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GOLD! CHECKLIST: How to Start a Digital Marketing Agency & Hit $5K in Less than 90 Days

Wiezel

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Has anyone documented there process? Can you help me with the general outline on what you are documenting?
I have facing the problem in documenting the process and not getting the idea on the process of documentation, maybe, because i never documented?

Kindly help.
 

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MHolland

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I've been meaning to write this post for a long time. It's basically the story of how I started a digital marketing agency to be able to do cool stuff. And I would like to give you a nice little checklist that you could use as well if it interests you.

I started my business in 2010. Since then, I reduced my own work load to less than 10 hours a month, lived in Mexico for 4 1/2 years, traveled to 15 countries, and am prepping to head to Scotland for 6 months in Sept - all together with my wife & 3 kids.

I cracked the code to scaling a service-based business using detailed systems (a fancy checklist on Asana) and a good team (all based in the Philippines).

I made $2,450 in my first month. Not crazy I know but it was a big deal for me just starting out. More importantly, that number increased every single month afterwards.

At about month 11 is when I read The Millionaire Fastlane and it completely changed how I viewed my business. I made a bunch of changes based on MJ's advice and started hitting 5 figure months about two months later.


DOES IT FOLLOW MJ'S COMMANDMENTS?

I need to mention that a digital marketing agency does NOT follow all of MJ's 5 business commandments. It breaks one - Barrier to Entry. Basically, anyone can do this. They really can.

BUT, that's also the catch - most people DON'T ACTUALLY EXECUTE! You can give them all the tools, step-by-step instructions, templates, etc and they still won't do anything. I know because I offer a course giving people literally everything they need and only a handful of people actually do the thing.

So in a way, the barrier to entry commandment is almost a non-issue. Besides, there's more than enough business out there.

With the other commandments (time, scale, control, & need), this kind of business passes with full marks.


MAKING $5K IN UNDER 90 DAYS

Why $5,000? Two reasons:
  1. It’s usually enough money for most people to quit their jobs to focus full time on the business
  2. It’s totally realistic & achievable
This is a number that most people can hit with some focused work. How fast you’re able to hit $5k is up to two things:
  1. Your Prices
  2. Your Hustle
Obviously, the more you sell, the more you’ll make. Keep in mind that some services typically cost more than others (for example: websites cost more than social media management)

Like I said, I made $2,450 in my first month. How did I make that money? I networked with people I already knew and got in touch with a few key business owners. I shook hands and spoke with everyone I knew.

Simply put, I hustled.

Hitting $5K in under 90 days is totally doable. I have students in my course that have done much more in less time.


WHAT IS AN ONLINE MARKETING AGENCY?

Before I give you a checklist, I have to answer, what is an online marketing agency?

There are a lot of names for this kind of business - internet marketing company, digital marketing agency, online marketing business, and more. They’re all the same thing.

In a nutshell, it’s a service-based business that manages the online marketing activities for companies of any size that are in need of growing their presence online – which is all of them.

This includes services like SEO, social media management, reputation management, website design, and more.

You can choose to focus in on just one branch of online marketing (like website design or SEO) or you can choose to do it all.

As the business owner, you’re responsible for creating the services that your clients will choose from.
Then you will need to recruit a team of people to do the actual work. You can even hire salespeople or a sales company later on and scale it infinitely.

There’s no shortage of businesses that need help with their online marketing so the sky’s the limit. There’s also no shortage of people who can do the actual work and you can contract them relatively inexpensively.

*NOTE: Building an online marketing agency might not be your passion.

It really doesn’t matter.
What matters is that it offers you a way to sell a valuable service to real people who pay real money. You can quickly build this business, scale it up, and then do whatever the heck you want!

QUICK BENEFITS OF AN ONLINE MARKETING AGENCY

The benefits primarily include:


  • You can get started for less than $300
  • Extremely low overhead
  • Large profit margin - you literally set the prices
  • Huge potential - an extra $50K/year or $500K/year - it's up to you
  • Work online
  • Flexible schedule



THE 5 S's OF YOUR ONLINE MARKETING AGENCY

Starting and running a digital marketing agency breaks down into what I call the 5 S's.

