“Create a Success Team, Refine Your Culture”, With Douglas Brown and Lisa Parziale of Portside Marketing

Create a Success Team, Refine Your Culture I created my success team later than I should have, which resulted in years of me working harder than I had to and limiting the growth of my business. You will have no greater asset in your business than a well-trained, loyal success team. You do that through a […]

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Create a Success Team, Refine Your Culture

I created my success team later than I should have, which resulted in years of me working harder than I had to and limiting the growth of my business. You will have no greater asset in your business than a well-trained, loyal success team. You do that through a strong company culture, proper training and refined processes.

Strong culture is important. Empowerment, passion and compassion are an amazing combination.

As a part of my series called “Five Strategies I Used to Grow My Business to Reach Seven Figures in Revenue”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Parziale.

Lisa is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 plus years of experience in strategic business planning, implementation & online marketing. As CEO and a co-founder of Portside Marketing, LLC., Lisa leads highly effective, multi-disciplinary teams, focusing on strategic marketing objectives, quality productivity and customer satisfaction. She has a proven track record of success delivering marketing services for clients and has been recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Lisa is also an author, trainer, coach and mentor, who works with agencies and businesses to help them reach their wealth goals. Her latest program, Agency Fast Track (, has been instrumental in helping many businesses reach their own milestones.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I created my first website in 1997 when the internet was first becoming mainstream. At the time, very few people had the skills needed to build websites. Unfortunately, I did not have the business acumen at the time to recognize the amazing opportunity that was right in front of me. While I created websites “on the side,” I continued to work in my corporate job for another 14 years before starting my own company. I did very well in Corporate America. In fact, most people would say that I “made it.”

I was earning a six-figure salary, with all of the benefits to boot, including four weeks of vacation and a retirement account. My career was on the rise and my future looked bright. I should have been ecstatic; I had achieved the American Dream. Or so I thought. Turns out, it was not my idea of a dream. I was unhappy. Unhappy was the wrong word. I felt defeated. Corporate life did not suit me well; it drained me emotionally.

One day I had a realization that changed my life. I remember sitting at my desk, upset about something I can’t even remember, and I had a horrific thought. I was going to have to keep doing this for another 30 years. The realization devastated me and brought me to tears. I was at my breaking point and something had to change.

That day was the turning point for me. I realized that I was not in control of my life or my future. Working a job was never going to give me the freedom lifestyle I wanted. In that moment, I decided I needed to find a way to get out of the daily grind and knew I had the skills to do it. That was my epiphany that started me on the journey to becoming a business owner and eventually, become a 7-figure company.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

Great question. There are so many interesting stories, but I think something more personal was really the most interesting event in our journey.

Deciding I wanted to quit my job and start a company was simple. Making that a reality proved to be a much harder task. For most people, the idea of quitting your job would come down to money. But for me, it was about security. I was always taught that a job meant security and owning a business was for others with Harvard degrees and such.

One day my wife and I were spending the weekend at a campground we frequented. I was working at the picnic table when the couple across the way asked if they could talk with us. At the time, all I could think was, “What did we do wrong?” But we agreed and asked them over for hamburgers on the grill. We had dinner and they said nothing, just mostly small talk. When we were done, they revealed what they wanted to share.

They shared with us that they were small business owners and had each worked their whole life to save everything they could. They told themselves they could live an amazing life in retirement. Instead of spending money on things like trips and experiences, they committed to saving. Sure, they did a few things, but work was the number one priority in their lives. Life passed quickly. In the end, they had amassed a small fortune and were able to retire finally, ready to do all of the things they had dreamed of their whole lives.

Shortly after retirement, they were involved in a horrific car wreck which completely changed their lives. Each of them suffered life-altering injuries that would limit what they could do and many of the things they had planned on doing were off the table completely. The couple told us they had so many regrets of not living their life day after day. They banked on a future that never materialized.

They shared with us that they never regretted owning their own business. They loved it in fact. However, they regretted not living along the way. They wish they would have enjoyed life as it happened. That couple told us something that changed our life and our business. “Don’t wait to spend time together, or travel or live life to the fullest, do it now. Do it now while you are healthy and young. It’s ok to save for the future but you have to live like there’s no tomorrow.”

