well. So a balance between spending just enough time together. So I'm glad that you've been able to work that out. So what's the future for Marketing Illumination and James Kaatz and your business?

So we’ve been fortunate enough to make a good amount of money, and we’ve been able to help everybody from upstarts who had zero clients to the big guys like GE Health Care. We’ve helped Group one Automotive. We’ve helped out Kelsey Cable. It was a big group around here, Ally Power Group, who does turbines there. What is it, an eight-figure, nine-figure of your company. So we’ve been able to help all ranges of different people. We have all ranges of clients, meaning we can continue to help people. So what is our next step? It’s just continuing to grow. We grow, and when we get to grow, we get to help our community. We get to help put money back into it. We get to help hire people. We get to help make the dreams of small business owners. And it’s all about growing together. At the end of the day, the money, it’s nice, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. It’s the pursuit of helping your fellow man around you, which, you know, I think it’s the Dalai Lama who said the secret to happiness is helping others.

It's true, the secret to living is giving, in so many different things.

And the money is in my pocket to help enough people. And like Zig Ziglar said. And so that’s the next step for us, is just to continue to scale our operations to help more people. And by generating more revenue, we can invest back into the nonprofits we help and things like that. So yeah, that’s our next step for sure. We became a full-service agency when we weren’t when we started. So we’ve expanded our product lines, we’ve expanded our team, we’ve expanded our revenue. We’re, we’re expanding exactly the rate we want to. The next step is just massive growth. And it’s scary. It’s really scary.

Well, hey, it's been a pleasure having you here. How can our listeners connect online if they want to?

Yeah, absolutely. You can find us on our Website. It’s www.marketingillumination.com. You can look me up on LinkedIn. I’m certain there as well as our companies. Our companies are all across the social media, we do a, we’re trying to get back to doing this. It was a weekly YouTube series for a while called Marketing Monday, where we try and play some type of marketing concept within about 4 minutes, and we’re about to start back up with those who certainly find us on YouTube. Subscribe to the channel to keep learning. And if you’re a business in need of marketing help, especially one that is doing a little bit more in revenue at this point but needs some of that direction or something to fill in the gaps. We’re an excellent option for that because like, as an example with our videographer, we like to say we do Hollywood-level work without the Hollywood-level prices and so on. Yeah, we can make it very affordable to help big companies scale.

Yeah, that's awesome. I'll make sure to put your LinkedIn profile and website in the show notes for people to contact you.

I appreciate.

I just want to say it's been a pleasure having you here. I've thoroughly enjoyed talking to you. If you'd like to come back on another episode and future episodes and talk to us, I'd be more than happy to have you. And. No, pressure whatsoever. Nevertheless, I enjoyed talking to you today.

And it’s been my pleasure, Matt. Thanks again for inviting me on it’s been a great conversation and I’d love to come back sometime.

Right on. Right now. Have a great day.

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