Atlanta Franchise Owner Shares Top Tips for Digital Marketing Success

Welcome to another episode of Atlanta Franchise Today with host Leslie Kuban, expert franchise consultant and owner of FranNet Atlanta. We have talked a lot about the importance of marketing and franchising on this show, and today we’re going to gain insights from a local digital marketing expert who is also a franchise owner building his own business. On today’s episode, Leslie speaks with Gerardo Kerik, a marketing executive with 20 years of experience working for large companies like Disney and Warner. In 2018, he became a franchise owner of WSI, the world’s largest network of digital marketing agencies.

Transcription:Leslie Kuban:
I’m delighted to have you on the show, Gerardo, welcome.

Gerardo Kerik:
Thank you. Happy to be here. Thanks for the invitation.

Leslie Kuban:
Absolutely, absolutely. Well, first we’ve got much to discuss today, but let’s learn a little bit about your business first. Who are your customers and what do you do for them?

Gerardo Kerik:
Sure. So we’re a digital marketing consulting and agency, and we work with small to medium size businesses that are either worried because they don’t know how to pivot into a strategy. Sometimes they’re frustrated because they’ve done it, but it’s not seeing the results. Sometimes they’re upset because they think it’s not generating the return investment that they’re looking for. So we work very well with those types of businesses, trying to help them pivot into digital or do a much better job at their digital marketing efforts.

Leslie Kuban:
And having help with that is so important because as a small business owner, marketing, digital marketing, is it working? It’s just like a big black hole and you don’t know if your dollars are actually working for you so having someone who knows what they’re doing is quite important.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
So when you are working with different businesses, what are the common mistakes that you see businesses making or things that are overlooking?

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah, sure. So some of the most common issues we see with clients have to do with trying to, they try to jump into action before actually really thinking through what is the right strategy for the marketplace and for their audience. So many business owners, what they want to do is they’ve heard about Google Advertising or Facebook Advertising or TikTok or whatever, and they want to do some of that when in reality, what you need to do is you need to first understand who are your potential buyers? How do they go around their lives? What pain points they’re trying to address. How do they go around trying to address those pain points? And after you understand all of that and almost kind of like the customer journey, the path they take, then you can think about, okay, what channels, what tactics do we use to actually find them? So Facebook advertising might be a great tactic for some businesses, but not for others, depending on what is it that their customers are trying to do. So that’s the first mistake I see a lot of people doing.

Leslie Kuban:
They just jump in and do something.

Gerardo Kerik:
They just jump into and they don’t get the results and they get frustrated. Another mistake I see is that there are a lot of people that say that they know about digital marketing, and I see a lot of clients that we meet with them and they say, “Okay, well why my nephew just finished college and he knows a lot about digital marketing and he’s helping us with the campaigns.” And in reality, it is a lot more difficult to develop lead generation engine, a customer acquisition strategy other than just understanding how to work again. Google Adwords or Facebook app ads, etcetera right? I mean, you really need to think about what is it that you’re trying to achieve and how you connect all of the different pieces so you can actually acquire customers, convert them, engage them, keep them with you, and the ones that don’t convert, how do you nurture them until you can convert them in the future? So it requires a lot. So that’s a second mistake. I see a lot of people engaging with the providers that don’t have the necessary experience.

Leslie Kuban:
Because it’s easy, because it’s low cost, but it necessarily is going to produce the end result that they’re hoping to get-

Gerardo Kerik:
You get what you pay for.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
Basically.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
So if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. That’s one of my favorite sayings.

Leslie Kuban:
And digital marketing, it’s changing all the time. There’s new rules with Google or Facebook changes their algorithms. I mean, this stuff happens constantly. Is there anything in particular that you see on the horizon that’s a change or new development or just something a business owner should be thinking about or aware of? What about their digital marketing?

