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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser spoke with Jim LaSalle, CEO of Keen Insights Internet Services. Jim reveals the tried-and-true method for developing a customer-centric approach and leveraging the potential of unified marketing to expand your company’s reach and secure its position as an industry leader. Watch now for some truly insightful thoughts.
Everybody’s selling something, some product or service. They have a cost of production and what’s left is profit and managing that operational aspect.
You’re welcome. My pleasure.
As a high school student, I thought I was going to be a good baseball player. And then I didn’t hit a curveball. I found a little home in track and field. I was the resident high-jumper and did pretty well with that and then hurt my knee. And then I didn’t do it in college. So that was pretty much the end of that. But I was always a tall, lanky kid, started hitting the gym and working on getting a little bit bigger. I was insecure in that, you know, we were insecure in high school for different reasons then you kind of overcome that stuff.
I am 6’1
I was reading little pamphlets by Price Pritchett, I think his name is. And he had these little pamphlets. And in one of them, I saw that thought, it comes from the Japanese chi, meaning change and zen meaning good. And it’s, there’s no direct correlation, but it’s the constant striving for perfection. You work on little things and over time you keep adopting these little changes and they turn into big changes over time.
Yes, it’s a core value. Number one. We press on all of our staff and we tell them to read and get better. You’re not just at work but it’s important for your personal life. You study what you want to get better at, mind, body, spirit kind of stuff.
Well, we started that company and there would probably be about four of us around a table when we got going. We ended up acquiring companies, we acquired two companies in 2013 and then ended up selling the company to a company called Scorpion Design in July 2017. And, a lot of stuff you learn about owning a business for sure, your first rodeo, so to speak, and whether it’s finding good people or getting the right people and then finding the right seat for them. Getting teams to work together. Just a lot of stuff to say, acquisitions to share the things in the acquisitions. When you acquire a company, the first time we had done it, the things that bite you are the things that you don’t expect to like. We had planned on the staff, we planned on rolling in the accounts and everything else and integrating their people when it was it was the silly things that we didn’t think of, like the integration of the billing software from all these other companies and getting them to merge into one where we then had to manually input all of their contracts and have people dig up the contracts for all of these companies to get the information because they don’t have the credit card information stored. So then you have to either send an email to the clients, you don’t want to do that because then it’s like that’s an opportunity for someone to leave or cancel or whatever. And so you want to have a minimal amount of that, but we were able to eventually get everything to kind of merge together, but that will always stand out as the biggest pain in the neck that we had at the time.
Maybe a little bit of both. I don’t think we expected it. I think the platforms, you know, we were a smaller company at a time. The other companies that we acquired were smaller too. So we weren’t all using the same platform. And being able to pull the lists and upload them on our platform didn’t work. So we had to eventually integrate into a bigger solution that we were able to kind of have them help with the assistance of downloading everything and then uploading everything into there. So, there was a little bit of a pain in the neck, so the companies kind of operated even individually for the first. I want to say the first quarter we made it like one of the big things that we had to do over the first quarter. But I would say over the first couple of months, a couple of billing cycles, everybody was still being billed by the organization that they came on with and we figured out the banking and the other stuff that wasn’t that big of a deal.
Well, one of my partners and I were working in the yellow page world and they were trying to figure out how to integrate digital solutions into or with the print product. And being close to the New York City Metro, the print product is bleeding more revenue at the time. So they started getting into Google AdWords or, search engine marketing as it was at the time and the way that they were incorporating it, we just felt what was it was wrong for the client where they were bundling in, whether it was their digital product, which was really an online directory and billing them for, for print as well, and putting together a package where let’s say of $2,000 a month, maybe 400 of it was going into Google. And a lot of them were saying, well, this isn’t really working and blah, blah, blah. And Google had an issue with it. And then we kind of said, you know, we can do this better and just incorporate just Google because we would not have to worry about a print product. So we kind of went our own way and, and started doing the search marketing. The opportunity really is what it came down to, and the problem and solving the problem.
