The answers to both of these questions may be more complex than you might realize. Defining your target market is one of the most important things you can do for your business, yet many don’t take the time to truly understand who their target market is, nor what this truly means. Join this conversation between Doug C. Brown and Lisa Parziale, co-founder of Portside Marketing, LLC and Agency Fast Track, as they discuss connecting with your clients and how to define the right metrics for your business.
Lisa Parziale is the Co-Founder of Portside Marketing, LLC, AgencyFastTrack.com, EZOnlinePrinter.com, and AgencyHosted.com. With over 30 years as a technology expert, trainer, online developer and internet marketer, Lisa co-founded Portside Marketing® as a way to exit Corporate America. Lisa, along with her business partner, have built their business to over $3.5 million dollars in revenue. Lisa is head of sales and business development for all of her various companies and works with business owners and startups to achieve exponential growth and success. Lisa is also a best-selling author and renowned speaker.
Visit her website: www.portsidemarketing.com
Click here to get your free copy of Lisa’s new book, The Habit of Now™: www.thehabitofnow.com/freebook
We’re going to be bringing you an episode from a lady who is extremely intelligent and understands business in the top 5% of people that I have had the pleasure to converse with. She started from nothing, built up our company into millions of dollars and her name is Lisa Parziale. She owns a company called Portside Marketing, LLC. They are an SEO company and other types of things that go with digital marketing. She also owns a thing called the Agency Fast Track.
She and I talked a lot about what it takes to build a business, and there are some great nuggets within the business. She shared another one, even after our conversation, which is she only hires companies as employees. In other words, if you don’t own an LLC, you can’t come into work for her company. Why would she do that? She’s a business-to-business company. She wants people who understand how to talk to business owners, very smart and always subscribed to getting your foot in the door first because if you don’t get your foot into the door, you don’t have the ability to build a relationship. We talked in-depth about that as well and the ideal persona in why a company should have their ideal personas dialed in. I believe you’re going to enjoy this. Let’s go and welcome Lisa to the show.
We’re doing an amazing episode with a wonderful woman. Her name is Lisa Parziale. She owns a digital marketing company doing multiples of millions of dollars and serving clients at the highest potential level. We’re going to have some discussions around what it takes to build a business. As we know, this show is for CEOs to be sharing their best practices so that you can model those, and we’ll go from there. Lisa, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Doug.
You have an amazing background that a lot of people would appreciate. The fact is that you grew up in a place and then went to work for a company. The company that you were at, you got this epiphany, “I don’t think I want to be here anymore.” A lot of people, when they’re starting companies, especially from the beginning start that way but it takes courage to go there. Could you elaborate on the path of what got you to move out of the corporate world into your own business now doing millions of dollars?
Honestly, Doug, it’s probably a path that so many other people have gone down. It’s simply that one day you wake up and realize you hate your job and it’s affecting your life. You’re young enough that you’re going to have to do this for so many more years. It’s almost a debilitating thought. To think about at the time, I was going to have to continue to do what I was doing for 30 more years plus if I were fortunate enough to be able to have enough money to retire. I couldn’t do it anymore. It’s not usually you that gets you out of something but then at the time I had a loved one who was in a horrible job. It was to get my spouse out of her job that was the catalyst that threw me over. At the end of the day, it was unhappiness and having a life that’s not what you dream of. We all dream of having that freedom and having money but being able to be in control of our lives and I felt so out of control.
Many entrepreneurs feel the same way. We get to a place and it’s like, “I can’t take it anymore.” I remember I was in places with those literal golden handcuffs. I had little children. I had to make the very same decision. What you said is something bigger than ourselves even though the motivation and the drive come from within that we’ve got to do it for us but when we find something else, in your case, your spouse and in my case, it was my children. I was working seven days a week. I remember getting a call at 10:00 at night where my wife called me and she said, “You coming home tonight?” I said, “Sure. I’m finishing up. Why?” She goes, “You’re one-year-old daughter and I have been sitting here waiting for you to come home.” I said, “I’m sorry.” She goes, “Do you realize it’s your birthday and we have a cake on the table right now?”
