You can take your pick of any marketing strategy you want, but at the end of the day, happy customers will drive the most revenue to your business. For excellent customer experience to be possible, however, you need to ensure that your employees are in top form. They need to be engaged and happy to be doing their jobs. They need to experience the wins of their hard work and be compensated accordingly. Joining Ryan Englin and Jeremy Macliver in this conversation, marketing specialist, Joe Soltis, shares how he applies this principle in his own firm, ChoiceLocal. He also talks a bit about the unique business model of his marketing firm, which focuses on helping franchisees dominate their market by giving them the same level of service as the company’s Fortune 500 clients have received.
Joe Soltis | Happy Employees Lead To Happy Customers
I am here with Jeremy Macliver.
Welcome back, everyone.
I’m excited about our guest. He’s got an amazing story, which I am not going to do justice. I’m going to give him a minute to catch us up on that. He owns and manages a marketing company that is focused on franchise brands and helping them dominate in their market. One of the things about franchise brands is that there are usually a lot of locations and it can be difficult sometimes for these smaller businesses to compete. Even though they’re part of a larger brand, they are individuals by themselves. He started his company years ago. He’s already grown it to 75 people. This guy knows what he’s doing when it comes to marketing. Joe, I want to let you share your story but I want to welcome you to the show, Joe Soltis.
Ryan and Jeremy, it’s great to be with you. It’s great to be on the show. I’m very excited. A brief background, I worked at a company, top-ranked in advertising agency magazine, a 180-person firm and we served Fortune 500 companies. Late into a pregnancy, while I was working there, my wife and I lost a child. I always said, “I want to be successful so that I can help people.” It was always, “I want to be successful so that I can help people later.” I can use that as I sell people. When we lost Ben late in the pregnancy, it was how do we help people now? We created ChoiceLocal with a mission to help others. That’s what we do. We take 10% of our profits out of the company, roughly to help kids in need.
In 2021, we’re doing a donation to Habitat For Humanity, which we’re excited about and a bunch of other stuff we’re involved with. Our mission goes beyond that. It’s helping our customers succeed, which we call partners. It’s helping our employees succeed, which we call teammates. It’s the giving back piece as well. The other thing we did is we’ve had customers like FedEx and CVS and multibillion-dollar brands as customers. I said, “How can we help small and medium-sized businesses be wildly successful with the same level of customer service and the same level of strategy and results that we’re giving to these Fortune 500 brands?”
The small business owner isn’t getting served the way they need to. What we learned, what we found is that you can do that in the franchising space because of the replicability of it. We’ve also found you can do it in verticals as well. We’re going aggressively after concrete, standalone businesses, every concrete contractor in America, as well as in the home care space and franchise systems as a whole. We’ve had a lot of success doing it. It’s been a lot of fun.
It sounds like you and I are serving the same market. I know Jeremy is serving the same market as well, so we’re excited to have you here. To that end, what is the biggest myth about your industry? What do you want to dispel for our readers right now?
That it is science-based. Digital marketing, people are like, “It’s a magic box. It’s a bunch of hocus-pocus. I don’t know what works and what’s not.” The truth of the matter is it’s very easy to figure out if you have the right approach. Google is powered by an algorithm, an algorithm that can be reverse-engineered. We reverse-engineered for our customers to figure out how we get them to the top of the search engines. It’s not just guesswork. It’s not wait and see. There’s a concrete plan. There’s a concrete way to do it so you can accomplish those results. For example, Google does hundreds of changes to their search engine algorithm every year and then it does several big ones. When it does a big one, all we have to do is we have hundreds and hundreds of client partners to see who went up, who went down and what’s the difference between the two. By doing that, usually, we can reverse engineer that algorithm update within a couple of days. We take that and then use it to move everybody forward. It’s not a black box.
The lesson though is don’t do this alone because if you do it alone and you don’t have that professional expertise to dig in, understand the changes that are going, it can feel like a black box. It can feel like voodoo and black magic. Here working with a professional, working with an expert, that’s what’s going to help you get the results from your digital marketing that you need. Is that right?Tie a KPI to everything. People need to know when they’re winning. Click To Tweet
That’s right. They also have to put up the goods. If it’s dragging on for more than three months and you’re not seeing a lift, they’re not doing something right.
