For beginners, SEO is one of the toughest nuts to crack in online marketing – use this interview to learn simple SEO tips to help you dominate the search engines, and reap the benefits from some very simple website tweaks…
Phil Laboon truly epitomizes the hard working and determined online entrepreneur – through listening to this interview you will learn how to implement some REAL SEO on your website and tips that can dramatically effect your websites performance and ranking in some of the leading search engines.
Phil Laboon is an SEO expert and the founder of Pittsburgh SEO company Eyeflow Internet Marketing and he is one of the most hands on internet marketing and search engine optimization consultants in the industry. He takes great pride in helping companies in his own backyard (Pittsburgh) and across the net succeed in the competitive website promotion market.
I have personally learnt so much from this interview and I am certain that you will too – Phil teaches you why the ‘get rich quick’ scheme is not a viable business model (and how it is more of a pipe-dream), creative ways to gain high-quality links back to your site, how SEO can effectively help to create a passive income and why it is SO important for any online business to sign up to Google Maps.
Amongst these great tips, Phil also explains why coupon sites are the way forward for new start-ups as we head into 2011, with one of Phil’s employees selling his small coupon site in the travel industry for a massive $1,000,000!
Similar to many of our previous guests, I am very delighted to present this audio interview to you today because Phil is SO east to listen to, and more importantly, even easier to learn from. I know for certain that I will be trying my hardest to implement each of Phil’s SEO tips within this interview, because it is very rare to have 45+ minutes with a true industry leader who is so willing to offer his advice for free. To check out Phil’s company Eyeflow a little further please click on the link to the right –>
I hope you enjoy the next 45 minutes as much as I did!
All the best.
“The Interview Guy” at Blogtrepreneur.com
Phil Laboon Interview (Audio Transcription)
Luke Etheridge: Hi guys. And welcome to yet another of our inspirational interviews here at Blogtrepreneur. I am Luke Etheridge, and I am very proud to introduce our next guest who goes by the name of Phil Laboon. And he is the owner of Eyeflow.com, which is an SEO and Internet marketing consultant company. Welcome along, Phil.
Phil Laboon: Glad to be here.
Luke: First off, Phil, it’s a pleasure to have you here. But for those people who may have not heard of you, if you can just tell our readers and subscribers what you do and a little about yourself, your background?
Phil: Yeah, definitely. My name is Phil Laboon, CEO of Eyeflow Internet marketing, and I’m also a serial entrepreneur. Most recently I’ve started several start-up companies in the technology field, all under the umbrella of my internet marketing company, which basically funnels our funds to cover all of our projects. That’s pretty much me. I have experience in being an entrepreneur in tech start-ups since 2001.
Luke: Cool. So as I said earlier about Eyeflow, that focuses quite heavily on SEO. I mean, it’s quite a great opportunity for me to come across someone who is interested in or who is specializes in SEO, because I think it’s quite a fascinating subject. I think it’s quite interesting that you can kind of manipulate Google, create your website in order to have better rankings, better organic rankings and not to pay for traffic generation.
I mean, as search engines develop throughout 2011 and over the last few years, especially, Google becomes much wiser to Black Hat techniques. Would you say that effective SEO has become harder or easier as we head into 2001?
Phil: Well, I guess it depends on what you do. If you do Black Hat, it’s becoming almost impossible, I think, to make a quick buck on the web, which is what it is essentially known for. Everyone thinks, “On the web, companies make it or break it within the first month.” But what you are seeing is Google and other search engines – but of course Google at the top – is doing a great job at really making sure the best sites get to the top. And that doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work and a lot of results and the tricks and techniques that used to work around 2000 to 2003 have gone by the wayside and it just comes down to good ethical marketing and playing by the rules.
Luke: So you think, it’s certainly worth paying someone else to do your SEO if you haven’t got the expertise to actually do it yourself?
Phil: Yeah, it’s a big misconception that people have, thinking they can do it by themselves. Most people, when you say, “Internet marketing,” they go straight to Pay-Per-Click. And we tell them that is like buying a billboard. It’s like buying advertising; it’s not a long-term strategy.
If you want to double your traffic, you have to double your budget. With true organic SEO everything you put into your site is building equity. So it’s building month after month after month, so you can double your traffic in three to six months. If you then quit doing SEO and take a break for a while, it’s still going to be there six months, a year, two years later.
There may be a little bit of decay, but you’re building equity within the site, within the rankings. Once you get up [in rankings], it takes a while to drop down and that depends on how competitive your industry is. But in this industry, it’s becoming more and more of a situation where you need to focus on your SEO and not try to do it on your own if you don’t know what you are doing. Most businesses have to focus on their business not on SEO.
Luke: Yeah, which is obviously where people like Eyeflow come into the equation. And I think what you just said there is actually really fascinating, the fact that you can pay someone to SEO, and it might break the bank and it might be annoying to have to do it. But once you made that a few thousand dollars to pay for a company to do it for you, you can reap the benefits from your better search engine rankings for a few years to come.
