Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses and I do it for an audience of real entrepreneurs who are building their companies often right now as they’re listening to my interviews.
Joining me today is an entrepreneur who has what today you might actually call a marketing hack that most people wouldn’t ever consider in their marketing mix. She is an entrepreneur who sends out postcards. Her name is Joy Gendusa. She is the founder of PostcardMania, and wait till you see how big this business is. PostcardMania does lead generation that focuses on postcard marketing. They work with small and medium size businesses, and, anyway, we’re going to get into how she built this thing up from scratch. I’m fascinated by this company.
And this interview is sponsored by two companies you probably already know. The first will do email marketing right. It’s called ActiveCampaign and the second one will help you hire your next phenomenal developer. It’s called Toptal.
Joy: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Andrew: Joy, what size revenue are you guys doing right now?
Joy: We’ll break 60 this year, million.
Andrew: Sixty million dollars?
Andrew: You know, the interesting thing about you is I know how to pronounce your name because I’ve watched a bunch of YouTube videos to build up to this. You shared your revenue over time in every YouTube video. I can see like you’re jumping by another 10, jumping by another 15. This has been pretty fast over the last few years, huh?
Joy: Actually, this year we’re growing 20%, but in the last really our biggest jump was to 2007 and then it was very incremental since 2007 until now.
Andrew: And then now, what are you doing differently that’s allowing you to jump so much?
Joy: Oh, I think it’s a combination of things. I think it’s the economy. We’ve also rolled out a lot of digital products that integrate with postcards that get much better results for people that are much more trackable, and that has added about $6 million in revenue this year. Just on the digital side of things.
Andrew: So can you give me an example of how someone might use PostcardMania and then we’ll get into the story of how you built up this business?
Joy: Okay. A dentist, for instance, wants to get new patients. They call up and speak to one of our 40 marketing consultants, and that person will ask them, you know, a myriad of questions about their practice and the competition and what their budget is, etc. And then we figure out, usually it’s three to six month campaign to start out. We pair it with something we call Everywhere Small Business, and that’s where we add matching Google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, call tracking, mail tracking, all that they can see on a dashboard so that they can see the results of their campaign. They can listen to the calls. We give them this entire package where they don’t have to do anything once they get rolling
Andrew: And you help them pick out the audience to target? You help design postcard for them. The postcard gets mailed out by you, and then when somebody wants to sign up, is it that they dial a phone number that’s run by you or they go to a website or what happens?
Joy: We do provide call tracking phone numbers, but they . . . when they call that number, it does ring in the business or the practice. At that point, that’s sort of where we’re out of the picture. We have to, in order to really see the efficacy of the campaigns to get all the data, we have to have the business owner willing to give us back revenue numbers, but we track as many campaigns as possible on that side of it, like we have a huge catalog of results. You know, the results for different campaign so that people aren’t re-inventing the wheel. They can say, “Oh, I am a chimney sweep. Have you done any campaigns for chimney sweep?” And we’ll look in our archives and go, “Here, this is a campaign you can look at.”
Andrew: It’s changed so much since the days when you were just printing it out and letting your clients pretty much figure things out. Let’s understand how you got here. You’re somebody who, early on your dad got you a personal computer? Because?
Joy: Yes. Because I just had a baby and I wanted to work from home and I was doing layout for a printer and he wanted to make life a little easier from his poor daughter.
Andrew: Because when you were working at this printing company, what was it like for you after having a baby?
Joy: Well, I brought my baby with me, but he did . . . it’s too fumy to have a new brand new little lungs there. So I felt really weird bringing him. They were really cool about that. But, and we have tons of babies that come to PostcardMania too. But anyway, I wanted to work from home, but PCs were very expensive back then. So the person who I was working for was like, well, if you can get a computer, then you can work. But, you know, I think I was making like $8 an hour.
Andrew: And you started also doing some freelance graphic design at the time?
Joy: Mm-hmm. Afterward, yeah. I started doing, you know, I just started working for myself and doing printing. I went to the High School of Art and Design in New York city, so that’s kind of, you know, I wanted to do my own work that way.
Andrew: I saw that. I went to Brooklyn Tech. It was pretty geeky kids seriously wanted to grow up to be engineers, which is not like a fun group of people to be around and believe it or not, I was the least one of them all because I didn’t even want to be an engineer. I just want to sit and read books. You had fun. What did you do that was so much fun at your school?
Joy: I had a little too much fun. I actually dropped out in March of . . . is it 12th grade or 11th grade? I can’t remember now. And, yeah, I had a little too much fun. I found out that I was going to have to go to summer school to catch up and so I just kind of was like, I’m out of here.”
Andrew: What’s a little too much fun? Let’s make this interview a little bit more fun.
Joy: A little too much partying.
Joy: A little too much partying. Yeah, just, you know . . .
Andrew: Clubs? Where did you go?
Joy: Oh, God . . . Magique. Do you remember Magique?
Joy: I’m like so much older than you. Studio 54.
Andrew: Oh, wow. You know, I wasn’t into going out, but my brother and sister were. My brother went to a place where it was just nothing but foam in one of the rooms, it was all this activity. I get that would be attractive and that would be fun, wow. Did you feel like a failure for dropping out? Or it just wasn’t right for you?
Joy: You know, not right at first. You know, I just kind of, I really was trying to find my way. So, but then I did have a moment where I was like, wow, like now I’m getting older. Like I kind of excelled at everything really easily when I was a kid, and, you know, I just took a little bit before I felt like I was, like had to get my, you know, together.
Andrew: [inaudible 00:06:47] here.
Joy: Really, I didn’t really get my shit together until . . . Yeah. I didn’t really get my shit together until after I had my first baby though, because that’s what . . . I was married to a guitar player. And I kind of grew up with like a . . . not like a sterling silver spoon in my mouth but maybe like a decent, you know, piece of flatware. My dad was an entrepreneur and I didn’t ever have to worry about where the roast beef came from or anything. And so when I had a kid, it really hit home like wow, you’re like poor and failure and you have this child you have to bring up and set a good example for and all that good stuff. So, that’s sort of when I started to figure out what I wanted to do.