Let’s talk about that not doing something right. What’s the one thing that you see in the work that you’re doing that your team sees with your partners? What’s the one thing that holds most of them back?
We work with small and medium-sized business owners. The customers that we work with typically are on the franchisee space and independent business owner space. Even on most franchisors, they are a company doing between $1 million, even $500,000 on the smaller side, up to $10 million in sales. What we see for even successful franchisees is they can’t get out of the business. They’re always in the business and they’re always doing the business as opposed to working on the business. It’s because they have great difficulty in scaling their business, they have great difficulty in the delegation piece of their business and finding the right people to make their business grow and scale. We’re at the point they’re not burning the candle at both ends. That’s the biggest challenge that we see small business owners make.
I want to go back to something you said and tie it into this. You mentioned that if the business owner is not putting up the goods or the marketing agencies are not putting up the goods in a couple of months and we need to make some changes. We’re talking about this delegating piece and talking about how do you manage, how do you lead these people from a metrics-driven perspective? What are some of the things that these business owners need to do to know that they’re getting the results they need from their team and maybe even from a marketing agency?
The first thing that you need to do is tie a KPI to everything. A KPI is a Key Performance Indicator. It’s called a KPI or Key Performance Indicator for a reason. It’s not a key performance dictator, but what it does is it indicates to you what’s actually happening and it’s very powerful. With a marketing agency, if you’re a business that generates or relies on leads for sales, the KPI should be how many leads am I generating? How many of my customers am I getting and what’s my ROI? Your number one indicator needs to be ROI. That’s the KPI. You set a goal ROI for that marketing investment and then it needs to be measured. We provide those tools so that our franchisee and business partners can measure us. It helps us retain them as partners because we deliver the goods.
On the employee side, it’s a similar thing. If you have people that are doing outbound sales for you, it’s how many calls a day are you making and how many appointments you’re booking. If you have people that are servicing your customers, like they’re pouring driveways, what’s the net promoter score? It’s the number one KPI that can be used to actually predict the future in your business. It’s how excited are people to recommend you. That’s what that number is. I can go all into that but those are some simple ideas.
If you have customers that can be with you for a long period of time, what’s your customer retention rate? What’s your referral and word of mouth rate? Those are all numbers. Every position in the company, I don’t even care if it’s office manager, needs a number tied to it so people can feel if they’re winning or if they’re losing. Frankly, you can move them. If they’re winning for you, you can help them win too by increasing their compensation and those types of things. They see a career path, they see progression, they see forward movement, but the business sees it as well. Everybody wins and that’s the type of environment you want to build.
Being able to measure people’s performance, it’s not just about making sure that they know when they’re not doing a good job but it’s also about making sure that they know when they’re winning. I don’t like playing games where there’s no score. Making sure that they know when they’re doing a good job is beneficial to the team as well. When we started talking about these KPIs, I want to look at how are we making sure that from a marketing perspective we’re getting the results that we need. Whether that means we got people in-house that are doing it or we’ve got an expert like yourself that’s helping us. I know there’s a ton of KPIs. I don’t want to get too technical on that but what are some of the actionable things we should be looking at and what are some ways that we can drive performance around them?
There are a lot of different ways that you can slice this from a marketing perspective. From a business perspective, one of the things you always want to look at is year over year growth. How many leads am I getting in February this year compared to February of last year? How many new customers am I getting? How many outbound calls am I doing? How many appointments are getting booked? How many inbound leads do I have? Those are all things. If you’re in a business that’s heavily seasonal, you need to look at that on a year over year basis. Also, anytime you do a big change in your business, whether that’s investing in a new marketing program or investing in a new employee or a teammate, you want to look at pre and post. What was it like when this person or this company partnered up with us and what was it like after? You can then measure that success in that difference. Those are super important KPIs.
The other one that I did want to talk about though was Net Promoter Score. Years ago, for example, if you turned on CNBC, they have this shows that is like a constant rerun loop. It was called The Age of Walmart. All you could do is hear about Walmart over and over. No one was talking about Costco. At that point in time, Walmart had a net promoter score of negative, meaning their customers hated shopping there. Costco had a net promoter score in the 70s. People love shopping there. What ended up happening, if you fast forward ten years later, Costco’s taking huge market share and Walmart saying, “How do we copy what Costco is doing so we can be more like Costco?”
