Chris Kiersch is a serial entrepreneur and Internet marketing specialist with over 30 years of technology, marketing, and sales experience. One of Chris’ businesses was #1 in the St. Louis FAST 50, with a 5-year growth rate of 4082%. He has started, sold and partnered with digital ad agencies in the St. Louis area aimed at integrating sales and marketing platforms for many St. Louis businesses. My Business Integrated is a premiere Nimble Solutions Partner and a SharpSpring Platinum Partner that specialized in Sales Lead Generation, and digital marketing solutions.
Brad Burrow: All right, welcome to the In a World with Real Media Podcast. I have a special guest here today, Chris Kiersch from St. Louis, my friend from St. Louis that actually made me really like the blues this year. Pretty exciting, huh?
Chris Kiersch: Right on. Yes, indeed.
Brad Burrow: Chris has a business called My Business Integrated. I’m really excited to have you on the podcast, because what you do is where things are going from a standpoint of sales and lead nurturing and digital marketing and all those areas. You’re an expert in these areas. I’m really excited to talk about how that integrates with what we do here at Real Media too, which is from a content standpoint, but you know the magic of how integrating all these platforms like Nimble and Microsoft and connecting people and lead nurturing. To me, that feels like the wild west just a little bit, you know?
Chris Kiersch: Yeah. You know, Brad, I’m not big on titles. I remember a few years back, somebody asked me what my title was and I’m like, “Yeah, I’m the president of the company.” But really I think I’m the master connector.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: I love connecting people and I really enjoy the connecting applications and doing it in an affordable and a simple way so that we don’t have to get a bunch of programmers involved. We can just connect and simplify the passing of data or the moving of a deal down downstream.
Brad Burrow: Where does that come from? What’s your background that made you really excel in that area?
Chris Kiersch: Wow.
Brad Burrow: Have you thought about that at all? You’re probably built that way.
Chris Kiersch: I’m actually listening to a book right now that’s called Reboot, and the guy, he’s a leading consultant. He has a coaching group called Reboot. But one of his questions is like, “Why are you doing what you’re doing?” He starts peeling it back to see what was it about you that made you be the connector or to think that way. I think I’ve always been I guess blessed to be in a situation where I could be in adversity, so what can I do to connect the most with the least? I grew up in a single family, where my mom was 16 years older than me. I think maybe whenever she would take me to the beach, I figured out early that if I got lost, I’d get a free balloon.
Brad Burrow: Is that right? That was your goal every time going to the beach and saying, “I got to get lost.”
Chris Kiersch: That’s right. I got a lot of free balloons.
Brad Burrow: And hence, now you’ve learned how to connect with people.
Chris Kiersch: Yes. Actually I was in the navy, and I worked out in the fire room and there was quite a journey getting from the navy to technology, but worked in the fire room and it taught me how to be malleable about the different types of people that you get to work with.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: All right so I love helping people and share knowledge and learning. Because I think when you’re teaching, if you’re doing it right, you’re learning.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. That’s great. We recently did an interview with John from Nimble and I was struck by him saying that several times. His goal is to help people. A lot of businesses don’t think that way. They’re really just about making the dollar. But if you really have a heart to help people and want to help them achieve their goals and grow their businesses, you’re going to probably be successful.
Chris Kiersch: John is just a humble servant leader. He has built an application, which we implement and I use, called Nimble, the Nimble CRM and it’s a very affordable tool that most folks are like … They’re almost like, “Gosh, for $25 a month, you mean that … Where’s the catch?” Right? It’s one of those relationships really that you can start using right away, just like our relationship podcasting, right? I got hooked right away and I hear the way that you make it seem so easy, right? I believe you have a God-given talent for asking questions and bringing out the truth and the real talk, right, what’s working.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Give me the elevator speech about My Business Integrated. If I’d never met you before, what do you do?
