Andrew: Hey, they’re freedom fighters.
My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is I feel like yet another entrepreneur who got into marketing software and still, I still feel like this is the win. We’re going to ask you, Sean, whether you still think today, if someone’s starting software company, if it feels like marketing and sales are the places to start because there’s logic, customers are willing to buy, right.
And even with a lot of competition, there’s still space for many businesses to compete, right?
Sean: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s a case, especially in, I think on the sales side, there’s, uh, people just thought I need a CRM. The reality is no, there’s a lot more to the story on the marketing side. There’s lots of room as well as the reality, a benefit as well as that, you can use your own software to help grow your own
Andrew: grow your own business. Sean Leonard is the founder of active demand. They are marketing automation, actually, according to the website, it’s predictive marketing automation. I wanna understand about that. And he’s also the man behind funnel flair, which I want to understand the difference between the two.
Here’s what the website says. Funnel flair, sales process automation, software that will reduce your sales efforts. So you spend more time with those prospects that matter, or we’re going to find out how he built up this business, starting with a consulting agency. And, uh, we can do it. Thanks to two phenomenal sponsors.
The first is HostGator, and we’ll talk about how HostGator integrates with John’s business in software. And, um, and of course, HostGator will help you host a website. And the second is a brand new sponsor, which will help you get your sales team built. They will actually allow you to hire salespeople off their platform and manage them on their platform on their software.
It’s called overpass. I’ll tell you later why you should go to overpass.com/mixergy to get started. Sean, you and I just met. I wonder if it’s awkward for me to ask you what’s what’s the revenue. How much are you guys doing?
Sean: Yeah. So, uh, we’re doing, uh, north of, uh, north of 2 million. Uh, I can say that. Um, but, uh, yeah, we’re still a private company and we’re definitely, you know, uh, having, uh, discussions about investment stuff. So I would just, uh, leave it at that as there we’re north of 2 million
Andrew: Okay. I want to understand the software and then get to how you started as a consultant bef, which is an easier way to get started then software. But first, let me just fully understand what active demand does. What does it do? What does this whole predictive marketing automation thing
Sean: yeah. Well, and, uh, it’s interesting. The word automation, automation doesn’t come from a marketing or it doesn’t come from sales. It comes from actually manufacturing, right in manufacturing. They use automation to, uh, uh, To reuse labor or better take, I guess they pay people and get them to use their brains as opposed to their bra.
Right. If we think of a manufacturing cars and all this other
Andrew: got it. You’re saying that all the Braun gets automated so that we could keep stamping out the same piece of metal, but the part that’s brain, like what metal, what does it look like? Et cetera.
Sean: The design, the positioning, all of this type of stuff. So it’s the same story with, uh, with marketing automation is, uh, when we’re trying to build, do a startup, for example, and it’s really getting your name out there, getting leads, uh, getting your product into people’s hands, that whole demand generation process.
There’s a lot of, uh, manual labor that’s involved in it. It’s probably about 10% creative and 90% labor. And, uh, so the idea of marketing automation is to uh, automate the labor. So you do it once, never do it again. And then you spend your time on creative and optimization.
Andrew: let’s be more specific. What, what do you do for a company like mine?
Sean: Yeah. So,
Andrew: we do, we do interviews, I’ve got some advertising on them. I sell a membership. What do we do?
Sean: So it’s a case that I would say, you know, If you’re looking at demand generation, maybe you’re getting more people to listen, right. More, more, a bigger audience. Right. So get a bigger audience. There’s lots of different strategies you can buy uh, by, uh, uh, uh, traffic with paid advertisements. Right. You could know.
So some of the things
Andrew: It seems like what active demand does is from what you and I talked about before we got started is I could do email marketing, right? So
Sean: that is one part of it.
Andrew: right? It’s it’s just, it’s one part of it. Someone comes on my website, I get their email address. I maybe ask them a question that lets me know whether they’re new in their business or a little bit more advanced.
And then based on that, I can target the messages, that’s email marketing, but the next time they come to my site, I can also adjust the content so that if they told me they’re brand new to entrepreneurship, they don’t hear about a business that is on the path to raising a series Q or some random thing like that.
But it’s more about how I got my idea, how I built it up. And if there’s someone who’s further along, they’re probably thinking more about hiring a team building culture and they would see that on my site. And that’s for email that’s for content on the site. That’s also for advertising. The whole thing is what active demand will manage for me, right?
as a tech stack. So basically if you think about that whole story, somebody goes to your website, they fill out a form, I’ve got to go send them an email, thanking them and do some process to try to keep them engaged. Right. So I can sit there and type out an email every few months to try to, uh, get them to come back and talk to me, et cetera.
And maybe they’re on the website. I could go in and change the website or try to get them to a part of the website that speaks directly to them. Um, or I could pay target ads to get them to remind that, uh, that they need to come back and see you. Um, and for whatever reason, let’s say they, they actually call you or maybe they actually, uh, uh, actually do listen, which ones did they listen to?
All of this stuff is data that can be, uh, you can do it manually, but with software like ours, you can literally literally adapt the website, the communications advertisements in real time
Andrew: Two people will be at the same office. If there are different stage in their careers, they would sit down and look at my site and see different content. All right. Let’s understand how you got started. You told our producer, you got started with a marketing agency because you already knew a lot of people in this space.
How did you know so many people? How did you know the vendors? How did you know customers.
Sean: It’s actually a, uh, a bit further back is, uh, I was, uh, part of a, uh, industrial automation company. It was a company selling consulting services and software in the manufacturing space. And, uh, we had, uh, uh, the product. We have very long sales cycle, very long marketing cycle. And, uh, this is just when internet was starting to be a thing.
Uh, the only way we could actually accelerate our business is by using automation, right? Sales, automation, marketing automation, communication automation, because the sales
Andrew: own clients for this advisory business, you said let’s get into a software. Okay. What was
Sean: Yeah, so we, yeah, it was a company called matrix and they did, uh, industrial process control and consulting for plant optimization.
So we in-house built technology that allowed us to scale a very long sales cycle, high risk business, uh, globally. And then we got bought and then post acquisition. Uh, so to answer your question about how I knew people, it’s actually people in, in the industrial space from a vendor perspective. So they knew that we were well ahead of the game.
