Michael Gustin & Dave Smith


Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce two of our members, Dave Smith and Michael Gustin, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank them for the participation.

Dave and Michael have a collective 25 yrs+ of building and scaling businesses of all kinds.

The total revenue of clients they’ve helped exceeds $1B.

They specialize in scaling small businesses and have a knack for uncovering $30-$50k of revenue from small businesses.

They diagnose systems, offer, mindset, authority, operations, strategy, and marketing and make necessary revisions. 90% of their clients see 3-5x revenue jumps in 30-60 days.

As much as this group is about SEO, the group is also about marketing and business growth strategies. Please feel free to pick their brain.

Here is the website if you want to learn more about their program.


Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until they ask me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s success and strategies.

3) Please do not PM them. If you have a private question, ask for their permission on this thread when appropriate.


Table of Contents

What are some common pitfalls you see small businesses make?

Probably the biggest pitfall we see is waiting to structure your business for scale until it’s “too late”.

In early stages of growth it’s easy to focus on one thing and one thing only: revenue.

But what happens is you inevitably hit a ceiling in time and revenue.

At which point to scale beyond you have to completely restructure how you’ve been operating.

Often when we enter a business, after our “diagnosis” phase, we have to tear down much of their infrastructure and rebuild it for scale.

The way to avoid this is to have a clear long term vision.

Then model everything around that vision as you’re incrementally building the systems to support it.

Build it as if you’re building your future vision business.

A simplistic example would be this: if you’re a consultant, what does your ideal business look like?

How many hours are you working? How much profit are you taking?

If you can’t achieve that with the way you’re operating now, then you need structural changes in how you’re operating.

How would you describe yourselves in terms of a company? Is there a short 3-word phrase?

We. Are. Ex-Gurus.

What would you consider the most important elements to scaling a business these days?

1. Operations.

2. Strategy.

3. Marketing.

4. Capital.

Operations: must be streamlined, documented, understood so anybody can come in and take the reigns. (Sales team, VA’s etc).

We’re looking at lead gen, acquisition, onboarding, client management, graduation and exit.


Most entrepreneurs embed themselves way too deeply into their business.

Following the Technician route (see the E Myth by Michael Gerber), and have a really hard time streamlining, delegating and outsourcing operations.

Because of this the business stays a “job” that cannot be left alone.

Proper strategy can completely eliminate this problem.

Needs to be done on a foundational level. We have a segment that we teach called “The

Convergence Of Business And Lifestyle” that addresses this succinctly.

Marketing. I think this really goes unsaid, but having material of any medium that turns cold leads into warm leads on autopilot is critical to scale.

This goes back to lead gen. If you’re not running lead mags of some sort that do not require your explicit action, you’re losing.

Lead gen is automated with proper cold, warm and hot sequences that convert cold prospects into buyers over very short periods of time.

Capital. Another that goes unsaid, split testing advertisements.

Exploring which mediums of content your personal ICA thrives with, hiring sales teams, streamlining operations, capital changes the game.

These 4 are pillars that must be in place to scale.

Is there such a thing as scaling too fast (biting more than you can chew, worse swallow and choke yourself)?

There’s a statistic that says (not sure the source) that 2/3 of the fastest growing companies fail.

The reason why this happens simply comes down to systems and processes.

At a certain point the only way to scale is through systems… but systems are like machinery.

You need to validate, stress test and optimize to make sure a system is strong and resilient.

RELATED:  Pick His Brain! with Andy Drinkwater

The failure we see businesses make by growing to quickly is thinking revenue will solve all problems and focusing only on that.

But the systems they do have in place are weak and not validated, and so one of the first things to fail is customer service.

Customer satisfaction begins to fall, and the business begins to implode, because the founders cannot keep up with the growth.

Internet marketers are notorious for this, and it’s why there’s such a low satisfac

That said, it’s sometimes a good thing to bite off a bit more than you can chew, in a controlled way.

For instance we’re proponents of the “sell before you build” approach to offer validation.

You might not know what you’re building exactly yet, but you will get that feedback from your early adopters.

