I talked to Rich Davis, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, ThinkSpark, about his impressive business comeback story – lessons from buying back a business and reclaiming business success.
You can listen to episode #78 of the How I Made It In Marketing podcast to hear Davis discuss his journey of overcoming business challenges, the importance of passion over perfection, effective delegation, staying true to one's brand, and the value of listening and problem-solving.
Get the power of 10,000 marketing experiments. Play with MECLABS AI at MECLABS.com/AI (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).
Running a marketing department or agency can feel a bit like being in that Jay-Z song.
And I gotta admit, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by 99 problems that come my way.
So I appreciate the ray of sunshine who is my next guest, who reminds us that ‘Solving problems for people is a privilege, not a burden.’
To hear the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson-filled stories, I talked to Rich Davis, Founder and Chief Creative Officer, ThinkSpark.
In five years, ThinkSpark has grown its gross revenue from $600,000 to a projected $6 million for 2023. Davis leads a team of 15 at ThinksSpark.
Listen to our conversation using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
Some lessons from Davis that emerged in our discussion:
Davis sold his business partly because he was ready to try something else but also because he was frustrated with things. He sold it in 2013. The new owners couldn't make it work despite having more business experience and resources. He bought it back in 2014. Davis learned so much from the sale and buyback.
First, many of the day-to-day annoyances that inspired him to sell, he actually missed after he sold. It's a privilege to solve problems for clients.
In having a second shot, Davis also wanted to make the business less reliant on himself so eventually it could function without him. It's been a long process, but they made it pretty high on the INC 5000 last year and were the single fastest-growing business in their city.
Davis rarely looks at experience or technical skill as the primary reason to hire someone. He always tried to hire people who are passionate about their work and genuinely care about others. Sometimes they make mistakes in the interest of doing something differently or there’s just human error. But clients know they never make mistakes due to lack of effort.
Last year, they made a mistake with one of their largest clients where they accidently placed part of a media buy outside the flight the client specified.
They offered to eat the costs and the client very well could have accepted the offer. It would have been a painful setback. But the client appreciated that Davis and his team worked countless nights and weekends for them and always give their best effort. Instead of sticking them with the bill, the client reallocated funds and collaborated with them to improve communications to make sure the issue wouldn’t happen again. That only happens when a client believes in you and your mission.
Look at it as a skill. Davis had so many delegating efforts fall short of his hopes. He’d give an assignment to a team member and it wouldn’t be done correctly or it wouldn’t get done at all. At first, he thought he should stop delegating because other people just couldn’t be relied upon or they didn’t have the skill to do work the way he wanted it to be done. Ultimately, he realized it was his fault. He wasn’t good enough at delegating. He worked on it. And worked on it more. And hired coaches.
He's still not where he needs to be, but he has gotten a lot better. It’s like training for a marathon.
When going after Pepsi as a client, at first, Davis’s team was brainstorming about how they could make themselves seem bigger. Conventional wisdom was that a big company would want a big agency. Ultimately, they decided to be true to their brand, which is built around the small agency model. And they made the case for why Pepsi needed a small agency versus a big one. And the team genuinely believed that.
The strategy worked. The larger agencies all kind of canceled each other out in their pitches, and Davis’s team was the purple cow that stood out. And it's been an awesome relationship, and they continue to do great work together.
Davis also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with.
via Dave Josserand, President, ThinkSpark
For Davis, as someone who’s a bit neurotic, he has a tendency to try to control conversations. He wants to start them. He wants to do the wrap up. He jumps in after he gets the gist of what someone is trying to say, even if they’re still talking. Watching Josserand, he started noticing Josserand sometimes only says a few things during a meeting but they’re usually the most insightful and helpful moments.
That’s because the rest of the time, he’s listening and analyzing, not talking. Davis is trying to follow his lead even though that’s hard for Davis.
via Elliot Horovitz, CEO Physicians Preferred
Horovitz started his final company at age 84 and sold it at 90 for eight figures! ($19,000,000, Davis thinks). For a long time, Davis thought the goal in life was to work as hard as possible so you could stop working as young as possible. Horovitz believed that solving problems for people is a privilege, not a burden. Hard work keeps your brain sharp and gives you a sense of purpose. It changed the way Davis views working and life.
via Benjamin Davis, Student (his son)
David’s son is on the autism spectrum. Benjamin’s the smartest human being that Davis has ever known. Like a lot of kids on the spectrum, he doesn’t care what other people think about him. Other people’s opinions were all that mattered to Davis for a while. He’s trying to be more like Benjamin and run his own race and not care what other people think. You can’t please everyone.
This article is distributed through the MarketingSherpa email newsletter. Sign up for free if you’d like to get more episodes like this one.
If you would like to apply to be a guest on How I Made It In Marketing, here is the podcast guest application.
This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a rough transcript of our discussion.
Rich Davis: I'll just give you an example was for our billing process is I used to have to because that was the financial part. I used to have to approve every invoice before every bill before it. I looked at every bill when it came in. I'd approve every invoice when it came out. And I the first coach I hired was this 90 year old Jewish guy who I'm Jewish.
He reminded me actually of my grandfather, which is, I think, the reason I hired him. And also he would call me kid when I was 15 years old. So he had built two businesses from zero people to 500 people, sold them both and just in construction in New Jersey in the sixties. So he was like dealing with mobs and he was like a tough guy.
And he'd be, you know, and I'd tell him about my process of like clicking every, you know, looking at every invoice and checking it, double checking that we had all. And it's like he's like, wow, He's like, How were you at math? I was like, I was a C student, You know, it's like an end of the five years that you've been checking invoices, how many were incorrect that I was like, you know, maybe like three.
And he's like, Why the hell are you doing this kid?
Intro: Welcome to How I Made it. In marketing from Marketing Sherpa, we scour pitches from hundreds of creative leaders and uncover specific examples, not just trending ideas or buzzword laden schmaltz, real world examples to help you transform yourself as a marketer. Now, here's your host, the senior director of Content and Marketing at Marketing Sherpa Daniel Burstein to tell you about today's guest.
Rich Davis: Been.
Daniel Burstein: Running a marketing department or agency can feel a bit like being in that Jay-Z song, right? And I got to admit, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by those 99 problems that come my way. So I appreciate the ray of sunshine, who is my next guest who reminds us that solving problems for people is a privilege, not a burden? You're to share the story behind that lesson, along with many more lesson filled stories is Rich Davis, the founder and chief creative officer at Think Spark.
Thanks for joining us, Rich.
Rich Davis: Thank you so much for having me excited, Scott.
Daniel Burstein: I can't wait. Let's take a quick look at your background so people know I'm talking to you. You were a senior creative at Saint John and partner for eight years. That's where you started your marketing journey. Then you launched your own agency, Think Spark, which you've been out for 19 years. In five years, I think Spark has grown its gross revenue from $600,000 to a projected $6 million for 2023.
Congratulations, Rich and Rich leads a team of 15. So Rich, give us a sense what is your day like as founder and chief creative officer of Think Spark?
Rich Davis: Well, it's a lot different now than it was probably. You know, I think when I started in 2004, it was basically a spare bedroom and just, you know, there was the marketing world has completely changed since then and it was just me. And now I've got a team. So a lot of it is coaching people, helping them be better.
I still kind of oversee a lot of the creative work and hoping, you know, just trying to build a company. There's now a lot of money on the line, clients, money that they're investing in. So I got to make sure that doesn't get like screwed up and flushed down the toilet. So it's so it's it's been great though It's been really enjoyable.
Daniel Burstein: We've got some interesting lessons from your journey some I hadn't heard before, but we've done I mean over 70 of these and I think yours will be 77 or something. And so there's some interesting lessons here. So first we take a look at some lessons from the things you made. As I've said before, that's something I love to as a marketer, right?
