Focus On Your Customer
The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Focus On Your CustomerFocus on your customer. A lot of start up business owners my self included like to think about your product and/or service. That is probably the part of your business that you are most passionate about. In my view, the way that you actually make a business succeed is start with your customer. Who are you going to sell to? What are you going to sell? Why would they care? If you can get those first few customers and actually make a sale then you are on your way. Try and resist focusing on your product and service in advance of having any customers.
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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ocus on your customer a lot of startup business owners you know myself included i think you like to think about your product you like to think about your service that's probably the the part of your business that you're most passionate about but in my view the way that you actually make a business succeed is start with your customer who who are you going to sell to what are you going to sell and actually why why would they care and if you can get those first few customers actually make a sale get someone to actually give you money for your product and service then you know you're on the way try and resist focusing on your product and service in advance of having any customers [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i am your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has grown several businesses into seven and eight figure companies as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we've got another great guest on the podcast name is elliott king and elliot is the ceo and co-founder of a pr and marketing firm mint twist um kind of telling you just a quick summary of his journey so elliot really started his journey when he was about eight years old had a personal computer at eight years old taught himself to code and more specifically to make games and then from stairs from there kind of stayed interested in computers throughout his life was able to be doing a good job as a programmer worked in silicon valley for a period of time went through the middle of the dot-com boom and the dot-com bust and then um went through and found that um companies weren't actually um a lot of companies weren't generating revenue as much during that period of time so you started i think building websites figuring out seo and then from there kind of evolved and pivoted a bit more to the marketing pr firm that you're at today so that much is a introduction and a quick summary welcome to the podcast elia thanks stevens it's great to be here so i gave maybe a very quick introduction or a little bit of an info but why don't you uh why don't you back up and tell us a little bit more about your journey yeah so you quite rightly said my journey started when i was when i was a child i was sort of eight years old i was born in the 70s i was a child of the 80s and one christmas i think it was about 1984 i got a first generation personal computer obviously it was such thing as the internet then so that personal computer shipped with um you know i think one or two games i think it was ping pong and tank destroyer so these were really really basic um you know almost single pixel games really and once you get bored of playing those two games you kind of as an eight-year-old child you reluctantly pick up the manual to see what else there is to do with the computer and that's how i discovered programming because there were these listings in the manual the program your own game so that was my first taste of programming so you did the you did the programming for a period of time you want me to do you want me to keep go ahead no so maybe jumping in just like that i was gonna as an eight-year-old you know first of all kudos because first of all even today's day and age which i think programming is gotta considerably a bit easier than what it was likely when you started out and i said i went i took computer programming while i was in um college and i remember we had to go through you know we went to binary and then we went through i don't know a few more iterations got to see c plus plus and your job and all those and it was you know a college level course so first of all kudos to you for any really even figuring out programming at all to make anything work whatsoever but you know so then you said you state you did computer programming for a period of time and then you stayed in interest so how did that starting in eight years old then trickle over to what you did in high school college and then into your business yeah so i i stayed interested in programming as a child primarily through wanting to program games for myself and you know thanks for for saying it was difficult i have to say in some ways computers were possibly more more accessible when they first came out because there was no such thing as windows everything was a command line so the concept of typing things into a computer and typing command structures wasn't quite as possibly as complex as it might seem today but that's an aside i i stayed interested in computers and ended up taking a computer science degree at university in the in the uk in a city called leeds and after graduating i graduated into a world where there was an extreme shortage of computer programmers now i know that's to some extent true today but it was particularly true in that time for a number of reasons not least because we were just coming up to the year 2000 and there was this worldwide belief that there was a big problem with the way that computers were had been programmed in the switch from moving to 1999 to the year 2000 so that 99 on the end versus the two zeros and there was a lot of computer software that was driving lots of large systems for lots of large companies all over the world they needed to be adapted so that it wouldn't fail once we had to this dates change so that essentially created a huge number of job opportunities for people like myself anyone who had graduated as a computer science or who had any experience frankly in computer science found it quite easy to get a job in in a large number of place places all around the world so my passion had always been computers but my twin passion was traveling so after working for a few years in london i took the opportunity to travel with my job and i and i took the opportunity to take jobs in places like across europe so i went to denmark i worked in netherlands i worked in switzerland and in 1999 i was lucky enough to get a job in in silicon valley in the united states and for me as a relatively young program and this was a really exciting opportunity to learn a whole bunch of new skills at least you'll you'll say you're lucky until the dot com boom or until the dot-com bus but so you said hey you know and i think when we talked a little about the show you know working it was always kind of a dream