I’m really excited about this week’s guest, Phil Singleton from Kansas City Web Design. Normally I hate any conversation that has to do with being found online or SEO. I bet that after you listen to today’s episode you’re going to agree with me that this was a great way to spend about 20 minutes.
Phil and I started talking about how to get a well-known person to collaborate with you on a book project. In this case, that well-known person was John Jantsch. Phil and John formed a partnership to work on getting found online which is another way to say using search engine optimization (SEO) in a way that provides results for what I call blue collar businesses.
Here are some of the things you’ll learn in today’s podcast:
- How to set up a conversation with a thought leader in what they do.
- How SEO if done properly really isn’t a dark art and it’s something you can do to your business be found.
- What reverse engineering is after you’ve found who your perfect customer is.
- Before you engage an influencer to work with you, make sure you provide tons of value to them first.
- When you meet with an influencer, make sure you have something of value for them so you’re not wasting their time.
Narrator: Welcome to The Sustainable Business Radio Show podcast where you’ll learn not only how to create a sustainable business but you’ll also learn the secrets of creating extraordinary value within your business and your life. In The Sustainable Business, we focus on what it’s going to take for you to take your successful business and make it economically and personally successful.
Your host, Josh Patrick, is going to help us through finding great thought leaders as well as providing insights he’s learned through his 40 years of owning, running, planning and thinking about what it takes to make a successful business sustainable.
Josh: Hey, how are you today? This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business.
Today, our guest is Phil Singleton. Phil is an SEO expert. He’s an award-winning author. Since 2005, Phil has owned and operated a digital marketing agency in Kansas City, Missouri. He also happens to be a co-author with John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing fame. He co-wrote SEO for Growth: The Ultimate Guide for Marketers, Web Designers and Entrepreneurs.
We’re going to start the conversation today, talking with Phil about how he ended up working with John. Let’s bring Phil in and we’ll start the conversation.
Hey, Phil. How are you today?
Phil: How are you doing, Josh. Thanks for having me.
Josh: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks so much for being on and being flexible about what we’re talking about. Most people I have, I say, “we’re going to talk about this” and if I talk about anything else, I’ll have a problem.
Phil: Right, right, right, right.
Josh: You seem to be pretty flexible on what we’re going to end up talking about today.
Phil: Well, yeah, good. That’s great because a lot of times also, you mention SEO and half of the people with their eyes will roll anyway, so it’s nice to kind of go off and talk about things that are not always right in that SEO space all the time.
Josh: Yeah. It seems to me that most people think of SEO as kind of like the evil, dark arts of the Internet marketing world.
Phil: I think that’s kind of how it’s had its history in the start. Thankfully, it’s a lot more than that now. It’s about more things that you can do for your company that aren’t necessarily kind of under the hood, or in the backroom or back office or offshore type of a thing but yeah that’s a whole another story altogether.
Josh: Let’s start the conversation by talking about your relationship with John Jantsch. This guy is like a major marketing star, best-selling author, keynote speaker from all over the place. I think I’ve seen him speak like four or five times now. You ended up co-writing a book with him, how did that end up happening?
Phil: Yes, exactly. I’m a relative nobody working in my own boutique agency here in Kansas City. You mentioned we actually both are located in Kansas City but that’s not how we originally met each other. How it happened was, I have a number of small business clients here in Kansas City and over the last three or four years ago, I had a client mention to me Duct Tape Marketing, the book Duct Tape Marketing.
And then, I think, a few months or a year later, somebody else mentioned it to me again. And then I think I heard it again. I might have heard it three or four, maybe even five times. At that point, I was like, “Well, geez, some of these potential clients that I’m talking to are reading this book. I’m going to actually have to read this book and read it.”
I went and I bought it. I tore through it in a weekend. I was absolutely blown away mostly because my approach to search and optimization, not to cover that too much, is really mostly about trying to figure out how people search and then reverse engineering SEO around that. Well, what I found in his book and his whole approach to marketing, and I think a lot of people are in this now that are in this digital space, is about finding the ideal customer and then reverse engineering marketing around that ideal customer. I read that and I was like, “Geez, I’m already kind of doing this for my own SEO with those SEO blinders. I should open up to marketing, I could probably offer a lot more to my clients.”