1. Setup
2. Sales
3. Systems
4. Staffing
5. Scaling-Up



I'm going to break down the checklist into those 5 groups.

The rest of this post is literally made up of the steps you can follow to start your own digital marketing agency. If you have any questions, obviously I'll be paying attention to this thread. I won't hold anything back.

Just ask.

***

SETUP
This portion is to help you get started by establishing your business services, messaging & branding, website, and so forth. The goal is to move quickly to hurry and get to making sales.



  • Start thinking about your business brand including your business name. Think about what kind “feel” you want your business to have. Write out at least 10 possible names.
  • Look up “online marketing company” and check out the first few sites – the goal is to get a feel for what they do and what you’ll be doing.
  • Consider taking a class or two on Udemy.com or Lynda.com to get an overview of the online marketing world. Strongly consider also going to QuickSprout.com/University
  • Think about an industry you might like to serve (i.e. – chiropractors) and then look up “online marketing for chiropractors” or similar terms and study what comes up.
  • Write out (or type out) your motivation. Why are you interested in starting this business? Answer this with something more specific than “to have more money”. Get as specific as you can. Don’t skip the mental work!
  • List out the amount of money you would like to make in your first month, second month, following months. Include your first year’s goal.
  • Go online and look up other online marketing companies (again) – jot down everything that you like and that you would like to emulate.
  • Start thinking about what sets you apart. Ideally it can be summed up in one sentence. i.e. – “We provide SEO services for dental professionals”. This is your USP (unique selling proposition)
  • Come up with your 3 packages. List out the services that each package entails. Yours may be just offering social media or just website design or whatever. Be sure to be detailed - list out everything.
  • Come up with your package pricing. Decide what you think is valuable for all parties involved and use this as a starting point (you’ll most likely adjust this as you get more experience). Use this pattern: $499/$599/$999 OR $999/$1199/$1699 and so on.
  • Identify and write out your USP.
  • Write what your ideal client looks like – the more details the better.
  • Decide right now you will stay true to your niche and not take on anyone and everyone who needs help “online”. It’s better to focus on a core audience to avoid wasting time and money. Don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Come up with your business name. Come up with your business tagline (if you need one).
  • Pick your colors. These can literally be your favorite colors. Don’t stress on this one.
  • Get a logo done (use 99designs.com, Upwork.com, or Fiverr.com) – don’t do it yourself unless you’re a graphic designer.
  • Write up your business plan. Print it out. Change as necessary. Just answer the following questions:
    o What is your company name?
    o What is your company tagline?
    o What services do you provide? What problem do you solve?
    o Who is your target audience or what does your ideal client look like?
    o What is your USP?
    o How much do you charge?
    o What is your monthly revenue goal?
    o How many new or repeat clients do you need to achieve this goal?
    o How do you get new clients?
    o How will you fulfill your services? Who makes up your production team?
    o Who are the other key players of your team? List their names and titles.

  • Set up your corporation (use LegalZoom – for now, just get a DBA and then incorporate once you’ve brought on a few clients and know this is going to work for you)
  • Set up your business checking & savings account. Set up your PayPal (or Stripe) business account.
  • Buy your domain name (use a registrar like GoDaddy.com). Buy your hosting (use a reliable & affordable host like SiteGround.com. Set up your website (use Wordpress – it’s super easy & all you need). Your host should have a 1-click Wordpress install.
  • Create a home page, about page, services page, & contact page to start. This is the minimum. Set up your social media platforms (Facebook business page, Twitter, Google+/YouTube, LinkedIn all a must. Pinterest, Instagram, etc are bonus).
  • Buy your business cards (and nothing else) Use VistaPrint.com because they’re super cheap. Only order 250 for your first cards. You may change some info later.


SALES
This portion is to help you start making sales - the lifeblood of your business. If you’re not making sales, you don’t have a business.



