In this episode of Unstoppable Talk, I interview my long time friend Jon Reischel, managing partner of Cincinnati-based creative agency ColorNine. We discuss how he got the company started, how digital marketing has changed, what it takes to succeed by applying a strategic plan to your marketing, and some of the interesting trends he’s seen in the industry. To check out ColorNine, visit them at color-nine.com, and if you mention that you heard him on this podcast, Jon will send you a free T-shirt and Limited Edition ColorNine drink koozie.
Sam Schutte: All right, so we are here today with Jon Reischel from ColorNine. Jon is the managing partner and founder of ColorNine based here in Cincinnati, Ohio, also with offices in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jon, thanks for joining us today.
Jon Reischel: Thank you, Sam.
Sam Schutte: So, today some of the topics we were going to talk about is around the impact of technology on marketing and PR, which is what your company works with, sort of the marketing landscape of what clients are doing with the latest technologies, what’s new and innovative, and some of the biggest upcoming innovations that you see that are sort of bleeding edge, and so and so forth. So, maybe a place to start is, talk to me a little bit about, or tell us a little bit about how you started the company, and how you kind of got into this.
Jon Reischel: Sure. I worked at a number of ad agencies, PR agencies in Detroit where I’m from, and then here in Cincinnati. I’ve been in Cincinnati now for about 22 years now, and worked at a lot of the larger agencies, usually in a public relations role, but always in an integrated marketing setting. So, the places I worked, I always worked on creative and digital solutions and websites and media buy-in, so it was always the full package, so that was the experience I kind of grew up in, in my career.
Jon Reischel: So, when I started my own company in 2009, that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to focus on just one thing. If you’re a website company, your solution for your client is always to build a new website. If you’re a PR company, it’s always to do a new PR campaign. So, we wanted to be an integrated problem-solving shop to come in and really try to understand at a strategic level what clients were experiencing, what obstacles were they coming up against, what problems were they finding with their marketing, and then how could we help them solve those problems in a creative and strategic way?
Sam Schutte: Cool, cool. So, when you started the company, what was your first big break then, where you got to utilize and do things in the way you wanted to do them? What were some of the big opportunities you first got to get started?
Jon Reischel: When we first started ColorNine, I had come from a different agency, so I had to start from scratch. I wasn’t able to bring any clients with me or anything like that, so I actually used technology. I used LinkedIn and Facebook and some of those tools, which were newer back in 2009, to just try to get the word out of what I was doing next. I got a call from the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau, and they were interested in my background, having worked on similar work in my career, and got a meeting with them.
Jon Reischel: They gave me a test project, really small, and really focused on PR. Within a year of that, we were doing their annual meeting, we were doing a lot of writing, we were designing their annual report, doing some digital projects, really the whole gamut, and 10 years later they’re still a client of ours. So that was the first big break, and it was technology-related in terms of how we kind of connected with them, and it’s been a great relationship ever since.
Sam Schutte: I think that sort of continues to be a lot of your specialty, your focus, is marketing and meeting and PR for… not exactly government agencies or anything like that, but more sort of local Chambers of Commerce, and Visitors Bureaus and things like that. It seems like you work with a lot of… I don’t know what you would call those exactly, but government-
Jon Reischel: Yeah, those kind of civic organizations, yeah. It’s been a good niche for us. We didn’t go into it thinking that we would focus on certain niches. We probably should have. But that definitely ended up being one of them, and healthcare is another one that’s emerged over the last few years for us, and it’s good because now we’ve got all this experience in both of those realms that we can bring to the table for other clients, and show them how we solve problems within that space.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Because definitely clients like to see that recurring past experience they can base their decisions on, you know, what worked for so-and-so, and so forth.
Jon Reischel: They do. It’s a big thing in the marketing world, right? If you have this client list and the logos of clients that you’ve done good work for and solved problems for, and have sustained a relationship with over a period of time, then that makes a big difference in terms of what other companies are looking for.
Sam Schutte: Sure. What do you think for those clients and just the work you’re doing recently, what are some of the biggest ways that technology in your opinion has impacted the marketing industry? If we just look at like the last two years, what’s sort of been real hot recently?
Jon Reischel: I graduated from college in 1991, so I look back sometimes on the difference in technology then when really there wasn’t any to speak of. Email was just kind of getting off the ground in terms of its wide application. Then look at ColorNine when we started in 2009 and the technology there, and it’s completely different the way our clients are marketing themselves, and the ways that we’re helping them is completely different now than it was 10 years ago, and it’s really markedly different than it was even three or four years ago, in terms of the emergence of social media, the way artificial intelligence and apps are involved in so many aspects of what clients are doing, the growth of Google and the use of Google AdWords and search and SEO and SEM, and the much larger proportion of budget the clients are pushing toward that. I would say that it’s gone from maybe 15% of a company’s marketing spend is on digital, now up to 85 or 90%.
Sam Schutte: Oh, wow. It’s a real reversal.
Jon Reischel: Completely, yeah.
Sam Schutte: How has that affected all the more traditional print and you know… I mean, you still see people doing billboards and you do certainly get mailers and in the mail. I mean, look at coming into campaign season and stuff here, you’re going to get plenty of stuff in the mail still. So they’re still doing that. Is that something that… I mean, they’re doing it, but they’re spending less on it, so it seems like you sort of have to be good at a lot more things, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and even in those realms, when you look at billboards, so many of them now are digital boards so that you can actually do a billboard buy but have different creative go up every day. The Reds are doing that downtown with showcasing the game of the day that’s happening there. And with direct mail, a very old school kind of thing, and it’s definitely dying, but it’s interesting how that’s kind of evolved with technology too, where you can personalize your direct mail, people are doing more dimensional mailers than they are just the flat postcard that usually gets thrown right in the trash. So how can you do a dimensional, personalized piece on a very, maybe small run, to a very targeted audience that you’re trying to reach? That’s where people are taking, again, some of these more old school kind of projects and turning them around and trying to be more focused with them.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Exactly. No, it’s interesting that digital… because you know in digital signage in general, I mean, you see that in restaurants now, and so folks I know that print menus or the big hang-on-the-wall type menus or whatever, of course that landscape is changing. I don’t know if we’ll see direct mail that’s somehow digital, like little… mailing people tablets that change or whatever, but certainly they’re going to find some way to put ads in front of you, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and a lot of those menus even in the restaurant realm, which we don’t do a lot of work in, but those are going right to mobile where you can actually go to Yelp, or go to that and have a… they either allow you to upload that right on your phone, or they’ll hand you a tablet when you walk in, so your menu experience and your ordering experience is all digital within the restaurant. So yeah, it’s changing every single industry in really dramatic ways.
