Linda Fanaras joined Tycoons’ Austin Peterson and Gary Braun to give insight into the world of branding and marketing. They talked about the importance of authenticity, professionalism, and how to find the “white space” in the market.
Tune in to listen to them discuss making sure you don’t cut corners on what’s important, finding the things that can set you apart from your competition, and not forcing something that doesn’t fit.
Welcome to “Tycoons of Small Biz,” a podcast where small business owners are celebrated as the backbone of the American economy. Each week, we introduce you to tycoons who share their stories and advice so that small business owners may learn from their experiences. “Tycoons” is powered by Backbone Planning Partners, and Pivotal Advisors. Join us now as our hosts connect you to today’s tycoons.
Austin Peterson: 0:37
Good afternoon tycoons, and Happy New Year 2023. Welcome to “Tycoons of Small Biz.” This is our first episode of 2023. If this is the first time you’re listening to our podcast and you’re wondering what it is that we do here at “Tycoons of Small Biz,” we are a podcast that’s put together by small business owners, for small business owners. And our sole purpose here is to share the stories of people who are truly the backbone of the American economy, and allow them to talk about themselves, talk about their business, share it, you know, what it is that they do for their employees, for themselves, for the economy, etc. So, with that being said, we hope you enjoy listening and hope you come back and rate us and you know, do all those sorts of things that podcasts need to have done. But today we definitely have a tycoon of small biz on the podcast with us today. We’ve got Linda Fanaras, CEO of Millennium Agency coming to us from Manchester, New Hampshire. Linda, welcome to the show.
Linda Fanaras: 1:29
Thank you, Austin. It’s great to be here today. First day after a holiday.
Austin Peterson: 1:34
Yeah, yeah. exciting to be here. Exciting to start a new year. We talked a little bit before we got started, I just went out for a run during lunch. I typically do it in the morning, but I got home from the Rose Bowl last night at 1:30 in the morning. And so, I slept in a little bit this morning did not get up and do that run before the day started and thought, “You know what, I’m gonna still get it in during the lunch hour.”
Linda Fanaras: 1:59
That’s fantastic. I wish I could say I was there as well.
Austin Peterson: 2:05
Well, you live in a different area of the country than I do. Manchester, New Hampshire, Gary in Minnesota, it’s a little bit colder outside for you guys. You know, it’s 59 degrees here right now. So, it was actually even a little bit warm to go out for a run at noon.
Gary Braun: 2:22
I don’t think I want to hear any more about that.
Linda Fanaras: 2:24
I don’t either.
Austin Peterson: 2:29
Alright. Well, Linda, you’ve listened to the show, you know how the show goes, we kind of start by having our guests tell a little bit about themselves, personally. So, whatever that means to you, where you grew up? Are you married? Do you have kids? Where did you go to college? Whatever you’d like us to know about you personally, we’d love to hear it.
Linda Fanaras: 2:45
Sure. Yeah, I’ll give you a little bit of information about myself. My name is Linda Fanaras. Obviously, I own Millennium Agency and have owned it for about 24 years now. I actually came from the high-tech industry. So, my first job out of college, I won’t make this too lengthy. But I was in tech support for about two years or so. And I realized, at some point for me, maybe I’ll move into marketing. So, I did. I moved into marketing and did a lot of research and campaign planning, which I found was fascinating and fantastic because it’s amazing how well that actually works once you do some research and you decide like, “Okay, what areas of the market are available for this company? And how can I tackle those areas of business?” And that just set my career off, so it was great. We were the accounting and business software company, we got bought up by Great Plains then we got bought out by Microsoft and, and I started my company shortly thereafter. So that’s the short version of my career. Personally, I have three kids, they’re all grown up. They’re all college educated, they’re working. They’re off my payroll most of the time. Not all the time, but most of the time, except for transmission goes or some other crisis happens, the phone starts ringing. But yes, I have three kids and I split my time between New Hampshire and Boston.
Austin Peterson: 4:09
Linda Fanaras: 4:10
Yeah, it’s cold- it’s as cold there too.
Austin Peterson: 4:15
Yes, yeah, it is. I mean, you can see in my background, I’m a big fan of Boston, specifically the Red Sox. I’m really a baseball fan first. And that’s, that’s why I fell in love with the Red Sox. I grew up outside of Salt Lake City. And so, I have no reason to be a Red Sox fan, other than as a kid whose parents did not have cable television, the only three teams that got coverage on the news were the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Cubs. You know, you kind of chose one because back then, there was no affiliation of a team anywhere near Salt Lake City. There weren’t the Colorado Rockies, there weren’t the Arizona Diamondbacks, there weren’t any of those teams, you know? And so, I chose the Red Sox and, my gosh, I had, uh, I had a very tough childhood and adolescence and early 20s as a Red Sox fan while the Yankees won a lot of World Series, but-
Linda Fanaras: 5:07
I bet you did.
Austin Peterson: 5:09
Yeah. But I love the city of Boston. That’s really what I love about them is they’re, they’re true baseball fans.
Linda Fanaras: 5:16
Yes, yes, absolutely. I went to a few games this summer, and it was fantastic. I get the opportunity to walk there and enjoy the game and walk back. And the great thing about baseball is, you can go with some friends, you can talk, you can watch a game, you can have a couple of drinks, you could still talk watch a game, so it makes a great- makes it fun. Absolutely.