I can tell you exactly where they lost the boat. They lost their work because the margins on their print product were so much higher than what they would be able to take on a Google AdWords thing. But there were these other digital agencies that they could have glammed up with platforms and technology because they were cash rich. They were still so hung up on trying to keep their print products going because of the margins. And they either thought they’d be able to maintain aspects of that or they thought that advertisers would continue on those platforms. And it just wasn’t the case. And a lot of them just died.
I don’t think the Yellow Pages even exist anymore. I think a lot of them evolved like take Verizon, which evolved into super media and Dex which, I think they’re more thrive now but they had a merge. Joe Walsh was the CEO of Yellow Book. He went in, and he had left Yellow Book, went to decks, put together a deal for Dex to kind of acquire super media and ran them both kind of alongside each other. And then as markets then he would fold markets into to have one directory to have that kind of lasts a little longer. And then they finally got wise, and they went the route with Thrive, which is its kind of like a small business bundle for Internet marketing directories, reviews and all that.
I would say no. I mean, the proper solution for a small business would probably be to do a small Google ads budget, and get our general business page because, if you’re talking about like a real small mom and pop.
Yeah, they are probably best served to find a small business provider, like even a company of my size wouldn’t be interested in 500 bucks a month. We want two or 3000 a month. So they can find some of these services, you know, thrive out a good service. For those small types of budgets they can, they can do it on their own. It’s really taking the time to learn how Google AdWords works, put in your credit card and put in the keywords and, continually get better at it. You know, talk about and get better at that.
It’s like the age-old adage of you have people with a business versus businessmen. The person was a business, really gave themselves a job. And they’re not acting as a big business owner, getting things done through other people. And they want their hands in everything. And it’s $500 that they’re given for the advertising. It’s $500 that they can go and pay their cable bill at home or whatever.
One day I was just talking to my sister, who was an AP US History teacher, she has two little ones now and she stays home to raise them. She was talking about how she missed teaching. So I said, well, let’s maybe make you America’s history teacher, and we’ll make a podcast, and we’ll put this together. You put together the content. I’ll figure out how to do a podcast and set that stuff up. And now we have 55 or so episodes. We try to do about 20 a year, we do like 10 in the spring, 10 in the fall and maybe a little bit more. But now we’re pushing out on email marketing, and some other things as our list has been growing because now we’re about 50,000 listeners.
We haven’t put it on YouTube yet. You can listen to podcasts, people listen on Spotify, or they listen on iTunes. That’s where most of the downloads come from.
And more as more history is being made every year.
Oh, gosh, there are so many. I try to read two books a month, I get ambitious with the audiobooks to try and get that to average three. But you can pick up these little lessons from everyone over the year.
Yes, throw yourself into the fire. You guys hear yourself into the fire sometimes, but finding someone who’s done it before and listening to business, can be any business owner. They just have to be successful. Most businesses are the same. Everybody’s selling something, some product or service. They have a cost of production and what’s left is profit and managing that operational aspect. And in the book I talk about, sales and marketing. If you’re going to rank it from 1 to 10 and your operations if you rank that from 1 to 10, you add those two scores together and whatever the average is going to be your financial score. So if you have more poor core operations and you have strong sales, you’re going to churn a lot, and your financial gain is going to be on the lower side. But if you have both of them high, you can manage. So that’s why the balance between those two areas tends to lend itself to the most success.
Correct. So you need to have a bench. You always have to hire even when you don’t need it. You have to have someone in the queue ready to go. Develop your salespeople and hope for the best as you go but planned.
No. You know what? Throughout my career. When I first got out of college, I worked at ADP doing the payroll and tax filing solution and then went to the Yellow Pages. So I was dealing predominantly with small and mid-sized business owners. And in addition to talking to them about whatever product or service they were offering, I would always ask them, Hey, how did you get into this business? I always knew that I wanted to have my own business one day and asked all of these questions along the way, especially among the more successful ones. And they’re happy to talk about, their growing pains and how they got to where they are. And even now with marketing, I learned that much more because my clients today we’re developing content marketing for them. And some of the company’s story gets integrated with the customer journey. And we put together all of those things and how they got to where they are, did they acquire companies? Who were their mentors, and where were they picked up? So, I learned a lot through osmosis along the way by talking to all these business owners.