I read it. I was fascinated by the book. I tore through it in probably like a day. While I was reading it, I noticed he’d actually mentioned like a couple of companies in Kansas City. And then he’d actually mentioned one of my clients in there as an example. I read the back of the book. I was like, “Holy Cow, this guy is in Kansas City.”
At that point, I was already like, “Oh, this is really cool.” I ended up reading more about him. I was consuming some of his content. He kind of pulled me in with his– the guy practices what he preaches with his own inbound strategy. I kind of became a follower. I read up about his Duct Tape Marketing Certification Program.
Really, again, not to get too much into SEO, but what has happened in the world of SEO is it used to be about back links and tweaking things under the hood of the website. It’s really evolved into this kind of multifaceted strategy. We’re talking about content now, and reputation management in social media, and all these things that actually look and sound a lot more like marketing. In order to be good at SEO now, I had to really open up and be better at marketing, in general. I think that’s what my initial pull into Duct Tape was. It was to become just a better general marketer and not so much of an SEO tactician because that’s the way Google’s kind of evolved.
I went in there and I actually said, “You know what, I’m actually going to join his certification program.” The cool thing about that is when you become certified through an influencer like John- a lot of these guys are out there now, everybody’s getting out their own course and their own kind of passive or distant kind of a learning program where you’re learning through them. I think John has some of those too. The interesting thing about joining some of these groups like the Duct Tape is that I actually got to spend a lot of time with him, with the meetings and the annual events that they have. That enabled me to actually build a personal relationship in person which made a big difference.
I took that opportunity to go in there and say, “I’m going to try and impress this guy and give him, if he gives me the opportunity, try and showcase some of my skills in terms of guest blogging on his website or maybe try to contribute or offer some of the work to I need to show him. Over time, I think, the more I did with him and worked with him, he became familiar with my skill set and I kind of built some of that trust. And then, eventually last year, I ended up pitching him on a book idea. By that time, the relationship was already there. He loved the idea and the concept of it. That took what I had kind of already built and showed him. And then he took and kind of worked with me to make it better and we launched a book. That was one of my end goals.
Josh: Phil, let me stop you for a second because I want to go back and go through some of these steps you went through to build authority with John because I’ve done this several times with lots of influencers over the years. I’ve noticed the steps you have to take which are pretty specific if you want to actually do this. Let’s go under the hood a little bit there. What was the first thing you did with John?
Phil: The first thing I did is I actually reached out to him in an e-mail and said, “Hey, I recognize we’re here. I’ve got a couple of ideas. Would it be possible to sit down and maybe have a cup of coffee?”
Josh: What was his response to that?
Phil: He said, “Yeah, sure.”
Josh: You see, now that’s unusual in the fact that I wrote for the New York Times for a long time and I won’t try to bore you with that story but it was a year and a half to get there. My first e-mail was completely ignored.
Phil: Ah, so I got lucky on that one. I did. I got lucky.
Josh: John is the type a guy, from what I understand, that he’s pretty open to having conversations with people.
Phil: Yes, he is.
Josh: You didn’t do any research to find out if he would be open or not, did you?
Phil: No. I think, at that time, I was just so excited about the opportunity and happy that he was in town here that I just basically took action and tried to say, “Hey, I’ve got some really cool ideas for you, would you have a few minutes for it?” It was interesting because for whatever reason, he said yes.
We had agreed to basically have a cup of coffee but I think we got lucky in terms of the coffee shop. For some reason, we ended up back at his office which was a walk away. That enabled me to sit down with him in his office, in the conference room and I got rolling and started to kind of pitch some of the ideas. I could see immediately, he saw that there was something there.
The fact that we weren’t able to have like a short, quick cup of coffee, I think, in maybe a place where your attention span isn’t really big, I got a break in terms of being able to sit there in a 10-minute coffee meeting which is really kind of what it was set up to be. It ended up being like an hour or more. I think, at that point, he probably felt like I would be a good fit for some type of cooperation down the road. I think, that made an impression on him. It wasn’t like there were things like, “Okay, let’s write a book together” at that time. That was actually three years later.