Sam Schutte: Well, and it seems like when you look at… because one of the interesting things about digital marketing is that you can actually successfully, if you spend the time and do it right, connect it all together and tie it together so you know, okay, this person watched this video, this person read this email. And of course, if you spend the time and build the systems up, you can see that whole path of what they did. You know, they visited your website, downloaded your PDF, interacted with something, right?
Sam Schutte: And of course then it becomes a little bit of a challenge when you want to know, well, did they receive that postcard I sent them? And you’ve got to do QR codes, your custom web links, or URLs and stuff, you know. But it is kind of interesting that I imagine when you started, there was really no way to trace, have any kind of traceability, right?
Jon Reischel: No, you were just trying to do big, broad base numbers, like impressions and the size of your mailing list and those kinds of things, and it’s so different. And that’s really why the dollars I think are going there in such a speedy way, because everything’s measurable now.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, exactly.
Jon Reischel: Like you said, you can know who’s… you know, if you use something like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, just a simple piece of technology like that, that’s been around for a while, you can know who opened your email, who clicked on what link, and it really is a great tool, a very fundamental but solid tool that still a lot of companies aren’t using, just to know which prospects opened your email and clicked on a link, because it really can accelerate the sales process if you can call and say, “Hey…” and know that they read a certain story on your newsletter, or that they opened it but then closed it quickly, so-
Sam Schutte: Didn’t watch it all the way through or whatever.
Jon Reischel: Right. Yeah. It gives you a lot of information. You know, on Facebook, you can post videos there. So, videos is just a huge piece of technology that we’re working a lot more on with clients, videos being incorporated into every single aspect of all of their marketing. But you can post video ads on there, and you can know how many and who has clicked on that to watch the whole video, how many have only watched three seconds of that video and then gotten out of it, so again, the information and the data that comes through on all these things is amazing.
Jon Reischel: But then there’s a lot of skill involved in interpreting it, right? So, what does all that mean? What does that mean for how you should be spending your money going forward? What does it mean for analyzing what’s working and what’s not? I think it’s cut down on patience in our industry too, so our clients don’t feel as inclined to have to let some creative projects breathe, and have the patience with them, because it didn’t produce the immediate numbers that they had expected they would, so then they get out of it really quick on a project and they move onto the next thing.
Jon Reischel: So, there’s some danger in the technology too, right? That you don’t fully comprehend all the data, that you are spreading your resources too thin across all of these different digital channels that are at your disposal. And so, there’s a lot of waste that can happen, too, even though you have all the measureables in front of you.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Well, and it’s true. I think just in some of the efforts I’ve worked alongside with clients, and maybe not directly working for them on it, but around digital marketing they’ve been doing, you know, it’s quite possible that they might have a goldmine they’re not aware of because maybe they spend $300 on Google Ads, and they get two or three leads, and they think, “Oh, I only got two or three leads.” It’s like, yeah, that’s an incredible return rate.
Jon Reischel: Yeah, right.
Sam Schutte: But they just don’t connect with that because they think, “Well, for $300 though, I could blah, blah, blah,” or something. You know?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: It’s not connecting and-
Jon Reischel: Well, we have a client that we did a Facebook lead ad for, but they put a very modest amount, 50 bucks on it. Now, one new client for this customer of ours means about $1,800 in revenue over the course of a year. So, they did the lead ad and it produced five leads. Now, their first blush reaction to that was like you said, “Oh, five leads.” Well, if one of them turns into a client, which their close rate, once they get people in the door to sell them is about 75%, so if they can get three of them in the door and sell two of them, I mean, they’ve made 100 times the spend on it. So, the small numbers shouldn’t scare you away. It isn’t all just about numbers. You know, too often we get kind of focused on quantity instead of quality with the technology, the tools that we have, and you got to keep that radar up to know exactly what you’re looking for.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, and it is interesting too, just the sheer number of companies that aren’t effectively really active in the space. You know, marketing their firms effectively in this way. I run into companies all the time, and I speak to them that don’t have a website. It’s kind of remarkable. Like, what? That’s probably the minority of companies. I mean, a very small number of them. But even those that have websites, you know, if you look at like law firms and stuff for instance, they’re not really doing a whole lot. There’s probably only a handful of law firms for instance in Cincinnati that are really leveraging all these sort of channels of digital marketing effectively, and they’re just not out there.
Sam Schutte: I mean, there’s so many little segments like that, that I think that there’s tremendous opportunity that if you’re in a niche segment, and there’s some… because the thing is, is that people that pull it off and invest in it and do it well, we know who they are. You know, who’s-
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: I think I’ve mentioned on this show before, if you say, “Hey, who’s somebody out there marketing really heavily for like HVAC work?” Well, you can name two or three companies that you see their billboards, their videos, their Facebook ads, their LinkedIn posts, they’re just everywhere. Then there’s the other 400 companies that are doing nothing, you know?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: I don’t think it’s any accident that the companies really out there, you know, Apollo and these guys that have really strong brands, are growing tremendously faster than any of the rest of those to a large degree I think.
Jon Reischel: Right, and it’s the chicken and the egg thing too, where they think, “If I can get bigger, then I would have some money, and then I can do some of that stuff.”
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: But you’re not going to get bigger unless you actually spend an invest in your marketing. So, yeah, it’s really interesting. Back in the ’90s, you would look at companies and they were just starting to build websites, and you would ask a client, “Well, why do you want to talk to us about building a website?” And it’s like, “Well, that’s what everybody’s doing. It’s kind of the cool thing.” So there was no business rationale a lot of the times behind it, right?
