Brandon Rollins is the Founder & CEO of Pangea Marketing Agency in Chattanooga, TN. His passion is helping small business owners and creatives share their ideas with the world using the latest technology. That means writing blog posts, making videos, running ads, setting up websites, and much more - all to help folks get their work seen by as many interested people as possible.
We're a digital marketing agency for small and medium sized businesses.
In this episode
Brandon Rollins, founder of the Pangea Marketing Agency, is adamant that marketing is there to generate revenue and not masquerade as a cost of doing business. You've got to measure your metrics and critically evaluate marketing efforts that aren't generating a sufficiently high Return On Investment. Brandon likes using the cost of client conversion as his go to metric. He recommends at least a 5 to 1 return if not more on any marketing initiative. Brandon lays out a 5 step program to implement a successful marketing program. Listen to the end to find out the details of a valuable gift he's offering our listeners.
A glimpse of what you'll hear
02:06 Why you can't look at marketing as a cost of doing business
04:14 How you need to think about marketing to be sure you get a return on your spend
06:51 Cost per conversion is a key metric you should use in evaluating your marketing spend
08:03 Why you should take an objective look at the return on your marketing spend
11:32 5 steps to implement a successful marketing program
14:51 Learn about Brandon. Email Brandon at email@example.com.
Centricity Introduction 0:04
Welcome to the Best Kept Secret videocast and podcast from Centricity. If you're a B2B service professional, use our five step process to go from the grind of chasing every sale. to keeping your pipeline full with prospects knocking on your door to buy from you. We give you the freedom of time and a life outside of your business. Each episode features an executive from a B2B services company sharing their provocative perspective on an opportunity that many of their clients are missing out on. It's how we teach our clients to get executive decision makers to buy without being salesy or spammy. Here's our host, the co founder and CEO of Centricity, Jay kingley.
Jay Kingley 0:42
I'm Jay Kingley, the co-founder and CEO of Centricity. Welcome to another episode of our Best Kept Secret show, where I'm happy to welcome Brandon Rollins of the Pangea Marketing Agency. Pangea is a digital marketing agency for small and medium-sized businesses. Brandon is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, welcome to the show, Brandon,
Brandon Rollins 1:08
Thank you very much for having me on.
Jay Kingley 1:11
You know, Brandon, I work with a lot of small business owners when it comes to the revenue side of the house. And one of the things that have always amazed me and not necessarily in a good way, is how many of them see their marketing activities and spending as pure expense items. Like they're just throwing it up against the wall, hoping something generates a return. But all too often, they're just getting zero. So it's almost like I know, I'm supposed to spend on marketing. I'm spending a certain percentage of my revenues, but it's just an expense item, where you know, where the way I was raised in business, marketing is a revenue generating activity, not simply an element that reduces your profits. Brandon, what's been your experience working with small business owners?
Brandon Rollins 2:07
Well, the first thing I know, I know what you're talking about. I haven't seen that firsthand. But I have a lot of sympathy for how people get to that point. Because when you really get down to it, marketing is complicated. And it's vague, and it's hard to understand. And if you're not really sure what you're doing, it feels like you're spending a bunch of money, and you have no idea what you're going to get in return. That's pretty scary. Which is not ridiculous, either. Because it's about the easiest thing in the world to burn through money on things like Google ads, or Instagram influencers, if you're not really sure what to do. And so a lot of times people have these quite reasonable fears. That sounds something like I'm afraid of driving up costs, and not making any revenue in return. Or I'm afraid of wasting a bunch of labor hours on something that's not going to pay off. Or even, I'm afraid of casting my business in unfavorable light online or offline. And so naturally, when people have thoughts like that they this will lead to behaviors, such as just putting off marketing for a long time. Whenever I'm good at my job, I pull in clients, or try things but never commit to a singular coherent plan, or my personal favorite, which I also relate to very much just diving headfirst into work, because while it's what's making money anyway.