to come to the u.s to work silicon valley has kind of always been that hub of technology hub of information especially for the tech industry in the software industry and then how was it to get here work out you know for a year or two or whatnot and then have the dot com or boom bus and what was that like to kind of go through that and have hey this was always my dream now i've got to figure out what to do next yeah i mean look it was it was an up and down ride that's for sure but the exciting thing for me was that i was at the time i was a programmer that had limited understanding of websites i was used to programming databases and things like that so the experience at silicon valley gave me that first taste of websites and web technology and digital technology internet based technology you know when i was at google um when i was in silicon valley at 19 1999 google was like an eight person company so it was like really a blip on the radar and so there were all these sorts of companies that were up and coming and although yes the dot-com uh bust you know was was was a you know it was really sad for a lot of companies loads of startup companies went under i firmly believe that it was it created that fertile ground that allowed companies like google and facebook you know and many others to sort of become the successes that they are today so i would say i i got that taste of web technology and the power of the internet and that really drove the second half of my career i like that and i think that there's an interesting you know is what's interesting you know because you kind of hit on it of you know what that bursting of the bubble you know allowed some of the companies that are more sustainable to actually come to right in the sense that almost to your point i think the dot-com boom was built you know a little bit of a house of cards you had a whole bunch of companies that were you know you know making very sharp or you know shabby websites they had a little more than a you know napkin business plan and they never really executed much on it but hey if they can throw up a website and give a cool sales pitch they got a whole bunch of money in and hence why it's set up to go to a bus but you know for the companies that were able to come out of that and say okay that doesn't work that's not sustainable now how do we make this sustainable i think to your point you know the amazons and the ebays and the googles that kind of came out from that you think that's where a lot of them kind of came out during that period of time they made it through it made it for a much stronger company so now you take you work for them so dot com burst you know the dot com bubble burst so where did you go from there kind of how did you take that next uh space of your you know your journey to continue to grow so after after the dot-com bubble burst i left the united states and went back to to the uk into europe and started to focus my career on on getting jobs in internet technology so this was this was developing websites effectually or web based technology and the big experience along with getting that taste of web technologies that i took away from silicon valley was and you touched it devon there were a lot of the companies that failed were ones that put up a website and the assumption was if we build the website the the visitors to that website would just come would just arrive which absolutely wasn't the case because there wasn't the problem that a lot of companies had at that time was you could build a website and it could be a brilliant website but you just you had very limited number of ways where you could drive visitors to that website with email marketing but remember there was no such thing as even google ads wasn't around at that time let alone any of the social media advertising capabilities so the missing link for me was was the digital marketing capability that would allow websites or website owners to drive traffic to their websites so that they can monetize them so as well as focusing on web technology i started to look very very closely at digital marketing strategy tools and tactics and after a few years of working in various jobs i teamed up with a with a school friend of mine to start our very own digital marketing agency that would enable customers to look to achieve both sides of of the both steps that they would need to take in order to get success with their websites and on the internet so step one would be to design and build the website but crucially step two would we would have solutions to allow them to drive relevant visitors to that site so they could effectively monetize what they've built so one question on that because nowadays you know most you you've got a few buzzwords there you know and some of them have about you know meaning behind them you know you got google ads you've got facebook ads or you know social media ads you've got seo and that generally seems like that encapsulates most of the ways that people think about digital marketing there probably are other good ways but those are certainly kind of the buzzwords in the industry but when you were starting out before you had google ads facebook ads social media ads and you know maybe you had some seo back then how did you really you know i'm just more curious from my point how did you really start to leverage or you know how did you start to drive traffic on the internet because to be fair i was probably you know that time high school going into college so it wasn't even on my radar so i'm just curious how you kind of made that or made those initial entrances into the marketplace yeah so in so we started our agency in in 2007 and in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 once you've built the website the primary tactics that you had to use to drive traffic to those sites were was email marketing you know an seo so seo it was it was it was early days for seo but anyone who who sort of followed the rules of seo or took the steps to make a website seo friendly found success very very quickly and to a very large extent the main reason for that is because it was so early on and there was a relative lack of understanding around seo anyone who did understand it was was at an immediate advantage so and we were lucky enough from a uk perspective we were one of the first agencies in the uk and probably across europe to really get a handle of seo so in those early days we were delivering quite outstanding results for even smaller medium-sized clients who were really dominating search engines for relevant phrases in the uk so so now take me through so you get the early results you think you think you've cracked the nut you figured it out you're getting great results for people you know smaller or medium-sized companies are able to compete drive lots of traffic and then you almost have two things come out right one is you have social media come out which changed the landscape a bit and then you also had google and change their algorithm so you know from my