The Lead Generation features conversations with today’s entrepreneurs willing to tell the truth about what it takes to be your own boss and the transformative impact you can have on your audience.
Today, we’re bringing you Ian Garlic to discover the lessons he’s learned growing his video marketing business.
Ian is the founder of authenticWEB, a digital marketing agency specializing in video and SEO. Ian also hosts the Garlic Marketing Show and is building a directory of video professionals at StoryCrews.com.
In this episode, Ian shares the tools his company uses to keep the team focused on their key projects, the “S” word that frequently sabotages the growth freelancers are seeking, and his approach to getting out of a business slump quickly.
If you’re short on time, here are a few golden nuggets from our conversation and the resources mentioned.
Get hyper-focused on one thing. Make sure obviously it has value to people and just worry about delivering that value as much as possible at first to as many people as possible and know that it's going to be hard.
Passion will trump the best sales techniques all day. People want authentic excitement coming from the people they buy from.
When you're feeling bad about your business, reach out and help someone else. Genuinely help someone else without any intention of trying to get something out of it.
Scaling isn’t for everybody. Just because you want to have a big business doesn't mean that you should just go out and try and get a big business. Figure out what you really want and how you’re going to make it happen. What is the real purpose of creating this business?
You have to work hard. The bigger the possible success, the more unknowns and roadblocks you’re likely to run into.
After enjoying this episode, what are your top takeaways from Ian?
And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?
Get to Know Ian
Bob: Hey Ian, thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Lead Generation.
Ian: Bob, I'm so excited to be here. Thanks for having me on.
Bob: Excellent. I'm looking forward to hearing how you grew your business to what it's been doing. Congratulations on hitting your 10-year mark with your current company. But first I'd love to know how do your clients, how are they impacted by what your company does?
Ian: So we do video storytelling, video marketing for mostly service-based businesses, and I would say, I mean the number one thing, I mean you've got all the leads and all that stuff, traffic, leads, conversion, that all happens, it all increases.
For most of my clients is what they tell me is when someone walks through the door that they are both the authority and a friend because of the video. So it decreases selling time, it increases how much they enjoy their clients because we all enjoy someone that respects you as an authority. So I think that's the number one thing.
Bob: How did you get started in the video marketing world over 10 years ago?
Ian: I was working for a company that's based close to you guys, large Fortune 50 company in marketing, and I was based in New York City, but I was part of this company and we were doing services and I saw video coming down the pipeline. Because what happened was Google bought YouTube.
The other part was, I remember very specifically listening to Seth Godin as I crossed over the bridge and going in from Long Island, since he's in New York City and talking about how everyone had separate stories and that's how the authenticity works, and it just all of a sudden clicked.
I'm like, we're going to be able to deliver video. We're going to deliver stories right to people when they need that because Google owns YouTube, I knew there'd be a search based attempt. So we're going to be able to deliver these people's stories right to someone that's looking for them right then and instead of just selling them a commercial, we could tell those stories and I'm like, this is where it's going to be.
And luckily I was married to, or I was dating at the time, now married to my wife who was working for major studios, so I had that inside person that can do all the cool stuff and I could do the storytelling and SEO which I knew and so it started.
Bob: How would you describe your company today going from doing this on your own way back in the day to today? What kind of team do you have? What does your company look like?
Ian: At one point we grew up to about 20 people. Now we've condensed a little. We're about 10 people full time and we hire contractors as needed. Over the years developed a lot of systems. I started thinking about systems from day one. From day one I planned on franchising just because I saw that there was going to be a need for everyone to have video but need to have a system.
So it's very systematized. There's creativity inside of there. But I love it and I've worked with great people and over the years, I've grown a culture. We were very focused on culture from the beginning.
I want to enjoy the people I work with too. So because I knew that you spend most of your time with these people, most of your life with these people. I wanted to enjoy it. We just had a meeting and had a lot of fun in it. Yes, we got distracted but we have a good time, all the time. So I think that's important.
And then you know, having a lot of customers whose businesses we've changed, which that to me is one of the best things in the world is when someone calls you up and says, hey, we've got this house because of you. Or you know, I love my business because of you. Yeah, the leads are nice, but when they tell you those kinds of stories, that's unbelievable.