The training that I would do for my sales team back in June local. It was based on putting together a marketing plan for the clients. So I had a kind of outline already, and then I was like, You know what? I can just help more business owners by putting this out if they want to figure out how to do all this stuff on their own. And so I kind of put together the defining your current state, where are you today versus where you want to be? Where do you have to ratchet everything up? Where the variance is between where you are now and where you want to get to. Know how much more you need to sell? And then you put together the marketing plan based on that. You talk to your salespeople. Here’s where you have to do it. Maybe have to hire some other people. Once you define that desired state and where they are in the current state, then it’s just a matter of, “hey, Let’s put together the plan to get you from A to B” and then that’s where we would talk to them. If you want the phone to ring more, then you got to do more search marketing because that’s a low-hanging fruit. People are looking for what you doing, but they don’t know where to go and get it. A longer-term strategy on that action item where people are doing searches for SEO, but that’s not going to be the immediate gratification of page search. And then once you maximize impression share, which in paid search is the percentage of time that your ads are showing up versus the amount of time people are looking for it. You can tell them that your budget right now is generating a 25% impression share or a 50% impression share. Yeah. If you want to get closer to 100, you can triple-double it and get closer to that hundred percent. And then once you get to that point, then you can start turning on other aspects of the marketing, which would be like retargeting, remarketing or maybe some social media top-of-the-funnel awareness or programmatic display and video. And you can kind of build on what you have. But if you have the phone ringing, that’s the key point. But the book is based on the training that I would do for my team and maybe go into a little bit more detail. And I had to take a year off when we sold the company. So it’s like, what can I do? Because I was bored. So I just kind of took that and started putting that together.
You know what? It turned into a really good business card. We don’t sell a lot of copies online. But when we have someone that we’re talking to, I’m like, “listen, here’s my philosophy. Here’s what we do. Take a read, and if you like what you see, then I’m your guy. If not, then you know you can go.” It has lent itself to bringing in some bigger clients with more complicated needs. So it’s worked out well in that regard.
It’s a lot of work to put together the book. I’ll tell you that. And I learned a lot about the publishing world and everything else. I mean, a lot of people would like to write a book. I would say have at it. But you’re going to have to have a unique perspective. You’ll have to take the time to put it together and certainly have it edited. But I would recommend, if you want to become known as a subject matter expert on anything, then write a book, and put something together. And if you’re not going to write a book, do a blog, just get in the habit of writing. And, you know, if they’re interested in your content, they’ll start to follow you.
Yeah, correct. Over time, if they accumulate that content, they might have to freshen it up over a few years because technology changes. But yeah, that’d be a good way to do it.
Like we tend to gravitate toward El Champ and Orange just because my mouth is used to it. But ActiveCampaign is good, the campaign monitor is good, and constant contact is good. The key to any of those is that if you want to have just an email blast campaign, then you can use any of them. But if you want to have like a customer journey where you can have an email drip, drip campaign when they first sign to your list and then they get emails one and two and three and four in this series that you kind of developed. And you have to pick the proper platform, and it’s not going to be one of the free ones. You’re going to have to pay a couple of bucks for it because to get that kind of utility, you have to be able to use the proper tier. And that’s going to be based on the features of the tier and the number of people on your email list, and then they give you an amount that you pay each month.
It depends on how complex you want to be. If you have the wherewithal to put in automation, I will encourage people to do it because the more occupations you have, The less hands-on it’s going to be. And if, you know, if you have salespeople putting stuff into a CRM or you have operations putting customers into a CRM. When a contract comes in, you can segment the lists through the automation, and one goes to the customer, one goes to prospects, and you can have different journeys based on those customers are going to get a certain thing, and then you can drill down as deep depends on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go. If someone signs up for, let’s say, paid search and you want to upsell them to SEO. The emails that you’re going to send to those customers are going to be about the benefits of SEO as a complement search, and you can kind of craft all of these things and set them up in a manner that you want to be able to do it.
I wouldn’t even call it a future. I would call it now, this new stuff is available now. You’re either adopting it, or you’re not. And eventually, you’re going to have to.