Net promoter score predicted that was going to happen a decade before it became a reality. Similarly, Tesla has a net promoter score that’s the highest I’ve ever heard of any company. It’s like the high 90s. It’s crazy because the net promoter score can go from negative 100 to plus 100. That’s in the high 90s. In 2020, Elon Musk was the 40th richest guy in the world, now he’s number one. Net promoter score helped predict that measure of customer loyalty and enthusiasm. You need to make your customers raving fans. It’s such a critical number. You can also do that with the people in your company by measuring their net promoter score. How likely are you on a scale of 1 to 10 to recommend somebody to work at this company? You want that number to be hot. If you keep moving it in the right direction, you’re going to have people that are fired up to come into work and they’re going to do a great job at your company or your organization. It’s powerful.
The thing about net promoter score is it doesn’t matter where you’re at on the scale. The point is to see progress. I’ve talked to people that have a net promoter score of right around zero. They’re like, “We might as well give up. What’s the point?” I’m like, “This isn’t like a death sentence for you if it’s not good. Let’s move forward and let’s progress it.” We see that a lot when it comes to the employees in the company. You had talked about doing net promoter score inside the company with your employees but also with your customers. What I’ve found is if you focus on having happy employees, they’re going to do a lot better job at making happy customers. You can have a lot of influence over your different net promoter scores and your different markets, from my perspective, by focusing on your employees because a happy employee is going to make a happy customer. If your employees aren’t happy, there’s nothing they’re going to be able to do to make your customers happy.
Some companies, they check out a certain store and you literally hear them trash their employer 3 to 4 times while you’re there. Something’s not right there. It’s not you have an angry employee who’s venting. Something’s not right there. You’ve got to take great care of your teammates. It’s important.
For a while, we were GC-ing a job, as the general contractor. We could tell if we’d made the right sub decision on day one when the crew jumped out of their vehicle. Whatever that crew leader told us, the first thing out of his mouth was going to tell us if it’s going to be successful or not. If he said, “What’s the material here? This is that office. They’re always messing it up,” and he was grumbling and griping, it was going to be horrible and we messed up. We’d have ones that we get out. We’d say, “I don’t think the materials are here for that,” and be like, “Maybe I’m going to call them quickly. That’s weird.” It was going to be a good job.
If you’re talking about employee net promoter score and we’re talking about the customer net promoter score, both of those are hinged on each other. We’ve actually boiled it down. We use some work from Walt Brown on the patient organization and seven questions to dive into the employee net promoter score, making sure that we’re being strategic about the way we communicate to build raving fans. If we have raving fans as employees, there’s all the glass doors and those things out there. The real thing that matters is what are they saying when they go home to their friends because that’s what’s going to drive your employee base. I’d be curious, maybe a couple of nuggets on what a company can do to increase their net promoter score in the marketplace.
The first thing is ask. Anonymous surveys can be powerful. There are lots of different tools out there that can do this. You can even do this through Survey Monkey very cheaply. You send an email with a question once a week. We do this at ChoiceLocal and we ask the net promoter score question once a month. We ask once a month on a scale of 1 to 10, “How happy are you at work and why?” We say, “What’s one thing you would never change about ChoiceLocal? Name one thing that you’d like to see improve at ChoiceLocal.” We take that data and we use it to help us. We have a monthly team meeting where we get everybody together and we say, “Here’s what’s going on in the company,” to have celebrations.
We give lots of praise to lots of people in the company. We give updates on our financials and what’s happening, the latest things we’re doing to move forward. We celebrate promotions, people in the company and all that. We actually survey our team and say, “What do you like about the team meeting? What would you like to see that’s different? What would you like to see improved?” It’s very powerful. There are things that I’m changing in leadership as a direct result of what I’m hearing through those surveys. We’re seeing that net promoter score continues to tick in a positive direction out of the gate. It’s good. We won the best workplace awards three years running. We’re coming up on a fourth now. It’s important. The thing you’ve got to keep in mind, you can’t be all things to all people. You’re not going to make everybody super happy 100% of the time. If you’re seeing that net promoter score and you’re 30-plus, meaning you’re great compared to most companies, then you’re aiming for 50 and then you’re aiming for 70, that’s great stuff. It’s fun.