Phil: Exactly. I mean, we deal with all different sizes of companies. Smaller companies typically don’t have the revenue to invest in SEO. But they think they have the right to outrank the Goliaths of the industry. We tell them that it takes a lot of money to get to these points. And yes, in this market, you have the opportunity to take over an online industry and become very profitable, but a lot of people have these dreams from these “Internet Gurus,” that they go to a website and will become millionaires overnight. That is really not the trick.
You really need to put a lot of time, a lot effort, build a lot of links, write a lot unique content, and there is no buttons to push or multilevel pyramid schemes to sell. Internet marketing is really becoming a legitimate source, where it is still better than any other form of advertising, from what I have seen. But at the end of the day, it is not get rich quick overnight like it used to be a decade ago.
Luke: I think you just touched on something that I am actually very, very passionate about myself, and that is gurus. I can’t stand that word “guru,” because that almost straightaway tells you that they are not a guru. I think I spoke to a guy yesterday about it, Mike Michalowicz about it, and we had quite a laugh speaking about it, and the fact that there is so many of them out there. Yeah, this “get rich quick,” this “happen overnight,” all of this kind of thing.
Do you really think that Facebook happened overnight? I mean, it is just these things don’t happen overnight. I mean, Facebook might be lucky, but how do you feel about these characters that you get at public speaking events and that kind of thing? I think that hits the nail on the head. They are mainly public speakers, aren’t they?
Phil: Exactly. I am not mentioning any names, here. When I used to be involved in the community, I used to create software. I have spoken at a lot of different events where “gurus” have spoken. Their whole goal is trying to sell this pre-canned system that they have, which is more hype than internet marketing. If you look at a lot of sites, that’s all it is. It reminds me of a pyramid scheme, getting other members to join, and these long detailed processes of selling hype.
I personally cannot stand them, and I think what they are doing is not really internet marketing. It is just playing with people’s emotions, getting them to spend $1,000 on a CD set to become millionaires. It is the same people that play the lottery and get involved in selling phone cards.
At the end of the day, that is probably one of the hardest paths you are going to take to make it – following the advice of the “gurus.” My biggest quote is, “Those who do, do. Those who can’t, teach.” And that is a lot of these “gurus.” If you meet them in real life, that is not their Ferrari, that is not their condo, that is not their boat. Their job is selling the hype.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the awkward thing is, it is quite hard for someone who really, really does want to live that dream, because they do want it handed to them. They want to do the least amount of work that they possibly can.
But I think you have proven, and many other people have proven, that it actually takes many, many years of hard work. You’ve got to build the following, build your brand, all of that kind of thing, these normal things that all offline businesses have to do. So why should you not have to do it online?
Just the fact that you are online; it is just a bit easier to house, you don’t have to house employees. You don’t have an office so it just makes that a little bit easier and your goals a little more reachable.
I think people get their lines crossed and they think that just because you are running an online business, they think that they can cancel out these things like building brands and building a reputation.
Phil: Well, keep in mind, most of these people are not business-minded people. So if you have someone that has been running a brick and mortar business for years, I think they would be able to come in with a little bit more common sense and say, “This doesn’t make sense. I am going to steer away from this.”
But when you have someone who has never done business before, has always been a W2 employee, just getting a paycheck every week, for them, they don’t understand it, so it’s more of a mystery. They jump into it and usually find out after spending hundreds or thousands of hours and thousands of dollars that it doesn’t work.
But [the gurus] prey on the people who don’t know any better, is the sad part.
Phil: We see it all the time and they contact us. We rank number one for things like Pittsburgh Internet Marketing, Pittsburgh SEO, we have since 2001. And all we’ve ever done is Internet marketing. We’ve never done Pay-Per-Click or web design or hosting, anything like that, which made us truly unique, in the fact that we are a team of 21 individuals who are 100 percent dedicated, even in a time when no one knew what SEO was.
But we know what we’re doing, and the process. It’s a hard process, but when you have one or two people trying to create a site out of nowhere without content writers, link builders, researchers it’s a more difficult process.
Luke: Yeah. Going back to SEO a little bit more, how do you as a company stay up-to-date with an industry that’s constantly changing. It almost seems to change overnight. One minute Google is letting this happen, and the next minute they’re not, that kind of thing. How do you actually stay up-to-date on that kind of stuff?
Phil: How we stay up-to-date is we try to think like Google. So we’ll take a look at where we feel the search engines are heading. So people talk about Google updates and they talk about how it changes. I feel as though it doesn’t change all that much. Good quality content, good quality links, a strong online presence and all the different social media sites – that’s going to determine your rankings. So the only things that really change for us are when we look at things like, “Where do we get this quality links? On what should we write this quality content?”
So we always try to find the best sites to get links. For example, a lot of our clients we were recommending building iPhone apps, even if it was the simplest app in the world, to get a link from Apple, and then get links from App review sites.
We could build hundreds and hundreds of links off $200 spent on this little tiny app that was worthless, but we would get a ton of quality links. And that’s what a good SEO company should do; is keep up with how to pull the best links and get the best exposure organically without paying anyone for it. It should all be people who want to link to the client and give them a link bait so they want to link to the client.
