Guest: Brian Meert
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to one more episode of the agile entrepreneurial video cast and podcast. And today I'm really excited to introduce a gentleman who is a CEO and founder of www. AdvertiseMint.com and it's a clever play of the word advertisement. So he took the E out and they put an AdvertiseMint. So the cleverness and then the creativity is, as you can see, it's coming right with starting with the name itself. And his name is Brian Meert and I happen to run into him in Los Angeles. And this gentleman, so Brian, welcome. So I’ll introduce you in a much more personal way in a second.
Brian: Oh, I love it. Thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm excited to be here. I'm excited to talk about business and marketing today.
Ramesh: Great. So Brian is the founder of AdvertiseMint. and AdvertiseMint. is an advertising agency for digital media, right? So they focus extensively on Facebook, but of course they also have other platforms and Amazon tik tok you know, Pinterest and all of them of course, which is really, really hot right now. So, and then secondly, I found out that Brian comes from the same town that where I live in Sacramento. Fantastic. Yes. Yes. Okay, so tell us a little bit about your company AdvertiseMint.,
Brian: Man. So, I mean, we're an advertising agency. We specialize in digital. We worked a lot with Facebook advertising is what we're really known for. A lot of people come to approach us because of that. And we're very robust. But we work with other platforms like tik tok, which is really hot right now. YouTube ads, Google ads, Facebook ads, or Amazon ads. So there's a lot of other platforms that we work within. Basically, you know, companies that need help either they're growing and they're like, we need someone to help us in this area. Or we've worked with big teams like Viacom that have 20 people in their marketing department, and they're like, we need an expert to handle this one aspect for certain events or shows. So we need you guys to take care of it. So, you know, we work with a range of different clients, but basically, we're helping businesses grow every single day.
Ramesh: Okay. So is it fair to say that your focus is much more on the paid advertisement space or do you also in the broad social media presence, you look at the entire picture for the companies, Hey, you know, what do you need to do from a social media presence and then advertisement is one piece of it.
Brian: Oh, it's great. It's a great question. We work a lot on the paid side. So, you know, companies come, goes with ad dollars and they're like, we need to have this objective met, you know, a certain number of people come to an event, certain number of sales and we work with them and say, here are the best platforms and outlets to be able to reach your goals. So we very much work on that. We have partners that we work with on the social side. But there's so much changing within the ecosystem of just digital ads. It keeps us very busy with just that.
Ramesh: Okay, fantastic. So then, how did you get into this space? And actually first let me start, when did you start your company?
Brian: Man this was about 2013, 2014 when Facebook launched ads manager. I'd been a digital marketing manager and I was a vice president of a financial company overseeing all their digital media spends. When Facebook's ad platform came out when they launched ad manager. And you know, back then it was very quiet. No one was really paying attention to it. And I was managing millions of dollars a month for this company. And so we, I just like, Oh, let's try this out. And once I started to see the targeting capabilities that they had, the results that we were getting in terms of cost per click or reaching new people, you know back in the early days, we could just target any competitor, any fan page and go right after your direct competitors and show your ads only to them. So it was like shooting fish in a barrel. It was incredible. And it was kind of a wild, wild West day. But I saw how much potential there was and I actually, you know, ended up talking to the boss, telling him I wanted to start a company that specialized in this and they became my first client. So that was how I was able to make the transition from an employee to a business owner.
Ramesh: Oh, okay. So yours is an interesting story. So you've been working somewhere, but you talked to your manager saying that I'm going to go and start this company and so this is a particular thing that you guys are not doing, but I can do this for you and then they became your customer, is that what it is?
Brian: And very much so. I mean, so to some extent I was overseeing and managing all their ad span and I said, I think this area is going to be really, really big. I want to make sure that you're taking care of and that nothing falls through. But I want to go after this area. You know, if you're my first client you know, I’ll lock in a good deal with you, I will make sure you're taking care of, this is what I want to do. I want to make sure there's enough time that you have the ability to hire someone else. I can help with that process. You know, I didn't want to create any headaches for my boss. Which I always say is good advice for anyone out there. And you know, ultimately you know, the CEO of the company came back and he was like, I'm fine with this. Thank you for being upfront. We would love to continue work with them and we still work with them today. You know, six years later.