Chris Kiersch: Well, our core businesses that we’re a technical services company that implements sales and marketing automation solutions. That’s typically grabbing whatever your existing tool is that you might be using today for the spreadsheet or salesforce.com or Nimble or nothing, right? Maybe it’s paper. Really at the core is we do a discovery first of what is it that you’re doing, why are you doing it, what are your resources?
Chris Kiersch: Then from there, put a plan together and then try to define if there’s software tools or relationships that can get you to your goal quicker. There’s the CRM side of it and then probably what we’re really known most far is the implementation of marketing automation. So that’s your email marketing, but it’s includes the ability … Email marketing is like for sending one message and then maybe another message over a series, where market automation is looking at your online behavior, maybe some data segments, what are you doing with the email. It’s everything from tracking a behavior to forms to social publishing and then stepping back and saying, “How are we going to measure it? How can we identify ways that we can enhance conversion?”
Chris Kiersch: Then finding resources like Real Media, where we need … Most of the time, I struggle with clients not having content. How can we identify content that we can put a program or a plan together and who to bring in for that? My Business Integrated is really a … We’re a small team and I’ve had … This is my sixth technology company since 1990.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: There has been some big wins and a couple of losses in there. The biggest asset that I’ve developed in that timeframe has been the ability to know quite a few all-stars. At the end of the day, a client typically wants one throat to choke. I like to be that throat and whenever we need a resource, rather than having somebody sit on the bench and be causing a lot of extra overhead, I’m very transparent and I bring in the all-stars that I know to sit on the bench and know when to step back and know when to lead. It’s such a fast moving market and if you’re not learning, you’re dying, right? I love learning about all the pieces that I connect together and the people that I get to work with.
Brad Burrow: Marketing automation just seems like an overwhelming term to me, honestly. I’m a content guy. Man, it’s got to be a challenge because it’s changing every day. There’s new technology new ways of doing things, the audience is changing how they consume content. I mean how do you keep on top of all of that?
Chris Kiersch: Yeah. Wow. I think market automation to me is … It’s like an inside salesperson that’s always on. To stay on top of it is … Almost has to be a labor of love, because there’s things … And now you’re starting to see changes about … You need to let people know up front about, “Hey, we’re tracking you. Is that okay with you?” If you’re honest, I think it’s allowing marketers to build trust because now they’re asking questions that they didn’t ask before, right? They assumed it. I think the ones that are emerging are the ones that are, as far as that that privacy component, addressing that understanding, how and when to use social media and can you really track [inaudible 00:09:28] converted, can you bring that into your marketing automation platform?
Chris Kiersch: But you’re right, it touches on … It’s the nucleus, right? It’s where the data’s sitting, it’s monitoring what’s happening from surge, it’s monitoring what’s happening from social. It’s allowing you to set up response mechanisms based on behaviors and it’s probably the fastest growing part of technology that you don’t hear about it as much, right? You hear about all the tools.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: Nobody sits down and says, “Hey, the market automation guy just came by yesterday and man, did he make a difference for me.”
Brad Burrow: Yeah, you’re the ultimate behind the scenes guy, aren’t you?
Chris Kiersch: Yeah, I guess I am. Although, I love to talk about it, right? I love to share and it’s something that’s really becoming affordable, but it does take thought. The hardest thing to do is to think, right? How often do people just sit down and think?
Brad Burrow: Through processes, through how … Yeah, it forces you to think about what you do in your product or your service or what it is that you’re selling, right?
Chris Kiersch: Yeah. I’ve got a business coach and this last few months, he’s been having me focus on vision and I’m just like go, go, go. I get a lot done, but I really had not realized that it’s been awhile since I just sat down to think, “What do I what I want to do? What kind of impact do I want to have on somebody’s business or on our relationship? What kind of friends and customers …” I like working with nice people, right.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: In this fast moving world, in technology, where there’s nothing worse than working with somebody that knows a lot and is not humble, right? It drains your energy. But boy, you get around somebody that’s knowledgeable about something and they’re humble and they are really looking out for you, it’s like, “Man …” I’m getting goosebumps right now, just thinking about it.