Hire for Culture
Bob: That's cool. I'd love to dig into this culture a little bit because I know a lot of listeners of The Lead Generation are doing their own thing, but they look to scale, they look to grow. And you mentioned culture, very important to us here at Leadpages as well. What would you give as a tip for them when they're first getting started hiring their first three or four employees? How do you instill a good culture as you grow?
Ian: You have to hire for culture first. You have to decide who that ideal person is, what they are, what their sense of humor is. For us, we all joke about The Office around here, so like even in our, when we're hiring people it's like, hey, you must like The Office. It's kind of a joke but we talk about that and we have our core values painted on the wall here. I can send you the pictures to put in the show notes. If you go to our website you can see it being put on there. They’ve changed over the years. We're always attentive to it.
The core values at authenticWEB (courtesy of Ian Garlic)
The core values at authenticWEB (courtesy of Ian Garlic)
The key is to hire for culture, but take a look at what your culture really is, who you really are, who you really want to be, not what you aspire to.
That was one of the mistakes I made early on is when I was hiring for culture, it was an aspirational culture. So I'm like, oh, this is all the things that people should be, but I'm not really that person. So there was a disconnect there. But now when we dug deep and start looking at who was really here and what their real core values were, and from a cultural standpoint it really made a difference.
And then you judge everyone by that culture. You ask questions about that culture. You don't say, are you passionate? You learn to ask questions about figuring out their passion. Our number one core value is are you understanding? So the value is seek to understand not to be understood, number one value. So we'd listened to people and asked some questions around, do they understand other people or do they expect other people to understand them?
Bob: A good habit from Mr. Covey from back in the day.
Roadblocks to Prepare For
Bob: Very nice. So you mentioned a little bit of an obstacle there. I'd love to tap into any other obstacles you may have had from back then to today. Anything stick out for you where it was a major roadblock or something that was a stumble, but you learned from it and your company's better because you were able to get through that particular challenge?
“It took me a while to realize how important it was to find groups of people that I'd want to be like and people that are like me and like-minded.”
Ian: One of the number one roadblocks I've had is lack of focus. As an entrepreneur, you go for the shiny object. I'm going to do this and this and this and this and this and this and not being focused really has been tough. Now you have to be flexible and have focus. So it's, that's a tough challenge. That's been one of the biggest ones.
And then isolation as an entrepreneur, isolating yourself. It took me a while to realize how important it was to find groups of people that I'd want to be like and people that are like me and like-minded. I'm a member of some masterminds which has been important, and also I've made a lot of great friends who are amazing marketers, amazing business owners that I talk to on a regular basis, like daily.
That is a crucial thing to think that it moves away from that mindset that there is. One of my best friends is in almost the exact same business a few miles from me and we still talk about it and are open and having that scarcity mindset that, oh, I got to do this all on my own and I keep it all. I think that was one of the big breakthroughs that made things a lot easier.
Bob: It's funny that you mention that because there are people who think that they have to be territorial when it comes to their business and their business model. So it seems like you've been able to not really see competition as a challenge or an obstacle, but something to fuel you and be able to gain ideas back and forth from each other.
“There’s this myth that you should be a full-service agency, especially as a freelancer, but that hurts a lot of people.”
Ian: 100%. You know, it's funny. People ask me who my competition is and like I feel like I should have an answer to that, but I've never felt like I've had real competition. Early on I did. I felt like I had competition, but in the past five, six years, half the time I really haven't felt like we're competition.
It's just like because we have video and then we have a couple of other services that we do that make us different and we have our systems and then I don't try and do everything. I think this myth that you should be a full-service agency, especially as a freelancer, hurts a lot of people.
Define Your Own Future as a Freelancer
Bob: Yeah, I think you're absolutely right about that. Speaking of advice, it sounds like you have a bit of wisdom that you can share with other freelancers and other folks that might start up an agency or some kind of a shop like this. What has been the best piece of advice that you were given about entrepreneurship, about growing a business?
“Passion will trump the best sales techniques all day.”
Ian: I've been given a lot of great advice. I mean, I think systems. Start systematizing everything as much as possible and delegating as much as possible because this idea that you're not going to be the salesperson. There are very few people you're going to find. You might be able to find a good salesperson, but there are very few people that are going to be as passionate about your business and that passion sells day in and day out. Passion will trump the best sales techniques all day.