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: They just wanted it because it was the cool new thing. And so we see a lot of that too. Like, “Why do you want to do this, or why do you want to pursue that opportunity with Snapchat or…” “Well, it seems cool.” So, that’s really bad business rationale and you’re risking wasting a lot of money on something that you’re just doing because it’s neat. So, that’s where again, now more than ever, I think clients really value that we come in and try to solve a problem, because you know, 20 years ago when you looked at it, there were probably eight ways to solve that particular problem. Now there’s 800 ways to solve that problem. Because you can use a variety of apps and technology and all kinds of digital marketing tools and traditional tools and ads and events and whatever else it might be. It can be overwhelming.
Jon Reischel: So, in that same way 20 years ago, the director of marketing had to manage kind of, you know, a handful of disciplines. He kind of had to know print, and he had to know some PR, and he had to know a little bit about the web space, and he had to know direct mail, and he had to know kind of events and trade shows and things like that, if it’s a B2B environment. Now that same person has to really try to understand a hundred different categories, and a hundred different channels that he could pursue.
Jon Reischel: So, the best ones are the ones that don’t think they know all that. Right? And they try to pull in resources and build a team internally and externally that can help them just figure out what the best options are, and not throw money at things that are short-term or that are just pretty looking, but things that really align with what your strategy is, no matter what that strategy is.
Sam Schutte: I think you’re right, it is a challenge that’s sort of presented by this omni-channel marketing type of idea, right? Which is what we try to be at Unstoppable Software. We try to be omni-channel, just because we see that, you know, if we look at all of our leads that come in, we get maybe a handful of leads in whatever time period from every channel, you know? If someone comes in to us from Facebook, they may not have come in to us from LinkedIn, so clearly you want to expose yourself to all that. The downside is that all of those channels require expertise to understand them. You know, even like a direct mail channel. There’s a way to do it right, right?
Jon Reischel: Yup.
Sam Schutte: If you just say, “Well, I’m just going to type something up in Microsoft Word and print it and mail it out to 5,000 people,” or something, it’s not going to work. It’s a waste of time.
Jon Reischel: And it’s amazing, like you kind of hinted at before, that happens a lot still.
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: Which is amazing to me.
Sam Schutte: Well-
Jon Reischel: Because you even have tools now, like Vistaprint and everything else that can at least give you some kind of appearance of some kind of professionalism. But still, a lot of them don’t and it’s either the, “I don’t have money to do that,” which just really isn’t a good excuse anymore, or, “I don’t have time,” which is an even worse excuse because again, you can get resources that can do this stuff if you do your homework on it.
Sam Schutte: Well, and that’s the thing, is I think the skills required to do a good direct mail campaign are very different than the skills required to do an email nurturing campaign or drip campaign. When you look at everything that’s required, all the tools and techniques and understanding, so I think it puts a lot of pressure on agencies such as you guys to know how to do all those things, and to have the right people and staff and talents, as well as, like you said, the marketing managers to figure out how to select and find the right vendors. Because I think that… granted, you don’t want to just be scattershot and say, “Well, we’re just going to be on all platforms maybe,” because there’s probably ones that are not effective for you, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: I mean, Twitch, for instance, which is really popular for live streaming video games and such, you know? Is that the best place to do infomercial type stuff for let’s say an HVAC company? Who knows? You know?
Jon Reischel: Well, and again, a lot of it’s just about being a good listener too, and trying to again, hear what that problem is. We just did a complete website overhaul for a national healthcare organization, and we got it built and we built it the way they asked us to, and we had a lot of strategic insight that kind of went into how we kind of set up the navigation and the content flow and all of that stuff. So, the client came back and then said, “Well, how do we know that the strategy that we implemented to build this thing is actually happening in real life?” So then we were able to come back and we implemented another simple tool, inexpensive tool called Mouseflow, which allows you to go in and actually see, person by person, where the mouse goes when they visit your website, right?
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: So, how long did they linger on a page? Then what did they click? And then how long did they linger on that page, and where did their mouse go? Then where did their mouse go next? And you get to see every single visitor, that little snapshot of the user experience and how they traveled through your site. So, it was really illuminating for them, and it solved this mystery that they had in their head of how our customer’s experiencing our site, and it was $29. You know? So again, it was to be able to build the technology to go suggest that solution five years ago, it would have been thousands of dollars. And for them it was 29 bucks, and it answered a question that they had in a cool way.
Sam Schutte: Well, and the proliferation of cheap, SaaS-based marketing tools like that give you just so much power. You know, and there’s lifetime deals on all these tools sometimes that it’s 50 bucks forever, you know?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Like you said, if you had wanted to do that, you could have done that 10 years ago, but you would have been building it custom. It would have been hiring us to build it, and it would have cost you six figures probably, to build that, or something. But you’re right, though, that watching that real customer interaction, because I’ve done that before with our site and it’s like, wow. You know, I noticed… you don’t have to watch everyone do it, because of course you can make a heat map or you average them all together for instance, and see. But even just watching a couple of users interact with it live, which is really interesting to do, because you realize that it seems like they’re having trouble figuring out how to fill out this form, or, “Gee, I watched three people and I just saw that they got to the part where it asks for their phone number and they just left.”
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Or something, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah. Or we thought that the navigation setup was going to push people here, and it really didn’t, and so we need to tweak and improve as we go. So, it gives you the opportunity to do that.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So, what do you think… I guess we talked about ROI a little bit and such, I guess I’m curious, if you were a small company out there that say had like a $5,000 budget for marketing, say I want to get my brand out there. Where would you spend $5,000? On what channels, what areas, what would you spend it on?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and we get that question a lot. And then we come back and we say, “Well, what issue are you trying to solve? What’s your strategic plan? What’s your strategic objective for the next quarter? Do you have $5,000 a month? Do you have $5,000 for the year? Do you have $5,000 for the next three months? If it’s for the next three months, what’s your issue?” We actually just started engaging with a new client, and they’re in a space where they have built a database over a number of years. So they’ve got all these clients that have signed up for a free demo, right, that was offered. And most do it after the demo, and then some don’t.
