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Matt Fraser interviewed Shea Park, President and Founder of Ad-Spark, for this edition of E coffee with Experts. Shea discussed how digital marketing has changed over the last 25 years and shared several useful tips and strategies to boost your marketing strategy. Watch now for some profound insights.
I do think certifications are great. But then also how much you execute it beyond that certification, how many success clients’ success stories do you have.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here, Matt.
Too many questions.
Yes, I loved college, I was not too fond of high school, but I loved college.
I studied whatever I wanted. I paid for it in cash. I took whatever I wanted to study.
I think I was a challenging student. But I often liked it because I went to small schools and you didn’t have to pay a lot.
So, I was pretty engaged in college.
I talk a lot now, and I was super quiet back then. I was shy and insecure. Nobody would guess it now. People are like, you usually can’t shut up.
Yeah, I’ve been fortunate to work with a client of mine early on and then they were a client of mine again. I’ve been able to work with them a couple of times. I would say that I love education and I loved helping with education companies. I think a lot of agencies didn’t. I would get projects people didn’t want a lot of times and that were really challenging. It was a great ed tech company. I am super loyal to them and help them to the end of the day.
Sure. Absolutely. Kind of like you, we shared a little bit of the restaurant experience there. I had been a director of catering. I was working a stint at Intel, actually. We were running the entire catering sales division, for there were 200 lunches and meetings a day and sitting up all day. I’d overhear meetings with the Rolling Stones, I was always fascinated. But we were the catering director, and I was super attracted to the Internet. And the executives said, whatever you do when I was leaving, get on the Internet, do anything on the Internet. I was like, that’s pretty vague. What are you supposed to do on the Internet? My significant other the time and one had to go down to stand in as an apprentice, as a horse trainer. And you know, you’ve seen Yellowstone with the whole horses and all that. That was pretty much what his dream was, and I knew that we needed to have a steady income because I’d grown up a little bit on a ranch. So, I knew you better get a real job to go along with that because horses eat a lot. I applied and took a job for Paul Bremer, who was one of the really first SEO companies, it was in 1996-1997. Paul Bremer was Claudia Bremer’s son and one of the editors of Click C. So that was a going concern publication back then. So, my very first meeting was with Brian Correa, Valley Click founder. It was my very first Internet meeting, and here I come from the restaurant business, and I’m like really nervous and we’re having lunch and Brian’s like, oh, I was really interested in you because you work for Cisco, so but I think you got it spelled wrong on your resumé. And I was like, oh, no, but with Sysco Foods and he thought it was Cisco system.
So he goes, oh, I thought it was a typo in your resume. And I said you met with me anyway. I thought for sure I wasn’t going to get the job. He was an investor in the company. I visited his office, and he had this office with boxes in a strip mall, two rooms, and one employee. You talk about ADD, you know what I mean, I’m not saying he has it, I have no idea. But he’s just all over. A brilliant guy and so that was my first meeting on the Internet. I didn’t think I got the job because I was like, why are they going to hire somebody with a food background but they did. And I think because they thought maybe I would be good at sales and you know, director of sales and marketing. So, I took the job and worked for Paul, and he learned everything. I read everything 90 hours a month reading. It was the early days of SEO, and I would listen to him on the phone because everything was on the phone, you know, you didn’t have shared meetings. I just soaked it all in, and it was crazy. With the money that was floating on the Internet at the time, it felt really exciting to be part of something so brand new.
Yeah, it was all about clicks. When people say click-through rates. You wouldn’t believe it, and then you’d find out these are incentivized gigs. Kind of like how it’s now.
That’s a long time. 25 years.
Oh, my gosh. Well, that is a great question. You know, I really feel horrible that I could suspect some changes coming and I don’t know if it’s just because you’re connected to this machine all day long, you’re looking at it, you’re reading, and you’re paying attention. But yeah, I think I really did sense changes. So you think about it, we were faxing IOs. You were flying to meet clients every month. You weren’t having computer meetings. Changes were happening and then Google, of course, changed 200 things a day. So, really the advent was there. Being there before Google and then seeing what Google did, you know that the landscape then was like, there were eight search engines, Lycos, AltaVista, Yahoo! and all. It was evenly spread between all of those. The search rankings and the results were really shared. So, search change banners. The IAB changed things, I made best practices. Canned spam, you know, came about. Regulations, Privacy, and I think standardization really wasn’t the wild west anymore. Some things got standardized. Like, you mentioned a little bit earlier, when we were talking a little bit about the kind of charlatans getting found out, I think that’s changed. There’s less and less of that happening. Clients have gotten smarter.
Yes, of course, as they should. They really should, they are also getting more knowledgeable. When you talk to clients now, and they know a bit about data analytics, whereas before, it was like you were a rocket scientist if you knew anything about data.
So what hasn’t changed? I mean, everything’s changed in my mind.