Luke: How important do you think link bait is in SEO? Is it very crucial? Is it fundamental? Is it one of the most important ways to build your SEO on your website?
Phil: Definitely. It’s very hard to build links to your site without putting out some type of information, Most people are online researching. So what the client needs to do is to build something that gives resources. Why your product is better? Maybe some background on the industry.
We have a free SEO tool, where you can plug in your site and it will analyze the top 11 factors and give you a general idea of how the search engines view your site, based on our opinion.
Phil: And that link bait got us thousands of links that gets us hundreds of users a day. It gets us articles and we also have a blog. Blogs, of course, are a great way to build link bait. If you mention something good with good unique content, people will link and comment.
Phil: In this day and age, you can’t just say, “I sell stuff, come buy it.”
Luke: So Phil, that leads on quite nicely to our next question: Do you think blogs do that well in that respect? That you are providing content that should be of such high quality, you will have people flocking to your blog and hoping that those guys that love your content that much and then want to link back to you.
Phil: Yeah, that’s the main goal of the blog, is to provide your opinion, get it out there, and try to get people to link to it. And don’t just think people are going to link to you. Make it as easy as possible. So add the social bookmarking widgets, get involved in other blogs and comment back to your blog and your site. Get involved in the communities. Don’t think people are going to link to you just to link to you.
And the other thing is to make sure that you have an end game when you’re building a blog. How do you plan to make money? Are you just planning on selling advertising? Is it a personal blog and you don’t really care to make revenue from it?
What a lot of people do is build a blog database, up the membership and sell the URL with the membership. So they’ll start blogging about travel or something like that and sell it to Expedia or Orbitz.
It’s really important to have a game plan, and you should really talk to someone who may be involved in that community a bit or who has already done it, just to try and avoid all the pitfalls. A lot of people are more than willing to talk about their successes and give you a general route on where to go.
With that said, do not talk to the “gurus” that own their own boats and Ferraris ’cause they’re just going to recommend their CD sets.
Luke: Yeah, exactly. And then, like you said, they’re not their own boats and Ferraris, so don’t get too caught up in that kind of thing.
I think another point to make is probably that having a blog, I think you need to have a system in place. So you need to sort of look at your blog in the eyes of the reader and see where they’re going to click. And then, make sure that once they’ve clicked on that they don’t drift away from your website and you don’t lose your visitors. And I think it’s quite important to have the retention there and retain their interest.
Phil: Yeah, definitely. Interactive tools, like for example our tool, SEOzio. And then we have our blog, we have all different types of things on our site to try to keep the user there. Now, at the end of the day, we want people to contact us for business so we’re a little bit different than someone trying to make money off of advertising and things.
Related articles should be a must and WordPress will do this for you. But there are also all kinds of widgets out there where you can capture readers’ information for newsletters or RSS feeds & sign up for syndication. You want to try to grab as much information and keep them just going around your site, looking at more pages, if nothing more than just to make more off advertising off the impressions.
Luke: Yeah, you just touched very briefly on building a list, basically. I’d assume that a company like Eyeflow does build a list. I mean, how did you manage to do that? What kind of techniques have you got in place for that?
Phil: We use a lot of different techniques here. One of our big techniques is to do free educational SEO seminars. They are 100 percent educational in nature, people come from all around to learn the basics or to ask questions.
Some of these people are new to SEO and maybe want to learn from the experts. Some may been working at a company and they’re not quite sure if they can do it internally, so they want to come and learn, “Exactly how hard is this stuff to do?”
Some people are competitors just trying to learn different techniques. But at the end of the day, I think building a list, there’s no default way to build a list. Whatever you’re selling, you should think of some creative ways to do it.
For example we also offer our SEOzio tool, you can sign up and contact us, which then you get asked to be put on a list. Or our blog, you can sign up on there, also. So there’s a lot of different ways to do it, but it really depends on what type of industry you’re in. In some industries, it really doesn’t make sense to build a list, but those are few and far between anymore. At this point, people want to be notified if you make it information worth being notified for.
Luke: Yeah, I think the point that some industries really don’t work well with building a list. I think the important point to make is, that you’ve got to give something away for free and something that people are going to want in order to become on your list. So you’ve got to give them a kind of a reason to join your list, because they might think that you’re just going to sell to them blindly.
Phil: Yeah, exactly. Like a free SEO guide, for our industry, top 15 tips, promo codes for free software. Companies approach us all of the and time try to offer us 20 percent off if we sell their software and we can make 20 percent. What we used to do is say, “OK.” And we would sign-up, but we were just going to give the 20 percent away. We had no intention of ever reselling their software. But we would take the code, give 100 percent of whatever they were going to give us and say, “Take it off for the client.”
And for us, that made sense, because we used to do pretty well building a list. As we started growing as a company we started working with larger and larger clients. So the client list we were pulling, 9 out of 10 weren’t within the price range to work with us.
So we’re changing our business practices and taking advantage of both ends of the spectrum. But, yeah, there are all different types of creative ways you can build that list.