It was right around that time that I started thinking about what you were talking about. I was like, “I’m making hundreds of thousands of dollars every single year at this job but the reality is you don’t get back that time and you’re not in control of one’s life.” For you, it was your spouse. I remember reading in an article that you book this amazing trip. It was like an eighteen-day trip that you two were going to take and then her company came back and said, “Sorry. We’re not going to give you the time off,” after you’ve already booked the trip. Is that accurate?
That’s exactly how it went. She came home from work very angry and told me that we were going to have to cancel the trip or she would be fired. Not because there was something major going on but if I remember right because the business owner decided he had wanted to take that week off. She was expected to change. That was the catalyst for us that we knew we weren’t in control and we had spent so much time dreaming about this trip, planning it because we had another episode in our life.
We had something right before that where an older couple had given us some advice and took us aside and said, “We watch you, ladies. You work all the time.” They got to the end of their life and where they could retire. They had put millions away, then they got into a horrific car accident. They couldn’t spend a dollar of it because they couldn’t go anywhere. That’s when they said, “Go live your life.” We go and get this trip all booked. When she came home and said that, at the time, it was early in the year and we had until the end of the year. That’s when we decided, “We’re going to get her out of this job by October, so we’d go on this trip.” That was all the motivation we needed, and she quit her job in June.
All of you reading, what’s your why? What are you doing this for? Most of you, you’re going to find out that you’re doing it for some level of quality of life that you’re not satisfied about. That’s why you probably went into business. Now you get into business, Lisa. Let’s talk about going from zero to the first seven figures because a lot of times, people who are reading here, even though many of them are over $5 million in revenue, some of them are not. Going from the first $0 to $1 million. If you could say, “These were the 1st, 2nd or 3rd thing that I would recommend any business owner do to get from zero to seven figures in a quick manner?” What would that be?
Hands down, be the CEO from day one. You’re not going to do the work anymore. We’re so conditioned to be workers that when we leave the workforce, we tend to continue being a workforce. We’re going to do all that work and not going to hire. Most entrepreneurs don’t have that business background. We don’t have that education, so we try to balance, “I’m going to do this and eventually I’ll hire. If I had to do it all over again and I had to start over tomorrow with nothing, I would beg, borrow, steal, get a loan, do whatever to hire my first worker tomorrow because I don’t have time to work in my company. I have to work on it.” It’s cliché.
You hear that all the time but you can’t get time back. You can always make more money but you can’t make more time. If you’ve got this goal to get from zero to whatever in a certain period of time, backward engineer that and figure out how are you going to get there. What exactly are you going to do? The one thing you’re going to realize quickly is you have no time to fool around with being a worker, fulfiller or anything like that.
Back engineer. I love that word because many people don’t in business. Let’s say that they back engineer this whole thing and figure out, “What I understand is Lisa says to start with your life first. Build your life out how do you want your life to be, and back engineer that into your business and say, ‘This is the quality of life I want. Now what kind of business do I need to build?’” What I have found doing that is it leads to the right model because a lot of times, companies are in the wrong model, and they’re not in a leveraged model like you said, “Don’t be everybody.” In the beginning, when people do this, it’s because they are thinking, “I got to have all the money.”
We’re so motivated by money because we think money is going to solve all our problems. When in fact, money is how we’re going to buy the lifestyle we need. It’s not going to solve a problem that you present. When you first start out, use your money smartly to put in the staff, figure out exactly who’s going to do the work because remember we are the CEOs. It is our job not only to be the CEO of our business but the CEO of our life. If travel is important to you, opening up a brick-and-mortar store that requires your presence is a bad idea.
Ultimately, think about where you want to be in 1, 5 or 10 years from now and then backward engineer exactly what you need to make happen. It took me so long to learn those lessons but once you learn them, the amazing thing is if I had to start from zero tomorrow, I know I can make seven figures in a year or less. I can continue to do that and do it in almost any business I chose. I may not enjoy that business but I certainly now have learned the lesson. You’re the guy, girl and person that has to make all the decisions, so you need time to do that.
What I understand out of that is once you have a successful model and template to build out from 0 to 7, you can do that at any time. I’ll call it the Tom Brady model of football. Like them or not, people, he’s had a lot of successes. He keeps duplicating that. Lisa, that’s what I see you’re doing is you have this template that you worked through all these years and if you had a restart, you would go right to that template of what you already know.
