Eric Sachs on Challenge Assumptions Podcast

Challenge Assumptions

Eric Sachs joined Greg and Gene on the Challenge Assumptions Podcast to talk about the world of SEO.

In the 50-minute episode, Eric, Greg and Gene discuss:

  • How Eric got started in SEO and digital marketing.
  • The future of SEO and mobile marketing.
  • Keeping transparency in the forefront of your company.
  • Why Sachs Marketing Group has never had a “charge back.”



Gene:                        The Challenge Assumption’s podcast is brought to you by Dolphin Consulting – your source for the latest sales and marketing techniques and training in any industry. Visit today.

Eric Sachs:               I just happened to run into a guy who was complaining that he was losing his business. I asked him why and he said, “Well, no one can find my website.” When I realized that maybe there was a business here, maybe I can do this for a living instead the jobs I was applying for that I really didn’t want, the biggest rewards in life are often realized by people willing to take the biggest risks. To me it was a risk.

Gene:                        I think it’s the number one cause of divorce, actually, is what they say.

Greg Davis:              The Lexus helped, probably…oh, that was me.

Announcer:              Coming to you live from the Americana Studio [indiscernible] [00:00:43].

Gene:                        We’re not live. This is a podcast. They’ll listen to this weeks later. Can you try it again?

Announcer:              All right.Coming to you from Americana Studio is Austin, Texas. This is Challenge Assumptions, helping you build your committed tribe and grow your company, with your host, bestselling author, Greg Davis.

Greg:                        Wow, Gene’s joined in. Welcome to Challenge Assumptions Radio. He’s challenging the assumption of who’s the host and who’s not.

Gene:                        How you doin’, Greg?

Greg:                        Good. Entertaining sales. This is radio where we take your ideas and content seriously, but not ourselves. You bastard, you’ve never done that. What’s up with you today? Did you have your coffee again?

Gene:                        I had some coffee today.

Greg:                        That’s excellent. That always makes for more fun…lots of “coffee” as a stimulant apparently. I’m not sure what it is.

Gene:                        Hey, now.

Greg:                        Hey now, yes. We’ve got a great guest on today who’ll be joining us in a moment.You mean I chime in? I may chime in early. We’ll see. Eric Sachs, with Sachs Marketing Group, or SMG. Very cool. Very cool.

Gene:                        Very cool. Very cool.

Greg:                        [overlapping] [00:01:47] These guys claim number one in SEO, I think. It’s the NCO company. What I find interesting for a major company like them – [indiscernible] [00:01:55] 5000 company – is they actively promote searching out business for any range of business, any size of business, which you find that’s unique among your larger companies.

They’ve advertised in Time’s Square, again, [indiscernible] [00:02:09] 5000, and have some really interesting promotional efforts. I’m going to play you one. This is going to be very romantic. I think you’ll like this.

Gene:                        All right. Let’s see.

Greg:                        Here we go.

Woman:                 Help. Help. I’ve spent so much money for SEO and digital marketing services and my product still can’t be found online.

Announcer:  Well, this sounds like a job for SMG guy.

Greg:                        SMG guy.

Gene                         [chuckles] [00:02:36] Welcome to the show, Eric. How you doing today?

Eric Sachs:               I’m doing great, thanks. How are you?

Greg:                        Good. Are you the SMG guy super hero?

EricSach:                  I guess, yeah. We call him our avatar.

Greg:                        Okay. Have you worn spandex before?

Eric:                          I have not, but one of my employees dressed up as the SMG guy one year for Halloween.

Greg:                        Excellent. Did you actually make that a sort of promotional effort, where…?

Eric:                          Oh yeah, it was on Instagram and Social. It’s actually a girl, she had kind of a sexy SMG thing going on.

Gene:                        Usually the mascot…the gender never matches, it doesn’t matter, right?

Eric:                          Yeah, I don’t…[overlapping] [00:03:03].

Gene:                        [overlapping] [00:03:08] college mascots, or whatever.

Greg:                        [overlapping] [00:03:08]

Gene:                        You’re out of California, Southern California?

Eric:                          We are, yeah. Southern California, specifically West Lake Village, kind of a suburb of Southern California, north of the main downtown Los Angeles area.

Gene:                        So I think…what…our eighth person from Southern California in the room?

Greg:                        I guess so. I don’t know. [laughs] [00:03:30]

Greg:                        Apparently all the business is happening in Southern California.

Gene:                        Is business good in Southern California? How the hell could it be with the very high taxes?

Eric:                          It’s definitely an expensive place to run a business.

Greg:                        Basically you grew up there so that’s why you’re there, right?

Eric:                          I did, yeah. I was born and raised in Hollywood and then I moved out to the suburbs when I got married and my first child, and been here ever since.

Greg:                        What first interested you in marketing? How did that evolve in you?

Eric:                          I was in the mortgage space for about 12 years, and then late 2006, or early 2007, the mortgage space was in turmoil and the writing was really on the wall that I probably wasn’t going to be able to make the income that I was used to for very much longer. So I started, sort of in a panic, reaching out for something to supplement my income.

