This article was published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
That’s how Flint McGlaughlin explains the journey you have to take customers on, in Headline Writing: 4 principles that could drive down your website bounce rate.
I asked our latest guest how he enabled a salesforce to fulfill it’s part of this journey, when he grew that close rate at a real estate company he previously worked for (from a 0.1% close rate to a 22% close rate).
You can hear his answer, and many more lesson-filled stories from his career, in my discussion with Joe Karasin, Chief Marketing Officer, CircleIt, on the How I Made It In Marketing podcast.
Karasin manages a team of four at the startup, a budget of $200,000 to $500,000 per month, and has grown users from one million to five million in one year.
CircleIT has raised $5.1 million in Series A funding, with participation from TeleSoft Partners, a venture capital firm that has raised over $1 billion in capital.
Listen to my conversation with Karasin using this embedded player or click through to your preferred audio streaming service using the links below it.
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Some lessons from Karasin that emerged in our discussion:
Karasin learned this lesson over his 15-year career, and he is learning about the difference every day. Two campaigns highlight this for him. The first was a product-focused campaign where they were promoting one of the features of their platform. The team found what they thought were compelling messages to communicate the value quickly and clearly, and they felt that this was enough.
While it wasn't a 'failure' in the traditional sense, it didn't move the needle in the way they expected it to. They shifted focus and started promoting the feature in a different way. They started providing something of value to the consumer from their perspective. They only discussed the feature as it related to this particular user profile, and it went off like gangbusters.
So, while they are still working on getting their product out there, they learned that it was important to market FOR the consumer, not TO them.
Compelling content and messaging will help you get permission to share that messaging on a deeper level with consumers. Some years ago, Karasin was working with a big residential real estate brokerage. One thing they did early on was to put up a gateway to view property photos. Initially, it created a TON of leads for the 50 or so agents in the brokerage, and the brokers were over the moon. Until they brought out the lead conversion data.
These leads were being converted at less than 0.1%, with most giving phony contact information to view the photos and videos. Why give up your information when you can go to Zillow and see the same things?
What the team did instead was publish very comprehensive buyer and seller guides for the consumer. They took the gateway off the property listings and remarketed to those looking at the properties with these guides.
Customers then would provide accurate information, and these leads closed at a 22% rate. The team needed the right content to get the right permission.
Landing pages are one of Karasin’s favorite marketing tools. He has designed and built thousands of them over his career. One thing he learned through testing was to always give the consumer a choice between saying "yes" and also saying "yes.” The second yes can be a "yes, but not right this moment" or “yes, but I need more information first.”
He was marketing for a law firm and one of their practice areas was bankruptcy. He had a landing page where there was one CTA that said, "File Now.” The page converted at around 2.5%. Over time, he decided to test out a different process. So, there was the option to "File Now" but a second option was "What Chapter Do I File?" In this, customers were taken to a secondary landing page with different chapters of bankruptcy on them and quick explainers of each.
The team found that the folks that clicked on the new CTA converted at 7.9%. This also, oddly, led to an increase in the conversion rate on the original CTA and pushed it to 6%. They had taken the pressure off and at least gave the consumer more information before they decided to say "yes.”
Karasin also shared lessons he learned from the people he collaborated with:
Karasin had been freelancing for a while in his career, and when you freelance, you end up just taking the work you can get. He was fortunate to have had some dynamite clients, but it was in meeting Art that he learned possibly the biggest lesson of his career. Shaikh had built this incredible technology and it was inspired by his personal story, which oddly, they had in common. They both lost parents who had left gifts and letters for them for when their parents were gone.
When Karasin learned what the service and product did, he was immediately fired up like he hadn't been in he career. He NEEDED to market this product. He was comfortable in his freelancing business, but also had to market things that he frankly didn't care about. He was already tired of most of it and was relieved when he could put his skills and experience into marketing something that he felt was doing a tremendous amount of good in the world.
Lover's Lane is a huge Midwest retailer in the Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland markets. Karasin had been seeing their commercials since he was a kid. While he knew on some level that established companies needed to advertise and market, he didn't realize how much they needed to innovate in the marketing sphere. Allmond and Karasin met by chance when Allmond wandered into Karasin’s office in Plymouth, Michigan some years ago. Karasin was building an agency for someone else, and it was the first day in the new location.
They spoke for about 15 minutes (Allmond didn't know what the agency did, and really was curious about who was moving into the formerly empty space). Karasin learned that Lover’s Lane was still primarily using traditional channels of marketing but wanted to expand their horizons. It was through online competition that they started to feel the heat and needed someone to help them. Karasin put together a digital plan and executed it for them. It was a good lesson in needing to adapt, and this has served Karasin well in his career.
This one still gets to Karasin. He was really lost after losing his mom in 2009. He didn't know what to do with his life, he felt like he didn't have a career path ahead of him. A friend reached out to him and told Karasin a story about the friend’s dad, which he already knew because it had been all over the news. His friend's dad was (and is) a prominent doctor in Metro Detroit. His office was raided by the DEA, and it was big news.
Turns out, the doctor had an addiction he was feeding by writing himself prescriptions. His business was suffering as he attempted to get sober and keep his practice afloat. His friend asked if he could help in some way. The news story was all that showed up when you Googled the doctor’s name or the business name. So Karasin agreed to try and help and started learning SEO. Once he felt comfortable with it, he started working on it for his friend.
Karasin was able to elevate more relevant information about the doctor than the old story (it was much easier back then), and the doctor’s business continues to thrive. But the real lesson to Karasin was how it helped the doctor in his life. He has remained completely sober and has a fantastic relationship with his son. He has told Karasin in the past that he didn't know what he was going to do if his business went under.
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This podcast is not about marketing – it is about the marketer. It draws its inspiration from the Flint McGlaughlin quote, “The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer” from the Become a Marketer-Philosopher: Create and optimize high-converting webpages free digital marketing course.
Not ready for a listen yet? Interested in searching the conversation? No problem. Below is a tough transcript of our discussion.