Luke: Do you effectively monetize your list? You mentioned that you get coupon codes and things like that. If somebody said “all right” to your price range and they selected that they want to spend up to a $100 or something, thinking, “Well, that’s impossible…” How do you then use that perks to set that. Do you send them emails with affiliate links in? Do you work from that kind of scheme? Do you use affiliate marketing and sell?
Phil: Not any more. In the beginning I think everyone starts there. It’s where everyone cuts their teeth in this industry – getting involved with Commission Junction – the big one everyone knows. These days it’s so tough to make money from those. There are so many people. What I recommend is to find a company on your own and set up your own affiliate relationship with them. When you deal with a third party they are the ones making the money. It’s a tough sell. They really tie your hands on what you can and can’t do.
So if you’re going to get involved in the affiliate game, maybe try one or two through one of the big reseller affiliate sites. But then, find companies locally on your own that are willing to pay for the leads. Just make sure you don’t put too much trust in the company – that they are going to pay when you need to get paid. Everyone is going to get burned at some point. They forget how much work it took to get you there.
So I wouldn’t optimize the client site. I would optimize a third party site and sell the traffic back or sell the leads back. So if they do try to get squirrely on you, you can take that away from them and go to a competitor and use it as leverage.
Luke: OK. Just going into what you were saying in the beginning, you’re saying it’s quite important to construct partnerships and joint ventures rather than using people or Commission Junction?
Phil: I think so. And I hate to drop a specific name, they’re such an industry leader.
Luke: No, exactly. Everybody does, and don’t worry about that.
Phil: Yeah, but the affiliate companies they take a bulk of the commissions, they have a larger overhead, big staff. They also really tie your hands. They won’t let you do a lot of the things that will make you a lot of the money. So if you just have a blog and you don’t really care, you don’t want to put the time to monetizing it. Yeah, go through a Commission Junction, set it up and start making some cash.
But if you really want to make a business out of it, contact local businesses that you think you can do well with. I’ve been involved with real estate, breathalyzer key chains, and custom made signs. Throughout the years, I’ve had partnerships with a lot of companies and they’ve worked out pretty well. I’ve been able to do very well, where I build my own site and resell the traffic.
One of my big sites sells web design and people go, “Well, I thought you didn’t do it.” Well, I don’t, but I rank number one for it in Google and I sell the leads off of it. You can make 15 percent on a sale that’s anywhere from five to 15,000 dollars. All you did was optimize the site to get it number one. It doesn’t take rocket science that can put five, 10,000 dollars a month in to your account every month, with little work and no hassle.
Luke: Yes, exactly, a recurring income.
Phil: Exactly. But I would never optimize the client’s site, which is, I think, a mistake a lot of people make. They put all this work and equity into something they don’t own, and if the relationship sours, they’re back to square one.
We have a great employee here, who used to be an employee. He sold his site for a million dollars in less than two years, just an affiliate marketing for travel sites.
And it was unbelievable. This person who worked in a moving company was able to sell his site for one million dollars in less than two years, off nothing more than affiliate travel traffic using promo codes and coupons, just being the first to promote it.
Luke: Yes, wow, very interesting. Going back to SEO a little bit, it’s obviously quite tough for someone, as we said earlier, to do it themselves. You probably get asked this all the time. But do you have any quick tips for people that are starting out, anything that they must get right from the word go? Things like domain and all that kind of thing and keywords and stuff.
Phil: Yes, I think the biggest suggestions I would give is sign up for Google Places, also known as Google Maps, also known as Google Local – there’s a million names for it. Sign up, register your account with them so you can have a registered “headquarters” on Google and you will show up on the map. This is very, very important if you have someone that uses geographic searches, a city and a name.
Make sure when you’re building your site that it’s in a search engine friendly platform. A great platform is to use WordPress as a CMS, which is becoming more and more of a great alternative for people who may not be great coders.
Make sure you research your keywords and research your industry. Don’t go off your gut, what you think people are searching for. Use the Google Keyword Suggestion tool, and make sure that you’re going after the keywords that you want to go after.
Make sure you have a great link building plan and that every month you stick to, that you’re going to write an article every month and syndicate it to the sites like Ezine articles.
And lastly, make sure you’re producing content. If you have a site that is just going to sit there and you’re not going to build content, it will never go anywhere. You’ll have to make sure you’re continually looking at clever ways to build content to your site.
Luke: Yes. So going back to the whole blog thing, I think it’s wise to get into blogging. And you just mentioned two very important aspects of bogging, which is WordPress. Almost every blog out there is built on WordPress. You can build content as long as you’ve got the knowledge there.
Phil: Yes, and once you get enough content, you can approach Google News and become an official Google News source. Content is king. That is the phrase that every SEO guy says, “Content is king.” If you have good quality content, everything else can fall into place.
What I like to do, though, is expedite the link building a bit creatively using directories, articles, press releases, social bookmarking, social networking, using all these techniques.
I always like to say that content is kind of like the noise, the sound or the music of your site, and links are the amplifier. So you need good music if you want people to listen. But people need to be able to hear it. The more you amplify, the more people can hear that music.
