Midwest Mindset: Succeed in Digital Marketing Transcription

This is a written Transcription for the episode: Street Marketing: Embrace the Cringe Turn Marketing Failure into Success

Turning Failure into Success

Full Written Transcript of The Episode

MATT: Ignoring a problem is not a solution. As much as we want these big problems to go away for our businesses, they aren’t until we address them, until we face them head on. And marketing is perhaps the biggest problem that businesses face today. We don’t want to deal with it because marketing it is intimidating, it’s frustrating, it’s overwhelming, and we just don’t know what to do. What are we supposed to do with our marketing? What is the answer? There isn’t a clear cut roadmap to success.

And so most business owners, we throw up our hands out of frustration and we just give up. And that is not going to solve the problem either. The problem is still there. Today’s episode is special in that we are going to hear from someone whose marketing was well, to say it’s failing is a little harsh. That’s their words. That’s how they describe it. It was not producing results. That’s a kind way to put it. And what they went through is the norm. It is what most businesses go through today in regards to their marketing.

So we commend their bravery, their courage to come on the podcast and openly share and talk about their experience and how they were able to take their failing marketing and turn it around entirely. A complete 182 a success story that it is today. Hello and welcome back to Midwest Mindset, the podcast that gives you the small business owner, the big agency Secrets to Marketing. I’m Matt Tompkins of two Brothers Creative, where we passionately believe every business deserves affordable and effective marketing.

MATT: Our guest today on the podcast to share her story of her failure to success marketing experience is Gwen Aspen. Gwen is the CEO and co-founder of Anarchism. Anarchism is a company that hires out full time virtual assistants out of Mexico, and they are single handedly revolutionizing how we perceive work today, especially post-COVID. Remote work is the new way of working and they are helping businesses drastically reduce costs by up to 60%. It really is incredible. She is passionate about helping business owners, helping entrepreneurs just like you, which is why she was willing to come on the show here today to share her failure.

Yes, they have a lot of successful things going on. Their story is incredible. They’re the sixth fastest growing private company in the state of Nebraska, 612th in the Inc, 5000 nationally. That looks great on the surface, but behind the scenes, for far too many years, their marketing was just not working. She would say It’s failing. I say it was not producing the results that they wanted, that they needed.

The reason I wanted her to come on the show and I appreciate her courage and I don’t use that that term lightly because it does take a lot of courage to open up and talk about your failures, to talk about those missteps, those swings and misses. Everybody wants to talk about the big thing, right? The Inc 5000 list. That’s an amazing accomplishment. But we don’t want to talk about the embarrassing moments, the things maybe we’re not so proud about.

MATT: I think we need to talk more about those things. We need to shine a light on those things because most business owners that we work with, they are struggling with their marketing. Their marketing is not producing results. We have seen personally, I can attest to I don’t know how many marketing agencies taking advantage of is putting it mildly flat out ripping off business owners because marketing is this mysterious thing.

We don’t really know what it is. It’s deceiving. On the surface, it looks easy. It looks like it’s just coming up with a fun creative idea, a catchphrase, a slogan, maybe a mascot. We throw it out there into the world on social media and we get a bunch of new leads, right? The leads come pouring in, new business. Everyone’s happy. Retire a millionaire on a private beach. That is just not how it unfolds. Over 50% of all businesses will fail in their first 3 to 5 years. Only 25% of businesses make it past 15 years or more.

That is a daunting statistic. So most businesses are not living the life we perhaps portray on social media. Our avatars are not an accurate reflection of what’s really going on behind the scenes. So yes, I think it is courageous for Gwen to come on and share, despite all the successes they could talk about, share her story about their marketing. And we’re going to hear directly from Gwen here in a second. I want to say that this is the norm. If you are feeling, as I said, intimidated, frustrated, overwhelmed by your marketing.

MATT: That is how every business owner feels. There are limited options. To date, there’s really only two options. You become a marketing expert overnight and do it all yourself. Not very realistic. Or you pay a lot of money to a marketing agency.

Far too many of them are just ripping off business owners and there’s no middle ground in between. We have always taken the position. It’s why we started this podcast. It is our mission statement for our company. We truly believe every business deserves affordable and effective marketing, and we believe you should know at the very least, understand what it is a company you’ve hired is doing with your marketing.

So you’re a part of it. You get it. You know that you’re not being taken advantage of. You feel confident, you feel proud of your marketing. That’s at the very least, at most, we will give you the tools we tell clients, Listen, we’ll come in, we’ll help you do the heavy lifting.