limited understanding it used to be a lot of it was hey we'd have a lot of backlinks we'd have a lot of showing that we had authority by backlinking or having links to other websites that pointed back to our website and then you could kind of crack that nut and then you had google that came along so well we don't think that works anymore we're going to just basically change the whole landscape and do something else it makes it a lot more difficult to figure out so as that all all that landscape change how did you adapt or how you know how did you make those adjustments or say okay what we thought we knew what we thought we figured out no longer is is as relevant as it used to be yeah look it's a really good question devin so obviously i it as a relatively small and growing uh digital agency just marketing engine had a huge impact on us it had an impact in two ways firstly i had an impact on the finances of our own business because we had essentially built a retainer-based digital marketing model based around seo and and clients were very happy to pay that money because we were developing amazing results for them and obviously once google changed their rules the the our ability to develop to deliver the results that we had been delivering you know was was impacted in some cases quite seriously impacted so we had the impact on our actual business we were employing people we had yeah salary costs that we had to meet so that was really painful but then we also had we also knew that in order to make our business viable for the future we had to reorganize ourselves reorganize our service our products to make sure that they were relevant and that would actually you know add value to the market so the the short answer to your question it was really really painful and it took us about 18 months of re-engineering our service and focusing as you touched on it became a more holistic approach to digital marketers so it still incorporated seo but incorporated a lot more content and crucially it made use of the social of the emerging social media channels so we were syndicating content across social media channels and building connections using those networks and then later on after that we added the the actual google adwords to the mix so it became it became a fuller service a more rounded marketing service and in the long run eventually a more valuable and certainly sustainable service for for our clients and therefore for ourselves so one or one kind of maybe follow-up question to that is how did you how how did you recognize that the landscape would change in an indian you know and decide to make those pivots right in the sense that you know if you have a model that works you tend to want to keep with that model because you know it works and it will drive income so you know when you have these things that are starting to shift whether it's google ads that come out facebook ads that come out social media you have google changes algorithm how did you start to identify hey if we don't it's either adapter diet if we don't adapt we're going to slowly die in the depth of a thousand cuts because we're going to start being not as efficient we're not going to get as good of results and consumers are going to come and go elsewhere because you have you see in the industry you know some companies adapt well and they continue in the forefront and you also have like the codex that nobody ever even has a kodak camera hardly anymore and it's not because kodak wasn't a big company didn't have a lot of money at one point in marketing presence it's that they didn't adapt when they could have so how did you recognize or make those adjustments or decide to make those pivots yeah again it's a really good question i think it's it's sort of two answers to that question so to certain extent is reactive so we because we use a lot of tools that we could see the sorts of traffic that was going to our sites we were we were noticing this this downward pressure in terms of our ability to generate results but at the same time we also had this proactive outlook so in terms of like you know our business our business planning i would like to think we've always been relatively proactive we've updated our our sort of two-year plan and our five-year plan and as part of that work we paid a lot of attention to what google was saying google to be fair to them have always been quite fair and open about the direction of travel in which they want to take their search algorithm so by by following what google was saying by following the key constituents within google we were able to see where we needed to go in order to correctly position our services for our clients so i would say is a mixture of reacting to to you know the changing data that we're seeing in front of our eyes but also delivering on a sort of proactive plan around where we needed to evolve our own products and services okay no makes good sense so now we fast forward to today and you guys are you know i figured out how to adjust how to pivot how to make those you know adjustments in order to continue to be successful not that it's not pain and that you know it is and i think that's one thing that oftentimes gets overlooked is you know you always get kind of the highlight reels of business you always get to hear yeah we figured it out and it was hard but no it really it can be hard it can be difficult when you're looking at we have to lay people off or we're losing customers and we're having to figure things out and we don't know and it's uncertain but you made it through all of that and you're saying okay we we've you know we made our pivots and adjustments and you it brings you to where you're at today so where do you guys kind of where are you at today and kind of where do you see the next six to 12 months going for you yeah look it it's a great question so where we where we've got today is we've carried on growing our agency in terms of you know number of people working with us size of clients revenue we we're focused on growing our agency but we're very very conscious that it's not just about growth it's about sustainability so where we see the broader marketing and advertising industry going is that there is going to be a huge focus on digital as there already is and that focus is likely to continue to grow for a few years yet but we're a piece of as far as looking for some uh for the functions for their in do you need those activities clients potential clients into actual clients and retain clients and create awareness but we're very very aware that we need to connect with agencies like pr agencies like communications agencies like branding agencies those a big part in vaping and the sales funds and organizations need today so we're actively trying to connect ourselves with other relevant agencies that we have that we believe have complementary services so that we can able as we possibly can to our clients because ultimately particularly if you're an agency so focused on providing value value value and so alongside