This happened shortly after we made the decision to find a way to change our lives. That is why I find this to be the most interesting story since I started the business. It was the first of a series of events that would help me understand that business is not just about your skills or knowledge. Instead, success has more to do with your frame of mind and your beliefs.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many mentors I could mention that would be deserving of my gratitude. Some that I know personally and invested money with; and others that I have learned from books or training. However, the one person that has been instrumental in my success is my wife, Collette. You always hear that behind a strong leader is always a supportive spouse and I believe that is true.

Starting a business while working a full-time job is difficult. Time is not on your side. A supportive spouse can be an integral part of the business even when they are not actively participating in that business. Having the commitment and support I have had is key to attaining 7-figures. Your spouse makes sacrifices along with you. Those days when you are locked in your office for 12 hours, your spouse is left to deal with everything else, often alone.

So, while I appreciate every mentor, coach and pivotal figure in my journey, my wife is the one I am most grateful for.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you’re going to take the island, you need to burn the boats.”

That quote by Tony Robbins resonates with me the most. I do not do anything halfway. I am always all-in as they say. Whether it is in business or simply starting a new diet. It was the mantra of my life long before I had ever heard the quote.

Everything from marriage to business, if you give yourself an out, you’re likely going to take it. You cheat yourself out of the opportunity to really have the full experience. And as Tony goes on to say, “with absolute commitment comes the clarity you need”, you know, to actually get through tough situations.

It is simple. If you burn the boats, you literally have no choice except to “take the island” or perish. Business is so very much the island.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

We create marketing strategies to help our customers connect with their ideal audience and help them create a marketing solution that generates higher profit margins and revenues. We achieve that through online marketing, brand and print campaigns. We also work with customers if they have gaps in their business knowledge or acumen, providing business coaching and strategy, outside of marketing.

This also allows us to view problems from a broad perspective and while we do not have all of the solutions they may need; we can help them navigate the selection of partner companies to give them a well-rounded overall business strategy.

I don’t know many marketing companies that go to the level we do with our customers. It’s a win-win, right? If, if they become strong thriving businesses, they’re going to spend more on their marketing.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Providing superior service has been our key but honestly, everyone should do that. What really makes us stand out is the way we approach the initial relationship. We do not go into our initial strategy session with solutions or services in mind. In other words, we are not thinking about what we can sell them. Instead, we actively engage with customers to better understand their current state.

I know it sounds cliché to say but we come from an honest approach. If we are not a good fit or do not think we can help a customer, we still work to help them find the right solution if we can. At no charge. Why? It’s just good business. And it’s the right thing to do. Let me share a great example.

I had someone come to me once and literally, the only way they were going to get customers was through some type of social media or an infomercial. They were selling something that nobody had ever heard of. It’s not something people would search for. You could send out postcards and no one would have any clue what it was. It really needed to be demonstrated. There’s only one way you could sell it — by showing them how it worked.

I was very honest and said, “We are not a good fit for you. SEO is going to waste your money. If you try print or mail marketing, I don’t think it’s going to go well. You may be able to use e-mail marketing, but it would be difficult. You really need a social media campaign, that would be the most effective solution.” The customer thanked us for our honestly and we went on to help them find a good match.

Our charge for that? Nothing. I am in the business of problem solving and as Zig Ziglar once said, “If I help enough people get what they want, I will get what I want.” That’s how we stand out. We receive referrals from people who are not paying customers.

It’s an attitude of giving versus an attitude of what’s in it for me. I know something will come of whatever I do if it is the right thing. It always does.

When you first started the business, what drove you, what was your primary motivation?

In the beginning, I simply wanted to get out of my job and have more freedom. While that was motivating, it wasn’t enough to push me to really make it happen.

Something happened that lit a fire under me. My wife booked a 19-day Mediterranean land and sea vacation, with four days in Venice, Italy. We spent months talking about it and looking forward to the trip. One day, my wife came home from work very upset. Her boss told her she could not have the time off and that we would have to cancel our trip, otherwise, she would be let go. Our slow-burn desire to have control over our lives just became an inferno.

We had several months to make this work so my wife could tell the boss she quit. We didn’t cancel the vacation and worked hard to get the business started. My wife was able to quit her job 6 months before that trip! While I held onto my job a bit longer, that was the driver that attributed to our initial success.