I was still employed in the wholesale lending space, but I really needed something to supplement my income and I needed something that I thought would be passive, because I was still working. So I sort of self-taught myself SEO, and Lite WebDesign, and I became what’s called a publisher and affiliate marketer.

I signed up with Amazon and a couple different affiliate networks. The approach was build a couple websites, do some SEO, get them to the first page of Google, and when people found my sites and clicked through they’d be redirected to Amazon, and if they bought the product, I’d get a check for $.25 or something. That’s really how I got my start.

Greg:                        Doing your own websites, then?

Eric:                          Yeah. That was right around the time we were switching to Blu-ray from disc – from CD to Blu-ray. Blu-ray was all the rage and there was a lot of different Blu-ray players that were being purchased. I just bought up a bunch of domains for Panasonic Blu-ray players and built various small little WordPress sites.

Then, when people searched for that specific Blu-ray player, they’d find my site on the first page of Google because of the SEO work I was doing – anywhere they clicked on my site, they’d go to Amazon. If they bought the player, I’d get a percentage of the sale.

That’s sort of Affiliate Marketing 101 and that’s, really, how I got my start and started building my skill set in the space.

Greg:                        How did you hear about that potential, that opportunity – you were in mortgages, so that doesn’t seem like the SEO world.

Eric:                          Just searching around for ways to make money on the Web. It was clear to me at the time that no one really went to the phonebook anymore for services or products, so I knew that the Web was where it was at. I bought a $99 teach-yourself-SEO program, at the time, and studied, and listened to the tapes, and watched the videos, and taught myself how to do some WordPress. That’s what started it off.

I think at the pinnacle I was maybe making $1000 a month off my sites, but it was passive, and I was able to still continue to work in the mortgage space until the bottom finally fell out.

Greg:                        That’s an interesting lesson to meet anyone out there…that you were able to find something new, not that many years ago, really. What do you think, about 10 years, roughly?

Eric:                          About ’07.

Greg:                        If you were to be in that similar position now, what do you think there is out there that’s similar for an opportunity?

Eric:                          Again, it’s going to be something web-based. There’s a lot of people that learn some web-based skill, whether that’s web design, or conversion optimization, or maybe graphics design, or copywriting. Whatever floats your boat, you can usually make some money at it on the Web.

Greg:                        I was going to say big data, possibly. I don’t know. Does that work, Gene? Does that make sense to you?

Gene:                        Well, big data implies big, so unless you’re going to buy up a whole bunch of computing power and process data through databases, it’s probably not going to be a sideline passive business to get an extra $1000 [overlapping] [00:07:37]

Greg:                        So small data would be a better approach?

Gene:                        Yes, Greg, small versus big.

[overlapping] [00:07:45]

Greg:                        Probably selling like a product manufactured in China via, like, Facebook ads would probably work.

Gene:                        That’s actually a much better idea than big data.

Greg:                        Okay. [overlapping] [00:07:53]

Eric:                          [overlapping] [00:07:543] Sure, finding a product and maybe drop-shipping, that would work.

Greg:                        For you that evolved, though, into something much bigger. How did that take place?

Eric:                          It’s an interesting story. As I mentioned, the most I was making was maybe $1000 a month. Then the mortgage industry continued to decline, and ultimately I found myself, through really no fault of my own, unemployed and unemployable in the mortgage space because all of the big lenders were filing for bankruptcy.

With a resume that said mortgage lender for 12 years, I really had nowhere to go. I was at an all-time low in life. We were hiding our car from the repo man. I was writing bad checks at the market for diapers and formula for the baby, and negotiating with my landlord to not evict my family and I, and on Government aid. It was really bad.

I just happened to run into a guy who was complaining that he was losing his business and I asked him why. He said, “Well, no one can find my website.” I said, “I can do that, I know how to do that.” He said, “Could you do it for me?” I said, “Sure. Would you pay me?” He said, “Yeah, sure. Why don’t you do a proposal?”

So I went home a had no idea what to put down on a proposal, I just sort of winged it. I had no idea what to charge. I didn’t want to charge too much and take the chance of them saying, “No.” I didn’t want to undervalue the service, so I thought $1000 sounded reasonable.

Did a proposal, created a PDF, sent it to him in an email. He called and said, “Come get a check.” He became my first client. Again, I was not building a business, I was surviving. My wife and I went to the market and we bought some groceries and I was continuing to work on my resume and interviewed for jobs during the day that I really didn’t want, but I needed something.

I had my wife in my ear saying, “You need a job. You need stability. You need insurance,” and at night I’d work on his SEO.

Gene:                        I think we’ve all had those wives.

Eric:                          Yeah. [chuckles][00:10:02] I actually still have her, so it worked out.

Gene:                        We don’t.

Greg:                        Yeah, we don’t.

[laughter] [00:10:07]

Eric:                          Long story short, he got great results and he was really happy and he salvaged his business. He ended up not having to file for bankruptcy. He referred me to someone else, and that person referred me to someone else.

Greg:                        And his name was Jeff Bezos with Amazon. No?

Eric:                          No. Not quite that a success story, but he is still in business, and, interestingly, he’s still our client seven years later.

Greg:                        Very good.