Jay Kingley 3:33
Brandon, I adamantly believe that spending money on marketing and getting no return from it is unacceptable. And if you're a business, and you're doing this, you have got to stop, right? You cannot run a business that's going to be successful, where you must do marketing, marketing is a critical activity, but you cannot do marketing and get no return. Right? Not viable. So let me ask you this. Right. I think you and I are on the same page that marketing has got to deliver the goods. So how should a business owner be thinking about their marketing in this context?
Brandon Rollins 4:21
Well, an executive or a decision-makers goal here is to pretty much figure out what your long-term goals are, yes, the goal is to figure out goals. And the more specific, the better. Because once you have a goal in mind, then you can, for example, say your goal is a clear revenue target, you can then back into a marketing budget and you can back into a series of steps. So once you've got this goal, this guiding principle, then you can figure out a handful of things that are going to be very important. You can figure out how specific marketing tasks are going to actually directly lead to revenue. You can figure out what specific kind of brand messaging is going to make those company messages, all company messages more effective, and all marketing more consistent. You can figure out what are the relatively easy quick wins? What can I do, that's not going to take too much time or too much money, it's going to immediately fix some problems and lead to revenue, or at least a better life in some way. And then there's, you would want to figure out, what metrics can I track? What do I need to pay attention to keep costs in check, kind of like how a pilot would want to watch their instruments, you want to figure out which instruments to watch, the last thing to figure out is, what kind of targeting is going to work in order to pull in leads are either more profitable or even just more enjoyable to work with.
Jay Kingley 5:47
So Brandon, I just want to emphasize your point, number three, because, at some level, I think that is what underpins successful marketing is you have as you put it, your goal, and you have to attach with our objective measures, to see that you are on the right path to meet that goal, you know, your KPIs, as an example, key performance indicators. And then you have got to build in before you even start the campaign, how are you going to measure the data collected, measure the data that you can analyze, to make sure that you're on track and do it frequently enough that if you see, you've gone down a path where your return is zero, and now marketing is back to being an expense, you can stop and experiment, do A/B testing, try new things, until the metrics are telling you that you are on the right path, you know, is that something that you find is sort of the key underlying factor to turn marketing from an expense to a return?
Brandon Rollins 7:05
It definitely is. And one particular metric that might be useful to start with, is just cost per conversion. A beautiful thing happens when you can clearly define a conversion. This is just, you know, a sale or a phone call something like that it's a little bit different for your business and for your specific purposes. But once you can define a conversion, and then you can tie a cost to a conversion, you can figure out how much does an average client or customer brings in, and you can see whether or not you are getting a reasonable return or not. Does the amount of money that the average client brings in or the average customer brings in is that multiple times over what it costs to get that conversion?
Jay Kingley 7:46
I really love how you're asking small business owners to reframe how they're thinking about their marketing spend away from an expense into how are we generating revenue. So if people adopt this way of thinking about their marketing, in your experience, what benefits do you expect to accrue to their business from making this change?
Brandon Rollins 8:14
Let's start with revenue, just for simplicity's sake. Now every industry has different norms. And that's going to mean that every company has different benchmarks. So I can't give you a good rule of thumb, sorry, I tried. But what I will give you are a couple of anecdotes that might help a listener to understand reasonable expectations. So there's a shipping company that I enjoy working with. And when they run ads on Google ads, they can make about $20 in revenue for every dollar spent. In most industries, you cannot pull that off. But for these guys, it makes sense and it works for them. Now you take the other extreme, you have board games, you cannot make realistically $20 For every dollar spent on advertising. But if you advertise on Facebook, you may be able to make four or $5 for every dollar spent on advertising. And I have seen this happen myself.