We get to make things that have never been like a podiatrist or Ray or did anything else but don't feel like they leave it the day like they made things like we make things. And so here's the first. Your first lesson is from that thing you made the agency and you said many of the day to day annoyances that inspired me to sell.
I actually missed after I sold. This is a really surprising lesson. So I'll let you tell the story. But you saw the agency, you came back, thought there's gonna be a very different lesson, but I want to read that again because that's really profound. Many of the day to day annoyances that inspired me to sell, I actually missed after I sold.
So how do you learn that?
Rich Davis: Rich So it was I think it even started back when I was at St China Partners, which I started at that agency. It was about 20 people and there were three writers. One ended up quitting, one ended up getting fired, and suddenly I was like a 25 year old. As the agency grew from, you know, a few people to over 150 and started adding these accounts.
And I got to be there sort of riding the wave as as one of the lead creatives. And I was about seven or eight years into it and I saw and I was just starting to get annoyed with everything. You know, I didn't have a good creative brief and that wasn't accurate. And the client had shot down one of my ideas that I'd like put so much passion into, and I remember watching an HBO documentary on Bellevue, the mental the mental hospital in New York, and there was a guy who was in a straitjacket.
And all he said every day was, I hate this place. I've been here for seven years. No one listens to me. I hate this place. I've been here for seven years. No one listens to me. I was like, Oh, my God, that's my story. I got to quit and do my own thing. Which actually that part was a blessing.
But at the same time, like I had a pretty lucky that I was just a kid, you know? And I was like, you know, an integral part of this big agency that was growing and all that other stuff. And, and, and when I started my own agency, it was almost in the same time frame where, you know, someone could show up at a shoot late or something wasn't working.
Or again, the clients, that's always a big thing with creatives. The client shoots down your idea that you really cared about and wanted to see made. And and finally I was like, You know what? I'm going to go do something else. I don't know if it's going to be like a park ranger or write screenplays or something, but I don't want to do advertising anymore.
These people are crazy and you know, they don't like my ideas sometimes and blah, blah, blah, and and so I sold the business and I and I sold it to someone who was actually a CEO. I won't say who it was, but they were a CEO of one of the largest companies in America who had retired and always wanted to go into marketing.
And first of all, I was thinking, well, why is this super smart guy buying the business that I'm jettisoning? I mean, that that maybe I'm the one making it? So that was like my first clue almost on the day that we closed on the business. But it turns out a small business is much, much harder to run than a large business.
And he had a whole dynamic with his son who he brought into the business and they couldn't make it work. And I ended up after a year that their business at the time was failing, and they asked me if I wanted it back. And then that time I realized, like all these little things, meetings that went too long or quirky personalities, like it was a privilege to be able to do the things that I got to do and make things.
And sure, it might not have been like my favorite idea. They pick my second favorite, but like we are so privileged as creative and even as marketers to do the things that we do to change people's opinion and get new products out there and all this other stuff that there are annoyances, I found even when I was at home basically doing nothing.
There are still even annoyances with that. Like the can opener is not working and there's just annoyances in life. And and really what we get to do in branding and marketing is an awesome job. And as I looked at other things out there, it was just I couldn't wait to get back. So I had an opportunity to buy it back.
Now as part of the negotiating, when they said, Do you want it back? I was like, I don't know. I'm so happy doing what I'm doing now. But in my head I was like, Oh my God, I got to get this back. And it was really fortunate that I was able to get it back for close to nothing.
And then that gave me the opportunity to look at it through a new lens and also do a lot of the things that I was doing that frustrated me, kind of do them in a way that I could do them a little bit better and make life a little bit easier. And that's kind of what I did.
Daniel Burstein: I mean, I think that's great for anyone listening to, like you're frustrated with your job. You know, right now I'm sure everyone listening has a frustration right now to think this is something pretty cool. We do. I remember I interviewed the marketing director at Merrill and she was talking about I had all these deadlines and doing this and this and blah, blah, blah.
And I was like kind of photoshoot like in Italy, like over the Mediterranean, this historic naval blah blah. And I just had to stop for a minute like, wait a minute, this, I actually have a kind of cool job. Like, these deadlines are frustrating. This is kind of cool, but so let me ask you. So that's a rare chance almost.
It's it's like it's a Wonderful Life chance to do it all over again. Or I mean, I also kind of think of it's like the output. You know, every time I tried to get out, they put me back in, right? That well, if you had a chance to do it over again. Right. So you dissolve the agency, you're out, then you come back in.
So let me ask, what did you do differently? Because something that you said really struck me when you talk about like leaving Saint John and being frustrated. I was also at an agency for five years and I was also, you know, frustrated. I mean, a lot of frustrated every day. And then when I had a chance to leave, I thought it was going to be like a Jerry Maguire moment.
Right. Like it's going to be I was going be so excited to like when I resigned from everything who's with me. Like, let's, you know. And what I was surprised you didn't get two weeks after that and stuff. And what I was surprised that it was like I was sad. I was like, man, this is going to I'm going to miss these people.
I'm going to miss you. Now, you know that that desk over there, I'm going to miss like that marker comp I'm going to miss. And and so me more like when I went into the next job I was going into, I kind of looked at it with fresh eyes and said, I'm going to make the most of this.
Right. So for you, you you left, you sold it, you came back, you had a second chance. It's a wonderful Life every time a bell rings, all that stuff. So what did you do different the second time? Rich Yeah.
Rich Davis: So I'll start really quickly by saying one of the one of the kind of like inspirational moments is someone told me about this thing called the I think it's called the Hidden Cantilever, which basically says we all have like this defined range of happiness. And yeah, if you win the lottery, you're going to be a little bit happier for a while.
Or if someone you know dies in your family, you're going to be sadder for a little while. But generally we all stay in that kind of range. So it doesn't matter if you're, you know, like climbing the Himalayas or the Alps or like at a cubicle that you, you know, it might vary a little bit. So I kind of went into it with fresh eyes.
And and also I remember there was a scene from Seinfeld where George said he just was going to do the opposite of everything like he was, I think, living with his parents. He didn't have a girlfriend. All this stuff was going wrong. And he's like and things started working. So I was like, you have it's a you know, a little bit of you have to put your ego out the door.
But, you know, I decided to do almost everything in the opposite way. And I used to like to have everything my way. So I was a, you know, a classic micromanage ager and did a lot of things that I probably didn't need to do, but they just had to be my way. And I also realized when I sold, while I got a decent price, you can actually like I the the price was less than it could have been because I was so intimately involved in every aspect of the business.
So I really made it my goal and it took a little while to even really I didn't even know how to do that. It's like, how can I extricate myself so I'm not, you know, so billing could go on without me. And so account management can go on without me and certain even aspects of the the creative process.
And so it was all about, you know, getting myself out of the business as much as possible. And, and, and it was hard to let go of so many things, especially I think, for people. If you start as like a one person business in a bedroom and you've done everything and you've had people let you down, it's hard to, you know, do that.
But it was a process and I eventually got there and still but I still have work to do.
Daniel Burstein: I that's a great lesson for any small business owner. I think at the end we'll talk a bit about how you moved in that direction. So you talked about the he'd done cantilever. I've heard it called that he'd done a treadmill, right? But I did. I was like.
Rich Davis: Yeah, oh.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, right. Yeah. And so you get, you know, no matter, it's a constant treadmill. The idea is because, you know, even if you win the lottery, you keep chasing something and try to find happiness and happiness.
Rich Davis: Cantilever sounds much fancier than treadmill. That's why I went with that one.
Daniel Burstein: You're a smart guy that you can find that treadmill. People can understand, actually. Oh, yes.
Rich Davis: You're not a treadmill.
Daniel Burstein: But my buddy from Peloton. Yeah. My point is. So I think that's true, you know, because the idea behind that is we're chasing something we can never quite get. However, I feel like when it comes to this, like I feel like this is kind of the role I have to do. So like for you, I want to ask like, like, yes, it's a hydraulic treadmill, but also, isn't it like you could you're just like a smart guy and you could have probably been in a successful accountant or dentist or a million different things, but also like, does it is there something there where it makes your soul sing to just get that concept out there
to be able to make things? I mean.