Yes, absolutely. And you think about how many more sites are ranking. I mean, it did not take very long, you could just pepper in several keywords. You didn’t have to have things right. You didn’t even have to have the topic, there had to be no substance. Now it has to have substance, people have to engage with it and take action. I mean, the metrics have changed, but the updates are insane. I mean, you think about all the updates, you know?
Yeah, I think being truly great and not just mediocre at something and executing well in a niche is absolutely important. And I think there’s room for it because it’s so complicated. There’s this one agency that I love right now. It’s called Rhodes Branding, and they specialize in education, as I did when I first started out. They do education so well and so beautifully, their work is amazing, and they are partnering with schools in education. But K-12, I think it’s not just higher Ed, it’s K-12 space, that space. They’re just a go-to agency for that and what they’re doing is remarkable. So, I think they’re a great example. They’ve grown so fast within manageability; they execute well and you know education always has my heart. It’s just that bleeding heart cause. So, I think hyper-focus is great and be excellent at it.
I read everything. I mean, you know, if you get good at Googling questions, YouTubing questions, that is the greatest thing about Google’s changes of algorithms. It is you make a sense out of the question, and you just scour. There’s so much generosity online, people share so much knowledge and then books too. How many hours is it, 10000 hours to become an expert? And sometimes they say up to 10000 hours. So just read everything and test yourself. Be a great test pilot, find somebody to do it for as appropriate and make sure you can do it.
It’s such an exciting industry. It changes everything. I thought about it. We’re thinking about the historical questions and some of this nostalgia memory lane stuff. But I think today I was hit with the news that was like, I knew this was coming, and this is going to change everything. What an industry to be a part of. One news announcement from Google changed everything.
Yes, absolutely. I have a lot of people I have worked for sitting at a desk and digesting so much and having multiple screens and how many platforms you are answering to and your phone. The actual nature of the position almost breeds ADHD, and your brains become wired and start to get it to where as you may have had tendencies. I’m not going to get on a lecture on medicine here, but most people work for, exhibit science. So, I think that lends it to constantly being fascinated. So, the long answer is yes.
I think so. I think so. Now that you mentioned it, I don’t think I thought of myself as that. We don’t see ourselves as other people see us. But I was always the kind who didn’t color in the lines. I worked in a concession stand as a very young child; nine years old. For my dad’s softball league, I babysat every weekend. I cleaned taverns with my good family friend in the morning at like 4 a.m., because we used to get up early, I would say just embarking on those things. I had a surf shop deli, you know, in my twenties because I was also like, I got to find a certain way to pay for this.
Yeah, I don’t know, so maybe. But I think I always thought of myself. I wanted an executive position. I wanted to climb the ladder. That’s my career aspiration because I didn’t think I could do it myself until somebody pushed me off the ledge and said, you can do it. Do it.
Sure. I think it started by mentioning how my significant other was training horses, and I was working for Paul. I had this idea because I sensed some things changing. And we were media buying. We had a little ad inventory we would sell, and then those clients would move on. We do the SEO, here’s the media buys and then be done, and they’d have like a million more to spend. So, can you spend it? And I kept thinking, yeah, let me go spend it, let me build the media database, essentially like the DSP, and he didn’t want to. So, we had the parting of ways, luckily with his blessing. I said I wanted to get into that media. I wanted my money on that million dollars and to spend it on what made x number of actions. You know, I knew the formula. Talk about Excel formulas. I knew the formula. So, that’s how Ads Spark was born. From going on with one client. I got one client who had a credit card that was rebuilt your credit card. It was like a depository account. It was a subdivision of Chase Manhattan bank. However, that came about. But I had all the inventory avenues to spend $1,000,000 a month and get $15 per application. And so, I started with that one little client and building the biggest network I could to get 100,000 site transactions in a month.
That’s how we started.
There was no looking back. Yeah, I never got it.
You know, I think that one of the biggest things for me was to keep swinging, keep making sure I added value. I was always adding value to have buy-in and context at the sea level and collaboration with not just the decision makers but to continually see that your contribution is adding value and growth and being part of those data metrics. I always say that if my clients were happy and they were growing, we would be fine. I never really thought so much about just the goal and keeping the goal and staying continually on top of the new trends. Yeah, not just trends, but what was changing and making sure that everything we did added to growth. And it did, we keep clients for 5 to 7 years.
Turnover. So, we’re humbled by that.
I don’t know the absolute secret formula, but making sure your clients are happy is a big one.
Making sure that your plan, your road map, your execution tracks, all of those goals and KPIs are set and setting the baseline, where they are at the beginning. You know, sometimes everyone’s still in a hurry to get on board, and they forget to do that diligence, is where you are right now.
And where are we going? And then, as you get there and climb it up, make sure somebody or yourself. I always like to be the deliverable person because I promised it. So, even if we have a team doing it, you know we’re seeing it. But watching those trends and making sure before your deliverable of report is due, you’re looking at those trends and saying, are we starting to get there? Then you can report this month, week over week, month over month, year over year. Reports can be so fancy, and you can wow them with graphs and charts and all these things. And an executive at a pharmaceutical company said to me, these numbers are great, but it doesn’t do me a darn good if you don’t tell me the trend of where we were and what it’s like.