  • Get your first sale (work your own personal network to get started – make a list of 10 business owners you know or your friends/family might know and approach them offering them a discount or added value to get started).
  • Complete the work of your first sale and be sure to get results! If you don’t know how to do any of it, go to UpWork.com and hire someone immediately – see next section.
  • Document all of your work – you’ll need this to scale & build a team.
  • Get your next 3 clients quickly. Go to networking meetings in your area. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce and possibly a BNI group or other networking group.
  • Use online directories like Manta.com to find more businesses in your chosen niche. When you find their contact info, reach out to them leading with value - do a mock-up website with their info, list out specific tips to drive more business, or share exactly how they could tweak their online presence for increased traffic and conversion, etc. Think value!
  • Reach out to associations in your chosen niche and offer to give free webinars.
  • Optimize your company website to reach your target niche and drive traffic to it – have specific pages on your website that you get to rank in Google for organic traffic (i.e. – a page on “Search Engine Optimization Services for Chiropractors”). Then get it ranking and collect leads.
  • Continue to look up the Chambers of Commerce in your area and other mixers and networking opportunities. Look to set up 1-on-1’s with potential clients but only ones in your niche. Don’t waste time with anyone else!
  • Set up speaking and teaching gigs to get in front of a lot of people at once. Be as helpful as possible. Give your best stuff away for free - be incredibly detailed.


SYSTEMS
Once you have some sales coming in, you need to make sure you document everything and create systems in order for others to do the work for you. This also includes establishing what tools you use in your business. It’s simple but incredibly important.



  • Create a sales manual and a production manual. Be detailed and use bullet points.
  • Set up your work email (use Google apps or even just gmail to make it easy and route your Name@Company.com email through it)
  • Set up your account in Asana.com – it’s free and it will be your project management tool. Name each new project after your client name. Each project is a client & list out in the project all of the work you said you would do in the list of services.
  • Set your file storage using DropBox or Google Drive.
  • Set up your bookkeeping with Quickbooks


STAFFING
Getting a team in place to do the work for you is key to your growth. You need to hire, train, and lead your team members. As soon as possible, you’ll hire more team members to make sure all work is being done effectively.



  • Create a company org chart with you as owner. Create a general manager position with manager positions also in sales, production/operations, & finance.
  • List out the work for your first job (base this off of your services in your game plan). Then go to Upwork.com or OnlineJobs.ph and post your job.
  • Interview your top 3 candidates. Hire 1 but keep the other two on a short-list for when you need them in the future. Start them off on a part-time basis with the expectation of them doing more soon.
  • Hire your first employee or contractor – generally this is a production staff member first (you should not be doing the actual production beyond your first client).
  • Take time to train your first team member. Refine your systems and make sure they can operate independently of you as soon as possible. Use Asana (or Basecamp or Trello) to manage everything. If you’re concerned about tracking everything, consider using HubStaff.com.
  • As soon as revenue and need justifies it, hire another contractor. And then another. And another.


SCALING-UP
Once you have sales coming in and a team and systems in place, it’s time to scale-up. This section is all about refining your processes so that you can handle 5 or 500 clients while the work to you remains the same. In other words, this is how you make more money while working less.



  • Refine your services – productize them! When mapping out your services, make sure your offer is the same to everyone. If you choose a service like SEO for example, then it’s relatively the same regardless of the industry your client is in. Don’t match a service to the client. Match the client to one of your preexisting services.
  • Refine your clients - it’s OK & very necessary to the growth of your business to be choosy. Stay away from any "high maintenance" clients. Choose early on how you will handle communication with your clients. Most are just fine with email.
  • Refine your systems. Look for ways to save money, increase productivity, and so forth. When possible, swap out human effort with software and automated work.
  • Refine your sales. Spend money if necessary on advertising, always targeting your ideal niche/industry.
  • As soon as you have at least 90-day’s worth of savings in the bank, have made at least 3 sales (with a lot more in the pipeline), consider going full-time with your business. If you have a significant other, be sure to be on the same page.
  • Over-deliver with your clients. If the relationship is there, try asking for a referral but only if you’ve already done a great job.
***

That's it! Just sell. There's plenty of businesses out there. I don't mean to downplay it at all but really, I'm nobody special. I'm not like most of the successful hustlers in this forum. I'm a pretty average dude that managed to create a sweet business.