Daniel Burstein: Okay. So I was buying gutters for my house and I got two quotes. The first guy he came out, he did some measurement. He talked about some options. It was helpful. Now the second guy. Poor guy. I think he was new to sales. So he would say the quiet parts out loud, right? He'd say, okay. I offered the same day discount and you wouldn't buy. What if I told you stuff about how bad our competitors are? Maybe then you'd buy. Okay. Where's the competitors guide, is it somewhere in my trunk. Let me see. Would you buy today? And he had the binder out the sales binder. So. But being there, I was literally in the customer's shoes. It made me realize I had this epiphany.
People don't want to be sold. They want to be helped. They do not want to be sold. They want to be helped. So when I saw the following lesson in a podcast guest application, I knew I had to talk to the marketer behind it. He says consumers don't want to be marketed to but fo. I love it, we'll hear the story behind that lesson, along with many other lesson filled stories from my next guest. Joining me now is Joe Karasin, Chief Marketing Officer at Circle. Thanks for joining me, Joe.
Joe Karasin: Yeah, no problem, Daniel. Nice to be here. And excited to talk to you about some of the stuff. I hate gutter sales too.
Daniel Burstein: Let’s keep it out of the gutter. Well, let's talk about your background. Right now, you are managing a team of four at a startup. You manage a budget of spend of about 200K-500K per month. And at the startup, you grew users from 1 million to 5 million in one year. Nice job. The startup is called CircleIt. CircleIt has raised $5.1 million in series A funding with participation from Telesoft Partners, a venture capital firm that's raised over $1,000,000,000 in capital. So, Joe, give us an idea, what is your day like as Chief Marketing Officer at CircleIt?
Joe Karasin: Yeah. So my general job is to ensure that people are both starting to utilize and then we, you know, retain them on our platform, CircleIt as a trusted service that helps people send cards and gifts to their loved ones for any future date or milestone, even after they're gone. So we are a death tech startup, which I know probably sounds creepy, but we're getting close to Halloween now. So I figure, you know, it might be another reason to have a have a death tech on the on the show.
Daniel Burstein: I have to admit, I hadn't heard that term before, but it is probably something that is emerging as the population ages. Well, let's jump into some of the lessons you learned from your career, from the things you made in marketing and the stories behind them. So that I want to jump right into that first lesson that I love consumers don't want to be marketed to but for. So, I think I know what you mean by that. But what do you mean by that? And tell us how you learned that lesson.
Joe Karasin: Yeah. So I have been doing this for about 15 years now, digital marketing in particular. And, you know, one of the things that I got, you know, what I used to do a lot of was a lot of lead generation, right? It was a lot of, you know, like, you know, give me your info and I'll get it to a salesperson and they'll, you know, they'll call and sell, sell, sell, you know. And that's that was a lot of what I did.
But, you know, one of the things that I've learned is that, like, you know, we did a lot of like product focused marketing here. You know, when I first started coming into Circle, it was,you know, like, hey, our app does this thing and this would be good for you?
And that’s fine. Don't get me wrong, you need to highlight the features and functions of whatever it is you are trying to market. But that just still, even today comes across like you need this because. I'm pointing my finger. you can't see me doing it, but I'm pointing my finger and you know I always hated things like that when I was a kid. Like, you need eat your vegetables or you need to go do this, clean your room, like that’s just that's how it comes across.
And so to me, it's like what we learned is that we started taking the users that we have, like people that are actually really identifying with our technology, the ones that are really resonating with it. And we're letting them tell their stories and how they used our technology, and how it's benefiting them. And then we just connect the dots. It's not a huge thing where we're like, you know, you got to do this, you got to do this. We're instead saying, hey, this is Donna, and she is an Alzheimer's caregiver for her mother, and she's telling the story. I'm using CircleIt to, you know, to record memories of my mom. So that way I can share them with my grandkids and great grandkids so her memory is not forgotten, and her story lives on with others, that sort of thing. Those in the Palliative Care industry, those in the Military Police, Cancer patients, you know, they're very cognizant of the need for this kind of technology because they know that tomorrow's not guaranteed, but they all want to be there for their loved ones in the future.
And that's what we give them. And then we just let them tell their story and how our technology is benefiting them. And that's why I'm saying we market for the consumer. We're saying this is who's using our technology and this is how they're using it. And then, if we need to help connect the dots for anybody who's watching or listening to what we're doing, then we can do that. But it's usually pretty obvious to anybody who sees the message like, oh my God, yeah, I need that too. So that's what I mean marketing for instead of to.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, I hear you. And you know, obviously we've seen case studies, testimonials, telling the customer story, you know, these are very effective in almost every industry, B2B or B2C. But I would imagine because the industry you're working in is sensitive, right. We don't want to talk or think about death, whatever age we are. Telling those stories, I would guess in your industry especially, and there’s probably many other industries like that, where it's a bit more of a sensitive topic, would be especially helpful because, you know, saying the product features of, you know, like, okay, step one, you die. Step two, this product feature happens. I just think people would turn off to that right away. They don't want think about dying, but kind of seeing that emotional story about, okay, this is what happened. I would think it kind of opens up their mind a bit. I mean, have you noticed that?
Joe Karasin: Well, yeah, so funny story. So that's how CircleIt actually came to be. Our founder and CEO’s father actually gave him a box of greeting cards and instructions for him to follow after he passed away. He wasn't sick, he wasn't ill. There was nothing wrong with him in 2011. And then suddenly in 2012, he passed away unexpectedly. And so now Art had this box of things that he had to do. He had these cards that he needed to give to his nieces and nephews. He had to make sure his mother got flowers on their anniversary every year. And so all this stuff and the more he started to tell people about what happened and talk to people, he recognized that people wanted to be there for their loved ones. And so then this gave them the opportunity to do that. It's technology, solving a problem that we all have.
My mother did the same thing. She left a letter for me in 2009 when she passed away that I found. It's just that parenting type letter that you get, you know, I want you to grow up and be happy and I want you to get married and those kinds of things. And so that kind of impetus is there for people and not necessarily even those that are ill or sick or anything. But it definitely is there.