Rich Davis: Absolutely.
Daniel Burstein: You have fun fulfillment anywhere else?
Rich Davis: No. I mean, we get one thing that I struggled with originally is I was thinking like, I want to be an architect because they build buildings that like last beyond us, you know, and, and, you know, you build a bridge, it's there for a hundred years or whatever it is. And we build sandcastles in some ways. Like they they're there and they're beautiful and they need to be appreciated, but then they're completely gone.
And I was looking at, you know, even when I left, say, John, to partners, it's like all my life's work, seven years, you know, this is, gosh, now there's not even a physical tape. It's just, you know, it's a file on a server. But I was like, oh, my gosh, all my seven years is in this little portfolio case.
And then this unending like Betamax tape that tells you how long ago it was back to tape. And so you also have to appreciate that and also realize, I mean, this gets really philosophical, but even those buildings are bridges all disappear. It's just a little bit longer in the grand scheme of things. So you just you have to appreciate the process of building.
I think, and the process of making things and the privilege that it is like I mentioned before, and then you let it go and you appreciate the admire the sandcastle for however long it exists, and then it washes away and you build a new sandcastle and you're always creating that is, we are lucky to be able to do that.
And I also think that I realized that the great thing about being in marketing and, you know, there's such a cycle now of, of stuff that, that it goes through is that, gosh, there's like an ugly bridge that that's going to be there and people are going to look out forever. And if you mess something up, you've got a chance to redo it sometimes like later that day.
So it really is a great profession to be in. And again, it's just looking at it and appreciating the great things instead of focusing on the, you know, the negative things.
Daniel Burstein: Well, let's talk about what that passion means for client retention, for running an agency. You said most clients would rather have passion versus perfection. So how did you learn that?
Rich Davis: Well, because we never offered perfection. So I don't know that I ever had the chance to fully test that theory. But I know as as an agency, especially when we were smaller and before we had all our systems and our processes worked out, we had a lot of mistakes. And, you know, we're not perfect. We still make mistakes from time to time.
And I found that clients would actually like they'd be like, Oh, that's okay. Like we've had, you know, this many go right and all this stuff and you guys really care. And, and I found that as long as you're really try you know there can be some epic failures that get you fired for sure But for the most part if you're if you're showing passion and it's genuine passion for what you're doing and for the client and trying to put their interest first, that that goes a long way to to when there are mistakes that the client will do that.
And that's kind of guided how I hire people. I don't necessarily hire the most experienced person or the most technically adept. I mean, we have an amazing team. They're awesome. But I always look for passion is probably the single most. Is it someone who's going to care? Is it someone who gets fired up about getting things right and and getting the right message out there?
And I think that's made a big difference in our culture. Like we don't have to have like we do have, you know, fun dinners and things where we get together, but we don't have to have like pep rallies that you see a lot of businesses because people are just down or they're disengaged. Like when you have passionate people, that's just it's it's there.
And and I think that comes across in who we are and and and has helped us be successful.
Daniel Burstein: And so I think there was a time where your agency made an incorrect media buy, but the client didn't even want the refund because you were so passionate. It was, oh, my.
Rich Davis: Gosh, That was that was amazing. I mean, that one, I literally, I think, cried when I when I got that email. But yeah, we had we had had a media buy where someone typed in a figure wrong, you know, and they were working till two in the morning every night trying to get scramble on a rush project for a client.
And, and we messed something up and we were just going to eat the amount which was going to be very significant and really like affect us in a big way. And the client said, I'd, we'd love to work with you on this. You guys have done so much stuff for us in the late hours and the weekends and all that stuff.
Why don't we figure out a way that we can take the cost and we can allocated over here and we can actually use this media that you guys got and we'll do this with it. And they really partnered with us on it and it was incredible and it worked out. They got a lot of our away from it, but they could have very easily said, Oh, look, we got free media, awesome and we would have been totally screwed and they would have I wouldn't even have faulted them for that in any way because it was our mistake.
And I think because we had tried so hard for them continually and built up a lot of goodwill and trust they were willing to do that with for us. And it was really like beautiful to see that they were really like our partners. And and it was an amazing event.
Daniel Burstein: Well, that's great. I think that's the difference between just having a transactional relationship with a client versus, like I said, them seeing the passion. You're acting in their best interest. You know, they want to act in your best interest to. Let me ask you. So, okay, once you have the client, I mean, you've been with that client for a while, they can see you're passionate, but I know you're passionate guy.
But what about for when you're out pitching, when there's an RFP? Like, I mean, I'm sure every agency says we're passionate. What do you what do you do to kind of show that passion? And I'll give you like an example for me, like I think a lot is like the language I use or the language I hear people use, right?
It's like I hear so much hype language in marketing. There's game changing solutions and Supercharge Your website and all that stuff. And for me, I've written about copywriting and value proposition. You know, like I've defined copywriting as helping the customer come to the best decision about a brand product or conversion goal. Right? And I'm sure some people are listening and they're like, That's sappy or ridiculous or pious.
It's not for me. And that's great because we don't share that same passion right? But for hopefully the same people that share that same passion. Right. Use that right language, you know, works. So for you, like during an RFP, you're in a pitch. How do you get that passion across to a potential client?
Rich Davis: So this is the same thing like when you're marketing for clients. So like if we're doing marketing for a hospital and we'll ask them, like, what makes you different? They always say, We're caring, you know, and they always have these. No patient is just a number. And so everyone, everyone says all that stuff. But how do you demonstrate it?
Because like you said, everyone says game changing, everyone says revolutionary product. So I'll give you an example. When we were pitching, it was it was it was interesting. When we were pitching Pepsi, we had an opportunity to to get into a pitch for Pepsi, which was going to be a oh, I'll say it right now, a game changing thing for our for our agency.
And so I'm sure every agency went in and said they were passionate. Well, I'll tell you, first of all, one of the agencies came in with Dasani water. They were actually drinking Dasani water, which is a Coke product. So they were eliminated without even getting a chance to pitch. So So they had a client.
Daniel Burstein: Wow. Be on brand come on.
Rich Davis: So they could say how passionate they are, but they're not showing it and that they didn't even focus on that, you know, didn't even look at what they were bringing into the meeting. So what we did in that pitch is we actually went in and we had something called my Pepsi story, where we showed a personal connection that we had to the brand.
And so we and we've all had these interactions with brands, you know, And so instead of just saying we are passionate, so I'll give you my example. When it was my turn to talk my Pepsi story, I actually and this is like one of those happy coincidences, I'm a Florida Gators fan and they are a Pepsi brand. They invented Gatorade, which is in the Pepsi portfolio.
And I actually had a couple of pictures of, you know, my daughter's first Gator game. And she I guess this is me not being maybe the best parent in terms of giving your kid healthy drinks, but that over that three hour span, I had a picture of her holding a Pepsi and I also had one of her having a Gatorade.
So I mentioned how it was this great moment. She never had a soft drink before, and I let her have her first one. I just wanted her to like, you know, going to games so she would go with me more. And so I actually have a picture of her having her first soft drink, which happened to be a Pepsi.
And I showed that at the meeting and talked about, you know, just being proud of Gatorade, being, you know, having the Gators name and and really just demonstrating it. So that could be different things for and pitches that could be different things when you're marketing your clients or for a brand that you're representing, but you have to always show it because we hear all these hollow catchphrases all the time.
But you have to you have to prove it somehow. So if you're caring, it needs to be, you know, 99% patient satisfaction or show that in a creative way. It just can't be saying it because that does it doesn't work.