Jon Reischel: So, a guy that we have been connected with bought the company, and so he’s had it for about a year now and he’s looking at just what he bought, right? He’s trying to figure out the best strategic way to get the most out of it. So, for him, it was a process of trying to map a process for handling your sales leads in the most effective way, and one of the big things was, let’s go to this database that nobody’s touched in years, right, but that is current and has hundreds of names on it of people who took a major step to purchase but then for whatever reason didn’t, and you never found out why they didn’t, and maybe it was just a timing thing and you just need to kind of touch base with them again.
Jon Reischel: So, for them it would be $5,000 spent on a very targeted campaign to build a channel marketing strategy so that you have touchpoints across all of those, and it may be phone calls, emails, letters, whatever that might be, and then a strategy for hitting this one segment of your audience that you haven’t hit before, and really trying to understand where they fell off in that process and why.
Sam Schutte: Well, that’s a good point. You know, because the question is, it’s a little bit too generic to say, “What would you spend $5,000 on,” right? Because it’s not in a vacuum. You know, if somebody asked you that-
Jon Reischel: It’s not, and I think that’s the danger of stuff like that, is just to say… and you have clients that do that too. “Well, if I don’t spend this $5,000, I lose it. So I just need to spend it.” And sometimes that’s okay, because we don’t want to lose it for next year. So, we can do something quickly and knock it out. But other times, we want to make sure that we’ve got a really good strategic rationale for why we’re suggesting something, and why it makes sense given all of the other things. Because all these factors matter.
Jon Reischel: Like who is your target audience? What are you trying to get them to do? Who are your secondary and tertiary audiences, and what are you trying to get them to do? What does your existing client base look like? What do your new product offerings look like? How is your web presence? Where are most of your leads coming from? When you receive objections, what do they look like and sound like, and why are you getting them? So, once we have some answers to all of those things, it actually becomes pretty easy for us to look at this massive tool belt of all the things you can do and say, “Yeah, I would go do this.”
Jon Reischel: So, that could mean $5,000 on a couple of new landing pages and a targeted marketing campaign. It could mean attacking your social media channels with some branded content and boosted posts and lead ads across Facebook and Instagram because of the audience you’re trying to reach. It could mean going and doing a digital outdoor board for a quarter and trying to do that. So, again, I think that’s where we’re good, being able to look at that puzzle of, what’s your strategy, what budget do you have, what are you trying to accomplish here, and in what timeframe, and let us help you kind of manage that enormous tool belt that is so much bigger than it was 10 years ago, and help you make the right decisions.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, exactly. What do you think about… something I’ve read recently, that some of the big names in the industry of digital marketing are talking about, you know, the Gary Vaynerchuks and these other guys that you follow out there, or that you see a lot. You know, they’re talking a lot about brand and how the only thing that matters is brand. And the channels and all that and what you say and you know, all the real details don’t matter, it’s just brand, brand, brand, and that’s going to be more and more and more the case. I think they’re saying that because there’s so much noise and so much information that nobody has time to watch a five minute explainer video talking about, “Well, here’s how we do what we do.” I don’t have time for that, right?
Sam Schutte: All I have time is, I’m just going to see your logo in passing, more or less. And it’s not just logo, of course, but like I’m going to see your logo and I’m going to get a feeling, and I’m going to have some sort of a core root connection of… I think that’s why they’re saying that, is because there’s so much noise and competition in the market, so they’re almost… and I’m not saying I agree with them, but I think some of them are sort of saying like, story doesn’t matter almost, right? Or at least the story that matters is just how it relates and ties into your brand. So, how do you think that sort of importance of brand for all companies, let’s say, is changing in the market?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and I think they’re less saying that story doesn’t matter, and they’re more saying that you need a touchpoint strategy to build toward when the story does matter. So, in the B2B world which is where a lot of my past experience was, you know, back in the ’90s, the number we were always told was, you need a certain number of touchpoints in the B2B world, of your brand before you’ll get a decision from somebody, and that was seven. So you need seven touchpoints, right?
Jon Reischel: So now, the latest I’ve read is that you need 21 touchpoints. So, three times as many. So if you need 21 touchpoints, you don’t get a chance to tell your story 21 times in there. Like you said, it may be a logo in passing, it may be a Facebook post that I didn’t really read but maybe I saw the brand represented in some way, maybe I saw it on a billboard, I saw it on a TV spot, I saw it on a Pandora ad, and so on and so forth.
Jon Reischel: So now I’ve kind of laid some groundwork there, right, and I’ve hit 15 touchpoints, but I haven’t really kind of hit home with it yet, then maybe I’m ready for the story and I see something delivered, again, probably digitally, and maybe it’s a longer form story, or it’s something on Vimeo, or YouTube, or whatever it might be, and I’m going to invest the three minutes to kind of hear the longer story. Now the sale happens.
Jon Reischel: So, I think it’s both. You need that touchpoint strategy, and you need kind of that onslaught to be able to kind of catch people where they are to just kind of digest your brand, but then you also need the good storytelling, that once they’re ready and the timing’s right, that you’re telling them something compelling that’s going to make them want to buy.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. So it’s sort of getting their attention just first and foremost through maybe the brand, but then once you have their attention, you have to really hold their interest, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Maybe that’s where the story comes in, because clearly if your website was just a picture of your logo and that’s it, and it’s not… if people landed there eventually after seeing your sticker all over town, or your billboard, it wouldn’t necessarily mean anything.
Jon Reischel: Yeah, you have to pay it off in a cool way, right?
Sam Schutte: Yeah. What do you think about the concept that kind of goes along with that, you know, there’s folks out there that will say, “Okay, well, there’s these…” And to some degree I think it’s a little bit of a sales pitch, right? People will say, “Well, you should be doing these ‘old-fashioned’ things that people have moved away from because well, now nobody’s doing it, you’d be the only one doing it.” Right? So for instance, something like cold calling, right?