Eric:                          It was at some point, I think around three or four clients that I realized that maybe there was a business here. Maybe I can do this for a living instead of the jobs that I was applying for that I really didn’t want. Again, the wife chimed up and said, “No, no, you need stable employment. You need insurance.” But, I wanted to take a chance.

There’s a quote that’s helped me in the past in similar situations, that goes something like, “The biggest rewards in life are often realized by people willing to take the biggest risks.” To me it was a risk to invest 100% of my time in this, but I was willing to take the risk.

Slowly, but surely, got my first office. Got too busy, got my first employee…

Greg:                        You talked about taking that risk and there was some difference of opinion between you and your wife. Did you ever contemplate that it might lead to the end of your marriage? Did you sense that the risk might be that involved?

Eric:                          Yeah, absolutely. At that time my marriage was rocky anyway because financial instability tends to wreak havoc on relationships – or at least it did mine.

Gene:                        I think it’s the number one cause of divorce, actually.

Greg:                        Yeah.

Eric:                          Yeah. So she wasn’t real thrilled with what was going on to begin with, and then to try to get her buy-in on, “Well, I’m just going to work on my computer for a living,” was really a hard sell. What helped me was by pointing out that the stability that she was seeking in a “job” was not very stable, as evidenced by me losing my job in the mortgage space.

I had that stability and the rug got pulled out from under me, so maybe this was an opportunity for me to create my own stability. With that, ultimately… I don’t know if she ever, officially, bought into it, but she’s, in hindsight, sure happy now that she did.

Greg:                        The Lexus helped, probably. Oh, that was me. Gene’s fired a lot of people over his career…

Gene:                        Yeah.

Greg:                        …from industries in a similar fashion, where they’re sort of forced out of an environment that they’re in. A lot of times they often come out the other end much stronger and more committed to something else that’s a better fit.

Gene:                        I think that’s true for a lot, certainly not all people. Some people were in jobs that they got lucky to get into and so when they lose that job they are not going to replace that with anything better.

I think for most people who are talented and who have ambition in life, they, quite often, end up in a job – and this does not sound like this is the case when the whole industry turns down – quite often people end up in jobs that are not an ideal match for them.

In those scenarios they may not want to take on the risk of quitting and trying to find something else, but if they’re working in a job they’re not very well suited for, there’s certainly a much higher chance they’re going to be let go.

But, when they are let go, it is an opportunity for them to find a job that’s a lot more suitable to where their talents and their interests lies. When they do, it quite often ends up being much better for them. I think the story I’ve told…a couple years back I was visiting Dallas and I had lunch with one guy that I fired from one company, and then dinner with a different guy I fired from a different company.And they were both happy to meet up with me and chit-chat with no ill feelings, because they were both in better situations a year later than they were in the time when I had to fire them.

Greg:                        What I found interesting in your earlier answer, Eric, is that your perspective now is really fully committed to opportunities on the Web, so there must be something that’s a great fit about that for you because you’ve not gone back to mortgages and said, “Let’s figure out how to make the mortgage industry change by changing it to fit the Internet,” or whatever may be.

You’re really focused on this area in your life. Why do you think it’s a good fit for you?

Eric:                          I heard early on that the average number of careers in a person’s lifetime is three. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but in my case it absolutely has been true. Mortgage was my second career, this is my third.

What I really enjoy about what I do now is how intricate it is, and how fluid it is, and how ever-changing it is, because we’re at the very cusp of evolution as things change, as Google refines their algorithms, and so forth, and what worked a month ago, six weeks ago, and what were considered best practices in digital marketing then have evolved and are different today.

My job is, really, to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on now and to make adjustments accordingly on behalf of our many clients that put their faith into us. I really get a kick out of doing something with my computer and having it benefit my client.

So, that when someone searches for a service or a product in Google and my client is on the first page, at the very top of the page, and they’re growing their business as a direct results of our efforts, that’s really rewarding.

Gene:                        I find that interesting that you said you actually like the changes in your particular industry because it’s engaging. Have you considered that those changes, the Google constantly updating their algorithms, do you think that makes your industry more successful? Because things are constantly changing, so people need to update and adapt to those changes.

Eric:                          I become more necessary, right? Ours is a recession-proof industry because the Web is where it’s at, no one’s going to phone books anymore to find their local barber, or a plumber, or a restaurant, it’s all web-based. As a business, you either have an online presence or you have a failing business, so we’ve become extremely necessary.

As evidence, it’s an interesting side note, one of our clients recently had a bit of a fall-out internally and they lost 90%…the way that they were generating their revenue was lost. I actually they were going to cancel our service. Instead, they doubled down, which I thought was really brave and forward-thinking of them.

They actually increased their campaign in light of the financial downturn that they had and so I think that’s representative of what a lot of businesses think – is that we have to invest in the Web. What’s the alternative?

Certainly, you could buy a billboard, but I think the Web is really where it’s at.

Gene:                        I have a…I guess it’s a must-ask question, because you’re the guy for that topic. Bing versus Google – why is Bing still around – and are they worth advertising on?

Eric:                          I would say, to answer the last question first, there’s certainly some value in advertising on Bing. Google obviously has market share by a long shot. When we optimize for our clients, we optimize for Google exclusively, and whatever happens with Bing and Yahoo is just sort of icing on the cake.