Well, I think you’re on to something. Understanding data is foreign to some people, it might as well be talking in a foreign language. So, sometimes you fall into things naturally. It was just made to do it. You feel comfortable. I fell into it; I took a test to find out where my genius level was. Mine was in pattern recognition. Who knows? I didn’t even know if I didn’t know that early on, I would have probably got it in stocks or something like that. So, data becomes natural for me. Sometimes I have to slow down and help my clients and whoever I’m working with understand because it comes so naturally. For some people, it doesn’t come naturally. So, I think you have to find what story the data tell and tell a complete story. There are piles and piles of data, but how does the data measure up to what is wanted, what’s the goal, what do we need to do from these dollars spent? and then find the data that supports that because you cannot drown in data. If you could afford to have a data expert on a team or get a consultation with somebody for 3 to 6 months to learn it. Everybody’s data appetite is different and what they need for data is very different. So, understanding the data is important. I wish they taught it. Maybe they are going to start teaching it. Some colleges have approached me to teach a data analytics course. Google also has a great analytics course. If you’re not into Google, then Udemy also has five or six really good data analytics courses, and you can take some of the YouTube videos and learn a lot. But find not drowning anyone in data. But how does the data tell the story to the people that it needs to be told? That gets to the board, and we did our job.
I don’t like it. I used to think the experience was great, and sure I could say I walked into a room with 25 years of experience and 35 years of experience in the business, and that should be enough. But I got certified, and then I think I got educated in everything with analytics. Then I recently did other certifications, and I think it’s great to have a stamp right now. You know, Google Ads certification is tough because people say it’s a joke. You can Google the questions and answers. But if you truly want to do a good job to stay up there, they’re introducing a new course now because, of course, they’re changing everything. So, I do think certifications are great and just to be able to say I’ve done it. But then also how much you execute it beyond that certification that you know, how many success client’s stories do you have?
Are you finding it’s really current? Like, are you finding that it’s updated?
Maybe I’ll go teach.
Well, I love that you shared how everyone’s feeling about it and bantering around and talking about it. And to me, it’s like a lot of change and it’s really uncomfortable. When you become an expert at something to have that rug ripped out from underneath you and to have the new rug look very different, it’s like you’re blind and you feel like you’re doing Braille in there. The first time I logged in, I was like, where is everything? It’s hidden. So, the cookieless shift is something that you are going to have to embrace it. You think about the lack of change is the tracking issue that Google Analytics is one of the things I feel for Google itself is Google Analytics is not telling the whole story now. So GA4 is actually trying to tell more of the story, going with the cookie-less parts. I think people need to get into that. I think there are advantages, there are some built- ins. I’m glad I was one of those but I am also like, well, Google is here to stay. And I tested at Google for 20 years. I’d love to break up with Google but can we really stay away from it? I think there’s a learning curve, there are a lot of blogs. And I would love to give people some shout-outs. If you’re going to embrace GA4, just take this year to learn it like we did and take a little bit at a time. Bite-sized meals and chomps and I think that there’s a gentleman that created a channel, it’s called Loves Data and it’s a YouTube channel.
Well, his accent is wonderful because you just want to listen to that British accent all the time. But you know, he really embraced it and he started putting out some great things showing the positives, the advantages and disadvantages of it. So, I recommend Loves Data and you know, you can go and research some alternatives or this is making it true because people aren’t happy. This is making a business opportunity for about eight different alternative analytic companies.
I think Google likes to think that it’s going to have a monopoly on it. But some of these companies are urging and pushing to build in KPIs. Where you had to do Google data study report. So, it would be one way to do it and the other thing is that maybe it’s not Microsoft Power BI, but there’s a way for you to patch some of those things together. And it might be a little bit clunky for a little while now, but we’re doing that same thing and using some other alternatives and we’re adapting to what the clients need. Clients are saying, no, we’re not going to learn GA4, we’re not going to do it. We’re just going to rely on HubSpot. We’re just going to rely on this or that. We’re going to rely on something else. So, I have a lot of clients that are saying the same thing. So, I think getting involved with the surveys or, if you will, the seats they have for some of their research things that are going on, Invoicing. We stayed quiet but I think it’s time to rally and riot against Google a little.
Well, the rebel in me is going to speak up to Google as I’m going head-to-head and I don’t want to break up with Google, but it may or may not be forced.
We can have a part 2.
I think LinkedIn’s great. Our site is massively outdated. So, LinkedIn is great. I’m pretty responsive there. They can email me at shea@ad-spark, I am responsive there. I have the alternatives kind of research so if people are looking for some things to test. I love to share and nurture and give information.
You too, it was great. I love your platform, and as I said, I’m a big fan of listening to your podcast.
You, too. Thanks, Matt.
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