I was specifically well ahead of the game from a, the use of technology for journey automation. So starting an agency seemed like an easy thing to do, right?
Andrew: And so the idea for the agency was what, what type of marketing work were you going to do for
Sean: Yeah. So the really the real goal was this is that, uh, you know, we built out all this automation stuff while we were selling industrial process control software. And, uh, then post acquisition, there’s a ton of automation companies out there like HubSpots and the light. Right. And we felt the thing that was missing.
And I thought number one is marketing is getting, is getting, is extremely complex, digital marketing, like just to buy a Google ad requires that almost PhD in Google, Google technology to buy an ad. Uh, so I thought what marketing is extremely complex and it’s changing. So I felt the only, the only path forward for people who are really serious about growing their businesses, they’re going to have to outsourced the marketing.
Right. So I felt that marketing agencies were going to become extremely important. But what’s interesting is marketing, uh, marketing agencies. None of them were using technology that, uh, allowed them to scale their businesses. Marketing automation existed for people were marketing for one company, lot, lots.
So we started our agency with the intent of building, uh, an infrastructure for that we were going to pivot to and sell it to marketing agencies as infrastructure. So our play
Andrew: You were going to go to marketing agencies and say, you don’t know the right software to implement, to help your clients grow their businesses. We will recommend the software. We’ll implement it for your business and your clients. And that’s what you got paid for.
Sean: So as an agency, no, we went directly to the, uh, uh, industrial process control vendors and sold them marketing services. Right. Demand gen like getting their widgets and, and, uh, services, uh, increasing their, their brand, increasing their leads. Like we were
Andrew: guess I don’t think about them as, as needing marketing automation or frankly doing marketing at scale. I think about the guy who’s selling a t-shirt on Instagram as needing that. No. Well, how many people are they reaching? Give me, give me something more specific. What’s it, what’s a type of product that they were selling and how many people do they need to reach?
Sean: So for example, um, uh, one of our clients was selling, uh, power meters for power optimization in, in buildings. Right. And so you think about their business, they were there in Brisbane, uh, uh, uh, in Australia and every building in, uh, Australia is, is a potential market for them. Right. So it’s huge. Right.
And, uh, so they’re targeting, uh, uh, uh, installers and integrators and this type of stuff, because there’s other people selling power meters too.
Andrew: Got it. And so they want, they want software that does it, or maybe they don’t even
Sean: they just want us, They just
Andrew: you to do it. And you say, you know what? We’ve got software that could do this
Sean: know. And that’s, that was the key. That’s the key. Yes. The answer is yes, but the, what we found was all marketing agencies were doing the same thing as they were going to a client saying, Hey, yeah, we can help. Do you have any professional marketing tools? I can, that I can use you adult. Oh, well, let me sell you some professional marketing tools that I will use on your behalf.
Right. Which we found when we were an agency. Number one is a horrible strategy because why are you selling tools to somebody who you’re the person that’s going to use it. So that was our strategy is to come in and say, look, we can help you grow your business behind the scenes. We had technology that allowed us to right.
Once resell the labor to all of our clients.
Andrew: Got it. Yeah, right? Yeah. I’ve, I’ve noticed this, at least in the, in the SMB space or in the smallest, um, space, they, the agencies will go in the freelancers will tell their clients, go sign up for this software, use your credit card, your payment. And I will manage it for you. You’re saying that’s, that’s not the way it should be.
They should just be paying you for the work and the results
Sean: the results.
Andrew: you want. And the benefit for you is once you have one account, you get to copy and paste and adjust everything for all the different clients. And that’s what you did for how long,
Sean: Yeah. So we did it while we were building the tech stack. And so the one that
Andrew: always to build your own software
Sean: a multitenant marketing automation system, that was really what we’re
Andrew: why didn’t you just start with that? My hunches is you wanted to understand the need and to see what
Sean: Exactly. We wanted to feel the burn to come up with real solutions for it.
Andrew: So what burn did you feel when you’re
Sean: Oh boy.
Sean: So one is, uh, pushing my brand like most agencies, like number one, the fellas, the number one mistake that agencies have is they think a lot of companies think that people pay for labor. They don’t, they pay for results.
That’s the labor that you do to get the results. So if you want to scale your business, find a way to ensure that you do as little labor as possible. And if you have to do it, reuse it. Right. So, uh, it’s the case that, uh, uh, uh, Yeah. so really it was it’s uh, uh, uh, we wanted to sell infrastructure at the end goal was us to sell, sell infrastructure in the burn that we felt with the tool set was scaling.
Like, how do I do something once, make sure that my brand is communicated to the clients and to how do I reuse it, right.
Andrew: Okay. Give me an example of how it worked before. I’m guessing that there wasn’t a lot of white labeling. So anytime the client interacted with the software, they would see the software name and think, well, why is Sean doing this? Why don’t we just use the software
Sean: That’s one problem.
Andrew: Okay. What’s another
Sean: one is, let’s say I do a webinar, right? So when I. So I do a webinar I’m going to have, uh, for us, we do 11 webinar, six landing pages. There’s a survey page. There’s a registration page. There’s a, uh, there’s a, uh, asset page after with the, with the, uh, uh, the web, the, the video. Uh, so there’s a ton of landing pages.
I’m going to do a whole bunch of social content to promote the webinar. I’m going to do a whole bunch of emails. I’ll do, uh, first, uh, HTML, email, plain text, email over and over and over. Like, it’s a ton of labor to do webinars. And we used to charge a lot to do webinars and we were an agency, but what changes from one webinar to the next, the pitch, the mugshot, the date and time.
So, if I was doing this with a whole bunch of software, I’d go into WordPress, build a bunch of pages. I would, if typically I wouldn’t, because it was too much work, then maybe I would go or even other landing page tools or go to webinar and I have no control over it. Uh, I would send out all these emails that do a bunch of social posting and that I do try to remind to do the surveys, right?
It’s a lot of work. Whereas we would build the recipe. One, click deploy the entire webinar campaign, fill out the table of values, changed the mugshot done. We could promote a webinar. in four different time zones, uh, in 30 minutes.
