Jeff is a life architect, owner of Creative Web Studios, and mentor to young entrepreneurs. Many people will tell you where to go, what to do and how to live, but there's a higher path and calling inside of you that only you can unearth. It's time to stop living by other people's scripts and expectations for your life and have your own awakening.
So let's talk about your marketing agency. How did you get started?
Sure. So I followed up a pretty typical entrepreneurial dream. If you're like me, you go to school, perhaps your parents tell you to go to college, or they want to push you to get some stable jobs somewhere. So I did all that I had a good run, I went to the University of North Florida, got my computer science degree, and quickly here in Jacksonville, Florida launched out into corporate working at a large municipality, so electric, water, wastewater, and there are about 2000 people there. I enjoyed it and had a pension plan to work there for 32 years get 80% of your salary for life. I rose to the top there in leadership and got an interim director position and I remember I had this epiphany one day I was in this old civil service looking wood panel building well maintained, but from like the 60s, and I just looked across the table and this awesome colleague, Richard was there. He was about seven years out from retirement, and he just made a marginal amount of money more than me. I was just like, dude, I gotta do this for like 25 more years, day after day, you know, do this 45-minute commute and I just realized it wasn't for me. So I had a computer science degree, I minored in graphic design so I had all this creativity. At that time, in 2005, websites were really starting to pop and they were kind of hard to build. So I started moonlighting on the side, and I hatched this little six-month plan in 2005 where I said I'll just give it a go for a year and if it works out great, and if it doesn't, I'll just hop back into corporate so boom, that independence, autonomy, that entrepreneurial dream, that's how I founded the agency back in 2005.
How did you set it up so that the business is running without your day-to-day involvement?
Yeah, so over time, and it's taken a while I just slowly fired myself from positions and for a few reasons. Some stuff I was never good at, I was pretty sloppy at the invoicing and collecting. Obviously, I ultimately did it, but you can really get that stuff on a machine and I'll have problems there. So that was an example of something as soon as I could get like the CPA help or like the accounts receivable help I did, but then other things just logically made sense. So I was going out on my own, and I sold five websites, and say, a site at the time took me 40 hours to code. Well, that's 200 hours just for the coding part of the site. So at that point, I really couldn't go in on any more business so I just saw certain stuff I had mastered and I was good at, it was time for someone else to do it. So slowly but surely I started to outsource stuff. Coding is pretty technical so you can outsource it and not have to worry about the language barrier. Then finally, I got to the point today where I love selling but different people do an amazing job at it so when leads come in, they do it. So I just slowly fired myself and changed my position and got to go into more of a leadership role, like giving back and helping others and doing some mentoring. So that's been the progression, fire yourself from things that you've mastered, like give someone else the opportunity and things that you're never good at, get those off your plate as soon as possible.
What are the biggest marketing mistakes that you see small businesses making?