The decision to go on that trip was so powerful. We consider the cruise ship we were on our first “office”. I’ll never forget that feeling.

What drives you now? Is it the same? Did it change? Can you explain what you mean?

What drives me now has changed. In the beginning, I assumed money was the only thing that would solve our problems and it did solve many of them. Without money, you can’t pay yourself what you are worth or build success teams. Reaching 7-figures is wonderful and I can’t disregard it’s a big deal, one that I am proud of. Being able to live a “freedom lifestyle” is amazing.

At some point, it’s no longer about the money or the freedom. Those become a staple of your way of thinking and being. Now what drives me is building a legacy and something bigger than me. I watch people much smarter than me struggle and I know I can help. I now am driven with the need to help digital marketing agencies thrive and help other business owners learn how to do what we did.

What drives me now is helping more and more people succeed, including my fellow digital marketing agencies. Interestingly, that drive has also helped my main business thrive. It is very synergistic.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes. In wanting to help other agencies and business owners, I have put together a new company and built a program for Marketing agencies, entrepreneurs and small businesses called Agency Fast Track X Success. The program is designed to help business owners solve what we feel is the biggest obstacle in business, at least for a small business owner. Getting their head in the game and understanding what the game really is.

We work on changing their false beliefs, getting them in the right frame of mind and believing in themselves so they can take action. Many business owners get stuck in their head, so to speak. Some feel paralyzed, and it seeps into their business. And others simply have no idea where to start and the path they should take. Let’s face it, many small businesses and entrepreneurs have no formal training. I didn’t.

We address all of that. We help them get the life they want. I’m not talking about, oh, we’re all going to be rich billionaires. Our goal is to help other business owners balance having a business and living a freedom lifestyle that should be standard with a business (but is not). The goal is to find balance, attain the mental fortitude needed to drive success and happiness.

By sharing what I’ve learned along the way, I can help others achieve success much faster than I did. I didn’t have the business acumen and at some point, I got it. Imagine if I would have had this business acumen in 1997 when I was one of the first people building websites. I think about that a lot, but you can’t go back. You can only go forward.

The topic of this series is ‘Five Strategies I Used to Grow My Business to Reach Seven Figures in Revenue’. Congratulations! Seven figures really is a huge milestone. In your experience what was the most difficult part of being able to hit your first million dollars in sales revenue?

Becoming a true leader, which in our program we call the Chief “X” Officer or CXO. I coined the acronym to remind myself that my activities should be based on my desires. The X stands for my desires. As the CXO, you are the leader, the person that drives growth and builds a strong culture. Let me explain how I think about being the CXO.

I wear many hats, that is part of owning a business. I label each hat by replacing the X in CXO. For example, I am the Chief Time Officer. That means I need to work on activities that manage my time wisely, both personally and professionally. I am also the Chief Family Officer. Only I can ensure I spend quality time with my family. I am the Chief Wealth Officer, so I am responsible to build wealth. I am the Chief Happiness Officer. You get the idea. So how does that help me be a better leader?

Let’s look at just one of those hats, the Chief Time Officer. Start by asking, “Why do I want more time?” Maybe you want to spend more time with your family or traveling the world. Whatever the reason, focus on the why first. Then, look at what you are currently doing and see which things you could show someone else how to do that would free up the most time for you. Now, hire someone to do those tasks, train them on how to do them and empower them to own the process. How much time did you free up?

Odds are, quite a bit. Keep doing that until your time is only filled with things that solve for X and drive revenue, growth and personal desires. As Chief Wealth Officer, you may spend 10 hours a week working on sales methods or customer growth. The idea is simple, you simply have to stop working in your business as a worker. The only way you can do that is to replace you.

Imagine if you could spend 30 hours a week and make 7-figures. I often spend even less than that now working, which has allowed me to live a life only few ever achieve. And I am not talking about money, sure I do well for myself there, but really, it is about living life. That is the most important thing to me now.

Investing in yourself and your business should be your number one priorityStop being the worker and be the leader. If you can master just this one thing, you can reach 7-figures.

Could you share the number one sales strategy that you found helpful to help you reach this milestone?