Andrew: you know what we were doing webinars about a year or two ago on a regular basis. And I thought we were using the tools that would allow us to do what you just described, but even those tools required you to copy paste each page to do so much manual work. We had to, when we did this for ourselves, automate all of it so that we were creating the pages in the tools that we were using, we were creating the tags in the email, right.
All that. And then when we got a client or when we got a partner who was doing the webinar with us, when we could show them that we could get this up and running with their face in the, in the sales page and all that so fast, it gave them trust in working with us beyond it. But I didn’t realize it wasn’t software to do that.
Sean: Yeah. And we could literally put, speaking of that is the registration page has the person’s name on it, their company logo and dynamic content that is pitching the webinar to them.
Andrew: Right. Okay. And so you started doing all this, you understood the problem. You realize there was an opportunity in here before we continue to how you, you built the first solution was getting clients just a matter of going out and talking to people you knew and saying, do you have this problem? Can we create a Fort no
Sean: no, we use our own, uh, uh, uh, like we did webinars. We did paid advertisements. We, uh, account-based marketing was very key because we knew which companies we were uniquely positioned to help. So instead of spending money and effort on all these companies that we weren’t didn’t have unique proposition for, we would hyper focus all of our effort on those companies, where we would make a difference globally.
And, uh, uh, that one would teach it with, uh, help fund the development of the software. And two is that we would feel the bird right.
Andrew: account based marketing?
Sean: So account based marketing?
is, uh, uh, identifying accounts. Like I guess there’s, it’s a bigger, it’s a big question. I would say at the top of the funnel, it’s, uh, uh, identifying those companies that you have a unique proposition for and focusing efforts on attracting just those companies. And then through the final, after the sale, account-based marketing is up sale, cross sale, uh, expanding the business, uh, in the account that you closed from a marketing perspective.
Andrew: so you’re doing this, you’re creating your first version. What did the first version have?
Sean: Um, yeah, it was, uh, uh, the workflow automation was the first thing we did landing pages with second, uh, and, uh, very quickly after the multitenant, because we had to be able to, uh, and back then, because of his industrial automation clients, it was, uh, uh, trade shows, you know, trade shows and webinars are actually very similar from a marketing perspective, being able to rapidly deploy a marketing solution for one of those and on the other side.
But so he focused on another vertical and this is a much more, I would say, uh, uh, a more, uh, uh, tangible, uh, example is, um, we focused also on another vertical, which was B to C and, uh, which was, uh, uh, interestingly enough, uh, fitness studios, specifically martial arts studios. And why, because there’s so many of them.
Right. They’re everywhere. You could throw a rock in any direction in any, any community in north America and break the window of a dojo. Uh, so what are, if you think about it that they don’t make much money. They don’t have a lot of, uh, time or effort. They’re just training and, uh, why go after it? Well, if you think about Southwest air, it’s finding a, a niche that nobody will go in and be able to automate and do something and make a difference and own it.
Right? So literally it with the marketing, for a martial arts studio, it was a coupon to get into the dojo drip campaign to become a member, uh, tournament anti-bullying week by schools, by all these campaigns. So we’d build out a camp, an accounts template with a micro-site, everything all ready when we’ve got the next client, we could literally be producing results in 30 minutes.
Andrew: and this is a services client, or was this your, for your software clients, they were paying for your
Sean: this was no, this was our, this was When we were an agency.
Andrew: you were an agency, you went after dojo’s, you know what? It makes a lot of sense. They don’t have a ton of money to invest, but giving a free class doesn’t cost them much. And that’s a, that’s a pretty good lore when you’re looking at a Facebook ad, especially if it’s the local one down the street from
Sean: Yeah. exactly. Hyper-targeted and then a drip campaign to get them into that dojo to go take that class. Then once they’re in the class, that drip campaign to make sure they become a member. So, but it’s a complex, a lot of marketing and a lot of labor that nobody would put into a martial arts studio,
Andrew: Come up with them.
Sean: It was, uh, it was, uh, we did, did a lot of, uh, sort of, uh, white boarding of, uh, of, uh, uh, you know, companies. Like, I think that one is, there was lots of them too. The relationship with the client is sustained right. Going after, you know, uh, painters, they pay the house once and they never see the client again.
Or, uh, any of these services based clients where it’s onesy twosy, it was, uh, we were looking for something that had a sustained relationship with the client where we could maximize continual rents, right. Uh, from our clients, so to speak. And, uh, so yeah, we went through a bunch and that’s how we, we, we, I think if I did it again, that would probably went after, uh, dentists.
Right. Uh, Unlike martial arts
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah.
Sean: or a Palm interests. We have another, we have a client now in our business as now the worst selling infrastructure agencies. They focus on bankruptcy law firms and they literally have so many clients. So they did same as us as rapidly deploy a micro-site advertisements, all of this stuff onboard a client in 20 minutes.
Right. There’s no value in labor. That’s the point, right? That’s all in the results.
Andrew: No, it strikes me that well, let me pause, hold my thought and come back in a moment. First. I should say my, my sponsor is HostGator. Let me ask you this. Shawn, if someone were to say, you know what, I’m going to start a marketing agency. I’m going to sell that as service right now. Maybe they end up using your software and active demand to manage it.
Do you recommend that they do that for dentists that or what do you recommend? What’s a good idea for somebody who is
Sean: Yeah. And, uh, at the end of the day, no matter what your, your, uh, uh, what your target market is, you have to be, uh, have to get the domain experience to understand the pain, do the pitch, et cetera. So, uh, if I was an agency becoming vertically focused, I’ve tried to find a, uh, uh, a service, or I should say a vertical that has sustained relationships with the clients.
There’s lots of them. They have money, you can make a difference. Uh, it’s hard, hard for them to not justify paying. So, so it’s a case that, uh, uh, speaking of like a HostGator it’s a case that, uh, all agencies, typically, if they’re building websites, they’re going to have to have infrastructure. And typically they’re going to somebody like host skater with WordPress or something like that.
Andrew: will do. I, I bet that there’s going to be somebody in the audience who says, you know what? I’m going to jump on this dentist idea. Let’s see if I can create. If I, and I guess they would still use active demand, right. To service those clients. Right. And then say, I’m going to go after dentists.
Here’s my process for doing it. I wonder what other agencies there are, what else there is to do that for where they could help.