Tom Brady is the CEO of his team. He’s a leader. If you go and look at all the GOATs or the Greatest Of All Times, especially a quarterback. The ones that are the Greatest Of All Time had one unique thing they did well. That was they knew how to lead and leadership is the number one goal. You’re the CEO and the person that leads that ship. Ultimately, that’s part of his success plus he spends his time on things that will get him where he needs to go. He does not spend his time on other things.
That’s another thing that I read in your article. You talk about CXO. Would you explain what CXO is? I know what is, but people who are reading are probably going, “What is a CXO?”
I’m someone who helps other people learn how to do what we do. I had to come up with a way to help them make a mind shift into the idea. When you think about Chief Executive Officer, I don’t think it does it justice. That role sounds to me very procedural and mechanical. We came up with the CX. X is standing for everything you want in life because that’s your job to get that. Your job is not to build a big company that makes a lot of money. Your job is to replace the X with what you want in life. The CXO might be, “I’m the Chief Happiness Officer, only I can make myself happy. I’m the Chief Financial Officer, only I determine what finances I have or how much money I make.”
You keep replacing X with all of the hats that you need to wear to get everything you want in life. People always say, “You want to push past the ceiling.” I’m like, “Why do we even have to have a ceiling?” Frankly, if you want to reach for the stars, “Why do we have to have stars? Why not reach for the universe?” The only way you can do that is to think about where that journey leads you and then put on whatever hats needed at the time to get that done but it’s up to you. The CXO is the person that owns it, does it and lives a life like nobody has ever lived.
Remember, you can have more than one CXO in your company. Lisa, I remember reading some of the articles that I were reading about you and you took on sales as your primary role because you found out, “This is what I like to do.” I would fill in the CXO with the CS, Chief Sales Officer. Your job is to drive sales. I’ve always subscribed to the thought that if you’re under $1 million, you don’t need to focus on a lot but leverage and driving sales. Those are the two things. Leverage comes from what Lisa was saying, having people in there to help you, so you’re not doing all the things you’re not supposed to and focusing on generating sales. Let’s go from the million up to the multiple millions now that you’re doing. What changes or does anything change? Is it something different? Are you scaling differently?
You hit the nail on the head. It’s scaling. You have to define your processes, so you know every minute it takes to do something, how much it costs to do something and then as you hire the right talent to do those things, try to find ways to streamline those things. A lot of people think about cutting costs and it’s not about that. It’s about efficiency so you can deliver the same amazing product or service as a multi-million dollar company that you did when you were a one-man guy or girl. That’s what’s important. For us, I would say it’s our processes. Every little thing we do, everybody on the team that’s doing it knows exactly how it should be done and has been trained, we’ve invested in those processes, training and time to make sure everybody’s onboard and then we make sure everyone’s happy. We put the right people in the right roles. Between our processes and finding the right people, the sky’s the limit when you get that down.
It’s about the system and process. I once had a friend of mine say, “Making money is boring. Making a lot of money is super boring,” because you’re doing the same thing over but now, you’re multiplying one’s efforts through the process of duplication in systems and processes. I’ll add one more thing to that then ask you a question. Metrics, tracking the numbers, I have found that to be invaluable for anybody that I’ve ever built a business with or even clients that I help because they’re not tracking the small metrics that go through that tell the story. To scale up into the multiples of millions of dollars or even going to multi-eight figures, can it be done, do you think without tracking those numbers? If so, what is the end result of not tracking?
I don’t think it can. I’m with you that you have to know your metrics and not just money. A lot of people love to look at their money. We all love to count our money but sometimes we forget to count satisfaction, for example. One of the biggest measures we look at is our lifetime value. How long does a customer stay with us on average? How does that benchmark to the industry? On average, if somebody stays three years and you can get your customer base to stay 4 or 5, that’s how you’re going to make more money because it’s ultimately the numbers that tell the story and show you where the possibilities are, gains are, where you have problems or where you can make more profit without doing very much. Metrics are hugely important but not always focusing on the money. Go for some of those little things like the customer, employee satisfaction and some of those other metrics that will tell a story for you. Remember, if your customers and your staff are not happy, it’s not going to go well.
There’ll be churning clients faster than they want, and you’ll churn employees that way too. The worst one I’ve ever seen was the 82% annual turnover of the employee base. It’s crazy.