And so these stories, like Art’s father's story, my mother's story, they are things that somebody who isn't thinking about death may hear and go, wow. Well, I would love to make sure that my grandchild gets a wedding card from me when they get married, that kind of stuff. And the thing is through that, then people can kind of start to learn the different functions and features of what we do. Because there's definitely some daily kind of use cases for what we do as well. So, you know, I think that there's more to it, but that's really the magic of what we've built and what we're trying to talk to people about.
Daniel Burstein: And it sounds very familiar. Did we write a Marketing Sherpa case study about this?
Joe Karasin: We did, actually, yeah. We talked about it. And, you know, we took the data approach and the informational approach. And then I saw that, you know, you were looking for podcast guests and I said, well, you know, I like Marketing Sherpa, I've been reading their case studies for some time. So I might as well, you know, jump on and then kind of meet Daniel for the first time. So here we are.
Daniel Burstein: Well, it's nice to meet you, Joe, and I'm going to include a link to that case study in the show notes for this podcast so anyone can read those details if they want. But also got me thinking, when you talk about marketing to marketing for, you know, it brings up an essential question. I wonder what in your opinion, is the difference between marketing and advertising?
So it's funny. It's a fundamental question what's the difference between marketing and advertising? Something we don't think about much. I'm involved at a local university. I'm on the professional advisory board. If anyone isn't doing that in wherever they live, I highly recommend you do that. I mean, one, it's giving back and yeah, try to be a good guy, right? But the other thing is because then you talk to these college students and they look at marketing and advertising in such a fresh way and they ask you questions like this What is the difference in marketing? And advertising? And what I answered when I thought about it and how, you know, kind of it applies to your to and for thing is, you know, marketing is creating that essential strategy. This isn't a textbook definition. They can get the textbook definition. Marketing is creating that essential strategy where we're helping the ideal customer determine what product or service is the right fit for them in our industry. And often, hopefully it's ours, right? But sometimes it's not. And so, you know, push from the right direction.
Advertising, and I started my career in advertising as a copywriter at an agency, but advertising is simply get the message out there, right. I think so many brands, they kind of skip ahead and they just go straight to the advertising part. So they don't really think through that strategy of, okay, there is a fundamental decision a customer has to make in our industry or involving our product or service, you know, and how do we communicate that out? They just go boom, right to the instant sell part. I just wondered, in your opinion, Joe, what do you think? What is the difference between marketing and advertising? Why is that important? Why should we care about that?
Joe Karasin: So I first off, I don't 100% know that we need to care about it. But because it is something that I think. Well, sorry, hot take I guess. Yeah.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. Okay, I'll mention I'm going to warn people who think Joe had mentioned he had been a political talk radio host in college. We're going to get some hot, controversial takes. I'm ready for it, I'm ready for it. Bring it Joe.
Joe Karasin: Not nothing political nothing political, just marketing. That's all I like to talk about these days. Yeah, marketing and baseball. That's all I really talk about these days. So to me, these days, I think at a certain point they definitely were two distinct entities, right. I think that there's there's that. But I think that today, especially in the digital space, you have to be both. You have to be the strategist and the executor. You know, you have to be the one that executes the strategy and the messaging as well. You know, whether that's, like I was a freelancer for a long time. I've built agencies, I've worked on teams. I've been in dedicated roles. I've had to do it all. You know, I've had to learn it all. And I don't know too many people who've really had to like specialize. I do know people that have done that. But it, you know, it was some time ago. Nowadays I feel like everybody in the marketing department, they're working on the advertising side, they're working on the marketing side. You know, they're working on strategizing. They're working on like, customer profiles or avatars and figuring that out. And then advertising is like, well, what’s a creative way to say that, you know, and how do we do that?
But especially in a startup, I found too that we're all wearing every hat. You know, I've been involved in design conversations. I've been involved in UI, UX conversations, you know, those kinds of things. We're all kind of in that boat, so everybody's kind of got a thing. And like, you know, we really do focus on like, marketing and advertising is really just one bucket of activities that we do within like the confines of our marketing department. And I like versatile people and I like people that are going to be able to pick up and do, do, do, do things. To be like well I don’t really know how to write an ad. I know how to think about the structure of what we're trying to position.
I’m like cool, that’s important, but let’s get a more well-rounded approach we are going to take here. So to me, that's even kind of the sort of person that I would like bring on a team as well. So as far as I'm concerned, I don't care too much about the difference between those two things. There is one. Sure, I agree 100% with you, but I don't think it's as important as we like to think.
Daniel Burstein: Fair enough. I'll make this one final point in our version of marketing crossfire here. And point, counterpoint, so I agree with everything you said and I think that's why being aware of some of these fundamentals and some of these distinctions is so important. Like when we get rolling in our daily work, we're just so heads down we don't think about these things. Because like I said when I started earlier in my career and this is true, you know, in especially bigger organizations as well, right? So we worked at an advertising agency and one of the reason our clients had us as an advertising agency, it was for the creative and strategy and all these other things was media buying, right? Because back then, I mean, I started I was writing print ads in the Wall Street Journal, like those types of things and, you know, print production, you know, doing direct mail and stuff. And the media buying part, that's really how ad agencies start if you look at the history of it.
And so there was really a clear distinction. There was that Marketing Department, they're coming up with the marketing strategy and sure the advertising agencies helping. And then the advertising that we were having that, you know, kind of creative execution and getting the message out there Today, as you mentioned, especially at startups, it's so easy to conflate the two. It's so easy when you know, the floor on a media spend now is like $5 on Facebook. You know, you could never do that back in the day. You had to be more professional.
And so what happens is I worry that we do skip some of these fundamentals in the process and we get right into advertising. And when we do that, kind of like the story I love you said is, ok we just get into like, okay, let's advertise some product features, let's go, go, go. As opposed to stopping back and thinking, wait a minute, what is the marketing strategy here? And you guys came up with a great marketing strategy of like, we have these customers, you know, this very emotional, difficult story. Let's help them tell the story verses, you know, Facebook says, boost your post, boom let’s boost it. And, you know, sell, sell, sell.
Joe Karasin: I blame in some way and I like this will be the last thing I say about this. I do blame the platforms that we have for that conflation. Yeah, I blame Google, I blame Facebook. I blame them all because that's what they do. They give you the strategy upfront. They're like, Hey, pick your targeting, pick this, pick that's you can do all that and then you can create an ad on top of it. So I think that like that conflation really was sort of a product of these digital platforms that we've all become so accustomed to. I think the last like vestige of really thinking about marketing solely as marketing is really probably SEO.