We want you and your team to at least have the option to take this in-house. We’re not going to sit here and hide all the tools and the websites and techniques and tips that we use. We’re not going to keep them as these guarded secrets. We are passionate about our core values of quality and honesty. And I think to be honest, you have to say, here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it. Here are the tools that we’re using. Here’s how to use these tools.

MATT: Now you can take it in-house. You can keep hiring a company to do it, but at the very least, you have that information, you have that knowledge, you have that power. You are. Empowered at that moment as a business owner. So that’s why Gwen and I have this conversation to talk about her journey, her path to where her marketing was and where it is today. All right, Gwen. Aspen, CEO of Antiquum, successful entrepreneur. I think you are the perfect person to represent so many other success stories and what actually happens behind the scenes with their marketing.

Because you have gone through what I believe is the norm for most businesses when it comes to their marketing, where the only options are. You can become a marketing expert overnight and do it yourself, which isn’t realistic, or hire an agency. And unfortunately, too many agencies talk down to us, through us, over us and just flat out take advantage of us because we don’t know any better, right? Yes. So I wanted to talk to you today just about your personal experience. I feel like we don’t talk about this enough. I hear this story myself from business owners every week, every day as we work with our clients and help people through this podcast. But I would love to hear your story and if you don’t mind sharing your story and kind of where were you when this when this began because you were having success, but you where was your marketing at, say, a couple of years ago to start this story?

GWENN: Sure. Well, so we had just to set the business tone. So we had grown a lot. We had doubled every single year since our existence. And so last year we got into this place where we really things were breaking because of the scaling and we had to retool our whole operation, which was super good for our clients because we were on top of it, making sure things didn’t fall through the cracks.

But what happened is I just didn’t have any time to work on my marketing. So at first we had an internal person doing it and then the job got too big and so we hired an agency to manage it. And I wasn’t focused on that at all because I just wanted the operations to be strong. And so I was pouring a ton of money in it.

And then when I went to and I wasn’t seeing the results like a lot of the results were from just relationship building, from referrals, from conferences where we met people. But was I getting anything from my website? Was I getting anything from organic.

MATT: Searches or social posts?

GWENN: I mean, nothing. So I mean, I really wasn’t. So I did the deep dive and was so embarrassed at the amount of money that I had spent and how little I got of a return on investment. It was it’s probably one of my biggest business failures, actually. It was, yes.

I think of it as one of my biggest business failures. And so I remember we had been doing this podcast and the podcast was great, but I’m like, Is anyone even seeing this because it took it from you? And then our team was supposed to get it out into the ether and I came in. I think I was in a panic, like almost in a panic attack because I had just run the numbers of how much we had spent. And and it was enormous. And I looked at the number of like, contact forms that we got from our website and it was minuscule. And I just realized, like how bad the problem was and how much money I truly wasted on a completely dead effort.

MATT: What was the how long did it take from the first moment of like, something doesn’t pass the smell test, right? Like where I.

GWENN: Feel like you’re gonna make me look bad because. No, no, no.

MATT: I know. And I. The reason you’re perfect to have this conversation and tell the story because and it’s one of the things I love about you that you’re you’re brave and courageous in the sense that you will talk about your failures.

Yes, I will. And and I think that’s important because business owners, at whatever stage they’re at, are going through these same struggles and there are business owners who are getting taken advantage of or just don’t know what to do. And that is our mission. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a client who’s paying us or somebody who’s listening to the podcast or don’t know how many like free consultations we do because it is offensive to me to see business owners have that happen to them. And then it’s like it’s put on them as if it was their fault. It’s not your fault that this happened, you know, it’s something that everybody goes through. So I appreciate you telling your story. No, I.

GWENN: Mean, and I’m honest because I want other business owners to learn before I did. But so everyone knows, like when you are scaling a business, the processes that you have that got you there aren’t the ones that are going to scale with you. You have to become more sophisticated. And that just took all my energy and my time.

My effort was working on that whole endeavor. So it was probably a year. And what happened? I came to you just knowing in a gut feeling that something was off. And I remember you calling me and you were like. Okay. Are you sitting down? And because we had looked at how much we’d spent on Google ads and it was an enormous amount of money and it was literally going to the wrong page. So we do virtual assistants and we also have call centers.

So we were paying an enormous. You guys you guys an enormous amount of money, like an absurd amount of money. It was a lot on Google ads that were going not to. So it was for virtual assistants, not to the virtual assistant page, but the call center page. So we were confusing people.

