Chris Rudolph is a husband, father of three and a business coach for digital agency owner, Freedom Business Family.
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Chris and his family now live, work and volunteer in Baja, Mexico (just south of San Diego). He helps digital agency owners grow their income, build a team, and spend more time with their family.
Listen to other episodes of The M Word Podcast here.
Full transcript below:
Jennifer: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Jennifer Mulchandani
Heather: [00:00:02] and I’m Heather Myklegard.
Jennifer: [00:00:04] Welcome to The M Word,
Heather: [00:00:06] Where we have uncensored conversations on all things marketing. Due to COVID, we are not recording in the studio and apologize for any poor audio or technical glitches. As soon as it is safe, we will have our guests with us in the studio, until then stay healthy and wear a mask.
Jennifer: [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to The M Word. My name is Jennifer Mulchandani
Heather: [00:00:32] and I’m Heather Myklegard,
Jennifer: [00:00:34] and today’s guest is Chris Rudolf. Chris is a husband, father of three and a business coach for digital agency owners called Freedom, Business, Family. Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Chris and his family now live, work and volunteer in Baja, Mexico, just south of the San Diego border.
He helps digital agency owners grow their income, build a team and spend more time with their family. Welcome, Chris. We are so happy to have you on the podcast today.
Chris: [00:01:05] Hey, Jennifer and Heather, thank you so much for having me on. I’m really excited to be here.
Jennifer: [00:01:09] Terrific. Glad you can join us. Why don’t you open, Chris, by helping us set the stage and tell us a little bit about your business and your role in that business as it relates to marketing?
Chris: [00:01:22] Yeah, I’d be glad to, so I help digital agency owners really grow their business, but also spend more time with their family. So you think there’s a variety of different types of agencies out there that might specialize in Facebook advertising or social media or website optimization or SEO. I’m really helping them organize and position and their business and their life as well. So get a chance to really influence the marketing space by doing that.
Heather: [00:01:51] Chris, you mentioned that you’ve loved marketing. What do you love about it?
Chris: [00:01:55] I just think that the impact that marketing can have on any business, whether you have a product or service or even a nonprofit, it can literally change the scope of what you’re doing, because it’s all I really, I see marketing as making new connections and building trust with existing connections that really lead to action.
Then that could be: More sales, better attention, It could be more donors whatever that may be. That’s just, it’s just the way that you can really build trust. And it can either make or break, any company or organization. So it’s just really powerful and it’s all about relationships.
So that’s what I love about marketing. I know it gets a bad rap sometimes can be like a equivalent of a four letter word, but I really, when you really look at the gist of what it is. It’s just really powerful.
Heather: [00:02:40] So let’s look at first: your business. How do you market your business and how do you find these agencies so that you can help them better market their business?
Chris: [00:02:51] Yeah, I found that I really stick with my strengths and that is teaching. If I can get before my target audience and teach whether that’s an in-person presentation or keynote or an online webinar, or even have like teachable moments on a show or that type of podcast. That’s really it fits my strength. I’ve found that there’s so many platforms, so many things you can do in marketing and it’s overwhelming at times, and you’re bombarded a lot of times with people who are experts in all these areas, telling them you’re like, this is the way are, this is the way. And it’s really easy to chase shiny objects, but I found when it’s outside and when it doesn’t really mirror, what I’m really good at and comfortable, it just doesn’t go well. That’s what I found personally helps me; but, I feel any business to get to think of what are their strengths?
Jennifer: [00:03:39] like how you framed that, because we talk about this all the time is it’s about being authentic, right? You are you’re marketing in a way is your strength, as opposed to A, B and C, which you’ve heard is how you’re supposed to be marketing. But if you could back up and so to teach people, if that’s your method of really selling your value proposition, how do you get those folks in the door even to hear what you have to say? What tactics and approaches to marketing work specifically for you to even get that audience to those teachable moments.
Chris: [00:04:12] Yeah. I remember I remember hearing this come out of the mouth of one of my friends. Who’s a presenter in digital marketing in the hand. He actually, his background was actually, he was in a band and that’s where he like, learned like marketing principles that like later have taken him to where he is now. He’s like an international speaker on marketing and he talks about, when you start out, don’t try to just build and rely on your own audience. Go to where your audience already is and be helpful. So that’s been, I know for when I think of marketing my own business, I want to go to, who are people that have a, trusted community or tribe of the people that I want to get behind and how can I be a part of that community or be helpful to that founder or figurehead. And if they have a community: can I do a presentation for them or a webinar or on their show and just be helpful and I just found that’s worked the best for me. And, you can eventually build, I call it your own real estate where you have your own audience, but especially when you’re starting out or you’re launching a new product or service where you’re addressing a new audience. It’s a lot quicker to go where your audience is and where they already have a trusted relationship with someone else and just be helpful and valuable and provide your content.
