How JB Kellogg Grow Marketing360 From 2 Employees To 550 With Very Little Automation.
I recently had the honor and pleasure of interviewing JB Kellogg, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Madwire® and Marketing 360® on my bi-weekly “I’m that Geek Show.” What I really love is how he was able to grow these companies so quickly from 2 to over 550 people in just 10 short years and still keep the feeling of intimacy a small company has with their employees and their clients.
How was he able to do this you may ask? By using his SECRET WEAPON: Relationships!
Building strong business relationships, staying true to your mission and providing quality customer service is the key to success and the ability to grow so quickly.
“What would you ask the Co-CEO of the fastest growing technology company in the country?”
The comments took me by surprise. Everything from - he must be a psychopath, how dare he make so much money as people in Africa are dying… to - can I buy some stocks, will he hire me and - how many women did he hire.
So I went out and did some digging about JB, and we hit the road with the most controversial topic:
What is it like to mix family and business?
It's great. JB and his dad founded the company, the two of them. Then he has his brother in law, several cousins and he thinks 12 or 13 people from his family that work for him. They don't treat each other any different than they would anybody else. They’re all striving for the same goal, pushing for the same mission and held accountable to the same standards as everybody else. Ultimately, they all have to do their part, perform well, be good members of the culture and they all are. So it's been successful.
What gets you up in the morning?
The mission. They're trying to help small businesses grow. JB feels like when they do a good job of that, irt makes the world a better place. Part of Marketing360’s mission is creating jobs. One of those things is growing their company. The bigger they grow, the more jobs they can provide. What gets JB up in the morning is the excitement of providing more jobs, and doing it well enough that the people working for them are doing well and also do a good job for their customers, so they can hire people and create jobs as well.
How do you enter a market with no previous experience?
When JB and his dad started the company, they wanted to get into technology, had no previous experience in the marketing space and needed to learn. They started by offering services. Building customer relationships and having a good consultative sales process was the first thing they focused on.
There was no automation there. It was manual. They were calling, emailing and building relationships. Then trying to figure out what their customers goals were and developing a strategy to reach those goals. Even on the marketing execution side, it was very manual.
Over the years, they've understood what technology pieces they needed to build. They have built things over the years and added in the element of automation, streamlining and optimization along the way. Of course, even today, they believe that having a relationship with the customer is extremely important as part of their overall process. They still focus on that.
How do you turn your skills into an actual business?
JB and his dad knew businesses needed marketing when they started. They could see that marketing was changing. People were still advertising in the phone book, the newspaper and those sorts of traditional methods. Digital marketing was new and up and coming. They were already doing some digital marketing in their trading company. They understood how Google ad words and email marketing worked.
They could see how all these digital channels could really drive inbound leads. So they realized they had a talent that they were able to execute in the trading industry, which is very, very competitive. They could see small businesses were making a shift.
They were going to be shifting onto the digital scene with regards to marketing. They saw the opportunity there. JB had a little bit of experience with marketing and design. They decided, “Let's go ahead and take advantage of this.” They went for it. There's never a guarantee. You don't know if it's going to be successful or not. They thought they would be and believed in it. They moved into the new space and went after it. Luckily it paid off.
JB and his dad have taken risks since day one. Coming from the trading industry, it doesn’t get any riskier than that. They asked themselves, “What's the worst thing that's gonna Happen? We do it and it doesn't work. If that happens, we go back to trading. But the best thing that could happen is we're successful.” They could see other companies were successful in the space. There's no reason they couldn't be. All along their history with Madwire and Marketing 360 they've made risky moves. They go for it…
The worst thing that's going to happen is that doesn't work and they go a different direction. If somebody has a big idea, a new product idea, a new process idea, whatever it is, if it sounds like a good idea, they do it. If it doesn't work, they stop doing it. JB would rather make a quick decision, move, be nimble and be fast, than to overthink something too long. You're going to learn faster by trying it. So that's kind of been their strategy from the beginning. Change is going to happen and that's a good thing. They adjust if it’s not working to something that is. Ultimately, it's a good outcome either way.
What do you look for when hiring people for your team?
The entrepreneurial spirit… they look for entrepreneurs as that's what fits their culture. They look for those types of people. Finding people with a positive mindset is what it boils down to. If you have somebody with a positive mindset, they're generally going to have a positive outcome. If they have a negative mindset, they're going to take longer to do everything and they're going to ultimately have a negative outcome. So they look for people with positive mindsets. You can kind of feel that in interviews. They do a lot of group interviews. Those people tend to stand out, and rise to the top. That's what they're looking for is a positive minded person that fits their culture. They have pretty good training programs where they're confident they can train people what they need to know. They're just looking for the right fit.