MATT: They if they clicked on the ad thinking, yeah, I want a virtual assistant. And then it takes them to this page where they’re like, Wait, what is this call center? I don’t understand. And then they would bounce. And the risk with that, that may not sound like that big of a deal, but I mean, you were getting a lot of clicks. Well, pay for.

GWENN: Those clicks.

MATT: You were getting. There was I mean, I don’t know. I think it was 5 to 700 ish range like per month that you were getting. I think if I remember correctly from this campaign. However, those are the risk is not just those people who went to the wrong page and left. It’s that now anytime they see a future ad, you’ve influenced their perception. Oh, well yeah. The last time I clicked on this ad with this company and that’s your branding and that affects your brand equity for a lot. It’s a lot bigger impact than I think we initially think.

GWENN: So Well, and then I would get the reports from the agency and they’re like, Your ads are doing great. All these people are clicking on it. It’s awesome. And so I’m like, Oh good, I’m doing awesome. Well, but I wasn’t getting the sales. I thought I was getting the sales because we were working so hard on the conferences. And so sales were coming in and we were growing as a business, but it wasn’t from the marketing that I was paying a lot for, So it was confusing. Unless you really divide up where your leads are coming from, what that lead source is, you can think you’re doing well in one area, but that’s not what’s driving the business.

MATT: I mean, would you agree this is something I believe Would you agree that marketing is is one of the most fundamental but equally deceiving parts of running a successful business?

GWENN: So, yes. So after we realized the error, you really I’m really grateful for you and the team because you are I mean, you partnered with me, though, like instead of being like, well, this is so difficult, you know, you’re never going to understand. You need a PhD to understand how these ads work.

MATT: Is that how they work? Is that how marketing people talk? I don’t think I’ve.

GWENN: Heard like this. It’s like if you aren’t in the know, they’re just like, Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.

MATT: I don’t want to meet this person just because that.

GWENN: Was so hard. It’s so confusing. They do.

MATT: They talk down to you, they talk over you through you. They act as if they wrote the algorithms themselves. And the truth is they failed basic college math like most of us did.

GWENN: Yeah, So? So. And then when you’re like, Oh, great, you got this because I’m busy with my operations. Like I got a bounce, I got this meeting over here. These people I have to meet, I’ve got this, you know, PNL I got to look at. And so when you’re busy with other stuff, you’re just like, Oh, great, the agency has it. And they showed me a pretty little report that says that my Google ads are doing great, so I’m good.

So what you did, though, is you and your team walked us through the process and kind of gave us the vision because after that, I mean, I didn’t trust anybody. I mean, I trust you, but like, I was still like, oh my gosh, any agency can totally take advantage of me. So I did like an RFP, like a request for proposal from a bunch of different companies to look at taking over the business. And, you know, a lot of people didn’t listen to me about what I wanted.

So you get a proposal back and you’re like, Well, this isn’t even what we talked about for an hour or it was super expensive, like outrageously expensive, and no one wanted to talk about how it would work. Except you guys explained it to me without talking down to me. And it’s once you and then told me which books to read. So you weren’t trying to make it this scary thing that I would never understand. You just worked with me. And now when we work together, the plan has has really developed into a cohesive, cogent marketing strategy.

MATT: And I think that’s that’s key for, for any for business owners. When you aren’t sure, I guess the question is how do I know if an agency is ripping me off or taking advantage of me? And that that seems like a very tough question to ask because, well, I have to become an expert on this to understand. And I don’t think you do. I think it’s very simple.

If they aren’t willing to explain what they’re doing clearly and in simple, plain language, then that’s a red flag. Because this I can tell you, I’m I mean, I’m I have my gifts and talents, but I am no genius when it comes to any of these things. I just did the work of reading and learning and. Experimenting with our own marketing and company and just all these different things you do to, you know, put in the hours, the thousands of hours you need to become an expert or proficient in anything, right? And so if I can do it, anybody can do it.

Now, I understand business owners don’t have that extra time. They don’t want that. But I think it is our job if we’re doing marketing for somebody to to either equip them at the at most so that they could do it themselves, They have that option. At the very least, though, you should be equipped with understanding it enough to see exactly and clearly what the strategy is, why we’re doing these things.

GWENN: And here’s the thing. Like old school marketing, they would be like, well, you know, you don’t what do they say that 20% of your marketing actually works. You just don’t know which 20%. Remember that old adage? I don’t.