You can do the same. Just follow the checklist above.

If you have any questions, just ask!

-Sean
Great post! Thanks for sharing your insights!
 

drpeppehr

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Hey Sean, thank you so much for posting this. It really helps and inspires me.

I created my own business plan using your steps, and had a few questions that I'd appreciate anyone's feedback and criticism on before I get started and pay for some designs.

My business name and tagline is this:
Impact Media. We help build online entities for small business owners. Build your name, grow, and reach the world.

My USP:
We help build online entities for small business professionals.

Is there anything that you guys think should change? I know that USP is supposed to be narrowed down into more of a niche, but I'm stuck on what kind of niche to target. I feel like my ideal client would be someone like a smoke shop owner, barbershops, construction contractors, clothing brand startups, etc. so technically my USP should be okay.


I would greatly appreciate any feedback before I get started.
 

Heal Piece

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Hey Sean, thank you so much for posting this. It really helps and inspires me.

I created my own business plan using your steps, and had a few questions that I'd appreciate anyone's feedback and criticism on before I get started and pay for some designs.

My business name and tagline is this:
Impact Media. We help build online entities for small business owners. Build your name, grow, and reach the world.

My USP:
We help build online entities for small business professionals.

Is there anything that you guys think should change? I know that USP is supposed to be narrowed down into more of a niche, but I'm stuck on what kind of niche to target. I feel like my ideal client would be someone like a smoke shop owner, barbershops, construction contractors, clothing brand startups, etc. so technically my USP should be okay.


I would greatly appreciate any feedback before I get started.
I'm new here, so you could take this with a grain of salt I suppose. But I'm going to go with the recurring theme of, stop worry too much about your tagline or USP and go make your first sale. The rest will fall into place.
 

Yoda

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Otherwise, you would think these agencies were nobodies if you did not have this insider info.
This is not uncommon in the SEO industry. Not at all.

In fact, when you said 5-figure, I actually assumed you meant 6-figure monthly contracts, and my frame of reference is not even in the Fortune 500 realm at all.
 

eliquid

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This is not uncommon in the SEO industry. Not at all.

In fact, when you said 5-figure, I actually assumed you meant 6-figure monthly contracts, and my frame of reference is not even in the Fortune 500 realm at all.
Yeah I meant is as 5 figure as a starting point/min. And then going up ( even though not said )
 

GetShitDone

Bronze Contributor
Thank you so much, @Sean Marshall , incredible thread! It's basically what I needed as I'm about to start my Marketing Agency right now in Spain. I have some questions, would be great if I could get a clue about them.

My biggest doubt right now is about niche picking. What do you think are the best niches?

I've heard "restaurants", "dentists", "optics" and stuff like this but I've seen your answers in this thread and you talk about less "fancy" niches, but would be great if you talked about your favorite ones or the bests for starting out.

Thank you very much.
Hey man, I heard sub-niching is the thing to do these days as its become very saturated in niching. (Eg. Don't go for Dentists, go for dentists that only do X)

Has anyone documented there process? Can you help me with the general outline on what you are documenting?
I have facing the problem in documenting the process and not getting the idea on the process of documentation, maybe, because i never documented?

Kindly help.
I've closed my first $2K/mo client today ($1K ad spend and $1K management fee).

Using a white label agency to provide the work.
 

Santi Merino

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Hey man, I heard sub-niching is the thing to do these days as its become very saturated in niching. (Eg. Don't go for Dentists, go for dentists that only do X)
Hey mate, thank you very much! I'll keep it in mind but, I still don't know how to pick a niche (and sub-niche ). I mean, I don't know what should I base on to make a decision

I've closed my first $2K/mo client today ($1K ad spend and $1K management fee).

Using a white label agency to provide the work.
Wow! Pretty impressive, do you have a progress thread?
 

WAW

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Hi Sean,

Thanks so much for sharing your story and you’re strategy, it’s very helpful to us all here trying to work to break away from the rat race. I am building my website and it should be ready at the end of July or early August. It’s not necessarily a digital marketing agency service but an online service that provides value to consultants. I think some or part of your strategy can be transferable to any type of online service and you’re right, it can be as big or as small as you want it to be. Your list of services is huge and now I’m thinking to eventually add on a few more services because...... why not!

