How To Survive As Local Business For Over 20 Years By Embracing New Marketing Strategies
You know Bob Brennan as the co-host to Local SEO Tactics. What many don’t know is Bob’s history as a successful brick-and-mortar business owner over the last 20+ years. For episode 30 of Local SEO Tactics, Jesse interviews Bob Brennan, discussing what it takes to survive as a business for over 20 years, and how continuing to seek out and embrace new marketing technologies can help grow your small business.
- Insights into what it takes to persevere in small business with an ever changing marketing landscape
- How inbound or “pull” marketing is so much more powerful and outbound or “push marketing
- Contrasting the traditional marketing techniques like direct mail, versus newer digital methods
- Focusing on SEO and digital marketing costs substantially less than cold calling, direct mail, and appointment setting
- Business owners need to shift their marketing to become a “service based business”
- Using digital marketing allows for very low cost test marketing to see if your ideas will fly or not
- It’s much easier for a local small business to open an online store with today’s eCommerce technology
- Local businesses can leverage technology to provide value and services that competitors are not
- What are the basic inbound marketing metrics that a business owner can easily pay attention to
- Developing a customer service script can help your team to convert more first time callers into customers
- Make sure you are researching your competitors to see what they are offering and how they handle new customers
Here is a preview of the transcription from Episode 30 Interview of Local SEO Tactics Co-Host Bob Brennan – The Ever Changing Marketing Landscape;
Jesse: This is Local SEO Tactics, where each week we’re bringing you tips and tricks to help you get found online, and this week, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to put Bob under the hot lights here. Bob’s been doing local service business for over 20 years here. We’re just gonna kinda dissect his brain, talk about local SEO, local marketing, and things that are really important from a business owner perspective. So, I think you guys will really enjoy this. Check it out.
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Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics. Jesse Dolan here with Bob Brennan. And this week we’re gonna kind of change it up a little bit. I’m actually gonna interview Bob. I don’t know if anybody has paid attention to some previous episodes. Bob still has brick and mortar businesses that we operate here in Minneapolis, Twin Cities area.
And we’re gonna kind of dissect some of that here today, ask Bob some questions and talk about local SEO tactics, quite frankly, and frame that up against the bigger marketing backdrop of everything you can do for a business, and just share with you guys some of this insight. We want you to know we’re not just some local SEO dudes, or internet marketing dudes up here, kind of spouting out knowledge, regurgitating it. We put this into practice every single day.
We’ll just kind of kick this off, rolling back the clock. How long have you been poking stuff?
Bob: I’ve been in sales, pretty much one form or the other, all my life. My dad had a small business, and that’s kind of where I picked up on a little bit of customer service. And then throughout my life, I’ve held different jobs, and mowed lawns as a kid, just the usual stuff to make a buck for a middle class kid, or what have you.
So, but I didn’t get into owning my own business exclusively … I had a small landscape construction business back in the late ’80s, and didn’t get into this business until, gosh, it was probably ’91, ’92. A friend of mine approached me and said, “Hey, what do you do in the winter?” And I was going to school. And they said, “Hey, I got this great gig on the side, you can go sell re-inked printer ribbons.”
Jesse: That’s old school.
Bob: Yeah, it is old school. Yeah, you would go to businesses, collect their spent ribbons. We’d send them off to somebody. They would reverse spool them, add ink, and it was a huge savings. And then unfortunately, the defect rate was probably off the hook. So, over time, that kinda dried up, and then it went into toner cartridges. And then that all evolved from there.
Jesse: Right. So back, you said early, mid ’90s, Google wasn’t exactly a big thing back then like it is now, right?
Bob: Right. Right.
Jesse: Just spend a minute or two, real quick, what was the marketing landscape at that point in time?
Bob: Yeah. So I mean, the big thing to do … email was a form of communication much like, let’s say, Facebook Messenger is today, or texting even is, to some degree, the way I looked at it. You only emailed, one, if you had an email, right? And then, from there it wasn’t really … it was kind of the cutting edge. It wasn’t really … So we’re talking ’95. It wasn’t a real avant-garde type thing. It was strictly for communication.
So, if you were to do any marketing, it was really knocking on doors, or it was cold calling over the phone, and then direct mail or letters or sales letters, and you would follow up on those, but you did it consistently. So, my goal when starting out my business was probably getting 50 or 80 letters out a day and trying to follow up on those three days later, or two days later, and then following up on that. And so then you had CRM database, like Act!, and some other stuff to, to really kind of grow your business. And that was probably the most effective way to do it. It was a grind. It wasn’t fun. But it worked.
Jesse: You had to get in front of people, get your message across. Instead of knocking on doors and sending out letters and following up on the phone. And that was before snail mail was coined snail mail cause it was just straight up mail at that point cause email was just kinda taking off. I’ve been working with Bob since, since these 90s here, so I kinda know some of these answers, but I’ll kinda load it, right? I’ll see this a little bit to faxing, direct faxing.