There’s still an audience for Bing and Yahoo, but it tends to be – I hope I don’t get myself in trouble here – but it tends to somewhat generational.

Gene:                        I was going to ask about that. Maybe it’s actually a benefit because you can say that ads targeting people in their 60s all go to Bing, predominantly because it’s where [overlapping] [00:18:35]

Eric:                          I wouldn’t say all of them, but yeah, a larger portion of them. If you were targeting Millenials you’d be on Google and, moreover, Snapchat, as opposed to Facebook. So there is a generational component to this stuff.

Greg:                        I found it interesting that you said that things are changing every six weeks, because we probably, about six weeks ago, had an SEO company on, as well. It’s been awhile. There are, definitely, some things you’re doing differently.

We’re going to go to break now, but when we come back we’re going to find out what makes Sachs Marketing Group one of the leading SEO companies in America.

Announcer:              This segment is brought to you by the Sales Builder System, the innovative 12-part system for improving your company’s sales process. Check out for more information.

Greg:                        We’re back with Sachs Marketing Group, with Eric Sachs. We were talking earlier about being on the Internet and the fact that no one’s using the phone. I got the phonebook delivered yesterday, by the way. Do you still get that?

Eric:                          I probably take it from wherever it’s in – the little bag – and put it directly in the recycled bin.

Greg:                        That’s what I did, too.

Eric:                          I’m not sure that’s a worthwhile investment for anybody.

Greg:                        Unbelievable.

Gene:                        Do they have to keep making them? I mean, shouldn’t there be an opt-out of the thing, or something?

Greg:                        I don’t know.

Gene:                        I’ve thrown away for the last, at least 10 years without looking at it.

Greg:                        We could save the environment if we would stop…

Gene:                        Whatever. Somebody’s obviously making money on this so they’re still doing it, but…

Eric:                          That’s the thing. People are buying ads, so as long as people buy ads, they’ll keep printing them? Who looks at the phonebook?

Greg:                        Of all the audience out there, we’re definitely not on the leading edge to say, “Bad idea – yellow page’s ads.”

Gene:                        I think it’s been a bad idea for at least 10, maybe 15 years.

Eric:                          Unless you’re advertising for your retirement community. People who are in that age demographic might still [overlapping] [00:20:31].

Gene:                        I suppose if…

Greg:                        Does your mom?

Gene:                        Yeah, I can’t imagine.

Eric:                          No, I…

Gene:                        His mom’s like our age, dude.

Greg:                        His mom is not our age.

Gene:                        Well, close. At least 10 years.

[laughter] [00:20:43]

Gene:                        You’re not that young, Greg.

Greg:                        [laughs] [00:20:44] Maybe I should ask my parents if they use the phonebook. What is the newest thing in SEO, though, Eric? What are you guys doing now that’s unique?

Eric:                          WiFi enabled vehicles, with ads, in cars. You’re going to be driving along and you’re going to pass a Subway sandwich shop and something’s going to pop up on your screen for $4 off for a foot-long sub.

Gene:                        I’ve had that happen. That is so annoying. But, I have totally had that happen.

Greg:                        They’re also going to advertise free yoga mats because that’s what they make their bread out of, so you get them both at the same time. Not a sponsor at this point.

Gene:                        We’re going to sued for that.

Greg:                        At one point there was a yoga mat chemical, but I’m sure it’s changed.

Gene:                        A yoga mat chemical.

Greg:                        In the bread in the Subway buns.

Gene:                        What?

Greg:                        The yoga mat chemical was in the…

Gene:                        What is the yoga chemical? How do they make a chemical out of yoga mats?

Greg:                        No, the chemical used to make yoga mats…

Gene:                        There are a lot of chemicals used to make yoga mats.

Greg:                        …should I be needed to clarify…

Gene:                        I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Eric:                          I think we’re getting off subject, guys.

Greg:                        Yeah. So you’re driving along in your car, Eric, and you get an advertisement for a yoga mat…I mean a Subway sandwich.

Gene:                        Oh my God. [overlapping] [00:21:58]

Eric:                          We’re becoming more mobile. Everyone’s got a Smartphone, everyone’s got a tablet, and now cars… So, that’s kind of where we’re headed. There’ll always be desktop computers, certainly, but Google, not long ago implemented a mobile-friendly algorithm, and now if you’re website is not optimized for every screen size, you’re not going to be found very much. That’s kind of where we’re headed.

You asked two questions, one was what are we doing different, or I think it was, maybe, how are we differentiating ourselves, but certainly where we’re headed is very much mobile-based.

Gene:                        That makes a lot of sense. Does that affect your overall strategy, or does that affect the specific segment of the market that you’re strategizing for? Is mobile something…I guess my question is is there anything the people aren’t using for mobile for forsearching?

Eric:                          We could have another conversation about generation because there is certainly a generation that’s not using mobile, but if you’re under, gosh, I don’t know, 50ish, you’re probably using some mobile device, whether it’s your phone or you bought a new car that’s WiFi-enabled. You may not intentionally use it, but it just sort of happens.