Honestly, it costs you more money to attain a customer or a staff member than it does to retain those same people. If you’re only focused on the monetary number, you lose sight of some of the other metrics that tell a different, bigger story that’s more important.
It’s not as fun when you’re grinding it out every day. A lot of times, when I look at companies and go in there, I find 3, 4 or 5 things. They’re levers that they’ve turned off or neglected and then all of a sudden, I turn them back on. They’ve not re-engaged their dormant clients ever. All of a sudden, it’s like, “We got a big pile of money. How’d that happen?” You’re measuring by what you’re saying, not the numbers on sales but measuring by client satisfaction or retention of the client. How many years can we extend that client to keep them buying and increasing buying frequency in that particular aspect?
This is where I see a lot of companies that get to $1million and want to scale up to multiples of millions. They start going there and then all of a sudden if they grow fast, they implode and it’s because they’re not tracking the numbers. I talked to one gentleman. He scaled from $3 million to $17 million and was 60 days out of business. I asked him, “Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” I said, “Let’s look at your books.” I found $11 million uncollected over 180 days. Imagine if you had one of those metrics that we’re talking about where you’re measuring collection time on your invoices and that was something one had as a particular badge of honor in that department.
It changes the game and another thing that you do expertly that a lot of people don’t do and I find a lot of companies struggle on being very clear with their ideal client or customer. I don’t find you do that at all based on everything I know about you. You’re clear and dialed in on that. What would you advise a person who is semi-clear about who their ideal customer is and what would be the processes that you’d recommend them to get there?
The first exercise we always go through is defining who the ideal customer is. The ideal is the keyword. If I had my dream customer and this is the person I would love to sell to each and every time, “Who is that?” Then digging into everything about that customer. Where do they live? What do they do for hobbies? What do they like to eat even? I don’t care what it is. You’re trying to define almost like this fake person in your mind. This is the exact person that I would find to be an ideal customer. If you think about detectives, for example, when they’re trying to find someone, what’s the first thing they do? They interview family and friends, learn about them. What do they like? What are their hobbies? It’s because then they know where to find them.
When you know who your ideal customer is, all of a sudden you can see them everywhere and you know exactly where they’re hanging out, where to find them and most of the time you know how to approach them because you have all this data about them. It sounds easy but sometimes it isn’t to get that type of data. The first thing we always do is we do focus groups. I’m going to ask people I think are my ideal clients some questions to one, see if they are and two, to probe them to get the details I need to get my bigger set of ideal clients.
You’re not going to do the thing that Coca-Cola did. Put out the thing called New Coke and then find out the market doesn’t want it? You’re going to go and figure out what the market wants first. Is that it?
Yes. It’s funny they’ll tell you, “I don’t care if it’s selling. We sell a lot of digital services in my primary company, in our training business and it’s different.” Each side is a little different but on both sides, we ask. It’s amazing when you ask a question. Not only do the ideal customers come to the cream of the crop or to the top. Often the focus groups and the people you’re talking to become your customers. You can even use the focus groups, almost like a get in the door method. You’re weeding out the people you don’t want, find the people you do and there they are right in front of you. It’s a double-edged sword. You get both sides of that. You get every information you want and you often pick up a couple of customers along the way.
Let’s go back to focus groups because a lot of times people think of focus groups, “I’ve got to get a bunch of people into a building, put them around a table and pay people to do this.” Is that true or can you do it without a lot of money out of play?
I don’t think that’s true at all. When you start looking at silver linings, you think about the pandemic, for example, and all the bad things. Let’s think about the good things. People now accept, embrace Zoom and having these focus groups. Imagine the old round table so you would get people around is now a Zoom call. You don’t have to pay them, in my opinion. I haven’t paid anybody. Maybe you offer them a little incentive. For instance, when we’re selling courses and we do a focus group on what we should build, oftentimes, the people in the focus group will get a discount if they choose to join the program.
To straight out, pay people. Maybe if you’re Coke, maybe they have to pay people to come in and drink their Coke but in our experience, we don’t. Think about this as well. You already have some good customers in your business that you probably say to yourself, “I wish all my customers were like that one.” Go to those customers, ask them what they would like to see, if you could improve upon what you do and get to know them better. You sometimes have an entire focus group already in your own company that you can leverage.
