I would love to see more people take their career into their own hands and control their revenue.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Greg DeKalb and Tural Bayev.
Greg DeKalb is a Chicago entrepreneur, who brings more than 15 years of consultative digital marketing and sales experience. Prior to launching HubioMail, Greg co-founded Tony P’s Networking Events and AppointmentsIQ “Your On-Demand Sales Team.” Greg also holds an MBA in Sales Leadership from DePaul University. In his free time, Greg is a family man, a volunteer with the Lion’s Club, St. Jude Global Warriors. and a Boy and His Dream Foundation, as well as being an international marathon runner.
Tural Bayev has started 5 companies and continues pursuing his next big idea. Tural and his team of psychologists and developers have developed proprietary technology to solve the challenges of HR, Education, and Safety. Tural is currently an MBA Candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Strategy.
Together, Greg Dekalb and Tural Bayev have co-founded HubioMail, a powerful CRM system.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
Greg: Wow, where to begin? The bulk of my marketing experience comes from when I was working for R. H. Donnelly Yellow Pages. And the reason I bring that up is because when you make a mistake with the yellow pages in print, it goes into the directory, and there is no correcting that. So that’s when I decided it was time to switch to digital where you can correct a human mistake.
Tural: I had a very similar experience, except it was with a wrong photo! And well, let’s just say I won’t share any more details than that. It was a well-known group and yeah, it was an embarrassing photo. I think the lesson we both learned is to CHECK YOUR WORK!
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Greg: I worked for senior management over the years. I was always getting asked for my numbers, and how I was selling. Eventually, I became well-versed in lead generation, from both the marketing and sales perspective — really understanding that intersection in the lead funnel. I developed my own methodology for setting up meetings, and I got a lot of experience with new software, etc. We implemented the strategy at the startup that I was working at and saw huge results. When one of the leaders broke off from the company and started his own firm, he asked me to set up his marketing technology for lead generation and automation. When I did, we again had huge success. This was the defining moment because all other sales managers were focused on numbers, yet this leader said, “Greg, what you’ve got here is amazing. You need to package this and share it with others!” And I have always felt very grateful that I ran into this founder who pointed out a skill that I had and encouraged me to pursue it.
Tural: I worked for a lot of big companies for years. I learned so much from that experience and from a lot of great leaders. Yet, from childhood, I always did my own thing. I realized that a lot of these leaders missed having control over their own security and employment. During one of those conversations, it clicked for me that that’s what I wanted, too. I decided that I was not going back to being an employee again; I wanted to be my own boss. I wanted no fear of getting laid off or fired. You can grow and land C-level positions, yet you will still never be in complete control if you are not your own boss. And it’s not even really about being your own boss. For me, how successful you can be will depend directly on how hard you work and how smart you work without waiting for someone else to validate it. The sky’s the limit for earnings.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Greg: Exercise, exercise, exercise. Running in the mornings has done leaps and bounds for my productivity; it clears my head, gives me the energy I need, and I have accomplished something great before most people even get out of bed. I think it gives you the confidence you need to take on the day. By the time I get back to my computer, I am ready to work and I have thought through what I am going to work on and planned the whole day out.
Tural: Yeah, I agree with Greg. It’s backed by research that if you can run for at least 15 minutes a day, you increase endorphin levels in the brain and you can be way more accomplished and productive and do more things easily. Additionally, I would tell marketers to avoid burnout by focusing more on their email marketing. You get four times more conversion and you will spend way less than you do on Google conversions. HubioMail will do it for you!
Great advice. 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?
Greg: For me, it was Tony Paolella. I had worked with Tony 15 years ago when we were sales guys running around Chicago sharing tips and tricks of the trade. And eventually when I came up with this idea for Appointments IQ, I’ll never forget, I met up with Tony at Kincade’s for a drink one afternoon, and I said, “Tony, I got a pretty big idea, and it’s a little out there.” And, of course, right away Tony said, “Let’s hear it!” After that, I went crazy talking his ear off, using napkins to draw out my ideas, and at the end of it Tony was totally on board. And I can honestly say that I don’t know that I would’ve gone for it if he hadn’t immediately jumped on board with me; if I didn’t have someone who understood and was also willing to put some sweat equity into it with me. Marketing from the Top doesn’t have to be “marketing do it alone.” Find the right people, and go for it.
Tural: For me it has been my wife. I could not have moved here from Russia and entered into this adventure 8 years ago without her by my side. She is my rock, taking care of our child and allowing me the ability to work 16-hour days and not having a Saturday or Sunday most of the time. And I didn’t have anyone else here when I came to work here, so she really truly has been the biggest support system to make all of this happen.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
Greg: Tural led into this by introducing how the future blueprint of marketing changed after COVID-19. In the last few weeks, I have had a few conversations with business owners who would normally only communicate with their customers on one platform but have now been forced to switch to YouTube and are taking meetings on Zoom. Now, they are reinventing the way they do business because they have no choice. It took time to innovate, yet all these businesses are capable of so much more now.
Tural: Yes, everything is going digital, especially now with everyone having no other option. We have all had to rethink everything! And it is completely possible to do business digitally. You don’t need an office, you just need to educate yourself on the best ways to deliver your message and sell your product online. I can remember a time where no one wanted to advertise on social media; they couldn’t see any benefit in it. There are so many tools out there online to help you with your business, you no longer need an office or to leave your house to have a company. You can reach people in real human ways just through Tony P’s Networking Events, yet even these are online and virtual networking opportunities.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
Greg: People mentioned that to become an entrepreneur you were going to be working long hours and weekends, spending every dime you can muster up, and learning huge business models as fast as you possibly can, just to keep up. It’s easy to say that 9 out of 10 don’t make it based on that advice, but in the end I think my ignorance was the bliss I needed. What if I had listened and gotten scared out of it? I didn’t have that attitude in me; I just believed none of that would ever happen to me. And of course it did! There were times where I didn’t know if I had enough money on a credit card to get home from a networking event! We didn’t take on significant VC debt, which has given us freedom to innovate. So we build products that people want to buy from the get-go. HubioMail has customers already.
Tural: Like Greg said, the workload was a lot, there were a lot of areas that I needed to educate myself in, and I needed to recognize that I couldn’t be everyone doing every job. I’m glad that I didn’t believe this in the beginning, I am glad I learned a lot on my own — naysayers will be the first to scare you off your path. Everyone is unique; everyone has their own way of finding their path. And sometimes, you’re lucky to listen to a mentor, but a lot of the times you just aren’t and you end up wishing you listened to your gut. Pick good partners, too.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Greg: I am a huge Dale Carnegie fan — How to Win Friends is a great example. I have been reading that book since high school. Even now I read it with my son. And the book I recommend to any entrepreneur is Traction by Gino Wickman, you can download it or get it used for five dollars, and it perfectly lays out how to get your business up and running.
Tural: I probably try to read between 5–6 books a month — or listen to them on my commute, I should say. I also try to listen to as many podcasts as I can because listening is my way of learning. One guy you should listen to is Gary V. because he has done everything he discusses and is extremely creative. And listening to him doesn’t cost anything.
One more question: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Greg: I would love to see more people take their career into their own hands and control their revenue. Why? Because I went through it, and I know what the other side looks like now. Don’t be so reliant on everyone else — whether it be your company or the government or what have you — I think a lot more people could take back that control more than they realize.
Tural: I agree with Greg; I would like to see other people take their lives into their own hands. Pay attention to every aspect of your life and realize that you are the only person standing in your way. It is all about the environment and who you surround yourself with.
Thank you both so much for sharing these fantastic insights!