Daniel Burstein: And that's great. I mean, show your personal connection to the brand. The speaking of brand, though, when you were pitching Pepsi, this is one of your lessons. Be true to your brand. And I like this because I mean, everyone says that, right? Everyone, every podcast, listening people are gonna say that you have a great story behind it. How when you were pitching Pepsi, you straight stayed true to your brand, I think Spark Brand And how did you do that?
Rich Davis: So we were up it was a five agency pitch and it was for big agencies and us. And then I told you about the Dasani thing. So it was three agencies in us. So that made a Now that was a big difference. But the agencies we were all pitching against were, were big agencies with one of them was the agency of record for, I think Samsung Pampers.
They were doing stuff for ESPN. I mean, they were massive agencies with great people, great work. And so, you know, usually a lot of times in the especially before I sold our whole goal going into pitches was how can we look as big as possible and, you know, and come across as a big agency what we weren't and our whole characters being the smallest big agency on earth, that's what we try and say is we have big agency talent but in a small agency format.
And instead of like hiding from being a small agency, that's what we actually led with, is these giant agencies are great, but look at how big. I think we even had a pie chart where we showed like what they would be to a large agency which was like this this particular this wasn't Pepsi, the entire thing. This is one little kind of small sleeve of it is what that would be to a big agency.
And then what that would mean to us. And and we we took a little bit of a risk saying that we didn't have, you know, 52 graphic designers. We had two, but they were amazing. And we were going to give them tons of attention and and and all the passion that we had of a small agency. And that ended up what being that set us apart from all the other agencies.
And that was kind of the difference maker. And we told jokes and we showed the stuff about, you know, who would show a picture of them with their daughter having a Gatorade. But we made it personal and we emphasized that whole thing, and it was different than they had ever seen. I think they were previously with the Pepsi International Agency.
And so we came in as a smaller local agency and were able to walk away with it. I always equate it to like that 16 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, beating the ones, but we beat like three, three or four one. So it was really cool.
Daniel Burstein: Real Cinderella story here. It's so I mean, that's real human, a great parenting story. I think we can all relate. When I took my daughter to her first Jumbo shrimp game, I didn't even know she know there was a baseball game going on. We just kept going by her, like, different, right? So like, but she liked the game.
Well, that brings up, you know, when we talk about this lesson about being true to your brand, it's it's first of all, it's a great lesson for any small agency owner, any small agency listening. Hopefully that's some kind of, I don't know, make them feel better because I know so many small agencies who tried to appear bigger to to win that clientele.
And I know, for example, in our guild, we have a lot of different consultants who also, when we first look at their advertising in the funnel, I mean, it seems like they're competing with McKinsey and Accenture and it's like, no, you got to find your niche at your one or two person shop like focus, focus on that niche.
But what I want to ask you was when you talk about your brand about more that personal brand, you talk about telling jokes and some of those things and how you found to balance that authenticity and professionalism in your personal brand. I'll give you a quick example for us. We we're on this experiment once a balancing that authenticity and professionalism, because everyone says, be authentic, be authentic.
Right? Right. What does that mean? What are the limits? And so our founder, Phil McGlothlin, he moved to Montana and he wears cowboy hats a lot up there. So anyway, he had gone into the studio up there and he had shot a video in a suit as normal, you know, And then he left and then they said, Wait, wait, you got to come back.
You've got to reshoot it. Something went wrong. He just had his cowboy hat on in his regular stops. He was like, I'm just shooting it like this, not with a suit. So long story short, turns out the first video was fine. So they had two videos. The same thing, tested it in the channel. So this was YouTube advertising and actually the professionalism video worked better.
Like I was hoping it would be the authentic one. And I think there's a good lesson there of understanding your audience, because for example, in our aid guild, once people are, you know, deeper into the funnel, they know us. Yeah, Flint dresses like that of me. I'm wearing a t shirt like this. But early in the funnel, like in that first YouTube advertising, you might need to do something different to pull them in.
And I noticed with you, Rich, I got your headshot. You were in like a Patagonia sweater or something like that. I looked. I looked at marketing, sure, but I com slash podcast where I haven't posted my past 14 male guests all were dressed formally like suits or, you know, collared shirt or something like that. The last guy that didn't was the CMO of Tractor Beverage Company, but he had a Hollywood background who's a creative.
So it comes back to that. Red how do you that you mentioned joking around, telling that personal story, but how do you balance that authenticity versus professionalism?
Rich Davis: Oh, well, that I mean, yeah, I it's funny because I'll talk to my team like about being true to ourselves. And then we did a Zoom call where someone's like, got their washing machine in the background and they have to brush their hair. So I mean, we do still have to engage in reality a little bit. And my God, we know in marketing, like how many times have we done that sandwich for the, you know, whatever and we're spraying the thing?
I mean, you still. Yes, I think the idea is that you get it as much authenticity as you can, but at the same time it is, you know, you are still selling the people and you are like going out on a date and it's different on the first date than it is after you've been dating for two years and that sort of thing.
So yeah, you have to use your your judgment. And I know it is disappointing. I mean, we used to do commercials for when I did the Ford commercials, we would do some that were like super creative. We were selling like F-150 trucks and, you know, an idea that all the creative people loved and then we test it with another idea that was like, get 1500 dollars cash back.
It owns the sun and that one would work better. And you're like, Oh, no, But so you still have to account for data and reality and what's working and what's not. I think you start ads as an in a good place instead of just trying to totally, you know, I see brands all the time where they want a different audience that isn't them or they want to they want to be something that even with, you know, a lot of makeup, they can't pull off.
And I think, you know, that's still me. It's a glossy shot, but it's still be, you know, and I didn't it wasn't Photoshopped. I don't think it was good lighting. But so I think you start an authentic place and then you have to you know, you have to also account for what people are going to buy and and what makes them comfortable also, because ultimately, you're not your own audience.
You're you know, they're the they're the audience.
Daniel Burstein: Oh, it's so true. I like that. Start authentic and then figure out what your audience needs and then totally fake. It reminds me and I want to ask you a magic question after this, because you're talking about managing people can be calls, I think of a distributor team, but reminds me, my first agency job I was writing for people who owned like ski and ski out condos and like the big valley, like second, third, fourth homes, like titans of industry and stuff.
Right? And I remember I had one concept that was, you know, about sleeping in and then going to ski. And my boss was like, You don't understand. These people are up like 5 a.m. checking the markets in Europe or Asia. It's like you're not sleeping in and you weren't like coming right out of college. I think I had one class and like all the semesters in college, that was before noon.
I was like, why even bother getting that rich if you can't sleep in? So I think that's a great lesson there about like, understand, you're like, be authentic, but you're also not your audience or your customer always. And you need to understand that customer and serve them.
Rich Davis: Yeah, I've, I actually had a nightmare to like a couple, like a couple of days ago on a spot that I did probably ten years ago where I was like, Oh my God, I can't believe I recommended that they go with that idea because it was completely the wrong thing. And yeah, you, you got to you can't just do things that are creative for their own sake, and you can't just be like, This is who we are and screw everyone else like you do.
You do have to try and make modifications where they're needed.
Daniel Burstein: That is a bit of a delayed reaction. But so you're talking about I think have it totally distributed team. You're talking about how they're showing up on Zoom calls and stuff. One lesson you had is don't look at delegating as a task. Right? So as we talked about you growing from essentially solopreneur to now, where your agency is, I think delegating would be super important to where you're getting now.
So so how did you learn this lesson? Don't look at delegating as a task.
Rich Davis: Well, I look at it more as a skill than like, oh, you just delegate by you click a couple of things and Asana or Monday or base camp or whatever. Like it's, it's something that you do you really need to work on and get better at and improve and get help with and, and really master if you're going to and by the way, this is you know, you'd mentioned before like I guess because I'm telling the story of my own business that like, oh, that's a great advice for a small business, but I think it's great advice even if you're managing a large department or a team within a brand like you, still delegating is
so important because it not only empowers people, other people and gets helps them, you know, get better and and get more fulfillment out of their job. But it gives you time to think about the bigger issues so you're not caught up in the minutia. And like I said at the beginning, all those things that frustrate you, you know, I think you have to look at them differently, but you also want to eliminate those things out of your way whenever possible.