MATT: Remember that. But that sounds pretty.

GWENN: It’s like crazy. Well, it was true, though, because you didn’t have the data to support it. Now, with the Internet, you know, you have the data to know which ads work.

You can tweak one thing or another thing and see if it made a difference. It’s really a data analytical thing. So if people come from old school marketing where it’s like, well, you’ll never really know where they found you, Well, this is a new person.

MATT: This is a whole new voice now, like, yeah, please continue. Yes, yes. Um.

GWENN: So if you come from that, that’s not true anymore. So you should be able to really find out where your leads come. And if you’re, if you’re in a position where you have zero time to work on marketing and you’re really just need to hand it off because there are no other options, you’re just like completely, you know, burned out and have a million things to do. Just be very clear about where those leads come from. Make sure that you ask every client, Where did you find out about us? I would say that’s the most important data point to find out if your online marketing is working or not.

MATT: Yeah, because there is data with everything and like so old school mediums that we attach a lot of nostalgia to like radio and even television mailings. Mailings like yes, there is brand awareness and there is there is a place for that where it’s just general brand awareness.

But if the strategy is just let’s get our name out there and we don’t know where there is or what the end goal is with getting our name out there, we’re just throwing money up and just, you know, hoping it’s like drug. I call Hopium, you know, we get Hopium, we get addicted to opium. And it’s like, Well, I’m just going to post a bunch of stuff and hope that it works and we need to detox off of that because that’s not a strategy at all. That’s not and it’s not going to work. And you’re going to put a lot of time and money.

And even if you’re not hiring an agency, so you’re just doing all your social media yourself, you’re still spending a lot of money because that’s your time and that you aren’t putting towards gaining a new client or, you know, working on your operations and things like that.

MATT: So, I mean, and we’re still with your process. I mean, the other thing I would say and I would love to hear your your insight is on the patience marketing kind of requires because sales is immediate, like brute force. I can go close this deal today and get paid tomorrow. And marketing supports your sales, but it grows and it’s a very long term play to owning a space, a market or a category, right? And so it takes time.

And a lot of business owners don’t want to think long term because they’re just worried about I just got to I got to keep my lights on today. I’m just going to go do what I know works, which is, you know, hard, cold calling. And there is definitely a place for that. But what like, what got you and your team invested in okay, we want to change things for a year from now, two years from now, five years from now. You know, let’s think bigger picture and really utilize marketing as the asset to support our sales and growth as much as we should.

GWENN: Well, for me, I just never want to play small. I want to be the A student. I want to win God. I’d be really honest on this podcast. That’s good.

MATT: I like it.

GWENN: Yeah, I want to win. And so I was like, Matt, how do I win? And I mean, I don’t want third place, I want first place. And so he and he showed me how it wasn’t like, Oh, you know, I’m not going to tell you how, but he we created the path together. And I think I’ve been an astute we’ve executed the.

MATT: Plan, embraced it. I think more than most most people that I see, especially in your position of success level. I mean let’s not joke around like you are winning and you know, it’s going to only increase from here. But I mean, where your company is today and even your previous company that you had and sold, you know, you have successes like you could just farm it out, kick back, You know, you probably could retire on a beach and just be happy. But, you know, you are you want to learn and understand these things.

And I think that’s really the difference between like they have they have professional athletes as an example, and then there are elite athletes and professional takes a lot to get there. That’s a lot of talent and skill, but only a very small fraction of a percent become elite athletes. It’s the same in the business. This world like you have? Yeah. It takes a lot of risk and time and hard work to become a business owner and be open for 3 to 5 years. There’s a reason only 51. There’s a reason 51% of businesses fail in their first five years. So what is the difference that carries those leaders into that small percentage that have a successful business that meets their dreams, surpasses them in the long term? And it’s this it’s investing in learning and really in planning and strategy and all this. It’s work. It is a lot of work.

GWENN: Well, and I think it’s also embracing my one marketing guy a means said this the best he said embrace the cringe and like for instance I don’t enjoy doing LinkedIn videos.

I mean I’ll do them but like it’s hard to put yourself on camera and find a place in your house and figure out what you’re going to say. And you guys have made that process a lot easier. But, um, but you have to just get started. And I think that my ability to just kind of fail forward like it’s okay if it’s not perfect, it will improve over time. I’ll get better, it will get faster, it’ll get easier. I just have a lot of experience failing forward, so I’m not afraid to try something new and I might not get a lot of likes or whatever I’m attempting to do. But we can iterate and people have very short memories, you know? Yeah.