Like someone said that an ad kept popping up and it was annoying. You didn’t intend to do that. It’s just the wave of the future.

There’s new technology now for…have you seen the VR goggles, virtual reality goggles?

Gene:                        Yes.

Eric:                          Not just as a gaming system, but you can now shop at Nordstrom from home using your VR goggles and, figuratively, walk around the store and pick up items and decide to purchase them from your house. It’s getting kind of crazy.

Greg:                        That’s an interesting step, because I’ve always seen the online space as lacking that, so if you add in the virtual reality component…I guess you could add in music. Smell may be the last thing to come across.

Gene:                        Taste.

Greg:                        Well, smell and taste [overlapping] [00:24:16]

Eric:                          I wouldn’t be surprised[overlapping] [00:24:18], you know?

Gene:                        Very attractive sales assistants.

Greg:                        They could be in the VR, right?

Eric:                          It’s [overlapping] [00:24:22].

Greg:                        That’s what I mean.

Gene:                        Oh, so they would all be very attractive.

Greg:                        Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I mean, because you only use one set of people for the whole country [overlapping] [00:24:30] Nordstrom.

Gene:                        One attractive set of people.

Greg:                        It might be the same person.

Gene:                        That’s what I mean. I set of…

Greg:                        Cameron Dias would be serving you all the…I’m a very old to be saying Cameron Dias.

Gene:                        Yeah, you are an old man if you…

Greg:                        Like, Brittany…no, not Brittany Spears. Nothing against Cameron Dias. Let’s not insult anybody now.

[overlapping] [00:24:45]

Greg:                        I still like her, still a lot.It used to be Madonna. I had the Madonna poster in college.

Eric:                          Ahh.

Gene:                        Yeah, I don’t know who that is.

Greg:                        She’s the Mother of Jesus.

Gene:                        Brittany’s grandmother? That’s awesome.

Greg:                        Madonna’s the Mother of Jesus, don’t insult her, please.

The VR experience is pretty neat that it allows that… I guess we’re off topic there.

Gene:                        Let me talk about something other than SEO. Your company is a marketing agency. Do you do phone marketing, do you just do SEO, and how big are you guys?

Eric:                          We do. We handle anything under the digital umbrella, whether that’s search engine optimization, SEO, SEM – which is search engine marketing, which refers to Google AdWords, and paid ads, social media development, as well as web design.

If you come to us as a business just starting out and you need a website, and you need full social media, and branding, and SEO, we can handle anything that’s digital.

In terms of how large we are – we’ve been around just under seven years. Large by employee size, by revenue…? I’m not sure how to answer that.

Gene:                        Whatever you would consider size [overlapping] [00:26:04].

Greg:                        Gene does a lot of company audits, so he would love for you to just reveal everything in your books now.We’ll go over operating capital, and…

Eric:                          We’re growing exponentially year after year. The Inc5000 thing was last year and they measure growth rate. We’re a few million dollar a year company, from one employee working in my house at night to now…I think we’re at 19 or 20 employees – and about $3 million annually in gross revenue.

Greg:                        You make a big case for the fact that you do not outsource offshore at all…all your employees…You even have the American flag on the – Gene might appreciate this – the American flag on one of your cartoony ads on the web site.

Eric:                          The digital marketing space is largely outsourced to other countries. Not to knock outsourcing…

Gene:                        Oh, feel free.

Eric:                          I’ll try to tell you a little anecdotal story. I hope I don’t take too much time. About two-and-a-half years into the business… Keep in mind I didn’t have a business plan, a marketing plan, I had no idea. I was just doing it to survive and then it sort of evolved. I didn’t plan it out very well. I just made decisions that I thought made the most sense.

To me it made sense if someone was going to pay me to do some work, it made sense for me to do that work. I didn’t even think to send it somewhere else to be done. I just thought I need to do it. If I’m too busy to do it, I need to hire someone to help me do it. That was my mindset going in.

About two-and-a-half years into the business we were contacted by our merchant provider who runs all of our American Express, and Visa, and so forth. He said, “Eric, aren’t you a SEO firm?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “But you’ve never had a charge back,” meaning none of my clients had ever disputed a charge.

Gene:                        Wow. Very unusual

Greg:                        That’s incredible.

Eric:                          I didn’t think it’s that big a deal. I thought it just made…yeah, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? He said, “Yeah, that’s great, but we have a ton of other SEO firms on our books and all of them, without exception, regularly charge back month-after-month, so what are you doing different?” Honestly, I didn’t know. I had no idea.

But, I wanted to find out so I started doing research. I did a lot of competitive analysis and I met a lot of people, and I found that there’s a kind of standard… Certainly not all of my competitors, I don’t mean to disparage all SEO firms, but there is a real common approach in the digital marketing space that’s based largely on client acquisition.

There’s usually a call center, and you bring clients in, the pitch is “Hey, we’ll get you to the first page of Google in 90 days.” Then you outsource the work to another country like Pakistan, India, or Philippines, where the economy’s so different – it’s pennies on the dollar – so it’s a very profitable model. Then, if they leave after 90 days, that’s fine. You’re just going to replace them with new people that you promised 90 days to. So, it’s about a 90 day retention based on client acquisition kind of a model, and it’s really profitable because of the outsourcing.

