Pick His Brain!
I’d like to introduce one of our members, Terry Samuels, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.
Terry has grown his home-based operation into a lucrative digital marketing agency.
He is a living proof that you don’t need a fancy office to run a highly profitable operation.
Ask him anything related web design, programming, SEO, and lead gen.
He hates theories and all his advice comes from years of no-nonsense real hands-on experience.
Let’s load up the thread with your questions and he’ll answer whenever he is available.
Here are the rules.
1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until bitcoin 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 him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.
What was your journey like?
Its been tough. We started with no capital after we lost everything in our house flipping biz 8 years ago.
I started cold email Churches that had crappy websites and did the first 3 for free for our portfolio..
Who writes your copy?
We spend more money on content than anything.
Right now we outsource to 3 companies and have editors on staff that check everything.
What’s your hiring process and how do you manage them?
I hired a general manager to hire and run va’s.
She also keeps Elisabeth and i in line
What’s your advice to people who want to start their own digital marketing agency from their bedroom?
Learn WordPress first and build and rank your own site before you work on clients
What’s your biggest challenge these days?
Being able to unplug
How do you draw those lines?
Hiring people that can keep the train moving while im gone.
We will find out soon if it works coming up in a couple months..
What’s the story behind your infamous beaver emoji?
I downloaded the set 4 years ago and have had it ever since..lol
What does your lead gen process look like?
Most of our leads come from organic rankings. We have rentals sites for clints instead of ppl
What do you mean by “rentals sites for clients” as a lead gen tool?
We will rent the whole ranking site to the client. putting his contact info on the site.
We also charge extra to build out the map listing.
If the client leaves or doesn’t pay we take their info off and go to their competitor
You must own the address? And what about the name, I mean if you do own the address you still have to change the bz name on all the citations?
Yes we are figuring this out now.
Its a challenge. Im think we would make so much on the monthly we can turn the site into something else..
What services are you currently offering?
Pretty much everything but computer hardware and email support.
Are all of your employees remote? Did you teach them the trade?
My wife and 3 of our kids work full time. 1 gm in local office.. rest are oversees
How many in total if you include all your remote employees? And how did you hire them?
Total 11 and inteview and test them heavily.
What process do you have when you want to onboard a new employee? Or do you only recruite people who already are pros?
Post in different groups.
We test all our staff to make sure they can do what they say.
We look for hard workers with ethics. We can teach you anything…
What is the most bizarre niche you’ve had to do SEO or web dev for?
Oh geez… zombie apocalypse e commerce site..
What’s the ideal amount of clients to have, or is it possible for you to scale at any level?
Always look to scale. Makes firing clients easier
How do you manage to stay focused and productive?
We got an office 8 mo ths ago so i could have seperation.
Didnt work. I try to have balance above all else.
How do u close a high ticket client?
Provide more value than they could get anywhere else.
Customer service has to be #1
What was the biggest mistake you did in your digital marketing career that you wish to share with us?
I took on a fortune 200 company and didnt set personal boundaries.
They consumed my life, vacations and never got a break. Lesson learned..
What would you recommend for a 20-something year old SEO specialist who wants to leave an agency to work on his own business, and has some decent money saved in the bank? When do you know it’s time to take the leap?
I started flat broke buy knew webdesign was the easiest thing to sell…still is..
If i would have had capital i would have started with a whitelabel agency while i learned.
How were you able to scale and keep the quality at a level you could stand behind?
Nothing happened and still nothing happens unless i see it and approve it.
Our SOP’s are constantly being updated
How did you develop your SOP’s? I mean the methodology. Did you start with a template, or write everything from scratch?
Big fricken white board. we sectioned it off and wrote note as we thought of them.
Brought in someone to put it all in documents
What is the most in demand digital marketing skill with the most longevity and is the most lucrative?
Most demading..natuonal seo.
Most lucrative franchise seo. Most longevity creative lead gen do what others dont.
How did you transition from a one-man show to obtaining clients that you had to offload onto someone else? I assume you did all the work yourself at the start, after you reached your personal capacity, what was the next step?
Make videos of how ‘you’ do it. And build your team.
Do you do everything in house or do you use white label services?
Both and we are a whitelabel agency
Where does your biggest revenue come from? Seo, lead gen, design…?
Seo.. but web design is easier to sell
Are you a single man operation or do you have VA’s? If so, how many do you use and for what? Also, if you are solo or before you hired any VA’s, what did your process look like of keeping everything in order and managing it all?
We have 5 staff and 6 va’s and hiring more for both
Describe your process of getting offline clients for your lead gen business.
We go after specific clients in specific niches thru personalized cold email
Are you a one person operation or do you outsource any tasks? How many clients can you service at any given time?
I had 20 clients before i brought on my kids to help. Elisabeth has been with me since the beginning
How many clients do you have now? What do you feel the right ratio is client to employee?
Total about a 100 projects at different phases.
If seo no more than 10 clients per employee… but that really depends on the scope of the project.