Gerardo Kerik:
Well, you know, as you said, it’s changing all the time, which means that we have to be on our toes to be aware of what the changes mean and how they have an implication with the campaigns we’re suggesting, suggesting to clients. So one of the things that have affected all businesses in the last year has been the iOS changes, not even Facebook or Google, but iOS and the fact that they’re not allowing people not to share their information while they’re using browsers and that has had a huge implication for businesses of all sizes in terms of being able to achieve where those leads are coming from and how to connect back to them. So I would say that’s going to continue evolving and it’s going to become even more important to work with a lot of data analytics companies and with people that understand how to make those attributions to be able to make sense out of your investments and figure out what their return invest is.

Leslie Kuban:
So this has to constantly be monitored ’cause these sort of things happen all the time. You can’t just start a campaign and let it go and let it go and think that it’s going to continue to achieve the same results. You’ve got to reevaluate over and over. Again.

Gerardo Kerik:
So we optimize, recommend clients. I mean, when we work with clients, we’re optimizing their campaigns constantly. That’s happening all the time because if you think about the Google algorithm, they make up this to their algorithm probably a hundred times a year.

Leslie Kuban:
Every three days. There’s a change to the algorithm, wow, yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
And that some of them are versatile and they don’t have a huge impact, but sometimes they have a very large impact. And we see that we have to rethink our strategy. So yes, it has to be monitored and optimized all the time, but even if there weren’t any changes, you have to optimize anyway because if you think about it, let’s say you have a very simple campaign where you have two options and you have one option that is converting better than the other. Well, one option is converting better than the other then, which is what we call AB testing. Then you create a new campaign and try to put it to compete against this one, and you’re trying to optimize all the time to improve the results you’re getting, now that’s a very simple example. We have clients where we have probably 20 campaigns running at the same time, and we are always optimizing. You’re taking out the ones that are performing the wars and introducing new ones so you’re trying to increase that result over time.

Leslie Kuban:
So you’re like a… Your business is like a outsourced marketing agency for a small business owner?

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely. For some small business owners, we are an outsourced marketing department.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
Because we will take care of all their needs. For slightly larger organizations, and we actually have a couple of clients at our enterprise level, we end up working more as a consultant because they do have the teams that can actually implement, but they might not have in their bench the expertise to think through some of the challenges. So depending on what the client needs, we go from almost like a fractional CMO to a full-fledged outsourced marketing department.

Leslie Kuban:
So this is interesting. A lot of people who find their way into franchising choose something completely different.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yep.

Leslie Kuban:
But you chose a business that really had a clear connection to your expertise. So what do you find your corporate experience brought to the table in your own business? And then what does the franchise bring to the table-

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
… in your business.

Gerardo Kerik:
So my corporate experience, what I bring from a corporate experience is that discipline and that ability to ask the right questions, to figure it out, to understand what are the right questions to ask to solve a business problem. So because that’s, in many cases, what we’re doing with our clients, we’re trying to figure out what the issue is and how to solve it, but we have to ask some very hard questions.

And then the analytical ability to go through that data, that analysis, and being able to come up with a plan. So I brought that and the ability to run teams, especially with marketing functions and operations functions. What I did not bring from my corporate career was sales. I never had to sell one thing. I mean, I had to sell projects, but never had to sell in a way that somebody had to write a check for me.

Leslie Kuban:
Asking for the business, right?

Gerardo Kerik:
Asking for the business and that was really tough, and that was an awakening for me so you might recall, during my first year, I think we exchanged a couple of emails. My first year was really tough because I could not say, I mean, I would spend a lot of time talking to people, but for the love of God, I wouldn’t be able to get them to write a check for me. So I quickly realized that I lacked there, and I actually joined Sandler Group and took some and got into coaching with a Sandler sales coach and that really transformed my business because now I had the understanding and I had the skills, and I had a process to be able to talk to clients and get them to close. And when I did that and I got those skills, then my business started growing and it’s been good since then.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes. And thank you for sharing that. I know that’s a personal thing to share, but it’s really true that we all have blind spots and nothing’s going to shine light on our blind spots like starting a business, you get very aware of what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at, and what you need to learn. And I’m so glad you found Sandler, I’m a Sandler graduate too and same thing, when I started, not that this is a plug for Sandler although any business owner who needs some good sales training, Sandler’s a wonderful-

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah. I mean-

Leslie Kuban:
… a wonderful resource-

Gerardo Kerik:
… absolutely. I mean-

Leslie Kuban:
… for it.