Austin Peterson: 5:38
Yeah, I believe it’s the best ballpark in professional sports. So, it’s, it’s awesome.
Linda Fanaras: 5:44
Austin Peterson: 5:45
All right, well, let’s, let’s jump to the business side. Actually, before we jump to the business side, I’m gonna do this just because it’s the new year. I didn’t plan this ahead of time. But I was thinking about this just a few minutes before the show started. I’m not a huge New Year’s resolution type of a person. I don’t really set a bunch of New Year’s resolutions. But I do write a business plan for my business every single year. I do it on one page. And I make it very, very simple, right? It’s just kind of broken up goals, strategies, tactics and actions, obstacles to success, and then the last thing is personal and professional development. So that’s where I kind of put the New Year’s resolution type stuff on there. And one of the resolutions for me or one of the things that’s on there for personal development this year is I want to lose 30 pounds. I’m not a very, very large person, but I really should weigh about 30 pounds less than I than I weigh right now. And that kind of gets me back to what I weighed in my 20s. Right. And I’m approaching my 50s now. So, if I can get back to that, I think that would be a big, big deal. So, I’ll toss it over to you. Are you a New Year’s resolution person? Did you set any?
Linda Fanaras: 7:01
You know, obviously, I have set some goals for work. And we have some strategies in place. In fact, we do set them, I set them corporately, and then I also set them with our staff on a quarterly basis. So, everybody can stay up to speed. But I do love the fact that you put everything in a very simple format, and you get everything down on one sheet. And you can just keep that top of mind. So definitely for business, we focus in on three key industries manufacturing, tech, pharma, and we’re planning on growing those markets this year. People question obviously, the economy. However, our feeling is you just gotta keep your head down and just keep running, no matter what. So, our resolution this year is really to grow our business in those three key sectors and focusing on primarily branding and lead generation. And me personally, you’re gonna be a little jealous, I did already take off those few pounds that I wanted to, which I’ve had for the last several years. So those are gone. So, I think this year, I’m going to get focused in on really getting in great shape and eating healthier and working out more. And I think all of that will help me stay focused on achieving some of these other goals. So yes, absolutely.
Austin Peterson: 8:19
Yeah, no good for you, losing those pounds already. Gary, how about you?
Gary Braun: 8:24
You know, I gotta commend you though, Austin, because very few people we’ve dealt with- we’re closing in on 400 clients that we’ve worked with- and very few of them get down to the personal level and have a plan like you’ve talked about. They just show up, they start working hard, and it makes it really hard to know whether you’re on track or not. So, I commend you on that. Yes, we have business plans. We’ve got our initiatives identified and everything else. I’m not gonna bore you with all of that. But we’ve got our plan put together, I feel pretty good going into the new year. I’m with you, got to take off- the holidays were really good and not good to me at the same time. I had a really good time, but man, I gotta take off some poundage now.
Austin Peterson: 9:06
Yeah, it’s funny you say that. I was out for a run prior to the holidays, you know, maybe, I don’t know, first or second week of December. And I saw a neighbor and I was coming back, and I was at the end of my run. So, I’m kind of in my cooldown walk, you know, and I walked past this neighbor and his wife and they’re out there on the driveway stretching, right? And he says, “Oh,” he says, “I’m heading out for that same walk so I can take some pounds off so I can put them back on in the house during the holidays. And I said, “Just to be clear, I was running before I saw you. I was just walking at the end.” So, that’s funny. Well, yeah, actually, last thing I’ll say about that, so on the business plan thing, one other thing that I find helpful and hopefully some of the listeners find this, you know, beneficial, your clients, whoever may find this beneficial: that one page thing, it just, it makes it so succinct, so easy to remember. But on top of that, it hangs on the wall by my desk in my office. So, you see it every single day, and you start to see, you know, am I doing what I said I was going to do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly. And it kind of holds you accountable because it’s right there. It’s not saved in a folder. It’s not you know, somewhere else. It’s, it’s there visible and ready to be seen.
Gary Braun: 10:26
In Austin, do you have somebody to help you keep accountable, or is that just your own accountability? Because everybody knows you’re supposed to do that, but it’s like going to the trainer at the gym. We all know how to run, we all know how to lift stuff, but when they hold you accountable, that’s when it really happens. So, who holds you accountable?
Austin Peterson: 10:44
Yeah, now I’m just, now I’m just gonna sound like I’m bragging, but we had a, we had a meeting week before last with our team. So, we’re a pretty small group, but the four of us got together and we each shared our separate business plans that then, you know, compiled to make the full business, you know, for the business plan. And we shared those things with each other to be able to hold each other accountable throughout the year. So yeah, every member of my team knows that- what I didn’t tell you is the end part of that is lose 30 pounds and either train for a half Ironman, or to try out for American Ninja Warrior. So, we’ll see where that ends up. But my business partner Landon and I work together… oh, when was that? January? I think it was the 1st. We were together- or no January 2, we were together. No, Saturday we were together on the 31st. And we talked, we were looking at dates for half Ironmans to do together to kind of push both of us.