Andrew: But you did start to get your shit together, you were freelance graphic designer, you started working for a handful of people. You told our producer you were starting to make $120,000 a year personally yourself. And still it wasn’t great because?
Joy: Well, I mean, that’s decent money. But I wanted to put my kids into private school and I, you know, that’s . . . when you have kids and you don’t want to put them in public school that’s not really very much money.
Andrew: Especially not in New York.
Joy: And when your husband plays guitar. No, I was in Florida by then. You know, and my husband was teaching guitar so . . .
Andrew: You’re working all the time. Freelance work means you are on it not just making that money but really working for every bit of it. And then you ended up getting a postcard in the mail. Right?
Andrew: Tell me about that.
Joy: Yeah. And so, that was interesting. I wanted to start marketing my firm. I had a few staff and I got promoted to buy a company. And they were really only promoting to the trade. So I said, “Great, this is amazing.” $425 for 5000 color postcards was sort of like unheard of back in 1998. So I designed something and I put it on a CD and I stuck it in a FedEx envelope and I overnighted it. And then I . . . couple days later I got my proof back and they had added their 800-number to my art. So I called them up and ask them to remove it. And they told me that would be $50 to do, and that kind of annoyed me obviously.
So I asked to speak to the supervisor and he again explained to me how I didn’t read the fine print, blah, blah, blah. It’s $50 but this one time they’ll be really nice since I didn’t read it and they’ll take it off. But next time I should know that I’ll have to pay it. And that was when I said, “Okay, we’re going to start our own postcard company and we’re going to call it PostcardMania and we’re not going to put our 800 number on anybody’s art.”
Andrew: Still, the price was really low. You weren’t able to beat that price back then. You were amazed by it. What was it that they were doing that you didn’t know of, that allowed them to get such a low price?
Joy: Well, they were ganging everybody’s order onto one big sheet of paper so that you can save all that setup cost on the front end and everybody shares in that cost. So it’s much easier and less expensive to print that way.
Andrew: Okay. This is what the typical way of doing it was? Running it individually?
Andrew: And that wasn’t . . .
Joy: Yeah. Somebody would order something and they would have to run like maybe 100 to 200 test sheets ahead of time. Make, you know, eight plates if you wanted full color on the front and full color on the back. Plates are expensive. They’re like $15 each. So, you’re looking at sharing all those costs. You know, we at that time, we weren’t printing in-house yet, so we were . . . we had 16, four and a quarter by six cards up on one sheet. So we’d have to have 16 orders before we could print, which was its own nightmare at the beginning of this company.
Andrew: Because you bought an ad to get yourself started in a local newspaper. It was a blow-in ad on a blow-in flyer. What is that?
Joy: You know, we made up a flyer and then when the newspapers being produced, part of the equipment will literally use air to blow a flyer into it, so it’s not part of the newspaper. It can fall out when it’s open.
Andrew: Got it.
Joy: The paper, yeah.
Andrew: So when people open up the paper they’ll see this flyer and it will get more of their attention. And that your offer was 5,000 glossy postcards for $329. You were even going to beat the people who are out there already. You put that out. How many customers did you get from that blow-in?
Joy: Oh gosh, I wish I knew the answer to that question. We probably got like a dozen phone calls right off the bat, which was crazy, you know, just people interested like, and I went, “Wow, this is a button. This is a thing.” Like full color printing at a low price is not something that people knew about because it really didn’t exist for the general business owner. It was really just for the trade. So, I got a lot of interest right off the bat, like probably right away, like as soon as it hit and I went, “Okay, this is a thing.”
Andrew: And still the first batch of customers who came in weren’t enough for you to . . . what was it called? Gang it up? Ganging up.
Joy: Yeah, I had to like hustle. I had to hustle to get my first 16 customers.
Andrew: How do you go beyond? So, some are coming in fine. Great. That makes sense. you close them, you’re terrific. When you don’t get enough to hit that, what was it? 16 minimum, 15 minimum that you need to gang them together and get the price that makes sense for you. How do you end up getting the rest?
Joy: Oh, just, you know, hustling myself. I mean, just, I mean, I’ve driven to South St. Pete Beach to close somebody. We were paid-in-full in advance company for printing, which honestly nobody was doing that in the print industry yet. Making people pay in full in advance. So it was a little bit harder. We had certain things we had to use to close people and giving us their credit card over the phone.
Andrew: Like what?
Joy: But when we couldn’t do that . . . Oh, we had a whole list of rebuttals, you know, like we don’t charge . . . because we don’t have any collections. I’m saving money, that’s why it’s so cheap. So if you pay in full in advance, like I’d have to raise my prices.
Andrew: Rebuttals, they would come up with different objections based on the fact that they don’t want to pay now, send it out and then when I make my money then I’ll pay you. And you had to have a list of rebuttals. Got it. Did you literally go knocking door to door or did you make phone calls to people? Did you call your existing clients? What did you do to get the last few people to close out?
Joy: Well, anybody that didn’t close, that was a lead, we would find where they were because we were marketing just locally and I literally get in my car and show up at their . . .
Andrew: So, if they called you out, they expressed interest they didn’t close on the phone. You just show up and say, “I happen to be in the neighborhood. Was it happened to be in the neighborhood? Or I went out of my way to get you?”
Joy: No. Usually I would just like drive wherever they were. So, I mean, if they knew we were in Clearwater and I went to South St. Pete and they knew, you know, I drove about 40 minutes, so to get my $329.
Andrew: All right. So, it was a win, things are starting to go well and you said, “I want to expand.” And you did something that even at the time people didn’t know existed. And obviously we’re going to get into more of the digital stuff, but the first digital move that you made was a CD of the Yellow Pages. I remember when you could go into like into Home Depot or Staples and they would sell you CDs full of people’s addresses.
Joy: Yeah. That’s what I did.
Andrew: And that’s what you did.
Joy: Yeah, we went to office depot and bought a CD of the Yellow Pages and it was in a CSV file. So you could, you know, export it and print it onto a postcard or labels.