Gerardo Kerik:
… it is not necessarily a plug for them. My advice is if you don’t have sales skills and your franchise or your business requires you to sell, get hold of a process.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
Get hold of a coach, learn the skills, it doesn’t matter which process, but have some-

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah.

Gerardo Kerik:
… toolkit that you can rely upon to try to get that job.

Leslie Kuban:
Yeah, and I think I didn’t have a sales background either, but I think where our stories are similar is that we didn’t have that skillset, but we got some help with it, and we’re able to get better and better at it.

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
Over time.

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
So I think that’s a good lesson for new entrepreneurs is that you’re not going to be good at everything but-

Gerardo Kerik:
Oh yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
… there are resources to help you figure that out.

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
So you’re four years into your business.

Gerardo Kerik:
Mm-hmm.

Leslie Kuban:
What are you looking ahead to do? What are you working on in your business?

Gerardo Kerik:
So COVID was really good for our business because a lot of prospects that were on the fence in terms of jumping to a digital marketing effort, they had to jump to our side-

Leslie Kuban:
Like that, mm-hmm.

Gerardo Kerik:
… because suddenly face to face meetings and face to face sales were not possible anymore. So we don’t really work through 2020 and 2021. 2022 is being challenging because of the situation, the economic situation, but we’re staying still. My objective for the next three years is to triple our size. That’s what really we want to do and we have some aggressive plans for the next couple of years where we’re closing some strategic partnerships with complimentary businesses that probably target the same customers that we target, but they don’t offer the same things as we do but together we can actually offer a stronger solution and we’re really looking forward to the next two years and we have some aggressive sales.

Leslie Kuban:
And that’s exciting.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
That’s very exciting. Well, and a lot of our viewers were in your shoes at one time.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
They had a prior career, a great career, but they were ready for a change and are looking at business ownership. What kind of advice would you have just about due diligence or maybe self-evaluation for that guy or gal who’s thinking about making a change, but they’re not sure, just what would you-

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah, sure.

Leslie Kuban:
… offer?

Gerardo Kerik:
And some people have reached out to me with that question specifically and one of the things that I said to them is, first of all, try to define what type of life you want to be living, because it’s a changing lifestyle and realize that owning a business, first of all, you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked for sure, even though you have a lot more freedom of your time, you’re accountable for everything and now you have people that you pay salaries for and you’re responsible for their livelihood, so you’re going to be working really hard, but it’s very rewarding at the same time.

Also make sure that you do the right due diligence and really understand what types of businesses you are interested in getting into because there’s lifestyle businesses, there’s a scalable businesses, for example, our business is a business where I have to be heavily involved in sales versus maybe other franchises where you can have a location and a manager and maybe not be that involved in the operation so it depends what you want to do with your business so really think about the different options, and finally, be prepared for uncertainty. Be really prepared for ups and downs so it’s what I said to people that call me and want to talk about this is it’s not an easy path. It’s actually probably the hardest thing that I’ve done, but it’s very rewarding and when you get to a certain level, it’s really good.

Leslie Kuban:
Right.

Gerardo Kerik:
But you have to, it’s not a sprint, it’s more of a marathon or half marathon type of space.

Leslie Kuban:
Right and I think that’s great advice that it’s not a, starting your own business is not an immediate income replacement.

Gerardo Kerik:
Nope.

Leslie Kuban:
There’s a learning curve.

Gerardo Kerik:
Mm-hmm.