Luke: Exactly, and I think, you know, you can rank number one for your chosen keyword on Google, but if your site is not very nice, people are just going to go to the next site, number two. They’re going to press Back, go back to have a look because your site didn’t make the cut. So I think, again, the whole content thing is very, very important.
Phil: Yes, definitely. And just like with you, I notice you transcribe your interviews. You use both the audio and the transcript.
Phil: Again, it’s clever ways like this that you can build content. And does everyone think creatively about your industry? What can you do differently than other people? That’s where success comes in.
Luke: Exactly, yes and you’ve just given away one of our powerful SEO tips. Thanks a lot, Phil.
Phil: Sorry about that.
Luke: No, but I love to mention the reasons why we do things and a transcript is not just great for people to read, but it is a great way to make a fuller blog post. And the search engine then looks at that as a massive bunch of words, and you can end up ranking from some high traffic key words.
Phil: It’s long-tail traffic. More content on your site, you are going to rank for things you’ve never anticipated. Most clients, they have five or six key words in their head, they want to rank for. They don’t realize the majority of their traffic is coming from these very targeted long-tail phrases that they never would have thought of, but those are what’s driving a lot of sales. Because they’re very targeted and the user is usually very interested in the subject. That’s why they did a six or seven word key word search in the Google. And if they find your site, that’s a very good targeted user that’s going to convert, typically, much better than some of those bigger key words that are more generalized.
Luke: Yeah. I have noticed on Eyeflow, that you mention that you’re a Pittsburgh based SEO company. And you mention Pittsburgh quite a lot, and I think that’s cool. But is there any beneficial reason for this? Did you do that, did you actually intend or set out to make a site that was location specific?
Phil: We really want to concentrate on the Pittsburgh area. Which is interesting, as only about 10 percent of our clients are in Pittsburgh. But we really want to dominate the local industry. We don’t get traffic typically from a website if we haven’t worked in that industry before or there wasn’t a referral. For our business to really grow is we get involved in vertical [market] and we just take it over. Our website is more to build credibility.
Pittsburgh is one of the lowest cost of living cities in the U.S. So in Pittsburgh, we can charge less and be profitable. Our overhead is low-cost and we are always looking to outsource. We actually have offices in India and pretty soon Jakarta, Indonesia.
We are constantly building full time partnerships and offices with very intelligent technology companies in cheaper parts of the world. Now it happens in manufacturing and a lot of people get upset when you do it in technology, but the fact is, it’s hard to compete in the U.S. world. We need to start building offices in other countries.
Luke: Are you’re growing as a company? You just said… You’re saying to have another offices. I mean, how you are growing as a company, are things going really well?
Phil: Things are going really great for us. We are actually using our revenue from Eyeflow to fund a lot of new joint ventures and start-ups. We were starting to bring in partners that make sense. In the last year we’ve grown about 300 percent of our business and its not stopping. We are just continually growing and it’s very neat. And just this year, I was the Ernst and Young entrepreneur of the year finalist for my tri state area, because I have several companies that I am running, all start-ups, not with brick and mortars, other than my head office here, Eyeflow. And all of them are already profitable.
And again, as you said earlier, there is no overhead for an online business. If you can take those key words and automate the selling system, you can start to be very, very profitable. Because every dollar you put in, that dollar is going to make you more dollars for the next five years. There is a lot of people who don’t have that bandwidth. They can’t wait for that pipeline to turn over.
But once you start making the money it becomes easier and easier, because you can take more risks, you can invest more money from other businesses. It becomes a much easier type of business once you’ve done it few times.
Luke: Do you think that’s probably the hardest part then, getting the online business of the ground in the first place?
Phil: Yeah, I guess the famous expression is, “The first million is the hardest.” And I think what’s true with that is, once you make your – it doesn’t have to be a million – first $100,000, $200,000. Once you’re familiar with the model and setting up a system that works, you can start to do a lot of things, and it becomes much, much easier every time.
You’re talking to a guy who has registered 15 LLCs and maybe five partnerships in my life, and I’m 29 years old. So you’re talking to someone who’s seen failure after failure and success after success. I’ve probably see more failure than I have seen success. But you learn the systems and every time you come out more knowledgeable. The other thing is, you also have more capital that you can work with so you can start to expand those companies much more aggressively than when you’re pinching your pennies in start-up mode.
Luke: Yeah. You have a lot more money, a lot to fall back on. You’ve got more of a cushion there rather than jumping off a cliff and losing it all currently.
Phil: And you can also utilize the resources of your other company. Like I said, at Eyeflow, we utilize our resources for a lot of our different start-up businesses So if business is slow in one area can pull someone off to help us develop one of our new start-up strategies, like new software. You can pull the resources together and become very, very efficient because there are always things to do.
Luke: Yeah. Yeah. So for somebody who actually wants to follow in your footsteps pretty much, and they’re a budding entrepreneur, they’ve got a dream of having an online business, where would you actually tell them to start? How would you advise them to go about living their dream?