Sean: yeah. At the end of the day, that’s every, um, I believe, and there’s lots of ways to scale businesses and everyone, uh, your audience is, is starting a business and thinking of growing the business. And, uh, the, the thing that I think about is how to scale a business, right? That’s not, it’s grow profitably because you’re going to get to a certain point and you have to make a choice.
Am I going to just focus on eroding margins? I should say, increasing margins and staying where you are to make more money, or are you going to solve the scaling problem? Right. And so a startup with an agency there, there are lots of different ways to scale an agency. Uh, I argue the nice way is to pick a nation run with it.
Right. Does pick one niche that You can.
Andrew: You know, what I think might be interesting right now is tutors. I’m noticing that more and more cities have tutoring services of one kind or another, right? A lot of them are now branded and they’re chains, but they’re not necessarily find those go and pitch them and then learn how to pitch the parents who are going to make a decision to send their students to them.
You’ve got ongoing business. You’ve got ongoing revenue. All right. Listen to me, people, whether it’s that idea or anything else. Yes. You can absolutely service your customers using active demand. If you want to do that, if you need a landing page or excuse me, on a website for your business. Good HostGator, and then offer that as a service.
If you do hit me up, let me know how it’s going. If there’s a different idea and you need a webpage for it, go to hostgator.com/mixergy also. And the important part about adding the slash Mixergy is the end is full disclosure. Of course, I get credit for sending you over, but more importantly for you, you get a bigger discount than they ordinarily give their people and it’s already low price.
So to get that bigger discount means you’re practically paying nothing. The service is great. It’ll work and their upside is in selling your frankly bigger services as your business grows. All right. hostgator.com/mixergy. All right. Here’s the thing that I was going to say to you. I remember interviewing Ryan the founder of eye contact.
Let me see. It was years ago, 2012. I I’m sure I interviewed, oh, there it is. I interviewed him first in 2010, the guy sold his business, his email marketing software company for $169 million. A couple of years later in 2012 back then to be in this space, all you needed was email marketing to just have one single list.
No tags, no funnels. No nothing. When you got in was when,
Sean: Yeah. So 20 12, 20 13, wouldn’t be Pivotus 2014. I think it was.
Andrew: so this was after you needed so many more features just to get in this space, let alone to compete. Right. What was the minimum that you found after all that, uh, feeling the pain of your customers that you realize, this is what we need to do.
so the minimum and again, our, our audience was marketing agencies, right? Uh, we definitely sold other companies like, you know, industrial companies and bigger businesses, et cetera, software as a service companies. Um, but really for, uh, the agencies we needed reporting, right. It isn’t all marketers will face.
This is, uh, even in house marketers, when back at matrix, we used to have this gold club where the, the person who made the biggest impact on the revenue got this special award, right. It never went to a marketer, right. It always go to a salesperson
Andrew: salesperson sales people’s revenues are directly shown and a direct result of their work.
Sean: And, uh, but the reality is, is that it required marketing to be successful. So the biggest challenge, all marketers face is not about delivering value. It’s demonstrating value delivered. Right? So reporting was number one, we had to have a nice report automation system, a dashboard tool, uh, just so that they could start demonstrating the value delivered.
Then of course, emails is a, is an easy one landing page is very important. And the big one, and this was a, it’s absolutely a, a killer thing is called tracking. Right? So, um, you know, if somebody goes to a website and they call that business, it’s typically a very hot lead, right. Uh, So as a marketer, I want to know what spend I made to get that person to come to the website and call.
So that’s what we had to build as a full call tracking system. So basically whenever somebody called the agencies would send an email to the client saying with the agency’s brand, Hey, this phone call you’re on right now. Here’s the details of the guy, right? So, uh, uh, emails were a part of it, but definitely call tracking was a, was a early, early thing that we had to.
We used it ourselves as an agency. And then we, uh, when we’re selling agencies, our call tracking system is, is crazy. Like somebody goes to our website, they browse around phone us. Then they get on the sales of the call with one of our salespeople and says, do you do this? Did you do that? oh, by the way, do you integrate with my CRM?
I’m using a company called say, pipe drive. Because they talked about Pipedrive on the phone, all 3000 pages of our website are going to shift and start showing pipe drive that person’s going to start seeing ads of active demand and pipe drive with
Sean: pictures of
Andrew: got it. So from the, you were saying, when you launched, I’m looking at your site back from 2014 back then you had it.
Andrew: The whole site would change for that customer. Next time they
Andrew: an email.
We were doing that when we were an agency that was sort of our calling card was we called it the audience of one. Right. Everybody thinks about marketing, you’re fishing with large nets. Those nets are full of individual people. Right. And if you’re treating like stats are going to behave like stats.
So it’s really about, uh, uh, adopting to the journey. Uh, individual’s journey.
Andrew: I didn’t realize that, you know what, I’m looking at the site right now. I don’t, I don’t see it. That, that clearly that’s an amazing feature. And I don’t know that I would’ve discovered it back from back then.
Sean: End of the day. It’s, uh, uh, it has to be, you have to take the robot out of the room, right? You can’t like we do it. We’re pretty brash. Now we’ll put people’s names on our website just to be, uh, arrogant, but, uh, uh we sell, right. But when we were an agency, we would never do that. It was always about, you know, if you could get the experience, like I think about, uh, martial arts studios.
So two, two verticals, moms looking for a place for their kids, MMA guys.
Sean: Now, if you, uh, if mom wants to see pictures of kids on the site, the MMA guys want to see blood on the mat.
Andrew: Right. And you need it. Right, right.
Sean: So, so you do a Facebook ad targeting moms. They get to the website, see all kinds of pictures of kids, target single males. They click the ad, they go to the website.
Andrew: right. And these would be repulsed by the other’s images. Yeah. All right. And so you were using this for your clients for how long before you said it’s time. This is going to work for
Sean: Yeah, it was. Uh, so I think we were, uh, I think it was about three years max before we birthed the ships of the agency. Right. Because then by then we had clients that we are, we’re already on the tech stack where basically we started selling the tech stack to the bigger clients. Uh, then when we pivoted, we had to kill the agency because we are now going to go sell to agencies and we can’t get them.
Have them feel in any way, shape or form that we’re after their clients.
