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Learning From Others

Aug 30, 2020

Today's guest has 4x'd his own business in less than three months... during the peak of coronavirus downturn. Just imagine where it will go from there, and he's here to tell you how super simple marketing basics can help you too.

Please welcome Evan Knox.

2:53 Evan's discussing what he is good at
12:08 Evan's realizations about his experience
20:39 Evan's Marketing Success

Contact Info


I have an ox on learning from others. What's up, man. Thanks for jumping on. Hey, thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it. Yeah. Uh, you know what I appreciate Evan is that you have a beard. I had some buddies when we hopped on, I mean, obviously guys gives you a podcast, but he's got a pretty sweet, like goatee beard going on too.

Did you see how far I committed this to the back of my backdrop? My blog, my personal logo, not my company logo, but my personal logo has my face with my beard in it. Yeah. You could never go back now. Always said that facial. Yeah. That's a new thing. Well, relatively new, like the last two years is when I like really committed.

And so when we were redesigning the logo, I'm like, yeah. Do I really want to commit this this far? And I guess I decided, yes, that's great. So, you know, it's funny, as you mentioned, that is I had really long hair maybe a year ago, and I knew I was going to come up with all this like personal branding stuff.

I was going to launch my website is set up for my, just my agency and whatnot. It sounds like I just can't have as long hair forever because I want that to be the thing that people picture me with with sounds like. Cut it. So, you know what, I'm almost considering doing the opposite. So, um, I just cut my hair yesterday.

It's like, it's longer than usual. It's certainly not long, but it's longer than usual. And so when I tell them to clean up the sides, I'm like, you know what, leave, leave it on the top. And then just do the sides and they went a little bit further than I expected. I think it looks fine, but, um, I might just take, I just might ride this coronavirus thing out and just be like, yeah.

I mean, if I have an excuse for my hair and you know, now's better than any other time, a hundred percent. Yeah. That's why, that's why my beard is so shaggy. Yeah, well, this is also, I know that we were gonna talk about marketing and whatnot, but your mustache is, is very thick. And I got mine got vetoed. Like last week it was, it was almost that thick.

And my wife was like, you have to cut the mustache. You have to cut that. That's funny because you know how I said the Baird's relatively new? Well, what I mean is like I had it, but it was so my mind so wired, like you can't see up close, but it's like, Long thin hairs. And so I, I looked just Amish and then until I did the mustache and then I was like, Oh, okay, this go, this, this makes it work.

And then the master I've been telling my wife, um, she came down and just, uh, she was given, come to my office, gave me a kiss the other day. And I was like, is this mustache too much? And she's like, I don't even notice anymore. So yeah. Lucky you. That's great. Yeah, but I haven't. So you're the founder of caffeine marketing caffeine labs.

Um, so I like to ask guests two questions. I think question number one will kind of give us some insights into what caffeine is and then we'll, we'll dive into that deeper a little bit after that, after question number two, number one is what are you good at? And what can we learn from you today? Yeah, ultimately, I'm good at making marketing profitable.

So as the founder of caffeine marketing, I bring strategy to my clients and make it came that marketing actually give them results in a great way investment. And I'll also in the private equity world. And I serve as like the COO of a couple of different companies, which is a ton of fun. Very cool. All right.

So we're gonna, we're gonna jump into that here in a minute after question number two, which is what do you suck out of him? Well, what's funny is that I'm really good at the messaging side of marketing, but I'm really bad at spelling and grammar. So I have to hand it back to my team after I read it because they never, I mean, it cannot go to print before, um, I'm just not good at spelling and grammar never have been.

Yeah. Well, at least you own it. And so somebody else can take care of it. I'm power somebody else, for sure. So how long have you been doing all this? So I've been in the market. If we go really far back, my grandfather was an entrepreneur. So as my dad and my grandpa, my great grandfather. So I've been in business for a long time.

I just grew up in it. Growing up, grew, uh, grew up, going to work with my grandfather, worked in a head's jewelry store. And I remember the first time that I got into marketing was when he was teaching me when I was like 12 years old, he had pulled me aside. Like, Hey, I've been, we're going to create an ad.