All you have to do is ask and they will want to help you. Just say, “I’m looking for some help. I appreciate who you are, where you are in life and what you’ve done in business. I think that I could have some invaluable insights from you. Would you be willing to do a focus group or a one-on-one conversation?” It’s not that difficult. The reason I bring this up is I talked to so many business owners and they are like, “No, I don’t want to spend time doing that.” I’m like, “You are dealing with six different groups, your marketing is everywhere and your sales messages are all over the place. Maybe you only need 1 or 2.” You have a sales strategy but you only have one that I could get by reading. Is that more than one right now? I don’t want to mislead people.
We definitely have plenty of avenues we could go but we don’t tend to do that. Our main strategy is to get in the door and I’m sure that’s what you’re referring to. You hear it all the time to get in the door but what I do is ensure that not only do I get in the door but I do it with a very low cost and low-risk product. I like to compare it to buying a Cadillac. If I want to buy a matchbox Cadillac that’s $5.99, how much information do you need to make that purchase decision? All you care about is it safe for your child, done. If I want to buy an $80,000 Cadillac, I have a bigger buying decision to make so it’s going to be a long road to get there for most people. You have to earn their trust and show them how great you are.
I do that. Most people say, “You do that and then you get in the door.” Not only do you get in the door with them but when you go to sell your main service, you can charge a higher rate for it than you would have been able to charge had they not known you exist. We sell a lot of digital marketing that customers don’t understand. If they meet us and don’t know us, we’re not going to be able to command the money we can command as if when they know us, know what we can do and how much we care. We can take a $2,000 a month sale and make it a $3,000 or $4,000 a month sale. It serves two purposes, not to get in the door but to upsell or make our services way more valuable.
Stephen Covey wrote a book. It was called the Speed of Trust. The more trust that somebody has, the quicker the speed to the sale. What you’re doing is you’re creating a very high-value proposition on the front end and you’re giving more than you’re probably getting. To look at the lifetime value and say, “If I can get in the door here, understand what’s going on with these people and figure out what their pains, frustrations, fears and desires are and I have a match that happens to be a little bit bigger or a lot bigger then that’s going to lead because they’ve already established the trust.” You get into the door, then you’re upselling or cross-selling into the process.
We have a distinct strategy where we step them up what we call a success stairway. We know exactly where they’re going to come in. If they come in at that point, we know exactly where we’re going to try to lead them and walk them through sometimes several. It’s not always the first purchase and then you go for the bigger one. Sometimes they go up 2 or 3 different steps of products or services until they get to the one we ideally want them to purchase.
That solves two things. Not only are you making money to prospect and find your ideal customers but you’re also weeding out those customers that are not ideal. You’re having the opportunity at a very small level to figure it out. If we bring somebody in the door in a print job that has very little value, if they’re undesirable to work with at that level, imagine what they’re going to be like on a big, digital marketing contract. We wouldn’t want to work with them so you can weed them out. It does serve both. We find our ideal customers but we also can weed through and get rid of those that aren’t our ideal customers. We stop communicating with them or we don’t try to upsell them the next step.
That’s so important because so many people, I hear them say, “I had this bad client. I had this bad customer, that customer from heck.” My response to them is there is no bad customer. There are only bad decisions on your end to take that customer. Every once in a while, somebody could be fooled but what I’m hearing from you is, “I get in the door. I understand everything that I need to understand and then we either disqualify that and move on or we qualify that then we go through and sell into that to serve the client on a higher level.”
As far as bad customers go, sometimes they’re not bad customers. They don’t understand something or they need to have something else that you’re not providing. Knowing who they are, if you’ve already worked with them at the lower level by the time you get to those higher-level services or products, if we ever have a bad customer, it’s that they came in on the high level and we never got to go through the relationship with them so we didn’t know who they were. Obviously, people do come in and buy your high-level services without going through maybe your steps.
That’s when we typically have that. Every time we’ve been in that position, if we reach out to the customer and are transparent, “We don’t feel like this is going well. We want to understand why.” We communicate with that customer. We are never surprised by the answer. It’s always, “I don’t understand what I’m buying and what you’re doing.” It’s not that they don’t want to be difficult but they want to know that their money is being used appropriately and they’re getting what they pay for. It typically still comes back to us and maybe we didn’t do something correctly.