Andrew: Because the Yellow Pages had businesses and you can just export it and put it on anything you want. All those businesses you sent out, did you target at all or was it just everyone who’s local?
Joy: It was basically everyone on Gulf to Bay Boulevard, which is like a main drag here in Clearwater and U.S. 19, another name main drag here in Clearwater.
Joy: And then I realized . . . Why? Just because I knew that’s where most businesses were and the only targeting you really had was geographic. So, you know, but then I realized, “Okay, I’m going to have to suppress out like 7-Elevens, that kind of thing, you know. But at first I really didn’t have any experience with direct mail. And it wasn’t an internet.
Andrew: Did you send out to 7-Elevens in the beginning?
Andrew: You did?
Andrew: You first version was you going to 7-Elevens. Do you want to send a postcard to get more people to buy a . . . ? I don’t know, a shake.
Joy: Yeah, it was just stupid. It was more like, I didn’t know who is on the list exactly unless I would comb through and read every business. And then when you’d get some return cards for bad addresses, then we’d go, “Oh crap, there’s a 7 . . . I’m mailing to everyone. Wait a second, I want to suppress gas stations and pizza places.”
Andrew: Wow. All right. And so you started pulling those out, the numbers started to get a little bit better. And then I highlighted this word in my notes from your conversation with our producer. He said, “I tested the shit out of it.” That once you understood that removing some bad potential customers, bad leads from the list, increases your results, you just went crazy with testing. What are some of the early tests that you did?
Joy: We tested everyone in the medical profession. We tested . . . and dentists. We got huge response from chiropractors and dentists. But chiropractors, you can’t get back on the phone. So, we stop mailing to them because once they were interested in, plus they’re kind of broke. Dentists turned out to be a really good gold mine. Mortgage brokers turned into a gold mine.
Andrew: You’re saying if they called and expressed interest and they don’t buy, part of your marketing was following up and saying yesterday you called up, you didn’t buy. We want to . . . Okay. And if you couldn’t get them back on the phone, it didn’t make sense. Got it. And chiropractors you found didn’t have enough of a budget. You said they were broke. So they weren’t willing to continue. Real estate agents, HVAC, I heard they were doing well for you.
Joy: Yeah. Those are really good industries for us. There’s about 30 industries that respond very well to our marketing, and so we and we can get really, really good results for them. So part of our strategy is we create video case studies in all the industries that we do really well for and like schools and any private schools, we do really well for. Anything where we can get somebody really good return on investment, we’ll, you know, just blast that entire class of business.
Andrew: From the beginning, if you found that real estate agents for example, or dentists were doing well, did you start to customize the marketing, the postcards to them or was it still one uniform thing?
Joy: Well, for the first few years, it was one uniform thing because I was designing all the marketing myself and I just didn’t have time to vary it. But after I hired a CMO, I, you know, then we started varying it and all the marketing is now, I mean, we mailed to probably a hundred different lists every single week.
Andrew: And each one would get a different message?
Joy: A different postcard, a different message, a different offer to a different landing page. I mean, now our own marketing is like very sophisticated.
Andrew: Yeah. When I first heard about you, I thought, “Huh, she’s just doing well because she’s sending out standard postcards.” I didn’t realize all the backend stuff. That’s like micro-targeting to the point of almost the Facebook ad targeting is what you’re trying to duplicate with paper mail.
You eventually said, “Look, I decided we had to grow.” I’m starting to see some ambition develop in you as you get older within this . . . as you get older and run this business. At that point in your life you said, “I want to see what I could do to get even bigger. How many of these things you have to send out to get to a certain number of revenue?” And you found out your ratio of how many cards you need to send out to bring in . . . And within the first year, do you remember how much you hit? I’ve got the numbers here in front of me.
Joy: I do. I think the first year we did about 600 and something thousand. I have my little book. I could show you this.
Andrew: You keep it handy in the book?
Joy: You see this?
Joy: I don’t know if you could see this, but these are like the first several years of our numbers, and every year I would just write the number down and figure out the percentage of growth, that goes up to 2007. My little . . . just a little artifact in my office. But I also have graphs. I don’t know if you can see them back there.
Andrew: I do a little bit. Just enough to get a sense of it. Not enough to read it.
Joy: Yeah. So I have a yearly graph . . . oh, my yearly graph is not in the right place. Usually have a yearly graph in the corner and it just shows like every single year’s revenue.
Andrew: So you can tell so far. So the first year was $690,000 in revenue, right?
Joy: Yeah, $697,000.
Andrew: And this year so far how much?
Joy: This year, so year-to-date, right this second, we’re probably . . . Let’s see. I can figure it out by knowing how much I think I’m going to get this December. We’re probably at about $56 or $54 million right now.
Andrew: You know, I’m amazed that that kind of detail you can do in your head and get to. Before we started, we had some tech issues. I said, “Maybe you have something running in the background?” You go, “Running in the background? Let me get somebody.” It’s just amazing to watch what you focus on really well and what you choose not to. Let me take a moment, talk about my first sponsor because the way that you focus on your marketing is really something that connects well with our first sponsor, and that’s a company called ActiveCampaign. Do you know ActiveCampaign, Joy?
Joy: Uh-uh. I’m not familiar with them.
Andrew: What they do is they take your mentality and they say they’re a handful of people who really care about this targeting, micro-targeting, changing the messaging based on . . . Let me do it this way. Imagine if you had ActiveCampaign for your email marketing. You could say, “You know what? Andrew is watching a lot of videos about how content makers online are using postcards.” The email that he signed up for our email newsletter, let’s make sure we keep saying, “This is great for content marketers.” It’s the same email newsletter we send to everyone else, but we’re going to say, ‘”This is great for content marketers,” to keep emphasizing that this is right for you, Andrew. And maybe you take it a next level and you say, “Andrew is watching a lot of videos on content marketers, why don’t we just start adding them to messages that are just to content marketers?”
Now that type of thing used to take forever to do on more complicated software. Used to be super expensive. You stepped to hire people to manage it. ActiveCampaign said we’re going to make it super simple, so simple that even the boss who’s not tech savvy can use it, and so inexpensive that it doesn’t become one of these things where you sign up and then they get you.