This is going to go in the Atlanta, Cynthia symphony symphony. And once we do that, here's all the details that need to be in it. And that's really what I developed a passion for marketing. I love the strategy. I love the thought process. And then fast forward to about four years ago, I had just got done working at a nonprofit, doing marketing.

There are part of my role is marketing and decided that I wanted to help small business owners and entrepreneurs, but their marketing. So it started caffeine marketing like three years ago and change. Hmm. And then tell me about the private equity side. So, you know, if, if you're, you, you have a lot of experience in entrepreneurial world, but it sounds like you you're like formal doing your own thing is in the last few years.

So is that about the same time the private equity stuff started to? So that's been about a year. Uh, actually maybe two years is when I first started dabbling in that, um, I honestly, it's just crazy how the whole thing came about. I initially was a partner in a fly fishing guide business, and that was going really, really well.

Um, one of an example of how well this going is my partner. We just sign on and decided to do partnership or whatever. He sent me a text on the 5th of August. Okay. So get them August. And he said, Hey, we've already Forex our entire revenue. From the previous year of that whole month. So by the fifth Forex, the entire month's revenue.

So it was just a really cool experience to come into a company, help create all the marketing from the ground up, all the systems and processes in order to scale the company and found that that was something I really enjoyed. And then a little less than a year ago, I met my partners and we decided to essentially.

These are different partners to come in and help small business owners, entrepreneurs who really want to scale their companies and make exits in a couple of years, uh, make it really profitable for them. So they come in as a partner, we help, you know, three or four X the company, and then get them a higher, multiple at sale as a partnership.

What marketing was driving the Forex on, uh, the fly fishing thing. Yeah, so we completely redid the one website. Um, and that sounds a big WHOIS, but here's really what was, uh, needed to be changed on the website, which a lot of messaging. So instead of making him and the rest of his guides that we have on our team, the hero of the story, we actually made the fly fishing, the.

Not to be cheeky here, but the guide and what I mean by that is that they came here with empathy and authority. So essentially the entire website was about helping the customer or the client get what they want, which is to have a, a, a fun time fly fishing without the frustration. Um, and have an experience outdoors that was gonna make memories or whatever.

So adjusting the messaging and then building in other parts of the marketing funnel, um, organic by focusing on SEO, which are deeply familiar with. So make sure we get all the keywords and, um, on page and off page SEO, sorted out, and the other one was the advertising. So. Our cost per acquisition is a little insane.

I won't say it, but it's really profitable with Facebook ads right now, which is really cool. How has that been fluctuating a little bit for you? Because it seems like before the virus, you know, thing costs were going up and then because of the virus costs are going down, which is good. Um, has that gone up or down for you as well, or just kind of stayed the same through it?

Yeah. So for a little bit, the state of Georgia had a, like a bull shelter in place, and now they've kind of alleviated some of the guidelines. And so we're able to still book trips now, but for awhile we weren't. So we cut off all of our advertising when the shelter in place or was mandated because we weren't doing the trips they've since then turn those back on.

And what I've kind of noticed is that, um, You're not, you don't have as many people bidding because if you're familiar with Facebook versus Google advertising, you're not bidding on a keyword, you're bidding on a person. Um, so in that scenario, I've noticed that the cost is actually a little bit lower right now, but like you said, that could change.

Everybody could hop back in and try to drive revenue back up to where it was pre coded. Yeah. This is kind of off topic, but like fly fishing people. Um, I I've. As I see it, like I have this, this Lake property, that's like two hours away. And so I have to drive through a mountain to get there. And a lot of times I'll drive up there early morning, like five or six in the morning.

And especially in the, like in the fall or the spring, when it is just freezing cold. And I see fly fish dudes out on the river. And the first thing that crosses my mind is like, I wish I had something that I was that passionate about. Totally. Well, you know, what's funny is so, you know, my partner it's him.