Ours is completely different, not because I wanted to be different, but because I had no idea that model existed. It’s probably a good thing, because that’s probably what I would have done had I known.

So instead, I did the work myself. I hired people to help me; I was really transparent and honest, and set very realistic expectations. I would never tell a client 90 days because I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know what’s going to happen in 90 days.

We, to this day, don’t have a call center or a sales guy. All of our clients come through me, the CEO, and we just do really good work. We don’t require contracts with our clients, so they can leave at any time.

Gene:                        That’s interesting and one that I’ve never heard of, that I can think of, at least companies I work with or talk to. Do you mean even on month one…like someone could just say, “Give me a month, and I’ll see what I think of the work you do.”

Eric:                          Yeah. It’s never happened. But, yeah, technically they could leave at any time.

Gene:                        You’ve never heard of this Greg?

Greg:                        No one I’ve talk to that offered SEO, or that I’ve used SEO…

Eric:                          Our first client ever, that guy seven years ago [overlapping] [00:30:19].

Gene:                        Oh, SEO. I was going to say… I’m chiming in because that’s essentially what I do for my consulting.

Greg:                        I’m not talking about all business in the world. I’m not to saving I go to 7-Eleven and buy milk and they’re, like, “Thanks for signing the contract. You going to buy milk here every day for the next six months?” I just mean in terms of SEO companies, it’s definitely very common.

I get it. There’s some amount of time it takes, maybe it’s 30 days, maybe it’s 90, but what protection does a… The first company to do the website– I say company loosely – dude… Dude I met that did the website for Dolphin, I didn’t have the option a month in to say, “Well, your work sucks,” but that was, maybe, my conclusion.

It’s not that you should expect results in 30 days, by any means, but at least that’s giving someone an opportunity to say, “Okay, I’ve seen the work you’ve done in the first 30 days and here’s what I think of it. I’m continuing, or not.”

Eric:                          I think it’s really important. I don’t want to lock somebody in contractually to pay us month-after-month if they’re not happy and if they’re not experiencing return. I’m confident enough in what we offer because we’re not outsourcing, because we’re doing the work in-house, under our roof, we have complete control of the quality of work that’s being done.

I know that we’re good at what we do and that our clients grow their business as a result of our efforts, so it makes sense that they’ve stayed with us as long as they have.

Here we are at year seven. Still, we’ve not had a single charge back. We don’t have a single negative review on any online [indiscernible] [00:31:58]. You can’t find anything bad about us and it’s because we really bend over backwards to service our clients and make sure that they’re growing their business. It’s a formula that’s working.

Gene;                        So, you’re not doing reputation management to delete all the bad publicity.

Eric:                          No, you know…

Greg:                        They offer that service, apparently, but they may have done their own.

Eric:                          It’s a really good point because our online reputation is almost suspect, I would offer, because there is not anything negative. It looks a little good to be true. I almost want somebody to go on Yelp and say that I took two hours to return their call, or something negative, because I get it. I know that it looks like we’re developing online reputation fictitiously, but that’s absolutely not the case.

What we’ve done is we’ve partnered with, for example…Trustpilotis sort of industry standard for online reputation because it’s really, really difficult to do a fake review on Trustpilot. If you get a negative review on Trustpilot, there’s no way to remove it. We’ve decided to use Trustpilot as our main review aggregate or source, to show that we really do have…

To prospective new clients we’ll give phone numbers. You’re welcome to call our existing past clients and so it’s actually true. It’s not smoke and mirrors.

Greg:                        I want to get into some of the mechanics of what it is that you do. I found it interesting on your site – on the very first page…I guess what I would assume is the call-to-action button… Of course it says award-winning SEO company for any size business, but I guess the call-to-action is “Be Happy.”

Eric:                          Yeah. It’s a little experiment that we’re running. If you read the “Be Happy” section, it’s really just an overview of how we got started.

Greg:                        I’m clicking now. I’ve decided I want to be happy…actually just decided. Go ahead.

Eric:                          In a nutshell, it just tells a story. One day I met a guy who was complaining that no one could find his website and he wasn’t happy. I told him I could help him and I did, and he was happy. Then he referred me to people, and then they were happy. If you want to be happy, give us your name and your number and we’ll call you.

It’s a really simple message, and I think it’s kind of cute artwork, somewhat reminiscent to TheGiving Tree, if you guys are familiar with that book. We sort of patterned the artwork after that.

Gene:                        Absolutely. That’s terrific.

Greg:                        No idea. Gene, of course…

Gene:                        Yeah, of course. Greg doesn’t really read.

Greg:                        Oh my God, I do read. I do read some things.

Gene:                        Sports Illustrated, baby.

Greg:                        No, I don’t read that. There’s nothing to read. It’s called “Illustrated,” Sports Illustrated. What’s there to read?

Eric:                          Aaaand, we’re off the rails again.

Gene:                        I only read things that are online, because I’m a new-ageMillineal-era person.

Greg:                        That’s right.

Gene:                        I read the phonebook, myself. But that’s just me.