Andrew: Oh, that’s why you had to do it. I was wondering why you couldn’t just keep the business, going to understand how things were shifting. No, they were going to see you as competitors.
Sean: absolutely. And all agencies are always just like anybody they’re they’re, uh, they want, it’s difficult to get a client. Even more difficult to keep them. And if they bring in tech stack or a tech stack vendors gonna, uh, start, uh, taking their clients,
Andrew: Right. Especially since you know what, at the top of your site, there was the active demand logo with the arrow pointing up into the right. But underneath the logo, there was buy jump demand. And if somebody would have went to see who jumped demand is they would’ve seen you or the agency. So why not hire the agency that makes the software that, but how would they have even known your software even existed?
Sean: Yeah. You know, and a lot of agencies are, uh, really, really, and we’ve done a good job of this as getting our brand off our software. Right. Uh, especially it also geographically, like if I think about the Netherlands boy agencies, they’re, they, they absolutely do not want any, any evidence of the tech stack they’re using for their clients in, uh, in any way visible.
So it’s, uh, uh, but at the end of the day is, uh, if we were an agency and we were trying to get their clients, uh, like I can think of other people in the space that we compete with that have done exactly that And they’ve left a lot, uh, uh, unhappy agencies. Right. But, uh, at the end of the day, we felt one is a pivot.
I’ve pivoted a company before, uh, it’s not just pivoting the website, it’s changing the thinking of the company. Right. So when you do a pivot, yeah. I have to go.
Andrew: about software and not think about how do we get more clients and manage our time and all
Sean: Yeah. It’s you have to change the thinking of the company, right? If you do a pivot it’s, uh, and you know, that’s the path you’re going to go down. You can’t throw a couple of chips on the table and, uh, uh, you’ve got to go in all in because it’s not just the customers. It’s the more it’s your staff, right?
Your staff has to be behind the flag. They have to be all walking together up the mountain together. And if you’re, you know, trying to climb, uh, two completely different mountains, uh it’s uh, you’re going to have difficulties.
Andrew: you know what, I’m going to talk to the founder of conductor. At some point soon he sold his company to, we work, then got to buy his company back from we work. And then he also had some pivots in between I think, or some pivots before. I think he had to let go of people as he was changing his business.
Did you have any of that?
Sean: Um, well there’s, there were some people that definitely didn’t feel there was a fit anymore. So they, uh, uh, they chose somewhere else, but we didn’t actually have to let people go, uh, because we also internally, we, It wasn’t just a, the lights come on. And everybody now sees that the brand has changed. We were working hard as, uh, internally to get everybody ready for the change.
Right. So it was, there was a lot of internal work that needed to be done so that everyone bought into the new direction.
Andrew: all right, I’m gonna talk about my second sponsor and then we’ll come back and understand what happened when the business was on its own. Now a software part of the business, my, uh, sponsor is overpass. Get this. There’s a, I don’t know if I’m allowed to talk about it, but there’s a, there’s an entrepreneur who I’ve interviewed who’s in my audience, who he started going through his email list to see.
Which email domains are from bigger businesses. And he realized that bigger businesses don’t want to just use software. You know, maybe someone internally who’s exploring it, but maybe as a company, they want to roll it out to everyone. And there’s a lot more money and rolling it out to everyone. Rolling it out to just the one person who signed up on the site.
So they started watching for domains. Then he hired and people to send messages out SDRs, right? To say, um, thanks for using software. We want to give you a, we’re going to roll out the red carpet for you. Want to help you understand how the software can work and so on, and then he’d get them on calls with salespeople.
And then those salespeople would convert somebody who bought software for we’re talking about 20, $30. For the whole software, convert them into a very expensive, ongoing plan. That’s hundreds of dollars a month for the whole company. And I was just amazed by the process that they use to do that. So what does this have to do with overpass?
I think a lot of us are considering how do we bring real human salespeople to our companies? How do we actually spin up a sales person? The way we might spin up a new computer or a new hard drive space with Amazon? Well, that’s what overpass decided to do. They said, you know what? It shouldn’t be so hard to get a good salesperson.
What if what you want to do is just go to overpass.com, do a search in their marketplace, find a salesperson. Who’s got the ratings that you need, the experience that you’re looking for. Maybe they made phone calls before. Maybe they could write good emails. Maybe it’s just one or the other. You find the right person and then overpass will let you hire them.
And their software will help you manage them. And guess what? If it doesn’t work out with that person, you could get another person from the marketplace. And if it doesn’t work out at all, you can just move on and say, you know what? This experiment didn’t work we’ve learned, and we can move on. That’s the beauty of overpass, anyone out there who wants to try this, this is an amazing opportunity to add sales and more specifically salespeople to your sales experience.
All you have to do is go to overpass.com/mixer. D they’ll give you a discount if you sign up from using that. But more importantly, I think if you go there, you’re going to learn about a brand new opportunity that even if you don’t use today, you’re going to have that resource in the back of your head to use.
Whenever it makes sense for you as a business over past.com/mixergy, what do you think, Sean? I see you nodding, as I’m saying that it makes me feel good.
Sean: Yeah. Yeah, I think, uh, uh, back to the scaling, right? Uh, I think, uh, uh, sales one that we talked lots about demand generation and marketing is a, uh, uh, is an important part of growth. And being able to scale that by, uh, re reducing the labor, clearly salespeople and other part of the story, right. You’ve got to have salespeople to, uh, uh, to close the business that marketing is generated.
And, uh, you know, if you’re able to, uh, reduce the, the pain and getting salespeople onboard and, uh, successful. Fantastic. Right.
Andrew: even for like a small, you do a launch for a short part of the year, you’re doing this big launch. You have a new feature, you have a new discount, whatever it is, get do it. Now you have salespeople that take the calls and then you spend up, you spend down. All right. The thing that we asked you, what was one of your big challenges?
It seems like it wasn’t developing the software. How’d you get to developers? How were you able to we’ll get to what the challenge is in a moment, but what were you able to do to build this up?
Sean: so I’m a software developer, myself. I’m a software engineer and, uh, I’ve been writing software. I think the first piece of software I wrote was, uh, you know, back on a, uh, uh, you know, a Commodore 64. So, uh, I’ve been writing software for many, many years and, uh, but all the software I’ve been writing has been, uh, through the years has been without getting too far into the weeds is, was very close to the metal industrial process control, uh, working on industrial computers, this type of stuff.