Brad Burrow: Yeah. One of the questions that I’m sitting here thinking about, as a business. We’ve been in business 21 years. Our businesses model has changed completely from when I started maybe a couple of times through that period. I think about marketing automation and the whole online digital lead gen and all that stuff. If you’re a business today and you’re not thinking that way, you’re going to be falling behind pretty fast, I would think. Is that true?
Chris Kiersch: Yes. It’s great. Actually, as you were saying that, I’ve started thinking about where does it really start? 21 years in business, I mean you’ve had a lot of contacts in that timeframe and I find myself … We’ll scope out a project or do a discovery and we probably spend 25% of our time getting data right, finding out … You’ve got [inaudible 00:13:11] contacts sitting in Outlook or in Gmail or on a spreadsheet or maybe it’s in some forms you captured, but no one’s really ever has the time to pull all of those cats together and then figure out, “Hey, what does my list really look like? What do I want it to look?” When you start doing it, you’re like, “Man, I forgot about that person.” You got this. Yeah, if you aren’t building that asset and managing that asset, then you’re dying, right?
Brad Burrow: Yeah. Yeah, if you’re not growing, you’re going backwards, right?
Chris Kiersch: Well, you think about the effort and the time that you put into building relationships and it’s nothing to … Things kind of happen quick, especially like friendship. You’ll get something going three or four months, and then something will happen and you might not see that person for nine months. You’re like, “Goodness, why did I let that go like that?” Well, market automation does give you some opportunities to stay engaged with the people that you want to be engaged with and also to get insights about who’s slipping, right? Who did I kind of leave out? So I would say just having a place to capture and segment and drop them into at least some type of a nurturing piece, I would say that is probably the biggest investment, whether you picked one piece of technology or anything, there was nothing else that … I would say after this would be to take time, pull your list together, and think, “What do I want to do with the list of people that I know that I could help or could help me?”
Brad Burrow: I sit here and I’m thinking through obviously a lot about Real Media and some of the things we do. I’m the only salesperson, although as owner, I’m pulled lots of different ways. Marketing automation seems overwhelming to me, for me to think about it. But you said something that really struck me. Is this simple and affordable? How can a company, a small company like us, look into solutions that you’re an expert in and start out small, simple, affordable and then maybe build?
Chris Kiersch: That’s a great question. I’ve worked with a lot of them, gosh, probably eight different market automation platforms and the one that we implement the most, it’s called SharpSpring.
Brad Burrow: By the way, I got to tell you a SharpString … Sorry.
Chris Kiersch: Spring.
Brad Burrow: It’s not string, spring story. they sent … You probably got this too, because Shawn was here, he was [officing 00:16:02] here, where they sent root beer out. Do you remember that?
Chris Kiersch: Yeah, I remember that. That was one of their-
Brad Burrow: It was the best beer ever, man. Anyway, sorry.
Chris Kiersch: It was a great promotion. Actually, there are about 1200 SharpSpring partners in the US and probably the … I think it’s the fastest growing market automation platform, because they’ve partnered with agencies who are basically helping clients like Real Media. So when I said affordable, their platform is … Typically, you would budget somewhere between … I would say between $300 to $500 a month, depending on the size of your list. But you could really get started probably with a roughly … I would say a $2,500 budget. So I could at least build out some initial forms that would like say be tied to Real Media podcasts. There’d be a unique form for that, maybe a unique form for your video services and-
Brad Burrow: On your website.
Chris Kiersch: On your website or it could be integrated with Facebook or integrated with LinkedIn.
Brad Burrow: Oh okay, yeah.