Josh: Cool. Go down that road a little bit. But here’s something which I think you brought up which is really important for people to understand when you’re working with influencers or actually with anybody for that matter, at one period of time, I was selling life insurance for a large national life insurance company. They used to train us saying, “Well, just ask for 10 minutes of time of the business owner.” I used to always say to the trainors, “That’s crazy. Every time I talk to a business owner is at least an hour, if not two hours.” What I learned was because I have lots of valuable information, these guys want to learn. That 10 minutes always became an hour, if not two hours. I’m going to bet the same was true with you with John.
Phil: Yes. I think you have to get past that point where you’re like, I went there prepared to bring my best ideas to dazzle this guy because I figured this was going to be my one chance to do that. But you just, I guess, never know if you’re going to make that impression or not. You’re going to have the opportunity to discuss some more because if you were to add another meeting, maybe a half hour later, I might not have gotten to that point where it would’ve taken the next step.
Josh: If you had another meeting at half an hour later, did you have a strategy in place to hopefully gotten you another meeting with him?
Phil: I don’t think I did but I think there’s enough ambition and tenacity in me that I take action so I would never, at that point, a chance to meet him, not like follow up on it and either give myself another opportunity, get a chance or have the door shut type of a thing but that’s just kind of become my personality. I wasn’t always like that but that’s kind of how I’ve become, how I’ve gotten older and gained more confidence and thicker skin, basically.
Josh: Well, one of the things that I find is if I whet the appetite and we do run out of time, I will often schedule another meeting before we leave each other in the last minute or so. I have found, over the years, that works incredibly well for me.
Okay, you had this first meeting with John, and you wrote the book three years later. What happened between that first meeting and three years?
Phil: Sure. We worked on a project together that I think, in that case, I wasn’t actually able to deliver on how I thought it would because the project became a little more complex. I do think that he saw that there was a lot of work ethic and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it.
But, really, I think my next opportunity with that was, I took the next step to say, “Hey, there’s enough here.” Where, I asked him, “Hey, is it possible for me to join your network? I want to be certified.” At that point, I was thinking, “Digital marketing and especially SEOs going in a different direction. I want a certification that’s going to make me more trustworthy and show that I have more skills.” I actually took the next step there and basically became his client because when you become Duct Tape certified you’re basically kind of paying to get in, being certified, going in there, joining the network and almost kind of in a masterminds type of situation where you’re sharing and meeting with other certified consultants and that kind of stuff.
I looked at it, I think part of my end goal was always to be like, “I want to become an influencer.” The fastest way to become am influencer, in my opinion, is to leverage the influence that other people have built. How do you do that? You’ve got to find a way in to impress the people that have already kind of paved the road in front of you. I mean, I thought, “John’s the best that I can do this so I’ve got to find ways to get in with him and show him and consistently bring him value in a way that I’ll be able to leverage the platform that he’s already built.” That was, I think, one of the goals that I had initially, even joining the network and kind of putting a skin in the game in terms of becoming certified.
Josh: So, Phil, let me ask you, how many people did John have in his certification class with you?
Phil: The class that I actually went on, there was, I think, four or five people in it but he has them every month or so. What had happened is, I think, he had an initial version of this program that had 30 or 40 people in it. And then, he actually kind of closed it down and then reconfigured it. I was actually on the come-on waiting list for a little while. I was like, “When this thing opens up, let me in, let me in.” And then he opened it back up. Over the last two or three years, I think, there’s 120 or so certified consultants in it.
Josh: Here’s something else which I think is really important and I would really like folks to pay some attention to this because I think it’s important. There are several levels of influencers. It’s easy to become involved with an influencer who is not named Tony Robbins, meaning that Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Russel Brunson, these are all guys who have over a thousand people at their programs, so getting face time and impressing them is slim to none, to almost impossible.
Whereas, people like Chris Brogan who is obviously a superstar in this space, John Jantsch, Michael Port, those types of folks have smaller programs. It is much, much easier to become an influencer with those influencers because you can actually grab them by the shoulder and say, “Let’s go have a conversation” and have a sidebar. If you’re good at what you do, they’re going to recognize it and they’re going to be involved with you at some level.
