Are you stuck with getting more clients for your agency?
In this episode, Chris LaMorte talks about going from working as a web developer with zero sales experience to running his own SEO agency. You’ll also learn how he overcame getting stuck working in his business.
- 09:34 – Selling web design versus selling SEO
- 13:05 – Growing your business
- 20:30 – Different niches for SEO
- 21:30 – Client acquisition strategies
- 30:45 – The fake video audit method
- 39:58 – How Chris went from being a computer nerd to start selling SEO and land clients
Need help growing your SEO business? Click here to have Daryl personally coach you.
Daryl Rosser: Hey guys, Daryl Rosser here. Welcome back to another episode of the Lion Zeal show. I’ve got a great episode lined up for you guys today. We’re talking with Chris LaMorte and there are two interesting things that I think you guys will really enjoy. Number one is that Chris used to work at an agency. So he worked for a local agency doing web development work. That’s what his job was. So basically, he was the nerd that sat on the computer all day and worked on websites.
He had zero sales experience whatsoever, so when it came time that he decided to leave that agency and start his own, he was kind of screwed when it came to actually bringing in clients. He got a couple of referrals and after that he’s like, how do I actually get my clients? He didn’t know anything about sales. So it was really interesting to see how he kind of overcame that and figured it out and grew his agency to actually now over 20,000 a month multi-income revenue, plus one time gigs like web design on top of that.
The second bit that’s really interesting I think you guys will like is that I know a lot of people get stuck at around the 10 to 15,000 monthly dollar revenue mark. The simple reason is that they’re overworked. They don’t really have to scale at that point. About eight months ago, Chris got completely stuck. He was working all day on just the clients that he had, and he didn’t have to bring in any new ones. There’s no consistency there.
So we started coaching together. We started working together on a coaching basis, and it really helped him overcome that. Now he’s scaled over 20K monthly recurring revenue, so doubled that business, and it’s really interesting to see how he overcome that. I know you guys are stuck with the same sort of difficulties. So let’s just get straight into it. Hope you guys enjoy the episode. Again, it’s great to be back, so enjoy.
Chris, thank you for joining me on the show today. It’s very, very awesome to have you here.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah thanks man. Thanks for having me.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely man. So for anyone who doesn’t know who you are, we’ve been working together on a coaching basis now for quite a while now. You went out there from a year ago you started your agency on your own? Or was it just SEO?
Chris LaMorte: Just SEO. I started my agency about two and a half years ago.
Daryl Rosser: Two and a half years ago.
Chris LaMorte: Then I started doing SEO in the last year.
Daryl Rosser: Gotcha. In that time now you got over 20 clients and you’re up a decent monthly occurring income from SEO specifically, rather than just relying on one time gigs like web design, things like that.
Chris LaMorte: Right.
Daryl Rosser: Before that, before you get into this stuff, you worked at an agency and I don’t know how much you want to talk about that, but it sounds like you didn’t really enjoy the experience too much, and I guess you kind of figured I could do this myself, and you started up your own thing. Is that shortly after or how did that work?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, so I worked there for about, I think three years, but the thing was that I actually didn’t even do any SEO. It was strictly web design. So I started off as a web developer, web designer.
Daryl Rosser: Interesting.
Chris LaMorte: I did some basic on-page optimization occasionally. I knew the basics. I knew about link building, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: So I worked there for about three years and it started with the websites. I was like, okay they’re getting $5,000 a pop for these websites. I’m over here working for like … I think at the time I was making like $5,000 a month, which is definitely not bad but that’s one website a month, and I could make that same amount of money. So I was looking at that, working ridiculous hours. After I went … my wife, and I just got married, we had just gone on our honeymoon and literally as soon as I came back I was like, you know what? I want to do this vacation thing more often, so I’m just going to quit and then just left on the spot.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. You just immediately just started up going after your own clients after that?
Chris LaMorte: Yep. Yeah right away. It started with websites, and for a while, that’s all we were doing. Then, like I said, we decided to start moving into some other types of revenue, which happened about in the past year.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, so how did you get your first client. You quit your job spontaneously from the sounds of it and your like, I’m going to do my own thing. I can do this myself. I can make some good money from this. How did you go out there and get client number one?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, it was totally impulsive. There was literally … one day I was thinking about it, the next day I was quitting. The good part for me, I got really lucky because there was a sales guy that worked at that agency who also was quitting right at the same time as me. He liked working with me. We had a good relationship working together, so he actually decided … and he had all these relationships built up for people who need websites and SEO, and even social media marketing. He actually said, hey I’ll just refer business to you.
Daryl Rosser: Nice.
Chris LaMorte: So obviously that helped a lot, mostly with websites, but I did end up getting a couple of SEO clients in the end later on from them.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome man. So what made you shift then? Obviously, you’ve done pretty well with web designing in itself, right? What made you shift into SEO a couple years later?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, so SEO is actually more than half of our business now, but what started it was I think it was like three months after starting my business I got … my dad was getting his house painted and then he ran into … when he was getting quotes he talked to some guy about what we do, and he said … The guy’s like, “Well I already have a website, but I really need SEO, and I’m about to pay this guy like $850 a month to do it.” At the time, brand new business I had no recurring revenue. I’m like, okay whatever, I’ll figure it out.