Many of them don’t even do this but I find a lot of companies score a lead. Let’s say the lead will come in and they’ll apply some metrics like, “It’s qualified or not qualified,” but what they’re not scoring is the client acquisition cycle. What you are doing like a master is you’re looking at the whole client acquisition strategy and you’re saying, “We’re going to apply qualifiers and disqualifiers each point along that process.” People, if you didn’t catch that, that’s genius. You want to be doing this. Not only are you able to increase the transactional value on that sale but I’m going to ask a question. Lisa, I suspect you have a pretty high referral rate from your client base.
We have two metrics that I’m proud of. Obviously, it’s the referral rate. About 30% of the business we get come from referrals which I think is spectacular and then we have a retention rate that’s above the norm. Most of our customers on average stay 6 to 8 years. That includes the ones who leave in the first year and we have some that have been with us since before we were legit, when we were doing it on the side as a side job. One hundred percent how you get there is transparency. You have to know, engage and talk to your customers.
In our line of work, customers don’t always understand what they’ve even purchased. It’s up to you to define that for them over the first few months and also to educate them on a high level of what you’ve done for them and the successes you have. A lot of people are afraid to toot their own horn but how is the customer going to know how well you’re doing if you don’t tell them because they’re busy like you are. They’re probably not going to go look, especially important in a service-based business. You always need to remind them how well you’re doing or as a company. Brag about your awards and successes. There’s nothing wrong with that.
If somebody wants to contact you, get a hold of you or learn more about you, Portside Marketing and Agency Fast Track, how do they get a hold of you or learn more?
One last question I’d like to ask you before we go. I love asking this question because I get so many interesting answers. If you could be anyone past or living, you could recreate yourself, you could be that person for a year, who would that person be and what would you do to make the world a little better place?
I don’t know if you’re going to like my answer but I’d be me because I feel like we are making the world a better place now. I’m at the stage of my life where I am building my legacy. I’m feeling great about it. Had you asked me that question ten years ago, the answer most likely would be different but I wouldn’t ever want to be anyone more than me right now.
That is so key for people in life to enjoy their life. I’m grateful to hear that. Thank you very much. If you have any questions for Lisa, also you can email them to us and I’ll make sure that she gets them. Lisa, I want to thank you for being on the show. It’s been a real pleasure and you’re a very smart lady.
Thank you, Doug.
You are welcome.
I appreciate you having me here and I love talking business, love reading your articles and seeing your stuff.
Thank you. Until next time, people.
Was that great or what? Lisa shared had a lot of cool nuggets with us. Thinking of ourselves as the CXO and filling the X with whatever we’re doing. If you’re in the genesis of your company from 0 to 7 figures, you better be the Chief SO, the Chief Sales Officer because all you’re needing to do to get to seven figures is focus on how do you have client acquisition and grow your revenues through that process? Once you get past that seven-figure mark we talked about, you’ve got to go into systems and processes. You’ve got to have people. Don’t be afraid to bring people in early. One of the reasons that I find companies don’t bring people in early, especially in the organic growth, if they’re not funded is they feel they don’t have the money.
There are other ways to bring people in. People work for money but they work for mission. As the owner, founder and person building this, you might have to go in the beginning a little bit without and that’s the price you pay to get the freedom and fame later on. Don’t forget getting people because what ends up happening is a lot of the owners when they start up a company or that they’re not at seven figures, they feel, “I got to keep all this profit because if I have a goal to make $400,000 a year, I’m doing $700,000 or $800,000, I’m a service-based business and at a 50% profitability, I can’t be at a 40% and hire somebody because then I won’t get my $400,000.”
That’s part of the problem with a lot of people in that mindset. A lot of people get into the multi-millions and they still have that. What they’re not doing is reinvesting into the business. The business will require. It doesn’t care how we feel. It requires money. The bottom line is our job is to go out and feed that business. In turn, that business will then feed you. I appreciate you being here. If you like what we’re doing here, please go up and give it a nice review. Share this with other people, post it on your social media. Send in your questions and comments to me. I will be happy to take those in, look and see what we could do for future shows and bring you the information that you seek. Until next time.