Jay Kingley 9:15
I think those are both, you know, compelling metrics. I think most of our listeners would be happy with a five to one return on the marketing that puts marketing at about 20% of revenues. And in my experience, that ought to be for a lot of businesses, a fairly comfortable expense item relative to revenues. And obviously, you know, your other example shows that when you really nail it and really focus in you might be able to do even considerably better than that. Now, let me focus for a moment on the decision-maker. I think although we don't talk about this a lot. So much of decision-making is based on emotion, it's based on how we think somebody is going to impact our emotions. And then sometimes we look for the hard numbers to justify that emotional decision that we made. So you work with a lot of small business owners on this issue. What do you see when they go from marketing, just an expense to marketing actually generating a great return? And is able to power my business and the growth of my business? What do you see in them emotionally?
Brandon Rollins 10:31
Let's start here, running a business is scary, you are constantly taking leaps into the unknown by necessity, and just seeing what will happen. Which means that comes with a constant sense of anticipation experience in the form of anxiety. Now, when you start seeing real returns on marketing, or even when you just make a plan for marketing, you feel a sense of clarity, and a sense of peace, that anxiety is quiet for a little while anyway. And that alone makes it easier to make decisions that you need to make throughout your day-to-day. And that's kind of it sounds so simple. But in my opinion, that's probably the number one benefit, you just make better decisions when you've got this planned out. And when you can see the benefits.
Jay Kingley 11:23
Brandon, I like the benefits both the hard and the soft, I find it compelling, I think people listening in are going to find it compelling. So it leads me to my last question of this segment. So I'm convinced, what is it that I need to do to make this happen.
Brandon Rollins 11:42
In order to make successful marketing changes, there's a broad outline of what needs to be done. Five points. So the first one is just to write down exactly what you want to happen. Even if you think it's ridiculous, just write it down, just go ahead and write it down. And then second, and figure out what steps it would take to get there, even if it's just big broad general steps. Now, the third one is to start with something small, something you can stand to do regularly. See, I'm comfortable with writing, that is what I can do very often. So I've been blogging for years on years and years. But other people their natural conversationalists, they love talking, so they get on podcasts, or they go on social media, and they just talk with people. Anything you can do consistently that is in line with your broader goal is good. Now, the fourth part is while you're doing this, collect as much data as you can. There's some adage, it's like, planning is useful, but all plans are irrelevant. That's something like that. And it's so true. Because the minute you start to implement a plan, something's going to rattle apart. That's just the way things work. It's chaos theory, I don't know. But the point is, if you're collecting data while you're trying things out, you will understand how the real world interacts with you when you go out and try marketing. And you can actually pivot around that and find what uniquely works for you and your business. The fifth part optional is that if you find out that marketing is a big pain, don't be afraid to get help on big parts or small parts by hiring an employee or a full-service agency.
Jay Kingley 13:26
Brandon, you have left me smarter at the end of this conversation than I was at the beginning. With respect to marketing, appreciate hearing
your what I like to call provocative perspective. We will come back in a moment and learn a bit more about Brandon.
Centricity Sponsorship 13:47
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Jay Kingley 14:45
Welcome back. Let's find out a little bit more about Brandon. Brandon. Talk to us a little bit about when you working with small business owners in in your target market. What are the pain points that you focus on and what do they need you to get rid of the pain?
Brandon Rollins 15:03
Typically clients that we work with suffer from one of two broad problems. And so they'll fall into one of two broad psychological categories if you want to call it that. And the first is someone who has no marketing plan in place, which might sound really shocking, you might wonder how somebody could succeed without a marketing plan. But it's actually because they're really, really, really good at their job. So this is a talented professional who's built their career or their business based on their talent being the most competent person in the room. And so it's all word of mouth for them. Now, unfortunately, that person also ends uploaded with work and they leave a ton of money on the table, they've just got no time. So when we come in, we'll help them clarify the basics, figure out who's their target market who's making the most money for their time. And then we'll either act as their marketing department or help them to set one up for the longer term. Now, specific tactics we might use could include well definitely will include creating a marketing strategy, but will wet may possibly include setting up or cleaning up their website, creating content, running ads, social media, stuff like that. Now, on the whole, other extremes, you have clients who try a little bit of everything. But it never really coheres into a single strategy. Now, what might compel a person to do that is you've got this kind of action-oriented entrepreneur, a very common mindset. So they just want to try stuff and see what happens. But if you try too many things in marketing, and don't see any success, you will naturally become frustrated. You'll feel like you've lost money, and you'll feel like you've lost a bunch of time. And a lot of people kind of kick themselves for that. They say I'm a failure, what have I done? So for them, well, the first thing we do is assure them that they're not a failure, because they're not. If you try a bunch of stuff and collect a bunch of data, a professional can come in and say, Hey, look at all this wonderful data. Everything I need saves me a bunch of time. So the first thing we do is we tell him that, and then we focus on what's working. We lean into that, and then we get rid of what's not working, we figure out what has potential to work and we make a plan to implement it. Now the tactics, we use are websites, content, and so on, that's basically the same. But the approach that we use to the second kind of client is different from the first one simply because of the context.