I used to run a steel company where we were growing super fast. We won 100 Best Places to Work in Arizona. I think they’re on now 6th or 7th time. I’ve lost count. Once you have that momentum of a great culture, so often people think, “You’re a marketing company.” They’ll take all that stuff but a metal company or a roofing company or a concrete company that you work with, do they want that? The answer is yes, absolutely. When they are bought in, they’re engaged. Your employee retention is up, which shows up on the bottom line.Doing a good job sucks. You need to be amazing. Click To Tweet
Looking at external because I know you do a lot of marketing and you’re the expert in this arena, what are some things that companies can do to make sure that their customers are experiencing a strong net promoter score and they’re actually creating these 9s and 10s. What do you feel like underneath of Elon Musk’s success? I know I gave you a compound tough question there, but I’m looking for some nuggets that we can take to our companies and be like, “Can their net promoter score grow with this?”
There’s a guy I met at a men’s CEO’s group that I went to and it’s like faith-based group. One of the guys spoke who happens to own a steel mill. He brought out a book and it’s completely secular but it’s called Be Great by Peter Thomas. In the book, basically what they say is sit down with pen and paper and write down all of your values, things that are most important to you. Whether that’s integrity, hard work, good health, whatever it is, just write it down. You have a list there of 20 or 30 values that are important to you. He says, “Pick your top five and then order them 1 through 5, then write down goals for those values in your life and in your business.” That’s a powerful thing that can be for you personally, as well as professionally. In a company, that’s a long way of saying you need to hire people to believe what you believe.
Not just somebody who’s a great craftsman but somebody who believes in integrity in all things, if that matters to you. Somebody that believes in candor with goodwill, if that matters to you. Somebody that believes in amazing customer experience, if that matters to you or that matters to your business. One of the things at ChoiceLocal, we have a core value, amazing customer service. When I meet with our new teammates for their first day, I say, “When was the last time you went to a company or worked with any company that did more than they said they were going to do for you and they did it before they said they were going to do it?” There’s silence because that doesn’t happen. You can differentiate as a company, as an organization by having amazing customer service. What I always say is, “Doing a good job sucks. Being amazing is where it’s at.”
That’s how you build these promoters. You’ve got to hire people that believe that and then reward them when they deliver on that. I don’t care if you’re a company that pours concrete driveways. You need to have an amazing experience for your customers where you estimate the job will take slightly longer than it will take and you finish early. You come in under budget and you do it without making a mess of their house as much as you can with the yard and those types of things. That is a differentiating experience. People are like, “That company is awesome. They came in, they got it done early. There were a little bit under budget. It looks fantastic. When they were done, it was fantastic. The grass was in, everything was great. I love this company. You should work with them.” That’s how you build those promoters. Even if you’re a CEO who believes in amazing customer service, you’re never going to have that unless you’re working 200 hours a week and you’re on every single job all the time or you hire people that believe what you believe. You can start to scale that through your organization when you match those values with KPIs and that’s how you do it.
Joe, you couldn’t be speaking in my language more. I love that. The only way to transfer and delegate the success that got us started is through values. That’s how we’re transferring all of that internal value system. There’s not another word for it so that everybody is enacting on it. If I summed up what I heard there, the best way to change our marketplace, the way that the market views us as a company, and for us to get raving fans outside in our community is to focus internally on our employees. We need to make sure we have raving fans for employees because that’s the only way we’re going to deliver the amazing customer service.
As we dive into this a little bit more, what are two actions that you feel like our audience should go do? They already have a team, they’re already moving their company, they already got motion and they read this go, “I got my values.” They write them down on a piece of paper. Where do they go next? What do they do?
They have personal values. Now, take those values and apply to your company. Some of those values may or may not be applicable to your company. Some of them maybe, but you need to come up with those top five values for your company. It doesn’t have to be 5, it could be 3, but you shouldn’t have 12 or something. It’s crazy. Keep it simple. Once you have that, you need to find a way that you hire or fire, give raises and promotions based on performance and those core values. How do you do that? If integrity in all things is a core value, during the interview process ask, “When in your career did you feel pressured to lie and how did you handle it?” Don’t say anything else. Wait for them to answer.
