John McGhee of Webconsuls: “Put your client’s business first”

Put your client’s business first. If you focus on making your client’s business’s successful, you’ll be successful. You still need to focus on your own business, but if you consistently help grow companies and generate more revenue for them you’ll be successful. Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. […]

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Put your client’s business first. If you focus on making your client’s business’s successful, you’ll be successful. You still need to focus on your own business, but if you consistently help grow companies and generate more revenue for them you’ll be successful.


Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing John McGhee.

John McGhee is the owner of Webconsuls, a digital marketing agency based in Nashville, TN. He specializes in utilizing paid and organic marketing to help companies and organizations generate leads and revenue online.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I went to school for construction management and was working for a large contracting firm in my mid-twenties. My wife was an SEO consultant for Webconsuls, and I started moonlighting doing PPC management for the agency. I realized I enjoyed PPC management and digital marketing more than I enjoyed my construction job, but we’d just had our first child at the time, and I was worried about switching careers. The construction job was stable and included great benefits, while the marketing job was a contractor position with no benefits. While I enjoyed the work more, the PPC job seemed unstable. Through a series of events my wife and I ended up purchasing the company with 1 other individual, which eliminated the unstable issue. We’ve been running and growing the agency ever since.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When I first started managing PPC, I took over an existing account that was underperforming. I implemented several things that appeared to drastically improve the performance. Although all statistics looked fantastic on my end, the client was still underwhelmed by the results. Upon further research I found that one of the phone numbers within the ads had been canceled, and none of those calls were going through. Switching that made an enormous difference.

That experience taught me two main lessons. The first is to double check every detail and assume everything is wrong or broken when taking on a new account. The second is to check in regularly to make sure the metrics and stats I’m seeing on my end align with what the client is seeing on their end. If there are any discrepancies, and the efforts you’re putting in aren’t translating to results for the client, that needs to be addressed immediately. PPC metrics mean nothing if they don’t translate to real-world results.

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?

My wife and my father, both for the same reason. I’m fairly introverted and reserved by nature, and those two helped teach me the value of taking risks. Purchasing the company was their idea. As I mentioned earlier, I had just become a father and was hesitant to take risks because I viewed that as unwise and unsafe. Over the years I’ve learned that in reality it’s the exact opposite, not taking risks is the greatest risk there is.

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

What makes our company unique is that we focus on aligning our marketing strategy and lead generation with what’s ideal for the client’s business revenue and capacity. We want to provide them everything they need, and nothing they don’t. We strive to generate the most good leads for the least amount of money, and accomplish this by maximizing organic channels, before moving on to maximizing the most profitable paid channels, then moving to the next most profitable paid channel, etc. Many agencies do this, what makes us unique is combining this with being able to work with clients to identify the ideal volume of digital marketing leads. In short, this volume is the point which they can scale maturely and avoid not having enough work — while also avoiding taking on too much work too quickly.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Charisma, cleverness, and poise. Charisma is important because no matter how good your strategy is, if it’s presented in a lackadaisical way it won’t excite clients. In short, people need to like you. Cleverness is a vital part of being a business leader, and most other pursuits. You need to be able to think outside the box, adapt, read the room, etc. Poise is important because you’ll be uncomfortable at some point and being able to stay calm and levelheaded in order to move things in the direction they need to go is an important leadership quality.

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

We recently created a company scholarship that’s awarded to individuals who are pursuing higher education in computer science or marketing. The ideal candidate is someone looking to attend a coding bootcamp. Although those attending a traditional college are eligible, it’s primarily geared towards unprivileged people looking to learn to code. We feel the money goes further that way, and it makes a bigger impact. A coding bootcamp and a laptop can be a ticket out of a dire situation for a lot of people.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

The main mistake with PPC is not fully understanding keyword match types and how they work. PPC platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads are a little tricky because they appear very simple on the surface. When you set up an account it initially looks like the only thing to it is selecting some keywords, writing a few ads, and entering your credit card information. However, most of the advanced features are “hidden” to a degree. You essentially have to know what these features are and where to find them to access them. They may not seem like game changers, but PPC is an auction-based system where you’re competing against other advertisers. Something small makes a difference in who shows up first and who doesn’t.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

The best digital marketing strategy is divided into organic and paid marketing. With organic, strive to provide as much valuable information through your website content as you can. You’ll still need to perform all the basic SEO practices, but if users find your content helpful and informative you have a huge advantage. People are more engaged with the content so user engagement metrics improve, click through rates go up which helps rankings, and it’s much easier to get backlinks to content that is valuable and informative.