I had enough knowledge to where I could sell it. I knew the basics of it and enough knowledge so that I could learn it. I just figured at this point I’m not going to turn down 800 or 850 a month, whatever it was.
Daryl Rosser: Love it, yeah. How much were you charging at the time for web design?
Chris LaMorte: For web design, I was starting at $2,000. Our average project was around $3,000.
Daryl Rosser: So that’s pretty good, but that’s also just one time. So, as soon as it’s done you’ve got to find another client.
Chris LaMorte: Right. That was the main thing, just early on just the stress was like, okay one month at the time I might have a five-figure month and then I’m like, “Oh cool, I’m going to be rich.” Then the next month, “Oh my god the world is going to end.” It was just a constant cycle up and down, which is not for me. Some people can do that. I like recurring. I like to have some cushion.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Yeah. So you got the client for SEO. How did you … like you said, you didn’t really know SEO that much at the time. You had to go and start learning. You knew you could learn, but how did you figure out what to do and did you actually get that client some results?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, I did get the client results. I got him on the first page. One of the things in hindsight I didn’t really know … where I messed up with that is I didn’t know much about keyword research, so I got him to the first page. I knew basics, like they were low search volume keywords, but they were not probably the best keywords. We probably could have been targeting more cities, than more landing pages. He did get enough to pay for itself, so he didn’t lose money off of it, but there were other methods of advertising that were more efficient. So he stayed with us for about eight or nine months.
Daryl Rosser: Still not bad, okay. That makes sense.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, I was happy with it for a first client.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, it’s better than a one-time web design deal for sure.
Chris LaMorte: Oh yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Cool, so how did you learn the SEO? Did you buy a course? Did you just try things out and just see what works? What was your process?
Chris LaMorte: I just googled it, looked on sources like Moz. One of the things I probably did poorly was I believed most of the articles that I read right away and then I realized very quickly how many pieces of information are conflicting with one another. I’d say scientific ranking was huge for me. That’s where I’ve gotten most of my knowledge at this point, and from just the Facebook groups.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome man. Thank you very much. I’m glad to hear that.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. So what’s changed from back then where you had your very, very first SEO client to today where you’re over 20 clients. Is that SEO or is that kind of a mix?
Chris LaMorte: That’s just SEO. So we have a bunch of website clients on top of that.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: Where we’re getting revenue … again, it’s up and down, but we usually get at least about $5,000 a month in website revenue still, even though that’s not as big of a part of our business as it was.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. So what is the difference between how your business is run and what you’re spending your time on and things like that? Today versus back then when it was all kind of one time deal as web design?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, well there’s been a lot of really helpful influences in my business, including scientific ranking. I’ve read books like the E-Myth, which has really taught me about actually scaling the business because when I first started back I was doing websites. I was the technician. I was just doing the websites. I was managing the project. I was doing pretty much everything to where I didn’t have time to really focus on growing my business.
That’s hugely different from now where I have actually a staff of people and BA’s that are doing a lot of the grunt work for me so that I can focus on mainly project management and then growing our business. So I can focus on sales, on making sure that our outreach campaigns are being sent out for cold emails, whatever is going to bring business in the door. As a result, it’s caused our business to … we’ve grown more in the last six months than we did the previous two years combined.
Daryl Rosser: Awesome.
Chris LaMorte: So yeah, that’s what I’ve learned is to spend … you might think that you’re saving money by doing everything yourself. You might think that you’ll be able to make more. You will in the short term, but what I’ve learned is that if you can outsource it, it’s better to just do it if it can be reasonably done.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely, and I guess the monthly recurred revenue aspect of that gives you kind of the control to be able to do that because beforehand it was, like you said, one month you’d make 10K plus, the next month it drops off half of that whatever, right? So having that control means you have clients that are going to pay you every single month. Some of them may cancel at any time, but you still have that base layer of recurring revenue every month.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah definitely. That has a huge impact because basically, the extent of my project management is I look at the client’s website and then I assign tasks to people to my VAs or whoever. That gives me a lot more time to focus on those things. So that’s a big difference because with SEO, like you said, it’s recurring. The intake process is one time and then we just keep going month to month and I can schedule things months ahead of time.
You can’t really do that with websites. It’s constantly … your customers are constantly changing. You’re constantly having to warm up to them or get them to warm up to you. Constantly doing new intakes, new sales because with SEO, if I make new sales, I’m adding to my existing revenue as long as I don’t lose any clients. But with websites, I have to, just to be able to pay the bills, I have to constantly be selling. So it’s hard to find time to get additional business on top of that. So yeah, to answer your question, the monthly recurring revenue has is a much better model.
Daryl Rosser: Definitely. So let’s talk about the past six months. You said you’ve taken on more business in the past six months than you had in the past year or so was it you said?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, or the past two years.