All right. Anyone who’s listening to me, in fact, Joy, I see you’re taking this down. Write this URL down, activecampaign.com/mixergy because here’s what I think you’re going to love and everyone else is going to love. activecampaign.com/M- I-X-E-R-G-Y. Number one, they’re going to let you try it for free. So you got someone on your team, maybe yourself, you have a cocktail at night and just play with it, experiment with it, no pressure.
Number two, if you decide to sign up, and many people do, that’s why they keep advertising with me, your second month is going to be free, but you and I don’t care about that because frankly, if it works, we don’t care about a couple of bucks. Here’s what we’re going to love. Two free one-on-one strategy sessions with their consultants. That means number one, you get on and you say, “Here’s all the stuff I want to do.” They guide you, they set up a plan, they help you get it started. You go out there and you implement it and then you come back a little bit later and you get your second consultation where they check in. How was It? Did this work? Did this not? Let’s be honest, what wasn’t working for you? Let’s adjust it and let’s improve it.
And finally they’re going to give you free migration. So you have other software you’ve been with. They will migrate you for free. Joy, I see you wrote it down. I’m not going to sell past the close. I’m just going to say activecampaign.com/mixergy for everyone else who hadn’t written it down. Activecampaign.com/mixergy.
All right. I love these. You have these numbers. So, I have them on my screen. Now I understand why your revenue next year, year 2000 you do $1.5 million, 2001 $3.5 million. Well, you at that point saying I’m good at. I’m good at this. I got this. The person who maybe I was worried I was going to be a failure. I’m not. I got it.
Joy: I would say, yeah, probably in 2001 I started to feel like I had something going, you know, because it was viable. I, you know, I was trying to figure out what was that make-break point, like how much money was I going to have to put in before I could stop putting in so much money and I could take out enough to, you know, have the lifestyle that I wanted to. And it took a few years for me to . . .
It was kind of funny. I met my husband or I started dating my husband in 2001. Oh, because I married him in 2001? No. I started dating him in 2001. And I ran out of space in my office and my office had like three people in it and I needed to get a bigger space and I just basically stopped going into the office. Or I would go in, but I wouldn’t work there. And I spent most of my time hanging out with my new boyfriend, who’s now my husband, and he also had a business and was also able to just like hang out, you know, during the day. So that’s when I went like, “Oh, this is, I’m making money and I’m barely going to the office and this is cool.”
Andrew: There’s a mindset that you have that allows you to get to this level of growth of saying, “I’m not satisfied here. I see another level and another level.” Talk about that. Let’s be open here. What’s going on in your head that allows you to do that?
Joy: You know, for me it’s really about rewarding my team. I am fairly simple girl when it comes to stuff, I mean, I like nice things, but I don’t need to have like houses all over the globe and boats and blah, blah, blah. I really like rewarding my team. So the more money we make, the more I can bonus my guys, give raises, pay them . . .
Andrew: And that’s thing that allows you keep going?
Joy: That’s what motivates me.
Andrew: That you know if you could [pick out 00:24:09] other revenue calculation, how do you . . . where do you get this self-confidence, self-assurance to be able to do this? To say postcards . . . This is in the dotcom bomb. I remember there was this one guy had this crazy idea, his software business wasn’t working. He was going to . . . You know the vendors in New York that sell you stuff, like hot dogs?
Andrew: He had this idea, he suddenly shifted his dotcom business to putting ads on the bags that they give you. I said, “I didn’t even know the hot dog guy had bags.” He goes, “Yeah, yeah. You going to make money if you buy ads.” This is crazy. It’s not working. He had no confidence in himself in any way, the business failed. You did. Why did you have confidence in that period where most people were losing it?
Joy: You know, there’s a lot that I didn’t know, there was no internet, there was not a lot of outside pressure. I didn’t start with like a huge amount of debt or bills, so I wasn’t living . . . I wasn’t like I didn’t have a whole lot that I needed to make in order to be doing better than I was already. So for me it was kind of like, why not? You know, my main motivation honestly, when I started my own business was, yeah, I wanted to make good money for myself and be able to put my kids in private school. But I also wanted to have a workplace that was fun to go to that, you know, there was no office politics and no negative chatter and that sort of the foundation of starting my company and we still have those policies in place today. So it’s really like, it was more of like a lifestyle. I wanted to like grow something that was, you know, a good thing for others.
Andrew: So then 2001, $3.5 million. I see fifth year. Wait, what is this? In the fifth year, I guess, you double revenue. Like what are you doing that’s allowing you to grow so fast at this point in your career? This is before we hit the 2007 mortgage brokers boom that you got. What did you do that allowed you to keep growing?
Joy: I mailed out more and more postcards. I mean, at one point I got a datum from . . . we use the Hubbard Management System to run my company and I got this one datum about gross income, senior datum, it’s called. And it says that the size, not the quality of an organization’s mailing list and the number of mailings to it determines the gross income of the organization. This was written in the ’60s I think. So there wasn’t email or, you know, or the internet or anything.
So all I had was this, and I was mailing 2,500 pieces a week pretty consistently, and we kind of, you know, when I say we plateaued, I’m talking over a number of weeks. And it was frustrating. We were plateauing at about $20,000 a week in revenue and I just said, “Let me double it. Let me . . . ” I can already . . . I already understood that this wasn’t a spontaneous purchase. Like you didn’t generally close people on the first call. I can tell you that we track everything and I can tell you that even today in 2018 every week we’ll close on the first call. We call them Oh gee slams now, but we’ll close about 17 business owners on the very first time we speak to them out of a couple hundred orders a week.
So back in the day, I knew that it took four to six weeks before somebody would make a decision about their marketing, these small business owners. So I decided I would double it to 5,000 pieces a week for four to six weeks to see what would happen. And I literally, literally in week, I can’t remember, it was week four or five, but we literally doubled our revenue. And I doubled the postcards and I doubled the revenue. So that was the model for a very long time going forward.