Daniel Burstein: Now that's interesting. Yeah, they're putting powerful tools in, maybe uninformed hands. But all right, let's get back to a lesson from your career. And I love this next one (but all of your lessons are pretty) – permission-based marketing works and consumers will give you permission. So how did you learn this lesson Joe?
Joe Karasin: So a number of years ago, not as many as I think sometimes. But I was the Marketing Director at a really big residential real estate company. And if you're familiar with real estate, especially on the residential side, it's, you know, like leads, and then you get 50 phone calls from an agent, like hoping to represent you to either sell or buy a home. That's really all it is. And so like, that's really kind of the thing.
And so one of the things that was happening was as we got this new technology and it was a product created by a company based out in Boston, and it was a website that had a lot of bells and whistles essentially on the back end to capture information. One of the things that they did was they put up these things like a gateway on property photos. So what would happen is a consumer would be on their Facebook or Instagram or whatever. And they would see, hey, you know, a new four bedroom house is on sale in Livonia, Michigan. And so they would go, Oh, wow, I'm looking to move to Livonia. Like, so let me look at it. Say, click the ad, and it would take them to the website. And then before they could look at the photos, it'd be like, Hey, let us show you other houses too. Give us your name, email, phone number. You know, when are you thinking of moving? Are you preapproved for a mortgage? You know, all these things.
And people, at first they would do it. But most of the information you got was junk. It was, you know, we'd get a lot of like, you know, my first name is F and my last name is U, you know, that kind of stuff. And, you know, my phone number is one, two, three, go to heck, you know, that kind of stuff. So going, oh, okay, this is great. But the thing was, you know, like in our agents, the salespeople weren't converting leads at all. They were really not doing well at it. And so, you know, so one of the things that we came up with was I guess I came up with I don't really have a team there.
You know, one of the things I came up with was, you know, as a younger person at the time, I don't know what the hell to do to buy a house. I certainly don't know how to sell a house because I've never sold one I’ve never owned one. So it's probably confusing for people. And so what we did was we created these really comprehensive buyer and seller guides. You know, they were like in-depth. They had actual information in them, you know, something that a person would go, Oh, wow. Not a typical kind of online guide where you go and it’ll tell you oh, here's five tips to, you know, leverage your sales data on TikTok or something like that, you click and it's like, oh, here's lesson number one on Tik Tok, make sure you download the app. And then here's the other five tips. You know, it was real like data that people could use.
And, you know, it wasn't very salesy. It wasn't like, oh, and by the way, you know, use our brokerage, use our brokerage, you know, that kind of stuff. It was really just like, here's how you buy a house. Here's how you sell a house, and here's how you buy a new house before selling your current house. You know, things like that that people were actually concerned about in the real estate market. And so we would give them that because at the end of the day, like, if I wanted to see a house, there's a huge website out there. There's actually a handful of them, but there's one in particular where I can go look at all the houses for sale in my city and look at the photos and see the videos. The same photos that are provided on the websites by real estate agents because it's all uploaded through their MLS system to Zillow.
So why would I give you my information for you to call me again for not to write? I don't. I don't need you blowing up my phone. Give me something that will help me. Okay, now you're helping me. And then, you know, once that happened and we started remarketing to the people that were actually downloading these guides and utilizing them, all of a sudden they started to see, you know, higher close rates. They were actually taking these people on property tours and selling them homes or getting into their homes and listing the house for sale, you know, on the other side.
So I really was like, you know, permission marketing is still, I think like the gold standard. That's one reason why I've always been a big advocate of paid search over paid social for a lot of reasons. Which is a whole nother conversation. But I, I also though think that like consumers will give you permission to market to them if you're giving them something of value. And that's something that, you know, I've taken here at CircleIt as well as like, you know, we're providing something of tremendous value to the consumer, you know, and sure enough, you know, they will download the app and they'll give us their information so we can then utilize it. The difference is like we're not giving their data up to third parties. We don't have any ads or anything like that in the app. So really the data is solely used to improve their experience within our product.
Daniel Burstein: I love that example because I feel like as marketers we just are so obsessed with forms, right? Because we need to produce a certain amount of leads a quarter or a month or a week or whatever your quota is. And let's just put forms on everything. Let's put them all over the place, and if they're crappy well, that's someone else's problem. So I love that idea of like, you know, actually providing value there.
So something I want to ask is too so that is one part of the journey. And I wonder, were you able to work with the sales force at all with some sales? Because, you know, if the sales force is accustomed to that dialing for dollars and getting a different kind of lead in versus, you know, as a content marketer myself, we're setting up a certain promise or setting up a certain thing that, you know, a way that the customer thinks they are going to interact with us can be disjunctive.
You go from getting this value to all of a sudden getting sold really hard. And so for example, we have a free digital marketing course. And in the session on headline writing, Flint McGlaughlin teaches like here's the flow for the customer. It starts with attention, interest, engagement and then relationship. And so with the ads, you're talking about attention, interests, kind of getting into engagement, but then, you know, you're giving those leads, those people you worked really hard to build that trust with.
You're giving them over to this other group and saying, okay, like further engage them and build a relationship with them.
So were you ever able to get involved with a sales force and kind of enable them and say, hey, it's a different strategy, these people coming in are going to be different, here's how you got to try to, you know, serve them.
Joe Karasin: So I’m going to tell you a little secret that I don't talk about a lot, but it is something. So there was a two year period in my career where the auto industry in Detroit like just tanked and all of a sudden companies that I was freelancing for and built up as a as a clients were cutting expenses. And at the time, digital marketing really wasn't like on they're like, Oh, we've still got print advertising we have to mail out, so let's make a decision here. And they would cut me as an expense. And so I needed to survive. And so I got into door to door sales.