So delegating is is the key to doing all that stuff. And I think, you know, it's probably easier for someone. Let's take Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook. You've got this thing that's like this world beater that's getting millions and millions of users. It's easy to build a team. I think that that's an easy lesson for him to say it.
It's much harder when you're like, okay, well, if I delegate to someone else and they mess things up, like a lot could go wrong because we're a small company and there aren't a lot of things and we're not getting millions of users regardless of what we do. Like we messed up one client. We could be like out of business.
So it's a little bit like jumping off a high dive like you have to. And there are people who could delegate things. And I did that plenty of times, which made it hard for me. You delegate something, it gets totally screwed up. And then the national or the natural reaction is to like, I'm not going to delegate. I'm going to do more stuff myself because I can control it and I can make sure and and ultimately, you got to keep jumping off the high dive until it's like not until it's not as scary.
And you get better at jumping off the high dive and then you then you can really build an organization. I think that's how we grew from 600 to 600000 or revenue to 6 million was I got out of the way because I was the biggest impediment to the business and and the business value even. So it's going to sell hopefully at a much better price the second time, you know, hopefully way down the road.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So that I don't want to overlook that. So that's something you're mentioning. Maybe you can share one of those failures and what you learned from it. I think you were coached even. And so what you changed from those failures instead of just giving up and saying, I'm not going to delegate because, for example, I interviewed David Appel, the chief marketing officer of Intuitive Health, on how I made it marketing.
And one of his lessons was make it work. And his point was, you know, so much times in marketing or advertising or business, we just don't have patience. We just go into it like something doesn't work and boom, boom, we go on to the next thing. And I know one thing with your story, I think it's it's a 19 year overnight success story, right?
We've talked about a lot of this growth in the past few years that you've been at this for a long time. So tell me some of that patient that stick to doing this, making it work. What was something that maybe didn't work? You know, in the past when you're delegating it, what did you learn from it And now what are you able to do now?
Because you didn't just give up and say, hey, no, delegating won't work?
Rich Davis: Yeah, well, one of the things I'll just give you an example was for our billing process is I used to have to because that was the financial part. I used to have to approve every invoice before every bill, before I'd look at every bill when it came and I'd approve every invoice when it came out. And I, I actually hired a couple coaches.
The first coach I hired was this. He was a 90 year old Jewish guy who I'm Jewish. He reminded me actually of my grandfather, which is, I think, the reason I hired him. And also he would call me kid when I was 50 years old. So like, I think that was the reason we had an initial Zoom call.
And I was like, I love this guy. But he had he had built two businesses from zero people to 500 people, sold them both. And just in construction in New Jersey in the sixties. So he was like dealing with mobs and he was like a tough guy. And he'd be, you know, and I'd tell him about my process of like clicking every, you know, looking at every invoice and checking and double checking that we had all.
And he's like, he's like, wow. He's like, How were you at math? I was like, Oh, I was a C student. You know, it's like an end of the five years that you've been checking invoices, how many were incorrect? And I was like, you know, maybe like three. And he's like, Why the hell are you doing this kid?
And, and so things like that. And he's like, We're getting you out. He's like, he's like, if you can hire someone that you can trust, you don't need to do that. So find someone that you could trust. And then, you know, so it's all about just finding people that you can trust in every department that can do things.
And sure enough, I went back and I let the did what he said. I let the billing and invoicing and all that stuff go for six months and then went back and checked it and there wasn't anything I what it changed. I was like, Oh my God, that was like several hundred hours I would have spent like combing over billing and it wouldn't have made any difference.
And it was kind of upsetting because I had been doing that for at that point for, you know, like 15 years. And it was a great lesson. And then I started doing that with creative tasks and account management tasks and just finding people that I could trust, people with passion. And it started getting me out of different facets of the business.
And I still like it's a skill, so I still mess up and I stumble and I get in things and we went a new client and I'm way too involved than I should be. But I'm constantly working on it and, you know, and I have really good people around me now who will kick me out of meetings or tell me to shut up.
I mean, and when we were in person, they used to actually physically kick me under the table to stop talking. And now we don't have that. But, you know, there's like sort of like signals on Zoom that we can sometimes do if I'm doing too much. Exactly.
Daniel Burstein: Pull your ear and then get rich to stop talking. So, yes. Now, as you mentioned, that is true for large businesses, too. I mean, if you want to grow in a large organization, you better learn how to replace yourself or you're not going to move up that chain of command. Right? Right. So you're mentioning someone you learned from the first half of the podcast.
We talk about lessons we learned from the things we made in the second half. We talk about lessons we learn from the people we collaborated with. But first, I should mention that the How I made It in Marketing podcast is underwritten by McLeod's Institute, the parent organization of marketing Sherpa. You can get 10,000 marketing experiments working for you with a free trial of the McLeod's AEI Guild at McLeod BBC.com.
It's a I that's an ECL AB dot slash a I, and you can learn to take advantage of the artificial intelligence revolution. So as I said, let's talk about some lessons you learned from people you collaborated with in your last story. You actually used a voice when talking about that person, if you would use a voice now, because that made the story more entertaining for each person you mentioned.
Now for your next story. Your next lesson is let others talk first. Always let them finish their thoughts. Leadership can be more about listening than talking. And you said you learned this from Dave just around the present. Things spark. So how did you learn this from Dave?
Rich Davis: So, you know, I'll go back further to I was on an initial, I think it was the first time I went out with my wife and my my parents and some siblings and we're all in the car. And my wife was looking around just and like she was bewildered because everyone was talking at once and no one was listening to each other.
And we you know, we came from a loud Jewish family. We're all talking all the time. And also from having a I think being a small business when you are the CFO, the CEO, the CEO, you're all these things. You have to talk all the time and you just get in that habit. And I had to really learn that to stop talking.
And so Dave is Dave is our president now. And that was part of the delegating process, is realizing, you know, wherever we got and I guess at that point it was probably like 17, 18 years, like I wasn't the right person to carry it forward with a lot of billing now and a lot of responsibilities. Like we needed a president who knew what he was doing and passion is great, but you also have to have some real technical skill in running a larger business.
And that's where Dave came in. And so one of his lessons to me, which was great, is, you know, when you're talking, you're also there were so many times where I would start to take over a conversation and Dave is like, the client is giving you information they're guiding. And that that second thought of like, Oh yeah, one more thing.
They might tell you something about them that'll give you a great insight into their personality or into their brand. And if you're jumping in and you're not allowing that to happen. And so I actually have a Post-it note on my laptop that says, Let people finish. And and that's been it. Just because my tendency is to jump in because I do get excited about things.
And sometimes that people are meandering. I know where the sentence is going to end up. So I'm like, All right, let me finish your sentence and then start my sentence. And that's a terrible thing to do. So I've gotten better at that. I think I've let you finish most of the time. I'm going to work on that if I have it on the second half of this podcast.
But yeah, it's a it's a great lesson to to do. And sometimes it takes a Post-it note to do that. But it wasn't working out in the way that I was doing it before.
Daniel Burstein: Well, I have seen you chomping at the bit. Lot of talking just to jump at the time. No, I have that problem too. I think it's maybe as creative as we think. Fast. Right? We're thinking like two steps ahead, so we want to jump in. So I don't if you notice on this podcast, when the guest talks, I sit back away from the mike.
Yeah, because I want to jump in and interrupt, but I'd rather rather hear your edge.
Rich Davis: Of see and of course, ironically I'm interrupting right now, but so someone said to me the other day, this was yesterday actually, like, have you ever thought about taking Adderall? Because I'm so all over the place and I like my brain is like my that's my that's how I make money. It's from my only from my brain. Like you said, we don't I don't have any technical skills to actually build or fix anything.
