Interview with Justin McGill from Novel Concept Studio
Justin: Thanks for having me Christian. In short – Novel Concept Studio is all about helping companies expand their web presence.
Justin: There are indeed several web marketing companies out there. Internet marketing is probably the most competitive market you can get into. I was able to capitalize on the industry though. Several internet marketers and web developers lack the fundamentals to be successful; whether it is through their customer service, their appearance and the way the present themselves, or just their response times. These areas are what I wanted Novel Concept Studio to focus on.
Cristian: You worked as a supervisor before – how did you decide it’s about time to start your own business?
Justin: I was in the trucking industry before and worked my way up from a customer service representative to a supervisor. I was practically born into the industry, but I knew owning my own business was what I wanted to do with my life. I wouldn’t change the experience I gained for anything though, as it has helped me get to where I am at today. Zig Ziglar is a very famous motivational speaker that once said “Those that don’t take Step 1, will never take Step 2.” Half the battle is just making the leap.
Cristian:What kind of site/customer is your main target?
Justin: We really want to help small and medium sized businesses. Ideally, we want to work with those businesses that have somewhat of an established marketplace and brand. However, we realize that those options aren’t always available. We’re really open to helping just about anybody.
Cristian:And your best service?
Justin: We do both web development and internet marketing, but internet marketing is our bread and butter.
Cristian: If you were to define your company in an elevator pitch, what would you say?
Justin: That’s a good question. Essentially though, I would introduce the concept of internet marketing. I would bring them in by asking, “What search terms would you use to find your business?” I would then take their answer and explain that I can their website listed on the first page of those search results. Really, that’s what it boils down to. An obstacle that I have to overcome is that most business owners have no idea what SEO or internet marketing is. So if I can break it down into an easier to grasp format, I’ll have more success with the “pitch”.
Cristian:How important is the web presence for a company now, during the economic crisis?
Justin: I think it’s probably more important now, than ever before. I think more business owners are looking for ways to maximize their dollars. $5,000 a month yellow page ads just aren’t attractive options anymore. Especially when most people find businesses through search engines.
Cristian:Did companies cut costs on Web Marketing?
Justin: There are certainly companies that are going to cut back on web marketing, especially those that aren’t seeing the results from their Marketing company. Novel Concept Studio hasn’t lost any during these tough financial times though, and I’d like to think that’s because we get the results.
Cristian:Can you name a few of you customers and what you did for them?
Justin: Absolutely. A couple clients are acupuncturemediaworks.com and affordablehealthinsuranceplan.com. They are the ones I just finished compiling reports and sending invoices for and I have some results for them off the top of my head because of it. Acupuncture Media Works worked with Novel Concept Studio to focus on three different keywords that they were spending the most on Pay Per Click ads for. For Acupuncture Media Works, one such keyword phrase was “Acupuncture Brochures.” They are now ranking 3rd in Google for this term, and no competitor is above them. Other terms we are now focusing on is “Acupuncture Supplies” which currently ranks 7th, and “Acupuncture Marketing” which they currently rank 8th for. So we’ve had great success and they are a relatively new client having been with us for a couple of months. Usually these internet marketing things take time to see results as there are a lot of factors that go into it. It’s great for clients to see that immediate result though. Another longer standing client is affordablehealthinsuranceplan.com. We’ve shifted our keyword focus a couple different times, but right now our focus is on “Chicago Health Insurance.” They currently rank 6th for this term. They also have several other first page results with other things like “Illinois Health Insurance” and several variations.
Cristian:You launched an affiliate program for your SEO service. It’s not so common for this field of business, how does it work?
Justin: You are right, we weren’t real sure what to expect with this affiliate program. However, we do have a couple online affiliate partners that really drive a lot of traffic to www.novelconceptstudio.com. Our biggest success is actually our offline affiliates. We have a couple of partners that deal with business development in the local Phoenix Arizona market and have been able to successfully offer our services to local businesses. Kolikoff & Co (www.kolikoff.com). and Vibrant Consulting Group (www.vibrantcg.com) are the business development professionals that we’ve worked with first hand and are successful offline affiliate partners.
Cristian:By the way, how many employees do you have?
Justin: I currently have myself, a sales and business development manager, a web developer, and an assistant.