How do you move from doing everything in your business to managing and leading it?
That's a learning process in and of itself. Just scaling up and building teams. When they started Madwire, JB did every job, then pretty soon he couldn't do it all. Then he taught somebody how to do one piece and then they did it. Little by little, you start to build out people and teams, then departments, and then leaders. What works with 20 doesn't work with 100. What worked with 100 isn't working with 500. So you continually have to adapt and adjust your team structures, processes and leadership along the way. You can only reach your mission if you have a team of people to help you get there. You can't do it by yourself.
It's going to take a lot of people and it’s important to be nimble. What JB has done over the years, is listened to feedback. On the first Friday of every month, they call it a 4-10. They close at 4 pm. People have from 4:00 to 4:10 pm to submit a quick form that gives shout outs to their teammates. It also gives ideas for improvement. That's where they find a ton of ideas. People look at the ideas and say, “Hey, this process is broken. This team needs to have this kind of a change. We need to sell that kind of a product”... whatever it is. When you do this, you're feeling the heartbeat of the company and listening to their feedback. It's that old adage, two heads are stronger than one or, in JB’s case, 500 heads are way stronger than one. If you're constantly listening to that on an ongoing basis, you're getting smarter as you go. This allows you to make adjustments based on what the team is saying.
How do you instill the importance of culture and what it feels like to be part of the team?
JB leads by example. Your employees are going to be a reflection of you as the leader and all of your leaders. Since the beginning his mission has been to help small businesses grow. It doesn't mean his company has to be the ones doing it. As long as they're giving people good information, if they want to do it themselves, or if they have an internal team, that’s cool. When somebody calls in, they're looking for help. It doesn't mean that are going to hire JB and his team to help, but they provide them good information, anyway. They try to understand the potential client’s business to point them down the right track on should they be able to help them and that's achieving their mission. Hopefully a lot of times they'll say, “Hey, you know what? This sounds pretty good and I think the best way to do this is to have you help me do that.”
If you have the right mindset of helping people, JB’s motto is: “Take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you.” When you have that as your number one focus, it always seems to work out.
How do you keep up with the new changes happening in marketing?
JB and his team are pretty on top of it because they have so many people seeing things from many different angles. They work with many different types of businesses, such as: e-commerce, local businesses, every kind of business you can think of, they pretty much work with. They're constantly being exposed to new things, new channels, and new strategies. A lot of times their clients will call and ask them, “Hey, what about this? I heard about that”. They'll look into it, even if they’re not quite sure. It keeps them pretty on top of it. Listening to their clients and their team, keeps them ahead of the curve. How do you think AI is going to affect marketing the way our society’s going?
With regards to marketing, it’s about optimizing your dollars. Marketing at the core of it comes down to spending more of your money on what's working and less on what's not. Theoretically with AI you should be able to set up all your campaigns on the different platforms and walk away. When you come back a month later, it should have optimized everything down to the few keywords that work on Google, the few ad campaigns and audiences that work on Facebook, etc. You should be getting the most positive return possible for your investment.
JB recommends that you'll still want a creative mind to help set it up. You're going to want a creative person to think about the conversion on, what the call to action is going to be, the branding to use and everything that goes with the campaign. With AI, if you set it up properly and have good quality content and design, when you turn it on, it should be able to optimize itself over time.
What’s your flow?
They try to get everything to come to them inbound. They don't do any cold calls or anything like that. They want to be able to drive enough value so that somebody reaches out to them. That's the goal. Social media is a great way to do that. Particularly through videos. That's why they have such a huge focus on youtube. They do a lot of youtube videos with marketing tips. On their channel are tons of tip videos with tons of great information. They don't ask for anything in return. What happens is people see the content and it achieves the mission because if they're going to use that information themselves to grow their business, great. However, a lot of them are going to see what Marketing360 and Madwire are doing and realize that there's value in them helping them. So when they potential client reaches out to them, that becomes an inbound lead. .
The more value they drive across social media, and other channels to generate inbound leads is the goal because those are going to be better conversations than trying to make cold calls. Then, once they are in the system, email is used to continue to nurture, follow up and build relationships.
Don't build your home on rented properties?