Chris Kiersch: And set up some basic automation, so when somebody comes in, they can identify who they are, where they are, what they want, and then just build a couple of basic automations that would like say … Like in our case, we send out a marketing automation playbook. It’s like a 20-page playbook that I got from one of my vendors and I did some customization to that. Now when somebody signs up, I get a confirmation that they’re on the site, I get a confirmation that they downloaded the playbook, they get a customized version of the playbook and then a task is scheduled for me automatically to follow up with them. Something as basic as that could be done by a team like us or by a … Actually if you’ve got a resource on staff, those are pretty easy things to set up and just get started.
Chris Kiersch: When I say that they’re affordable, that really … Now I’ve got a place where I’ve got my list in one spot, I’ve got it tied to my website. I’ve got it kind of tied to some social, and I can start stepping one step forward each day. You’re not going to go from zero to hero, right? It’s just like you need-
Brad Burrow: Process.
Chris Kiersch: Right, any other good business, you’re steadily plotting forward and you’re not going to learn every piece of it. I mean we were a partner for three years and then about three months ago, we decided to really bare down, and now we’re a platinum certified partner. They’ve only got like 15 of them out of the 1,200, so that didn’t happen because I took off for two weeks to do that.
Chris Kiersch: I spent like seven evenings, spending about two or three hours, and when I stopped and decided I was going to focus on it, my knowledge level went like [inaudible 00:19:17], just through the roof, because I’d stopped and I started thinking about, “What impact could I have on myself and on our customers, if I really went to school for a week or two?”
Brad Burrow: Yeah. We don’t have time to do that. We’re running our own businesses, right?
Chris Kiersch: Right, so basically we come alongside of teams like yours and if they’re too busy, we’ll do it for them. Typically there’s like a crawl, walk, run. The first part, the crawl part, I’ll do it for you. The walk, we’re doing it together. The run, you’re running and I’m trying to stay ahead of you, right? You’re doing as much as you want or as you can.
Brad Burrow: Based on the way I look, I’m not going to be running that much, I’m just telling you. Why SharpSpring? Tell me why that platform’s so good for you.
Chris Kiersch: Well, number one is support. I can call them and literally within a few rings, I’ve got somebody on, I’ve got a person dedicated to me, to our company but probably the from a affordability standpoint, what SharpSpring’s providing is typically a 20th of the cost of a platform like Pardot or Marketo or HubSpot. Those platforms also typically require somebody almost being half time or full time. You’re making a pretty big … Not only a big monthly investment but you’re making an investment in a person that may or may not be with you two or three years from now. I said, “Can I get 80% of the functionality and those platforms at 20% of the cost?
Chris Kiersch: The multiple of the impact on the business is just a … Their business model allows for a more affordable solution. We’ve been a partner with [inaudible 00:21:22] Act-On, and Marketo and Salesforce and that was the one where I was like, “Instead of the client spending half of their budget on a monthly subscription, I’d rather them spend it on themselves.” Because the software is like you. It’s like a camera, right? The camera is just a tool. It’s the guy or the gal that’s doing the edit and so-
Brad Burrow: The creative part of it, yeah.
Chris Kiersch: It’s simple, great support, affordable and I can connect to just about anything. There’s something that’s native in it called PieSync. I think it’s like a two-way connector. I don’t have to hire a programmer to connect QuickBooks or to connect a disparate database or our e-commerce store. Probably we’ll see the biggest growth in market automation is going to be with e-commerce is most of your e-commerce platforms are not very good at staying in touch with you because you bought something. Yeah, Amazon is going to do that, right? But some of your smaller stores, it’s difficult to be able to look at your previous buying behavior and to know that now it’s time to send you a renewal or to maybe recommend an upgrade.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, it’s amazing that … You look at how well Amazon does that. I mean it’s like, “Golly, how do they know me so well?” It’s a little scary, isn’t it?
Chris Kiersch: Yes, indeed.