Sam Schutte: There’s a lot of these cold calling shops out there that’ll say, “Well, you know, you should be cold calling because none of your competitors are doing that anymore. They’re all doing LinkedIn live videos and stuff, and that means that they’re not getting cold calls from your competitors, for instance, and so you might be the only one doing it.” Right? Is there a way of, you can chase that sort of void and try to figure out what others aren’t doing? Or is that sort of-
Jon Reischel: Maybe, and again, it depends on the channel. That’s a tough one right there, the example that you brought up because when’s the last time you answered a call from a number you didn’t know?
Sam Schutte: Yeah. I mean, I’ve got apps that block it automatically, so…
Jon Reischel: Right. So, that’s a super sensitive hot spot. And even with numbers that you know, I know a lot of people that still don’t pick up the phone.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, sure.
Jon Reischel: They would just rather text or email. Direct mail is another good example. But again, we like to come back to the, “What’s the strategic business rationale for why you want to do that?” So now if the rationale is, “All of our competitors have abandoned this and there’s a void in the market, where our message would be receptive,” that’s a solid business rationale and if you can back that up with numbers, then you should go do that. If the rationale is, which is most of the time, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” then that’s not a good business rationale and you should really examine why you’re doing it.
Jon Reischel: We still get that a lot. Like, “Why are you doing that ad? That print ad that no one will see. Why are you doing that direct mail?” “Well, that’s what we do. That’s what we do in the spring.” So, you have to really kind of put that stuff under the microscope, and I think just some very fundamental review of numbers will show maybe that that’s not a good thing. Or maybe it will show that, “Hey, we’ve been doing this and it’s been successful,” and that’s one of the responses we get. “Well, we have the numbers to show that our clients kind of… they look forward to this, and it turns into this amount of business every year.” Well, keep doing it then. Absolutely. We shouldn’t just turn stuff off for technology’s sake when it’s actually producing good results.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting, it’s a dynamic thing. You know, what works now didn’t work two years ago. You know, actually if you think about the most bleeding edge stuff, but even long-established successful channels don’t work anymore, right? So, if you look at the very first company I founded was called DetermaSoft, right, this was back in 2003 I think we started the company. Our focus was e-commerce websites, because everybody wanted to sell things online. I mean, you know, Amazon was still sort of small and only sold books in 2003, and so it was, “I want to sell this online. I want to sell that online.”
Sam Schutte: We ran, at the time it wasn’t even Google Ads, there were some precursors to that that Yahoo! and Google bought, like one was called Overture, I believe. It was paid search result ads inside of Yahoo!. So it was Yahoo! searching, that’s how… I mean, Google was not even the channel, right? We were I think early adopters there, really, because we would spend $100 and get like six or seven leads. You know, it was crazy. And actually, it wasn’t fill out a web form or email us, it was call our 800 number, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Our phone was ringing constantly, you know, from these, and we were paying, you know, eight bucks, 10 bucks, whatever a click may be. So we would get… you know, we ran those ads and just were constantly answering our phone, and I don’t know how many leads total, maybe 40, 50, 60 leads in some time period for like maybe… we probably got like 60 leads for three grand or something, right? Which would be hard to do now.
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Very hard. If you were advertising for e-commerce websites. I mean, you would pay $30,000 and get 20 leads.
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: Right? That’s the problem, and we actually don’t run Google Ads at all now, just because when you’re paying $150 a click, and you’re getting people that say, “I got this idea, but I don’t have any… I’m just some guy on my own,” and it’s not even a serious venture at all, it’s just not… because there’s no lead quality filters there. Or at least it’s hard to filter lead qualities. So that channel in my opinion is just so spammy now, and of course, Google is trying to show more ads and kind of push it more down people’s throats, but it seems like it’s sort of struggling, in my opinion, to really show any value. It’s too expensive and too messy, you know? So the quality of those channels sort of change, I guess, basically.
Jon Reischel: Right, and now you’ve hit kind of the other side of the curve on it, where, “Well, everybody does it, so we have to do something there.” You’re right, how are they going to now evolve to the next level to validate that kind of spend because clients are already doing what you just described. Right, really taking a close look at it and saying, “Man, we’re just not getting what we used to because to be able to own this particular keyword in our industry, we had a stranglehold on it for five years and now we don’t, and the bidding’s gone through the roof, and it doesn’t make sense anymore to try to own that.”
Sam Schutte: And another one of my customers, these guys have been customers for probably 12 years almost, a longstanding… they were spending maybe, I don’t know, $10,000 a month on Google Ads, maybe $15,000, something like that, and over time they built up organic content in their blog and stuff, and tons of articles in there, very narrowly targeted to their local space and their services and what they do, and then they just shut off the Google Ads because they get all their traffic from-
Jon Reischel: From that.
Sam Schutte: … from their blog and organic now. That saves them… I mean, whatever they spent on that was worth every single penny. You know?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and what they’re spending on the new stuff is probably half of what they spent on Google.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Absolutely. Because I think they wrote most of those blogs sort of in-house, right? Or maybe hired a writer or something, but it’s nowhere near what Google would cost. So, what about the very sort of bleeding edge stuff that’s out there? You know, if we talk about AI for instance, artificial intelligence, that’s sort of a big topic out there. How are you seeing that affect the work you do around marketing on a day-to-day basis, or what are clients asking for?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, so that’s a really good question, and it’s one of those definite bleeding edge things that’s just going to continue to intensify in the years ahead. You look at the face app that’s out there now that uses artificial intelligence for the aging thing, and it took a matter of weeks for that just to explode on a global level, right, and just all of the buzz around it. If you look at just the numbers in terms of just even like something as simple as customer service, well, Gartner is saying 25% of customer service in all industries is going to use chatbot technology by next year.
Jon Reischel: So, that’s amazing, right? In terms of just the… and that’s not as sexy as the face app thing, or as cool, or as interesting, but that’s real business that’s taking place every day in terms of how we’re communicating with customers. It used to be, again, they’re ironing out all of the things that were clunky, creepy, right, as part of that, so now it feels very seamless in what they’re able to produce. 25% of all customer service interactions on AI, just by next year. So, that’s game-changing, right? So, that affects every client that we have. So, how are they going to incorporate that, into how they’re using technology to maximize the resources they have internally, think about how they’re doing even the sales process in the channel that they want to pursue, so yeah, it’s big.