Jay Kingley 17:30
The next question I like to ask Brandon, our relates to what makes you great at what you do, I think, too often people get too tied up in what they do. And then they just sound the same as everybody else, which just makes them average, I want to shine that spotlight on what differentiates you from your competitors. So talk to me about what you think you do, or skills, knowledge, expertise, that makes you better than most of the rest.
Brandon Rollins 18:00
I have a wide breadth of knowledge from my prior experiences. And this is really helpful when you're setting up a marketing plan from scratch. Because a lot of the trouble with marketing is, at least early on is just figuring out what to do and when to do it, and how to get it done. So I come up with simple marketing plans, and I help my clients achieve them. And then when it's time to tweak and improve upon what I've done, specialists end up having a lot more work, or a lot more to work with in terms of content and data.
Jay Kingley 18:28
Let me go into my last question for you, which I like to call the human interest question. You know, I encourage people brave enough to go to your LinkedIn profile. They can get a sense of your career and all the steps along the way. But what I'd like to understand is, what were the key things that happened, you know, in your personal life, your professional life, which would explain looking backward, why you started Pangea Marketing, and why you do what you do?
Brandon Rollins 18:58
Sure, I brought some props, I hope you don't mind. And I'll start with 2016 because you don't want to hear all the way back to the 90s. So in the middle of 2016, I had my first small taste of business success, and this is a workout. So this is a little Kickstarter card game that I did raise about $12,500. It launched barely, I barely pocketed a dime off a massive tax bill. But what happened with that is I did everything wrong, squeaked by, and then learned a ton just by making that little game right there. And what happened from that is that in late 2016 I believe it was actually October, I started blogging about how to create tabletop games. And I just based this off of what I learned from my own observations because I felt really really lost and scared. I was also 22- 23 at the time, so very, very naive. And so I just wrote for a person just like myself a year prior. And this blogging, of course, go much of anywhere for a couple of years. But eventually, it paved the way for Pangea Marketing, because over enough time it start bringing consulting leads my way, which I'll get back to in a second. So in early 2018, I worked on my second game. This is highways and byways, this probably reverses on your screen. But that's all right. Now, what happened with that is it actually just straight-up flopped on Kickstarter? I mean, it was not, it was not close. It was like 30% of the goal. After two weeks out of a four week campaign, it was not going to happen. And when something like that fails, it hurts. I mean, it stings badly, and personally. But I ended up learning some really critical lessons that only like two, three years later that I realized just how well they set me up. The first is just product-market fit, you have to make something people want Surprise, surprise. It's important, I can't emphasize it enough. But it's got to feel emotionally true before you really start to act on something like that. Also learned the importance of delegating to a team because I did the whole lone-wolf kind of thing. He tried to do everything myself, that's not smart. You need to delegate even if you're competent enough in every area, it's impossible to try and do everything yourself. So I learned two critical lessons from that. And I also went away with kind of a desire to eventually get away from just doing tabletop stuff. Now I did I did get some redemption later. This is tasty humans that came out in the normal part of 2020. So yeah, that was like January. The only problem we ran into with that was it actually got impounded by customs for like two weeks because it's a TCAS and block capitals on the box. Anyway, anyway, so early 2019, that blog I mentioned earlier, my first client, a big shipping company in New Jersey just reached out to me and he just wanted to slop some posts about board games, because some of his clients were board gamers, or organ publishers, we took notice of my marketing skills in hired neon for a big contract. And so I actually created an LLC, a whole company just to serve this one guy. At first, that's how it started in 2019. And so middle of 2019. And I'll just warn you, in the