Heather: [00:05:24] Chris, you’ve been doing this for quite a while. How has your approach evolved over the years?
Chris: [00:05:31] Yeah, I think it, there are like I said earlier, there’s so many options out there and there’s a lot of resources on so many things that you can learn in ways that you can learn. I just found that if I can learn how to do Google ads and I can spend all this time and get really good at that; but, it really sucks the life out of me personally. I might work really hard and become average at it, but what I found is try not to add more things to the plate, just identify what is the best fit and get really good at that. You probably hear that saying of don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I think personally whether you own the business or you’re in a marketing position, whatever your basket is, know that basket very well inside and out. Just without the speed and especially how digital is changing, it’s hard to be a generalist and be good at everything. Now you can be a part of a team where there’s an individual that specializes in one area, you specialize in another that can be helpful, but really know your basket and really know it inside and out. And I think if I’ve learned anything over the last even seven years is say no to a lot of things to say yes to the things that are gonna matter.
Jennifer: [00:06:38] So I’m curious Chris, like with, knowing your strengths, knowing your basket, how do you as a business owner develop your own marketing strategy. Are you really just rolling with it at this point? Or do you have a process or a way that you do your planning or strategy?
Chris: [00:06:54] Yeah, I was, I remember, I don’t know how many years ago this was, but I heard Clay Collins, who is the founder of LeadPages. I heard him speak and he said something that I really take it and run it, and I use my own business, my clients and it’s just a way to simplify it. There’s people that can write, 32-page marketing strategy, I’m not that person. I just need it to be really simple. This is something that is like a marketing engine. I call it the agency engine for my clients, but think about delivering one result. So what does that one result that your product or service is going to deliver? And it’s driven by one offer. So one, one option of a product or service that you’re going to do for one particular niche. And when you’re going for one niche, it’s it just makes it easier to find those people, it’d be helpful.
Using one conversion event, so that type of event, that people will go from curious to getting serious about you. So that could be, it could be a webinar or it could be a video, it could be a product page if you have a product, it could be an audit. I know for agencies that I work with a lot have had really good experiences with audits. Then you want to supply that conversion event with one traffic source. So what does that kind of that one basket you think of all the platforms or all the ways you can really have a traffic source. What does that one that’s really gonna make the difference and just master that and do that for over one year.
One result. One offer. One conversion event. One traffic source. One year, laser-focused. That’s the fastest way that I’ve seen to really multiply a business, including my own. And I found that over the seven years that anytime myself or others really violate that one rule. They start to market the two audiences or they start to grow two products, you can still get there, but it’s going to take about double the time to get there. So its that laser-focused in a season of history where there’s just unlimited options and they all look good. So, if we can be focused I don’t even have to be the best marketer or the best technician at a certain platform or topic, but if I’m laser-focused over the course of time, I’m going to learn that and get better at it.
Heather: [00:09:06] I think that’s really good advice. I, also, think that sometimes people get scared. If I just focus on this one audience or who am I missing and am my not gonna get enough money or have enough opportunity, but it reminds me of the book, The One Thing,
Chris: [00:09:22] Yeah, it’s one of my favorites.
Heather: [00:09:24] like you can’t chase two rabbits.
Chris: [00:09:26] Yes!
Heather: [00:09:27] It’s a great book. Chris. I want to just pivot a little to talking about spending money for marketing. Where do you put your marketing dollars? Because like you said, there’s so many baskets you could put it in. Is there one place that you’ve found to be the most effective?
Chris: [00:09:43] Yeah. And I’ll say this is from me personally. I know a lot of other people resonate with this it’s really hard to write that check for whatever it is. This is my third business. I’ve sold off a couple of businesses and they’ve all been bootstrapped, so that you still you still carry bootstrap mentality and kind of you’re just cheap and it’s a risk, so I’m not the burn the ships entrepreneur. I like to mitigate risk. I’ve really found that, for me, it’s actually investing in live events and in relationships that has been the best thing to me.
So if it’s with my current clients for retention, how can I spend money to either see them or gifts or thoughtful touches for them going to conferences, I believe that’s where we met, Heather, like a social media marketing world. Probably one of the best things for building businesses, running like workshops at conferences, and so like it costs money to rent out facilities to do a little paid advertising, or setting up a great food spread, or having gifts to take along, so that’s where I have. When I spend money, I want to see a return. So I’ve quickly found out don’t re run like Facebook ads or LinkedIn ads yourself. I want to invest that in people that know what they’re doing and have a pulse on those traffic sources and not leave it up to me if I’m not in that every day.