Jon Reischel: Then, I’d say on the bleeding edge side, the other two things that we’re seeing that are really interesting are just the increasing use of video, and then personalization. A lot of times those two things are tied together. So, if you look at video, we talked about the 21 touchpoints and really trying to take the time to digest a brand’s story, the numbers right now are amazing, 70% of consumers say they’ve shared a brand’s video at some point. 70% of everybody has shared at least one video.
Sam Schutte: Of, you know, 350 million Americans-
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: … or whatever it is.
Jon Reischel: That’s an enormous number, right?
Sam Schutte: Three billion, or whatever Facebook users, or something.
Jon Reischel: Right. You even said, like watching a video about how to do this particular thing that can be drudgery, but 52% of consumers say watching product videos makes them more confident in their online purchase decisions. So, they have a role, right? You shouldn’t just produce a series of these to be your only brand story, but these videos can be one of those touchpoints that’s going to push somebody over the line, and impact their decisions.
Sam Schutte: Social proof and all that, you know?
Jon Reischel: Right. You have this huge landscape and you just have to really understand that not every single brand touchpoint that you put out there is to close a sale, or to generate a lead. Some of it is just to build reputation, some of it is to just build awareness, right? So, you have to kind of prioritize what those look like, and you have to create the strategic kind of roll-out of analyzing all these channels, analyzing the objective that you have that aligns with your strategy, and then making sure everything falls in the right bucket.
Sam Schutte: Makes me think of an article I read recently that was talking about… sort of discussing the question of, why are there so many firms out there that are smaller firms that do great work, have a great stable, a small stable, say 30, 40 clients they’ve done amazing work for, maybe even some big companies, but yet, no one has ever heard of them. Right?
Sam Schutte: It’s encouraging I think, because if you can tell that story well, and use all these sort of lightweight channels and forms of content to tell that story and build that reputation, then it gives you a chance sort of, against maybe other bigger, much bigger firms. You can play on their same battlefield simply by being more authentic, more personalized, and really just moving faster, right? Because if you’re a small company and you put an AI-driven chatbot on your website for instance, well, a lot of big companies don’t have that. You know? And if they do, they’re not doing it right. It’s salesy, it’s junk, right?
Jon Reischel: Again, I think that come down to a little bit of that brand story, right? How do you take this tool and do it in a compelling, story-driven kind of way to set yourself apart? So, maybe if it’s… yeah, if it’s that big behemoth company in your space that you’re dealing with, you’re fresher, you’re more creative, you’re more nimble, faster. So you can play on those differentiators, and you can do it in a way… And that’s really the thing, right? All of these things allow you to create your own marketing network, and I say network like CBS, NBC kind of network, because it used to be that you would have, you know, The Cincinnati Enquirer, if you were going to advertise, you had to look at the Enquirer and see what that was going to look like. And the Enquirer is… it’s dying. You know, print journalism is not the place to do that spend all the time, like it used to be.
Jon Reischel: And so, being able to kind of build your own network, so you look at some of these organizations and they have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. They’ve got a much bigger audience that they’ve curated themselves than any media outlet could produce for them. So now they can kind of be master of their own audience and be able to tell that story in a really interesting way, and it becomes kind of a newsroom kind of mentality, that you have to be interesting and relevant on an ongoing basis, because you’re not relying on the Business Courier or The Wall Street Journal or CBS to tell your story and to try to play that PR game and all that kind of stuff.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, it’s interesting too, some of these brands are really using those audiences they have to let sort of their personality shine through, which the funny thing about it is, there’s a part of me that… So, for instance, I’m thinking of Wendy’s and Arby’s and McDonald’s, they have this Twitter war going on, right? And it’s hilarious because… I mean, I think it’s really effective stuff, because they’ll… I can’t think of some of the tweets they’ve had, but you know, it’ll say something like, I don’t know, they’ll rip on each other, for instance on Twitter, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, Wendy’s making fun of the milkshake machine at McDonald’s and stuff like that.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, something like that, right? And then of course, then there’s also parody accounts out there, like Nihilist Arby’s, which are hilarious. But you know, it’s interesting because it’s like, is that a really super thought-out, directed, like writing the content thing, or is it just really like one guy or one girl who’s running their social media who’s just funny? You know, because you could just hire a comedian and say, “Here’s the login, go rip on McDonald’s.”
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: “You have control of the Wendy’s account.” Because it happens so fast, and I don’t know, maybe I’m being naïve, but the responses and stuff happen so fast, and they’re so… it’s really, it’s just a person talking, it doesn’t seem like it’s something that has to go through committee. So, it’s interesting-
Jon Reischel: No, it doesn’t. It goes through one guy, and I think for the Wendy’s example, I’ve read some case studies there that there’s a team, but there’s a guy that’s in charge that I think filters all of it. But it’s interesting because the skillset that you would look for for that job isn’t your traditional marketing manager or copywriter. It’s more like a comedy copywriter is what you’re looking for there. But that is all born out of a strategy to say that we’re going to be the leader in… not in being funny, but in being interesting and being compelling. Because I’ve seen them translate that into people going to buy stuff. Like what they did with the Spicy Nuggets. Right? It turned into this really great thing that drove business.
Sam Schutte: Well, and it’s-
Jon Reischel: So, you can do all this stuff just to be funny and be cool and be hip, but if it doesn’t turn into sales, that feels like a big waste of money. Unless it’s delivering enough on awareness and reputation, that that’s having a secondary effect on sales. That’s the beauty of what Wendy’s is doing, that they’re being interesting and compelling, but it’s directly hitting the bottom line for them too.
Sam Schutte: So, talk about what the Spicy Chicken Nugget thing you’re talking about, how that tied into it? Like how was that related to…
Jon Reischel: Yeah, so it’s… I don’t know the whole story but it’s a fan favorite, and they had… I think somebody kind of just tweet them a challenge to say if I got this many retweets on a tweet that you would bring back the Spicy Nuggets-
Sam Schutte: Oh, okay.