Linda Fanaras: 11:51
I think that’s great. You have something to look forward to, something to focus on, that long-term distance goal, which always helps. Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Austin Peterson: 12:05
So, give us a little background on Millennium here. What are your tip- there are so many, I don’t want to lump you in with all, but there are so many digital agencies out there. So, tell us who you guys are and how do you really differentiate yourself?
Linda Fanaras: 12:19
Yeah, I love that question. Because you’re right, agencies, there are so many different types of agencies out there. There are digital agencies, SEO agencies, regular branding agencies, and we all sound the same, but how are we different and how do we differentiate compared to others? So, we are primarily a branding company. So, we focus on building brands for our clients. So, what does that mean? So is that just a, it’s not a logo; it’s a look, it’s a feel, it’s a selling proposition that actually differentiates you. Within that, and the reason we are a branding firm is we believe that it is vital to have a very strong brand and a key message in order to drive leads effectively because to your point, we sound like everybody else. And every company sounds like everybody else, depending on what they do, you know. So, the idea here is really trying to find the, what we call the “white space” in the market and saying, okay, here are our competitors, here’s what they all do, here’s what they all say. Now, what part is not taken, like, what can we grab onto that maybe another agency in our competitive field has not taken? And then, drive the focus of the company based on that differentiator. So that’s primarily what we do. We work with our clients to build a brand that differentiates them in the market. And we are focused on some key industries, meaning manufacturing slash- and I say manufacturing, tech and pharma. They are primarily all manufacturing. If you think about it, they’re all making something, right. So, we are hyper focused on those industries. And those are the industries that we can really help these companies grow where we’re involved more successfully and more intensely into B2B markets, which not everybody has a core competency in. You know, you’ll see somebody say, “Oh, can help you, you know, quick, put up a quick ecommerce website.” Well, that’s not really what we do. So, it really is the focus of the branding, building a selling proposition that differentiates you, determining that “white space” in the market and then driving the leads, you know, based on some of that preliminary data that was determined on the front end.
Austin Peterson: 14:43
So, talking to a lot of CEOs, business owners, a lot of salespeople, and I ask ’em, I bet I’ve asked no less than 1000 salespeople, “Why you versus your competitor,” and I get generic answers back like, “We have awesome customer service. We’re really good at relationships,” fluffy stuff that everybody out there in the market can say. So, give us an example- how do you find this “white space” that you speak of? What-
Linda Fanaras: 15:12
Yeah, like, let me give you like an example that people can identify with. I mean, I think that, like, for an example, a lot of companies will say, “Hey, we have great service,” like, how many times do you guys hear that, like every day of the week? “Oh, we have good- our pricing is fantastic. We have the lowest pricing.” Really? Yeah, you and everybody else. So, the idea here is if you take a company, like I like to look at FedEx as a good example, because the differentiating factor with them is when they came up with the overnight delivery guaranteed. There was no one- that’s a, that’s a “white space” in the market that nobody grabbed onto. And they said, “Okay, we’re gonna make this happen. And we’re going to build our business model around really making these deliveries,” and then they’re competing with like, okay, now, you know, we get the United States Postal Service, you know, all these other companies are catching up to some of the things that they established in the market. So, they were able to identify, like, really “white space.” If you’re looking at a company that says, “Oh, we’re your trusted advisor,” or, “We’re your partner,” you have to come up with a different way of- well why? Like, so? I always say, so why would I- I do, I ask the same question here- It’s like, okay, why would I do business with you instead of somebody else? “Oh, we have great service.” Well, what do you mean by that? Like, how do you have a great service? Are you gonna call me back in three minutes? Are you gonna call me back in 60 seconds? You’re gonna email me within the same day? I mean, can you give me some detail on that? So, drilling down into some of these factors that people don’t really think about, that’s a little bit more granular can really help them differentiate themselves. And that’s the work that we do. It’s not something that we, you know, like, wake up in the morning and go, “Hey, let’s do this for Gary’s company. Great idea.” It’s, it’s a process, it’s really a process to figure out, “Why are you different,” and then how can we hang our hat on that for, for one of our clients’ companies, their organization?
Gary Braun: 17:09
Do you find companies that have a really hard time finding that “white space” because they really are similar to everybody else? What do you do with them?
Linda Fanaras: 17:19
It really helps to get- we go through a pretty multi-step process- we have kind of this proprietary process that we put our clients through- and by the time we get to the end of that, it’s amazing what comes up. Like, they’ll say things and they’ll say, “Gosh, I never even like thought we did that. Like I didn’t realize like how important that was,” because they’re hearing themselves, they live it every day, right? It’s sort of like, Austin’s you know, like he’s doing his annual plan and executing it, but you just do it, you’re doing. You’re not thinking, and we get our clients to really think, and we help them strategically think, in ways that they haven’t thought of before. So that is sort of the uncovering factor to help them figure out like, how are you different? Why would somebody want to do something? Just to add one more point to that is, you know, as you said earlier, it’s like, “Oh, we have great service.” Okay, it’s not that you have great service, but the key is to establish a way to say that in a very emotional way. Because if you drink Pepsi or Coke, I don’t know if you’re a Pepsi or Coke drinker. Maybe neither, because they’re soda, we were just talking about weight loss. But, if you are one or the other, there’s a reason. And the reason is, it’s an emotional reason. So, you might like the feeling that Coke gives you. Maybe it makes you feel like you should put your pajamas on and sit in front of the fireplace. Or maybe you have a Pepsi and you’re like, I want to go for a run out- you know, you get different feelings, and that’s what we have to get our clients to think about, is what feeling do we want your prospects to have when they think of you so there’s an actual spot in their mind, when it comes down to that.