So understand that you are the salesperson, having systems, and then I also think one of the biggest dangers right now to freelancers, to agencies, and I see it a lot, is this idea of scale. That I have to scale, that I have to be Gary Vaynerchuk and Gary's great. I love him. You know, he was on my show. Great guy, but we all aren't doing, you don't have to have a $100 million business. You don't only have to have a $2 million business.
“Just because you want to have a big business doesn't mean that you should just go out and try and get a big business.”
Design your business around you, and I really got this recently from one of the guests on my show who I just randomly met and he was a headhunter and also helps people find their franchise. He said, just because you like ice cream doesn't mean you have to have an ice cream business. Just because you want to have a big business doesn't mean that you should just go out and try and get a big business.
Why do you want a big business and ask yourself what do you really want out of life? What do you really want? And I think that is what do you really want out of your business? And just to have a big business to have a big business, do you really want that big business I think is important because we're looking at all of these guys selling scale and no offense to them, you know, some are my friends, but selling scale makes a lot of people unhappy with the current state of their business.
I'm blessed I've got a lot of successful friends, but on the other hand, it's kind of made me do things that I should before their time. Sorry, that was a long-winded answer, but …
Bob: That's okay. You covered a lot of ground and there was another question I was going to ask you that I don't need to ask you now, which is what are some misconceptions or mistakes that you've been seeing. And I think selling to scale makes a big difference for people, especially if they have kids or they have family situations where they can't work 70 hours a week at the drop of a hat because they've got too many other things going on.
Ian: No, and you can make a wad of money and have a wonderful life having a half million dollar business. You don’t need an 8-figure business, and all these people are selling me for your business. And I know people that have 8-figure businesses that are making very little money. So just so you'd be aware of that. That's not at all what it looks like.
Bob: Yes, indeed. Yeah, we can probably go on a big rant about that, but we'll save that for another day perhaps.
On Mentors & Masterminds
Bob: So you mentioned being part of a mastermind and having some accountability partners it sounds like. Who would you say has been a really big cheerleader for you and your business and how did they help you out the most?
Ian: I've got my friends, a lot of my clients have been cheerleaders for our business. I think those have been huge as far as if you're looking like referral partners. If you're looking for people that prop you up when things are tough. You know, one of my good friends at ShipOffers, Tony Grebmeier, who has awesome podcasts, he's been really helpful. Jeremy Weiss, another podcaster, he's helpful. I've got friends like Scott Gray who is another marketer who's, you know, we talk a lot.
I'm probably missing some people. Tanner Larsson over at BuildGrowScale, he's been a great partner and a great friend. I've had a lot of, you know, it's just you have different people, but those are the people that you know, I've talked to a lot lately. I'm probably missing someone, so I love you all.
Breaking out of a Slump
Bob: I'm sure you are, and when it comes to someone who's been a cheerleader, can you think of any times where things are super hard or tough and something either they said or something they were able to do on your behalf or for you really helped you get over that particular hurdle?
Ian: Yeah. When you start to grow your business, everyone's in a cycle, right? And if you're all by yourself, you have to sell then perform, sell and perform. Eventually, sales get steadier and they grow really fast and we hit a point where we were just growing, growing, growing, growing, growing, and then everything kind of broke because we were growing too fast.
“Once you start having some bigger deals, if you're in a slump, just go sell something, go sell something small.”
I had that lie about the scale. I got to sell, sell, sell, and then once you get into a bad sales cycle, a lot of times you just feel like you get desperate. People hear it, you try and close bigger and bigger deals. You don't close stuff that you don't want. And my friend Tony is like, listen, just step back and make a little sale, like a tiny little sale every day.
And I knew that from day one, and that used to be my strategy. It was always mainly singles and then my eventual home runs. But when you start hitting home runs, it's hard to go back to the singles.
But I think that's a big piece of advice. Once you start having some bigger deals, if you're in a slump, just go sell something, go sell something small.
I think the other big piece of advice along that line, and I can't remember who told me it, but it was amazing was when you're really feeling bad about your business, which we all do. Everyone that you see saying how great their business is and how they're going to help you have felt bad about their business for the most part.
When you're feeling bad about your business, just reach out and help someone else. Genuinely help someone else without any intention of trying to get something out of it, and it will change your mindset really quickly.