Joe Karasin: Yeah, I was selling I oddly enough, gutters, windows, siding as you initially started. Yeah you know all that, all that kind of stuff, right. And so I learned a lot about sales through that process because there is no harder cold call than knocking on someone's door in the middle of their day or right before dinner or right after, you know, whatever. And like them opening the door and seeing your smiling face, at the door and saying like, hey, saw your windows, had a bunch of fog in them, want to replace them. So I learned a lot about that. And so one of the things that they actually had me do at this real estate brokerage I worked for was they had me do sales training with some of the agents, not all of them, but a handful of them. And so especially ones that they thought really needed the coaching.
And so I would kind of coach them on how to respond to these specific leads. So they weren't knocking on their door and saying, Hey, saw your sidings falling off your house, let's replace it, here's a contract. I taught them how to approach these people because it was a different kind of handoff. This is a different kind of lead than what you're used to. So let's treated differently. And the first thing you need to do and this is another thing that I use as like a lesson that isn't on the list we were talk about today. But another lesson I have is don't treat your leads like leads.
Don't treat them like a number in your churn system. You know that you're just spitting out of a CRM and like, hey, you got to call this one now. Hey, you got to call this one now. You know, get to know them. Don't even bother with, you know, like, oh, it looks like you're looking to buy a house, you know, ask them, like, you know, does your current house have the things you need to be successful? Does your current house have all the things you want? Oh, no? Well you know, have you ever thought about looking for something with a space for a home office or whatever, you know, whatever the thing is. So, yeah, I did get involved with the team, with the sales team quite a bit and that, you know, that helps. It was good for me to have had this sort of like boot camp like experience for two years learning how to sell in a very strange sort of almost archaic, encyclopedia salesman, environment, you know, because then I could kind of say like, okay, that's not how you're going to do this. But here's some here's some responses, here's how you can eliminate objections, here's how you guys can really do this stuff. So I kind of learned a lot about that, which also then in turn made me better at marketing and advertising as it sounds like you would like me to use as a distinction.
Daniel Burstein: Those two things exist Joe, don't pretend they don't. And I bring this up because also sales exists and I'm not joking because I would think many marketers would be in your position. They would change a strategy, they would get the leads and boom, they wash their hands of it, they're done. And they forget that there's marketing, there's advertising, well, now there’s sales. And until we get, you know, to actually, you know, we have a customer, we need the sales force to do the right things to follow up on the promise in the right way. So good for you for taking it that extra step and that extra mile.
And I also have to mention, I went myself when I was in college I did telemarketing and having that sales background, I'm not joking. That is so helpful once you get into advertising and marketing. And so if there's anyone listening and you don't have that sales background, I'm not saying certainly not saying get into telemarketing and order sales and go that far, but definitely meet with your sales team, meet with your sales leads, go on some sales calls, sit in on sales, listen to recordings of sales calls, and you'll get such a better understanding of what is the next step that's happening.
And to Joe's point, you'll find other ways to actually help the customer. Like that's so important because what's probably going to happen is there's going to be some common questions you're going to hear come up and that is great in your marketing and in your content, and you can help answer those questions and bring more people in. So kudos to you, Joe, even though we don't agree on everything, we agree on that. I like that.
So let's look at your next lesson. Give a choice of yes or yes. Now, this sounds like it came from a sales training. This is like, you know, there were sales trainers like that. But so what do you mean by give a choice of yes or yes?
Joe Karasin: So here's the thing, right? So I'm sure if you are in marketing, you're familiar with how to build a landing page and you're familiar with all the different optimization ways to do that. I'm not talking to you, Daniel. I'm talking to the audience. I'm sure you know, you guys out there are, you know, familiar with landing pages. So one of the things that I noticed was, you know, I was marketing for a law firm, and one at the general practice did divorce and family law and some of those things. And then also bankruptcies, you know, a lot of chapter seven, Chapter 13 type bankruptcies.
And so one of the things, you know, we started out with was simply like a landing page after, you know, they would get there after, you know, a couple of marketing touches through, you know, whether it be like display ads or social or whatever we were doing. And we would get there and it would basically just have a, you know, here's your info and, you know, file now, which basically would just get them to talk to the attorney about where to file and get them in the office to, you know, get their bankruptcy case going. But one of the things that I noticed is that, like, people weren't really clicking that button too much. I mean, they were, but not as much as we wanted. And it turns out we're weren't doing a whole lot of educating in the initial funnel building process. We weren't doing a lot of that. We had done some email, you know, things like that that were following up, but nothing really concrete.
So what we did was we instituted a, you know, a two button system. Instead of it being file now, it was basically the two options were, yeah, let's get on the phone with the attorney or I need to learn more. I don't really know if this is the right decision for me. I don't know if maybe I should go through like a debt consolidation service or if I should file bankruptcy. And what kind of bankruptcy do I need to file?
Do I file chapter seven? Do I file chapter 11? You know, am I looking for, you know, those you know, what kind of bankruptcy do I need? You know, am I looking to liquidate, and pay off the debt or am I looking to reorganize, you know all that kind of stuff? So by giving people the option to actually look into this a little bit further from that point, we actually started to see more conversion.
Again, it was really about educating and, you know, giving people more information. So we weren't telling them like to say it wasn't yes or no, it was yes or yes, but not right now. Yes, I need to learn more, you know, that sort of thing. It was always like that qualifier. But once we did that, what we had done at that point too was effectively we had removed objections.
We had removed the objection that would come when the attorney would get on the phone with the with the person and say, okay, why don't you come out in the office, we'll look over all your paperwork and we'll get you going. You know, their objection would be like, I just don't know what I'm doing. But at this point, we've given them comprehensive educational materials that would help them, you know, kind of getting back to the lessons from the real estate brokerage, educating the consumer gave them more confidence to make a decision.
And so, granted, I'm sure that this is kind of old hat in a lot of ways. And I'm sure this is probably, you know, something that, you know, I'm sure if I listened to every single episode of the podcast, people have probably said this in some fashion or another before. But in this situation, you know, to really get them to like, you know, to give them the choice of yes and yes, I learned that in door to door sales too. I learned that knocking on doors and saying like, you know, are you going to replace your windows this year or next year? You know, that kind of thing. And well I don't know, I mean, I know I need to replace them, but, you know, when I don't know. Well, let's talk about it, you know, that sort of thing.