Austin Peterson: 19:03
I think you’ve covered a lot of a lot of great, you know, things there. So, I mean, obviously, having a strong brand is vital. I think now today, it’s probably even more vital than ever before, specifically because a lot of people are gonna start to do things remote only, there’s a, there’s a, you know, an opportunity to do things differently. And so, I think that brand matters, but so, you know, talk to about us, to us, why you think it’s vital now, but take that a step further and say, you know, because people say: “We’ve got to build a brand,” right? Well, that doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. You know, when they say a brand, they think Coke is the brand or Pepsi’s the brand, or Pivotal Advisors or, you know, Millennium Agency is, that’s the brand. Well, no, that’s the name. That’s the logo, but, you know, define “brand,” and then why is it critical to have a strong brand now?
Linda Fanaras: 20:00
Yeah, so a lot of companies think, “Oh, we need a new brand.” And they, you know, they might think that’s a logo, right? Or it’s a, it’s a new product launch. But what it is, is it’s really defining your “look” and your “feel” of your business and putting the words behind that “look and feel.” And you’re kind of marrying and guiding the two of those to build an identity that people can really wrap their head around. And it feels like fluff. And it sounds like fluff. And it’s hard to articulate, because- however, if you think of something like a Pepsi or Coke, or an Amazon, or FedEx or whatever the company may be, you have a very specific thought in your mind about those companies. In order to get to that place you do have to go to that, through that process of defining, okay, what do I look like? What does my brand feel like? What do we sound like? What’s our culture like? It’s not, like, just being talking heads, like, this is what we are, but you got to live it every day, like internally in the company in the organization, you have to live it every day. Amazon’s a great example. They look at every day as like a new day, like a clear day. Like, you’re like always solving problems, and you’re always addressing, like, you’re always kind of moving the needle, it’s like incremental improvements, which is a way to, sort of, think. It’s a culture. And it’s really putting all those pieces together your look, your feel, your messaging, your culture, your core values, and then pushing that out into the market, which can take some time because sometimes you think, “Oh, well, we just went through this long process. Now we’re launching our brand. Now we should be okay.” Well, now, once the brand is defined, now you’ve got the messaging defined, you’ve pushed into the market, you have to do that for some time, in order to penetrate the market. So, they really understand who you are and what you stand for. So, there’s an investment in your company, in your look, in the look and the feel of the company and the messaging of the company in order to really, you know, establish that. So, I don’t know if that cleared that up. But that’s basically- there are multiple components to it. It’s a visual, it’s a feeling, it’s the words, and it’s getting all those pieces together into the market into one cohesive, not fragmented way, so people have a clear understanding of what you stand for, and why they should do business with you.
Gary Braun: 22:28
Related to that it kind of ties in with what you just said. You said people might think of it as fluff and you know, logos and colors and whatnot. And I’m sure you see this, a lot of small business owners say, “Well, I can either put all my money into brand, and I only have so much of a marketing, or I could put it into SEO or pay per click or email campaign or I can go to a show or whatnot.” What would you say to those people? Why invest in brand- because they only have so much of a marketing budget to spend.
Linda Fanaras: 22:56
Yeah, yeah, that’s a great question. Because we get that a lot. I think, you know, our clients will say, you know, “I want to put some money behind digital, I want to-” well we have to generate leads, right? So, we take a look at the website and go, “Oh boy,” like, the minute somebody hits this website, they’re gonna leave this website. So, the idea here is to, you know, establish your company so maybe you look a little bit more mature, especially if you’re a startup then just, like somebody, you know, created a quick little website for you, or you had a friend do a logo. So, you really want to make sure that that brand is professional, it’s solid, and it makes it something you’re proud of. Because if you’re not proud of it, it’s hard to like stand by your own company. And we do see that too, like, companies will be like, our website is just like, terrible, like, it’s just terrible. But in this case, it’s really making sure that that brand is solid before you start driving leads to an identity that is not impressive. So that’s why it’s so important to put some money, you know, behind that brand. I mean, not spend tons and tons of money, but it needs to be professional, it needs to be clean, needs to be cohesive. It should be modernized to make sure it utilizes all the best practices that are out there today.
Gary Braun: 24:20
Well, and frankly, it’s the groundwork because without that, then even if you are going to do pay per click or email campaign, if you don’t have your cohesive message, if you don’t have your differentiation, you can kind of flush your money your money down the toilet.
Linda Fanaras: 24:35
I’m always like, it’s like kind of like building a house without the foundation right? It’s like okay, let’s steal the house but you don’t have the foundation. You know, we’re gonna probably have to go back and figure that out with the house and put the foundation in at some point. So why do it later instead of, do it now.