Ramesh: This is a very creative way of starting a business Brian. Actually it's good angle that he brought in. Because many times people are worried about what if I start a side business, would it conflict with what I'm working for? But what you said is very collaborative fashion, there is an angle that the company is not addressing, but you said, Hey, you know, I can address it and then, but I would like to be an entrepreneur and then you be my customer.
Brian: Yeah. Yeah. Very much so. I mean, and it was, I’ll be honest, when I went in for that conversation, I was still nervous. Because you know, you're, it's like swinging from vines and your kind of letting go of one vine before you have the next vine in your hand. So it takes a little bit of courage to do. The worst that he could have said is no. You know, in that scenario he's got an employee that is looking for another option. But I think when I approached it, I was just like, here is how I'm going to take care of you and create, as you know, less headaches for your world. Meaning ultimately, this can be good for you because I'm focusing on
this one area and I can do it just for you starting out. And that was it. I mean, when I started the company, it was just me. And now we've got 40, 50 employees. So it's growing quite a bit. But it was, I mean, that was it. That was the first kind of step for me being able to branch out, start on my own and be able to get, you know, revenue for the business. That was my first customer.
Ramesh: Excellent. So then how was the first year? Then you got your first customer. So it's a less risky way of starting a business then how did the first year go?
Brian: So the first year was good. I mean, I think within a couple of months, the business actually went through a downturn. The one that was my client and they had to pull back their budgets and their spend. So, you know, I was expecting this much to be able to make it through the mud and all of a sudden that number dropped to that. So, you know, it got me moving and I was hustling to try to find a second client, a third client, a fourth client. And I think once I had that first little bit of revenue, that was enough that allowed me to begin to grow in certain areas, hire people part-time to help. And from there it was just, you know, it wasn't a huge blast of a curve where, you know, I'm trying to hire a hundred people, you know, a day as we accelerate. It was, you know, slow and steady in every job we did. And a client who was happy meant we could hire someone else and get another client and keep accelerating. And that was really it. It was very much steppingstones. You know, I have a lot of friends, they will be like, Whoa, look at what you built. And I'm like, it was slow and steady, you know, I wish it was, you know, this huge expansion or like a mega company, but it really was just step by step by step.
Ramesh: You don't want some time you know that hyperbolic growth because he can't, I mean many companies that just died you know, managed that kind of significant growth.
Brian: For sure. Yeah, it's very, very hard to sustain. Very hard. I mean, it's like being strapped to a rocket and steering it while you're building at the same time.
Ramesh: Okay. So Brian you mentioned about your hustling a lot to get these customers. What are the different sales strategies and marketing strategies that you used to get your second customer and third customer
Brian: You know, a couple things. I mean, even with the first customer you know, I always focus from the very beginning on performance. Doing the absolute, providing the absolute best quality that I could for our service. And from the front, when I had one customer, he came back a couple of weeks later and said, I’ve got a friend I want you to talk with. And that's how I got my second customer. It was a referral. And I would say, you know, even to this day probably, you know, 15, 20% of our business comes from referrals are people that are like, we've worked with you, you've made us money. We like what you do. We have friends. And so as always, probably my best tip of advice is just do good work. You know, if you are providing something quality and you are exceeding their expectations, that will happen naturally. Some of the other things I did to kind of help grow is, you know, be very lean. You know, I wasn't all about extravagant expenses, or trying to show everyone that I was doing great. I tried to, you know, cut expenses and keep things lean and that allowed me to hire more people to be able to help or invest in things that I knew were very, very critical. Not just a nice to have, but I would do it only if it's strategically would help the company grow. I did a lot of speaking events at the time I would work on teaching other people. And that allowed me to kind of practice getting in front of people and having them ask me any question they wanted. So I'd always be on my toes and had to figure out the answers. And then, yeah, I mean that was it. I mean, I did a lot with content. You know, one of my first hires was a blogger. And I think this is going to be big. We need to start putting out content about what's out there. And we have one of the top blogs on Facebook advertising out there today. Because we've been doing it for six years. Just putting out consistent content in relation to our industry day after day after day.