Leslie Kuban:
And there’s always fires to put out. I heard an entrepreneur say this and I love it. It’s in the very beginning you need a fire engine to put out your fires, but as you get used to your business, you grow, you get more experienced, you need more of a fire extinguisher than a fire truck. So.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah, I think that’s a great way of putting it. Yeah, absolutely and also you learn how to go and how to understand the challenges that are coming at you so I think it’s more like a—. At the beginning, you cannot stand on the—and you’re getting swallowed by the waves, and at some point the waves are still there and they can be large or small, but now you can ride them, you know how to deal with them.

Leslie Kuban:
And I think that’s good to hear that you’re going to have some waves and you’re going to swallow some water in the beginning, but then you learn what you’re doing and you can navigate the uncertainties that come your way with a bit more experience and confidence.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
So I’m going to steal that analogy of—

Gerardo Kerik:
And with excitement.

Leslie Kuban:
I love that.

Gerardo Kerik:
And with excitement.

Leslie Kuban:
Yes, because challenges and change bring forth new opportunities that maybe we weren’t anticipating.

Gerardo Kerik:
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Leslie Kuban:
I’d like to hear an example of one of your customers, Gerardo, just any particular inspiring client stories that come to mind? They had a challenge and you were able to help them through that in some way.

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah, I mean, I think a very good example is I’m going to talk about a small business, and then a medium business so small business is a local mechanic we have here in Atlanta, it was my first client. He was my first client, Mark and— had recently acquired this, he had other shops. He had recently acquired this shop in Atlanta. He had shops in California, and the shop was operating at a level that he knew could operate much higher, and we contracted with him to try to bring him more business.

So we worked hard at doing some local marketing for him, local search engine optimization and things like that and six months ago, he sends a, and we’ve done a great job, he gets a lot of business through our work, digital work and six months ago, he sends me an email saying, “Thank you so much for all you’ve done. I just checked my client base and since we started working, we’ve grown 40% in the number of clients that we have in our books.”

Leslie Kuban:
That’s impactful, which is big deal.

Gerardo Kerik:
Which is very, very impactful. And the fact that we’re being able to help somebody that also another entrepreneur that also acquired the business and help him really transform that business and grow in revenue, it’s very rewarding. Another example I have is a client we have in New York. It’s a very interesting client because they operate schools in New York, but with COVID, the schools could not operate and this is a very high end school, they charge very high tuition for the clientele, so the revenue was all down, but they had a lot of content already recorded and a lot of library content that they had and they thought about maybe we can do something with this and launched some sort of online play.

So we work with them from strategy to implementation. We developed… We analyzed the market, we analyze their competitors. We worked on developing a product launch plan, and it took us six months, but we put together a solution that basically we’ve been working with them for two years now, they launched, and now they not only have their physical schools, but now they have an online education platform and we help them acquire customers through digital marketing and now instead of having the capacity of 400 people in their school, now they have infinite capacity because now of course, they’re not charging 50, $50 a month for a subscription, but the sky is the limit in terms of how many people they can get and we helped them pivot from physical to digital, and it was end to end from developing the concept, the strategy, all the way to acquiring customers and keeping them for them.

Leslie Kuban:
How rewarding that is to-

Gerardo Kerik:
Super rewarding.

Leslie Kuban:
… see these transformations-

Gerardo Kerik:
Yeah.

Leslie Kuban:
… over time. Well, that’s very exciting. How can potential customers get in touch with you for your services and your business? What’s the best way to find you?

Gerardo Kerik:
If you send me an email is the best way. So GKerik@wsidigitalboost.com or if you want to fill in a form in a website, it’s wsidigitalboost.com. That’s a website. Either way we’ll get back to you.

Leslie Kuban:
Well, that’s great. Well, I’m so delighted to see you and have you on the show.

Gerardo Kerik:
Oh, thank you for inviting me.

Leslie Kuban:
Thank you for joining and sharing your story.

Gerardo Kerik:
Thank you.

Leslie Kuban:
Folks, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Atlanta Franchise Today. Thanks for joining and I look forward to seeing you next week.


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