And then we have a bunch of guides that are on our team, but I will wake up and go, man, I really don't want to wire from this website right now. And I'll look at his Instagram and he's in the snow. Like it's just like freezing. It's got jackets on and he's in there. Like guys smile. Yes. I'm like, I have no excuse.

Like I should be working harder. Yeah. Yeah. So what types of marketing do you focus on bringing to your other clients? Is it largely Facebook ads too? Or, or is it like, do you have an area of expertise or depending on the client, it's a variety of solutions. Yeah. It's definitely a variety of solutions. And when we first come in with a story, we use this thing called the StoryBrand framework.

It's a seven part of the framework created by this guy named Donna Miller in Nashville. And we use that framework to craft all of the messaging. So that's one thing that makes us unique. And also we essentially design each customer from the ground up a strategy to implement, to get them that return on investment.

So. Like you were mentioning the nuts and bolts of it might be different depending on if it's a beanie B2B company or a B to C company. It really, it all depends, but it could be websites. It could be creating a Legion and email series. Uh, oftentimes it does have an advertising in it, for sure. What, uh, I'll kind of ask you like a split question.

What type of marketing do you do the most of versus what do you, Evan personally enjoy the most. Well, I really love strategy and math. And so I. Even though, you know, at some point you have to, um, empower somebody else. So do stuff if you want to scale. And so this is one of the last things that I'm still holding onto, which is the paid advertising.

And, but I just love it. I just love creating Facebook ads and Google ads, measuring results. Seeing the return on investment. It's kind of addicting. Cause once you see for your client, you're getting them sick execs or whatever return on their ad spend. Um, it's really fun. So I do a lot of that. Um, I would say probably as of recently we're doing a lot of messaging and specifically websites.

So that's probably as of late, we're doing a lot of that, but I probably spend most of my time in the actual ads world. Why don't we talk about that for a little bit. You talking about, you know, it's hard to give away things because you're passionate about which I can totally agree because, um, you know, the evolution of my company, uh, so SEO National's been around 13 years and like the first year or two, it was just kind of basically one man show.

I I'd freelance certain things here and there that I would need extra support on. And then years two through four, I had like one or two people. And then, and then I, I was listening to. Tim Ferriss's four hour work week and nothing was really like mind blowing enough, at least for me. But the main thing I took away was I don't have more on my team.

Like, why don't I give away more? And it was kind of like you were saying, I don't think I really did it because a lot of it I was passionate about, but some of it, I was certainly more passionate about it. So I was like, okay, that middle ground stuff let's give away those. And so then I brought on a whole bunch of other people, but it seems like I go through this cycle where every year or two it's.

Um, you know, a new growth with the company and I have to give away more, but the only things that are left are the things that I'm really passionate about, or I really want to call it a control, but even now, like I don't want to bottleneck things. And so why don't we maybe talk about in your version of that story of what you've experienced as you've grown and how you decide what to give away, if anything.

There's definitely things that I come to realize that I'm not the best at when I first started caffeine, I was actually doing like writing captions for social media. And then I quickly realized that was draining my soul. And I was not only not enjoying that, but also not the best. And so I found people to bring onto my team that were really good at that.

And they really enjoyed that and that really made them happy and they were, you know, Really receptive to feedback. And if you've ever heard of this thing called the Enneagram, I'm an Enneagram eight. It's like a personality test. Take it. But basically I don't. Right. And so it's hard for me to like get into the nuts and bolts about a social media post.

And I'm like, Hey, this is important, but it's not that. Yeah. Um, so I have, I have little patients so that there's gradually became stuff that I realized, Hey, you know what? I don't need to be involved in this. I need to bring people into my team that I can trust who ultimately can run with this and you can do a great job.

And I need to actually be involved. I need to at least be aware of what's going on. I don't need to just like. Check out, forget about it. That's not good leadership, but I gradually stuff comes up. But I think the greatest thing that we can do, uh, when starting out is to actually document things. So to document your systems and processes, I think it's really, really helpful because if you do come to the point where you go, you know what, I have to bring someone over right now.