Jon Reischel: … and so they got behind it and they actually got the number and then they did it. And people lined up to get the product. So, if you can do that, if you can turn something like that into sales, you know, that’s the real beauty of what these kind of channels can do.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, you’re right. Because I think it’s nice to think that, “Well, we don’t have to make a better cheeseburger. What we have to do is be funny on social media.” Right? But that doesn’t mean people are going to come buy your cheeseburgers, right? They might just think, “Yeah, that account is hilarious.”
Jon Reischel: Yeah, that account’s hilarious and I like watching it, but I would never eat there. That’s not good.
Sam Schutte: But there’s the other side of the coin, which is, you know, if I can make my… say if I want to make my company or my restaurant appeal to a particular mindset of people, you know, young, rebellious millennials or something like that, well, you know, is there a point at which they’ll say, “Those are my people.” Right? You know, “The people that run Wendy’s, those are my people, so I’m going to go there. They’re my tribe.” Right?
Jon Reischel: Sure. Maybe. Yeah. That’s part of the mindset of people, they like to be part of something bigger, right, and hip and cool. Everybody wants to be cool.
Sam Schutte: Because I think we definitely see that in the local brewery scene, for instance, in breweries, right? Like the head brewer and all those people, I mean, they go out and they talk to the people, and people start to sort of know those people, and you don’t get that as much with any of the big brands. So, I think Sam Adams and stuff is a tribe. They’ve had their founder in a lot of videos, and I think they do a good job of that. I think you see that locally, sort of the breweries that are always packed and always busy and crowded, it’s because people think, “Hey, I like these people and I like their beer and this is a place I can go hang out.” Is it necessarily because their beer is better than the other guys’? Sometimes, but not necessarily, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah.
Sam Schutte: I mean, because most people are not that discerning of a palate, to be honest. You know-
Jon Reischel: No. On anything, really.
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: I mean, you look at even the history of just product technology, sometimes the very best technology wins out, and a lot of times it doesn’t. You know, even back to VHS and Beta, VHS wins out because of… it was just a better marketing tool, but Beta was the better technology when we were kids. So, yeah, it’s just all the more reason you need to have that strategic thing. So, what are you trying to do? So, Wendy’s is going for funny and hip, and some brands decide that their personality is compassionate and charitable, and others decide that theirs is fast-moving and trendy.
Jon Reischel: So, what is yours? That’s part of the whole story. So, here’s our audience, here’s our message, here’s our brand personality, here’s our goals and objectives from a sales perspective, here’s our goals and objectives from a community impact perspective, and all of those weigh into how you start to pick and choose from the tool belt to know those smaller goals within the larger plan.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. And certainly, if a client comes and says, “Look, we’re sort of an aging brand, and we need to make ourselves appear more youthful and stuff,” and whatever, you know, then some of these sort of strategies might work, but if they’re already that way, they don’t need to invest in maybe being more that way, or whatever, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, and sometimes again, you have to look at that carefully and say, “Well, if you try to do that, here’s how that’s going to play.” You got to really do it right. You risk really damaging a brand reputation if you do it wrong.
Sam Schutte: Sure. Definitely. I’m curious, with all these sort of options out there, and all the new technologies that are available for clients, how are clients finding you, and how are they engaging with you? Has the engagement structure changed, from a real business standpoint, how has that sort of changed recently, you think, compared to the way you used to might have done things?
Jon Reischel: Honestly, that’s probably one area that hasn’t changed a whole lot since we started. It’s mostly intentional in terms of how we do that, but we fly pretty low on the radar, in terms of being self-promoters and things like that. Almost all of our business comes from referrals or it comes from website and social media traffic and content that we’re putting out there. We’re different than most agencies. I think a lot agencies will come in and they will bid on an RFP, or they’ll bid on a large scope of work that might be, “Here, we’re doing this $250,000 project and it’s got all these components and we’re looking for somebody that can handle all of it.”
Jon Reischel: In almost every one of our client situations, we started with all of them on one small project. And then proved ourselves, and then got more projects. And then ultimately became the agency of record for many of them. So, it really became a thing of proving ourselves. Because again, to me, to be able to go in and say… it’s kind of like your… “I have $5,000. How should I spend it,” kind of a question. When we come in and we kind of talk our talk about really trying to be strategic and lay that foundation and really understand all of the elements that go into making these decisions, that takes time.
Jon Reischel: So, we’re able to cultivate these relationships over a period of time with clients and be patient about how the projects come and when they come, and then we’re able to get to that place where it’s like we’re impacting the strategic direction of the organization in a cool way, and then helping them manage the projects as they come out of that. So, that’s been-
Sam Schutte: So you… be kind of iterative a little bit with what you do there, rather than coming and trying to deliver some huge, giant-
Jon Reischel: Yeah, it’s the-
Sam Schutte: … campaign.
Jon Reischel: Yeah, it’s the over-deliver, under-promise kind of strategy, and that’s worked for us so far. Again, we’re a small core team, but as we’re able to kind of get into those clients and see what the challenges are and what they want to accomplish, then we’re able to put… you know, we’ve got a stable of 12 to 15 contractors and vendors that we use depending on what the need is. So we’re, again, really nimble. We can react quickly, we can get stuff done very quickly and we show that to clients with those first couple of projects, and then it just grows from there.
Jon Reischel: Because I think that’s what gets messy with a lot of this new technology, right? It’s like everything needs to be urgent and automated and there’s still a dynamic of you end up getting sold the business by a senior person and a junior person ends up doing the work, right? And so, we don’t do that either. Our senior team handles every engagement, and then we use only senior vendors and contractors and partners to do the work. So, the clients feel that, and they know that they can’t know a hundred different marketing channels well, and so they come to rely on us and our team to say, “All right, I want you guys to handle this, this, this, and this.” And they know it’ll get done by a senior team, and they can kind of check that off their list of having to worry about it every day, and they can focus on other things.