I employ only one methodology for sales. You have to “get in the door.” I do that with a small, low-risk product that will easily get a “yes.” I don’t try to sell my most expensive service out of the gate unless that was the initial ask. Once we are in the door, we provide extraordinary service and wow the customer.

I’m not the first person to say that, but you have to be creative in how you can get in the door. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose money or break even. Many people can’t get past that idea. Marketing costs money and while we try to employ only methods that will at least break even, we look at the long-term value of a customer and ask, “How much money can I spend to attain a customer?” Anything less than that is a win.

Let me give you a real-world example. Portside Marketing offers logo design as a service. It is not the greatest profit margin and in fact, it is a low-cost service. However, new companies that need logos also need a website soon after. If I provide amazing service in creating the company brand, I have a really great chance of getting the website design job. Then, once the website is complete, the next step is typically marketing, which is our primary service.

The logos and websites are our “in the door” services which actually turn a profit in most cases, even after marketing costs. I get paid to prospect. I got in the door, selling a lower-priced, low-risk service and then increased the value of the customer along the way. Get in the door, that is the key, then be the partner they can’t live without.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you or your team made during a sales process? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t know if it’s funny and it’s not a single instance, but it provided a very valuable lesson. I definitely connect better with people that are like me, so to speak. I am very personable and like to get to know people. I honestly want to learn more about them and their business and focus less on data.

I remember getting a call from a guy, who was quite the opposite of me. And I just did me. That didn’t go over well. The customer didn’t care for me whatsoever. You could just tell he didn’t like me and that’s okay. Not everyone likes me, but I remember that the more I realized he didn’t like me, the more I wanted to close the sale.

It was almost a challenge at that point, but no matter what I said or what I did, he seemed to like me even less. He actually became combative. Now, it seems funny because here I was trying so hard when it was clear that we were not a good fit. But something in me really wanted the guy to like me. There was a lesson in here, but at the time, I did not know what it was.

Later that year, I hired a business coach, and during our time together, he asked me to take a business personality assessment. I was a bit apprehensive and did not understand why I needed to do it. He convinced me and off I went to learn about me. I learned I knew exactly who I was and was not surprised by the test results.

However, as we discussed the results, my business coach helped me understand why I easily closed sales with people just like me. We buy from people we like and trust. You like you, so of course when someone like you comes along, you like them too! However, not everyone is like me. Imagine that. There are different personality types in this world and different people need different things.

With a bit of education and practice, he taught me to recognize different traits and change my sales style to connect with more people. I’ve learned how to determine other traits in people and what is going to resonate with them. Then, I get into that mode quickly if I want to sell to those people.

By communicating with each person in the style they prefer, I was able to increase my closing percentage. The lesson I learned was in order to sell to a wider audience, I had to learn who I was to know how to communicate with others that were not like me.

By the way, I am an ENTJ.

Does your company have a sales team? If yes, do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

My company does not have a sales team. Instead, we have created highly efficient, automated processes to fill my sales calendar. When you know your ideal customer and target them, you can greatly reduce the time and money it takes to bring in new customers.

This goes back to the “stop selling” I talked about earlier. I’ve set up ways to nurture the customer through the process automatically up until the time when they’re ready for the close. The system sets up the closing call and I just jump on and use what we call a light, conversational close technique. Since the customer has already been warmed up, the calls are quick and easy. For me that is the advantage of automation.

If I have an initial conversation, I can do it in record time. I love talking to customers and it is my favorite thing to do, so I have found solutions for every other aspect in my business and have yet to build a sales team. This is the last position I need to fill. It will happen, as I’m now moving on to other ventures, like the agency training programs and services we are creating.

If I had to give advice on how to create a very high performing sales team, I would say that you have to give your sales tea, the tools they need to sell. You can’t just hire a salesperson and think they will magically make it all happen. You can’t expect them to be you. Give them the tools, whether it be knowledge, scripts, bullet points, training, whatever it is. Give them the skills needed to represent your company the way you want to be represented.

You have to figure out what your culture is and fit people into that culture. I don’t care if it’s your sales team or any other team. You are the culture. As the CXO, you dictate the company climate. You have to set a good example and create the environment you want. Then, you can hire people that best fit that culture. If your culture in sales is not a shark type of mentality (close every deal), then you shouldn’t hire a shark type salesperson. That wouldn’t be a good idea.