Ignorance and apathy. They don’t know. They don’t care. You know those. But I would say ignorance is the big one where they’re so busy working in the business about working on the business. We were talking about a guy with a business versus a businessman. So, if you’re able to spend the time working on the business instead of in it, then you’ll be able to do the research and find these tools and do the integration.
No one come to me and said that, I would say join a peer advisory group so that you can go and do that. I’m a member of one and a couple of other groups of business owners where we get together, share ideas, we act as each other’s advisory board. Everybody has different, different strengths, right? Like in the room, I might be the marketing guy, but someone else has been in business and acquired and sold his company for millions of dollars. He’s good at scale, or he’s good at incentivizing his staff. And they share that information. So if you want to do it, you talked to us before us. If they’re business owners that I’ve been inspired by, it’s the ones that you learn from that you surround yourself with.
Yeah, You get into Napoleon Hill, my favorite.
Well, in the peer advisory group, you don’t want to have any conflicts of interest. The guy who runs our group is very big on not having someone supplier in a group with whatever because there can be conflicts like that. We don’t have too much overlapping. I know a lot of the networking groups like a BNI or some of these others, but I don’t care for those types of groups because they’re just looking for referrals. It’s not my thing. They’ll keep it industry-specific where you only have one for each. It’s like one advertising guy, one lawyer, one this, one that so that there’s one guy to get the referral for any kind of legal stuff. One got to get the referral for any marketing stuff.
There are a bunch. I am a member of Impel CEOs. They’re here in New York. If you go to compel CEOs.com. I did a website, by the way. That group is great. I’ve been in there since 2015. I learned a lot. I mean, they helped us with some aspects of the exit that we had when we sold the company on the right valuation and know some of the guys in there have had experience. They’re all over the place. You have a lot of bigger ones out there. Find one in your local market. Just look up to your advisory boards in whatever location you are in.
You know, you have bigger ones that are more national. I know, Compel is growing, and it’s probably a little bit more regional now. But yeah. And if you don’t find one, you can always start one.
So RASCIL is an acronym back from the yellow page days where when you’re building an effective ad, you would have certain calls to action or reliability factors, SDR and different things that you would be able to incorporate into the ad to make sure that you got the calls. And if you’re using your website, the website is the destination for anybody who will find you online. So it’s an electronic storefront. And the first impression that you’re going to make on somebody is your website. So it should look good. It should look clean. I always tell people websites should be like cars. You know you want to get a new lease every 3 to 5 years. I mean, there are updates. You know, whether it was, you know, in 2014, there was a big shift to responsive design, which was more because of the adaptation of smartphones. 2008 was the year that the iPhone came out. I knew that everybody had a smartphone. My mom finally got one in like 2015. And I was like, all right, I guess everybody’s got one now. That’s really what changed. It wasn’t Google that killed the Yellow Pages. It was the smartphone smarts. Now everything was at your fingertips. You know you can go, and you can look up anything right there. So the website is very important, and having those factors, I’ll give you a quick example. If you have it on your website, let’s say something as simple as the credit card logos, where now you see that this company accepts credit cards and you want to pay by credit card, and someone else that you look at doesn’t have the credit card logos. Instead of you having to Call. And ask the question, do you accept credit cards? You know, this person does, and you’re more likely to go there as opposed to the person that didn’t have it because of these RASCIL factors that you can put into ads and now you’re just putting them into websites. So calls to action and grabbing people’s attention and directing them on the best ways to contact you or the features they will be interested in. Someone with 50 years of experience versus someone who looks like a fly-by-night company. You’ll call the people with the 50 years you want to ensure these tidbits are in there.
Oh, typically, guys like that are going to have done some work on their own before branching off and just starting on their own. I would get a few client testimonials. I would get the same clients to leave reviews online, and then you can showcase those on your websites. So you kind of give people that confidence to give you a call.
As much automation as you can put in that you’re able to manage. Like one of the things people have been putting on their websites more so now is online chat. And you have a number of services that do that. And it can be anything from where you log on in the morning. And anybody that gets to your website gets a little beep, and you can communicate with them or have someone in your office communicate with them live. You have like those, those chatbots, which I don’t find to be very effective because you have to have a set question they can answer that can not answer or they’ll just say, I don’t understand. Can you please ask again? And what they’re trying to do is get a specific question that they’ll have an answer to, and you’re better off dealing with a live body. And then for the higher end result with that, you have companies you can pay to engage folks when they get to the online chat. So they install their chat, and then they have a team of people that will be there and interact. And what they’re doing is they’re gathering lead information. So they’ll get the email address or the contact information, and they’ll forward that over to the business owner, which is really what you’re looking to get out of the online chat anyway.