Phil: Start at the bottom and just listen and learn. That’s the best advice I can give. Find someone who is willing to mentor you, do whatever you can to help them and learn. I think a lot of people, they want to start at the top, and they want to be Mark Zuckerberg. They want to have that million dollar idea in an hour and a half, like the movie. They just think that they can be these billionaires with these big ideas not realizing there’s a lot of hard work involved.
So my suggestion is to go with big companies or even join a tech start-up in your local area. In Pittsburgh, we have some great companies that are just really taking off recently and you can get in at the ground level. There is probably not a lot of pay involved, but you’re going to see how a tech company starts off. You’re going to see the pitfalls, too. Get yourself involved, talk to the CEO. Find out what’s going on. See what you can do to help. Try to take on some responsibility because whatever responsibility you have, it will be that much easier when you have your own business.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. So you think, just jump in the deep end and just get involved and just start, even if you make mistakes. Make mistakes but make sure you learn.
Phil: Yeah. And I guess the easiest thing to do is start with a company that’s already growing. If a company is already growing, there’s a tech company out there, jump in see what you can do to help them. Get them coffee, file paper work, whatever you need to do to get into these companies and see how they operate. That’s such a huge part, is getting in that entrepreneur mindset.
When people meet me and my friends who are entrepreneurs, they think we’re crazy, they think we’re off the wall. It’s because we don’t think within the box. We’re not conditioned to ask our boss for permission or do a huge amount of research before committing to a new idea. A lot of entrepreneurs, they follow their guts, and they learn when to make a big decision and maybe when to bring in counsel and talk to a few people. But a lot people, I think, need to get that in their heads that that you need to learn from someone before you take that big plunge, at least for a year.
Luke: As corny as it sounds, live outside of the box and take risks.
Phil: Yeah. Or, watch someone doing it and take notes. Go to one of these tech firms and like I said, whatever you can do. There’s a company called Song Whale here which I’m a huge fan of. They’re revolutionizing the mobile industry on an international level. I love going to their offices and just watching how they work. And anything they do, they want to do something that’s brand new that’s never been done. So it’s just no question for them, they have to do something original. If more people got involved in areas like this and companies like this, they would be much better suited to start their own company to just feed off the vibe and learn how to do business as a tech entrepreneur.
Luke: Yeah. I mean, this comes back to the whole reason I do interviews. I think they’re a great way, again, to learn. You’re learning off these guys that have already done what you want to do. Why do you think I enjoy these interviews so much? Because you do, you reap a lot of benefits out of the small tiny little nuggets of tips that you get in half an hour. And I like to pass them on to readers, because I know that they’re so valuable. You listen to a good three hours of our interviews, and it’s just as good or even better than going to any seminar. That’s why I think that what you’re saying really rings true.
Phil: I was reading your interviews before I called. I personally love talking with other people, just to learn how they’ve done it. I mean, it doesn’t come down to money, it comes down to ambition. I like to get in the minds of other entrepreneurs. It’s my number one thing. I hate seminars because I hate to be sold.
As you said, you talk to people that have done it. It’s great, it’s interesting, and you’re just feeding off their energy. And a lot of times, partnerships end up coming out of it and then a new brainchild come out. Or maybe you mesh your two companies and come up with a whole new idea. You are the company you keep.
So if you stick around tech entrepreneurs and you show the same flair for passion – you could be making eight dollars an hour and working at McDonald’s – but if people see that passion, you’re going to be accepted in the group and the sky’s the limit for where you can potentially go. No one is going to hand it to you.
Luke: Exactly, thanks for that advice, Phil. I’m sure a lot of people are going to really appreciate this. But just moving on a little bit, I’ve noticed this quite strong brand behind Eyeflow. And obviously, many online businesses, you have to have a brand. Well, a lot of people say you have to have a brand. How important do you feel that branding is when it comes to online business? Do you think that logo and design and color schemes and tag lines and things like that contribute to brand recognition?
Phil: Oh, I’m one of the biggest branding people you’ll ever meet when it comes to all of our printed materials. We have pens which fold out into brochures. You can roll out a little tab on the pen and pull out a six inch. All of our folders are custom printed folders with three-color printing. Everything we do is one hundred percent beautiful. Because, when I’m going in, and I’m asking someone for a quarter of a million dollars or half a million dollars to invest with me, being 29 years old, they need to feel comfortable with me.
Now, if you’re selling five dollar widgets, and there are a hundred other people online selling five dollar widgets, maybe don’t invest as much in branding, just try to rank as high as you can. But when you’re going in at high ticket prices and you’re trying to get as much money as possible, image is 100 percent. You’re selling yourself and your company’s image. You need to have a half a million-dollar image, and we spare no expense on everything that we produce.
Luke: Cool, that’s really good to hear because I’m very, very, very heavily into web design and I actually designed Blogtrepreneur from the ground up myself.
Phil: Really? Wow.
Luke: Yeah, I’m a self-taught web designer. Like you said earlier, I know my coding and I’m very good at coding, but I prefer not to. That’s why I use things like Word Press, which is what you touched on earlier. It’s really good to hear that branding goes a long way, because I almost do my own head in with how much of a perfectionist you become. And I think it pays off sometimes, we get a lot of comments on how the site looks in logo and things like that.