Daniel Burstein: But I think there's two great lessons there. One, that's the type of things you can learn. You talk about the objections. That's the type of things you can learn by sitting in on sales calls and, you know, going on sales calls. You're going to hear those objections. But the other thing is it also reminds me of the headlines. Because there are some headlines you see where it's like, you know, you're ready to replace your Windows today or, you know, whatever those question headlines, you got to be really careful with question headlines because there's many that I see that are easy to answer no to. You know what I mean, like whoever wrote that, we're so focused on our own brands, and son whoever wrote them are so into their own brands. And like people are excited to get new gutters and siding and windows, whatever, or contact a lawyer or whatever it is. So we put those question things in there, like, wouldn't it be great if you had a lawyer today? You know, and most people right now, I don't care about this at all. I care about baseball or, you know.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah. And so yeah, I think that's another great lesson there, too. When you think about writing your headlines, you want it to be yes and yes in terms of it's a natural flow down into your copy. Not well, they can usually answer no and end it.
Joe Karasin: Right? Of course.
Daniel Burstein: So let's talk for the first half of the podcast. We talk about lessons from things you made. The second half of the podcast, we talk about lessons from people you collaborated with. Two key things we do as marketers. We make things that's a really cool thing about being a marketer. We also make them with people. So let's look at your first lesson here. It says you need to believe in your product or service, otherwise you'll burn out quickly. Very true. You learn this from Art Shaikh, Founder & CEO, CircleIt Inc. So how did you learn this from Art?
Joe Karasin: Yeah. So Art is, you know, the circumstances that led to Art and I meeting are the kind of stuff you see in movies that like, you know, you think like, oh, that's not how it happened. But, it really did happen.
Joe Karasin: Yeah now that's not that much, a little less..yeah. But so what happened was is, and I'll try to make this quick, this part of it. So I had built an agency for somebody down in metro Detroit. And at one point they, you know, what they wanted to do was bring me on as part owner. That was sort of the whole the deal. And then that fell through with the pandemic starting to crop up. They had shut down for a couple weeks in Michigan. And so at that point, they were like, well, we're not going to do that anymore. And I was like, okay, well, I'm not going to work here anymore then. So I quit.
And, I wasn't so quiet about it, but I was quitting, you know. And so I moved in with my fiancee, you know, and we well she wasn’t my fiancee at the time, it was my girlfriend. But, you know, now we're engaged.
Joe Karasin: Oh, thank you. Yeah. Getting married in 48 days. So anyway we get up there and a company that I had been working with through this agency or this agency I was building, they wanted to hire me full time. They're based in Boston and I love Boston. It's a great city. And I thought, you know what? Yeah, let's go to Boston. It was a good opportunity. And then, Massachusetts shuts down and they're like, hey, we can't justify onboarding anybody new at this point, so no job for you. I was like, okay, cool. So I still don’t have a job.
So then another another company in Chicago actually contacted me and they hired me. And then their first quarter profits were terrible. So then they cut all their new hires out. 18 of us just gone, like with no ceremony whatsoever. I was like, okay, cool. So now I'm out of a job again. But in the meantime, what had happened was, is everybody who was a client of the agency I had built, they weren't getting anything done for them because the people that I built, the agency for, I weren't really too keen on running an agency. So I said, okay, well, so people started calling me. So I was like, Well, yeah, I'll help you. Yeah, I'll help you, I help you. I'm pretty soon I had a huge client list on my own and I was like, Well, I'll just freelance.
So in the process of trying to get more business, I ran across a LinkedIn post, you know, and they're like, hey ok, you know, I need a, you know, a Google ads expert to bring on as a freelancer, as a contractor. Well, you know, let me talk to this guy. So, you know, it's for this thing called CircleIt. Never heard of it, you know, didn't know anything about it. And there wasn't a whole lot of information in the you know, in the description about what the company wants. I said, okay, well, I will, you know, guess I'll meet this person and see what they, you know, what they have to say. And so I get on this call with Art and he's telling me what CircleIt is. And like my jaw hit the floor because as I mentioned earlier, you know, my mother left me this letter. His father left him letters and cards and things like that. We had this really strange, what I thought was at the time a very, very, very unique experience that we both shared. Turns out, like I said, there's plenty of people I think the comedian Ali Wong was just on The Daily Show the other day talking about how her father did the same thing.
So this is not as uncommon as I thought But what I what I was learning was like, you know, as I heard more about this, I'm like, this is something like need to be marketing. This isn't, this isn't windows this isn't, you know, real estate services or legal services or any of the other things that I've marketed, which we'll talk about more interesting products that I've marketed later, I'm sure.
But this is something that's like, in my like, it's in my core. This is something that like, it's like one of the most important things that's ever happened to me was finding this letter from my mother after she passed away that she had written, you know, a few months before she did. You know, she knew things were going poorly with her cancer treatment and that sort of thing.
And so I just like I'm like, yeah, I got to do this. And what I'm learning. And I continue to learn this from Art, in working with Art is like and everybody on our team really, you know, it's not just he and I it’s the whole team. We're all so mission driven. We believe in this so much. Like, you just don't get tired. I just don't get tired. II love it so much. I love to do all the things that we're doing. I love marketing. I love the concept. I talk about it a lot. My fiancee yells at me all the time because I actually want to sit and watch the commercials through TV shows and things like that, or the ads on YouTube videos or whatever. Because I like to study them, learn them and criticize them at some point, you know, and or be like, hey, you know, that's a good idea. We should, you know, think about that, those kinds of things. But this is like this is something completely different. I, I firmly believe that the world needs this technology, you know, we need to have it. It's, you know, it's a completely private, secure communication tool on its own. Like without any of the other, like interesting things that we're doing. That alone with all your data being sold by Meta and some of these other companies. To be able to communicate with your loved ones, where I could say something to my fiancee that then I'm not going to see an ad for later on my Facebook feed or whatever. That's beautiful. I love that. I love the fact that I'm not being marketed to I'm being marketed for, in these cases. By the fact that it's so important and we love it so much, you know, I feel like for the first time in my career, I'm really doing something good in the world as opposed to just doing good for my clients or customers.