Daryl Rosser: The past two years, okay. Even better, okay perfect. So what has changed? Is that in terms of you getting better at bringing on clients, at keeping your clients longer? What has changed? I’m not going to tell you. You tell me.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, well we’ve always had really good client retention rate. I think in the past year and a half I think we’ve actually lost one client out of all of them and it was a small client.
Daryl Rosser: That’s pretty awesome, yeah.
Chris LaMorte: I become really good friends with most of my clients, on a more personal level. I really enjoy working with all of them, but the biggest thing is a little bit of what I was talking about before and actually focusing on growing my business full time rather than doing SEO and websites full time and then growing my business as an afterthought where I might get to it on the weekends if I’m able to. So that’s what’s had the biggest impact so far is just focusing on cold emailing, focusing on our own SEO which has brought us a lot of business, and networking has been a big thing. Now that I have people helping me with the fulfilment side of things I can actually focus on those things, which has been huge. We’ve doubled our business in the last six months.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. So thinking like a business owner rather than a technician, rather than spending … if I’m hearing it correctly. Rather than spending all your time on managing your clients and ranking the clients and doing the “work” for the clients, you’ve built up a team that kind of enables you to let them handle that stuff and then you can focus on things that actually bring in new money, like bringing in new clients to focus on the business itself.
Chris LaMorte: Right. Yeah, exactly. That’s what’s … right now I’m kind of basically … before, I was playing three roles. I was running the business. Well actually more than three roles, but basically it can be summed up into doing the work. I was managing myself and running the business. Now I’ve switched to just managing and then running the business. As you know already from the work we’ve done in the inner circle, I’m working on getting somebody else to actually be the project manager so that I’m literally solely focused on growing the business, which I expect will allow us to grow even more than we have in the past six months.
Daryl Rosser: That’s perfect. How do you know when it’s time to start kind of stepping back? Initially it’s great now, it’s exactly what you need right now, but how do you know when it’s time, because when you’re first starting out and you’re selling … so what design sales and maybe one month you make five figures, the next month you make four figures, it’s massively dropped back down again, how do you know when it’s the right time then to start building up that team, from your experience?
Chris LaMorte: I don’t. I do the best that I can. I pretty much just take a leap of faith, as it’s called. I just go with my gut, so I feel very confident based on what we’ve done in the past, that I can grow our sales to at least pay for … set up a new project manager or whatever it is that we’re … whoever it is that we’re bringing on. It’s a little easier now than it was, like you said, back with the websites because I can just say … I can justify in my head, okay we’ve brought on five new clients this month … I’m just making up numbers but five new clients this month, that’s $6,000 a month in revenue. So if I hire a project manager, that’s 3,000 and I can think in my head, okay well we already can pay for it with that new business.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: But when I was just doing websites, it was just a total risk. I’m like, okay well I’m just going to bring on some new people and hope that we can pay for it, and we’ve always been able to. From what I’ve seen, that’s most people’s experience.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: But one of the biggest jumps that I’ve made is my wife used to have a job. She was an allergy technician before she was helping me. She was making decent money, so that was a pretty good chunk of change, plus benefits. We had health insurance from it too. We were about to lose all of that. That I was actually a little nervous because I was like, okay we’re going to have to work really hard to be able to pay for her salary plus benefits and everything else.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: We were still basically just doing websites at that point. I just took the risk and took a couple months but everything worked out.
Daryl Rosser: How did you decide to make that jump? What was going through your head at the time that made you finally make the decision? I presume you were thinking about it for a while before your wife decided to quit her job.
Chris LaMorte: Oh yeah, we were thinking about it for about a year. Pretty much since she started the job.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough.
Chris LaMorte: Pretty much since the beginning. I think it was just I had gotten … it’s kind of hard to think about because we actually got most of the business after she quit, but it was … what actually led me to the decision, I would say, is mostly the fact that I really wanted her to work with me. We wanted to be able to hang out and have the freedom to do what we want all the time because before it was like, oh we can go on vacation, but she can’t get off work, or wanting to do something else, but she has to work.
Daryl Rosser: But you can.
Chris LaMorte: Right, I have the schedule. It was also just the fact that I was thinking, we’re limited in how much I can grow just me. Eventually, I’m going to have to hire somebody anyway, so it might as well be my wife.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely, yeah.
Chris LaMorte: I was just going to say, it ended up working out really, really well. She didn’t have a lot of experience in digital marketing at the time, but it’s gone from her feeling like more of an employee to now we’re 50/50 partners. She adds just as much value, if not more than I do.
Daryl Rosser: That’s awesome. How do you like working with your wife then? It sounds like it’s going amazing. I can imagine some people would be terrified of it.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, I get that a lot, but we just get along really well. She’s very patient.
Daryl Rosser: Okay.
Chris LaMorte: She puts up with me.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough. That’s cool man. So I’d like to talk about client acquisition stuff. So a few different questions on the topic. Firstly, do you have a niche focus or an area focus or something like that? I’d like to talk about having some sort of focus of who their ideal clients are, who they target.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, it’s primarily home service industries or home improvement. So tree services, roofers, which I know everybody in SEO is doing roofing.