I was very fortunate to have, uh, uh, My sister-in-law, uh, uh, start, uh, becoming a software, a software engineer as well. But when she started becoming a software engineer was now about distributed, uh, distributed programming and, uh, web apps and this type of stuff. So after she got her engineering degree, uh, she went down to Silicon valley, started up?
Couple of companies worked as a, the, the CTO or basically the doing the infrastructure and the coding. And, uh, when I started this business, it just happened to be the right time in her life that, uh, I said, uh, do you want to do this? And she said, yeah. So I’m very fortunate to have, uh, who is my CTO is my sister-in-law.
And, uh, she built the infrastructure. She, uh, architected the software. She, uh, there’s this whole old adage and development. The, the difference between a, you know, a, a good developer and a great developer is like almost three orders of magnitude and production value. Right? So, uh, I was very lucky to get somebody who knew infrastructure and distributed programming and scale scaling systems and, uh, building web apps, uh, that was family, right.
Um, yeah, so we, that’s another question that, uh, I’m going to be a bit vague on. Uh, we do really, our focus has been on, uh, uh, revolution in house evolution outsourced.
Andrew: Tell me about that.
Sean: So, uh, and I learned this when I was at maitre con was cause we were doing outsource development, uh, there, but really we, we looked at, uh, the focus of innovation has to be as close to you and your customer as possible.
So that’s the revolution, right? Being able to, uh, uh, disrupt, uh, that has to be close to the customer and close to the product owner, if you will. So we would, we do all of that in house.
Andrew: what, what’s an example of a, of a revolution that you had to do internally
Sean: Well, if you look at our dynamic content system, we are absolutely world leaders in that. and the concept of being able to literally adapt 3000 pages of web, uh, web content based on somebody visiting a website that is revolution, right. That’s coming up with concepts. you can’t doubt. So
Andrew: your business, but then once you build it, if there are tweaks that need to be made to it, then
Sean: you can outsource
Andrew: that and you
Sean: correct? Yeah. So we focus our in-house step teams on revolution innovation, and then we, uh, we, we leverage, uh, outsource development for, uh, for small changes, small fixes, uh, this type of stuff.
Andrew: where do you get your outsource developers?
Sean: yeah, And I’ve been all over the world on this and it seems like, uh, uh, the place that we’ve been having the most success is, uh, uh, Ukraine is, has
Andrew: them individually as freelancers or
Sean: sometimes it depends like we’ve been using agencies and we’ve also hired individual. So it’s, uh, uh, you know, I’ve been doing this for a long time, so it’s, it’s a case that, uh, uh, yeah, it’s, the agencies.
are nice if you need a team. Um, but if you just need some, somebody that is really good to solve something really quickly, then I would, you know, get a consultant that, and I would keep going back to the same consultants if I’ve been having success with them.
Andrew: I started this interview by saying. I’ve interviewed a lot of entrepreneurs who run marketing companies. And I think despite the fact that there’s a lot of software, a lot of businesses in the marketing space, I feel like it’s a great place to be because your customers can see a result that pays for itself.
Right? So that there’s not a lot of doubt they’re in experimental mode. So they’re willing to try new things because they’re, they’re looking for the edge versus, so I haven’t interviewed a lot of say competitors to Zendesk and help scout, right. There’s Intercom. But these businesses seem to sprout maybe every 10 years there seem to be 10 big ones, but in marketing there might be 10, 20 big ones every year.
And, and that’s the reason, right?
Sean: Yeah, I would say that definitely. Uh, yeah, I’m sure. Like I have a lot of people I’ve met, uh, who are, uh, you know, Not colleagues, maybe partners, this type of stuff. A lot of them they’ve all started doing something and then saw the, had the Eureka moment and, uh, built something right. Or else they, uh, typically have is marketing.
Right. They were marketing for somebody and, uh, they needed, they saw gee, this is really difficult. And they, they went and did something about it. Uh, so yes I would.
Andrew: this model also makes sense for getting into software in the marketing space. So marketers are more likely to consider new options. And if you’re going to create software a good way to do it is by doing the service first.
Sean: Yeah. And also like, I think about, uh, uh, Uh, I’m sure. Uh, and I know my competitors with funnel flare, uh, one of my competitors with funnel flare, their whole story was I think, competing with, uh, they were doing, uh, uh, they were doing, uh, uh, hiring right hiring automation, and then they, uh, saw the need because it’s interesting as salespeople.
The one thing about salespeople is they’re typically not as technically savvy as, as a marketer because they’re op they’re basically, uh, they’re highly motivated to, uh, uh, get, make the most money with the least amount of effort that isn’t laziness. That’s intelligence for a
Andrew: they want to do is also spend more time. It seems with the customer less time with the software, but for marketers, they’re talking to a lot of people, the better their software is
Sean: the better that you talk to.
Andrew: access and got it. And okay.
Sean: And as a result, uh, what’s interesting is that in the sales space, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation because typically the sales people or people who’ve been working in sales, uh, they’re not tool people. Right. So, uh, if I, and I, uh, if I was to do it all over again, um, I, and this, we, we, we created funnel flare? out of a necessity, but if I would reverse it, I would, uh, I would have started with funnel flour, funnel flour.
Andrew: So that’s you said to our producer, if there’s one big regret, it’s that you didn’t jump into funnel flare earlier. What is funnel flare?
Sean: Yeah. so uh, uh, marketing automation, it’s a, uh, Mo a lot of people know what marketing automation is like. It’s been around for a long time. There’s lots of players, uh, lots, lots of different tools, et cetera. Uh, but on it’s called sales enablement, right? That’s the, the term is, uh, how do I, uh, like we think about an STR, how do I make, you know, 250 calls a day, right?
How do I, as a salesperson, uh, talk to the people who are, uh, are in the right position to be using my, my expertise and my domain knowledge to close the sale, as opposed to knocking on doors or people that aren’t engaged. Uh, well, it all comes down to, uh, uh, you know, time, right? How do I get more out of my time as a salesperson?
Andrew: marketer would have bought ads would have done the webinars or managed the webinars would have. Followed up with emails. And then at some point would have said, this person is interested in buying. They want to talk to somebody that goes into the sales person. So now that’s where funnel flare comes
Sean: that’s right.