So like if I'm having a bad day, I'll reach out to someone else and say, hey can you help me? I'll be like, what can I do to help you? And it's amazing when you, I mean, for me at least when I start giving to someone, you start, you're like, oh, I've got some worth. I can do something good. That's helped me a lot in a lot of bad situations.
On Tools & Teamwork
Bob: Excellent. So I'd like to turn the tables just a little bit towards some of the tools you're using to grow your business. Are you working with anything project management wise that you really geek out on and that's been super helpful for your company?
Ian: We use Teamwork and Trello combined and we used a combination of those two. Trello is are high level and then Teamwork is our granular project-based management, but all of our projects are productized. So we've productized all of our projects and when I talk about systems, it's really important. They're all productized and we have spreadsheets down to who's going to do what and at what level. And I think that's a crucial thing where before you build on a project so you can start productizing all of your projects.
And I think before anyone gets into a tool, we all want to find the craziest, coolest tool. Start doing everything as manual as possible. Like with funnels, I see so often people are like, build out this awesome funnel without any traffic. Like, email everyone individually until you get 20, 30 emails a day, right? You can email all the people, if you're getting five leads from your lead pages every day, you can email all those five people yourself and you can set up the system and email them until you start getting 20, 30, 40 leads a day and it becomes unwieldy.
So I just wanted to add that caveat, but yeah, that's great. I'm super excited about the Leadpages website builder because we've been doing websites. Websites for us were kind of, we weren't mainly a web development company. We're a converging company, we're a lead company, but most people when they think of, up until four or five years ago, almost every one that when they thought that owned a business, they thought getting more business from the Internet, it started with a website.
So people come to us for websites, we build websites, but then we would do the video SEO and like retargeting and really the videos were where we are. But most people start with websites. So I'm super excited about having a platform that is conversion based from the get-go and stable because you know it's great.
Open source is great but it's not in the long term for a lot of people and it becomes very expensive and then you know you forget about stuff and little things break here and you've built this house of cards and like one plugin changes and if it's not in a native atmosphere, it destroys everything.
So I'm super excited about having a conversion based website builder to be building clients on and just be focusing on the conversion and not on, hey is this going to be mobile responsive and is this going to work in like six months?
Bob: Yeah, I think people are going to love using that if they're not already, and get a lot out of it. And you're absolutely right, being conversion first as our focus makes a big difference for freelancers and so forth because they're not getting a ton of traffic. They need to make sure any traffic they get is going to convert as opposed to just waste their money, waste their time.
Ian: Yeah, I mean I just see so many websites. I'm like, I'm like halfway down your homepage. I'm really not sure what you do.
Anatomy of an About Us Page
Bob: Yeah. Now about that, I know that you and your team focus a little bit on the About Us section of the website and videos and stories are really important. Let's chat for just a minute about that. What are some key, maybe top two or three tips you might give for people on what they would include on an About Us page?
Ian: So what most people would put it on a homepage about the company, I would move over to the About Us page. The home page really should be about them. Now they're going to tell people what the about us page. It's still about them. Imagine you have to know what your avatar is, but now imagine you're sitting there and you're telling the story of this is where your “why” goes. Do you know why I do what I do? What is the biggest compliment I can get, I put in the videos. Then if you do have like education on there or stand out things, explain why it's important to them. If you're, you've got this award, why should I care about it?
That is a great place to have customer stories, patient stories, client stories because it's About Us is the second most used page on the website, and if you look at your flow, generally they're going to go to a homepage, some internal pages, the about us page and then after the about us page, it's the content page.
So this is where you get really, really conversion minded. You want to have those customer stories. This is the one place that I would have testimonials and I don't like the word testimonials, but this is the one place they should be talking about you, and not their story as much. Those are some major, major factors.
And then if you are going to add like you play golf, why should I care that you play golf? You're going to put pictures of your family, that's super nice, but why should I care? Make it a little bit funny and make it long form.
Just like the homepage, make it full with a long form with little bits, chunks of information so they can scroll and see and understand why these things are important because you never know what the one trigger factor is. It's like, oh, you've got an aunt named Sally. I've got an aunt named Sally, let's work together. So those are my major key points that we put into the About Us page.