Phil: Exactly. I know Michael Port and I know John have those kind of programs where you have the opportunity to be shoulder to shoulder. I don’t know if Chris Brogan. I think all of them at that level should do that because then you’ve got guys like me that are going to have some standouts that will come out and try to show them their A-game.
I mean, if I were an influencer at that level, my main goal would be to create other influencers. That’s one mark of an influencer is to try and have mentors and try to bring other people up. I think John is doing that with some of the other folks in there. I don’t know if he necessarily is like consciously doing it but he’s certainly doing it with the stuff that he’s done. I think other guys out there should be doing the same thing.
Josh: The good ones do. Chris Brogan is always recognizing people who he likes. He’s recognized me a few times over the years. He’s been extraordinarily helpful. Michael Port, I actually trade some services with because I spoke [crosstalk] with him.
Phil: Does Chris have a program? Does Chris have like a certification – Chris Brogan?
Josh: No. No.
Phil: [inaudible 00:14:06]
Josh: But he does do live events. And also, if you see him at another event, he is incredibly approachable. The good news about when you’re at their events is they’re there for eight, nine, ten, twelve hours so it’s relatively easy to get 15 minutes of their time.
With Michael, I ended up spending– probably it was over a course of about a year, I would talk to Michael on a regular basis and he did some stuff that was just not correct in the financial planning world. I said, “Mike, this is going to cause you a problem. Here’s what you need to do instead.” As it turns out, I was right and his other advisors were wrong, so it got me an incredible amount of legitimacy with him.
Josh: I don’t know if you did this purposefully or it was by mistake, but what you’ve done is you said, “I’m going to become an influencer by helping other influencers become better at what they do.”
Phil: I love it, yeah.
Josh: Because that’s essentially what you did with John. I mean, you took your expertise and you brought it over to John’s expertise. You’ve combined it with John. John said, “Gee, this guy can add some value to me and my tribe.” You had an opportunity to do so and you were smart enough to ask.
Phil: Exactly. Exactly, yup.
Josh: When you think about that, that’s kind of a cool thing.
The thing I really like about what you described to me is SEO people, in my experience, tend to be pretty insular. They haven’t looked past. One of my favorite today is an author named Clayton Christensen who’s a Harvard business school guy. He wrote The Innovator’s Dilemma. He has two questions that I love which is, “What is the job to be done? Why are people hiring you?”
What you did was you really asked yourself the question, “What is the job to be done?” Even though you never really did ask that but your answer, from what I heard, is “I’m a marketing consultant. I’m not an SEO consultant. I’m a marketing consultant who uses SEO. I’m not an SEO consultant who knows something about marketing.” Does that make sense to you?
Phil: Yes. I mean, I love the way you’re kind of breaking this and boiling it down but that’s exactly it.
Josh: Yeah. For me, this is a really fascinating thing because I think that all of us who own businesses, there are people who can help us grow our business who are influencers in the space we operate in, or even in a space that’s right next door. John Jantsch, he’s not an SEO guy but he is a marketing guy. He’s a pretty good marketing guy at that. SEO is part of marketing. It’s a subset. It’s a tactic of how to be successful in marketing. You took his stuff, you added it to your stuff and you came up with something that’s a whole lot better.
Josh: From my point of view, I think that it’s just a really cool thing.
Phil: I appreciate that. it worked out. It couldn’t have worked out any better. It continues to kind of pay dividends so it’s a great way to do it.
Josh: You wrote the book with John. What did the book do for you?
Phil: Wow. It continues to do quite a bit of things but (1) it established us as an authority. I think, it’s helping to further establish myself as an influencer. Now, an influencer is– you know, you’ve got a microinfluencer. My influence is growing. My tribe is growing. My credibility, I think, in the niche is growing. That helped out quite a bit. The purpose of the book, at the end, actually really wasn’t only to do that. What we really wanted to do is use the book as a foundation to build a high-authority website that then we could also use to have course programs and certifications off of.