Daniel Burstein: I think that’s a beautiful thing and I wish that for everyone that's listening to this podcast, that’s the ultimate we can have in our career. And I want to ask, though, I know for you with kind of fate, serendipity, kismet. But I wonder also looking back, if there was anything you would do, like if you had to live your life over let's say. You look back and know you did this, is there anything you would do intentionally to get to this point? Because I was interviewing earlier on the How I Made It In Marketing podcast, Julian Rio. He's the Assistant Vice President of International Marketing of Ring Central. And one of his lessons was don't set yourself strict career goals, learn how to uncover and seize opportunities. And the one biggest thing he said he would do is like never set those five and ten year career goals, whatever, you know, like that, that they always try to push on you and cause then you're focused on going down this path and he's like, you know, build your skills and then the opportunities come along. You can hop on them.
So I know this is probably a tough question, but beautiful serendipity. I hope we all have that in our life. But if you had to live that career over and you can say, okay, here are steps I would intentionally take to be able to find something I'm passionate about have you thought about have you learned anything in hindsight?
Joe Karasin: Huh. Interesting. So like, the thing is, it's funny because I think, like when I was talking about it, now that I hear your question, I'm like, it sounds like this is the only thing I'm passionate about and it's not. We’ve talked a little bit before the show just trying to get to know each other, and you know that I am a politics junkie, I love baseball, all those kinds of things. So there’s a bunch of stuff that I am really passionate about and that I feel like I could get behind. So, you know, to me it was more like I needed to learn the skills because I didn't go to school to be a marketer, I didn't get a business degree. I my initial the initial plan for Joe was go to school, get your degree, I double majored in political science and philosophy. And then I did what I was supposed to do what everybody who majors in political science and philosophy does after that go to law school. That was the whole thing. So I had applied for, you know, law schools and things like that. It turns out it wasn't for me, not that I didn't get into schools. I just didn't want to be a lawyer.
So I took a job doing data analysis for a political organization and fell in love with data and numbers. And then, you know, mom was sick and I moved and, you know, all that kind of stuff I came back. And then, I was helping take care of her. Then she passed away. And then I have this this sort of like, you know, lost period in my life. And so I learned how to do, and I'm sure we'll talk about this one as well, too. I learned how to do some marketing stuff because of a friend who needed help.
And so I'm self-taught, you know, in everything that I do. I never went to school for any of this. So, yeah, maybe I would have done that. I don't know. I wouldn't have done it because that wasn't what I wanted to do originally. But I fell in love with marketing and what I do. And so intentionally, I don't know, it's hard for me to say because I know a lot of what I'm doing right now, but also even prior was really kind of not it wasn't intentional. All of it was sort of like, hey, this is what you do and here's some cool stuff you can do with it. And now you can go market your stuff, you know, so, you know, now I, I'm a little more, you know, thoughtful about I guess, some of those things. But if, you know, up until this point, not really.
Daniel Burstein: Well, sounds like you had a real openness I would say is the one thing. I would say there are other people who would, like have that goal of going to law school. And I know someone specifically a friend of mine who went to law school, you know, like later in their career deep was a very successful lawyer and was like, I don't know, you know, so I think that is one lesson in itself there is being open.
I took the LSAT myself, LSAT, whatever and I can go that route. My girlfriend's roommate was in law school and I saw what it really meant and I'm like, Boy, that's not me. I do not want to do that. So I think the thing that we need to do for ourselves it’s the same thing we need to do for our brands, like have an understanding of our value proposition generally, which will change based on whatever our role is, but then be prepared to pivot.
Like, as you've mentioned many times in your career, I mean, 2009 for me, there was the Great Recession and then, you know, there's COVID and all. I had to pivot many times and just being in digital marketing, it's such a fast moving space with, you know, not to mention just the macro economy changing. Just our space changes so fast and so much. You know, I started before these social media platforms. I remember when MySpace was a thing or Facebook, and now Tik Tok or Discord or who knows?
So I think that one of my other podcast guests he mentioned have a Gumby attitude towards everything. And I think that's maybe if I had to put words in your mouth, I think you've kind of had a Gumby attitude and said, you know, let me be flexible here.
Joe Karasin: Yeah, I knowthat's a good point. You know, a lot of it was at certain point in my life. A lot of it was mainly just survival. You know, if you don't if you don't make if you don't do something, you're going to you're not going to eat. So that's you know, and obviously, like, other people can't see me, but I'm very well-fed.
Daniel Burstein: Very nice, a man's got to eat. That's also motivation. Alright, let’s talk about another you have established brands still need to market innovatively. You learn this from Mike Allmond, Owner & President, Lover's Lane. So how did you learn this from Mike?
Joe Karasin: Oh, okay. So a little background because obviously you guys aren't all Midwesterners listening, Lovers Lane is as Daniel mentioned or we talked about earlier, is an adult novelty store, a very well-known one in the metro Detroit area, the Chicago area and the Indianapolis area, and in Cleveland also. So they have 30, 40 retail outlets like brick and mortar, been in business for years and years and years, you know, 30, 40 years. And I was very aware of this company because like when I was a kid, you would see their commercials on TV or you would see, as I said, you know, their ads in the back of, you know, the I forget what they call those free daily papers or weekly papers they. Alternative news weeklys, yeah MetroTimes in Detroit was a big one. And so, you know, very, very cognizant of their brand, knew the stores, seen them, all that kind of stuff.
So to me, you know, as a marketer you hear it, like Coca Cola has to spend money on marketing. You know, they have to spend money on advertising. And it's like, yeah, they do you're right. Because, you know, somehow people are going to forget what Coca Cola is, you know, if they don't. Or younger people are never going to heard of it because they've only ever heard of Pepsi or something like that. So I'm working at building this agency in Plymouth, Michigan, it was the first day we actually got the office. Like the very first day I'm still setting up computers and helping with, you know, let's move this desk over here, you know, that kind of stuff, unpacking boxes, all that kind of stuff.