That's my motto. After my experience with Google+, and watching so many people get their social accounts shut down I'm a HUGE advocate to using social media for exposure and visibility, but not to build your home there.
JB looks at it differently. Marketing at the core is being where your customers or potential customers are. It's about building your brand. That's what you want to own. You may be renting space on the popular channels. In the process of doing that, what you want to do is build brand awareness. The best way to do it is to be where the people are. They're on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube. There's new channels popping up every day where people are spending their time.
So when you think about your best customer, where are they spending their time? That’s where you want to be. You want to build a presence there, but you need to be open minded to the fact that that could change at some point. This is the best method of getting in front of your best customers and growing your brand.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE.
You can be where your customer is AND build your home on your own properties.
What do you consider a brand and how do you go build it?
No matter what the businesses social trust and branding is important. You're going to want to have a strong brand, a nice website, with products and services you can sell. Then you're going to want to dominate search and social. Search is going to be search engines like Google or your best keywords. You can do that organically and pay for placement as well. There's two different pieces of a search page. You're going to want to be there for the best keywords as possible. At least for your brand name, when they're searching for your name and reviews, before somebody calls you or fills out a lead form, 86% of the time they check your name and the word reviews on Google to see what that looks like.
If you don't have a good reputation or don't have a reputation at all, they don't even reach out to you. You didn't even have an opportunity to earn the business. Reputation is extremely important. Then with social, there are so many digital channels that you can get your brand in front of. A lot of that's going to be budget dependent.
If you're going to have a budget to invest in marketing, you're going to want to think about where your customers are spending their time. You're going to want to have good branding to get in front of those people on those channels and then optimize from there.
You don't have to have it all figured out, but you have to have this...
You don’t need to overthink it too much. If you're confident in the product or service that you sell, sell however you can and then you'll learn as you go. That's why Marketing 360 is here.
That's exactly why we are in businesses - because small businesses do need help sometimes.
They have a great product or service.
They're pretty good at selling it, but they need to build their brand.
They need to get in front of people. They need leads, they need online visibility and traffic.
That’s a piece that is complicated and that's where Marketing 360 can help them connect the dots.
What makes Marketing 360® so unique?
JB doesn’t think that he is unique. He shares what he has learned with others.
He’s not trying to hide anything. If you watch his marketing tip videos, he’s not hiding any secrets.
He tells people exactly how to do it and how it works. So maybe that's unique?
He feels if you give people great information, they can take it, and use it for themselves, or they're going to see the value in hiring you. There's nothing really to hide.
What trends have you seen in the last five years and how do you adjust for future changes?
Everything has moved to be more social.
Five years ago, when you looked at a marketing campaign, it was mostly Google keywords.
Nowadays it's much more multichannel. JB feels the new trend is multichannel.
It's being visible across all these channels using automation in terms of retargeting and optimization campaigns to drive better leads.
That's kind of the way of the future.
Can a small business go at it alone?
They can do it. It comes down to time.
So it depends on what's the best use of your time? Nowadays it's getting more complicated, so it takes more time.
There was a study done that shows there has been a significant increase in marketing cost and spend over the last year in terms of time.
So time that people are investing or people that they need to hire to spend time to manage marketing has significantly increased. It's because of the multichannel component..You can't just run one campaign on Google ad words anymore and get by.
You have to be managing campaigns on different channels and that takes time.
If you as a business owner have 2-3 hours a day to do this, great. If you have the budget to hire an internal team to manage it, awesome. If you don't, then there's solutions like Marketing360 and Viral Connectivity to help.
What made you choose to be a marketer?
JB played football in college and in his senior year after he had finished his final season, he had another semester left. He had an interest in and was relatively talented with design, He liked it and sales and marketing.
He created his own internship by going into a local magazine company. They told him they didn’t have any open positions. He told them he could pretty much do anything. He would work for free, and just wanted to learn. He asked them what they needed help with and they told him they needed a website built and asked if he knew how to build a website? He told them, No, but if they gave him a desk and a couple months he would figure it out and they told him, okay.
It took him a while of building and rebuilding the site before he showed it to them, when he did, they were pleased with it.
That is when he discovered that he had a knowledge that not a lot of people had.
He also did sales and marketing. He did Google ad words when they first came out as a Beta Tester. He spend a ton of money and got absolutely no leads. It didn’t work at all.
He realized though, that's where the market was going.