I don’t do that anymore because it’s a juggling act of getting your salespeople to only close low hanging fruit versus going after people and hardcore going after them. You know, you’ve spent enough money on getting a lead. I want my marketing consultants to work those leads really hard, and if I give them too many, they’ll just close the low hanging fruit.
Andrew: Okay. It was the fifth week, it was you saying, “I need to grow my sales even more. We’re going to invest even more in sending out postcards.” And it took four or five weeks for you close it. And then the revenue doubled. It wasn’t the fifth year. It was the fifth week. I misread that. And when you say hardcore close, what are your salespeople do? What makes your salespeople’s process so good that you guys can close?
Joy: Oh, we have such an awesome process and such an awesome team there. We started training, doing these two full day trainings on the weekend with this guy named Patrick Valtin. He is the best public speaker I have ever, ever heard anywhere. He’s amazing. And we started doing that probably, gosh, I don’t remember if it was 2008, but he . . . my guys like love doing this training with him and he just talks about mainly something called . . . instead of pushing sales, it’s pulling, and you’re like getting, like asking a million questions and really positioning yourself as an expert and getting the person to like be reaching more for the close than you are at the end.
It’s not 100% how it works. We still have hardcore closers that have to ask for the money, but we do a ton of drilling with them. They drill every single day. Things that come up with small business owners that they don’t know how to handle. It’s like a two-man drilling session. We divide them up. I mean, there’s a lot that goes into it. We have sales coaches that listen to calls and a checklist and, you know, go give them things to re-study or what they should specifically drill to make their sales better.
Andrew: Patrick Valtin, that’s his name.
Joy: V-A-L-T-I-N, he’s from Belgium.
Andrew: And what he does is he’s . . . the thing that you’ve learned is to ask more questions. Is there a couple of other tips that you can leave the us from him? I’m looking up by the way right now as we talk.
Joy: Okay. Yeah. I mean, that’s probably the biggest thing was really keeping track of how . . . and getting personal, and, you know, breaking down that kind of brick wall that someone puts up when they call up and they just go, “How much is it?” And they’re not really interested in talking to you. Like how to also position yourself as an expert so that they’re willing to talk to you.
There’s a lot of different things that he does that he teaches that like, you know, I did some sales, I did some like phone room sales before I had my company and I just never heard anyone train in sales the way he does.
Andrew: What was that software that you mentioned earlier? Hover that. . .
Joy: Oh, the Hubbard Management System. It’s not software. It’s a management technology that was developed by L. Ron Hubbard.
Andrew: Oh, got it. For . . . what is it called? Hovered? Oh yeah.
Joy: Hubbard, H-U-B-B-A-R-D.
Andrew: Oh, Hubbard. I was looking up hover.
Joy: Oh, no. H-U-B-B-A-R-D Management System.
Andrew: What is it based on? I mean, what are some of the pillars of it?
Joy: Wow, wow. So much. I mean, there’s volumes and volumes of work for every division of an organization and I would say that fundamentally, he divides the organization into seven basic divisions and teaches you how to create your org chart based on the functions in the company. And then, there’s just so much. I mean, there’s how to handle staff. There’s a whole thing on finance. There’s . . . And all this data is literally from like the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s, very timeless and just a great way to organize and run a company.
Andrew: Okay. All right. I want to ask follow-up questions about that in a bit. Let me continue with the story and see what happened. 2007, what percentage of your business was doing mortgage . . . was mortgage brokers?
Joy: Well, what happened was, you know, that was like, it boomed and then like busted in 2008. So, I would say we found mortgage brokers going crazy probably around 2004 or 2005, and by 2007, that was 46% of our revenue was from mortgage brokers. So when it all fell to hell, we had to . . . we got way smarter really fast. I mean, we had to get, it was like almost too easy, you know, when I was growing it, it was like I kind of felt like I had that golden touch and everything I did turned money. And then in 2008 happened and, you know, I went, “Oh crap,” you know, now instead of like one and a half phone calls or two phone calls to make a close, it was taking four or five phone calls to make a close. So we had to get much smarter with our marketing and much smarter with our sales, and all of that.
Andrew: All right. Let me take a moment, break and then talk about the competition too came in and what you did to recover from both of it, both the competition and from the mortgage crisis. The second sponsor is a company called Toptal. Joy, I think you’d love this one too. Here’s the deal. Do you ever see the “A-Team” growing up?
Andrew: You did? Like someone would have a really . . . My parents would not get as cable and now I think back and go this was smart. I was too addicted TV as it was. All we could get was old “A-Team” on channel five and there would always be this problem that somebody could not get solved in any way. Like the police couldn’t help them. The army couldn’t help them, and no one can help them. But if you could find them, you could hire the A-Team. And A-Team would come in and these guys were experts. They could build stuff. There was Face who could go in and he could pretend to be anybody. It’s like I love that, but they would solve it all.
The people at Toptal are kind of like that, that if you ever need to hire a developer, you know how hard it is and you end up working really hard to find a super good developer. And in many ways we settle for the people that we can find because it’s too hard. The great developers are . . . they got jobs. They’re hard to find. They’re hard to get.
Well, the idea behind Toptal was they said, “We’re going to get them. We are the A-Team.” We’re going to make it so hard that the best developers are going to want to pass our test to get into our network and then when a business needs to hire the best of the best, they could come to Toptal and if you could convince Toptal that it’s a good project, they will let you hire one of their people to do it. And we’re not talking about the basic stuff there.
Tons of freelancing sites where you can find people on the cheap. We’re talking about really Google quality developers. And I say, when I talk about this, people think the prices are outrageously expensive. Here’s what keeps it reasonable. These developers, they don’t work in Silicon Valley. They don’t live in San Francisco the way that I do. What they do is they live in whatever home country they happen to be from, Eastern Europe, South America, whatever, where prices are cheaper and all they want is to do good, meaningful work and stay home with their families instead of moving here to San Francisco.