That’s been my experience, and if you have a great AI and automated chat, which I haven’t found any that are there quite yet. And believe me, I’ve looked around because I love integrating as much automation as possible. But, if you have someone sitting in your office anyway, they’re not busy 24 hours a day. And if there’s no one to contact, then it just goes to like a little online form. Even when I engage and I can tell right away when it’s a chatbot, I’m just like, oh!
This is a holy grail that everybody’s kind of after. I joke with my wife, and I put this in the book don’t talk in front of Siri or don’t talk in front of, hey, Google, those microphones are always on, even Alexa, Amazon. Amazon gets hit all the time whenever there’s, like, let’s say, murder in someone’s home. And they find an Alexa there, they’re trying to get access to the Alexa recording to see who’s there because it’s always listening. When you say, Hey, Alexa, it engages, right? Or Alexa play whatever, then it engages. So, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to decipher the human conversation and tie that into a particular product. So if you have it on your phone with Siri, you have it at home with Alexa. So or hey, Google or, any of these that we have in our homes all the time. They’re all they’re always listening. I tend to unplug them. I’m a little paranoid. I know how it works. I was talking about like something with a tracksuit. And I started seeing ads with tracksuits, and I was like, Jesus Christ.
But you tend to see relevant ads, though. So it’s one thing you just. Where’s the line?
It’s definitely effective. The balance between privacy and that’s why on the bottom of most sites that do engage cookies, you’ll have that little disclaimer on the bottom and you have to accept. And that was a European. GDPR that kind of made that hot. And now everybody’s been incorporating it because they successfully sued. I think it was Facebook and Google just because of those practices. So now everybody has to have those disclaimers on the bottom of their Web site.
But that’s the next day. And then you can just read, and it’ll be server based because you can get anybody’s IP address. You just don’t know where they are. Yeah. But you know, having a cookie on the browser or having the IP address. Having the IP address means that you probably don’t even have to. You can serve it to all devices within the IP address, which is better than just having it on somebody’s laptop or whatever because it’s a multi-device world. And you also have the connected TV, and you have good OTP, and you have all these places now where, you know, you can have video content. And, you know, through streaming channels, they want to be able to hit the entire home. So I think the cookies going away or the delay in them going away is just waiting for the other shoe to drop on the capabilities of targeting the entire IP address and everything under all the devices within that home. That’s where the future’s going.
No, I have not.
My concern with some of those platforms is that back in it was 2013, maybe it was 2012, where Google had the updates called Panda and Penguin, where they started penalizing people who were putting up fluff content. And that was the Panda update. So if people were just, you know, pushing out information or whatever, then they got penalized, and it wasn’t rich content. And I think these AIbots will eventually get flagged because it might be a good short-term solution, but I’d rather have my copywriters and have them put together a publication schedule and put out content that’s real from the customer rather than using the short shortcut. Because what starts as a shortcut tends to have Google saying no mass email. They’ll flag that, and then they’ll be able to tell because while it might be unique to you, they’re probably reusing this content in a bunch of other places and changing the order of the words or the sentences or whatever. So I think in the long term, that’s going to be something that gets flagged for SEO purposes. So I’m trying to stay with the wider height practices and not take shortcuts.
Well, I dont know. We went down a bunch of these things.
Now, listen, I could talk about I love talking about the marketing business in general, so anything that these want to do is we can do this another time, too.
They can find me on LinkedIn. My Twitter handle is Jimmy LaSalle, too. But I think the websites, whether it’s Keeninsites.com, Jimmylasalle.com, which is my author website, I have JLaSalle.com, which is my consulting website, and then it’s okay through us just to repeat it if you’re interested in that kind of stuff if you want to go on that email list to find out the latest and greatest because Jim is always doing some cool stuff.
Thank you. Pleasure being here.
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