Gary Braun: 24:52
So, I’m sure you have all kinds of great stories, but where are some of the areas that people really fall down on branding? You got a lot of small businesses listening today. So, what are some of the common mistakes that they make that you can catch somebody right now and they can go, “Oh, crap, that’s me.” What are some of the things that you see that they don’t do well?
Linda Fanaras: 25:13
Yeah, I would say, I mean, they might, like, create their own logo that’s not very professional. That’s kind of a big thing. Because that seems like it’s an expensive, it’s an expense that they don’t want to do this one, that’s easy, I can, you know, I can do this myself. Or they might do a quick little website that doesn’t really function or has a lot of 404 errors and things like that. So, we find like the fall down spaces are basically in the general “look and feel.” And then the other thing that we see is that when they do, like, if they do have a website and a logo, and they have materials, their materials will look different than their website. And we see that a lot. So that can be very challenging, because as a potential customer, you’re seeing multiple pieces from this company, you won’t even think they’re the same company. So that’s why it’s so important to make sure that that those things are very cohesive, not fragmented. And the messaging is clear and concise. So that’s the big, I think that’s sort of the big area that I see, you know, companies falling back on is, is the fragmentation of the brand.
Gary Braun: 26:20
Yeah, I see that. Different looks, different feels, different messaging. It just, it affects a company’s professionalism. You know, you want to partner with somebody who gives you that feeling that you were talking about before-
Linda Fanaras: 26:35
Yeah, it makes you feel like the company has it together. You know, I hate to put it into simple form, but it’s almost like, you know, going out and you’re getting ready to go out and none of your clothes match. And, you know, you’ve got red sneakers on and a pink blouse, and, you know, a big hat on and nothing’s like, you know- like, whoa, you know? Rather than like something that’s totally put together, that’s something that’s memorable. I mean, although the person would be memorable, but, like, you want something professional, memorable and cohesive, and that’s the idea.
Gary Braun: 27:09
And you know, you just described Austin’s running outfit, right?
Linda Fanaras: 27:12
Is that how he dresses? That’s what I thought, you know, I was wondering.
Austin Peterson: 27:17
Oh yeah, no, definitely.
Linda Fanaras: 27:22
You know, the hat, I told him not to wear the hat. But he just keeps going “I’m gonna wear the hat.”
Austin Peterson: 27:29
Yeah, I usually run in a fedora actually. But it is what it is. You know, I wanted to actually add something to something both of you guys use the word ‘professionalism’. I think that sometimes that word is misunderstood or misused in the way that people build their brands and their websites. So, what I mean by that is, let’s pick, whatever, let’s pick an industry. Let’s pick banking, for example. Right? So banking, everybody kind of knows that when you walk into a bank, the executives of the bank are going to be wearing probably three-piece suits, wingtips, you know, white shirt, tie, all those sorts of things, right? But that doesn’t mean that every bank has to be that way. Or that every person in pharmaceutical sales or you know, whatever. You can be professional, but still intentional and true to who you are and what you’re doing. Right? So, I mean, so my industry, not to use me as an example, but our industry is pretty buttoned up as well, right? Yeah, I go to conferences, and people give me grief about not wearing a white shirt and tie and those sorts of things. But that’s not- I love wearing suits when it’s appropriate, and I feel like it’s warranted. But that’s not true to who I am, right? Most of my clients are very successful business owners, but most of them in the blue-collar trades type area, right? And so, I walk in with wingtips and a three-piece suit, they don’t want me there, right? They feel uncomfortable with me there. So, I wear more casual clothing than most people in my industry. And our website reflects that. Right? I don’t put a suit on just to have the picture on the website. I’m wearing what I normally wear on a day-to-day basis, right? If I stood up, you’d see that I’m wearing like gray plaid pants, a louder color, right? That’s, that’s who I am, and my clients know that, they expect it, I walk in wearing a pair of you know, I’m wearing jeans and a nice shirt. I still look nice, but I’m wearing multicolored vans shoes, because that’s who I am, right? And I’m to a point in my career that if anybody’s choosing to work with me based on what I’m wearing, that’s not somebody I want to work with anyway, right? So, I think that there’s, there’s this belief that you have to pretend to be somebody that you’re not really. And you can be authentically yourself and still build a great business, even, excuse me, even in an industry that expects you to dress a certain way.
Linda Fanaras: 30:20
Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think you’re right, I think a lot of people, I mean, although you are established in your career, so you’re, you’re probably at the point where, like you said, you know your stuff, you know? You’re great at what you do. So, and you’re confident with that, and that- and you’re not, probably, trying to prove yourself in any capacity. So, you’re you, which is a great place to be. And I do think that people should be authentic, because that is, you know, that is their selling proposition. And it helps them also differentiate themselves from others that are in the market, because I think you’ll find, you know, we find we find like, I’ll just say we find “like” clients, like clients like us, and the more like clients we find, the better relationships and partnerships we have with them. And my guess is you probably feel the same way, and that’s, that’s a great place to be, it really is.
Austin Peterson: 31:18
Absolutely. Well, let’s, let’s move on to how to find that “white space” in the market. You say you got to find that “white space,” how do you guys- you mentioned kind of a proprietary space, or a proprietary process that you guys go through to find that “white space” so, you know, you don’t have to share how the how the soup is made, so to speak, but kind of what is that process? Actually, you know what, before we do that, let’s have a quick break, we’ll hear a quick call to action for our audience, drink some and water, and then we’ll talk about the “white space.”