Phil: Oh, it looks beautiful. I saw it and I was blown away by it. It was a very, very nice. I like how the articles read. I think it’s a beautiful site. I think that you find a lot of entrepreneurs are very particular, they may not know how to do a website design, but they know how to make a good website, they know how to get a good website done. I don’t know anything about interior design, but you should see our office.
It is 100 percent beautiful. I want it to be an experience where you walk in and you think you just walked into the Google offices. And I think that what’s really makes a successful business person. No matter what you do, if you know it or not, you’re going to make sure that it’s great.
Luke: Yeah, I think that’s a brilliant point to make. Because, if you class yourself in the standards of someone like Google or Facebook, then that raises the bar, doesn’t it? And gives you more to aspire to be.
Phil: Exactly. I mean, you always want to always compare yourself against the top dogs. And we by no means compete against any of the big brands, but it feels good. You see what they do and a lot of us are moving up in tech worlds, down different paths. And I think a lot of us don’t look at it as competition. Feed of this, see what you can take from it and do better. I mean, I love to look at what people are doing and sometimes I come up with ideas.
And I know a lot other people come up with our ideas too. They’ll come to our office, and the next time I go to their office, they have the same art work. You know what I mean. I personally take no offense, because I do the same thing. Just finding what you like, picking it out. You don’t have to invent the wheel every time. It’s already out there. Just have fun with it, and try to make the highest quality product or service you possibly can, and the rest falls into place.
Luke: I’m absolutely loving what you’ve just said. The point that you’ve just made which is something that I’ve always been very passionate about personally as well, is that, it’s not really copying. You’re taking something and you’re putting your unique spin on it. So if someone is doing something one way and you really, really like to yourself then likely it is that if you use it and you do your spin to it, then other people is going to like what you’ve done as well.
And I think what people don’t realize is, that every online business in the whole entire world does this, in some aspects of their business. They are not completely 100 percent unique. You have to look for inspiration elsewhere. Don’t you?
Phil: Yeah. I mean, every once in a while you can hit one out of the park with a brand new idea that’s 100 percent unique, but that is the exception to the rule. I can tell you, I do consulting for fortune 500s, I do consulting for mom-and-pops, and I can tell you that 90 percent of the meetings I go into, they are going to say, “I like what this company is doing. Look what they did. I want to be like this.”
You have to get that idea from somewhere. And what we do is, we take that idea and try make it better, we try to add other elements of other things. But a lot of it is looking at several of the best and picking and choosing to make a hybrid.
Luke: Exactly, Yeah. That is a good point to make to make take two things that you like, and then merge them together and that is a completely unique thing on its own.
Phil: Yes, exactly. Next thing that you know you’ve been so creative, and it doesn’t look like anything else and everyone else thinks you are a genius.
You created a Frankenstein of marketing. It really is the most powerful tool. And I think a lot of younger people have a hard time imagining that. They have to see it for themselves before they really understand it.
Luke: Yeah, yeah. What advice would you give someone who is following the corporate route, they’re actually going to a university? Would you advise that kind of thing or it’s kind of up to the person, or do you think its most important to train yourself to think outside the box and dive into online, being an online entrepreneur.
Phil: I think it really depends. I’ve seen people who are successful in both realms. I brought a partner into my company about a year ago, and he has an MBA, very, very smart, tons of schooling, really good at the business administration side, and then you have me, who has a Associates Degree in Video Game Design, never went to school for any Internet marketing or SEO. I did a 14 month course in video game design.
So I personally, from my type of style, I don’t need business because I go to the creative side. I am constantly trying to create, absorb, remake, which I don’t think a school can particularly teach to you.
You have to stick with what you’re good at. Don’t try to be like this other person. Everyone has different styles in life that are pre-programmed in their brain. Don’t try to be someone else. Find out what your strengths are. If your strengths are reading books and learning from courses and learning from professors, then take that route.
But don’t try to be that off-the-wall creative person if that doesn’t suit you. There is no right or wrong, everyone can be successful. The biggest problem, I think, is when people try to be something they’re not. And they just become a generic carbon copy that’s not nearly as good.
Luke: Exactly, exactly. And then, for you, looking at university route isn’t the be-all and end-all. So if you didn’t go to university and you want to make something of yourself, then by all means, there’s a lot of opportunities in the Internet?
Phil: The most successful I know are not college educated, but they have made it on the Internet. And I think it’s because they don’t have the employee mindset. They have a very working class mindset, where they get paid based on the work that they do.
I don’t have an employee mindset. I work and I determine my paycheck. The harder I work, the more that I am going to make this year. I know that 100 percent. When you have the employee mindset and the corporate mindset, you’re going to work your whole life and try to work the way up the ladder, maybe eventually become a partner, which can work.
I just think it’s kind of a like a tortoise and a hare situation, where the tortoise is probably going to get there. If you spend all that time and education you are probably going to be pretty well off. But just like with the hare, you’re probably nine out of 10 times going to burn yourself out before you get there. But every once in a while, the hare does wins and he wins by a lot. I mean, that’s reality.