Daryl Rosser: True that.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, but pest control, plumbers is a big one for us, everything to do with the home. Sometimes we do branch out from that. We have a computer repair guy and we have … I’m trying to think. We’re thinking about signing up a nanny. So it’s mostly proximity-based service area businesses.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: Where people deliver or do services on site, because it was initially just home services but we have let in other industries and we kind of take them on a case by case basis.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, so you do have a focus. You are going after home services businesses general, but if someone else comes in and they seem like a good fit, you’re not exactly going to turn them away.
Chris LaMorte: Right. Yeah, but our primary focus is definitely home improvement businesses.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, perfect. Straight up, how do you apply clients? What’s your client acquisition processes that you can share?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, I’m an open book so I’ll share everything. It’s cold email, your cold email method has been a big one that I learned from you. Then the other two, one is actually … I’ve heard mixed results about this one, but it’s been great for us is our own SEO. We rank for SEO in several cities around us but also web design for several cities around us, so that’s a strategy we’ve had that’s worked out pretty well. People call us looking for websites because that gets a lot more searches, from my experience, than SEO does.
Once they call for a website they say, we do the website but then we tell them, “What are you going to do with your website? How is it going to bring you business?” Usually we can kind of peak their interests. Okay, you have a website. Now let’s get it in front of some people. So that’s been a huge source of business for us. Then the third one is just referrals, strategic partnerships, teaming up with IT people, marketing or business consultants. We have a few of those. We have a branding consultant that’s brought me a lot of business that I work really well with.
Then also just my customers, asking them for referrals as well. We try to build really, really good relationships with our customers. It’s usually they refer business to us.
Daryl Rosser: Okay, that’s awesome. That’s really good. I’m curious, you said you’re ranking for web design in your city still. Then before that, we’re talking about how SEO is so much better, how you get them monthly recurring revenue and things like that. What is the reason you decided to continue selling web design even today?
Chris LaMorte: Mainly, honestly because it’s kind of a gateway to SEO. I always joke call it a gateway drug because we can get them on a really good website and then they … most people understand that with how competitive it is, how competitive online is, just doing websites is not enough. From my experience, most of my customers don’t want a website just to have it sit there just to look pretty. They would like for it to actually do something. They just might not know that that’s an option. So that’s the main reason. If we could do just SEO I probably would, but we’ve just gotten so much business that started from a website.
Daryl Rosser: Fair enough, yeah. No, I agree. I think pretty much anyone that buys a website, most of them are going to need SEO afterwards. Not necessarily that they’ll be a good fit for it, but most of them are definitely going to need it afterwards. So it’s a perfect entry level offer to it.
Chris LaMorte: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Daryl Rosser: Cool man. I’m curious, over the past six months that you said you’ve doubled your business, what is the most effective way of acquiring clients for you in those six months? You don’t need to tell me what I want to hear.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, honestly it’s kind of a tie I would say. I could look at the numbers, but yeah, it’s about … I’d say maybe referrals wins by a little bit. If I had to guess I would rank referrals, then cold emails, then SEO.
Daryl Rosser: Interesting.
Chris LaMorte: But I would say … also, the thing is with cold emails is we haven’t done nearly as much because we had some staffing issues. So I would have imagined that now once we get back on it, which we have a bunch we need to send out, cold emails probably would take the lead.
Daryl Rosser: Cool.
Chris LaMorte: From my experience with cold emails is just it can get you as much business as you want. It’s just how many you’re willing to send.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Can you talk a little bit about your experiments with the cold emailing and what process you use for it?
Chris LaMorte: We pretty much took your method, the fake video audit method, exactly as it was written. I didn’t really want to mess with it. We have personalized it a little bit more. We’ve changed things around depending on the industry. I try to figure out the ways to make it as personalized as possible, but with spending the least amount of time. So mail shake works really well. Sometimes we can scroll through the emails and I just put random stuff to personalize it. I saw one guy’s name was Chris and I threw in the email, “Hey, my name is Chris too.”
Daryl Rosser: Yeah
Chris LaMorte: Whatever I can think of, because once they get that they’re like, Oh this is a real email. This isn’t just some spam fake un-personalized email that’s sent out. That helps our response rates a lot. There are some steps we’ve taken to make it more personalized. There are other areas where we’ve made it actually less personalized to make our process more efficient, but we’re testing to find that balance to what gets the best response rates for the lowest cost basically.
Daryl Rosser: For sure. What were some of your results, because I know you’ve had mixed results. You said one time you sent out like 300 emails, you got like zero responses to be completely unbiased. Other times you got some really good response rates and clients out of it.
Chris LaMorte: Right. I think early on, I think it was like every 50 emails would be sent out we got a client. These were people that were like right next to us. Then that quickly stopped happening. I think we just got lucky, to be honest because at first, I was thinking, oh wow we’re going to be rich again because we’re getting … all we have to do is send out 50 emails and we’ll get a customer. Then we did landscaping companies and we sent out 300. I think we got two responses that were good. The rest of them were just like people telling us to screw off basically.