Now, on top of that, what we’ve tried to do is actually use that website in a way where we could create child websites in other places around the country. For instance, we’ve got one in St. Louis called St. Louis SEO for Growth and it’s St.Louis.seoforgrowth.com, so that when you do a search for St. Louis SEO, that child site comes up number one in that city for the service. We basically, John and I, have kind of taken a little bit of the Duct Tape and kind of the SEO system I’ve developed, put it into a book, and we’ve used that book as a way to certify and train people. But also, as a brand, that we can help other marketers have these child sites that become lead funnels for them, for people that are searching for SEO services, city by city.
We’ve done one in St. Louis. We’ve done one in Atlanta. We’ve done one in, I think, about 13 other cities and one in Canada right now.
You do these projects, like a book, they’re never one-dimensional anymore. It’s got a bunch of different things that it’s done for us. It’s established, I think, credibility for me. It’s enabled me to leverage, again, John’s influence because I took my skill set and my knowledge and was able to package it under his brand and reached a bigger audience. He also made it better by contributing to the book, of course. But then we had a book that became a bestseller, a website that’s become an authority and also been a great platform for us to then train and license and help people build these little, local lead generation platforms [inaudible 00:19:13].
Josh: And so, you’ve become one of those five-year overnight successes?
Phil: We’re working on it. For right now, it looks like, right in the middle, it’s working as we had hoped it would work. The story kind of is still unfolding so.
Josh: The truth is as long as you own your business, the story will continue to unfold.
Phil: I’m having the time of my life. I came from the insurance industry out of school. I had one of these jobs where I was in a cubicle in a beige building in a beige cubicle, basically. It was just a soul-crushing job. That eight hours seemed like 80 hours. But it since rolled in to kind of this small business dream for me where I wake up at 5:00 everyday excited to do stuff.
I’m not going to sugar coat it too much. There are parts of the job that aren’t as glamorous as others that I don’t like but it’s not like waking up for the job that I had in corporate America before, not that there’s anything wrong with that, where I didn’t have that enthusiasm to start the day type of a thing. And this recent stuff that we’ve been doing with John and Duct Tape Marketing has made it even sweeter so.
Josh: One of my things is I don’t really quite understand why people stay in bone-sucking jobs because there are too many options in this country. All you’ve got to do is figure out what you want to do then find a way to get there. The finding the way to get there is not all that difficult. We actually talk a lot in the wealth management world about how do people manage their number one asset which is their ability to earn money, which is often their jobs.
Phil, unfortunately, for the podcast part of this thing, we’re out of time. You’re an interesting guy. I’m going to bet some of our listeners are going to want to find you. If they wanted to do that, how would they go about it?
Phil: My favorite place to connect with people is on LinkedIn. I love for people to check out SEOforGrowth.com. That’s where the book is. Of course, if you want to see a model of how we built our business, if you check out KCwebdesigner.com or KCSEOpro.com, those are two things that I used to build an agency. Again, I’m an outsider. I don’t have any classical training in graphic design or web development. I came in, learned from the outside in, a little bit later in life and still have made a nice boutique agency here that continues to grow. Those are two nice little websites to check out to see how somebody like me was able to kind of break in and become, basically, a leader in our local market here.
Josh: Cool. That’s so much fun.
Phil, thanks so much for your time today.
I also have an offer for you. I have a one-hour free audio CD course. It’s called Success to Sustainability: The Five Things You Need to Do to Create a Personally and Economically Sustainable Business. To get it, it’s really easy, take out your smartphone. If you’re driving, do me a favor and wait until you stop driving. Take out your smartphone and text the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. That’s the word SUSTAINABLE to 44222. You’ll get a link. Fill out the form and we mail you the free audio CD. By the way, if you happen to be in a position where you don’t have an audio CD player anymore – I just found out recently that a lot of cars don’t have them, just send me an e-mail when you get it and I’ll send you the audio file.
This is Josh Patrick. You’re at The Sustainable Business. Thanks a lot for stopping by today. I hope to see you back here really soon.
Narrator: You’ve been listening to The Sustainable Business podcast where we ask the question, “What would it take for your business to still be around 100 years from now?” If you like what you’ve heard and want more information, please contact Josh Patrick at 802‑846‑1264 ext 2, or visit us on our website at www.askjoshpatrick.com, or you can send Josh an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening. We hope to see you at The Sustainable Business in the near future.