A successful paid marketing strategy starts with organic marketing. Since paid marketing hinges on ROI, it makes sense to maximize the amount of leads you can generate from organic marketing (since they’re free in a sense) before moving on to paid marketing. Within paid marketing itself, start by dividing your products or services into common themes. Create different campaigns for these themes and identify the ROI from each campaign. Then maximize the volume of the most favorable ROI campaign first, before moving on and dedicating budge to the second-best performing campaign. Continue tiering your way up until you hit the desired volume. As an example, say each product produces the same profit — so we can just focus on cost per lead. Campaign 1 produces leads for 1 dollar per lead and has 100 leads per month available. Campaign 2 produced 2 dollars leads and has 50 leads available. Campaign 3 produces 3 dollars leads and has 100 available. If you need 200 leads, you’d maximize the amount you can get from campaign 1 (100) before moving on and maximizing the amount you can get from campaign 2 (50) and finally getting the last 50 leads from the most expensive campaign — campaign 3. This will give you the lowest overall cost per lead.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

Though it varies by industry, Google Ads is typically the best PPC platform. It has the best targeting features and the most search volume. If your starting out with a smaller budget and you have to pick one, go with Google Ads.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

  1. Track everything. This extends beyond calls, forms, or sales. Decide what a good lead looks like to you and separate those leads out. This is usually accomplished with a 3rd party software like Call Rail.
  2. Monitor your search terms. With anything except exact match type keywords, you’re likely going to have some irrelevant searches in your search term history. Add negative keywords to eliminate wasting that budget in the future.
  3. Talk to the client. It’s important to assure that the good results your seeing within the PPC platform itself is translating to good result for the client’s business. These 2 things can get separated periodically, and when they do all the data you’re looking at is irrelevant. Something may appear to be producing well, but when you speak with the client you find it’s not actually translating to increased revenue. There’s usually no clear indication that this is happening on your end, so check in on a regular basis.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

  1. Only add people to the list if they’re interested. A huge list doesn’t have much value if it’s full of people who unknowingly got on it in the first place. Lists and audiences are used for a variety of things, and they represent the top of the sales funnel. The more uninterested the average person on the list is, the less you can trust it to be utilized later. It also tends to negatively affect the brand if you’re spamming people that aren’t interested.
  2. Write a compelling subject line. This is arguably more important than the email content itself.
  3. Only send an email if you have something to say. The ideal frequency at which marketing emails should be sent is very overcomplicated in the marketing industry. Sending an email when you have something worth sharing is the way to go. Don’t do it for every new hire or every little sale. Create a situation where people know if they get an email from you, there’s something valuable inside.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

Google Analytics. I realize that it’s a common tool, but if you really dig in to how to utilize it you’d be surprised how much it can boost your marketing efforts. The content drill down area and custom goals in particular are very valuable sections.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Understand business. Ironically, the most important thing needed to be successful in digital marketing has little to do with marketing itself. Understanding businesses — how they operate, what they need, how they scale, industry nuances, etc. — is the most valuable asset. Digital marketing is similar to being a stock broker in a lot of ways. You can’t just know how the stock market works, you have to know how to apply that knowledge in order to make people money. It’s the exact same with digital marketing.
  2. Understand people. Being liked is just as important, I’d argue more important, than producing good results in marketing. You really need to do both, but how much clients like you provides the lens they’ll see your through during the course of your relationship.
  3. Have a deep understanding of statistics. You can start out as inexperienced as you wish in digital marketing, as long as you can read the results thoroughly and make adjustments to improve, you’ll get where you need to be quickly and be successful.
  4. Put your client’s business first. If you focus on making your client’s business’s successful, you’ll be successful. You still need to focus on your own business, but if you consistently help grow companies and generate more revenue for them you’ll be successful.
  5. Be able to see the whole battlefield. You have to be able to step back and look at the big picture with digital marketing. You need to understand how individual aspects of a marketing strategy will affect the overall strategy. It’s very easy to get lost in the weeds with statistics and hone in on metrics. If there’s not a clear pattern or there isn’t any actionable adjustments to be made, don’t obsess over the data.

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

If you’re just starting out — Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is the holy grail. I started there, and you can learn almost anything you want to know on their website. Start with the beginner’s guide, and branch out to wherever you’re interested in.

If you have some experience, I personally really like Ryan Stewart’s YouTube channel and SEO Blueprint book. As I touched on earlier, knowing digital marketing isn’t enough — you have to know how to apply it. He explains this really well, and I’m reminded how little I know when I watch his videos.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Teaching underprivileged kids how to code. This is the idea behind the scholarship I mentioned earlier. It’s the best solution for a lot of kids that would otherwise have little hope. It doesn’t matter who your family is, where you come from, or how many resources you have — if you have a laptop and are willing to work you can be successful. That would be a great situation to be in for a lot of young people. Underprivileged kids are also the ideal candidates to become developers. They’ve had to adapt and think creatively their whole lives — they’d be naturals.

How can our readers further follow your work?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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