Daryl Rosser: It happens.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, then two of them … we got one really good lead, but we got no customers from it at all. I’ve noticed some fluctuation. Pest control was another one that we didn’t have good luck with for cold emails, although we have a few pest control clients. That’s kind of interesting. There’s a lot of different, a lot of testing we can do. Some industries and areas work better than others.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I think that’s very true and something a lot of people don’t realize. I see people sometimes, they send like 100 emails and say it doesn’t work. Maybe it didn’t, but there’s so much to test, like you were saying. You said pest control didn’t work very well for you. I’ve seen other people say pest control is the best niche and it’s worked extremely well for them.
Chris LaMorte: Right.
Daryl Rosser: It’s really just depending on the areas of what their target is and niche is and all these different factors like that.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah. I remember we talked about before you mentioned that, I think, plumbers weren’t very good over in the UK, but for us, we’re getting ridiculously good responses from plumbers.
Daryl Rosser: Whatever works, that’s awesome.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah exactly.
Daryl Rosser: What do you think was the reason in the early days then that you were getting one client out of 50 emails? That’s a very, very good response rate.
Chris LaMorte: We weren’t really doing anything different. Honestly, I think it was just luck partially. I think it also helped that these people, they’d see our address at the bottom … this is just my thoughts but they would see our address at the bottom of my signature and then they’d realize, oh wow that guy is literally five minutes away from me, or in the neighbourhood over or something like that.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: So I think that might have been it, but there’s … the thing is we’ve targeted other industries with people that are just as close and people did not respond nearly as well, so it’s tough to say.
Daryl Rosser: It just worked out. You’re not going to complain.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, definitely not.
Daryl Rosser: So for anyone that doesn’t know, can you quickly summarize what the fake video method is for anyone that isn’t familiar with it yet? I’ve put a link up as well for anyone.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah definitely. So basically it is where you send out an email and correct me if I mess everything up because I’m just doing this off of my head. Basically, send emails to people. Hopefully, they’re relevant that you find when you see, okay these people are not on the first page of Google, or at least that’s how we find people. We just look for anybody that’s not on the first page. We send an email saying, “Hey, I noticed that you didn’t rank for …. or I came across your website …” sorry, one second. I forgot to turn my phone off.
So basically you send them an email saying, “Hey, I came across your website when looking for pest control companies in Atlanta and I noticed you don’t come up on the first page. That’s a lot of calls you’re missing out on so I put together a video explaining on how you can rank for the keyword that you’re trying to.” Then usually list their top three competitors and say something like, “Your competitors are beating you or this is how much traffic they’re getting, this is what you’re missing out on.” Then send an email to them, but it’s called the fake video audit method because we haven’t actually put together a video. We’re just saying that so then they’ll respond and say, yes I’m the right person to send this to. Then you can put together a video real quick and send it to them.
Daryl Rosser: Yep, perfect. That’s pretty much it.
Chris LaMorte: Was that a good enough summary?
Daryl Rosser: No, it’s good man. It’s good. Yeah, I just wanted to hear it in your own words, especially because you are actually going out there and doing it as well so it’s always interesting to hear how people describe it. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Just go out there and send emails to businesses, get a response and once you see a video, show how the competitors are beating them, record that video and sending it back to them. Cool.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Is there anything you’ve learned over … you’ve been doing it for a little while now. Is there anything you’ve learned that you were kind of worried about or not sure about before you started sending out those emails. When you first had, I presume, a video of me talking about it.
Chris LaMorte: The big thing that I’ve learned, and we’ve actually talked about this … well, two things. One is don’t give a shit what people think. Don’t let that get you down because people are going to be unhappy about your emailing. Don’t be afraid of bugging people because, in my experience with the people we’ve emailed, we usually help them a lot and help their business.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.
Chris LaMorte: Also, I don’t even go into it with the intention of selling anyone. Basically the way I see it is I’m just letting them know about a problem. If they want me to help fix it that’s great, but if not at least we can help someone. It doesn’t have to turn into a sale. That’s kind of been a way of thinking that made it easier for me because I always hated the idea of cold anything, cold email, cold messages, cold calls.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: So that helped a lot. Then the third thing is just doing it because I know that’s been a struggle for me. It’s a struggle for a lot of people. You want to read about it and you want to plan it out, plan how you’re going to do it, get your website together, do all these different things to prepare for it, when at the end of the day, for me, it’s just I had to stop preparing just sending the emails. It doesn’t really take much.
Daryl Rosser: No, you’ve just got to literally just start sending them. Find some information and send them. It’s a few hours of work to send a few.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Cool. I want to talk about that first point which is ignore the hate or the bad responses. Do you get many sort of negative responses, you said earlier, about getting emails saying screw off and stuff like that? Do you get much negative response to emails?
Chris LaMorte: I get some. It’s not an overwhelming amount. There have been certain industries where we got more than others, but it’s few and far between. Most people are appreciative, especially since most of these cold emails we’ve sent out were right down the road. Most people are nice and appreciative and they’ll say, oh thanks but we’re not interested at this time, or I appreciate it, I’ll pass it on, but it’s very few people that have been downright nasty. It does happen and I’m the type of person, I did not have thick skin at all like other people. It’s been a process to learn it’s just part of being in business and being in this industry. You kind of have to have thicker skin.