Thanks again for sharing. What a knock. Out post!
 

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Matt Hunt

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Hey mate, thank you very much! I'll keep it in mind but, I still don't know how to pick a niche (and sub-niche ). I mean, I don't know what should I base on to make a decision
You want to go for businesses that either make a large profit from a single sale (they could make all their ad spend back by gaining just 1 client!), or sell something that is a monthly, or recurring purchase (thus why chiropractors are popular, because they'll see patients typically at least once a week).
 

Santi Merino

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You want to go for businesses that either make a large profit from a single sale (they could make all their ad spend back by gaining just 1 client!), or sell something that is a monthly, or recurring purchase (thus why chiropractors are popular, because they'll see patients typically at least once a week).
Thank you very much, now it's much clearer for me where to start to pick a niche
 

spreng

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I've seen a lot of these sales shops opening up around town. In fact, almost worked at one lol, but got a better job in SaaS. I may give this a go, hard to say how it will turn out in 2019.
 

Nakhul

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How does one find new clients in a big city like Manhattan where all business has a strong online presence and how to compete with major Digital Marketing Agency here?
 
Last edited:

Twiizlar

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How does one find new clients in a big city like Manhattan where all business has a strong online presence and how to compete which major Digital Marketing Agency here?
Big city = more opportunities

I would much rather operate my marketing business in a major city/region then a small city. Don't compete with the major marketing companies and look for smaller businesses to start. There are tons in big cities.
 

Bru

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[...] while I m creating most of my customer websites with Wordpress, I was wondering if anyone has constructive feedback on website creation and marketing with Builderall.

I ve been pondering about it for a few days considering the following:
1) The offering (price and services) seems impressive and most of the reviews I ve found are very positive.

2) The affiliate program looks very interesting, so coupled with a marketing/web design agency I think there are ways to build a steady and stress-free business. (ex: getting the customers to subscribe to a plan through your own affiliate link+you manage the creation and marketing of the website on their behalf)

Any feedback
All the best
Sorry just reposting my question,
Does anyone has experience with builderall ?

Thanks in advance
 

BlackMagician

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Has anyone documented there process? Can you help me with the general outline on what you are documenting?
I have facing the problem in documenting the process and not getting the idea on the process of documentation, maybe, because i never documented?

Kindly help.
Sorry, just reposting this. @Sean Marshall can you help in this, please. Any draft file you have which have points i can use as reference?
 

Matt Hunt

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How does one find new clients in a big city like Manhattan where all business has a strong online presence and how to compete which major Digital Marketing Agency here?
This is an online business, so you could really target anywhere. I was just thinking about this today. So far I'm not getting any responses on cold emails. I dunno, maybe my copywriting sucks (in addition to an already low response rate from cold emails anyway), but I'm considering going after businesses in a bit smaller cities (I'm in Dallas).
 

Nakhul

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This is an online business, so you could really target anywhere. I was just thinking about this today. So far I'm not getting any responses on cold emails. I dunno, maybe my copywriting sucks (in addition to an already low response rate from cold emails anyway), but I'm considering going after businesses in a bit smaller cities (I'm in Dallas).
I haven't started any marketing campaign as yet. I'm now in the initial set up phase but from my research in a particular niche, everyone seems to have a very strong online presence here in NYC. I guess with any big city everyone will be competing for that online presence to attract new customers. I'm thinking to market ourselves as an established agency with years of experience to compete with our competition. Including myself and two other developers, we have about 30 years of combined experience which hopefully will work in our favor. I'll provide an update on our progress breaking through into this space and landing customers in a big city.
 

Twiizlar

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I haven't started any marketing campaign as yet. I'm now in the initial set up phase but from my research in a particular niche, everyone seems to have a very strong online presence here in NYC. I guess with any big city everyone will be competing for that online presence to attract new customers. I'm thinking to market ourselves as an established agency with years of experience to compete with our competition. Including myself and two other developers, we have about 30 years of combined experience which hopefully will work in our favor. I'll provide an update on our progress breaking through into this space and landing customers in a big city.
How are you doing your research? It isn't possible for EVERYONE in a niche to have a strong online presence. If everyone is "strong" then no one is. Strong is relative.