Ramesh: Okay. Excellent. So, Brian while talking to you, a couple of things came to my mind as well when I met you in LA is that you seem an entrepreneurial kind of a guy, you know, even before you started your company, you told me a story
about in college while you're doing a MBA, you did, you know, you're experimenting with Google AdWords and things like that. So can you talk a little bit about prior to your entrepreneurial journey, things that you've been doing that kind of got you into entrepreneurial journey.
Brian: Sure. My undergraduate was to be a teacher and I had a friend who was like, I'm going to do my MBA as well because I think that'll help me be more marketable as an employee. And I was like, Oh, this sounds like a good idea. So I signed up to do that as well. And the Dean at this school, it was all about entrepreneurship and he was like, you need to try to start a business. And I didn't think I had a good idea at all, but he was like, go try. And so we ended up starting a company that was about goal setting and had a product that helped people set their goals. And so what happens is we built a website, we made a really cool logo, we put it online, zero people came. Now what? Like we told our mom and dad and all of our family, and like the next day we checked and there was like six visits, like our parents had visited the site and that was it. And so we realized, man, if we don't get people to come to this, it's going to be a problem. And I was kind of a marketing guy on the team with two other guys that I started with. And so I started to figure out how do I do this? And so I went and found, you know, Google ad words. Cause I didn't have money for TV or radio or newspapers, which were expensive cause I was in college. So I went down Google AdWords and started to run ads only for the very specific terms that I wanted to reach. Like how to set goals or goal setting tools or things like that. So there was probably only 20 keywords that I was doing, and I would use my cafeteria money. So every, you know, month they would give us, you know, a certain amount of money that we could use for buying food on the campus. And I traded mine away to get cash and eventually went and put that into AdWords. So there were days where I was like, yeah, doubled the money. And there were days that we had zero sales and I was like, oh man, I'm not going to eat for the rest of the month if I don't figure this out. So, you know, when I first started with advertising, it was my own money and it boiled down to food. So I’ve always kind of kept that same approach for advertising, it's very serious. I mean, this is money and it's got to work. If it doesn't, there are consequences. But I think it also shows how people can start a business with very little. I mean, I always, when I first started spending 10 to 40 bucks a day but I was only spending it on exactly who I wanted to reach and then I was watching the numbers and trying to optimize that and slowly it grew to
where I could spend more as the business grew. But that's really how I got my start.
Ramesh: Yeah. Actually Brian you bring up a really, really good point because for entrepreneurs there are two things. One is, well just launching the business, right? And people take time and figuring out the perfect everything and then you don't need to do the second, the second thing is, you know, how do you get customers, right? So what you mentioned is a paid advertising even though it seems overwhelming, but that is probably the fastest way to get your initial customers. You agree?
Brian: Oh, for sure. I mean, I think, and to some extent too, man, this is going to date me for sure, but when I was running those ads, this was before YouTube this was before Facebook live or Instagram live or any of those platforms. So I mean there's been a lot more, there's a lot more options now, a lot of times can be free to be able to reach a lot of people very inexpensively or you can be creative and be able to reach people. But back then it was, you know, the quickest way if you want to do it and have it work is with paid ads. You know, some of those other ones are exploring with social media or you're trying to make some noise. But with paid ads you're able to put money down and it's guaranteed that it will reach X number of people. And if you do it, it can really work.
Ramesh: Yeah, exactly. So actually now you piqued my interest one more time. Without giving your secrets away. You mentioned freeways of reaching, you know, audience and you know, getting a reach. So can you talk about some of the inexpensive or freeways that people who are listening and watching the show can think of to attract more prospects?