Here is the main question of our interview. What are the “Five Strategies I Used To Grow My Business To Reach Seven Figures In Revenue”. Please share a story or an example for each.

Number 1 — Stop Selling, Become a Success Strategist

While it sounds counterintuitive, un-selling is how I describe our methodology. It will help you sell more. I used to hate sales. I tried many of the “sales” methods and techniques I had heard about and they simply don’t resonate with me or my customers. Instead, I decided to start looking at every phone call as if it were a family member calling me. Would I try to sell my mother something even when she didn’t need it or if it was not going to make her money? No!

My ideal sales call is simply a conversation with my future customer, where they do most of the talking. I remember once when a customer called me and asked me to give him pricing on SEO, or search engine optimization, which is simply getting folks ranked higher in search results. During the initial conversation (talking as if it were to my Mom), I learned a bit about his company and what his ideal market would look like. I also learned that the customer was in a bind and needed cash fast. If he did not infuse his company with cash, he would be out of business in less than a month.

It was glaringly apparent that SEO was not going to help him since it was not a short-term solution. He needed a quick fix. At the time, I did not offer the service he needed. Had I not taken the time to simply chat with him and better understand his current environment, I likely would not have garnered how dire his situation was. I was able to connect him to the right person and later, he became a customer.

When I say “stop selling,” I am really saying, start being a consultant. Become a problem solver and once you know what the problem is, then look and see if you have a solution that fits. When you come with that approach, coupled with the intent to help others grow and earn higher revenues, your sales close ration and business will soar.

Number 2 — Become The CXO, The Leader of Your Company

Become the CXO. This means you must accept the role of being the leader of your company. X stands for whatever it is, as I mentioned previously. You must get out of the role of worker and into the role of leader (notice I did not say boss).

As you have learned, I wanted to quit my day job when I first started my company. I set off to earn as much money as possible, because I incorrectly thought money would solve the problem. In a way, it would have. Unfortunately, I was not the CXO yet. I did not create a team in the beginning and spent countless hours doing the work. That meant that I had little time to address marketing and growth. It became a viscous cycle that almost costed me my business at one point.

While my company grew, I was working 100+ hours a week. It was not until a business coach fell into my lap, took a look at my business and helped me see the light. I had simply replaced my corporate job for a job in my own company. He helped me see that spending money on building a team will make me more money. And most importantly, it frees up my time so that I can focus on growth, revenue and living my life. Only as a CXO (leader of your company) will you achieve all you can be.

It’s also the only way to live a freedom lifestyle. I mention that a lot because it should be the goal of every business owner and entrepreneur.

Number 3 — Increase the LTV of Every Customer

Once I corrected many of my internal issues, after becoming the CXO, I realized something was still wrong. I had many customers and had built an amazing team, but my profit margins were still low. I could not put my finger on it at the time.

I had built a strong business with numerous clients. I had created sales processes that were delivering an abundance of new leads. We were closing a high percentage of our sales. However, I was so focused on bringing in NEW customers, I was neglecting the customers I already had.

This realization happened when a customer asked me for advice on another vendor. I was a bit taken back, as we provided the service that the customer went to another provider for. When I questioned the customer as to why they hired another vendor, I was blown away by the response. “Lisa, I did not even know you offered that service, I would have preferred to go with you but to be honest, you never really communicate with us.” Ouch.

Not only was I embarrassed, but I was also leaving money on the table! Many of my customers could benefit from our other services, and I had neglected to put a process in place that would upsell or cross-sell them. This strategy is all about increasing the Lifetime Value, the LTV of every single customer. I lacked the processes needed to ensure we left no dollars laying on the table. That has since been corrected and our LTV has increased significantly, along with our profit margins.

It takes less money to service an existing customer over finding a new one!

Number 4 — Create a Success Team, Refine Your Culture

I created my success team later than I should have, which resulted in years of me working harder than I had to and limiting the growth of my business. You will have no greater asset in your business than a well-trained, loyal success team. You do that through a strong company culture, proper training and refined processes.