He told his dad he thought there was a real opportunity there. His dad had been in the trading industry for a while and didn't really like the volatility and the ups and downs. He was open to the change.
They kept learning and testing out different strategies. They then saw the opportunity to make the leap to provide the services for small businesses and it paid off.
How do you decide who to partner with?
There’s not really a perfect answer to that. You just have to follow your gut, get to know them and follow your gut if you think it's a good partnership. If you think it's somebody you can trust, that you like working with, that you would feel confident with a handshake deal, then I think that's somebody that you go with. If you think it’s somebody need to draft up a huge agreement, that means there's a little bit of a lack of trust.
It's really about finding somebody that you can trust. Then you go from there and if you have any kind of shadow of a doubt, then don't do it.
What have you done to beat plateaus in your business?
JB calls plateaus glass walls, because you're growing, you're moving right along and then you hit a glass wall that knocks you on your butt. Then sometimes you have to bang against the wall 10 times before you break through it.
Typically when you hit a glass wall, it's because of a process breakdown. So the processes that work to get to the first level won't work to get to the next level. There's an adjustment that needs to occur. Sometimes it's a new leadership structure.
Sometimes it's taking a department and breaking it into smaller groups. Other times it's because the product mix needs to be tweaked.
There's a million different things that could occur. But one thing is for sure, something has to change because obviously whatever you're currently doing isn't working. If you're stuck, it worked up to that level, but it's not working to get you to the next level.
So something needs to change. JB shared that their 4-10 feedback has been super valuable. They listen to their customers and make adjustments. He’s found over the years that his team knows the answer. You have to listen to your team.
Sometimes you might have to do an “all hands on deck” meeting and ask your leaders, “Hey, what are the struggles? Why aren't you selling more deals? Why are we losing more accounts?”
Find out the true reasoning and then try to figure out the solutions to fix those things. Listen to your team and value their knowledge.
How does a big company maintain the feeling of intimacy a small company has?
Marketing360 has close to 600 people on their team, but it doesn't feel that way to their clients because they are working with a small team. That was one of the adjustments they made.
They hit a glass wall because they were building out a huge design department, a huge development work department, and a huge marketing executive department. They started to see disconnects to where the client wasn’t having as good of an experience because there was so much disconnect between the teams.
This created a lot of problems and they started to go a little bit sideways. That's when they broke into what they call, “mini mad wires”, where they took small groups of designers, developers, marketers, etc. put them in the same pod and then allowed them to manage the same customer base.
Now they do real time communication and collaboration.
They're getting better and better every week. Once they understand your brand, your target customers and those sorts of things, they can then give you some direction on how you can better grow and build your awareness.
JB doesn’t think you would have that kind of an experience if he still had the huge departments because they wouldn't be as invested in being a part of your success. But when they're all together on a team, they're all invested in your success. “If the customer is not successful, we're not successful at the end of the day.” Unfortunately they still have a lot of cases that aren’t successful.
What guarantee does Marketing360 offer?
Sometimes there are so many moving parts with building a successful business that not all of their clients are successful, but they do their best. They don't have guarantees because there's no guarantee of how successful you'll be.
They can only guarantee you one thing, that nobody will try harder than them.
That's their guarantee.
What failures led to your success?
JB said he’s been failing at stuff since he was young. He got held back in second grade. He was very slow when he was younger and dyslexic. His mom would ask him every day when he went to school, “Hey, can you see the board where you're sitting?” Every day, he wondered why she kept asking him that. Yes, he could see the board, but later on he realized why she was asking because he was a little slow. He fails constantly, and thinks what that did was build that competitive muscle. He has to work twice as hard end up at the same finish line as other people. It built up work ethic and that's always paid off for him.
What’s next on the horizon?
They are trying to get to 1% of the market for small businesses that are three years in business and three employees. That's their perfect customer. There's five and a half million million of them. They are shooting for 50,000 accounts. They're at about 10,000 now. JB feels they will get there as a result of doing the number one thing, which is helping small businesses grow. When they help their customers be successful, the other things will take care of themselves. Their vision is to have a singular platform, you can log into, everything you need to do from CRM, email, you can access 20 different popular channels online to run ads.
You can do remarketing through there. You can do your online billing and booking and all of those things through one singular platform, which also includes the team of talent that you need to execute those things. They feel they can build the singular platform for small businesses to not only market their business, but also manage their business. That's the ticket and it is done through building relationships and providing great customer service.
Want to experience what it's like to have a company that treats you like royalty?