a growth objective we're we're looking for companies that we can park we can services for clients no and i think that makes you know perfect sense you're saying hey you know what two things i think that are interesting and one is i think that it's cutting it's getting a bit more niche down in the sense that you know before you could be a digital marketing agency or even just a marketing agency and you can be everything to everybody now it seems like you almost have to start to specialize a bit of my more on the social media side am i more on the seo side am i more on the google adwords side am i more on the you know x y and z side and then even within industries he knows before is kind of hey you know how do i do it with the within legal industry or the you know the finance industry or the consumer goods industry and it just seems like the expansive the amount of different things you need to coverage is continuing to grow and so you either have to grow your business and make it all the bigger or to your point you have to start partnering and let's say okay how do we expand our services how do we hit these different areas if we can't do it all of ourselves how do we partner up so i think that makes complete sense well as we get towards the end of the podcast and i always have two questions that i asked at the end of each episode so maybe we'll jump to those now so first question i always ask is so what was the worst business you decision he ever made and what did you learn from it well i do mistakes across business i don't think anyone who's been in business has not made mistakes but one of the worst that we've made was [Music] these markets deal of success working with clients across europe and and in north america as well but very early on in our in our phase of developing our business out out to dubai primarily because there is a to and we felt that we could tag on to the back over in a local office setting up a investing you know hard cash to try and grow didn't realize let's take strategy from a country like the uk and pick it up in in any other country frankly but especially ones quite culturally what we found was we lost a lot of money time lost a lot of focus and it had a massive impact not just in in our local business but in in the business back home now after we we sort of got through that experience we learned that when we do go into foreign markets and international expansion you know was is and always will be a major focus of what we're trying to do but when we do go into a new market we will do our research or that we understand the local customer you know the local usps that we need to be able to compete the pricing strategy the local delivering strategy essentially you have to make a new mini business strategy to go and target a new market and i would say that was a big mistake that we made but it was also a great lesson that's stood us in good stead since no i think that's and that's i think one that if you don't understand your market and that can be everything from you don't understand the local culture the location the people the business or it can be as much as you don't understand the industry it says oh i can do everything everybody and i think that the same you know the same rule applies is you really do have to understand who you're you know who your market is who the people are and then understand how the how you need to adapt and specialize your message if it's a different country it may be different cultural things it may be different language things it may be different you know tastes and maybe different ways that people market and everything else and i think to your point if you figure that out you adapt it you can be much more successful if you if you kind of lag behind and you don't figure it out then you're going to forever not reach or attain the success because it's not going to work nearly as well so perfect second question i always ask you so if you're talking to someone that's now just getting into startups just getting into small businesses what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them like if i'm talking to any startup what i would say is focus on your customer a lot of startup business owners you know myself included i think you like to think about your product you like to think about your service that's probably the the part of your business that you're most passionate about but in my view the way that you actually make a business succeed is start with your customer who who are you going to sell to what are you going to sell and actually why why would they care and if you can get those first few customers actually make a sale get someone to actually give you money for your product and service then you know you're on the way try and resist focusing on your product and service in advance of having any customers at all so that would that would be my number one takeaway no i think that's great and i think that one thing i'd add to that is when you're getting your first customers the traffic you always fall into is you go sell to friends and family they always are either one too nice to give you honest feedback and two they'll support you not because they think it's a great business or a great product but because they want they don't want you to build and you know they love and care about you so find customers that aren't just friends and family but find your real customers in your client base talk with them get that feedback and also go out and start selling to them was people want is people want to reach out to you they want to connect up you they want to use your hr or marketing and pr firm they want to be an employee they want to pick your brain they want to be your friend any of all of the above what's the best way to connect with you so on the social media channels i hang out on linkedin my name's elliott king it's two l's and two t's and you can definitely connect with me there please feel free to ask me any question there i'm also on twitter for the agency you can find us at mintstwist.com all right well i encourage everybody to check you out both on social media as well as check out your website use your services get to know you more and appreciate you coming on the podcast now for all of you that are listeners if you uh would like to come on and tell your journey to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com apply to be on the show and we always love to have you as a guest to hear your journey if you're a listener make sure to click subscribe so you can hear all the new episodes as they come out and lastly if you are a startup or small business and it helps with our help with paths and trademarks feel free to reach out to us at miller ip law we're always here to help well thank you again elliot it's been fun it's been a pleasure and it's been uh great to hear your journey and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks so much darling it's been a great pleasure to be here with you you English (auto-generated) All Sales Recently uploaded