Brad Burrow: Talk a little bit about content. Obviously, we don’t want to make this a sales pitch for Real Media, but on this podcast I do like to talk about storytelling and the impact of connecting with somebody and speaking their language, solving a problem or showing them how to solve a problem, those types of things. That’s got to be a pretty important impact of what you’re doing from a marketing automation standpoint. Is that right?
Chris Kiersch: Absolutely. I was involved in selling video editing solutions in the 90s and I was at the right place at the right time and I loved that.
Brad Burrow: I got to hear more about that too, by the way. I don’t know all that story yet.
Chris Kiersch: We’ll do that another day. I would say that now is the time to be aligned with somebody that knows how to affordably create video, audio content. If you look at what’s happening, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the industry.
Brad Burrow: Right.
Chris Kiersch: A video is not in your content plan. It’s in your competitor’s content plan. One the thing I’ve learned is a there’s a big difference between an okay video and a good video and a great one. The price different, it doesn’t go up exponentially when you go from you’re thinking, “Gosh, the only way I can get this done is if I did it myself,” but if you really sit down with somebody like Real Media or other professionals out there, start realizing, “Wow, I’m getting 10 times better of an experience for the customer and I got to make this a bigger part of what I’m doing.”
Chris Kiersch: Because especially with whether it’s onboarding, a product promotion, product features, how to, it doesn’t take that much of an investment to be a whole lot better than your competitor, if you really think about integrating video into your plan. It comes back to that plan and being able to sit down with somebody like yourself and say, “Hey, this is my budget. What can I do over the next six months?” Then having somebody like you challenge me and say, “Well, what is the value of a new client or what would happen if somebody buys twice from you?” What I’ve found working with pros like yourself is you make me think different about the investment I’m making instead of thinking I can’t do it.
Chris Kiersch: It’s more like why are you doing it and why do you think you’re going to be different? Then what is it that helped me with that vision, coming back to that vision. I mean I’m probably rambling on here a bit, but I tell you one thing, I’ll guarantee you’ll see more video and more audio from MBI and my clients this year and years to come.
Brad Burrow: There are a lot of statistics out there that talk about the conversion rates going up when video was involved. When you think about it, the visual aspect of it, there’s a lot more you can learn from the movement, the actual what you’re seeing, that type of things. I’ve talked about that a lot. One of the case studies that I like to talk about is eBags. Are you familiar with eBags? It’s ebags.com. It’s an online-
Chris Kiersch: Yeah, a little bit.
Brad Burrow: They do a really, really good job of … Let’s say you’re buying a backpack. Well, they’ll shoot a video of every feature of that backpack and somebody on camera demonstrating it. This opens and this opens. You can put your cell phone here, whatever it is. Their conversion rates go up significantly because of those videos. That’s the thing I think people are missing in the online world is the power of story. That’s a story that can be told. Another one that I talk about a lot is DC Shoes. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that brand at all. You wouldn’t wear DC Shoes. It’s kind of a skateboard kid type deal. Their audience is big time YouTube, that’s where they’re going to be. Last I heard they were about a $60 to $70 million a year revenue company. They make shoes for skateboard kids. That’s their target audience. They have about … I can’t remember what. It’s a 10% budget for marketing, but they don’t do any television commercials. They spend all of their marketing dollars doing YouTube videos.
Chris Kiersch: Wow, wow.
Brad Burrow: They’re YouTube videos of crazy things, like motorcycles running on water and a car going through San Francisco, skating around corners and stuff like that, completely locked into their target audience. But that’s what makes them convert.
Chris Kiersch: Well, you know what? I’ve talked little bit about this the last couple of weeks. I just am fascinated by YouTube, just I love learning about it. To me, it’s kind of like the old west right now, because search engine marketing was in the early days. You can actually do a lot of some old school keyword stuff, some tricks that you used to do back in the day with search. Well, if you can really own a narrow space quickly, there’s a couple of little tools out there that give you the insight, and I don’t know of any other online space right now that I could get into and really rise to the top quickly than YouTube. Now what’s it require? It requires good content like what you were just talking about. Once you find that little sliver that you want, you can go to the top quick, and then when you go to the top, it’s a lot easier to look around and say, “Well, where else can I create my next little sliver that connects to what we just did here?”