So, if you want to hire the best of the best at a reasonable price, not cheap, I’ll be honest with you, reasonable price, not for a solopreneur, it’s not going to be a good fit for you if you’ve got nothing going on and you just need to hire someone who’s like a technical co-founder, no. But you’ve got an organization, you need the best of the best, go to toptal.com/mixergy, and frankly you’ve got nothing to lose. By even if you don’t know if it’s a right fit for you, go to that URL, hit that big button on it, and you’ll be scheduled to talk to somebody there and if it’s a good fit, you can hire someone from Toptal and you will be able to often get them going within days.
Toptal.com/mixergy will also give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours in addition to a trial period, no-risk trial period of up to two weeks, yada, yada yada. Here it is. What you need to know is top as in top of your top of your head and tal as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy.
Joy: Okay, great.
Andrew: All right. Joy, what did you do to recover from this? Business . . . You lost a bunch of your business, competition was coming in.
Joy: Let’s see. The first thing we did is we realized once we started getting a bunch of competitors, like basically the internet was becoming a thing, and really large printing companies could afford to just throw up a site to compete with us in. And a lot of people started to do that, and then you could find like cheap postcards anywhere on the internet. So we decided that we would change our focus from being cheap to having, you know . . . we decided that we needed to find what should our USP be, what should our unique selling proposition be, how can we differentiate ourselves?
So I looked at like what was the most painful thing about marketing for SMBs, and that was spending money on marketing and not getting any results. And a lot of small business owners get really scared to lose money on bad marketing once they’ve done it once, which is another thing that’s different about me, I don’t really care that much if I lose money on bad marketing, just kind of like try something else. But, so I hired a results manager and I hired someone to go through all our campaigns and isolate what works, what doesn’t work by industry, whether they’re in an urban area or a rural area or suburban area and just catalog all that so that people feel more armed with information when they’re buying from us than when they’re buying somewhere else. And that helped a lot.
Andrew: And so you’re able to do is not eliminate the risk for them, but show them a higher likelihood of success. Where the competition that was coming in was offering postcards, which is version 1.0 of your business. You then got to a point where you built your own building. The building that you’re in right now, is that the one that you built? You did?
Joy: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
Andrew: Gutsy. This is 2009. That’s when you moved in, and roughly at that point there was a crash. What happened to you?
Joy: Oh, man. It was very stressful.
Andrew: I’m glad you’re smiling through this. I want to get to this because I don’t want people to think this is just a fairy tale, you really had to battle to get to where you are right now. Sixty million is not an easy number to get to. What happened?
Joy: Okay, well, this was pretty much the hardest thing that we’ve ever been through as a company or me as a person. So really, you know, I have no formal education so there’s a lot of things that I really didn’t understand, and one of the things was like, we never had a chief financial officer. We just . . . we were like the Bank of America’s golden child, they just want to throw money at us. And we . . . it took, like for instance, we had to spend $250,000 on architectural designs before the city of Clearwater would even approve us building on the site that we’re at. Like the process is horrible.
So the whole thing started out expensive and frustrating. I would say it was probably the very last project that was funded in our county before everybody started running for the hills. Like I feel like the building was put together with like a lick and a promise because they wanted . . . they weren’t . . . didn’t think they’d ever get paid.
It was kind of a nightmare. So finally we move into the building. My husband and I take all of our savings to complete the project. We move in, there’s probably 30 leaks in my roof. Nobody’s taking any responsibility for it. We have to get them plugged. Obviously it rains like crazy in Florida. We moved in, in June, right in the middle of the rainy season.
Then, let’s see when this happened, I think it was, maybe it was September. God I get really bad . . . the older I get, the harder it is for me to get dates, but we got a letter from Bank of America saying that we, you know, broke our agreement and didn’t live up to our covenant. And I was like, “What are they talking about? I was like never missed any payments or anything.” It must have been September 2010 because we moved in in June in 2009.
And then in July, every year we had to pay some kind of big fee – trying to remember what that was called – some financial term. We had to pay like one big fee a year and it was about $125,000. I’ll think . . . it’ll come to me probably later. So, anyway, this . . . So in order to . . . We were having such a rough time . . . It had to be 2009. It was 2009. So we having such a rough time that I had this line of credit with BofA for $100,000 and I was like, “I’m just going to use it for this payment.” And that sort of triggered something with them for them to see that I used the line of credit to make the payment.
And they said, “Oh, you’re not allowed to do that.” And I have to just tell you the covenant was literally a five inch or six inch typed hardcover book for this particular type of loan, which is called an industrial revenue bond. And I had like 20 attorneys at this closing. It was like crazy. I felt like this little girl going, “Really is this to sign? Okay, I’ll do it.” And then, so basically I got this letter saying, “You have, you know, 30 days to pay your entire loan off.” And the entirety of the loan for the building that we built, plus all the other loans that my husband and I had with Bank of America came out to $6.8 million and they were like, you have 30 days to pay this.
Andrew: Thirty days? $6.8 million dollars? And did you have $6.8 million in the bank?
Joy: Oh God, no. Not even, like . . . not even close.
Andrew: So, what did you do?
Joy: Okay. So we went to this attorney that the girl who was like our buddy at Bank of America told us to go to. We went to this attorney and after like the third visit, my husband and I kind of felt like we were being led to the slaughter really gently, and we left his office and he’s like, “Who’s that? Who’s that CEO of that law firm that you know from that thing that you did?” And I was like, “Oh yeah, this lady Carol.” So I have her on my cell phone. She basically was the CEO of the largest and most prestigious law firm in Pinellas County. I call her on her cell phone. I, in a nutshell, tell her what’s going on. She’s like, “Oh, we can totally help you with that.” So I get a new lawyer. I also get a recommendation for . . . oh, no, it’s my husband again.
He’s like, “We should get a CFO, like we should get somebody who can really understand this.” And we went to some event where I won businesswoman of the year, and there was like somebody sitting at the table talking to my husband and it was this girl who worked at this company called Nperspective, and they are CFOs for hire and I wind up getting the owner of that company to come on as my CFO.