15:37 Brian: I think in terms of any business, right, there are things that people want to know about it. It doesn't matter what your business is. There are questions that people will ask you as they're going through the process of deciding if they want to use your product or service. You know, if you're talking with people, you'll hear them. What I would say is write those down. And what happens is you can use
tools like Google trends to be able to see which keywords are or which phrases are searched more often. And based on that, I would rank them in order and now I would generally, I would advise, start creating videos and uploading them on YouTube where you talk about those specific topics. Because what happens is when people start to look for that or search for it, a lot of times they can come across your video. They can start to learn about that topic. And then you have the ability to say, look, we do this. Give them some answers, give them some, you know, some valuable content, but then also say if you need help and you're too busy to do this on your own or you want to buy this, just come here. And that's really what people are looking for, a lot of times are shortcuts or things that can help their lives be easier. And that's why they buy products or services because they're like, I need help with this, and I need it to happen soon. So I think that's probably right now one of the top ones. The other one is just watching hashtags. You know, people can be, are talking anywhere on planet earth right now about the topic that your business is involved in. And if you're not paying attention to that, I think there's a lot of opportunity there to just monitor hashtags on some of the major social media sites and jump in the conversation. Another one that I’ve gotten a lot of business from is Quora. So Quora is a lot of question and answer type scenarios. And when someone asks, I call it a softball question, like a question, like, you know, why should someone hire a digital advertising agency when they write a question like that, which I know a lot of people are asking, I’ll write a very, very good response and be like, look, here's the options. You know, you can do it this way, but here's a problem. You can do it option B, but there's also a problem and I’ll write a long answer. What happens is people will get, they'll get, they'll see it and they'll upvote it, which means you have the ability to go up a lot higher on the list. So there may be a hundred responses, but if you write a really good one, it will be higher than everyone else's.
Ramesh: Right. So Brian looks like we lost your video and we got it back. No worries.
Brian: I am sorry, I had a call come through.
Ramesh: No, no worries. Hey, this is good. So now you become so content Brian, you wrote a book on Facebook advertising. So thank you for the copy that you gave me, I'm very fascinated, man. That book is very exhaustive. And then you keep upgrading that to every year, 2019 and then to 2020. So how did you, why did you think of writing a book?
Brian: Yeah, I talk with 10 to 15 business owners every single day about it. And I just found myself answering a lot of the same questions. And I was like, man, I should just put this in a book. Because as I would explain some of the options in terms of what is changed, in terms of the landscape, they would be like, man, I had no idea. Like their eyes would get big. And they're like, how come no one's told me this before? And I was like, man, I'm telling you right now, because you know, we know it, we're right on the forefront. But I was like, yeah, I really want to be able to share this. So that's where it started from. And what happened was, you know, Facebook's changes so rapidly that we found we needed to update the book very frequently to be able to keep you know, updated with it. And it probably was a horrible idea because every year we're like, Oh, we'll just need to update a couple of things. But we end up rewriting probably 70% to 80% of the book because so much has changed. The upside is, it allows us to make it a little bit better every year. You know, the book is called the complete guide to Facebook advertising. You can find it on Amazon. You know, it's been good this year because we've only gotten five-star reviews back from the book. People are reading it and they're like, this is, we've read all the books on Facebook ads and this is the best book because it breaks down every tool and every feature very simply where you can understand how to use it, how to, you know, benefit from it, how it can work for your business. So it's good. Like it's getting better every year. But it is a crazy process.
Ramesh: I saw some of the reviews, people just instead of writing one sentence, yeah, this is good. They are writing, really good reviews. And I really liked it and then my review is going to go pretty soon. I love it. So yeah, the complete guide to Facebook advertising, I really recommend because Facebook is an enigma to me. I didn't get on Facebook until 2017 maybe kind of stuff. So I had a love hate relationship, but since then, Facebook is fascinating.
Brian: Yeah. I mean you know, really quickly, what's so cool about Facebook advertising is advertising in the past has always been about just getting something in front of an eyeball. But for Facebook, they don't care about getting in front of an eyeball. They care about that their users don't leave. You know, they saw my space, which used to be big and poof, gone. That's the one thing that we don't want. So when it comes to advertising, they don't treat all the advertisers the same. They want advertisers that are making ads that Facebook or Instagram users find cool. And they're like, Oh, that was funny or that made me laugh or that was interesting. And when you do good ads, they reward you with low cost. And if you do bad ads or boring ads, they just charge you double, triple 10 X what the cost should be to try to get you out.
Ramesh: That is very interesting actually. That's a one I learned in the book as well, by the way, that based on, the time of the day and the concept of the quality of the ad itself dictates, you know, how much you get charged.