Like, let's say your company just ran like three X. You've got too many leads. You don't know what to do with, it would be really great if you have all of the materials in place in order to hand somebody else, a contract or a virtual assistant, whoever, and say, Hey, I need you to run with this and you've already outlined exactly for them.

And so I've tried to build stuff in that way that you know, that whenever the time comes and I, I can't have that on my plate anymore. It's a seamless transition and I've created videos or guides. Now I'm not done that completely, but I need to continue to do that as we scale. Yeah, for sure. Um, you know, I've talked on other podcasts about the importance of that.

And, uh, an example I gave is, um, you know, I, I had. A client that came along. And so it was after like the four hour workweek thing and I hired a bunch of people. And then I was listening to the myth revisited book, and then it was kind of emphasized the same topic of make sure your, your company is dependent on your processes and not like individual skill sets of employees.

And so, like you said, that way you can just plug people in. And I had probably one of our largest clients. Today at that time, come in and I had to hire five people. Like if I didn't have that stuff documented, then I not only could have probably not felt confident in giving a bid on the contract because there was a good chance we would have trained, wrecked it if we got accepted.

And then if we did get accepted, like. Are we going to train wreck it? And so, but I was able to confidently put it in the bed now very clearly what we would do. We got the contract and it was awesome. So, um, I support you and any other listeners like yeah, do it. I had while you can, because it sucks in the moment, but it's going to suck more when it prevents growth.

Totally. And it'll keep you up at night. Cause you'll spend time working on stuff that you should have already taken care of and it'll make you miserable and Patriot business. Yeah. Well, let me talk about, so you do a lot of Facebook ads, it sounds like, um, let's talk about ad trolls. So like. I did. So I've never really spent marketing.

So as much as our company's grown, we've never really spent marketing any dollars on marketing, but year and a half, two years ago. Um, I was just like, I hired some companies to test some funnels because I was like, okay. I wonder if I wonder how, you know, we have these really great SEO processes. What if we packaged that as a course for the people that.

And so we did that and I was like, all right, let's just see where this goes. And then maybe we'll turn this into another source of revenue. And so I paid these great teams. Yeah. You know, these other companies to build out funnels and copywriting and all this stuff. And then we start doing these ads and I have like a story, less reputation.

If you search me online. Tons of positive reviews, tons of great, you know, value propositions and expertise and all that. And then I turn on one damn Facebook ad and it's just like every other person's like, look at this scam or look at this hackathon, you don't even know me. Like did, did you, did you watch the video?

Just because the content of the video was like, Hey, you can be successful online. It's just instantly like this guy's a scammer dude. I couldn't hang with it. Yeah, it's so funny. And you probably had your Lamborghini in the background, right? I did not. No, I actually, no, I actually went, I was the opposite. I was the other guy.

It was the guy that came on and was like, I think in one of the ads, I actually was like, I'm not here to impress you. I don't want to tell you about my big fancy house. I drive a 2003 Infiniti because I like it and works fine. I don't have to impress you. Like if you want. You know, if you want proof, like here's the proof of what I can do with SEO, but I don't need to show you my bank account.

Like, I think I'm pretty confident. I literally was like, I'm not that guy. And I still got the people saying I'm that guy. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That's so funny. Um, I don't know. I just a couple of different thought processes, right? There's the. This is what I love. Okay. So this is maybe a very practical tip. The people that actually create the content on our team, I don't let that person be the same person who does community management.

So if can we think of community management, being the person who responds to all the comments and messages, the emails, the feedback, all that jazz. You need to separate that too, because. Are those two people are those two roles, because ultimately that's going to kill their creativity and be really, really discouraging for the person who's trying to come up with content.

And that still goes with the C like, even if you're the one making the video, it's like, you cannot have the person who's creating it. Yeah. Exposed to all sorts of just ridiculous hate mail. You know, it's not going to be helpful or productive and well we'll always come and go. It's very interesting because.

On some of these websites or some of these platforms, you can actually hide the comments or delete them or flag them. And, and a lot of cases, that's probably the best way to go, but there's other scenarios where if they're like, like real humans, you know, and I say real, like they're reasonable people and they're just upset or whatever it might be worth responding to them could actually add brand value or equity too.