And so if you make a fool out of yourself, but you’re iterating into it being successful, it will, it will, it will work over time.

MATT: And there’s probably a better quote than the way I’ll say it. But I mean, success really is just failing forward over and over and over again. Yeah, it’s just failing forward. And the final thoughts you would leave with a any any size. I mean, it could be an entrepreneur or a solopreneur or it could be somebody with a small team or a somebody who has a big company with a big team. I think it really applies evenly and equally.

What would you say to them? They are in the place that you have been like, What is what is the recommendation you say, okay, if you’re struggling with your marketing or you’re confused by it, whatever it is, like, what would you tell them to do? Like, what should from learning from your experience, what should they do? What would you.

GWENN: Recommend? Just you’re not an idiot. So if people try to make you feel like an idiot, don’t believe them. It’s hard. Like if you were, you know, if you’re like, Well, I don’t know anything if you’re honest about like your knowledge level, but someone should be able to explain to you the pathway for where you want to go. It should make sense and it shouldn’t be like obscured in a lot of ways. And so ask questions.

You definitely can understand what they’re talking about. Seo isn’t so complicated that just words. It’s and so and dig in a little bit and just make sure you know where your leads are truly coming from so you don’t get taken advantage of.

MATT: Yeah. And I think too, like, don’t get distracted by the show. You know, our friend Tom Beck has a book that there’s no business without the show. And there is a lot of show in just regular business where your salesmanship, you know, like here in the studio, like I could bring in a client, I could sit them down and give them the wow factor of like, Holy cow, I’m on this big set and I’m treated like a star.

And I start throwing out all these big ideas and here’s what we’re going to do with your marketing. It’s really easy to get distracted by that and as anybody naturally would, but don’t make the decision in that moment because that’s not what matters.

What matters is then the conversations, the multiple conversations you have after that where you’re explaining, here’s how this is going to work. Don’t understand that. Explain it. Okay. I’m happy to. I’ll spend the next hour going through this with you. And then here’s like I always share, I mean, with all of our employees, our virtual assistants from Antiquum, by the way, and clients we work with. I share the same books like here’s the five books that that really helped shape a lot of what my approach is with marketing.

And I want you to know what they are so you can it’s, you know, it’s no secret anybody that’s hiding that or trying to distract you from that. I think that’s a major red flag to watch out for. And I’m super happy for you. I’m proud of you and your team.

GWENN: I’ve embraced the cringe, Matt.

MATT: I like that. I think we need to call this episode Embrace the cringe. I like that. All right. Well, congratulations on embracing the cringe. And for all the amazing voices, is there like a third voice you could perhaps lead us out with? Like do a little outro here?

GWENN: Oh, my gosh. Too much pressure. Too much pressure. I did have a few voices that those.

MATT: Two distinct voices want to know who they were. I was waiting for, like, an old, like, 1930 gangster. Like. Yeah, see? Like, that was close. I felt like we were going to get there, but.

GWENN: Oh, I don’t think that they’re not back there. It has to be like, in the moment.

MATT: Give me like 1970s Mad Men era Don Draper. Um.

GWENN: You wouldn’t understand. I mean, you’re not going to understand if I gave it to you. I don’t know. I can’t do it on the spot.

MATT: That’s good. I feel like that’s happened to you. All right, Gwen, thank you so much for sharing. Thank you, Matt.

GWENN: It’s been a pleasure.

MATT: I’ll bring you back. Next time we can open up. Open up about your next failure.

GWENN: Because so happy to share. Happy to share.

MATT: The longer you wait to address your marketing problem, the worse that problem is going to get. It’s kind of like the emperor with no clothes. We’re walking around completely naked and we’re all playing this game on social media where. No, no, no, everything’s fine. No, of course I’m wearing beautiful clothes. I’m totally not naked right now. Let’s stop with the games and let’s get serious about growing your business.

That is our goal. I know that’s Gwen Gwen’s goal, and that’s why she came on the podcast here today. If you want to contact Gwen, you want to learn about more about what she’s doing to help other entrepreneurs, which she is super passionate about as well. You can find the links and the info in the show notes. That’s what their company does for small businesses as well. And if you need some help getting your business started on that marketing journey, we will measure your marketing absolutely free, no strings attached.

Measure your marketing now. All the links, resources and details are in the show notes.

Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you on the next episode.