Andrew: And what does the sales person need? Not just a calendar booking system. Get on my calendar and let’s talk. No,
Sean: Yeah. The
Andrew: do they need?
Sean: like, uh, if you think about how many emails a sales person sends Right, after, let’s say for us, it’s a demo, right,
The same email is sent right. after the demo. Uh, uh, then there’s another email sent two weeks later, then there’s an appointment, you know, then there’s a, I should go follow this guy on LinkedIn.
I should. There’s all of these things that I, as a salesperson, uh, do as part of best practices. Right? It’s all labor. It’s all labor. Right back to my point about the marketers,
Sean: a sales person will tell you there’s zero value in labor, right? So if they’re doing this labor over and over and over and over again, automated
Andrew: So it’s the emails that they’re sending out in. They’re doing manually. It’s the go and follow people on LinkedIn and those types of things. Got it. And what else? What,
Sean: make it, let’s say. Yeah.
So let’s say like the right tool for a sales person where they should be spending all their time is in there in the CRM. Right. A CRM is a tool for project managing opportunities. Right? So, uh, if you think about just the use of the CRM, I think the biggest challenge all companies have with CRM is getting their salespeople to use them, right.
Because it’s a lot it’s labor, right? So just imagine me making a phone call, I’m going to phone this prospect because it shows up on my calendar. I’m going to go find them. I make the call at the end of the call. You know, on somebody’s phones. I didn’t go log it in the CRM or maybe I go for lunch or something like that.
Don’t log in the CRM. So how about this? I make the call while I’m sitting there looking at the contact, the phone call, it rings in my headset. I do the call. When I hang up, there’s disposition that pops up right there. I choose the outcome of the call, write notes right there in the modal. It goes in logs, the call in the CRM and sends an email right after the call.
Uh, that stuff I would have had to do manually. It just re removed all that labor for me. Right.
Sean: Or let’s say every morning, I’m going to go phone. All of the people that it’s there, uh, the three-month call, right? There’s three months. I’m going to try to sell them some, uh, renewal or something like that. So why not just queue up a whole list of people that I’m supposed to call And it’ll just fill itself and I love, oh yeah.
There’s people that call it. Bam. I’m going to spend my morning just doing my three months calls. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. It logs them all in the CRM automatically with a little disposition. I’ve just saved myself a ton.
Andrew: dials the person. And then if they, if it goes to voicemail, it handles
Sean: drops a voicemail at drops a voice prerecorded voicemail.
Andrew: prerecorded voicemail. Oh, right. Wow. And then if the person is there and available to talk, then it comes to me and then I talk and then it automatically, uh,
Sean: logs it. in the serum. That’s All labor, right. That every sales person goes through on a daily basis. So we focused on, uh, reducing the labor for a salesperson. So our messaging is really how do you scale sales without adding bodies is You reduce the labor, right? Same story with the agencies. See zero value in labor, right?
Andrew: it’s one of the things that I hate doing myself and it only comes back to hurt me at the end of a call. If I talk to a sponsor, right. I talked to, um, uh, to overpass. I needed to follow up with them. And I needed to record the things that we talked about. Who did I talk to over there? Who’s the founder.
What about the person I’m talking to? Where where’s she moving? Where’s she living now? Who is she dating? If that happens to come up? Right. So I’m not clueless next time, but we can have a followup conversation. But if I don’t, if I don’t log that, if I don’t remember to send over a proposal afterwards and they want to talk to me, I’m the one who’s going to be talking about their, their company.
I want to get on a call with them, but I also want to remember everything and then not spend forever writing up something to say, here’s what we talked about. Here’s this crazy idea we can implement it. Right?
Sean: but also let’s say you get busy and you forget to send a, an email for some time. The trust is gone, right?
Andrew: is if I, if we don’t have a follow-up afterwards, it just goes it. We forget about it. Right.
Sean: So why not automatically at the end of the call, the disposition is, uh, it’s a continuation or next steps it’s adds a task to your calendar. And then, uh, if the notes that you put it, embeds it into an email, uh, sends an email, sends a reminder that they’re going to book, here’s the link, my appointment schedule, or pick the next time.
If they book, it kicks them out of the cadence. If not keep reminding them that they need to book this next meeting. That’s right for them. And, uh,
Andrew: said though? You said that salespeople don’t love software. They don’t speak out on it the way the
Sean: no, no, no, no. They, they
don’t love labor.
Andrew: Ah, so you’re saying if you could, if you could get them, if you can show them the software works, they will go in and sign up for it on their own, try it out on their own. And then maybe it becomes something that goes, that lands and expands in the business.
Sean: Yeah. Now back to active demand, it’s the same tech stack. We built the system for rapidly deploying recipes, the work. Right. So we acquire a bunch of recipes that work for sales and when they sign up, boom, they’ve got a whole bunch of, uh, recipes as we call them that are cadences. That just work. Okay.
Andrew: So if there’s someone here who’s listening to us, who’s got their, their sales person, or they’re doing sales themselves. They could just go in and try to use it themselves. And it works as a single player mode don’t need any permission from anyone else. Right. Got it. Okay.
Sean: And it uses my own emails. Like, uh, if I’m using Gmail,
Sean: I mean, it’s
Andrew: Gmail, it just shoots it
Sean: sending them out of my Gmail,
So there’s no setup. It’s using my calendar. It’s using everything is just it’s. The clients never get the feeling that they’re talking to a robot or there’s automation. right?
Because if you’re using automation and marketing, there’s a whole bunch of laws about, you know, unsubscribe and links.
But if you’re just doing transactional emails or even text messages, like we will automate the text messages. Uh, you don’t have to, uh, say, Hey, this is a robot sending it. Instead of me, this is what I would type anyways. Right. So it’s all using your own email system. So yeah.
Andrew: yeah. I, I actually have found that when I don’t use software to automate, I make stupid mistakes. So again, I was, I was doing some sales earlier this year for sponsors. Um, and I, I had this great idea and I created this one page to say, we followed up on the call. Here’s everything that I talked about and here’s what I could do for you.