Running that sucker all night long.
And so, my kinda point for asking some of those questions is, that’s a lot of labor intensive stuff there for marketing.
Bob: And costs too.
Jesse: And costs. And it’s really, you know, 20 years ago, in some ways, not a long time ago, some ways, I mean, generations ago, quite literally, with technology here. So I wanna kinda step forward a little bit, obviously, at some point in time technology started advancing, emails became more mainstream, if you will. How did the marketing kinda evolved from there? It’s still big telemarketing bank, direct mail …
Bob: Yeah, we don’t … At this time we don’t do any telemarketing. I should say what telemarketing we’re doing is very sniper. I mean, I, I do most of the calls and some of the staff here call, but they make maybe 10, 20 calls a day, but it’s much more effective call to an email response that they’ve given us, or an inquiry they’ve given us. So now you have what we call more pull marketing where before we’re pushing. So, anybody who wanna buy flowers, “Hey, you wanna buy flowers? You wanna buy flowers?” Well, this is, this is different. This is, somebody’s going to the internet, and their, their searching for florist, cause they’ve gotten to fight with their wife or, or what have you. So, that’s, that’s really how its evolved. It’s, it’s pull marketing.
Jesse: So as, you know, sales manager and owner, and sales person kinda wearing all those hats on any, any given year. Can you kinda contrast that, that pull marketing where, versus the push marketing as far as, as a business owner kinda speaking our audience out there? So, a lot of people still … We talked to a lot of people there. I don’t know. I don’t know if internet stuff. I’m kinda out there and we’re getting plenty of business …
Bob: No, and I think, as a business owner, I’ve got an ample size ego, and so, if somebody says, “Hey, are you making enough money or whatever? I’m ready for the other foot to drop.” And I’m gonna say, “Yeah, I’m making enough money. That’s all word of mouth. Everybody loves me, or whatever.” And I think that’s just a defense mechanism. Yeah, we’re a word of mouth business. Okay, great, but really, that’s not gonna cut it, because the next recession that comes along, your customers, probably they’ll love you, but, if they’re not in business, or they, they can’t order as much, then what are you gonna do?
And I, as a business owner for 27 years, you’ve always got to have a plan B, just like in life. I mean, you just … You, you don’t put all your investments in one company. Apple’s a great company, but, somebody else comes along with something different, you’re, you’re stuck, right? So, I mean, that’s, that’s pretty much how it’s changed. It’s, it’s one of those things where, for the most part, you’ve gotta get out, you’ve gotta promote, you’ve gotta begin to learn and understand Facebook, you’ve gotta understand Google, you’ve gotta … It’s a digital age. That’s how we communicate today.
Jesse: Sure. So, so if we go back to those old days. I’m making some guesses, but what was important? Things that, 80 letters a day going out, right? Booking X appointments a day, you have any other like quick metrics you can kinda recall that were important on the dashboard back then?
Bob: Yeah, I mean, you would you do A/B testing with different, different letters, but, that would take weeks sometimes to figure out, and thousands of dollars, right? Cause postage is postage. It’s, it’s expensive. I remember cash. We were spending $3,000 a month on postage, right? Just different direct mail, and that’s before you get into anything else, envelopes-
Jesse: This is local business that can do it, it’s not a national campaign.
Bob: No, no, no. No, no.
Jesse: Couple o’ suburbs, only too.
Bob: $3,000 a month and my poor wife’s like, “Yeah, we don’t … We can barely afford groceries.” Right? But we got postage to pay for marketing.
Jesse: We gotta do what we gotta do, right? Type of the things. So, I mean, that’s, that’s some of those dynamics. Another dynamic there is, you’re trying to do all the right things. It costs money to experiment. And just to do A/B testing, and it’s, it’s a form of gambling, essentially. So if you could fast forward kinda some of that, some of the important metrics, some of the … How do you do the testing, things like that. Nowadays, it’s all digital, right?
Yeah, I mean, we’re kind of skipping over a little bit where email really came into play, don’t have to do as much direct mail, you can try to email people, it’s kinda, involved for a long time. Things are … There’s all kinds of messaging nowadays. But today, running a sales team, running a business, what’s important. Obviously, you’re not sending out tons and tons of newsletters, tons of … I’m sorry, not saying out tons of mail pieces, making hundreds of phone calls, seeing 85 appointments happen whenever. What are some important metrics today as a business owner?
Bob: Well, there’s all kinds of important metrics, and, but there are some basics that I think every business owner has to understand. And that’s, that’s just … We were into measuring everything. And we’d literally measure our phone calls, listen to our phone calls. It becomes more and more predictable. And we can take those measurements, and if we wanna go into a different market, we can test that market with, with a website that we may or may not be in that market, but, you know if you’re getting X amount of calls a month, that will support a business location there.
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