What I find is business owners don't take into account everything that goes into their online presence. So a lot of times we might focus on redesigning the site, or we might be like, I want to show up for spine pain relief doctor so we'll launch a Google AdWords campaign and focus just on that. All those things are going to be great, the website should be up to par, Google text ads, Google AdWords can be a good route to go. But a lot of times, the practice owner doesn't take into account all the various ways that their practice may be found. Let's just say Jacksonville, Jackspinepain.com. Well, as a prospective patient, or someone doing research having been referred to them, I'm most likely not going to type in that domain name. So I'm going to Google like Jacksonville spine and pain center, maybe some variant of the doctor's name, and then that Google search results page is going to return and that's where it gets interesting. There are the maps listings, and there might be multiple locations for a bigger Medical Center and there are the reviews there, there are health grades where the doctors are listed, there are social media that comes up for them. So all these are potential avenues for your customers to find you and I find a lot of times businesses, you know, they'll really focus on trying to hit a home run with one area and not take into account the whole journey in having each of those pieces at least buttoned up or where to some degree. For doctors like reviews are super important and a lot of times in spine pain, perhaps it's a more elderly population so useability on the site. That's kind of how we like to guide people, take a comprehensive look at their online presence because a lot of times they think, "Oh, we're just gonna start posting on social it's gonna fix everything," or, "Oh, we just need to get some better reviews and we're don," and it doesn't work like that, no marketing works like that frankly.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
For sure, and it's actually going on right now. So last fall I started guesting on podcasts. I had some time to give back and talk about entrepreneurship, mentoring, marketing. So randomly I stumbled in this community and they're at podmax.co and they hosted this a virtual all-day event and as part of attending, you get to guest on three podcasts. So I find that the podcasting community, even what we're doing right now is really open-minded. Everybody's out to help each other, it's not competitive. You and I both run digital agencies but the chances of us stumbling on the same client and like pitching to the same people is slim to none. So I find that being a guest on a podcast, or in our case, we started our own and we are 20 episodes in right now, it's just been a wonderful way to connect with people, have conversations that we're already having kind of like you and I would talk about this if we weren't on a podcast. But being on a podcast really forces us to say it in a way that would be useful to the masses and be useful to your audience here. So I love podcasts for networking, I've gotten the most value out of that. I put one-second one on there, with the pandemic and people being so comfortable on zoom, having those virtual ones to ones has been really cool. People at times have been isolated, or you've always gone to like some physical conference and all the rigor more doing that and I find that getting a nice home office setup and getting the lighting good and virtual coffees have been really fun. So those are two things I've been knocking out a lot during the last six months and really meeting some cool people.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships?
So that's something we're figuring out now. Previously, I wasn't active on social media and didn't really have a reason to be. At the time, when I first put out that message on mentoring out there, I realized the power of social media. That's so funny, but I didn't have any need to build a personal brand or do anything like that and as part of this experience I did launch my own website and own brand. I really honed in on what I was about with entrepreneurship, with marketing with mentoring. Out of that I, you know, got on social and for me, I found that Facebook and LinkedIn have been awesome. So as I've guessed it on these podcasts, many times the guest or the host will produce a little video snippet, take out a high point, do a bunch of tagging and when we have guests on there, we do the same. So we'll get this little video snippet going, that pulls out the high point of their interview, tagged them up mentioned their thing that's going on, and a lot of times, they'll be shared on that network. So it's been really cool as we've met various guests, other marketing agency owners, ours is about growing your business. So it's really cool to bring out these stories and see them share it out on their network and we’re tagged in them.
What advice would you offer that professional who's really looking to grow their network?
Find something that works for you that you can sustain. Having launched our own podcast a couple of months ago and determining what networks to get on, it's whatever creates the least friction. So do that. So if you like to write, write! Get it out there in an email newsletter, get it out there on a blog, get it out there in social media, and have it be more written and verbal. If you like to connect with people like I do. I'll do like a live with Jeff and I'll get people on a little five-minute live q&a on my Facebook page. So for me, I love connecting with other people. I love sharing their stories, I love the energy that comes from doing a live so for me, that's the most frictionless way. Having that podcast live and knowing this Friday at 12 just excites me and gets me going, where someone really might like writing and so there's still a place for blogs, there's still a place for an email newsletter. Consistency is the main thing so the thing that causes the least amount of friction, do that thing and do it for a long while before you change it.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
So I had a computer science degree and I could code the website, either graphic design monitor enjoyed the design, but I kind of moved at a pretty slow pace when it came to delegating and getting stuff off my plate. I had a lot of pleasure in building out the team and the leadership aspect of it. So I would tell my younger self, "Hey, move a little faster for getting some stuff off your plate." I had to think big picture and give someone else an opportunity so I could build a team together. A lot of times I have remote workers that just kind of stayed in a little box and it's a lot more rewarding for me at least to connect with others. So I'd say Jeff, get out of your shell, delegate more quickly and you'll have greater life satisfaction.
Connect with Jeff
Jeff’s Website: https://www.jeffvenn.com/
Create Web Studios: https://createwebstudios.com/