This plays into Number 2, the CXO. Your team will make or break you and you are responsible for those people. Don’t expect someone to read your mind or be you. Early on in my business, I failed at filling key positions and often blamed the people in the roles for their failures. It was not until I began creating processes and becoming the CXO that I realized, I had failed them, not the reverse.

The problem was simple and often the case for small businesses or entrepreneurs. I was the business. I started it, did most everything and wrote nothing down. The business lived in my head. I did not provide proper training, nor did I have well vetted processes. But most importantly, I simply did not provide a culture conducive to success. Had I figured this out sooner, I would be an 8-figure business by now.

Don’t blame your team if they fail, because you’re the leader, the captain of the ship. It is the captain that is calling all the shots. Ask yourself why they are failing? What is missing? What do they need? Then, solve that problem with them. Let your people help determine what they need or where they are struggling and ask them if they have any ideas about how you, the leader, can help.

If you haven’t invested in your team, if you haven’t trained them, if you haven’t given them the resources or support that they need, your team is going to fail. Or better stated, you will fail your team.

Strong culture is important. Empowerment, passion and compassion are an amazing combination. Here’s a great example.

The other day I got an early morning message from my project manager which read, “You’re going to hate me. I messed up really bad.”

I didn’t even know what happened yet. However, my initial response was, “I’ll never hate you. You’re amazing and I appreciate you. I’ve messed up in the past worse than you ever could. So, no worries. Let’s figure out what’s going on.”

That’s the culture I’ve created with my company and it has resulted in a highly successful, happy team environment.

Number 5 — Work Less, Live more.

I spent a great number of years when I started my business “sacrificing.” I had convinced myself it was the way, and every business owner or entrepreneur does it. While that may be true, there is a better way. My ingrained and often false beliefs led me down a path of working fourteen-hour days (or more), working weekends and sometimes, even holidays.

Here is a great way to help reduce the number of hours you spend each day working in your business. Tell yourself, “I will only work 40 hours a week.” Then, bucket your time with one-to-two-hour buckets for things that need done. For example, one hour a day will go to marketing, two hours a day will be earmarked for sales and so forth. Specify when you will work each bucket (we call this a Power Cal) and stick to your calendar. Keep in mind, if you do not finish something and your timer goes off so to speak, you have to stop. You always have the bucket tomorrow.

If you have to figure out how to get the most done in the shortest amount of time, it forces you to solve your biggest problems in business first. Using a culmination of the strategies I mentioned above, working smart is the key. Once I learned to manage my time more efficiently and stop being a worker in my company, I began to take back my life and my business flourished. I now work about thirty hours a week in my company but get more done than when I worked eighty.

The entire reason I wanted to own my own business was to control my life and make it better, with freedom to travel and live on my own terms. Unless your dream was to work more and live less, do whatever it takes to make this strategy real.

What would you advise to another business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill? From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

When you need to boost sales, or have growth, ask yourself, “Who is my customer? What do they look like? What do they act like? What are they wearing? What are they saying?” Even if you have accomplished this exercise in the past, do it again. You may find that the landscape has changed.

The most important question is, “Where does my ideal customer hang out?” Every day there are new ways to connect with customers, explore things like social media and online groups. Where customers hung out before COVID-19 may be completely different place than where they are now. Follow them. Nobody’s going to Chamber of Commerce meetings. Nobody’s going to networking meetings. Nobody’s going to that kind of stuff. But everyone is now online.

In business, every plateau I reached required me to pivot, so always be ready to pivot.

In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Like I said a minute ago, you have to know who your ideal customers or clients are. I don’t mean, hey, all women in America are my customer. That is too broad. For example, when we pivoted during the pandemic, we created a new program for struggling business owners. Instead of taking a broad stroke, we created a program specifically for Agencies that were making less than 250,000 dollars a year.

We created a customer Avatar. Our ideal customer for our Agency Fast Track X Success course is between the ages of 28 and 68, has struggled to build a steady flow of sales leads, sells technical services, like SEO, Website Design or Copywriting, and is looking for help in getting over the hurdles they can’t seem to clear.

Then, we asked ourselves, where would these folks hand out? For our ideal customer, they were already hanging out in industry groups, like Skype or Facebook. We partnered with the group owners and created a lucrative so those group owners would introduce us. In exchange for a percentage of the sale, we were able to attract, present to and sell our program.