Brad Burrow: Obviously YouTube has a pretty defined target audience though, right? I don’t know exactly what those are, but it’s got to be … Now we got a 13-year-old that it’s nonstop, 24/7, would watch YouTube all the time if he could. But then you think about LinkedIn, they’re accepting video now. Actually, I think you can even go live on LinkedIn now.
Chris Kiersch: Yes.
Brad Burrow: Do you think about those things? When it comes to target audience, you may have a brand that really, really is going to work better in one of the online platforms versus another one. Is that part of the strategy of the digital marketing side?
Chris Kiersch: Absolutely. Matter of fact, there’s a local construction podcast, video podcast, that’s going to get nominated I think for … [inaudible 00:30:12], I can’t remember his last name right now, but just within the last six months, he’s been podcasting a lot on YouTube, I’m sorry, on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is you on your best behavior, right? Have you ever looked at LinkedIn profile [inaudible 00:30:32], “Man, I had a really bad month last month.”
Brad Burrow: Yeah, no, I’m the greatest ever at this.
Chris Kiersch: Right and the best things, it’s [inaudible 00:30:39] come and get me, but I think LinkedIn, what’s neat is if you … Especially with LinkedIn Navigator, the paid version, that you can really define what channel you want to be and if you don’t have a lot of LinkedIn connections, you can go join some LinkedIn groups, like manufacturing groups, video production groups. Whenever you get accepted to that group, now you have 30,000 second tier connections. It’s pretty easy for you to get into a larger pile. And then within manufacturing, maybe you got a special niche in manufacturing.
Chris Kiersch: I definitely see, and you’re probably seeing it too, where people are kind of first movers of video in some of those channels. You already have a video podcast, so that’s why I was asking you about today is how and when do I have both, do I have a audio podcast and a video podcast? Can I put that on YouTube? Can I put that in LinkedIn? Yes, right? But you got to know how to wiggle it and how to tweak it just a little bit. Because our job, at least in my industry in email marketing and search marketing and conversion, is I got to get as close to the gray line as I can without going over, because if I’m [inaudible 00:32:09] if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. Well, if you’re not pushing it and maybe getting-
Brad Burrow: Missing opportunities.
Chris Kiersch: Right, right. Fortunately I’ve had plenty of expensive experiences other people won’t have to have.
Brad Burrow: Yeah, you’ve learned the hard way, so other people don’t have to, right?
Chris Kiersch: I hope so.
Brad Burrow: Well, I’m going to go ahead and wrap it up. I really appreciate you being on here. I’m excited about working with you in the future and I know that we need to have you come back on the In a World Podcast, because I know there’s more depth we can go into in this world of automated marketing. I mean it just seems like we could really go deep in some areas and really learn a lot, so let’s plan on doing that.
Chris Kiersch: Maybe I’ll see if I can bring maybe some of the leaders in the market automation industry with us next time too and maybe we can do a little interview with some of the movers and shakers that I think that are making a difference.
Brad Burrow: If somebody wanted to get ahold of you, how would they do that?
Chris Kiersch: You would reach chris, C-H-R-I-S, @mybusinessintegrated.com. That’s @mybusinessintegrated.com, or you can call me: (314) 520-4045 or invite me over for barbecue.
Brad Burrow: Barbecue is good.
Chris Kiersch: Yes.
Brad Burrow: Yeah.
Chris Kiersch: That’d be good.
Brad Burrow: We’re good with that here too. All right, there you have it. It’s the In The World with Real Media Podcast. Chris Kiersch, thank you for joining us and we’ll see you all next time.
Chris Kiersch: Thank you.