I'm not a doctor that could do it. You know, this is it my head. So. So I was like, I don't want to mess with the formula at all because that's for better or worse, Like, it's work to some degree. And and then actually this is getting a little off subject. They're like, oh, you know, it just washes out of your body like later that day or whatever.
I was like, Oh my God, What? So maybe I said, I don't know. I like being hyper. It's who I am. But, you know, I'm open to maybe at some point not being as hyper.
Daniel Burstein: You know, I think that is a course because you got to you got to have passion, excitement, energy, and you got to be able to tie all of those different things together. So I don't know, you could do you could do in a B split test, which, you know, we can try it out for a week, but I don't know.
Rich Davis: And I think I'll see a follow up podcast here of Rich Davis after Adderall and how that works.
Daniel Burstein: But let's do one on Adderall, like the most boring podcast ever.
Rich Davis: You should take Adderall and we can live stream it.
Daniel Burstein: You know, it's funny, I was getting an application for someone speaking and she was speaking, so we're on the podcast. I couldn't figure it out. And, you know, so they ended up being like, maybe I shouldn't name it, but it was about software and sours, and that wasn't the exact name. But so basically they talked about software, but they were sucking on sour candies while they did.
I guess it was like a hot one's idea or whatever, so they could do advertising and Adderall and stuff like that. I think. I think that was pretty boring that brings up a good question because you talk about what it means to be creative, but so you are creative. Then you go into running a business. And so you mentioned, you know, a few things mentioned like delegating, but like, what did you have to do?
Like how did you have to grow up? What skills did you have to get going from an agency copywriter, which frankly is one really good skill set and really bad at everything else, from socialization to getting your time. She's done to everything. So what did you have to do from going from an agency copywriter to to going to actually running your own company?
Let me give you one quick example. I talked to Jonathan Kaufman, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Sage Dental on how I made it marketing. And one of his lessons was the relationship part. And the art part of marketing in business is as important as a data and then financial metrics themselves, right? And so like, you know, the art part I get like that's the creative part, but the relationship part me, like if you're an agency, I'll let the A's figure it out right in the data, in the finance and data analysts.
But then you get your own shop and it's you. So, I mean, I made a run of it for five years, but this is where I struggled. I was like, I just want to make things. I don't want to deal with health insurance. There are these other things. So you like you persevered 19 years. So what did you do beyond being a creative to be able to run a business, what skills did you pick up?
Rich Davis: Yeah, well, it's interesting. I guess it's all how you look at it, because I always thought what I loved about marketing is it's the intersection of art and business, and you can't just be, you know, we've all seen the Super Bowl commercials. It's like, Oh, we're going to have Morgan Freeman jumping out of a helicopter and that's great.
And you're like, Who was it for? I, I don't know. It was either Doritos are to our Toyota or it was, you know, life insurance. I don't remember it. So there's stuff that's creative for its own sake and maybe that works and maybe it doesn't. But but to me, the reason I didn't go into like a fine art of writing novels is I did actually like the business aspect.
And I don't know, like, I think there's a lot of creatives who don't like the business part and there's also plenty of aides who don't like the creative part. I happen to like both. So to me it wasn't as crazy a job. Now I would do some weird things like originally, when I was, you know, had the business out of, out of like a spare bedroom.
I would sometimes even like I'd have my creative clothes, which is like a hoodie and ratty jeans, and I'd work on some stuff and then I'd like go take a walk around the block, come back, like, change my clothes for, you know, to get into business mode and then go over like cash flow projections and things like that.
Just to be in the sort of like in that mode a little bit more. But I don't know like that. I don't think you can fake that. Like if you hate business, you know, and that sort of thing, then probably having an agency isn't for you because most of what I do isn't creative like I do a lot of I still do creative development, especially for big campaigns that I selfishly like.
We've got a really cool client in the tech health care space that I want to do all the all the work on now because I'm really excited about that. But you know, but, but most of what I do is a lot of business thing because it's managing relationships, it's personnel, it's staffing, it is a little bit I'm not really that involved in the finances, but I still it's still my business and for key decisions I have to make a decision on sometimes where we allocate money or approve it and I need to do my homework.
So I don't know. I don't think you can you can fake it. I just happen to be lucky or unlucky in that. I like both of those aspects and I'm maybe not great at either one, but pretty good at both of them, I guess, to where we've been able to survive.
Daniel Burstein: Well, I mean, how did you learn that when you were first getting out there? Because as I said, like so I agree with you like as an agency creative, you're not like a pure creative, like doing fine art, but and you do want to have that. You know, a good concept is helping the strategy in a creative way, not like you said, just some random commercial with Morgan Freeman.
At the same time, when you're working in an agency, you know, some creatives in a good agency, these are kind of ensconced in that creative bubble and you're really good at one thing. It's coming up with that good concept that helps your business. You know how everything is getting run and how it's all working. But once you got out there, how did you get up to speed on some of that?
Rich Davis: Yeah, it's so much, I think the best the, the number one advice I would have for people is like, throw out your when you're starting a business, throw out your five year plan, throw out your three year plan to like have a 90 day plan and just survive while you're making mistakes. I mean, it's that cliche of failing forward, but that's you know, I really believe that that's true is like either you you win or you learn something.
And man, those early years were so many mistakes and flirting with going out of business several times, especially when the recession hit, man, it was just like, really touch and go. I'll tell you just really quickly, you know, we had after we got done with payroll one time, this is in I guess 2009, we had $5 in the bank account, you know, and and I and I said, I'm going to keep this receipt because it's the smallest amount of money I'm ever going to have and I'm going to go make something now.
And then two weeks later, when we ran payroll again, we had $3 in the bank. And that's the receipt that I that I keep. And it was just a lot of failure, a lot of mistakes and just learning slowly and some stuff, you know, took years and years and years. But, you know, I really was dogged about just trying to stay with it and and improve.
And ultimately, when we got, you know, our head above water enough, I was able to hire really good people. And those people were the ones I mean, that was like a hockey stick really. Towards the end, it was a lot of struggle. And then we're just now reaping the benefits in these last few years of and and that's to take in other people to do that.
So I hope that answers your question.
Daniel Burstein: No, that's great. I mean, I think one thing I've heard from listeners is it like when you see people externally succeed, whether it's a CMO or an agency, we are such a shiny industry that we put we put such a good sheen on stuff that sometimes you don't see the struggle. And so when you're going through the struggle yourself, it's hard.
And so I think it is helpful for people to hear others journey is that like, okay, now you're at, you know, one of the fastest growing companies. I think you said 180% over three years or something like that. But it took it took this time to get there. And it doesn't it's not just like that out of the gate.
So I think hopefully that's helpful to everyone listening, whether they're on the brand side or the agency side.
Rich Davis: There was a great lesson I learned. I had a job when I was 16 as a dishwasher and I ate at a restaurant and I would watch the total chaos every night at the restaurant when, you know, when there was a dinner. US is an Italian restaurant, the spaghetti warehouse. It's no longer there. But it was just people screaming at each other and stuff, getting thrown up.
People are thrown out and people are throwing food at each other. When they would get really upset, it just it was chaos. But then they would hand it to a, you know, a waitress who would come out with a smile, put down this beautiful meal for people. And at the end of the day, like they were happy, they'd have a meal and they had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.
And so when I started my business, you know, especially in those years when it was chaos and we were, you know, just just had no idea what we were doing, I would think of that restaurant. And that was like my examples, like we just got to get the food to come out looking nice, put it down and have the people enjoy their meal and be satisfied.
And and so now we have the kitchen running a lot better. But, but the meals have always been good. So that part has been that part has worked out pretty well.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. It's the back of the house versus the front of the house. I remember when I was in earlier in my career, I got to work with IBM as a contractor, but so I got to be inside IBM and, you know, big storied company especially, you know, back then. And I was surprised at a mess. It was internally even a company like that.