Daryl Rosser: Do you have to take a break and stuff when you get an email like that?
Chris LaMorte: I did. I used to just spend all this time thinking about it, or just when we’d have problems with anybody, not just cold emails.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: That’s one of the good things that cold emails helped me with. It’s just helped me. It’s like if I get mad at every single email, or nasty email that’s sent to me, I’m going to be really busy being mad.
Daryl Rosser: Seriously.
Chris LaMorte: So I’m not going to be able to get anything done. So it’s, out of necessity, taught me to not really pay attention to those people.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I’m curious, it’s completely off topic to what we’re talking about now, what would you describe as your biggest problem in business today? Your biggest struggle.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, there’s a few of them. I’d say organization. We’re getting a lot better at it. Your training videos have been a good asset. By the way, I’m not kissing up. I’m literally just … helped.
Daryl Rosser: I appreciate it. I’ll take it.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, it’s been a huge asset. We’re still not as organized as I would like to be. My thing is getting to the point where we’re operating like a real business. Not just me working out of my house because I think we have like five people right now including me and my wife, so we’re starting to get to that point where we have to have procedures, SOPs, in place.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: And really have processes that everything runs like a machine because it’s not just me anymore. I can’t just keep track of everything in my head.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I guess it’s a big shift from the early days.
Chris LaMorte: Oh yeah, because before I did everything so we didn’t need project management software because I had it on paper. I still obviously use that for my own personal tasks, but if we’re not organized and people aren’t collaborating like they need to be, then stuff falls through the cracks and people get unhappy.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: So yeah, that’s what I would say.
Daryl Rosser: That’s fair enough. That’s cool. What part of the business do you think that you’re good at? What’s the part you’re very good at?
Chris LaMorte: I would say I’m good at the vision.
Daryl Rosser: You sound like a [crosstalk 00:38:10].
Chris LaMorte: I know right? I’d say it’s definitely the vision, or I guess looking ahead. More than just that but the sales part.
Daryl Rosser: That’s what I was thinking.
Chris LaMorte: Growing the business in general. I’ve never been a sales guy. It was funny, when I left my old agency they actually were like, you know you have to sell if you want your own business. You’re not going to be able to go that because you’re an introverted computer nerd. They didn’t say that but that’s basically what they were saying.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: But just out of necessity that ended up being what I’m best at. I’ve learned it’s not just about being a smooth talker or anything like that. It’s just knowing your product, believing in your product and being able to connect with people. So it was surprising that that’s what I would be the best, but it just turned out that way.
Daryl Rosser: No, that’s perfect. I really like that. I think … I wouldn’t say I’m the best sales guy in the world, but it’s the same thing. Another shy, introverted computer nerd, whatever you want to call it, basically just sit in front of a computer all do but I actually got into SEO myself and started selling services to businesses. It turns out I’m actually not bad at it and actually really enjoyed it, which I never ever expected to happen. So I’m curious, from one computer nerd introvert to another, how do you go out there and from being a web designer that have never done sales in their life to getting their first clients to sell, how did you pick that up? How did you get good at it?
Chris LaMorte: Pretty much just talk to people, put yourself out there. It’s scary. I always hated doing it because I was afraid that, especially in the SEO community where people know what they’re talking about and I don’t want to look dumb. I’ve looked at some … seen some training videos, looked at some sales material and gotten some basic tips, but definitely, most of it has just come from experience. Just putting myself out there. I did for a large portion of the time.
There were times when I looked stupid or was nervous or said stuff that didn’t make sense. I’ve done some other interviews, like done presentations in front of people. It’s pretty much just getting used to it and eventually it’s not that bad. I used to freak out every time I talked to somebody on the phone. My palms would start getting sweaty, start shaking. They could probably hear it in my voice. Now I honestly don’t even think about it.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, I actually agree 100%. After a while, there are definitely things you can learn that’s going to kind of skip mistakes you make, but after all, we just need to get on the phone and start practising it and you’re going to get better. Also, what you mentioned earlier is that when you’re sending the videos your intention is to genuinely help them out. When you get on the phone and you’re not thinking how can I sell this person, how can I sell this person, and you’re actually thinking how can I help this guy out. Your service is often a very good way of doing that. It’s a much, much easier sale and you feel less pressure than when you’re on the phone thinking how can I sell, how can I close.
Chris LaMorte: Right. Exactly, and that’s been the biggest thing for me is just learning because when I would try to do sales before, I think the part where I messed up most of the time was I thought I had to be a salesman. I thought I had to be someone else. I thought I had to sound … because we had some really … the agency I worked at, we had some really good salesman there. The owner was just incredible at sales. I kind of realized, I noticed he didn’t sound like what most people picture when they think of the salesman. He didn’t sound like a used car salesman or anything.
Daryl Rosser: It’s funny how people picture that.
Chris LaMorte: Right. Yeah. So once I stopped trying to be someone else, it got a lot better because the reality is nobody expects their SEO or web developer to be a smooth talker. Nobody cares about it. Nobody expects them to be super extroverted. They just want to know that you care and that you know what you’re doing essentially.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Yeah I agree with that. It’s mostly just listening, to be honest. You ask them questions and stuff like that and you just listen to what they’re interested in and how exactly you can help them out.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah. I keep going back to your stuff.
