Interview with young entrepreneur Joel Goldstein, CEO of an internet marketing company

Cristian: Hi Joel. We are going to talk today about internet entrepreneurship and your business Peer Marketing Group. But first, tell us a bit about how did you become an entrepreneur?

Joel: I was fortunate to have a young start. I started out by developing a store on ebay that sold used car audio amplifiers, I went to the local flea market every weekend and cleaned out the stands of every piece of equipment I could get my hands on. This taught me the skills of mutually beneficial negotiation, the skill to developing long term relationships and the value of market research. I took this small business to a level where I was able to purchase my first car and build a retirement account before the age of 18.


Cristian: Your bio says that you are a guest lecturer at Harvard University. So does internet marketing get taught in schools nowadays?

Joel: Yes, my first masters class at Harvard University was actually Internet Marketing. The teacher was 65, and I was asked to give a guest lecture the next semester after I passed the class with exemplary marks.

The way that I see it, there are incredibly low barriers to entry when it comes to online entrepreneurship. If you learn about “Internet Marketing” from a lecture that content is already out of date and Google has changed their search algorithm twice. Learn by doing, this has always been my teacher and it has served me well.


Cristian: What exactly does Peer Marketing Group do?

Joel: We are a boutique marketing firm. What that means is we don’t take on more than 10 clients at a time, allowing us to give our customers extraordinary service. We don’t work for the money, we work to earn our customers’ referrals.

I have met amazing and talented professionals that have a similar outlook over the years. We partnered up and formed this group that will give us the flexibility to choose the clients that we can perform services on a level that they can not find anywhere else.

We have a broad range of services however they all revolve around what will bring the best return on our client’s investment. We are honored when a client selects us to join their team and take them to the next level, this is something that we do not take lightly.


Cristian: Who should think about Internet Marketing? Are there any businesses that could live totally outside internet and thrive?

Joel: This upcoming technological shift will be major, there will be a lot of businesses that close due to not having an internet presence. I do not think that “Internet Marketing” will net a lot of businesses a positive return on their investment.

For example:

A used tire store that is the town’s “best kept secret” was thriving in the 90’s, doing well in the 00’s and has seen a decline since 2010. They could not understand why the more expensive competitors less than a mile away were doing so well and they were struggling.

What this business didn’t understand was the shift to mobile smart phones, the other business was the only used tire store in town listed on google maps. The younger generation did not know about the other location.

In 2012 the more reputable store with better prices closed, due to their lack of a free listing on google.


Cristian: What are the most important areas of internet marketing a small business should look after?

Joel: The most important thing is to realize what they would like their website to do for them. I have seen it over and over again, a company says “Internet Marketing doesn’t work! We’ve had a website over 8 years and haven’t received one lead.” The problem is that they do not have a way to be contacted on their website other than their phone number and they never bothered to ask the caller “where did you find us?”.

If you are in a business where it is important to have a customer long term, you should be focusing on capturing leads with a free product and keeping that potential client as educated about your field and your company as possible.

If you have a business that sells a product or service it is extremely important to realize how that is presented to a potential client. Often viewing the world through our own eyes we can not see why others do not understand. Having a third party as a marketing partner allows you to gain perspective into how the public is viewing your company, product or service.


Cristian: So your elevator pitch is?

Joel: We are a small firm dedicated to our clients. We often change from a fee structure to an equity partner after a year of service with our clients and have yet to have an unsatisfied client relationship.


Cristian: How can a small business find a good internet marketing company? My guess is that most small businesses start by thinking just about SEO.

Joel: It is so tough to find someone you can trust, often people search the internet to find an Internet marketing company… Funny enough the good marketing firms and PR firms rarely market themselves because they are so many people that build a website for their (uncle/parents/cousins) and start doing web development on the side.

The best way to find a web developer that you can trust is only through word of mouth. Have them sit with you and explain everything step by step while showing you work that they have done for other clients. Ask for deadlines and benchmarks… always.


Cristian: And I think it really depends on the area of business? If you have a restaurant you probably need other things than say a house cleaning service when it comes to online exposure.

Joel: Yes, the services that will benefit each business differ greatly. One of the worst ways to judge how to spend your marketing budget is doing what “the other guy” is doing. Often marketing dollars aren’t tracked and the return on investment is never calculated. This is especially true with traditional media and direct mail.


Cristian: How can a small business take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks? What else is needed, more than just “having a page”?

Joel: A large misconception that has been perpetuated by social media marketers is the  social media universe will send hordes of people to your website and make it rain money. Social media should be used, however it should be used in the same way that email marketing is used and that is to stay in someone’s mind. Often people may stumble across a post of yours and purchase a product, however the effort exerted to maintain that presence hasn’t been shown to be an effective use of time when it comes to the return on the time invested.


Cristian: There are a lot of “too good to be true” online marketing offers. Sure, it would be good to be on the first page of Google in 2 weeks, but what’s true and what’s not? How can someone tell the genuine marketing skills from the “too good to be true”?

Joel: The easiest way to weed out a snake oil salesperson is talking to their past clients. An honest marketing consultant should be happy to share a number of referrals for you to vet their services. It is important when speaking to their past or current clients to ask how they are with communication, that is often the most difficult part when dealing with a programmer or marketing company.


Cristian: So what would be your best 3 advices you could give a small business about internet marketing?


1) Act local, think national – Even in the world of the Internet most customers will prefer to deal with a local company over a national company. This is becoming more prevalent due to our increased use of mobile devices and with Google’s new “me” search where the search is customized to your location and preferences.

2) Give information for free – This is hard for consultants that get paid to contribute their knowledge, however when you are authoring truly good, useful and applicable content the Internet responds with the social sphere sharing your information and increasing your brand organically.

3) Talk like a friend, not a professor – This is more of an opinion. From what I have found with most of my research are the top internet times are pre 9am and after 6pm, these are people coming home from work and do not want to read and be lectured to… in my opinion.


Cristian: You started your business young. How young where you when you started?

Joel: I had my first business at the ripe ol’ age of 8 with the Boston Globe as a paperboy.


Cristian: So you could say you grew up with the Internet. I know it’s easier to target younger generations online, but how can a small company be sure it’s reaching via internet the older audience?

Joel: I am the tip top of the Y generation or the Millenials, this really means that ever since I could spell I was using a computer in one way or another. The fastest growing demographic remains 60+, if you know where the demographic you’re seeking to expose your message to is logging on you’ll have a significant increase in your response rates.

If I were marketing to Baby Boomers I would focus on sites like AOL that are renown to have the diehards that refuse to change their email addresses.


Cristian: What about mobile? It’s changing the way people get online as we speak. Is it already mainstream or still early adopters?

Joel: Mobile is the future and I believe the future is now. Today’s smart phones are faster and more intuitive than most computers 2 years ago. With over 50% of americans that have a mobile phone owning a smart phone if you do not have a mobile optimized website you could be missing out on a considerable traffic source. Just to my blog alone 23%-28% of my traffic comes from mobile visitors.