By the way, people want generous managers and leaders. This is actually a very important question. “Name three times in the past year where you’ve been generous.” At first, it’s an odd question for an interview but if they can’t come up with an answer, they’re probably not that generous. If they can come up with an answer, they are and people like to follow people that are generous. People like to follow people that know that can help them. That’s powerful. That’s step two. Figuring out ways to hire for it, then build annual reviews. Here’s how you did it on your KPIs. Here’s how you did on your core values. Have your teammates on your company rate themselves and then you rate down as well.
You can have coaching conversations with them and then ask them, “What are your dreams and aspirations? How can I help you make your dreams and aspirations a reality?” You do that when you touch base with them, when you’re on the job with them. Even during formal monthly meetings, you do that with them and you build a bond because you’re helping your brother, you’re helping your sister. You’re helping them get ahead and make their aspirations a reality. What that does when they understand you legitimately have their back is it builds this culture of trust. It builds this culture of loyalty and I’m going to work my butt off for you just like you’re working your butt off for me. It helps everybody. It’s cool. Those are some simple things that you can do to make this a reality in your business, from an idea to something you’re doing day to day and living and breathing in your organization.
We wrote an entire book called Unmasked: How to Hire the Ones You Won’t Want to Fire. I love those questions that make you go into the uncomfortable but not traditional questions. The ones that are very specific and you’re looking for how they respond, kind of going into that generosity one. If you asked me that right off the bat, there might be a little bit of a stutter and it’s going to throw me off. Immediately, I can start drawing some stories from that. I think when you’re watching these interviews, it’s important to observe how do they handle those awkward situations? Does it seem like they’re pulling out of thin air or they really got something? I love that because so often we didn’t ask those questions. We didn’t learn about it. We didn’t set the right expectations. When we hire them, we don’t get what we were looking for because we didn’t ask questions that brought that conversation up, even in the interview.
I’ll get this a lot of times. I don’t know if you get this, Joe, but I’ll get, “We’re going to hire them anyway.” Yes, because labor market is short or yes, because whatever. That being said, these questions uncover stuff. People tell me that. They go through and they ask those questions and they’re blown away by the questions because they are excited about it or they’re blown away going, “I will be okay not having an employee for a while. That isn’t going to work. We were going to hire them anyway.”
I encourage you out there, if you’re reading this, to dig into what Joseph is saying here and say, “What are my values? What kind of company am I trying to build?” Go and interview to those. Joe, thank you so much for being here with us. It’s been a great time. I love diving into it. I know you had some good, practical ways to take this out into the world and do your marketing. I believe that you have a free giveaway here. Could you share that free giveaway and how they can get ahold of you?
You can go to ChoiceLocal.com. What we do is we develop marketing strategies for businesses for free, along with revenue and return on investment projections. You can see here’s what your competitors are doing. You can see exactly how to beat them. You can see exactly how to capture the projected market share that we’re showing and how many leads and how many new customers that will come out as a direct result of that at the ROI. What’s cool about it is we do that for free and that piece can drive tremendous growth in businesses.
Our mission is to help others. We’ve had tons of businesses that we’ve helped sell. People retired. Other businesses, we’ve helped them going out of business by executing that strategy unique for them. It’s a lot of fun. We celebrate that during our monthly meetings. “Here’s something we’ve done to help somebody.” At ChoiceLocal.com, there’s that information. In some industries like concrete, for example, we give free websites away that are powerful, built to rank in search engines designed to convert to qualified leads and customers. We have that as well.
If you’re reading, go to ChoiceLocal.com. We definitely would recommend it. Thank you, Joe, so much for being on. It’s been great.
Thanks, Jeremy. Thanks, Ryan. It’s been a pleasure. You guys are doing great work.
About Joe Soltis
Joe is the Founder and CEO of ChoiceLocal, a digital marketing firm that serves franchise systems where the average client partner of ChoiceLocal gains $15.51 for every $1.00 in invested in marketing. ChoiceLocal is a local marketing firm specializing in marketing franchise systems. Their average client generates in excess of $15.54 in new revenue for every $1 invested in marketing.