Greg:                        That’s kind of a test, but certainly the use of an emotional word, that must be consistent with some strategies that you guys use in other campaigns or with other companies.

Eric:                          Yeah, down to the colors. Nothing is a guess. There’s color theory that goes into web design. That burnt orange color that you see is the best converting color on the web. If you look at PayPal, or Amazon, or any other major e-commerce site you’ll see that same color.

There’s a method to the madness, if you will. Because we don’t have a sales staff, we don’t do any outbound, we, literally, wait for our phone to ring, and it does. It rings off the hook. It rings because we get a lot of referral business and because our website generates a lot of business for us.

Greg:                        So that’s a good sign if an SEO company uses SEO to get business. How do you find the clients that aren’t in Los Angeles?

Eric:                          They don’t visit us, first of all, so that’s one of our differentiators. Because we have an office, and because we have people here doing the work, we love hosting meetings with our clients to come in and see us, and meet us, and see what we’re doing. Generally, the clients that we have on the East coast, or Virginia – we have several clients there – we have some clients, really, all across the Nation, but they typically don’t show up in our office. That’s really the difference.

Greg:                        You also have an area on your website entitled Social Media Development. I guess that’s doing social media work. I’m [indiscernible] [00:36:21] about the word “development.” What are you doing in social media work? This is the age-ending question we’re always asking. Where does social media work and where does it not?

Eric:                          What we do is a bunch of different stuff. We do very traditional social media development which involves us managing our clients social channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, in some cases, LinkedIn – really, whatever is applicable for their particular market, or their product, or their service.

We’re building their brand on social channels. We’re building their fan base. Getting people to like their page or follow them on Twitter, or on Instagram, or link up with them on LinkedIn. Then we’re putting content in front of their audience that would resonate with their audience in an effort to drive revenue for our clients.

That’s really traditional social media development. Build the brand, build the fan base, engage with your audience via social channels. Then we do some outside-the-box social media development, as well.

We work with what we call influencers. Influencers are people that have an existing audience that’s attentive to the content that they share on their social channels. If we have a restaurant, for example, that sells, let’s say, Vegan food, here locally, and we can connect with, and collaborate with an online influencer in the food space who has an existing audience that’s attentive, we can leverage that to drive his or her audience into our client’s restaurant.

Greg:                        How do you convince the influencer to work with you?

Eric:                          A bunch of different ways. Certainly we’re not above “paying to play,” so money does change hands. In some instances the influencer is smitten by the product or the service and they’re willing to do it gratis.

In some cases we make our own influencers from [indiscernible] [00-38:24]. Ninety-ish percent of what you see on the Web is maybe not exactly what it seems. So that person that you’re communicating with is saying you should try out this particular product or service, may not be a real person, may be managed by a team.

Greg:                        I think you’re being generous with 90%.

Gene:                        Because your cynical.Let me ask you a question that is a little more challenging assumptions, I guess. What do you guys…

Greg:                        That was a pretty good one, by the way. He just unveiled…took the covers off.

Gene:                        That was, actually, pretty good.

Greg:                        Now you want the panties off, too?

Gene:                        That’s right. What do you guys not do? If somebody comes to you and they want to do a lot of marketing, what do you either outsource or what do you recommend somebody else for them to go use?

Eric:                          We wouldn’t outsource anything. If it’s not in our wheelhouse, we would suggest they find somebody else. It’s anything offline. We’re not a PR firm, we’re not arranging trunk shows for people, we’re not arranging speaking events, we don’t do any type of offline public relations related work.

Greg:                        Some businesses are a better fit for that?

Eric:                          I would say yes.

Greg:                        What would that be?

Eric:                          Clothing lines, they need to get Carrie Underwood to wear their blouse and walk around at a party and take pictures of her. We’re not going to call Carrie’s people. That would be an offline effort.

Gene:                        Okay. Presumably, the same thing with traditional media – TV ads, radio ads, that kind of thing?

Eric:                          That’s not in our wheelhouse. You’re absolutely…radio, TV, billboards, bus stop advertising. If it’s on the Web, we’re the resource for it, and if it’s not on the Web, we would try to fit you with somebody else that would be better suited to help.

Gene:                        Do you have partners that you typically work with on that, or do you just not get to ask those questions very often?

Eric:                          Yeah, on a case-by-case, but the vast majority of the people that come to us really come to us for digital. It’s clear that’s what we do. Sometimes there’s some crossover. A client maybe designed a new product and there’s first to market, so they’ve got the burden of education to let people know this product exists.

So we’re doing our best in terms of the website and the social media, building the audience, building brand awareness on the Web.But maybe they need some additional, like an infomercial, or maybe a billboard. It’s really not our area of expertise.

Gene:                        Right. The video aspect opens up another question, which is if it is online, so you’re going to want videos for…whether it’s YouTube, for the SEO in YouTube, or their website in general, do you guys do video production, or do you also recommend somebody else for them to do that?

Eric:                          I have two partnerships in place. I guess you could call that outsourcing, but not really because they’re local. I have one partnership in place for what we call “explainer videos,” which are oftentimes either cartoons or a whiteboard-type of video where someone’s drawing as there’s a voice-over. We do those.