Luke: Exactly, yeah. It’s sort of wrapping it up and kind of putting an end to it a little bit. Where do you see Internet taking us in the future? What would you say is going to be the next best thing in Internet, the next big thing, we’ve seen Facebook and Google and search engines in general. What do you think is going to be the next big thing?
Phil: I think the biggest things we’re going to see worldwide are coupons and promo codes. Promo codes and coupon codes are going to be next big thing. The U.S. market is blowing up, Canada is starting to take off. The U.K. is kind of running in the third – it’s still very small market share. But I think that if you’re getting involved right now, coupons, promo codes, discounts, that’s where it’s at.
As far I think what in the U.S. the next big things, I think coupons have already kind of blown up here. I think review sites are going to take off once battery life gets better on phones which they just have to at some point. Everyone is going to base everything on reviews. It’s going to come to the point in 10 years, maybe five years, everyone is going to write a review before they go to a restaurant, before they eat.
I just think reviews are going to be the thing, where most businesses are going to be run by what other people say. And if other people don’t say good stuff about you, I don’t think your business is going to succeed.
Luke: Yeah. I mean, just saying… I think you’ve made me track back. And I think, within this week alone, and we’re only on Wednesday, I’ve probably been to a good three or four review sites. So yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head there.
Phil: They’re coming. And right now, I think the younger tech generation does it. But it’s only a matter of time before someone thinks of a very easy way. And Google’s already trying and there’s a lot of people trying, Yelp, ZAGAT. There’s lot of people involved in this industry.
None, I don’t think, have hit a home run yet, because my grandma is not using it. But once I hear my grandma reviewing a restaurant before we go, I know we’re well on our way.
Luke: I’m going to do that. I’m going to base that on my grandma, everything I do…
“Have you heard of it yet, Grandma?”
Phil: I’m telling you, that’s a great way. Ask your grandfather or grandparents or older people, and if they’ve heard about it, it’s big.
Luke: Cool. Great advice. I like what you’re saying about review sites. And I think people have their niche, don’t they? Like eBay has their selling niche, and Google’s obviously primarily a search engine. And if you specialized in reviews and you build up a reputation, like say, Google or eBay, I think you’ll be quite successful.
Phil: Yeah. There’s something missing, and I don’t know what it is. But there’s something missing right now, which is not as available to everybody yet. You have to still actively go out and do the research, which most people don’t want to do.
I think it’s going to get a point, maybe before you walk into a restaurant, it will ping you the review automatically. There’s a lot of different things that can happen, as battery lives get better and smart phones become more efficient and Internet becomes cheaper and cheaper. There’s going to be a point when you’re walking around and your phone is going to alert you to a lot more than even what we see now.
Luke: Yeah, yeah.
Phil: It will be interesting to see it. I’m not a genius. I don’t know. But I see what companies are doing in the mobile market, and it’s very interesting.
Luke: Finally, just as my last question, I do like to ask pretty much every one of our guests, actually. You may have seen, you may not have. But basically, if you lost everything you have and you had to go to… You had to succumb to working a nine to five job and working for somebody, what would you actually do?
If you lost your database, your products, your list, everything, all your contacts and absolutely everything, if you have to start from scratch, now what you do to get back on track to wealth and success? How would you build things back up again?
Phil: I would start hitting the streets and trying to meet the people who have done it. I mean, I wouldn’t know the industry off the top of my head, because, to me, that’s secondary. I wouldn’t say, “I need to find somebody in this industry and find the best person.” I would first try to get out there using networking.
I’d find someone who’s very successful that’s willing to take me on as a mentor. And then, I would look at that industry and see if that’s an industry I want to get into. But I think a lot of people come in with a set goal of what they want to do and then try to mold everything around that.
I didn’t think I was going to sell breathalyzer key chains. I didn’t think I was going to sell custom made neon wire signs. I didn’t think I was going to be selling pre-construction real estate. But I did these things and I did them well. You look for opportunity, you identify opportunity, and then you move with it.
I could have gotten involved in many things other than Internet marketing in my life, and I have. I’ve been involved in several businesses that had nothing to do with the Internet. But you just have to look for opportunity when it comes and try to take advantage. The true test is, can you recognize opportunity when it right in front of your face?
Luke: Great advice. Great advice, Phil. And thank you so much for doing the interview today. It’s ended up quite a long one, which I’m sure people are going to love. Yeah, it’s going to be a great read for anyone out there. And you’ve given away some really, really great tips for our readers, so I really, really appreciate that. Thanks a lot, Phil.
Phil: No, thank you, and any time.
Luke: Yeah. And as for the readers, if you could please just let us know what you think of Phil. I’m sure Phil will check back every now and again. He’s already said that he has looked at the site and he’s enjoyed it. So hopefully, he’ll have a little look and see what you guys are commenting on the interview. And hopefully, he’ll reply to some of you if you have any kind of questions for him. Would you able to do that, Phil, at all?
Phil: Oh, definitely. I’ll definitely be back.
Luke: Cool. Well, thank you very much, Phil. And I hope you have a nice day, buddy.
Phil: Thanks, you too.