Daryl Rosser: Thank you.
Chris LaMorte: What is it, sales close?
Daryl Rosser: Educated close.
Chris LaMorte: Educated close system.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, that helped a lot too. We get to a point and that’s exactly right. Most of the time I’m just asking questions. I’ll just let them talk, let them answer the questions, and then before you know it they’re basically talking themselves into why they need our services and how they’re going to benefit from it. That’s another big thing is not trying to … for me, especially recently, it’s easy for me to get more aggressive and kind of want to tell them over and over again why they need my product and why we’re best, but I’ve learned that it’s definitely better to just kind of put the breaks on and let them tell you.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I 100% agree with that. It’s actually better, in my opinion, when you sell them that way when you’re kind of stepping back a little and letting them come to you. That’s just kind of forcing it down them.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, exactly.
Daryl Rosser: I’m curious then, we’ve talked heavily about the upsides of running agency and how you got the recurring revenue and how cold email and our system is working really well for you among other things. What are some downsides of your business? What are the downsides of running an SEO versus an infinite number of other businesses that you can be running?
Chris LaMorte: I’d say there is some stress at times, particularly for me, like I said before, I still kind of am … I just got my headphone off. I would always be the type of person that takes everything … pretty sensitive guy, so everything people say to me I take it to heart. We had … it wasn’t even that long ago we had a guy who didn’t pay his bill. Then when we asked him, we said we can’t continue service he threatened to sue me and just got really nasty. I tend to take stuff like that to heart and it stresses me out, let it get to me. It’s been a learning process. Stuff like that’s going to happen. You’re not going to make everybody happy.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: So it’s important not to stress out about that stuff. That’s what I would … so the stress part is probably what I’d say the biggest downside of it is for me, but it can be really easily fixed. It can be really easily avoided just by accepting that people are people.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, so the stress of people is one of the biggest downsides then.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, it’s also just the type of person I am. If it’s my own money, if I’m the one spending $1,500 a month on SEO, obviously I don’t want to lose it, but I’m not even going to freak out about it. I just know it’s an investment. This is how investments go. If I lose $5,000 on an investment, which has happened before, I’m not going to … I don’t stress out about that as much as I do investing somebody else’s $5,000.
Daryl Rosser: Sure. Okay, yeah. I agree with that.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah.
Daryl Rosser: Do you enjoy working with clients though?
Chris LaMorte: Overall I do. Most of my clients are amazing. I have really good relationships with them. We talk about much more than business and SEO. Some of them we give advice about their business beyond just SEO because we’re building a business too and we can share what we’ve learned along the way, especially for the newer businesses. So we’re trying to expand and do more things other than just client SEO, but I don’t think I’ll ever stop doing it. I think we’ll just probably be more selective on who we work with.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, awesome. I like that. Clients also can absolutely stress you out, especially bad ones, but it sounds like you actually enjoy the overall. That’s really cool man. Do you have any tips then? Finally maybe a couple of questions or so we have to start wrapping it up now, but do you have any tips for avoiding the bad clients and the ones that … you know what I mean, just bad clients in general?
Chris LaMorte: Yeah. I’d say trust your gut. That’s the biggest thing because there’s been plenty of times where I didn’t, where I thought I shouldn’t take this person on. When I say, bad client, it doesn’t even necessarily mean that they’re bad or they’re a bad person. It’s usually just they’re not a good fit.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely.
Chris LaMorte: For example, if they’re really, really stretching their budget. Say they’re taking their life savings and putting it into SEO, or all the savings they have, I now know don’t let them do that because they’re going to be a lot more scared to lose it
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, reference.
Chris LaMorte: and it’s going to require a lot more. Right, exactly. Then somebody who’s just investing extra dollars that they have laying around. There have been things I’ve done to kind of avoid that. One thing is I always have a talk now with every client that I sign up and tell them, hey SEO, I think we can get you results. I feel confident we can get you results, but don’t invest in anything, including SEO, that you’re not willing to lose because at the end of the day it’s not a sure thing. Google can change. People might not buy your service for whatever reason. There are sometimes factors outside of my control.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, absolutely. I like the honesty. That’s very cool.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, so that’s the main thing is just being honest and transparent with them and that’s how I can sum it up. Just make sure you set reasonable expectations.
Daryl Rosser: That’s huge. I think expectations are the most screwed up part of selling SEO because you got a little bit wrong and you got a client email me after month one like, hey where’s my rankings? Everyone who’s in the business knows you can’t do that that fast.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, exactly. We get people that say, oh yeah so and so promised me page one ranking within the first month. You and I know that it’s not very likely for any with decent competition.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: I think some people find it tempting to say, “Oh yeah, I can do that too” if they can do it, but I just … honesty is always the best policy.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. Cool. Final question before we wrap it up, what’s the last question. Okay, if you could go back to the day you quit your job at the agency, decide you’re going to go at this on your own, what three pieces of advice would you give yourself?