Jennifer: [00:10:55] That’s a great lead into my next question, which is: are there things that you’ve tried in your business that just haven’t worked and maybe they surprised you?
Chris: [00:11:04] Yeah, running my own Facebook ads. Like those are just really expensive experiments, at least for me, just because going from a novice. In previous businesses that I had like billboards or like things that don’t really quantify or measure the results have always been a disaster because even if they did work, it’s hard to really tell. If they did. So those are the two that come to mind as the ones that didn’t go well. And I realized when you try something and it doesn’t work, it makes you gun-shy to do the next thing. So I like to surround myself with smarter people than me and people that, have experienced doing those types of things.
It’s almost like having a money manager for your investment, marketing is an investment. So you want to have an advisor, somebody who’s helping you manage your money. That is in this every single day. And can maximize that return.
Heather: [00:11:53] Chris how did your marketing or your processes changed during COVID and the last 12 months of this [00:12:00] pandemic?
Chris: [00:12:00] This is such an interesting time. Also, the type of clients I work with are digital agency owners, so it was very extreme. Either nearly your entire client roster went on pause or went out of business, or it was complete BoomTown where it was like struggling to handle all the business. It was very polar. What I found is early on that I couldn’t sell the yacht when I’m approaching someone who their businesses are struggling, or there’s a lot of doubt and fear, you have to position what I call a life raft offer.
So something that when it’s stressful, or their backs against the wall, you got to have something that’s going to get them a wind quickly. That’s a big thing, I echo this to my clients as well. How can you get an ROI in 30 to 90 days with your service? They’re going to have some insurance that their investment is going to pay off. There’s less room for air or less of a runway during uncertain times. So that’s a big adjustment I made and it actually came out of my mouth for my clients and then I started to take my own insight: is having a performance-based package. Having maybe instead of a large retainer, a smaller retainer, but then a bump on a percent of performance. So if you help increase revenue or sales or something like that.
So actually, I use that within my own business and it removed some of the risk, and I was incentivized to really help my clients grow, then it became a win-win.
How do you find those wins when opportunities in disruption when it’s harder to invest when you’re under stress or there’s a lot of uncertainty. So I think you have to really adjust your approach. And I think also changing the story or the picture that you’re projecting, based on, I always think I’m Oz on like a customer-centered approach of what’s going on in their head.
What are some of their aspirations or their fears or their frustrations? That’s where when I think about building a program or a piece of content, that’s where you need to start in, when you have events, like COVID happen that changes how people are thinking and what they’re how they’re acting their behavior. That’s really the approach I took.
Jennifer: [00:14:09] I think that’s fascinating because really marketing is about making that connection. It’s understanding the customer and it’s having to take in this whole new layer of think that are if you’re selling whether it’s to a business customer or an end consumer that their mindset and their decision-making has changed.
So that’s really great insight, but you did say something that I want to take to the next level, as you said, finding win-win with your clients, through your marketing which win-win to me always brings up the idea of cause marketing or leveraging community involvement to help your brand grow. So I’d be curious if you can share anything. Done over your business cycle to incorporate community giving or philanthropy or other cause marketing.
Chris: [00:14:53] Yeah, that’s a great question. I probably haven’t done this as well as I should, and I have run a webinar that wasn’t a super high price, but it went to a charitable cause and it worked really well. I think actually that would be a great idea to involve in the ministry work that my wife and I volunteered for and our family serves in, to incorporate that into marketing. So I actually didn’t think of that too. That specific idea until you asked that, but I haven’t really done as much cause marketing, so I probably should have, but that’s a good reminder to think more like that.
Heather: [00:15:28] Chris, who do you look up to or follow? You work with so many marketing agencies, you’ve gone to many live events. Is there one or two professionals that stand out in your mind that you learned from and then can promote in your teachings?
Chris: [00:15:44] Yeah, I think if I’ve done anything right in my career as an entrepreneur, It’s learning, and continual improvement and I didn’t start with the silver spoon or a lot of natural talent. But I think I was really encouraged to start learning from other people, whether that’s books and podcasts and courses and trainee programs. I’ve been a heavy investor in that: there’s so many. I can think of some, books come to mind right away, the ones that have really impacted me. I think that when you mentioned before that The One Thing by Gary Keller is a great resource in what are you focusing on? And you can apply that to, if you’re thinking of marketing for a client or a marketing, for a customer. That’s a really good one.
