Perfecting Processes For Productivity
While many brands and agencies have found success by delivering excellent services and results, we all know there is always room for growth. As our CEO Stacy Jones often likes to say "when you stop growing, you start dying." With this in mind, it is every business owner's prerogative to always be searching for new methods to better run their brand or business.
Identifying and perfecting turn-key methods to your approach will allow your brand to thrive and increase productivity! In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines the benefits of mastering systems and processes from the expertise and experience of Semantic Mastery's Bradley Benner.
A Little Background On Bradley
Bradley Benner is the co-founder and CEO partner of Semantic Mastery, an online SEO and semantic web training and educational site providing proven, real-world results-oriented training in business development tools. He's also the founder of the consulting firm, Big Bamboo Marketing, where he provides digital marketing solutions for small businesses. Bradley is a self-proclaimed digital marketing addict with a passion for web design, SEO, and social media.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: Would you talk a little bit about your background, what got you to where you are today, and we can dive right into the conversation?
Answer: Yeah, so scaling is absolutely something that's a challenge for all types of businesses no matter what size they are. I've experienced that in my own businesses as an entrepreneur for pretty much most of my adult life. I've had multiple businesses, and I've hit, in several different parts of my businesses, a plateau or a glass ceiling, so to speak, and it's because of trying to do too many things all at once or not putting processes and systems into place.
A little bit about my background is I got started in digital marketing in 2010 and for the first couple years I really was just learning about SEO, search engine optimization, and how to get stuff to rank in Google because that's where a lot of traffic comes from, still does today. For the first two years, I really learned how to build simple websites and I got into doing maps marketing and things like that, so essentially local business-type websites and Google maps listings and that kind of stuff, trying to figure out a way to generate leads primarily for contractors.
I've got a contracting background. I used to be an electrical contractor, so I feel comfortable in that space and I know how valuable leads are to contracting businesses. But, that goes for just about any sort of local business or even any business period, right? Leads are very, very important. So, I wanted to learn how to generate leads from Google. The first two years I did that, I just built websites on my own that then, once I would get them to rank and start producing leads, mainly phone calls at that point, then I would go contact business owners in that particular industry and that particular area and try to sell them the leads or lease them the assets that I had built, the web properties.
Essentially, it was a results in advance-type of deal. You know what I mean? I would call them and say, "Look, I've got leads coming in for your particular products or services in your local area right now and I need somebody to take these leads. Would you be interested?"
Question: You removed all risk from everyone, basically. So people buying into your purchase, they knew you were going to deliver?
Answer: Correct, and that was good for a couple reasons. Number one, if I was to just come right out of the gate trying to sell marketing services, I had no credibility. I didn't have any portfolio of ... Under the normal circumstance, I wouldn't have had any proof to show that I knew what I was doing and could get results. It would be like, "Hey, Mr. Business Owner, I promise if you just give me a $1,000 a month, in the next three months I will probably get you results." That's a terrible way to start a conversation with a prospect.
So, I learned how to generate leads first and then approach the prospect. After about two years of doing that, I had gotten pretty good at it and I was able to get consistent results from the properties that I would build. But, because I dealt mainly with contractors, and I live in Virginia, during the winter months, it would slow down and my revenue would dip because of that. I really wanted to start building more of a reliable and consistent income. So in 2012, after I'd had enough experience and enough of a portfolio to prove that I knew what I was doing and to be credible, that's when I started my own agency which is Big Bamboo Marketing. That's essentially an SEO and local marketing agency.
I started to provide my services or offer my services on the traditional client-agency relationship. I built up several different clients from all different kinds of business industries, business verticals, not just contractors, but all different types. Then, in 2013, I actually joined a mastermind, a high-level mastermind with some other marketers and I started an accountability group, a weekly accountability group via Google Hangouts where we would just get together with 10, 15 of us and hold each other accountable, share what was working in our businesses, what wasn't working and that kind of stuff.
Within several weeks, a few of us were constantly or consistently the ones that were sharing and most other people were just showing up and consuming, there to listen and to take what we had to share. So, we realized very quickly that what we were sharing was actually more valuable than the host of the mastermind program. So, we decided that we wanted to start our own digital marketing, coaching, consulting, product development-type business so that we could teach our methods to others.
In 2013, we started Semantic Mastery, which is the company that I'm representing today and we started providing information products, weekly training series, started developing done-for-you services, so digital marketing services for our students and our members and such. At the end of October 2014, we started our weekly hangout series, which is our weekly Q&A webinar series. It's hosted on YouTube and we call it Hump Day Hangouts.
It's a one-hour-long show. People can come and ask any sort of question about digital marketing that they want and we answer it. We've been doing that consistently since October of 2014, so almost four and a half years now. That has been something that's been huge for us as far as growing our audience, getting our name out there, building our brand, and also providing us with the information from our audiences to what they need, like the types of training that they need and that kind of stuff.