We do the same thing for attracting our marketing customers. We identify exactly who would make an ideal customer, find out where they are and get in front of them. You have to know where they’re hanging out. Once you know how and where they are, then you have to introduce yourself and get in the door.

It’s like dating, though. You can’t burst in the door and, say, “Hey, let’s get married!”

That isn’t going to work.

You have to get to know them. You have to sell them something that they need but at a lower price. We call this “getting in the door” and it serves to allow us the opportunity to build like and trust, two keys so a healthy customer relationship.

I advocate in my Agency Fast Track course five very specific, low price, get-in-the-door strategies, to attract ideal customers. Each strategy starts off small, with a low-price offer, which means it is low risk as well. Then, we make an irresistible offer to get the customer in the door. Once they become a customer, using the strategies we just talked about, we build a loyal, high-value customer base.

No matter what industry you’re in, you have to find those strategies. You have to figure out what will attract them, because I don’t care what customer I’m talking to, I can always find something as an in the door offer. That should have been one of my five strategies! That is one of my secret weapons. Get in the door methods.

Based on your experience, can you share a few strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

I sell search engine optimization, or SEO, which is simply getting clients assets ranked higher in search results. It is not easy to explain and for many, difficult to sell. It can also be very expensive. A customer that does not know you, will likely not trust you. So, when I first start talking with a possible SEO customer, I don’t go for broke. I have to earn their trust and then, the customer is much more likely to spend more over time.

Many salespeople go for the highest sale or commission, which is a mistake. Let’s me share an example.

I have customers who will find us on Google, call and ask how much does SEO cost? For many customers, especially those in high-volume search areas like big cities, SEO can cost thousands of dollars. Like many high-priced products or services, sticker shock is real. So, leading off with a price is not smart. My initial goal is to just get my future customer (see how I think) to allow me the opportunity to do some research.

However, I also don’t want to waste my time or theirs, so I also need to qualify them. That is a big mistake many salespeople make; they do not qualify the customer.

The goal in allowing me to do my homework is to help them better understand why the price is what it is and give them all of their options. I never want to sell them, I want them to make an informed buying decision.

If I can get away with not giving them a price, I do, but I also want to know they would be willing to pay at least 1000 dollars a month, since that is our minimum.

Initially, I tell them something like, “Our minimum is a 1000 dollars a month and some customers spend up to 5,000 dollars a month. I need you to be comfortable with what you spend, since SEO takes some time. In my opinion, you should spend about 3000 dollars in your industry for the terms you would like to rank for. And if you’re not comfortable with that, and you can’t do that for 12 months, then let’s not do that.”

I then ask them if I can perform an analysis, which will take a day or two. I scheduled the follow-up call and then hang up.

Two things come from the ability to schedule the next call. First, it gives me time to actually have my team perform a full analysis. That helps me figure out my costs, so I can give them a fair quote. Second, it allows them the opportunity to tell me right there if they are willing to invest in their business. The tire kickers balk at 1000 dollars a month and say no thank you right then. The customers that move forward are now pre-qualified. They are willing to spend at least 1000 dollars a month.

When I get one the second call, I present the findings and give them a quote. I show them real data, what it will take to get them ranked and what has to happen to beat their competition. I then explain what the cost is and stop talking. I wait for them to respond. If they say ok, let’s go, I tell them what the next steps are. However, if they simply tell me they cannot afford it, I do not play hard call. That is where many salespeople lose the sale.

Instead, I often say something like, “Let’s start with something smaller that makes sense. SEO is a long game, and it takes time to rank. The more you spend, the faster we can perform the tasks, but we do the same things over time regardless. Spending less simply means it will take longer. SEO works better when we consistently apply our strategies. I would recommend having the mindset that you will be doing this for a long time. I would rather have you spend 1000 dollars per month for 12 months, rather than having you commit to 3000 dollars and quit after 3 months because the payments are too high. No one wins in that scenario. Slow and steady still wins the race.”

Do you see what I’m doing there? They begin to trust me. I’m not trying to take every one of their dollars. That customer service and experience starts in the first conversation I have with them.

