On Episode 96 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with entrepreneur Joshua Sturgeon, about finding the right digital marketing platforms to grow your business!

Sections

How Josh Got Into The Marketing Field
Growing Up With Entrepreneurial Tendencies
Advice For Somebody Starting Out As An Entrepreneur
Is SEO The Right Fit For You?
Finding Underutilized Paid Channels
Facebook As A Marketing Platform
EmberTribe – Working In A Remote Environment
Conclusion
More Episodes
Show Notes

Finding the Right Digital Marketing Platforms to Grow Your Business

How Josh Got Into The Marketing Field

Paul: So here today, we’re with Josh Sturgeon of EmberTribe.

Okay, now EmberTribe. How old is this company?

Josh: EmberTribe is about three and half years at the time of this recording. We started the end of 2015.

Paul: Did you go to school to become an EmberTriber? What do you call yourself?

Josh: That’s my actual degree. No, I didn’t. I fell into this world out of a hybrid of necessity and curiosity and interest. I graduated into the heart of the recession in 2007 and at the time I also had a full load of grad school work and so I really just needed to find ways to make money and my geek way into all of this was through a dying phonebook company, where I was actually a door to door salesman and my one job was to try and introduce this digital offering to keep the company alive. And spoiler alert, the company went under. I didn’t go beyond three months there, but what it did introduce me to, was this idea of digital marketing, specifically SEO or search engine optimization.

And it just blew my mind that you could show up for just for specific things, you offer it as a business, and that people could find you for those things on the web and just do business for you. That just ignited a passion and excitement for this and now twelve or thirteen years ago and I …there was no formal education for it and so it was a lot of reading blogs and like building your own website and seeing what worked and didn’t work. So, I did that for a while.

Eventually, I worked for a larger agency and got to do this at a larger scale with companies like Staples, Thermo Scientific, and Unilever. But then I really learned the most when I was building a business with my wife at the time and needed to kind of put our own money on the line and figure out what was going to be the best fit for us as a small business. And so that’s where I think my learnings really took off because I was in the trenches so to speak, spending my own money. And yeah, that’s kind of the genesis, I guess, of how I got into all of this.

Growing Up With Entrepreneurial Tendencies

Paul: When you were a teenager did you say, “I’m going to be in digital marketing”?

Josh: No, not at all. When I was a teenager and even into college, I was very into music. I was very into that more creative side of things.

Paul: You wanted to be a rock star?

Josh: I wanted to be a rock star! No, not necessarily. I was more like singer, songwriter. I also taught music too, so I ran like a little music studio and I taught kids how to play guitar. So basically, I was really into that but I think that created an impulse, not the reality of the real world and I sort of channeled that creativity into how to make money and how to do that in a flexible way because time was constrained for me.

Paul: There are certain people, you sound like you have entrepreneurial tendencies. Would you agree with that? How did that surface itself when you were really young?

Josh: When I was really young, I was hustling. I was selling rocks at the end of my driveway.

Paul: Right, okay.

Josh: Selling rocks that I thought were cool. I probably called them crystals or something too just out of innocence but yeah. Then I started a handyman service when I was a kid. Look, I think everybody has that “I sold lemonade at the end of the street story” but…

Paul: Well, no. Not everybody. It is a difference in wiring from what I’ve seen.

Josh: Yeah, that might be.

Paul: So, what did you think? You were going to be an entrepreneur? Were you going to go work for somebody?

Josh: You know, it’s funny. I didn’t really frame it that way in my mind. Like throughout highschool and throughout college I found ways – because I was really into music – I found ways to fund my own recording and lifted albums and all of that was kind of an entrepreneurial journey in and of itself. I don’t think I possessed the language yet to understand like, “No, I don’t want to work for the man. I want to do my own thing.” It was more out of a matter of necessity and circumstance that I ended up working for myself in the beginning.

But yeah. Then later I came to realize that some of my core values are to have freedom of lifestyle, to have independence, to be able to have open horizons. As I’ve gotten older and self-reflected more, I’ve been like, “Oh yeah. This has been in my DNA for a long time. I just couldn’t label it back then.

Advice For Somebody Starting Out As An Entrepreneur

Paul: What would be one piece of advice to somebody that was starting out now, as sort of an entrepreneur? I know you do some mentoring. In doing mentoring, you can’t be as honest as one might want so we’re anonymizing everyone out there. What would be your anonymous advice to people?

Josh: Man, I’d say you probably have a vision in your head and in your heart about what this could look like. That might be ten years from now. I would say, divide that by a thousand. What’s the one step that you can take now? I think the biggest mistake that I see with a lot of entrepreneurs is that they so badly want to be in business for themselves, but they so badly want this product to come into existence, that they are afraid to see it not work and therefore, they never start.

Paul: Oh interesting. So, they never fail.

Josh: They never fail because they never start. And you see people working on a logo for six months and you see people doing whatever but putting off the hard thing and the hard thing is usually talking to somebody who isn’t your mom or your dad or your friend or your girlfriend and getting them to give you money for the thing that you want to produce. And that’s not greed or that’s not anything else except validation and you need to get validation for what you’re trying to build otherwise you’re going to spend a lot of time building something that nobody wants.

Paul: Right.

Josh: You might feel good about what the future might possibly hold but when push comes to shove, there’s no business there.

Paul: I’ve also found when you, the entrepreneur, engages with anybody, most people don’t want to hurt your feelings.

Josh: That’s true!