Reading for Any Mood
Bob: Excellent. Now I'd love to chat with you for a minute about what fuels your brain a bit. Books you're reading, podcasts you might be listening to. I understand that you are a big fan of Audible and all the wonderful things you can listen to. What are you getting a lot of enjoyment out of recently?
Ian: I try and have at least one thing to learn. One, like I'm trying to learn one thing, one motivational thing, and then one spiritual thing and then one fun thing on Audible at all times. So depending on what my mood is, in the morning I try and get motivated.
Ready, Fire, Aim is one I've listened to again recently. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday is another great one. Then the Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama is absolutely fantastic from an audio standpoint too because you have the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu talking about what's important in life.
And then, I'm just listening to so, so much. I just got done with one of my favorites of all times from a business standpoint is the Disney War and just about how Disney grew. So I love biographies as well. And then Audible also, I mean I don't have any affiliation with Audible, but they put out some great individual series too, so those are some big ones. I love Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin, so I've listened to some of their stuff over and over again.
Bob: Excellent. How about podcasts? Anybody in your ear these days as you're commuting to your office?
Ian: You know, it's funny. I've been switching around podcasts a lot. I mean, I love some of the Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History, The Perpetual Traffic podcast, (Ralph Burns and Molly Pittman) and they're great. I've listened to the Leadpages podcasts a little bit. You know, just sometimes I listen to by what I'm trying to learn and then sometimes I try and listen to motivational stuff.
So my friend Tony has a great podcast. Tony Grebmeier, he's renamed it so many times. It's now The Be Fulfilled podcast. Those are some of the big ones that I listen to.
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Final Tips for Successful Growth
Bob: Very good. One of the last questions I have for you Ian is a little bit of a kind of an encapsulation of all that you've learned. People I'm sure are asking you, both freelancers and video marketing folks, what's the key to success in starting your growing up a business?
Ian: Get hyper-focused on one thing. Make sure obviously it has value to people and just worry about delivering that value as much as possible at first to as many people as possible and know that it's going to be hard. You have to work hard. The bigger the possible success, the more unknowns there are going to be and the more roadblocks they're going to be.
But I mean that's the key, and then surround yourself with awesome people. If they're not great people, just don't spend your time around them if they're not doing great things. And if your BS meter going off, believe your BS meter.
Bob: Yeah, the intuition of a manager and CEO tends to be something to tap into for sure.
Bob: Awesome. Well, I'd love to have people connect with you. I'd like to ask this in two ways. So one is what's a basic way people can connect with you to learn more? And then also I understand you're coming out soon with a directory of service providers in the video world. So talk a little bit about that for just a second too.
Ian: Sure, so I mean you can go to Ian Garlic, my Facebook page, and message me right there on Facebook and I'll message you back. Messenger's great. Email for me is a black hole, and I tell any of my clients that because I get copied on like 8,000 emails a day and that's just work emails, not spam.
But we are starting out, I've got a lot of call for story-based video and I wish I could hire a thousand videographers to be all around the country. But I like helping entrepreneurs. I think that's the backbone of our country. And I'd rather help 100, 200, 300 entrepreneurs find the right people and 200 entrepreneurs grow a video business as I've had.
So we are coming out with a website called Story Crews, crews like a film crew, dot com, and if you go storycrews.com/leadpages and use code LEADPAGES, you'll get my case study course. How to make case stories with your smartphone that convert. It's, you know, I usually charge like 500 bucks for this, but I'm going to give the first 20 people free. I'll probably give it to more people for free.
But one of the biggest pains I hear all the time is finding video. How do I start with business video? A lot of people go to find a great filmmaker, spend $30K and have something that doesn't convert. So this will be all people that converts in all of our education materials I've developed over the years teaching you.
If you want to make the videos yourself, how to get started making videos yourself that convert, make you the authority, makes you the friend. I firmly believe, you know like the people that are listening to this, these are the people that are going to keep our country growing, keep people happy, help really serve small business, which I feel is the backbone of our country.
Bob: Well, I'll certainly have that in the show notes as well.
Ian, thanks so much for spending some time with us today to let us know a little bit more about your business and some lessons you learned along the way.
Ian: Awesome, Bob. Thank you so much for having me on the show.
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What are your top take-aways from Ian?
And what's one lesson you learned in this episode that you'll take action on over the next week?