I’m not trying to talk them into something they’re not comfortable with.

Once I show them results and they start getting some traction, many of our customers then want to increase their payments over time to get things moving faster or to widen their net. By being a partner, someone who comes from a place of honesty, you will always win more. If I push them to sign a contract for an amount they aren’t comfortable with, it is likely they will be more difficult to work with and stay a shorter period of time

I say, if creating trust means leaving money on the table, that’s okay. Because down the road, you can get that money back and more, when you increase the value of that customer. However, you can never undo mistrust. It’s very hard to come back from mistrust, very hard.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

The number one thing to limit your customer churn is to remind them how great you’re doing for them and how great they’re doing if you provide a service that equates to their bottom line.

You must stay in contact with them. You have to talk to them, be involved with them. You want them to feel you are a partner, especially if you are in a service-based business. You don’t want customers to think that they’re just buying a service, because they could buy that service somewhere else. I remind our clients that we’re here to partner with them, listen to them, hear them, so we can help them.

Don’t be afraid to champion your own success. We use data to tell a story. Here is where you started, this is how many customers you were getting…. Now here is where you are, and this is how many customers you are getting. We did that. Then, we start talking to them on how we can refine our service, build out their existing service or add services to what we are already doing.

Communicate with your customers, let them know you care. Squeaky wheels not only get greased, but they also get paid!

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

You hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what needs to happen in almost every industry. You need a movement, a tribe, something that gets people, not only inspired, but also addresses their issues and problems. In my industry, there is no regulation, and it is like the Wild West. Many customers get burned and have bad experiences, or frankly, simply get ripped off. In anything new, creating education and awareness is key. If you come from a perspective of educator, you can change the world. Everyone is unique and there is no one size fits all solution.

That is the intention behind the Agency Fast Track program. While there is an education component, we are also trying to build a community of like-minded business owners that want to do things the right way and frankly, are starving for interaction with like-minded business owners who get them. Being an entrepreneur can be extremely lonely.

I can build a great course or program. People come, take it and get happy. That’s great. But people are stay connected for the community. Now that’s something special. In the end, we all want to know that we’re in this together. That we’re not alone.

We found that education and community were not enough. There is a third component, something many people miss in their education and community. The missing piece is our internal, core beliefs, both as a business and a customer. We work hard in our programs to take that next step and address the false beliefs and baggage that comes with a lifetime of learning from people who might not have been the best role models or just didn’t have the same experience.

Every business owner or entrepreneur should join a tribe, a community, of similarly focused intent. As a business owner, as an entrepreneur, I say this all the time, we feel alone. Even if our spouses are in the business with us, a lot of times there’s one person in the relationship that is the higher entrepreneurial type.

Many, including myself, often feel isolated and alone. It’s like nobody else in our life really understands that we could feel that way. Not our family, our spouses or our parents. Even most of our friends don’t “get it”. They’re not like us, so having a movement, having a community of like-minded people that are in the same boat. Having that part and not forcing our family and friends to be that for us, just makes the journey in life better.

Having a community of like-minded entrepreneurs allows us to have inspiration. It allows us to have creativity. And it’s no secret or accident, I also built my Agency Fast Track community for me too.

I also need the very same things every agency owner needs. I’m no different than anyone else. I need to be around people to empower me. I need growth. You have to build a movement that inspires people to be better and do better.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Michelle Obama. I think she truly cares about people, this country and the world. She is intelligent and brings a level of esteem that is rare. As cliché as it may be, my life was changed when she said, “When they go low, we go high.” While many politicians speak words they don’t mean, Michelle Obama walked the walk and lived by those words throughout the campaign and her subsequent position as First Lady.

Most people don’t see a First Lady as being a job or a position, when in fact it is. Many first ladies have done so many amazing things. Michelle Obama is a role model for women, young and old. Black, white or brown. She holds a level of integrity and wisdom that make her the person I would most like to share a table with.

“When they go low, we go high.”

Those seven words could change the world. I applied those words to my life. I hear them often in my head when I am in a situation where I might choose to “go low.” It helps me choose the right path, in life and in business.

People talk about world peace or making the world better, safer or more equal. If more people would “go high” every time, unquestionably, I really think it would change the world.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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