And, you know, and I realized at that point and I think, you know, Obama had even even mentioned this at one point when he rose from community organizer to president. He's like, it's always a mess with everyone. He's like the people in the room change, right? And maybe get some smarter, more accomplished people in, the room. But it's always a mess.
Everything's a mess internally. It seems different from the outside. Yeah.
Rich Davis: We work with I mean, at the end of the day, it's still people. And sometimes the bigger I mean, we work with some really big brands at this point and you know, they're complicated organizations and it's always just people and different people with different relationships and different dynamics and those kind of things. And yeah, it's all chaos. So it's just it's getting the stuff on the plate, correct.
That's really the the thing that some companies can't do that and that's when you really run into serious trouble.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So that gets back to this lesson. You kind of talked about it. So when you talked about selling your agency and buying it back and what you missed, you said solving problems for people is a privilege, not a burden. And you learned this from Eliot Horowitz, the CEO of Physicians Preferred. So how did you learn this from from Eliot?
Because I think a lot of people listening now, like I mentioned, you know, we got all these problems. It doesn't feel like a privilege right now. Feels like we've got to get this stuff done. But kind of taking a step back and realizing that I think would be helpful in everyone's career.
Rich Davis: Yeah. So this guy is was like a serial entrepreneur and just started businesses all his life. When I started working with him, he was 80, I think 88 years old, starting a business from scratch, like trying to raise funds, hire employees, get the marketing done. It was a medical malpractice insurance and he sold it at 92 for, I think, $19 million or something like that.
It's like an amazing story. And and that's just I basically, you know, I he was a client of ours, but he was also like a mentor to me. And I would come in and he'd always he was just such a nice guy. He'd always ask how the business was going, is really fascinated with that part and and how I was managing things.
And I would of course, when people, you know, you've got this great mind, I would just start bringing up complaints and and things that were irritating. And he's like this is he's like, well this is why you're in business like to solve problems for. People like this is why you why you get paid what you do because you can figure out things others other people can't.
And stop looking at these as problems. Stop looking at like, why this happening to me and say, why is this happening for me? And and really, it's an honor to be able to use your brain to help people out of situations, to build your own company, to figure things out. So everyone's work life is easier and, you know, basically told me I was looking at things the wrong way.
I mean, I had the same lesson several ways. And that's really played a big role in my philosophy of just of of trying not to focus on on the issue as something that's bad as it is an opportunity. And I know that sounds cliche and in the moment when you're dealing with stress and pressure and money and personalities, like people don't want to hear it, but you got to take a step back and realize, again, we're all super lucky to be in this industry where we use our intellect and our our creative skills and our people skills and and solve problems and change the world.
Like that's a really cool thing at the end of the day.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. So let me and I think that is a great lesson really in any job you get to work and I think it's just a great personal lesson. But let me ask as a brand lesson. Yeah. And I wonder this is maybe getting a little far afield of the normal agency relationship with brands, but what about like, have you ever advised you have any examples when it comes to customer service?
Because and anything you've taught brands about that? Because one thing when you're saying solving problems for people is a privilege, not a burden. I also think about how brands treat customer service. And to me it's always been 1 to 1 marketing, right? But they look at it as a call center. And so, for example, we did a study with 2400 Americans.
We split them up half. We asked, Hey, tell us about a company you're satisfied with and half we asked, Tell us about a company you're not satisfied with. And this is what we found, that when we asked them, when that company a mistake and fails to meet your expectations, how likely are you to follow up with customer service?
And what surprised me was only 51% of satisfied customers would follow up with customer service, only 18% of unsatisfied customers. And now, as marketers, you might go ahead and work in customer service. Again, it's a cost center, but think about you've already paid the CPA, you've already paid to acquire these customers, right? You want to keep them. You want to have such amazing customer service, like I said, 1 to 1 marketing that you want to keep them.
And again, a lot of times they don't even want to reach out. So I look at that as that's a privilege. Customer service is a privilege. If a customer asks for help, that's a privilege. It's not a burden. It's not a call center. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've Got have you, have you ever, like, you know, consulted with any of your clients about customer service?
I know it's kind of far afield of what we do on the front end of the funnel.
Rich Davis: Yeah, well, it's funny because my, I had a lot of awful high school jobs. You know, I, like I mentioned I was a dishwasher, but the biggest thing I did was telemarketing. Like I did. I was a I cold called for AT&T back when there was a long distance service. So I'm definitely dating dating myself here, but trying to get people to switch back their long like this.
You know, I feel like we need like to explain to younger listeners like what long distance service even was, but you just have to pay for that separately. If you call it outside of your your home city and you know and I was pretty good at it in that they would they would rank us like on how many people you could switch and and that's actually what sort of got me started into marketing because I realized it was that's like the core of market.
Like that was marketing. I was trying to sell something. So, you know, I do think it's really it's really important. You know, I feel like people do think that customer service is like a separate thing from marketing. But it really is important to not just look at it as a chance to, you know, as a chance to help people, but also to articulate your your brand in some way and make it do something that's a little bit different.
But, you know, it's not what we do on a regular basis. But I do definitely get the value, and that's what I was doing for a long time when I was it actually like inspired me to go into in some ways to go into marketing.
Daniel Burstein: You know, it's funny, I've worked in telemarketing, too, in college, and I worked it was timeshares and it was really just kind of getting people to show up for the presentation like that. And that's what I get paid on, right? I get paid a lot more and more people show up and I came to realize they had this speech that they gave me and it was like, like first you do the qualification called make sure they qualify, and then you call back and you're like, Oh, you've been selected.
They try to make like you've won a trip to Florida. I didn't say one specifically. It said selected, but I'm in. So I would do that and then I'd find out like I didn't get paid if people booked the meeting. I only got paid if they actually went and showed up there. And so I could get people to book the meeting with them.
They wouldn't show up. And so, you know, I got to do that. Let me just be straight with people, right? Because that dialer would just nonstop dial people. This was before canned spam. It was a long time ago. And as before, like the do not call list is back in the days of long distance like Rich talks about.
So anyway, so what I changed it to is I was just straight with them. I was like, Hey, we're timeshare company. I know how this works. If you want to go to this presentation, you'll get, you know, a free, you know, three night trip to Florida. We'll give you a Red Lobster gift card, whatever. You know, you got to go and sit and listen to the sales call and this over shrimp available.
Oh, I'm sure you can find it. I'm sure you can find it.
Rich Davis: I like Red.
Daniel Burstein: Lobster, but yeah, some people do. But what I found is it worked so much better when I would just separate people and find that that right customer that like, yes, that's something I want to do. I want to go and listen to the sales call to get the free thing versus, you know, trying to trick people.
Rich Davis: Right. And this is maybe the theme today about like, you know, sort of like that, the headshot you were talking about that sort of like the slightly polished version. I know when I was doing telemarketing. So they hand you a list and it was we were selling, I would work at a company that sold frozen meat. It was called Colorado Prime.
So we sold like tons of like chicken and beef and ham and stuff like that. And then they would also like, send it so, so much so quickly. You had to buy a freezer at like some crazy. Right. Like an industrial sized freezer. So anyway so they give me on my they're doing that day, they're doing like, like whole ham, like giant things slabs of ham.
Daniel Burstein: You're the right guy for that too.
Rich Davis: Yeah. And on my call list was my rabbi and I and I say to my, Hey, this guy is not going to buy any ham. And he says to me, not with that out of today's. Yeah. It's just so I was so it got me thinking like, you know, yes you have to be true to yourself and blah, blah, blah and all that stuff.
But at the same time, sometimes some people are never going to buy, no matter what your customer service is. Like you said, you have to know your customer and make sure you're marketing the right things to the right people. So that was a good marketing lesson also. I mean, I think telemarketing is such a great way to get into marketing at the most like fundamental level.
You know, it was a terrible job but helpful.