What you're doing. Yeah. I've seen some comments where like the initial reply was kind of had some negative intent, but the whoever owned the campaign, like put a positive spin on it. Well, you know, we're sympathetic to that, but like, here's why the opposite is true. And it was such a way where like, Oh yeah.

And then just completely neutralized whatever the negativity was and turned it into positive. But that's a really good idea. I like that idea of separating the ad creator versus the moderator, because I would see the most bizarre things and I knew it existed because obviously I see ads and read the comments, but there was like one, I remember one guy was like, that guy wears a tee.

He wears a sports coat over a tee shirt. He can't be successful. Like I'm like, what? Like, why does it matter if I learn a jacket over t-shirt yeah, no, every time you put a sport coat, You're just a little static inside now. Yeah. I'm, I'm a little sad, like, look, you can't see it, but it was this pork sports coat right here.

I keep it on the back of my chair and I've worn it a lot less since then. Totally lesson learned you can't make sense too. Uh, let's talk about some of your success stories when, you know, either with your own stuff or with clients, is there kind of like some standalone, like breakout case studies where something really amazing happened?

Yeah. Well, I'll let talk about something that I, I have to permission to. Um, so one of them is going to be my own holdings in a company that we just recently acquired. Um, so they're a window company. So if you want to. I'm not a window company, but a window film company. So if you want to put like a, some sort of, yeah.

Tents on your window, and I don't necessarily mean for your car, I mean, for like your house, so you can frost it, you can make it a mirror. So instead of spending thousands of dollars on like a one way mirror, you can just buy a window tint for 70 bucks and it'll do the same exact thing. So that's that company.

We acquire the company in February, we kind of finished up, polished up a paperwork then. March, we got all the backend systems. Correct. And then that's a success a year or the previous year, February. This is this year. Um, so this is all like fairly recent, which is really cool. So, um, you look at Mo like February closed March with built in all the backend systems.

So my partners who do a lot of the operations, they're the ones like trying to figure out what inventory we have, all the basic stuff when you acquire a business. So they're doing all that stuff. I'm over here now, working on. Um, conversion optimization without any sort of paid advertising. So we go in and we start adding, um, abandoned cart emails, um, welcome series lead, captures, um, popups, all kinds of jazz in order to actually optimize the engine so that when we put the fuel in their quote, unquote of advertising, it's going to run really effectively without spending any paid ads.

So we do that right. March and April, we had a 250 cent increase in revenue versus the previous year for that month. Okay. So not a hundred percent increase, 200%. And then we scaled up and for, uh, February, March, April, may. So in may, we had so far it's over it's between a five, depending on what day it is and how many sales we've had.

It's a 500 to 700% increase in revenue. And our net profitability has been like two to three X, what it was before. And so that's a really cool thing where it's like, Um, you know, we're spending more, but we're making way more in percentage wise. We're also making a lot more as well. And that's just an example of what happens when you have a completely built out funnel that works really well.

And that's even during this whole virus thing too. So I imagine it's just gonna grow further beyond that as things chill out. Okay. What's your average client? Is it in, is it retail and products or is it service or a little bit of mix? It's definitely a little bit of mixed. I'm a firm believer that if you understand BDB, it really just, the principles are transferable across most B2B spaces and the same goes for BBC.

And I just made business to business and business to consumer. Um, so the actual nuts and bolts of what we might do for them are different. But yeah, we serve both really our sweet spot for our clients is those who are doing less than $25 million a year in revenue. Got it. Now, what, um, you know, as we kinda get closer to wrapping up, I want to ask, is there something that you see over and over and over?

Um, that might be a good tip that you could leave our listeners with, or, or even if it's not a reoccurring problem that you see just like a real, tangible tip, but some actionable tips that somebody could take into consideration. Yeah, I've got two that come to mind. And these are the things that I feel like most business owners or business leaders, name mistakes on when it comes to their marketing.