Austin Peterson (Intermission): 31:54
Hey there, tycoons. Austin Peterson here, co-host of “Tycoons of Small Biz.” If you think you have what it takes to be considered a tycoon and you’re wondering how you could become a featured guest, please follow and then message us at “Tycoons of Small Biz” on LinkedIn. We’d love to have a conversation with you to see if it is a mutually good fit, and if so, we’ll get you scheduled for an interview. If you’re unsure about being a guest on our podcast but are contemplating selling your business over the next few years and you’d like to know what your business is worth, please also follow us and then message us on LinkedIn for your no obligation, informal evaluation of your business. We look forward to hearing from you and thanks for listening to the “Tycoons of Small Biz” podcast. And now, back to today’s program.
Austin Peterson: 32:34
All right, tycoons, welcome back. We’re here with Linda Fanaras, CEO of Millennium Agency. We’ve unpacked, I feel like, quite a bit already. But, Linda, like I said, right before the break, let’s talk about how you help people find that “white space” in the market. Give us a little more information.
Linda Fanaras: 32:52
Yeah. So, the white space is really trying to identify space in the market that your competitors have not tapped into yet, especially if you’re in a company… If you’re in the type of industry where everything feels like a commodity. You’re competing with a lot of like companies, almost in, I like to say, perfect competition. It doesn’t have to be perfect competition. But in this case, when you’re analyzing white space, we do take our clients through a pretty detailed process. But to give you an overview, there are many different factors that you need to actually evaluate and analyze. First of all, you want to figure out maybe your top 5 to 10 competitors. And you can build out almost like a matrix system or some sort of a graph system so you can track this data and really look at, okay, how are they positioned in the market? What do they say that they use to differentiate themselves? And you identify what that is. And then you’re like, okay, what does their branding look like? What is their look and their feel? How do they segment and target their different audiences? Who are those audiences and who do they go after? Because all these things I’m mentioning are ways that you can start to define and uncover that “white space.” And then, you can also look at what are my products and services mix that- what are they offering for their products and services mix? So you have to do some digging. What’s their price point? What’s their company personality? Are they the white shirts and the blue suits? Or are they more casual and fun loving? So how are they doing on, like, customer satisfaction? Like if their satisfaction is low, theirs is great. So, you start looking at these things, like loyalty. So, you start looking at factors that maybe you wouldn’t necessarily look at before, and you start digging into that and you define them, and you document them. I also like to add into that the actual… I don’t know if you’re familiar with the PESTLE analysis, which you probably remember from your college days, but you look at some of the things that are going on in the industry. So, if there’s things in the industry that’s impacting business or your typical type of business, like if there are any political issues going on, the economic landscape is changing. Real estate now would be a good example, that’s changing. Maybe technology is changing, legal is changing, environmental factors are changing. And you look at all these different pieces and then you’re really at this point figuring out, okay, what can we innovate? What’s available to us that we could take advantage of that maybe we couldn’t before? Once you put these pieces together and you start to analyze these different things, you’ll have this framework that you can use to pull factors out that will help you start to differentiate. Then you can build off of that component. That’s kind of a… I mean, for small businesses, I know it sounds a little complicated. You don’t have to do that big deep dive, but I think at the very least, if you did the competitive analysis, how they’re positioning themselves, what they say the differentiators are, and then trying to find out why yours are different, it can help you establish a spot in that marketplace that will allow you to innovate in a different way.
Gary Braun: 36:16
I love that. You touched on it a little bit, but I find even the segment of market that you go after can be a big one. I think about a client that we had, they were in the background screening world. They all do the exact same thing. They all go, and they send people to the courthouse, and they pull records, and they do online stuff. They all do the same thing. But when a client of ours said, but we’re going to specialize in healthcare and transportation. And they had on their website, here’s our transportation solution, here’s our healthcare solution. And when they went to all their competitors and saw, well, they’re kind of jack of all trades. Hey, these guys get us because they’re transportation. All of a sudden, they wanted to work with them. They created an identity. They found their “white space.” So even something as simple as, “What segment of market do we want to go after?” can help you with that “white space.”
Linda Fanaras: 37:07
Exactly. Because that company can go in and say to those prospects, “Hey, there’s no learning curve with us. We already get your space. We work in your space. You’re going to save a lot of time. You’ll save a lot of money, and we can help you get there faster.” That is a selling proposition. And it’s a good example of one because it’s relatively straightforward. And you’re right. I think that’s a great way to tackle something like that.
Gary Braun: 37:34
Yeah, because people want to buy from people or partner with people that get them. So, the more you can relate to them, the better your win rates are going to go up.
Linda Fanaras: 37:44
Yeah. I know with a lot of small businesses, especially as you start out, you want to be a jack of all trades. You want to be able to offer… “We want to offer everything so we can generate as much revenue as we can. And if anybody calls us, we can say yes,” and that’s great. But at the end of the day, everybody knows you’re not great at everything, right? So, it’s really identifying like, okay, what can we be great at? What should we be great at? And then let’s focus on that space and let’s go after that market because it becomes much easier to find your market and sell to that market once you figure out that this company is a good example that you mentioned, Gary. They could find that market, they can go after it, they could target it, they could message to it. They have case studies that prove it. They have the credentials and they’re selling process is easier and it’s easier on the other side, on the prospect side, too.