Sam Schutte: It’s a good point, and I certainly see that as well, that even the biggest firms, there’s so many new channels, so many new technologies that are constantly evolving, you can’t have… “Oh, yeah, I got five guys that know this, this, this inside and out,” on staff full-time. Even the biggest firms do not have that. They just don’t, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: So, really, part of our job, both basically being agencies, is managing those vendors and contractors for those service-specialized niche things, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: So, yeah, we have developers, you have copywriters, those guys are always busy and always having a workload, right? But rather than your client having to go out and find a guy who can create a machine learning algorithm or something like that, you have some folks that you can rely on to do that, and you manage them, because sometimes those guys are… maybe they’re really good at what they do, but they have to be very, very-
Jon Reischel: Managed.
Sam Schutte: … tightly managed.
Jon Reischel: Sure.
Sam Schutte: Right? Because maybe they’re just a technical genius, you know?
Jon Reischel: Right. And they need to be managed in a strategic way, again, that aligns with what we’re overall trying to do and how it connects to all the other branding things that we’re doing. So, we have a client that works with Fortune 100 companies regularly in his business. So, we like to say that we’ve become an extension of the client team. So, we’re at your disposal, right, whenever you need something.
Jon Reischel: So, we had a client who was traveling, had a bit pitch to make to Cisco, you know, six figure contract that he was looking to get invited to come in unexpectedly that day. He calls us in the morning, he says, “I’ll be in the car. Here’s what I need in terms of this proposal. It has to look…” I mean, it’s Cisco. It has to look professional and branded and all these templates we’ve created but he had all of these kind of unique numbers and information that he had to include in this proposal.
Jon Reischel: He called us, and by the time he drove to the office that he was going to at Cisco, the PDF was in his inbox. So we’re able to react quickly, because again, if he had that team member at a desk back in his office, that’s what he would have asked him to do. So we want to be that extension of the team, to be able to turn things quickly and take advantage of opportunities.
Sam Schutte: Yeah. I think it’s all about putting together a high-performance team, right?
Jon Reischel: Yeah.
Sam Schutte: That’s the secret sauce, because you can’t just throw that together, and you can’t just… like somebody has to manage it, you know, and particularly like in the software development realm that I play in, you know, some folks thing, “Well, I’ll just put out a bunch of resumes.” They don’t know how to really interview developers, they don’t know how to hire them, especially if they’re just starting out. They throw a bunch of people in a room and then it’s just catastrophe because they don’t know how to manage them either.
Jon Reischel: Yeah, you’ve talked about that dynamic with me many times.
Sam Schutte: Yeah.
Jon Reischel: Right? And that’s a skill level that you have, to be able to kind of sift through that stack of resumes to find somebody that really fits, and that’s very similar to what we do in terms of, “All right, we know that you don’t know SEO, and you don’t know Facebook media buys. We do. And we have partners that do as well. So, let us manage that part, and let us bring smart answers to you, and then we can go from there.”
Sam Schutte: Yeah. Well, and I kind of tell people the same thing, like again that $5,000 question that I asked you, it’s like when people say, “Well, should I build this in Java or .NET or Ruby or PHP or Perl or Python,” or whatever, right? You know, the big, long list, it’s like, “Well, depends. What’s your strategy here,” right? So, it’s not an off-the-cuff answer, right?
Jon Reischel: Right.
Sam Schutte: So, we talked also a little bit, I wanted to touch back on the question of storytelling, because I know that’s something that’s really key to the work that you do, and some of the work you’ve done in the time I’ve known you, I mean, you’ve ghostwritten novels and stuff before, so you write a lot yourself. So, when it comes to business content like that, what do you think makes for good storytelling? What are some of the aspects of that that makes a good story?
Jon Reischel: Yeah, that’s a great question and it’s different for every client. I think what’s unique to all of that is that you have to find an element of the story that’s germane to the business. Right? But do it in a cool way. A lot of it’s just puffery, I think, where it’s just talking about how great this guy is and how great this CEO is, and it doesn’t really tell a story except for kind of the story of that person. So, we do a lot of whitepaper development. We’ve written some books with clients. We do short-form stuff on social media, long-form blogs, whatever it might be. But there should be some elements in there, again, that connect to a fundamental part of your brand story, and something that you deliver that maybe your competitors don’t so that you can find that differentiation point.
Jon Reischel: So, it might be a whitepaper that… and we really like to do kind of the problem solution kind of thing as well. Especially on that longer form type of content. So, what’s the issue we ran into and how did we solve it like nobody else could solve it, and do it in a really well-written, interesting, compelling way? And then at the end, making sure that you’re tying a call to action in it.
Jon Reischel: You know, we’ve had a lot of clients that tell us, “Well, we get right to that point, and then it’s uncomfortable to ask for the sale.” Or, “It’s uncomfortable to really put a too strong of a call to action in there. You know, we kind of said our peace, we can kind of just let them go.” But people want that. You kind of need that to jumpstart the next part of the process and get them to… if they don’t agree, at least throw an objection at you. Throw some reasons why, maybe that you didn’t know before.
Jon Reischel: Then that’s really where you can put on that strategic hat and say, “All right. I hear this problem, this problem, and this problem. You know what, I didn’t mention this part of our product suite that can address those things that I didn’t know before.” So now you’re just extending that conversation, and if a whitepaper or a blog post or a social media post can just start a dialogue, you’ve won, right? You’ve gotten them talking, right? And then you can build from there.
Sam Schutte: So, speaking of calls to action, something Jon wanted to offer folks is if they are listening to the podcast, and they go to ColorNine’s website, which is color-nine.com, and they fill out their contact form in there and just reach out and ask for a T-shirt and a drink koozie, Jon will mail that to you so you can get a free T-shirt and drink koozie. Again, just go to color-nine.com. So that’s our call to action for people to reach out and get engaged. If you have any questions about your marketing and digital campaigns and stuff you’re working on, feel free to mention that in the email on the web form as well. But Jon, we really appreciate you coming on the show. Hopefully sometime we can get back together and talk more about items, or discuss sort of current events in the scene, have you as a guest again.
Jon Reischel: No, that’s good. Thanks, Sam. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Sam Schutte: Yeah, thank you.