For example, in SEO if the company is not on the first page they are not strong. Only about 4-7 businesses get on the first page depending on the keyword so you can market yourself to the companies on page 2 and on.
 

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lamborghini

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Does anybody know how to set up a LCC here in Germany? Google just confuses me..
 

Nakhul

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How are you doing your research? It isn't possible for EVERYONE in a niche to have a strong online presence. If everyone is "strong" then no one is. Strong is relative.

For example, in SEO if the company is not on the first page they are not strong. Only about 4-7 businesses get on the first page depending on the keyword so you can market yourself to the companies on page 2 and on.
Apart from being top of Google search most of our target customers seem to have a fully functional website with regular content updates and strong social media presence. I think we need a more comprehensive marketing strategy before we get started if we are going to be in business.
 

NewManRising

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How does one find new clients in a big city like Manhattan where all business has a strong online presence and how to compete with major Digital Marketing Agency here?
Create an offer and develop your pitch. Look for any business in your area that is lacking in a website, social media, etc. Now, your job is to convince them they need these things. You'll need to not only explain how they're losing, but also how much benefits they'll gain when they take you up on your services.
 

alekssiht

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Wow what a topic man, it actually sounds something that would be interesting!
Does it play a big role where I live? I mean, it seems that there is pretty much relevance to US marketplace. And how much knowledge should one have? Just having the basics of the industry and marketing, working from there with the help of real "marketers" who would do the job?
Taking some classes on marketing or will your provided sites do the job?
 
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Sean Marshall

Sean Marshall

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Sean, what's the key to sales for Digital Marketing?
Connecting with real business owners. There's no way around that. Some are great face to face (it's what I did to get the ball rolling). Others are great at cold calling or cold email. Others use LinkedIn. And others use FB ads or SEO or other strategies.

The end is always the same - connecting with a decision maker and getting them to commit.

HOW you actually structure your pipeline is up to you.
 
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Sean Marshall

Sean Marshall

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361
San Diego, CA
www.familyrocketship.com
This is a really odd question. How do you come up with a good business name?
In 2010, every business owner thought they desperately needed social media. So I wanted the word "social" to be part of it. "rocketship" was just to make it fun and brandable. That's seriously the extent of my thinking.
 
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OP
Sean Marshall

Sean Marshall

Independent since 2010
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2011
189
1,153
361
San Diego, CA
www.familyrocketship.com
Hello Sean. From what I’ve read about your thread (great thread by the way), I think the outsource all jobs is your unique twist here?
Not super unique. Lots of other agencies like mine outsource some or all of the work. I have a mix of my own staff with some stuff outsourced.
 
OP
OP
Sean Marshall

Sean Marshall

Independent since 2010
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Summit Attendee
Speedway Pass
Aug 17, 2011
189
1,153
361
San Diego, CA
www.familyrocketship.com
The business is not unique.
Exactly! That's the whole point of this!

I've outlined everything I do. There's no "secret sauce" or "proprietary strategies" here.

All. You. Have. To. Do. Is. Freaking. DO. The. Work!!!!

Because of that, it DOES break MJ's barrier to entry BUT, the lack of work that people put in IS the barrier to entry for most.

It's the old "lead a horse to the water" thing. I've shared every exact detail I use in my own business with people and they STILL don't do it. I make good money, have lived in other countries (with my wife and 3 kids), and have done a lot of cool stuff.

And I'm really nobody special!

I'm not some alpha sales guy. I don't wake up at 4am. I don't jog 10 miles everyday.

You would think then, that seeing me, you'd be like, "Geez, well if that guy can do it, I sure could." But sadly, most people don't. They're too scripted or are shackled down with limiting beliefs or whatever.

This is a very straightforward business that obeys 4 of the 5 commandments. And the one it breaks is made up for if you just begin.
 

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