He winds up getting us with a debt negotiator. Anyway, it was like . . . it was a very horrible while it was going on. And they literally like threatening to depose me every other day. They were threatening to take my company. They said they said I wasn’t allowed to get paid at all while this was going on. But the attorney negotiated and got me able to make 150K a year while this was happening. One week they just emptied my account. They just emptied out my merchant services account of like, I don’t know $186,000 and, you know, I have to make payroll. I was like freaking out.
Andrew: How did you make payroll?
Joy: Oh, we just made payroll. I don’t know, we just sold more stuff and made sure we made payroll. Didn’t pay anybody else.
Andrew: Was it going back to existing customers and selling more ? What was it . . . If you . . . I know part of it you took a big loan on your personal credit card, something like $100,000. Right?
Andrew: So was that . . . Uh-huh.
Joy: I mean, I didn’t tell anyone at my company this was going on. So we were already very sales-focused company. So we just like poured on the calls of, you know, working with our sales and getting them to sell more and also not paying our vendors, you know, it’s like in order to make payroll. Like the worst thing is to not make payroll. I’ve never not made payroll because that, you know, I live in a small town. And I’ve heard like, “Oh, so and so didn’t make payroll this week.”
You never want to be that company. So, you know, it was the paper companies, which is the second largest expense we have, you know, they had to take a backseat. I met with a bankruptcy attorney to find out like how do I get past that? How do I have vendors if I filed bankruptcy? I mean, we didn’t, we wound up not having to file bankruptcy. But the funny thing that happened is I’m always in growth mode because my stable piece of information is if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking.
So I’m in growth mode. So we get through 2010 miserably. And when we found the debt negotiators found a bank that was willing to buy the debt, the bad debt from Bank of America. And when we went out to get a new loan, Bank of America . . . So they have the separate section called special assets, which was the people dealing with us. And then they have the rest of the bank. So when we went out to get a new loan, Bank of America is like, “Oh, we’d like a shot at it because in 2010 we were having another highest every year, highest ever revenue year.” So they were like, “Wait a second, we want a shot at your business.” I was like, “Are you freaking kidding me?” Like I am going to go to, you know, Bank of America is terrible.com. Whatever it is. And start like writing my story there, it was a miserable experience. But eventually we had a . . . yeah.
Andrew: And so that part of it, the growing allowed you to get out of it. The economy improved, that allowed you to get out of it. Selling harder, reducing payments to or stretching out your payments to vendors. And finally you had to take out a big loan of credit, I think $100,000 on your credit card. Was it . . . ?
Andrew: No. You used your personal line of credit. Not your credit cards, personal line of credit to get $100,000 here. I’m seeing in my notes. Then you recovered . . . I’ve got a note here. Our producer asked you what was your biggest challenge? You said, “Money, we’re loaded now but back in the day I couldn’t afford things. You own 100% company. Sorry, talk about that.
Joy: I mean, everything that you want to do to grow costs money and it’s always like this, you know, juggling act of like, how am I going to invest in this thing that I think is going to bring me great ROI, how am I going to do that and still, you know, make payroll, pay myself well and have everything? And that’s been the struggle. You know, it’s interesting to look back on because it’s such a different scene right now, but it was a lot of risk taking, and being willing to be wrong and keep trying.
Andrew: And when you say, “I’m loaded now.” What does it mean exactly? What are you able to do now that the younger you wasn’t able to do? That’s exciting now? That says it’s worth it to have gotten here.
Joy: You know, it’s really just more fun growing the business. You know, like now I have, you know, a platform development team that works for me in-house and we’ve been able to automate like so much of our business and we just invested in storefront software so we can go after franchises and those kinds of businesses and you can just pay cash for that stuff and take a risk on that and not, you know, not worry and not stress out.
Andrew: So that’s it. The ability to just try new things and not worry. It’s not even buying a great house or anything. No?
Andrew: You didn’t buy a great house?
Joy: I have a nice house. I bought it . . . I’ve been married 16 years, so we bought it 16 years ago. And, you know, it’s just a nice enough house. I mean, I don’t need . . . it’s a nice house.
Andrew: What’s the tutorial thing that you were adding? That you said at the beginning that that’s the future for you guys.
Joy: A storefront. It’s basically software that you can, you know, you’ve probably seen these where you can go and design a postcard online and like have it for invitations. But the thing that was missing so that direct mail companies couldn’t really do it with the whole mailing side of it, which is a huge amount of technology that goes into that. So now we have a software that we could integrate with all the mailing software so that any kind of big franchise company can say, okay, we want all our franchisees to do these postcards. You go to their site, you go to their menu, but then of course it’s really us.
Andrew: It’s you guys sending it out and dealing with all the frustrations.
Andrew: All the headaches of sending out the stuff.
Joy: Yeah. Everything, like printing and mailing and everything, but doesn’t look like us. It looks [inaudible 00:49:03]
Andrew: Otherwise, you mentioned L. Ron Hubbard earlier I said I’d come back. When I was looking at Patrick Valtin, I see that he’s in Scientology news.org. I was looking at Glassdoor. People said that you run your organization using Scientology. It’s easy for us to knock or for me to knock Scientology, not for you. I don’t think that we hear enough about what’s helpful. What is it about Scientology? It seems like you’re in the church, right?
Andrew: What is it about Scientology that’s helped you build this business?
Joy: There’s so much that I can talk about there. Scientology in itself, the religion part of it, which has nothing to do with my business or how I run my business. You’ll see lots of things on Glassdoor where people go, yeah, that’s BS, you know, I’m not a Scientologist and they don’t use Scientology here. The administrative side, like L. Ron Hubbard had to make all his policies and management technology to run and grow the church of Scientology that’s been exported, and over 300,000 businesses around the world use Mr. Hubbard’s administrative technology. It has nothing to do with the religion of Scientology.
For me, being a Scientologist is, you know, it’s given me a lot of confidence. I mean, it’s a lot of very personal, spiritual things that you do to help yourself improve yourself, you know, handle things that are bothering you, you know, that make you less.
Andrew: Like what?