Brian: Yeah. It's really fascinating. So the rules have changed in terms of advertising and a lot of people approach Facebook like the old way of advertising and it's horrible. They just end up overpaying by a lot and they don't realize it. So it goes to Mark Zuckerberg retirement account and I'm sure he's happy about it.
Ramesh: That's cool. Hey Brian, in the last segment I want to know a little bit more about you. What kind of things drive you and then you build a 40, 50 people company, so the kind of people that you want to hang around with? A little bit about Brian Meert. Who is he?
22:31 Brian: Oh man. So I mean, when I'm not doing Facebook ads, I love wakeboarding. I used to, you know, wakeboard on the Lake out in Folsom. Where you live now. I mean, I loved it. I don't get to do it a lot cause there's not a lot of lakes in Los Angeles, but anytime, and I'm Orlando, I swing by the wakeboard center and ride with the cables. I love hiking. I'm always out trying to hike around in mountains going for different
that. I'm always, always trying to explore. I love traveling. I lived in Fiji for a year. I lived in Greece for a summer. I've been to all 50 States and I don’t know, probably 30, 40 countries. That I'm always, always out trying to explore. And see the world. So those are some of the things that I'm up to. I love CrossFit and working out when I can. So I'm always at the gym trying to lift weights or do a new type of workout.
Ramesh: Wow. Multifaceted Brian Meert. So Brian, what do you want to tell them? And it looks like your journey is a bit, it's seems almost like a smooth ride. You didn't seem to have too many issues ups and downs, but yeah so share what you want other people to know based on your experience and what you've seen.
Brian: Oh man. I'll be honest and I’ll break it down with you, it hasn't been a smooth journey. You know, I have a bunch of friends that they'll look at me and say, man, like, look at where you went. Like, that's incredible. But to some extent, you know, I had a business I built and sold in entertainment and I came off of that thinking I'm invincible and the next business I put everything into it and it crashed and burned all the way down to, you know, negative. I believed in myself, but the business just wasn't a viable business. You know, there were some red flags that I chose to ignore because I was invincible. And to some extent, you know, I learned a lot by building a successful business. I learned probably twice as much by running a business that failed. And there were so many things that I was like, man, I will never make that mistake again.
Ramesh: Like things that you will never make the mistakes again. Things that on top of your mind.
Brian: Yeah. You know, I think one of them is, you know, just looking at the warning flags you know, when there's a problem, you've got to address it. You can't be like, that's not really a big issue. We'll figure it out down the road. You know, when there's a problem, there's a problem. And for one of us or for the business, one of the problems was cashflow. And that would be probably one of my biggest pieces of advice that, you know, a lot of times people get excited by
the startups of like Facebook, you don't need to make any money, but if it becomes big and huge and you'll figure out money down the road. You know, that's very much you know, a rarity. It's a unicorn. Most other businesses need money to grow. And you have got to figure out where the revenue is going to come from as quickly as possible and make sure that that is in line. It's the health of your business. So, you know, some people go get funding and I know that's cool and you know, you're able to accelerate and grow and there are times that that is the right thing to do. But I think for, you know, if you're in Silicon Valley, that's, you know, what most people do. But I think, you know, across the world and other places generally you've got, whether you take money or not, you've got to figure out where your revenue is coming from because that is what will be the fuel that I hope you keep going and growing your business.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Brian. Hey, I didn't realize the ups and downs with a guy you seem to be very positive that things are all good. But you know, those are the things that teach us a lot. You know, the inner self, you know, who we are and what we should focus. So in this new incarnation, I wish you all the best Brian. And you seem to be in a red-hot area, which respect to of course Los Angeles, forget about that one. But even the Facebook advertising that's really taking, you know, the storm here.
Brian: I love it. Yeah, I know, It's, we've been blessed to be able to work in a great industry. It keeps growing. It always surprises me every day that how much more seems to be going into the world of Facebook advertising. And there's new things coming out all the time, which I just find incredibly exciting. You know, Amazon ads, Tik Tok ads. There's a bunch of new areas that are developing across the board that a lot of people have no idea what goes into them or how powerful these tools are to be able to help grow their business.
Ramesh: So, fantastic. Hey, it's a great interview. So Brian, thank you. I'm glad I connected with you, so I’ll be in touch with you.
Brian: Sounds great