Chris LaMorte: The first thing, the biggest thing I would say is to go join the SEO Facebook groups and connect with other SEOs because that’s really what I credit the growth we’ve had in the last six months is because of that. I’m over here doing this business model that I think is unique. I think everything I’m doing is so special and I’m so smart. Then seven months ago, because I’m new to the community, I realized there are literally thousands of people that are doing literally the exact same thing as me and doing it better. So that’s the biggest thing I would say, definitely work together with other people in the industry.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, you’ve got a lot of the community as well. Everyone is so transparent in sharing things. It’s really an awesome community. There’s nothing like it.
Chris LaMorte: Right, and I like it too because obviously there’s some everywhere, but I don’t really see many egos, people trying to outdo each other. It seems legitimately people are just trying to help each other out, so it’s been great and really helped the business.
So the second thing I would say, like I mentioned before, just go out there, put yourself out there, just do it. Don’t spend a lot of time on projections, planning, things that … don’t spend a lot of time on things that aren’t going to generate a return on investments.
Daryl Rosser: Sure.
Chris LaMorte: That’s what I teach for my clients. Just focus on getting your first dollar in first. Then focus on everything else.
Daryl Rosser: That’s a huge tip. I 100% agree.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah. Then the third thing I would recommend is I would say don’t neglect organization. That’s, I guess, not right when I started but that was a big thing. There’s a lot of things I thought were pointless or stupid, like getting a signed contract for example, and getting one that actually covers us. Like basic business practices that I ignored. I was like, ah nothing is going to happen, I don’t need them. I know know, have now learned that even if there are no legal troubles, it’s just best to have everything in writing, all of your policies in writing and go over it with them so that there’s no misunderstanding between clients.
Daryl Rosser: That’s smart. Do you have a lawyer for that or downloaded the contract over the internet?
Chris LaMorte: I use rocket lawyer and then they have … if you need to talk to an attorney they have a network. So I recently had them redo our contract because I didn’t have a contract for the longest time, and then when I did it was just a bunch of bullet point that I wrote myself. I would add to it as I go, but I’ve learned that it’s just best … not just the contract part, but just communicating with them in general and making sure that everybody’s on the same page with how long it will take, what kind of results they can expect, if you have a ranking guarantee whatever that guarantee is. Then have specific policies outlined.
For example, we have a ranking guarantee that we do within six months. They’ll rank for at least a portion of their keywords or we’ll work for free until they get there.
Daryl Rosser: That’s cool.
Chris LaMorte: We didn’t stipulate any requirements, so we had an issue where a guy is posting shut off and it was shut off for, I think, two weeks and they lost all of their rankings while their website was down. So for a second there I was like, wow we still have that ranking guarantee in place regardless. We didn’t say that it’s void if somebody takes down the website or anything like that.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah.
Chris LaMorte: Fortunately he brought it back up and then the website was back online and everything went back to normal, but just little situations like that we’ve gotten off pretty easy most of the time, but have made me realize, oh that’s why so and so is telling me I need to have a contract, or that’s why so and so is telling me I need to do these. It just goes back to functioning like a real business.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah. I absolutely agree. Definitely get all that stuff in place. I will also add though, it’s cool that when you first found out you just kind of go for it, you just kind of take some action and you just kind of figure that stuff out later on some level. Again, you’ve already watched this now. You already know that you should probably have the contract in place. It’s not hard to set it up. Once you’ve got a client that’s interested in signing up, or at least you’ve booked your first sales call, go ahead and set up then. You don’t need to think about it in advance of that, but once you’ve got sales calls booked in, definitely set it up in advance. I think that’s good advice.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, and I’m all for going for it. Don’t get me wrong, but my thing is I waited over a year before I started doing real contracts and made that a policy. So to me, it’s a balance. I know it sounds like they might contradict each other, but it’s definitely-
Daryl Rosser: It’s always balance.
Chris LaMorte: Go out there. Right. Start selling. Don’t wait until you have all of your ducks perfectly in a row because, in my experience, you never get there. You never are perfectly ready. It’s just definitely going for it. For me, I would pride toward … I have no idea what I just said. I would prioritize my clients’ businesses in getting results over my own business and everything else. So I guess that would be a better way of saying it is, we need to focus on our business just as much as our clients.
Daryl Rosser: Absolutely. I think that’s some awesome words of advice, words of wisdom, to wrap up the episode on Chris. So where can people find you if they want to reach out, connect with you, anything like that?
Chris LaMorte: They can go to our website. Our company name is Webchimpy. So it’s webchimpy.com. I know it’s a weird name. It’s C-H-I-M-P-Y.com. I’m sure you can put a link in.
Daryl Rosser: Yep, for sure. Where did the name come from? Sorry, just a final question as we wrap it up.
Chris LaMorte: I wanted to do web chimp or web monkey, but everything was taken so I just decided to combine the two.
Daryl Rosser: Love it. Why not. Cool man. I really appreciate you joining me today. It’s been an epic episode. So thanks for that.
Chris LaMorte: Yeah, thank you.
Daryl Rosser: Yeah, hope you guys enjoyed the episode and I shall see you in next week’s episode. I’ll see you there.
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