Gary Braun: 38:38
Yeah. Have you found that business owners are a little afraid of that sometimes? They feel like they’re decreasing who they’re going after?
Linda Fanaras: 38:47
Yeah, that’s a big one. The thing is, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take business from other sectors. It just means you have a focus, and that focus allows you to market more effectively and find your customers more easily. And that’s obviously the goal of many business owners.
Gary Braun: 39:08
I was looking at some of the work that we had done together before we got on the podcast. You talk a little bit about how you guys help decrease CPL and increase CLV and cost per lead and customer lifetime value and whatnot. Do small businesses, your manufacturing clients want, do they even know what their cost per lead is or their lifetime value? And how do you help them there?
Linda Fanaras: 39:33
Yeah, we have to get them to dig into that a lot of times. No, the answer to that is no. Yeah.
Gary Braun: 39:40
And why do they need to know?
Linda Fanaras: 39:42
They have to know. A great example is we just did… We had a relatively small… They do laser cutting business, and we were doing some email marketing for them, and we’re doing it. That’s it. And we’re going through the analytics, and she’s like, “Wow, we got that customer from that email, and that customer from that email, and that customer from that email.” But you have to be able to figure out where they’re coming from, and then you can track how long will you keep them. Usually laser cutting business, they’ll have them forever. So, the cost per lead might be X amount, but then the customer lifetime value might be huge. So, knowing that from the onset will help you figure out, like, alright, for every lead we get, it’s going to cost us X amount. It will cost us $500, $1,000. But our average customer lifetime value is $50,000. And knowing that data really helps companies, I guess, feel good about their marketing.
Gary Braun: 40:43
Not just randomly trying different things.
Austin Peterson: 40:52
Yeah, it makes them feel good about it. But the flip side to that is, like you said, they might have a pretty big customer lifetime value. And if you build your marketing based on that’s a $50,000 lifetime value, and you build your marketing budget based on accumulating a bunch of people at $50,000, then you think, “Oh, well, it’s no big deal to spend $25,000 to acquire that customer then because my lifetime value is $50,000,” and you grow yourself right into bankruptcy.
Linda Fanaras: 41:24
Exactly. I think this is also interesting because sometimes the first knee jerk reaction for a lot of companies at the end of the year, they’re like, oh, we have to cut our budget for next year. Well, the problem is, if you cut your budget your sales will go down, you know? So, as long as you recognize that that will happen, if you want to grow your business, yes. So, unless you’re wasting money, which is not the case here, but if you want to grow your business, you need to figure out what that cost is per lead and what you really should be backing that marketing plan up with and how to drive enough leads to increase your business revenue.
Gary Braun: 42:09
That’s a really good point. And there’s been lots of prognosticators out there talking about how we’re going to have the big recession here in 2023. It’s coming and people are shoring up their budgets. They’re probably just trying to do that process right now, and people have made cuts. I agree with you 100% you can’t cut your way to growth. That’s not going to happen. So, how should business owners think about what to invest in? How do I measure whether it’s working or not? How do I look at my ROI? How do you help them with that or what should they be thinking about?
Linda Fanaras: 42:46
Yeah, those are all good questions. So, the ROI, they’re doing a lot of digital work that can be tracked pretty easily. You want to be able to try to track your leads as a process. So, your leads are coming in, let’s say they’re coming in through digital, you’re tracking your clickthrough rates, your conversions, and your close ratios, and then you’re figuring out, okay, for every lead I generate, like I said, for every $500 I spend, I’m generating a $3,000 sale. So, it’s important to be able to really track that because, I mean, marketing is a process and it’s a cumulative process. And that’s where I think a lot of companies get hung up because they might try something, “Oh, that didn’t work. We’re not doing this anymore.” But the idea is figuring out what does work, eliminate what doesn’t work, and add on something else that you can pilot or test to improve the process. And that’s what is an important part of the marketing strategy. A piece of any business is to not just give up, it’s really just defining what works, what doesn’t work, and how do we build off of what’s working, how do we eliminate what’s not working, and then take it from there.
Austin Peterson: 43:55
So, I’m going to give you a harder question. This is bugging the crap out of me. It’s hard to attribute what’s working and what’s not working sometimes because I’ll take our business. I might go do a speaking event, and then somebody signs up for our newsletter or our blog, and then they talk to… maybe they see something online about us, and then they talk to somebody who refers us. Which of those is responsible and how do you attribute which one works or which one doesn’t? It’s always a puzzle to me.
Linda Fanaras: 44:26
It is. It is interesting because you may have to touch that person eight times and over the course of two years before they actually- before it actually triggers. And so that trigger event, you obviously want to track that because it’s probably a timing thing, right? It’s not necessarily- maybe they didn’t need you two years ago, but they need you today. What triggered them to make that conversion? That’s the important part of what I was saying earlier is that you don’t want to just give things up. You want to keep that process going because you never know when your prospect will actually need your services. So, if you go dark, which a lot of companies tend to do if they get nervous, they go dark, which is the worst thing to do because people forget about you. Then, when you come back alive, you’re starting over and that’s not really what you want to do. You want to keep that going. So, to your point, give a presentation, maybe do a digital ad, maybe send an email marketing thing, maybe do something else to trigger them. They’re ready. You’ve taken them through that journey, maybe organically, not strategically, but it’s worked.