And this guy wanders into this office, this office, like there's no signage, nothing like, it doesn't look like an open business because it really wasn't. This guy walks in and he goes, it was always like, I didn't know there's anybody that ever worked in here. I said, yeah this is our first day, we just opened and he goes, Oh, he goes, What do you guys do? And so I was well, you know, we're a digital marketing agency and you know we kind of got into it. He goes, Oh, can I have your card? He's like, I think I think we need to talk. I'm like, okay. And so again, more serendipity, right? Like just random person walks into my office. And so I gave him my business card. I was like, here you go as a give me a call some time. And he said, here's mine, and it said Lover’s Lane on it. And I was like, I thought maybe it was like a franchise business. I'm like, oh, so you own one of the Lover's Lane stores? And he goes, no, I own all 32 of them. And I said, Oh, okay. And he said, yeah, he goes, we, you know we need to really step up our game in digital marketing, digital advertising he goes and we need somebody who understands how to do Google ads and social ads and all that kind of stuff. And he goes, and we just don't have anybody. And he goes, I like to hear like a proposal from you. I said, okay.
So then I started working, but that was the thing, right? So like these guys are doing really, really well. For a number of years, they had used all the traditional channels, they had billboards, they had TV spots, radio spots, again, the alternative weekly advertising, that kind of stuff. They had all that stuff. We were all very aware of their brand, but they really wanted to keep growing and change. So then through that process, we started working together and then they actually followed me when I bolted from this agency and I worked with them. They were one of my freelance clients that I had. And so Mike really showed me that, you know, like, you know, they're always thinking about, you know, that next step, like, where do we need to be? Where do we need to market? Where do we need to advertise? How do we reach the people that are going to be looking for our products and services. You know, for them, you know, reaching a younger generation, you know, how are they going to do that? Instagram, Tik Tok, you know, that sort of stuff. They need, you know, they need to continue to sell these products to younger people because for the most part, the stuff that they sell there is more geared towards a for the most part, a younger audience.
But you also want to get your brand in front of them. So that way that's where they're going to go for these, you know, novelties, as we say, that sort of stuff. So interesting, like kind of thing that I learned in that process was really just understanding that established brands still need to kind of expand their marketing channels.
Daniel Burstein: Yeah, it's a great lesson in order, you know, for anyone listening what and younger audience I assume is a younger 18 plus audience. Just so we are clear on the podcast. So but when you're going you're working with an organization like that, change is very hard. And I wonder if, you know, maybe the CEO, or the President thought that, and there are others in the organization that didn’t or just in general how you work with them to take them from, okay, here's where you are and here's how to try something new.
Because when I when I read that I was like, that’s a great lesson. I actually wrote a case study about Oreo and McDonald's recently and how Oreo and McDonald's teamed up for influencer marketing for this Shamrock Shake they made together. And, you know, I hadn't really thought about the time until I read your lesson because I'm kind of used to this now. Okay. That influencer marketing. But wait a minute, Oreo and McDonald's, they have two of the biggest media budgets in the world. They have two of the biggest brands in the world. And they're going out to these, frankly, you know, little dinky influencers on Instagram or whatever who yeah, they have a following or whatever, but nothing compared to these massive media budgets.
And yeah, they are because like you said, hey, they're trying to stay ahead of what's next and they're trying to innovate. But I just wonder, anything I've been involved with in my career that involves change, involves something new, never easy, it's never easy. So I wonder do you have anything you learned from that, any advice for people, to help get those brands to innovate?
Joe Karasin: Yeah. You know, I always say that, like when you are, you're trying to get people to take on something new. I always say you have to be from Missouri, show them.
Daniel Burstein: That’s a Midwest joke, I wouldn't have gotten that that's a very Midwestern story.
Joe Karasin: It’s the Show Me state.
Daniel Burstein: Now I get it.
Joe Karasin: I'm not from Missouri or anything like that, but I know this. So but the thing is like that's the thing. Like you have to show them. First off, you have to be trusted. Like that's the thing. Like, you know, companies that I've worked with in the past, you know, they trusted me because I had proven my value to them on other things. And so when I would come to them and say, hey, I think this would be a good way to help you guys grow because of X, Y, Z. I'm not just one of those, you know, like, hey, this would be great for you and that's it. You know, I want to, you know, I usually back things up with information, data, things like that.And I say, you know, this is something I think we need to do. And I go, okay, yeah, well, I'll give it a shot. You know, that was the thing. So we just give them a shot so they would give you, you know, a small budget of like here, why don't you allocate X to this initiative that you want to launch and see what happens? And then from that you can extrapolate, you can say, okay, look, we took five grand this month and we put it towards this and this is what we got out of it. Now, in comparison, you know, we were getting this with five grand with this idea or this idea, I think this is the way to go. And here's why.
So it's really like I said, it's all about showing that I'm like, this is where things are going. You have to be here in order to take advantage of this, this new, you know, this new technology or this new channel or this new, you know, type of, you know, product within, you know, Google ads or something like that, whatever it is that you're trying to convince somebody to do. The other thing, too, like, especially if you're in the situation I was in, which was, you know, freelancing, you can always remind them that like, I'm not charging you more , I'm not making a dime off you taking on this initiative, like none whatsoever. We have an agreement that that price will stay the same. I'm not going anywhere. And so that's, you know, and that and sort of like we take that here. You know, one of the nice things about being in a startup like CircleIt is that I don't have that inculcated institutional inertia that needs to be, you know, like overcome to get like a new thing done.
You know, I go to Art and I say, hey, you know, this is something we need to do. And he goes, cool, let's do it. You know, we are always willing to throw something, you know, throw something into something to get moving, you know, that's, that's the thing. And, you know, again, it's the show me, you know, like, okay, well, let's start let's you know, let's crawl, walk, run, you know, let's start out slow and see if that works and then keep going from there. And to me, that process is always good. I don't, you know, I've never been one that has told anybody like, oh my God, this is a winning formula. Let's throw all of your budget at it. You know, we need to do a few things. And I used to tell people, you know, whenever would meet with a, you know, a potential new client or whatever the case may be. One of the things I noticed were a lot of people they were promoting like one specific type of marketing product that they wanted you to like be all in on. All the ads you'd see. They'd be like, you need to be doing Facebook ads and you need to use me because I have a magic bullet that's going to shred through things.
And you know, one of the things I told people is I said, if anybody is tr