I manage all our VIP clients
Did you first start by doing everything yourself? At what stage did you employ others or outsource the work?
Yes. I have trust issues.
I am very specific and when i expanded they did it my way.
How did you first start to acquire clients, did you pick a niche first?
Emailed 30 Churches a day with crappy websites
Why churches…they seem like they would be the hardest because of the board, non profit etc?
Worst websites on the planet!! Need the most help. Still our specialty is curches charities and foundations
Favorite lead gen software to use? Also, would like to hear strategy if you’re willing to share.
Zen prospect.. mentioned a bunch above.
How did you get your wife involved? I want to include mine, but like you I’m too specific and like things a certain way. I’d love to share this with her.
It wasnt hard. We love working with each other.
She is good at everything im not. She is my rock and we do amazing things.. kids were forced to work with us.. lol
Do you sell websites on their own or / and with seo….is it a results based business ie what kind of results do you promise if any…..many congrats on your journey / inspiring.
Our design division did about 140 sites last year.
Every site is optimized no matter if they are monthly or not.
About 60% become monthly clients with one of our monthly services
Do you target a tight niche or go wide when you prospect for clients?
Very specific and focused
What would you consider being the main 3 factors of ranking in Google?
Crawlability of the site. On page. Competitor research.
With limited time as a one-man show (background as Web Designer now focussing more on SEO), is it worth doing normal basic websites (without SEO worked in)… or better to only do SEO focussed work to maximize time?
100% upsell seo and other sevices. Never let them shop elsewhere for any service…
How do you feel about pbns? What percentage of your links for clients are pbns vs outreach, etc… and what do you think the future is going to look like in this respect?
Good question but I might not answer it right. we have a large network and we treat them like money sites.
We put them in search console, analytics and build social accounts. so our network is a little more powerful than the generic ones.
That being said, i think people who sell links to the public do not have a pbn, they have a public pbn which is the real danger.
We only use our network when we need it. we rank many sites without the help of our network. future?
I think you will always need links is some market. but I would not spend 40k on another network.
We use other services for guest post but I think most guest posts are graduated pbn’s.
We test EVERYTHING before it goes on our money sites, and I still have found very few good, real, guest posts.
What is the #1 way you acquire clients?
How do you build your lead gen sites? Is there any specific way you want them to look?
Not really as long as they have many CTA areas
What is in your opinion the most underrated ‘secret tip’ of moving the needle in local SEO?
Stacks, and IFTTT used properly
Do you see benefits in going to conferences? If so what have been your favorite ones either for learning or networking?
I actually think money can be better spent getting into a mastermind group and focus on specifics.
Conferences are information overload and most of it is not ever utilized.
Speaking at conferences is awesome!
Do you utilise any automation tools to assist you and if so what tools do yo use? Anything automated for IFTTT? What are you using for on boarding and SOP’s?
Yes all our ifttt are set with twitter triggers.
So we autopost twitter.
We use on bording forms the clients fill out that goes into our crm.
That starts the project.
We have a monthly sop meeting to make sure it is up to date
Any particular applications you recommend be it for on boarding or ifttt or anything? Would love to know what crm you using?
Here is one of our on boarding forms.
We use highrise crm but moving to trello. We use a plugin to autopost twitter.
Not sure of the name but i will get it fir you. https://salterrasite.com/on-boarding-webdesign/
Does all your work relate to SEO in terms of marketing or do you cover other areas?
Mostly web design hosting and internet marketing.
When you mention renting a site, you also mentioned doing national SEO. I assume you’re renting out national sites to national cos? Or do you split them up?
Rental sites are local
What did you do before website design and internet marketing?
We had a large real estate investment company. Before that we were health insurance brokers.
Who are your marketing and SEO mentors? Who do you goto for advice when you are stuck?
Oooh nice one.. usually it is other technical seo’s like clint butler, simon cornelius, todd spears, chaz and mr kang.
But idea seo’s like yourself, Marie and Monique. are the most creative people I have ever seen in this business.
Surrounding yourself with the best is the only way to make it big time in this business
What was the thing that help your business blow up from 100k/year and beyond?
When our ranking started to go outside our state things happened pretty quick after that.
The next time we got stuck in income rut we created or SOP’s this should have been done 7 years ago.
Do you rank and rent on a flat monthly fee or are they paying per lead? If monthly, what rates are you charging to stay competitive and not get “owned” by client?
Flat monthly fee for the whole site. I didnt have much luck with PPL
If you could go back to the first day you started your agency, what would be the one piece of advice you would give yourself, knowing what you know now.
SOP’s SOP’s SOP’s
Do you use any specific softwares for SOP’s as in management software? I was using Asana but moving to Plutio now and wondered how do you break down your SOP’s?
Yes we create the SOP’s and build trello boards for each section and the tasks associated with it
If your clients are being upsold from web design to SEO, I assume they own the sites, but I seemed to read between the lines that you owned various sites and then rented them. Or are these 2 totally separate business parts? Or how do you bridge them from web design to renting a site from you?
I buy a lot of domains we use for different thing in our models.