Cristian:What are the most effective ways for a company to promote itself online?
Justin: If they are looking to do this themselves, they need to be prepared to invest heavily. Not necessarily in terms of money since they are doing it themselves afterall, but in terms of time. There is no magic wand to wave. You should start with your keyword and market research and learn about search engine optimization and how to properly optimize your website. If your site isn’t in search engines already, make sure it gets submitted and then start building links like crazy! That’s actually our basic marketing package in a nutshell. However, there are certainly many more things that can be done to expand your web presence and to attain rankings quicker. Things like article marketing, social networking, blogging, etc. The list goes on.
Cristian:Your company started as a web design company. How did you manage to change focus to Web Marketing?
Justin: They just go hand in hand with each other. I have seen several web design companies offer search engine optimization and website marketing, when their own website was not optimized nor was it marketed. They’re simply looking to take advantage of a less knowing customer, or they just simply outsource the work. I realized that for long term success, internet marketing needed to be the focus of Novel Concept Studio. Simply because of the month after month residual benefit that came with it.
Cristian:An entrepreneur that manages to adapt his business on the way – is that the way to do it?
Justin: I’d like to say I had it all mapped out from the beginning, but things change and you have to be able to adapt. If you cannot adapt to the ever changing environment, you simply will not last in this business, or any business for that matter. Having said that, you still need goals. Just because you have to adapt, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write out your goals.
Cristian:By the way, what are the most common mistakes a company does when promoting itself online?
Justin: Not planning properly is probably the biggest common mistake made. I knew this going in, so I was able to plan accordingly. If you are going to start a business, you need to plan. It’s as simple as that. Not only should you have your business plan worked out, your budget and marketing plans finalized, but you also need to set Goals. This is another area that most people fail. Goals give you something to work for and writing them out gives you something to keep focused on.
Cristian:Should start-ups invest in Web Marketing?
Justin: It’s never too early to start marketing your website. Start ups should certainly invest in it. That’s the beauty of internet marketing. It allows small start-ups to compete with the bigger name brands.
Cristian: How does Web Marketing compare with traditional marketing in terms of costs and results?
Justin: One of my clients actually is spending $10,000/month on a two page Yellow Page ad. I had no idea that Yellow Page ads could cost so much. It was absolutely mind boggling. He is locked in for two more months to finish his yearly commitment. So, he will have spent $120,000 for his Yellow Page ad by the time it’s all said and done. In the past 3 months he had generated 5 leads from this ad. Leads, not sales. Now his service is one that can get anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500 a sale, but the cost for those leads is incredible. He had only 1 lead generated from his website in that time. Needless to say he will not be spending anywhere near that with Novel Concept Studio’s web marketing services. Since nearly 4 out of 5 people find businesses through search engines, we’ll be able to very easily be a more cost effective solution for his business.
Cristian: I bet you started your company with a minimal investment. If you were to start all over again what would you do differently?
Justin: Novel Concept Studio was a very low investment startup. I needed to register a domain and hosting, but other than that most of the investment was in time. Just getting the website together, business plans, goals, marketing, etc. I did do some Pay Per Click early to generate some quicker business opportunities, but it was certainly a low monetary investment overall.
Cristian: Any plans to expand?
Justin: Absolutely! Most businesses are just treading water right now, but we have some very big plans for the near and long term future. Again, writing out your goals is the most important thing. I am a big believer in positive thinking and have no doubt at all that the long term goals for Novel Concept Studio will be met. The 5 year plan is to eventually have multiple office spaces established in other cities. Hopefully you can come back to interview me 5 years from now to see that goal gets met!
Cristian: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, what Social Networking site works best?
Justin: You know it really depends on the business. I get asked this regularly from prospective clients. What works for some businesses might not work for other businesses. Social Networking can lead to potential customers, but I firmly believe that the real value in Social Networking is in building brand awareness.
Cristian: What makes the difference between a good site and a bad site?
Justin: It’s important to remember that most often, potential customers will see your business first from your website. If your website is not professional looking, you can forget about that customer making a purchase with you. I always tell my clients the old adage, “You have one chance at a first impression.” You can’t afford not to have a professional looking website. So, to answer your question, it starts with the appearance. From there, it’s great to have a good looking website, but if no one knows it is there, what good is it? This the importance of internet marketing.