Just know the capacity you can handle and don’t go overboard. I think throttling capacity is always key.

What is the most important structural change a company can make to move past the “whitewater” or unpredictable phase of a business towards a more predictable success phase?

What we’ve seen with our clients (and I’m sure Dave can add to this), is 3 pronged.

1. Scalable offer

2. Stability is found in systems; this means operations, marketing, administration, management, etc. identify preexisting stability by identifying what’s already working.

Develop a system to automate that process and eliminate what isn’t working.

*** if something is working, this means there is a positive ROI.

Can a business ever over systemize to the point it kills the creative output or customer experience? If so, what should a business be looking for?

Systems should enable innovation, not kill it. We think of systems as “grow loops”… basically feedback looks for testing and optimizing new ideas.

Idea —> MVP —> test —> feedback —> decision (solidify, optimize, or kill and test new idea)

So in this context a system is almost self optimizing while empowering innovation.

How do you draw out the plans to grow a small few man agency into a scalable company. Do you have a business plan/template/tools/resource that we can have a look/use..

The way we look at planning is every business is unique, and so every growth plan is unique (also another pitfall of the internet marketing industry, which tries to standardize everything).

I’ll share a resource when I’m to my computer

What’s your favorite tips to scale a business without much capital?

Scaling without capital is all about leverage.

Often business owners will think they need a “finished product” or certain metric hit before they really plan and invest in scaling.

But that keeps the business in a perpetual holding pattern.

Scaling is a mindset and should start now, with or without capital.
I believe (most often) the most efficient and even responsible way to scale is incrementally.

Conduct experiments rapidly, learn quickly, and leverage what does work to re-focus and fund.

That said, one of our favorite “hacks” for near instant capital is to craft an irresistible offer and launch to your existing audience.

That’ll give you seed capital to leverage back into growth.

RELATED:  Pick His Brain! with Michael Gillispie

How the small business owner should plan their week when there is lots of competition and he is the only guy who needs to overlook marketing, strategy, sales and Execusion. What should be priority of owner in order to convert small team to a company?

Focus on revenue producing tasks. What has worked in the past? What has the most “quick win” potential?

What new marketing ideas or trends are you seeing this 2019, especially for small businesses?

Our prediction (and why we’re about to launch a secret project to disrupt the entire industry) is that influencer marketing is on its downturn.

The industry is saturated and the market is jaded and bitter from investing high in promises that were not fulfilled.

The era of boutique support is coming, where the “little guy” with attention and expertise will rise.

As Chris Colvard says, “in 2019 the guru magic wand is out and proven systems are in.”

The market wants personalization and partnership, not generic solutions and lofty promises.

When automating lead gen, what are your favourite methods for a service business? i.e. chat bots, an ask a question form ‘above the fold’, etc.

Actionable content. One of our lead magnets converted at 100% at one point, and it was totally actionable.

The best way to build quick, deep trust is to make people feel like they’re actually making progress with your free stuff.

If I can feel like “wow. Just with your free stuff I’ve seen so much progress!” I’ll be more than convinced to buy from you.

Once you create actionable content on a site that is new… which marketing strategy would you recommend to drive the target audience to the content. Like paid ads, traditional marketing ways like radio, newspaper etc. Basically what do you use.

What we use might be different from what you use. It all depends on the target audience.

Where are they hanging out? Where do they go for guidance?

“Unexpected” is powerful.

If your audience is used to seeing a ton of ads from your competition on one platform (say, Facebook), find a more unexpected channel.

This way you’ll immediately stand out and won’t have to compete.

1) If you have to start a Digital marketing agency now ,what are the top 3 things you will do or invest your money from either sales or marketing point of view?

Honestly the biggest thing and ONLY concern initially would be to find a NARROW niche to focus on.

There are so many marketing agencies now that to beat the saturation (unless you have the money to out spend competitors) you need to become a “specialist” rather than “generalist”.

I’m no SEO expert but I imagine it would make SEO much easier too

Then I would speak with my target audience, get to know their pains and needs, and offer them a solution that matches.

Tip: people often don’t know what they want, but they just about always know what they DON’T want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.