Joy: Oh, gosh. Again, it’d have to really dig deep. I’ve been in the church for probably 30 years now, and I’m not . . . I don’t . . . I’m incredibly optimistic, but it’s not difficult. You know, it’s not, I don’t have . . . I’m not introverted. I don’t introvert on things. I don’t look in, you know, I’m in present time or I’m looking into the future. I’m not, you know, stuck on any past failures or anything in the past. There’s nothing that, you know, really, you know, obviously like my mom died 16 years ago and I miss her and I can get sad thinking about wanting to be with her, but there’s nothing that is like affecting me from the past in the present time.
Andrew: That idea of like, I did a crappy interview a week ago and the whole thing fell apart. You’re centered here and you’re not focused on that.
Joy: Yeah, I honestly never, I mean, I want to learn from anything that I do shitty, but I don’t get personally enmeshed in it or upset.
Andrew: The most intriguing thing for me about Scientology, the ability have to pay attention to your thoughts and notice which ones are not helpful and realize where they came from and allow yourself to remove them as obstacles.
Joy: Yeah. So there’s . . . you get help with that. There’s like a very specific technology to get a person to not have attention on the past if they call it auditing. And there’s a great Church of Scientology in San Francisco where my step-daughter and step-son in-law are on staff, my grandchildren live in San Francisco.
Andrew: You have grandchildren?
Joy: Yes, well, my husband’s, he’s only eight years older than me but started he way younger, so his daughter is 39 and so I have a 14-year-old granddaughter and 11-year-old granddaughter and a 6-year-old granddaughter.
Andrew: And what were you saying about your grandkids?
Joy: They live in San Francisco.
Andrew: I live in San Francisco too.
Andrew: All right. I feel like Scientology is a very touchy subject to talk about because of the way that it’s handled online. I’m glad that you were able to or you’re willing to engage with me on it. And to be honest, it was a part of me that said, “Maybe I don’t bring this up. I’m doing research here and stuff is coming up. Maybe it’s going to change her conversation.” It didn’t. You’re shaking that off like nothing.
Joy: Yeah, I mean, there’s so many haters out there for every different subject you can find. If you really want to know about Scientology, I would suggest you go to scientology.org and get it from the horse’s mouth rather than what other people are saying about it, you know. I worked at the Church of Scientology. I’ve been a Scientologist for over 30 years, so I feel like a pretty good . . . pretty much know what it is, you know. I’m, I don’t know, you know, there’s just a lot of crappy haters online, all I can say.
Andrew: All right. I want to thank you for being on here. I thought that there was one thing that I wasn’t to fit in here, which was a Social Media Examiner post that you did just showing you what you think about social media that I think is really interesting and that was . . . I don’t know why I’m bringing this up right now. I think there’s so much that I want to bring up. I did my research and there’s tons I want to bring up in here.
What I like about it is you’re like, “I’m going to put these tips out there and I’m going to bring people over to my landing page and I’m going to convert them into trials or into people who are going to download my report,” and I thought it’s interesting because she’s doing this for a physical product, a paper-based thing. She’s using all this software, digital stuff. Do you feel like maybe paper is eventually going to be outdated and you’re in a paper-based world? No.
Joy: No. Actually print numbers are going up, because people are so inundated by digital media that when you get something in your mailbox, you decide when you’re going to look at it. It’s kind of like, you know, people want to look at their mail, they decide when to go to the mailbox and bring it in the house. It’s not just what pops up in your face, so there’s a lot of really good statistics about direct mail and its efficacy and the results, so I don’t see it going away.
Andrew: All right. Thank you so much, Joy, for being on here. The website for anyone wants to check it out is postcardmania.com and I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen. The first will help you do email marketing right. It’s called activecampaign.com/mixergy. Use it to target properly. Yes.
Joy: Can I give you a couple of specific link for your listeners?
Andrew: Yeah, I’d love it. Go ahead.
Joy: Okay. So I have a book, it’s called “Postcard Marketing in an Online World” and you can get that at postcardmania.com/podcast. And then we have 25% off any six-month campaign at postcardmania.com/mixergy for your listeners.
Andrew: I was wondering, in the beginning I was asking if there’s a way for me to make this work, so you’re going to give our people, you know, I get a lot of requests for my audience, like offer some kind of discount from the guests and I never do it again. I wonder how well this is going to work for you. So, wait, so my people are going to be able to send out postcards for what? Like, would I be able to use a postcard to promote our membership business?
Joy: I probably wouldn’t recommend it for your membership business because it’s only $399 a year.
Andrew: Look at you, and the freaking research too. Yes, because it’s too small? Because we charge too little?
Joy: Well, maybe I would use it to re-activate members, like sort of remind them what they’ve gotten or what they should have gotten. But you really want to do use postcards. Like if you have a product that somebody’s going to buy over and over again from you, and if your initial ticket is like, you know, probably minimally $500 bucks. Like for your first time . . .
Andrew: Okay, so we’ve got like a $2,000 product. If I have someone who tried the cheaper product, I might want to come back six months later or how will . . . how much later and say, “Send a postcard to remind them and see if we can start to convert them to the next step.”
Joy: Yeah. See now I didn’t know you had a $2,000 product, so that if . . . what I would probably do for you if you just wanted to drive people to your site, like I never heard of your site and I’m very interested in actually, you know, you’ve got these courses on there and I thought wow, that’s really interesting. I would love to learn from other entrepreneurs, especially since I have no, you know, formal training.
And so I got, you know, I went through your whole thing because I wanted to listen and if you have a $2,000 product, then I would probably just drive people to your free download, and then because you take them through nicely. And so you could do that. If you have a product that’s up there, then it would work if you wanted to drive traffic.
For people who aren’t necessarily knowing that they need to look. That’s what postcards come in. Like, you know, sending it to small business owners that aren’t going on. You know, they’re not like, “Oh I want to have a startup.” They already have a business and they want to learn how, you know, from other successful business owners.
Andrew: Well, I haven’t designed mine yet. I’ll check this one out. This is postcardmania.com/mixergy, for that 25% off. Thanks, Joy. And thanks to two sponsors, activecampaign.com/mixergy, toptal.com/mixergy. Bye, Joy.
Joy: Bye. Thank you very much.
Andrew: Thank you. Thank you all for listening. Bye, everyone.