Austin Peterson: 45:38
Yeah. And obviously all contributes, I think Gary’s point, unfortunately, though, is it’s hard to track, really, or at least check a box where that lead came from, right?
Linda Fanaras: 45:50
Right. Exactly. Where did it come from? I’m assuming the first touchpoint, my guess is you are tracking that. So, if you track the touch points, you’re able to track, okay, we got this person and we did X, Y, Z. We sent out whatever, five different things to this company, and this is how we’re able to track it. And then they convert it at this point in time.
Gary Braun: 46:14
I’m so black and white. I want it to be like, the lead source was this. But it’s a lot more of a science than that.
Linda Fanaras: 46:18
I know. It is. You obviously want to track the last one that triggered them because it’s a timing issue.
Gary Braun: 46:26
Who is your ideal client? Who is the people… You said pharma and technology and manufacturing, but are you targeting a particular segment? Is it small business, larger business?
Linda Fanaras: 46:37
We usually like to work with clients that are at least $5 to $10 million in annual sales, which is a good size because at that point they did… and then we do work with clients that are smaller, maybe a couple of million as well, that might not have any inhouse marketing support. But we definitely like to work with clients that really need a company that can actually build a budget, track their budget, and then execute on that plan and budget annually and then report back. Because that way, I don’t want to sound like we’re control freaks, but it gives us a holistic view of what’s going on, what they’re doing, what’s working, what’s not working, which is everything we just talked about so we can make the necessary adjustments as we need to. And that could include a multitude of different things. It could be SEO, it could be email marketing, it could be digital ads, it could be anything.
Gary Braun: 47:32
So, what’s the trigger, Linda, for the small business owners out there that are listening? What is the trigger for them to say, “Maybe I should take a step back and look at brand. Maybe I should take a step back and look at this.” Is there something that they should be looking at their business to say, I need to give Linda a call because this is going on?
Linda Fanaras: 47:51
Yeah. I think if they take a step back and they look at their website and their logo and they read what’s on their website and they read their marketing materials and they say, “None of this- it sounds way too fragmented to me. Nothing really connects. The dots are not connecting,” then definitely I would say, yeah, it’s time to probably call Millennium. I think a lot of things can trigger a conversation. It could be that messaging is not right. They don’t know exactly how to find their target audience. Maybe they need to position themselves. Maybe there’s some issues with the competition. They have these marketing challenges that they don’t know how to tackle, and we can help with the other half.
Gary Braun: 48:37
I love your “white space” concept because if you go… anybody can go do this. Go look at your competitor’s websites and if they’re saying the exact same thing as you, then it’s not good. I did this with an accounting firm once. We were going through a similar exercise. We didn’t call it “white space” or anything, but we were going through a similar exercise. They said, tell me all the reasons we should work with you, or somebody should work with you. And they said, “Well, we’ve been around since 1927, and we’re really good at tax, and we’re really good at audit, and we’re certified in this,” and they went through it, they had like 20 things on the board. I’m like, that’s really good. What I didn’t tell you was I went to your competitors’ websites last night and I’m going to pull up their websites, and if it says the same thing you gotta yank it off the list. I pulled up the first one. It says: “been in business since like 1913.” Okay, that one’s gone. “We’re good at tax, we’re good at-” They had one thing left at the end, so they had not found their “white space.”
Linda Fanaras: 49:37
Yeah. Actually, I’m writing a book on that right now as we speak. So hopefully, it’ll be ready by next year- this year now, I can say. So yeah, sounds good.
Austin Peterson: 49:50
Yeah. So obviously, anybody who’s listening says, we need Linda, we need Millennium Agency. How do they get in touch with you?
Linda Fanaras: 49:58
Yes. They can email me and it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. Nothing after that, no dot com or anything. So, it’s email@example.com. Or they can visit the website at www.mill.agency, and through there they can definitely reach out. Thank you so much.
Austin Peterson: 50:25
Yeah. Linda, I really appreciate the conversation. I’ve picked up a few nuggets of- and that’s really what we’re all here for. Our intent, like we said, is to tell the stories of small businesses, but we’ve got business owners and, ourselves included, who are listening to this and learning along the way. So, I really appreciate it.
Linda Fanaras: 50:46
That’s great. Thank you, us. I picked up some tips too. I’m going to put together that one-pager and put it right on my wall.
Austin Peterson: 50:54
Well, good. That was worth the price of admission then, right?
Linda Fanaras: 50:57
That’s right. Awesome.
Austin Peterson: 51:00
Well, thank you, Linda. Gary, Happy New Year. Thanks for being here.
Gary Braun: 51:04
Happy New Year.
Linda Fanaras: 51:05
Thank you so much.
You’ve been listening to “Tycoons of Small Biz,” a podcast for small business owners by small business owners. Join us every Tuesday at 1 PM Arizona time for an introduction to another great tycoon. And be sure to follow us on our social media channels for links to all of our episodes and great content.