And that first one is playing the hero of their own marketing story. Because most people, when they're creating a marketing, they think, man, I have to get people to know about how awesome we are and then they will actually work with us. But in reality, people are not looking for another hero in their own narrative.

They're looking for a guide. They're looking for someone like an Obi wan Kenobi or Haymitch from the hunger games. Somebody that will help them ultimately win the day. And so your job in your marketing is to not be the hero and talk about how awesome you are. Your job is to come in and help your potential customers.

Understand. Hi, you're going to make their lives better and help them win the day. So that's the first thing it's making the switch from hero to guide. And the flip side is also measuring conversions and I'm sure as an SEO guy, um, you know, you're very familiar with, um, measuring all of the stuff, but I feel like if you don't measure something, then you cannot manage it and you cannot improve something that you do not manage.

And so if you just throwing bus stuff on the wall, hoping something will stick a lot. A lot of business leaders do that. They just get really excited about Facebook ads or, you know, take talk. Yeah. Now, whatever that may be, they get really excited. They just throw something on the wall. Sometimes it's six, sometimes it doesn't, but that's not a great way to scale a company.

And so if you don't measure something, you cannot improve it. And like that company I was talking about just a few minutes ago, we do, we did like one thing at a time. So we made one change. We waited seven days to see what, what happened. We made another change. See what would happen. And, you know, if we don't control one variable at a time, that's a really poor science experiment, it's gonna be hard to figure out.

So, yeah. Yeah. I liked the idea of, um, not only testing, but like segmenting the test so you don't get mixed results. Um, it reminds me of one kind that we had a, this was like 10 years ago. Um, there's still a client today, but when they first came on, They worked in electronics manufacturing. And so they were bidding on it.

So they do the assembly of electronics, but they don't build the components. And so they were, they, before they came to us, they were spending like 80% of their budget on component names. But they don't build the components. They assembled it. And so came in and were like chop and cut that off, saved 80% of their budget and increase their conversions by like 200%, because they were just, like you said, it's just like, Oh, we do that.

You know, that's, that's, that's an industry preterm. What does it matter if it's an industry term? If it doesn't match the intent behind the buyer that you're trying to target. Yeah, it's crazy. You know, if you just go in through your, um, your ad Google ads, for example, is assuming what you're talking about right now, and you just add in those negative keywords that aren't actually converting for you.

It's wild, how much more money that you can make your company. It's so crazy seeing, um, you know, cause we, we, we just do the SEL, right? Like I have skill sets. My team has skill sets and other areas, but like, we don't want to be the one that takes on it at all. We just want to focus on SEO, but sometimes clients come in and we're like, well, you know, we'll just give you like one time advice.

It's not yeah. Things we're going to do it for free and just help you out. And we go and look at these paid ads and they have no negative qualifiers. They have no, you know, match parameters. It's just like the example I always give is let's say they sell. You know, mattresses and they put beds as a key word, right.

And all your con, you know, half of your budget goes to somebody searching dog beds and you don't sell dog beds. Like you can just burn through cash. So fast on paid ads is amazing. It is. And I know that you I'm sure, I'm sure you've experienced this, but there's varying levels of quality of agencies and people in both the paid advertising space and SEO, because there's people who will sell snake oil, basically in either one.

Just set up a Google ad words, account and run paid ads on just random keywords that are somewhat related to you. And then there's also people that are just set up Google analytics for you and say that they're doing SEO when they may not be. Yeah. Yeah. That's a whole other question or a whole other whole other topic.

Um, yeah. Well, Evan cool. I appreciate you jumping on learning from others. Um, I want to give you the chance to, uh, put out your contact information, how listeners can find out more. And then I think you also got like a free guide on sales funnels. Maybe you can talk about that. Yeah. So it's, um, how to build a winning sales funnel.

It's basically the Lego blocks of exactly. Step by step checklist on how to build a sales funnel. Like we've been talking about a little bit, so that's both on, Just caffeine, not marketing. It's our agency website. And then also So you can access it at both places.

Cool. And that's K N O X I'm Evan Knox. Thanks so much. Appreciate. Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.