And then I thought the next time, this is a great idea. You know, what, why don’t I do the same thing? And then I just copied it and
Andrew: but I totally screwed up. And I sent them somebody else’s.
Sean: I get emails like that all the time, where people are trying to pitch me something and they’re mentioning my competitor software and their email as opposed to actually automating.
Andrew: right? And then, and that’s when I said, you know what, I’m always going to at the end of a call, be too pressured to handle things right before the next thing that I have to do. I have to, I didn’t want to automate any of it. Cause I was having personal conversations where he didn’t want to talk to me is to have the personal conversation.
And then I said, no, this is a way to screw it up. Not just, it wasn’t just for the person who I worked with this. He was an intern who’s out sending, sending him the company was sending, uh, in blue. It wasn’t just for them. It was the intern. We then took it to his boss and said, Andrew’s amazing. And then he sent this notion doctors’ boss, and I know what it was.
I then edited the notion doc by accident and sent it to someone else and forgot that I edited this notion doc. And so he looked like an idiot and then I looked kind of foolish, but that’s where I learned that you’ve got to just automate this stuff if you’re going to re
Sean: Yeah. And
it’s, it’s, it, it comes down to Yeah.
To when those people labor is there’s zero value in labor. There’s actually less than zero value in labor is, uh, uh, one is the erosion of trust because of the human element. Right. I didn’t send the email in time. I didn’t follow up at a timely fashion and I made mistakes in the follow-up.
Right. And it just erodes erodes trust. So that’s why
Andrew: I had a similar issue, the founder of super superhuman email software. It’s a, it’s a personal email software. walked me through a personally, he showed me a software and then he showed me how snippets work, where I could have basically it’s canned responses like Gmail.
I said, I’m not going to use it. I want to respond to everyone personally. And I got so many messages from people who wanted to do an interview, and I didn’t want to deal with it. I started to, at times, if I was happy, I would say, thank you and be nice and respond. If I was frustrated, I would send them a frustrated message and then I’d regret it later on.
And then I finally said, you know what? Customizing seems nice, but it’s not effective. I just use this with snippets and I send the same thing to everyone. And let me, let me close out with this one thing I know it’s kind of an awkward place to close it, but we started awkward. We’re gonna end up awkward.
You had a co-founder
Andrew: there was a separation. You call it like a divorce.
Sean: It was a divorce. Yeah. So yeah, when you start a business and I’m sure like your, your audience there, uh, uh, it’s, uh, entrepreneurs and there’s lots of, uh, uh, choices that you make, you either go it alone. And, uh, if you have the pockets, uh, you hire, uh, those that you need to, to get it done. Right. Uh, and you know, I’ve been through this a bunch and it was a case that, uh, uh, the decision to partner, it is a marriage, right?
So it’s, uh, uh, going back, I, you know, I would not have, I would have. Parker, just like I did to start the company because the person that I was partnering with, uh, brought something that was unique and something that I absolutely couldn’t do and hiring was, you know, it was just, uh, it wasn’t something that I could hire out.
I need to trust and I needed a, uh, I needed. Yeah. So then the day I decided to start the company as, as a partnership. Right. Uh, and then as the partners as well, that was through the whole agency phase. And then basically when we pivoted, uh, that’s where, uh, you know, choices had to be made where okay. The business is completely different and, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s better to be, uh, uh, yeah, one of us had to leave was the reality.
So thankfully though, and this is something that I would say is important for everybody starting a business. If you are choosing to do a partnership. Get the prenup made. Right. Make sure that it’s very clear What the divorce is going to look like before you start
Andrew: from the beginning. You said we’re going to work together. It’s going to be our, both of our business. But if we decide to leave, what are some options for separation that make things easier?
Sean: yeah, so what’s up?
Andrew: it was like the buyout. Uh, I’m
Sean: Yeah. The buyout agreements, the like the shotgun clauses, basically, uh, What the divorce was going to, what the divorce options were going to look like. Right. So, uh, it was well laid out and, uh,
Andrew: include in that, in that agreement?
Sean: yeah, and I typically I’d say go get a lawyer and, uh, uh, they are very good at this because they think of things that we’d never think of.
And we just knew that. Uh, just from both our experiences in businesses, uh, we needed to get the, uh, uh, the shareholder agreement, if you will, or the divorce papers already before we started. So we went, spent the money with the lawyer. We had very good lawyers and we built a very good rock, solid document that would explain how the divorce was going to go.
So when it came time, then it was just a mechanics, right?
Andrew: got to feel so much better.
Sean: Yeah, it was, it was definitely, uh, I think we’re both happier because you know, he’s doing stuff that he’s he’s, he has a whole bunch of money that he can go do stuff with. And, uh, myself, as a, as entrepreneurs are, they, there’s a bunch of, uh, uh, entrepreneurial, you know, pain as you’re growing a company that, uh, I’d rather have that pain than, uh, you know, fighting the mountain as opposed to, you know, having internal challenges, deciding what the Mount, which mountain we should be on.
So, yeah. So yeah, it’s, uh, it is, uh, when you’re out there and you’re starting a business and you do make that choice like this, that does the thing that saved me was we both went into it, eyes open with, uh, got lawyers involved before we started the, uh, the business.
Andrew: That’s so helpful. I am so lucky that I haven’t had that, but I’ve seen a lot of my friends go through problems with their co-founders it’s it’s really challenging. And it, it makes you second guess who you are. Am I good to this person? And or am I bad to this person then that makes me a bad person. Am I too good?
When do we let it go? How do we let it go?
And it became obvious for us when we did it, that it was time, you know, and, uh, uh, that it was, you know, uh, you know, who’s getting the kids and who’s taking the money. Right. So I wanted the kids and I had money. So he got the money. I got the kids
Andrew: All right. And the kids are still up and running and growing. The, the site is, um, actually I was going to say jump demand because I was looking at the old archive of that, but no, it’s active demand.com for the marketing automation. And then if anyone is doing sales or wants to check out how it worked for their sales team, it’s funneled flare dot I, oh, am I right?
Sean: Absolutely. And that’s Right. So
Andrew: sponsors who made this interview happen? If you need a website, go to hostgator.com/mixergy. If you want to explore hiring a salesperson, go to overpass.com/mixergy. All right, Sean. Thanks so much.
Sean: thanks for having me.