Daniel Burstein: The terrible job it it forces you to have those interactions. But that's a hilarious story. I've that's that's hilarious. But it actually brings up this lesson that you had You can't please everyone, Right. I think that's perfect. Can't please your rabbi by trying to sell them. You can't please everyone. You said you learned it from Benjamin DAVIES, a student who is your son.
So how did you learn this from Benjamin?
Rich Davis: So it's really interesting. So my son is on the autism spectrum, which he's very high functioning, and he's literally like the smartest person I know. Like any he he memorized the entire periodic table, I think at age four. Just a really interesting, super cool and a loving kid, like a lot of kids on the spectrum are not very like emotional in that way.
And he really is. But one of the things is he's very you know, he has no filter. So if he doesn't like something, he tells you and I think so much of our in our day to day lives where, oh, that's great. And, you know, we have to do that. That's sort of like the social construct. And he'll just, you know, my wife could make something and he's like, this doesn't taste good.
It's very salty, you know? And what I realized and you can't do that. Like I can say that to my wife, I would be kicked out immediately. But he does have like this this like it's liberating to sometimes be able to just sort of, you know, say what you feel. And so I did. I took from that like a lesson of just I you know, we again, we have to like, survive in society.
And that's a lot of kind of like nodding at things we don't agree with and things like that. But but I did take from him the fact that, look, everyone's very different and we can't make everyone happy. And he just, you know, we know when he's happy and what he's not happy. And sometimes it's okay to articulate that and and just have a more honest relationship with people.
So I don't know what that has to do specifically with marketing, but it's been a great life lesson for me. And I learned so much from from him. Not the periodic table, but everything else I've learned from him, which that it's been very beneficial.
Daniel Burstein: Well, here's what it has to do with marketing to me is because again, I think it gets back to a great brand lesson. You can't please everyone is focusing on the ideal customer, right? And so I wonder if you have any examples of working with a client or, you know, brand to focus that value proposition on the ideal customer.
Because as I mentioned that study we did earlier. You know, we separated 2400 consumers separate into customers that were satisfied, customers that were unsatisfied, and you would expect a satisfied customers would buy again more. Right. But what we found is that 713% more satisfied customers are very likely to continue purchasing products, which is huge, right. When you think about all the money, we're investing on the front end advertising to get those customer 713% more, that's massive.
And how do you how you make a customer satisfied ultimately as you come through on a promise. Right. And what that means to marketing, what that means to advertising is making the right promise to the right People don't try to be everything to everyone. You just said you can't please everyone but find that ideal customer and then please the heck out of them.
So, you know, if you had this, you know, I know like a lot of brands you go into, they want to like, you know, the bank for everyone. Like you said, it's a hospital for everyone or whatever. Have you have this experience with any brands or had to be like, let's focus in on this ideal customer?
Rich Davis: Yeah. So one thing that's I don't know if this is the perfect example, but it's what I find pretty interesting is we do work for a local public school system that's one of the largest in the country. And so as a public school, you have to take in every kind of kid from kids who are struggling academically to those who are accelerating, to kids who are super athletic, to kids who are super artistic.
And so you have to be the school to everyone, but you also you know, if you do that, you can't boil an ocean. So it's really hard to market. So it's been really interesting to find out what messages we give to what different audience groups. A lot of is moms making decisions. I guess the dads are you know, our research shows the dads are involved, but not nearly much as the moms when it comes to doing the homework and making the final decision.
So it's been really interesting and trying to figure out certain schools that we have have limitations. So it's it's focusing on what there is without trying to promise to be everything to everyone. It's also trying to get people to the right schools and the right system. So it's taken a lot of really complex digital marketing to do sometimes 40 different messages to 40 different people, 40 different audience groups.
But it's it's important that when we're doing the messaging of kind of, you know, realizing that we have things that maybe a private school, you know, can't offer and they have some things that we can offer, but we need to find who our audience is and and the most likely person we need to get them in the right school.
So it's been really interesting because we can find we can find something almost for everyone, but we need to find the right audience for the right kind of school and for the right parent and all that, that kind of stuff. So I don't know. It's been interesting for us.
Daniel Burstein: Well, that's a great example. 40 different messages, finding those right segments and then getting that right message to the right person because the right thing won't work for everyone. Right? Those days are behind us. So, Rich, we talked about so many different things about what it means to be a marketer. What are the key qualities of an effective marketer in your opinion?
What are you trying to be? What are you trying to hire?
Rich Davis: So you you're talking about like in terms of staffing the kind of people I'm trying to hire or the kind of clients we're trying to go after?
Daniel Burstein: I would just say, What are you looking for in a marketer? Yeah, What are the key qualities of an effective marketer? Like, who are you looking to be as a marketer? Who are you? Who are you looking to hire as marketers? Who What type of marketers are you looking at to work with on the brand side?
Rich Davis: Yeah. So I mean, for us as a company, we're we're very passionate and we lead with our emotions sometimes we look for clients who are the same way because if we had clients, you know, we do represent some law firms, but they're, you know, they're really into their area of the law. I don't think we would work well with people who are just going through the motions.
And if you're a company, your brand is just going through the motions. Like I feel like great marketing doesn't, you know, you don't give anyone a brand, you extract it. So you've got to find some kernel there that's worth promoting and worth marketing. And if you have nothing like rework something so you've got something interesting. So it's, it's getting something, you know, again, this is like not pleasing everyone.
You don't have to have something that makes that everyone wants to buy. You just need to have a passionate audience about that and really connect with them in a way that that's relevant. And so that's how we know all that stuff is backed by a lot of data. And we do research and the stuff that you guys do at Mech Labs, like all that stuff is really important to have the foundation.
But then at the end of the day, I think people want to work with someone, you know, and they want marketing that speaks to them and has some life to it and some energy. And so that's what we we try and get out there. I guess that's just our our general. If I had to put one kind of overall thematic, you know, overarching thing that that we are known for and that we look for and our clients and then our team, it's probably that it's it's passion, enthusiasm, energy and just being relentless in going after, you know, going after our audience and getting across the points we want to get across.
Daniel Burstein: Well, thank you, Rich. I can tell your passion from this conversation. I learned a lot from to you today. Thank you.
Rich Davis: Oh, thank you. Thank you. It's been super fun. I really enjoyed it.
Daniel Burstein: Thanks to everyone for listening.
Rich Davis: All right. Let's go to have some Adderall.
Outro: Thank you for joining us for how I made it in marketing with Daniel Bernstein. Now that you've got an inspiration for transforming yourself as a marketer, get some ideas for your next marketing campaign. From Marketing Sherpas, Extensive library of free case studies at marketing Sherpa dot com That's marketing s h e RPA E-Comm and.
Get Better Business Results With a Skillfully Applied Customer-first Marketing Strategy
The customer-first approach of MarketingSherpa’s agency services can help you build the most effective strategy to serve customers and improve results, and then implement it across every customer touchpoint.Get More Info >
FREE Trial - MECLABS AI Guild
Get the power of 10,000 experimentsPlay with MECLABS AI >
Marketer Vs Machine
Marketer Vs Machine: We need to train the marketer to train the machine.Watch Now >
Free Marketing Course
Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages (with this free online marketing course)See Course >
Project and Ideas Pitch Template
A free template to help you win approval for your proposed projects and campaignsGet the Template >
Six Quick CTA checklists
These CTA checklists are specifically designed for your team — something practical to hold up against your CTAs to help the time-pressed marketer quickly consider the customer psychology of your “asks” and how you can improve them.Get the Checklists >
Infographic: How to Create a Model of Your Customer’s Mind
You need a repeatable methodology focused on building your organization’s customer wisdom throughout your campaigns and websites. This infographic can get you started.Get the Infographic >
Infographic: 21 Psychological Elements that Power Effective Web Design
To build an effective page from scratch, you need to begin with the psychology of your customer. This infographic can get you started.Get the Infographic >
Receive the latest case studies and data on email, lead gen, and social media along with MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.