Invest In People Who Share The Vision – Bill Sebald, Founder, Greenlane

For decades, marketers have hidden behind the implicit acceptance that “half of the marketing we do is effective, we just don’t know which half.”

Many marketers struggle with marketing ROI due to many factors, namely – Time, as the process seems overwhelming when you consider all the channels and content; Data collection and the tools to use; and finally the Approach as to what’s the best or easiest way to calculate ROI for your business?

Overcoming these challenges is possible with the help of the Greenlane Marketing Agency. It helps companies with search marketing ROI challenges, sustaining an SEO company and much more.

“Invest in people who share the vision. And be prepared to delegate to them.”

Bill Sebald, Founder & Managing Partner at Greenlane
Bill Sebald from greenlanemarketing

We got a chance to interact with Bill Sebald, the founder and Managing Partner of Greenlane.

1. Hi, It’s Our Pleasure to interview you, Please Introduce yourself to our audience in your own style.

My name is Bill Sebald. I am the founder and Managing Partner of Greenlane. We are an agency that helps companies with search marketing ROI challenges. Personally, I started in SEO back in 1996, and still very interested in the field. I have helped more than 100 popular brands in my career, so I’m pretty proud of that.

2. We believe that every Entrepreneur has a story to tell, Can you please share “your” story of what motivated you to start this company?

Previously I worked for one of the biggest digital marketing agencies. I ran their SEO channel. It was predominantly e-commerce clients like NFL, Toys R Us, Petsmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and so on.

I liked plenty about the years I was there, but there was a lot I thought should be better. During that time, Greenlane was my consulting entity. I started to have fantasies about turning Greenlane into something different. Eventually, I realized I wanted a partner. And I realized that a more strategic SEO consulting service was needed. Frankly, I was pretty tired of doing the same scaled things for each client (a common problem in many large agencies). Google had really started to mature, and I realized the basics weren’t cutting it anymore. Plus, I realized just how vital analytics skills are in developing profitable strategies. So I asked a long-time coworker from the analytics world if he’d be interested in rebuilding Greenlane with me. 

Since he and I had worked with all big brands, and we knew we wanted to do some sophisticated stuff, we actually decided to focus on small businesses. We knew there’d be much less red tape than we were accustomed to. But eventually, the large brands came knocking. So we started being choosy, making sure the large brands we would work with were just as engaged and available as the small companies.

When people ask who we cater to, I tell them we really don’t have a niche. We have big and small, b2b and b2c, and lots of tech projects running all the time. We have a checklist for every new prospect –

  1. Are they a funded business?
  2. Are the people we like and want to work with every day?
  3. Do we think we can help them?

If we can answer yes to all three, then we work with them. We don’t sign everyone who comes through the door, and I think that has been one of the best decisions for the company and everyone’s quality of life. It pays back to our clients. That’s ultimately what we were trying to do from the outset, so our plan worked.

3. Give us brief details about your current company and what it does?

We are a digital marketing agency with a twist. Instead of approaching digital marketing as a bunch of channels, we try to incorporate everything into holistic strategies. While we do SEO, PPC, content strategy, analytics, and CRO, we borrow from all the areas to create the right plans for the client’s goals.

We are also quite customizable, which again is something I wanted to change from the big agency world. Sometimes clients want just one particular thing. For example, we have a few clients who already have a big SEO or PPC team and don’t need anything from us but experienced strategic support. We’re happy to oblige. For other clients, they may not have any marketing team members at all, so we do A to Z for them.

4. What is the biggest challenge you have faced during this journey? How did you overcome those?

I thought because I ran a department at a large agency, I’d have a headstart in running a business. I knew about P&Ls and working with lawyers. Taxes were going to be a new area.

But the biggest challenge was handling fast growth. Once we started getting employees, we outnumbered the number of people I previously managed. Now there were more clients, more employees, and more of a culture that needed attention.

My partner and I were clearly slipping at making sure everything ran smoothly all the time. We hadn’t really let go of executing our vision. And in my opinion, were probably a bit too slow in letting others step up and take some of the leadership responsibilities.

5. What marketing tactics you employed to generate 1st hundred sales?

I did a lot of building on Twitter as an avenue to show my experience and thoughts. For me, it was Twitter that got the ball rolling. That turned to a healthy dose of article writing. On our blog, on Moz, and other sites. That led to speaking at conferences. Everything was focused on solving an SEO problem back then (my personal field of specialization). Sometimes it was just other SEOs reading, but sometimes it’s decision-makers. I wrote to leave an impression. The leads grew as my writing presence grew.

6. Which marketing channel has been beneficial for you in getting more traffic, and customers?

For us, Twitter was the start. Then SEO took over. There was a tiny bit of advertising sprinkled in, but the flow from this has always been plenty. For our clients (since we are a search marketing agency), we see a mix between SEO and PPC, with both channels working together towards the common goal. When you include both channels in a holistic strategy, rather than running in silos, the results are much better.

7. How do you generate comfort and trust among your customers, so that they buy your product?

Greenlane doesn’t have much in the way of slick sales materials. We don’t have a standard pitch that we use on everyone who speaks with us. Instead, we just have open conversations. I show our experience. I show that I walk the walk, instead of just talk.

And most importantly, I build a repertoire when I can. I also don’t lock clients into long contracts. I’ve found if we do shorter, rolling engagements, it proves to clients that we have skin in the game. While it’s not the safest thing for an agency’s forecasting, it’s always worked because we deliver on the promises each month. That helps take away some of the early trust obstacles.

8. Organic ranking generates free traffic. What kind of strategies have you employed to improve organic traffic?

Name it, we’ve probably tried it. Ultimately the strategies are plans built around the goals and KPIs of the company. So, we create custom strategies for the individuality of the clients.

In my mind, standalone SEO tactics are much less potent these days. But SEO strategies that factor all available tactics tied together are much more effective.

9. Can you please share any one growth hack that has worked for you?

These days, I don’t try many growth hacks. It’s easy to get useless traffic. It’s hard to get traffic that converts. A great growth hack can put the product or message in front of people, but an inbound marketing strategy can put a lot more qualified visitors in front of your product or message. So I focus on the latter. With all the noise and competitors on the internet, marketing is usually not an easy tactic.

10. Re-engagement is the key to get repeat business from existing customers. Do you agree with this? How do you re-engage customers? Have you considered using Web Push Notifications for the same?

Your current customer is your best customer. It’s just like my definition of a strategy above – Web Push Notifications are one function that can be effective in the right strategy. Keep providing something useful, and your audience (or clients) will return.

11. What steps did you take to make this company a Big Brand? What marketing strategy you employed?

I’m not sure Greenlane is, or will ever be a big brand. A brand – sure. But not a “big” one, because that’s just not our goal. We’d prefer to help our clients be “big brands”.

12. What is the next milestone for the company?

We have internal revenue goals that raise a bit each year. But in all honesty, we love where the company is at. So we plan to just keep this going as long as there are companies that need us.

13. As per you what skills a founder must possess in order to succeed?

Great question. I know there’s a big list of qualities. Off the top of my head, based on my experience: Passion, positive attitude, empathy, confidence, etc. But skills are a bit different. Great communication skills are imperative. There’s a lot of stress on a founder’s day, but sometimes you have to stop the world and just listen. So you can take in everything needed to make your next great decision.

14. What is the best advice would you like to give to a future entrepreneur?

Invest in people who share the vision. And be prepared to delegate to them. You have to trust in them to get things done because you will fail in trying to do it all yourself – especially as you grow. I can tell you that from experience.

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