We also do actual video where a film crew shows up and you’ve got a script, you’ve got sound, you’ve got lighting, and so forth. There are both types of videos on our website. We have resources for that, but we don’t actually do them ourselves.

Greg:                        For people out there that are looking for what marketing works well, if you could give an avatar, if you want to call it that, give me a couple examples of a type of company – even a specific example – of a company that’s good for SEO versus good for social media versus video marketing, or something like that.

Eric:                          I would say if it’s good for SEO, then it’s going to be good for social media and video marketing, because it’s all sort of the Web. If the company is a good match for web-based marketing, then that’s going to encompass both SEO and social media.

There’s a crossover that exists today between what happens on social media and what happens in search results that didn’t always exist. It’s relatively new. There’s a concept that if your friends like something, there’s a good chance you might like it, too.

If you’re connected to people on social channels and your activity may actually influence what they see when they search for stuff in Google, believe it or not.

Greg:                        How does that connection, then? Are you saying…which influences the other?

Eric:                          Let’s say you and I are friends on Facebook and Twitter, and we follow each other on Instagram, and we’re in each other’s Google Plus Circles, and I’m shopping for, let’s say, a classic car and I find a website that I really like and I share it on my social channel, like people typically do.

Six months from now you decide to look for a car and you do a search, there’s a good chance, assuming you’re logged in and we’re connected, that the website I shared today will be on your search results a few months from now when you do a search.

It’s a function of how social media has really bled into the SEO space.

Greg:                        That’s not a bleed from an organic result, that’s a bleed of some sort of data connection, right?

Eric:                          Yeah, it’s the fact that you’re logged in – and keep in mind, you have to be logged into your Google account. A lot of people are when they do searches. If you use Chrome as a browser, for example, most people will be logged into their Gmail account, and if we’re connected through Google Plus, then that’s how that connection occurs. I guess you’d call it somewhat organic.

We’ve sort of strayed from the question. My point is that if someone is a good fit for us, they are a good fit for social media development, as well, and video, as well. In terms of what types of companies, gosh, I would say almost every type of company that either sells a product or offers a service.

We will work with pretty much any company. There’s a couple markets that we won’t work in – gambling and the adult entertainment industry – is not somewhere where we’ll go as a firm. Other than that…

We have some niches that we’ve developed, sort of organically. We didn’t necessarily intend to specialize in a particular market, but we have a ton of clients in the drug/alcohol treatment space, maybe because of our proximity to Malibu and a lot of them are in Malibu. I’m not really sure how that happened.

Greg:                        [laughs] [00:45:14] Well, okay.

Eric:                          And some others – some home improvement, we have some attorneys, doctors. Our book of business is pretty representative of a ton of different types of industries…shipping companies. The list goes on.

Greg:                        Again, one thing I’d say that I thought was unique at the top is that you guys at least advertise that you…any sort of size company…you guys are interested in and work with those types of companies. How low does that price get? If someone’s like a solopreneur – one person company – or a very small company, is there a price range for them, too, or is there a limit to that?

Eric:                          Yes there’s a price range, and yes there’s a limit. That’s evolved. When we started out it was “Gosh, we need business. We’ll take anybody.” As we become more successful, we become a little bit more selective about the clients that we’ll work with.

At the same time, I try not to turn anyone away. At the point I’m turning someone away, it’s because their budget is such that I know that I’m going to need more resources to be able to be successful for them. They’re offering $200 a month, let’s say, and I know that it’s just going to cost more than that.

So rather than take their $200 a month, knowing they’re going to cancel in 90 days because they’re upset with me, I’d rather just have them a little irritated that I’m turning them away now, than angry with me 90 days from now when they’ve spent $600, now, and they haven’t gotten anything for that money.

Greg:                        What do you think the biggest mistake people make when they look at doing SEO for their company is? Or doing social media for their company, for that matter.

Eric:                          There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. We sort of alluded to that when I was talking about the standard approach to help marketing companies market their services. There’s a lot of deception and lies and misrepresentations. I would say the mistake that people make is not fully vetting, or fully making sure that the company that they’re going to be partnering with is really able to do what they say they can do. It’s just really unfortunate.

It’s been my goal, and if you follow me on any of my social channels, or follow our blog, there’s a common thread, and that’s to try to bring some integrity to this space that’s so lacking that. I can’t do it all on my own. I do the best I can.

Gene:                        I think your growth is a testament to your doing it. [chuckle] [00:47:49]

Greg:                        That’s a problem we see. It’s bold and brave of you to say, “I’m in an industry that lacks integrity and doing the best I can in that space,” and passionate for it.

Eric, it’s been great having you on and learning about, really, how companies can better evaluate what they’re doing in Internet and digital marketing, and thanks again for being on the show.

Eric:                          Thanks for having me, guys. It was a great time and thanks for listening to the story. I really appreciate it.

Greg:                        Thanks so much. That was Challenge Assumptions.

Announcer:              As always, the Challenge Assumptions podcast has been brought to you by Dolphin Consulting. Whether you need to improve your operation’s efficiency, or grow your revenue, visit today.

Please don’t forget to subscribe to the show via iTunes and like us on Facebook. Until next time, remember to challenge assumptions.

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