I think that, as far as people in marketing that I really admire, Andy Crestodina. Who does a lot of work with Google analytics and content he’s coined this term, the chief revenue officer. He’s not only a good friend, but he’s just super smart and I’m probably not even good at those types of skills, but I always learn something, really data-driven. I think that is someone who I’ve learned a lot from. I actually learned a lot from my clients who are like, experts in their own: Andrew and Gracie Foxwell, who are experts in Facebook and Instagram advertising, I learned a lot from them. A client of mine, Tracy Matney is just amazing on video sales and making it personal, and I don’t just naturally do that. So I learned a lot from her. Life habits: the book Atomic Habits has been super influential to me, and probably my favorite book is The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. So, you think what does that have to do with marketing or how I do my job or anything like that? I think it has everything to do with it. Anything that I’ve done that’s been out of reaction and hurry, is probably the things that have been the biggest disaster. Those are some of the resources and people that I really look up to and have really informed me.
Jennifer: [00:17:33] That’s great. Thank you for sharing all of those resources. And you started off earlier in our conversation talking about you’re always learning and then you like to teach as part of your method of recruiting people to your own business. So based on all your new learning, your continuous learning, is there anything new that you are planning to implement or try, whether marketing or otherwise in your business, in the coming year?
Chris: [00:17:57] Yeah and this is something that I had in the [00:18:00] works prior to COVID, but it had to hiatus, but was to do three times a year. A all-day mastermind, in one place, with a small group of people, where we work on your businesses and set goals for the next 120 days.
Jennifer: [00:18:14] And with the whole travel thing it was put on pause; but, if anything that I’ve learned is when we’ve been isolated for so long, it’s how hungry for connection in person, real life connection, how important that is. And I really want to do that.
As far as offering a service and I want to do that in marketing too. So like once like conferences open up and live events, I want to be out there and doing that because I think people are hungry for, in-person.
Heather: [00:18:39] 100%. I think a conference sounds so amazing right now. That’d be great. Chris, if you could go back to the first day, the first week that you started your business and tell yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Chris: [00:18:54] That’s a great question. Don’t do it alone. Don’t try to figure everything out alone. Surround yourself with people who have made a lot of mistakes, they’ve learned some things, and just get really good at asking questions of those people. I haven’t met someone who has rose to a really high level of mastery in their field that hasn’t been helped by other people. And it’s amazing how open they are to really share what they’ve done well, what they haven’t done well, things to avoid, best practices. And we live in an age where you can reach out to someone on Twitter and have a conversation.
Yeah, just don’t do it alone and really learn from people that have gone before you. And I think that just really, it jumps the curve. Like you don’t have to make all the same mistakes or just figure it out completely in trial and error.
Jennifer: [00:19:43] I think that’s so great and I know for me a philosophy is that a rising tide lifts all boats
Chris: [00:19:50] Yes!
Jennifer: [00:19:50] and this idea of building a community for yourself and seeking help. There’s enough for all of us and I think you’re right, the successful businesses. And I’m speaking, looking at, those who market really well, they. They aren’t trying to, be in a lane all by themselves. You can be unique and have your own value proposition, but still lean on a community. And that’s such good advice.
Chris: [00:20:13] Yeah. That’s like a big thing of oh, are they competition? Or do I want to be collaborating? I’m like all for open collaboration.
Jennifer: [00:20:19] You don’t want to show your vulnerability. If I ask a question, then that’s going to prove that maybe I don’t know everything.
Chris: [00:20:26] Yeah.
Jennifer: [00:20:26] This has been so much fun. Chris, why don’t you please tell our listeners where they can go for more of you and your business. And we’ll obviously put links and whatnot in the show notes.
Yeah, you can check me out on my website: FreedomBusinessFamily.com and on social, probably the best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn. So if you just search Chris Rudolph. I’d be glad to connect with you and see if there’s ways that we can help one another. One of my favorite things to do is to be a connector and help other people. So I just, I love to do that. I would do that, if I could work for free and just connect people all day, I would totally do that.
Yeah. I love that. Thank you again, Chris, for joining our conversation and sharing your experiences with us, it’s been a lot of fun and thank you for listening and we’ll see you.
Heather: [00:21:17] Bye, Chris.
Chris: [00:21:18] Yeah, thank you.
Heather: [00:21:25] Thanks for listening. We hope you’ll come back. Subscribe to The M Word, wherever you listen to podcasts. And for more uncensored conversations, visit The M Word page at ArlingtonStrategy.com.