Because we interact with them on a weekly basis and just as you know, with the podcast, consistency is critical. Having that regular consistency and always being there really helped to get our name out there. Our little space, I call it a small corner of the web. Internet marketing for local businesses and local SEO and that kind of stuff, is kind of a small corner of the web, but it's an important one and I feel like we've done fairly well at building a name for ourselves.
Question: You are a systems guy, so why are processes and systems really the backbone to making all things work for a company?
Answer: It's a great question. Well, as we started mentioning earlier, scaling. In my own business, as a solopreneur, which I know a lot of people can relate to that. When I got started, as I mentioned, from 2010 to 2012, I was doing absolutely everything on my own. In fact, from even when I started my agency in 2012, I still did everything myself. I would do all the prospecting and sales. I would do all of the fulfillment of the marketing services, all the SEO work, the content production. Everything that had to be done for my clients, I would do because, again, as a solopreneur, I think I felt like nobody could do it as good as me. You know what I mean?
I thought that the only way that I could produce the results consistently was to be the one that did them. What happened was I reached a point where there's only so many hours in a day and I got to a point very quickly, especially when I opened my agency and I started taking on clients, I got to a point very quickly, within a year where I was literally working 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and I couldn't ... Even though the money was good, I had no time to enjoy it. I could not take on any more clients or increase my revenue beyond that point.
I had to learn how to outsource or how to build systems and processes and to automate and that kind of stuff. What's funny is there as a really high-level, weekend seminar for digital marketers that was in Phoenix, Arizona that I paid $20,000 to go to.
The funny part about that story is I picked up a book by Sam Carpenter, I think it is, called Work the System and I bought it on Kindle for $9.99 to read on the flight to Phoenix from Virginia. I read half of it there on the way to Phoenix and then I finished the book on the way back. I got more from that $9.99 book on Kindle that helped me grow my business, than the $20,000 seminar that I went to.
Long story short, that book really taught me that the author, I could relate to what his story was and that was I was saturated. I could not take on any more work. I was always putting out fires so to speak, playing Whac-A-Mole.
Anytime I thought I was going to start expanding into new areas or take on new clients, something would come up and I wasn't able to. I learned that I had to start letting go and delegating, learn how to delegate work. The only way that I knew how to do that was to start developing processes for my own work. Documenting was I was doing and putting it in a very linear, step-by-step fashion so that I could hire somebody else either in-house or a virtual assistant.
I work as a digital marketer so I do almost everything virtually, so I was able to hire inexpensive labor from the Philippines, for example, or overseas period, that I could then hand my process docs to and my training videos to and have them learn my processes to do it exactly the way that I did them. Because I would just document exactly what I did. It would me be narrating the training video and me recording or typing out on just Google Docs what my processes were in a very step-by-step fashion.
I learned after a few months ... It's funny. The first process that I developed was for building, what I call, syndication networks and that's essentially Web 2.0 and social media properties that you can syndicate or broadcast your content to, whether it's from a blog, a YouTube channel, a podcast, whatever the case may be. It's content amplification really. Syndication networks were a big part of a foundation of my business for my clients as well as I was earning revenue from selling syndication networks, which I was building all myself.
It would take me, which I was really proficient at it, take me five or six hours to build a syndication network. That was one of the first things that I learned how to outsource and develop process docs for, but, as I mentioned before, I had 14 hours a day that I was managing client work. So, when I decided that I was going to learn how to outsource and create these processes so that I can outsource the work and unload it to other people, I literally had to give up two hours of sleep per night.
That's what I said. I said, "I'm going to give up two hours of sleep per night to work on these process docs until I get it done. It took me four months to get it done and I was like a zombie. What was great about it was once it was done, I hired two virtual assistants full-time, right off the bat, and I handed them those process docs and training videos, and I have never had to build another one of those syndication networks since. That was in 2014 and I still have those two virtual assistants still work for me today.
Semantic Mastery, we actually provide that as a service done for you, syndication networks for our members. And, we've got a whole team now that builds them, which is incredible. That's when I realized the power of building processes and systematizing stuff, outsourcing stuff, and also automation. From there, like I said, I really started trying to develop processes for everything that I could in my business and fortunately, my partners ... I've got four partners at Semantic Mastery ... they're very process-oriented as well.
We get good at a particular method or whatever it is that we are trying to implement in our business, we learn how to master that on our own first. As soon as we get to a point where we have something that's repeatable, we can get repeatable results from them, that's when we build our process around it, try to systematize it and either delegate it or automate it. Then, we move on to the next one.
The selected highlights above are just the tip of the iceberg of information that Bradley shared! To hear the rest of it, listen to the full episode of our podcast!
The Next Step
Want to learn more about the ways that your brand can effectively improve your brand's efforts, presence and effectivity? Check out these other blog posts we've written!
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- Create Brand Partnerships Through Influencer Marketing With Keith Stoeckeler
Ready to take the next step in your brand's digital marketing and begin partnering with social influencers to create branded content? Check out our free e-book on connecting with social influencers!