Paul: And so, they’re going to say, “Oh yeah! That’s great!” And if you shift the conversation, “Well, will you give me twenty dollars right now and I’ll deliver for you in six months? “Oh, I’d never pay twenty dollars for that!” And you start to get to the truth of the matter.

Josh: Or I need to talk to my wife first, you know.

Paul: Yeah, exactly. That’s really what you want to get to. And also, to have other people to ask on your behalf. I have a friend who’s doing this.

Is SEO The Right Fit For You?

Josh: Is SEO the right fit for you? It really depends. I mean, a lot of startups that we work with, like they’re inventing a new category so there’s nobody even searching for what they’re doing so SEO would be the wrong fit for them until they’ve generated some demand for the new category.
So, rather than just take a pre-ordained checklist of different marketing channels that somebody else is recommending you do and then retrofitting that to your business, it’s better to kind of have an understanding of where you sit in the market, who you’re trying to reach, and then prioritize your spend on marketing from there.

Paid is usually a really great option so start with that because you can learn very quickly and then you can build the content and then capture the SEO traffic over a longer period of time but at least start with renting. It’s almost like going to the customer and asking for the money now. Then you’ll know now if it’s going to work or not.

Paul: Yeah. Well, I think an important take away for me here is this identification of the importance of the different channels because SEO isn’t bad but it’s really hard to rule the world in SEO. But advertising, I can always buy an ad to my target market. Then it becomes, do I offer something that’s quality?

Josh: Right.

Paul: Is that fair?

Josh: That is fair. I mean, and I want to be fair and give paid the same treatment and to say that you are competing in an auction, right?

Josh: To give you a very specific example. We have a client who’s going up against Salesforce and Blackbaud in Google search, those paid ads. That’s expensive man. Those guys are spending millions of dollars in search. And so, the big innovation for that client was finding another paid channel that was underutilized at the time, for business to business, which was Facebook and we reduced their cost probably by eighty percent by making that change.

Paul: That’s interesting because both of those are very business oriented, very C level finance-oriented products. And you got to those people through Facebook?

Josh: On Facebook, yeah.

Paul: When was this, timeframe wise?

Josh: This was probably 2016 going into 17.

Paul: Okay. Is that viable today?

Josh: It’s still viable but there might be better alternatives depending on what your business is.

Paul: Maybe LinkedIn?

Josh: LinkedIn is very expensive but also very targeted.

Facebook As A Marketing Platform

Josh: But here’s the takeaway though. Although Facebook has now more limited business to business targeting options than it did before they removed some of those things, what they do have is two and a half billion people in their ecosystem, so just statistically your audience is there. If you consider even the internet in the population of the world, that’s a massive market share so the chances are that the people that you want to reach, is probably on that platform or in that ecosystem somewhere. It’s just a matter of, can you get to them the most efficient way possible. It’s worth a shot.

Paul: My questions have always been around, will those people make buy decisions in that context? Sort of like if you’re swimming, you’re not interested in buying a TV. It’s sort of like that just doesn’t make sense. Whereas, if I just finished lunch, I’m not interested in looking at restaurant ads. So, I’ve never been able to understand how we go to a Facebook where… I use it for figuring out how my family’s doing and friends and then all of a sudden, I see something about a technology ad, I’m a geek. Those two don’t give necessarily.

Josh: Yeah and I think one key distinction and strategy for using these channels is to not necessarily go for the sale in one click. Statistically, we know that over ninety-five percent of the people that visit your website will never return again unless you’re given another opportunity to. So, there’s different tools that we can use to give you multiple – what we would call maybe “ad bats” to try to buy.

But one major strategy especially in the business services side is just capture tension and capture a point of contact so even if they’re not ready at that part of their buyers’ journey to buy from you or to even schedule a sales call they might be interested in some piece of content that you created or something else in exchange for an email address or some other information so you can email them later or message them later. That’s a good way to come off it.

Paul: Cool!

EmberTribe – Working In A Remote Environment

Paul: Well we’ve been talking with Josh Sturgeon of EmberTribe. Where are you based?

Josh: Yeah. Oh, that’s a loaded question. So, I’m here north of Boston. And I have a business partner who’s in North Carolina but the rest of our team of about twenty people, is spread about nine different states across the US. We’re a completely distributed team.

Paul: Oh, that’s cool. Now do you service clients all over the world or do you just work in one city in Alabama?

Josh: No, it’s all over the US and Canada and some of those companies are multinational so they’ll have different locations but for the most part, no, it’s not constrained by location at all. And, just like as our team works together in a remote environment, we’re working virtually with a lot of these clients as well.

Conclusion

Paul: Well, there’ll be ample opportunity in the shownotes and links for both Josh individually and for EmberTribe. And I just wanted to thank you for coming in and it sounds fascinating. It’s never as simple as we want to make it but it’s also not as complicated, especially with a Sherpa like you, guiding us through it.

Josh: Yeah, definitely my heartbeat for anybody is, just start. Just try. Your upside is so potentially high that it could transform your business in a way that you could never have imagined it’s worth at least at test to run.

Yeah, Paul, thanks for having me. This was a great conversation!

Paul: Absolutely, alright. Thank you.

More Episodes:

This is Part 3 of 3 our interview with Joshua Sturgeon.
If you missed part 1, about how to spark growth with digital marketing, you can listen to it here!
If you missed part 2, about how knowing your customers will help you with digital marketing!, you can listen to it here!

Show Notes:

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