listeners, this part is heavy. So just kind of steel yourself for this. So my wife had a traumatic brain injury. And let me just say she's okay, now before I get into the rest of this, and I know that he's saying that hits like a ton of bricks as a heavy, heavy thing. Now she's recovered, it took like a year and a half, she can drive that she can walk, she can work in New all that stuff. But at the time, June, July, August, September, and so on, we had no idea how things are gonna shake out, we didn't know what life was gonna look like we had this fear of a bad prognosis. She lost her job at the same time. So he went from being a two-income household to a one-income household. So you got that financial pressure. And of course, anytime there's a hospital involved, you know what happens next, we had good insurance. But still, we'd like we hit our out-of-pocket max, we're talking 1000s of dollars were in our 20s is scary stuff. And at that time, I was taking care of her because we didn't really have anyone who was able to give her all the attention that she needed. It was just so big of a problem that I was taking care of her. I was working a full-time job. I had this giant client, we had all these financial pressures. And it was just, it was taking care of her and on top of like 80 85 hour weeks. And I know that's glorified a lot on social media and stuff. So that's tough stuff. And the reason I mentioned this, is because when you get hit with pressure like that, it makes you realize what you can actually do, where your limits are and how much farther they are from what you might have thought. I don't think it's because I'm special or anything. I think it's just human nature. We have like the survival mechanism built really deep into our bones that that comes out when you need it. And mine came out when I needed it and then sure that other people's will when they need it to. The story does have a happy ending though. Again, she has recovered, thank goodness. In April 2021. We had collectively as a company, gain the additional work needed for me to leave my day job, not lose any salary, walk right into the benefits plan, health care, and all that stuff. On client work alone, while bumping up my staff to full time. And now I do mostly what I want. Throughout the day, it's pretty nice. It's a lot of work, but it's fun too and it's meaningful.
Jay Kingley 25:14
Brandon, that's a hell of a story. And so happy to hear that it had a happy ending. So often those things, not so much. But in your case, as they say, ultimately, good things happen to good people. And the other lesson I take away from your story is, we never truly know who we are, until we go through adversity. And then that tells us a lot about ourselves. And the people around us I'm just couldn't be happier at the journey you've made and where you're at, and the recovery that your wife has made. So not only are you a particularly interesting person with, with your story in your, your interests, that go obviously beyond marketing, but you have some really good perspectives for small business owners on how they ought to think about and execute their marketing. So how should people in our audience want to learn more? How should they get in touch with you?
Brandon Rollins 26:17
Well, the easiest way is to go to Pangeamarketingagency.com. You can book consults there even more about what we do, as well as I'm on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, all of which is in the description, so I won't spell it out. You can just click and go there. Yeah, and my email is Brandon@Pangeamarketingagency.com, which will also be in the description.
Jay Kingley 26:43
Perfect, as Brandon says, all that will be in our show notes make it easy for you before we wrap up, and I hate to really do this to you. But as much as I like you, I'm actually more about our audience and our listeners. Oh, yeah. Well, there always is right? no free lunch. Right. And I would like you to have to offer some gift if you will, for the people who are listening in. What do you think you can do for
Brandon Rollins 27:13
Gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts, gifts. I don't usually buy those before December 23. But if I must be giving a gift. If you want a free console, you can book a free one-hour consult through our website.
Jay Kingley 27:29
Fabulous. Let us take Brandon up on that very kind and generous offer just mentioned when you book that you heard him on the Best Kept Secret show. Brandon, thank you so much. It was both educational, informative, and emotionally powerful. So everybody, until next time, let's continue to crush it.