Search Interviews:

Jeremy Weisz  13:15  

So when you started Proof Digital, you’re thinking, we’re gonna do a lot different SEO services for companies

Stacie Bilger  13:23  

that run ads. But at the same time, maraging. At the time, there was a lot of spammy stuff out there. So I knew that wasn’t going to last. But to the earlier point, people still won’t say yes, if you don’t tell me the problem you solve and how you’re going to make my life better. So you’re gonna win the long game, if you if you try to just kind of trick me. So it was a combination of understanding, helping folks narrow down on that brand message. With that being the answer,

Jeremy Weisz  13:57  

how did you get yourfirst customers?

Stacie Bilger  14:03  

Um, I mean, my network, I mean, I was always involved in the community. And, and then from there, it was totally, like a lot of companies, referral based clients, and then you work on partnerships along the way, and then kind of grows. But people don’t know if you listen to them. And they feel like you’re listening to them then, you know, some of our favorite clients. They’re not local. Family owned business in Nebraska, which is a couple states over. They started their, their, their company with their grandfather out of the basement and I just loved their story. And they’ve grown and tripled over the last several years for various reasons. And they’re just a great company, great story and great people. If you listen to them, and they feel like you kind of understand them. You build a partnership together, and then they tell other people

Jeremy Weisz  15:00  

Is that Blackburn Flag is that it is okay to talk about what you do with them?

Stacie Bilger  15:06  

Well, um, well, again, one, we they were not really on when we started with them probably five or six years ago, they really didn’t have a position on online. I mean, they had a site, but it wasn’t really set up. So we build an E commerce site for them started with so they utility, you know, the utility five in your yard, I mean, marking material for utility companies for green, for sporting events, I mean, so anywhere you see those little flags, marked under ground water or whatever, and they, their grandfather, actually developed the machine to produce these flags.

Jeremy Weisz  15:49  

Talk about a niche. That’s interesting.

Stacie Bilger  15:53  

than one two years ago, they were sort of surveyors there, you know, they had I think it was a brother, who was a surveyor, and it was a problem that needed to be solved at the time. How do you how do you mark underground, you know, wires, pipes, and those types of things when you’re digging, right. And so it was a problem that needs to be solved. And they developed the machine, and now they have a reputable company. And so from the standpoint, they really weren’t, now they have an E commerce site, they’re selling all over the world, they also we’ve we’ve positioned them on Amazon as well. And so they’ve basically gone from not an E commerce site to some they do both have partnerships. But they are. And this is a really great story of a company that, over the years solve the problem. And they’re credible, and they’re and they’re good people too. So it’s a great story. I love those. I love working with companies like that.

Jeremy Weisz  16:45  

So Stacie, how do you market such a sexy company? like glass?

Stacie Bilger  16:52  

Once again, I mean, it’s not right. I mean, what problem do they solve, they have utility flat. So it’s not, you’re not selling to everybody, so people who need those construction, and they need those materials. So you repeat what they the problem they solve that, again, they’ve been in business 70 years, so they’re credible, right? You make it easy for people to purchase and communicate with them. So and then you reinforce that and reviews, for example, I mean, you reinforce that credibility. And also the ease of checking out of those products, and then also work within as a company, we work with them all across the board on how to improve systems and how how we can improve that process so that they can continue to grow. And so we’re working with them on that now.

Jeremy Weisz  17:43  

I’d love to if you’re just listening and you there is a video, we’re looking at a Proof Digital page right now. And I want it because you mentioned the process I love to you, if you go to their’s login slash process to walk through just your roadmap to marketing success, and kind of how you think about it.

Stacie Bilger  18:07  

Right? Well, from the standpoint of, we definitely start with research from from a standpoint, even before we even talk to a company understanding, okay, how many people are actually who in a searching for the product and services? Is there a market there? So we dig into Google, you know, we use a lot of various tools and the data is there as we dig into the data of what are your competitors doing? What are the competitors weaknesses? What are what are they doing, right? The competitors, right, so we pull all that data, and we understand going before we actually you know, dig into the company, where they are and where they are in position in the marketplace, then we kind of have a, you know, a conversation with them. We sit down and we talk to the company, what are they? What are their goals? What do they think, you know, they’re that they’re differentiators? Are we audit their site, we audit their understanding, also, where they’re positioned as a company, you know, what are their weaknesses? So there’s a lot of tools and this the talk about those tools googling on Google webmaster tool, but there’s a lot of other tools in which we use to kind of dig in. It’s a lot of dotting eyes and crossing T’s to be truthful. A lot of companies don’t do that online. And so it’s about where are the quick wins within those that those data points within their site within their competitors. So if there is an opportunity, like I gave you that one example of that, that company of hey, you really should there’s there’s this is this particular market education, for example, might not be as impacted by economic turns. You have a product that serves their their their needs. So how can we position the site and dot some I’s and crossing T’s of using the words in which people search for those, those that solution? How can we build copy around those solutions? And so we put a Strategy around some of those quick wins weeks at that longtime, same time, had a long term play as well. So how can we build, you know, some of those longer, more searched terms that you want to grow into? But here’s an opportunity right here, let’s go after it. Yep. Again, the execution is dotting I’s and crossing T’s. I mean, I say that because a lot of that online, it’s just really that. Yeah, measure

Jeremy Weisz  20:43  

and measure everything I’m gonna bring up here, I was pulling up looking at the, it’s so interesting. They can go so many different directions with who would have thought just marking flags, right? from construction to dogs to sports to they have a bunch of other products here. Yeah, they probably people asked them I imagined for, hey, we need some paint to mark it up somewhere. And they probably came up with this product, I imagine. Right?

Stacie Bilger  21:12  

Yeah. And they have partners too, they bring in some of their some of their products, or some that they actually produce. And some. So for example, if they have printing machines, so they can actually, you know, print marketing, you know, material for for companies as well. And there’s the the seven year that’s the grandfather there in the picture there. So it is a really good story. And a really great solid company, that that solved the problem. And we continue to work with them to be in front of those markets, that would buy their product. I mean, that’s a that’s a that’s a an example. But then there’s other examples to in which there might be their goal is not necessarily bad. I mean, we had a company in which we work with a SASS company, that they really were their, their, their goal was to probably be bought, I mean to be bought, I mean to kind of stop, you know, get enough consumers get enough attention. And it was a SaaS product in the financial space and accounts payable, accounts receivable space. And they served in niche and got bought by American Express. So it just kind of depends on where they want to position themselves in the market.

Jeremy Weisz  22:31  

How did you I don’t know, if you, you probably observed this, because you’re helping them position themselves and actually kind of work towards reverse engineering accomplishing that goal, right? Because seemed like in the beginning, they like we want to get to this point we want to get bought, did you find that there were marketing campaigns or things to get the attention of these buyers? Or was it a separate process for that?

Stacie Bilger  22:56  

Well, I mean, first, they needed to have consumers themselves. So I mean, they needed and they already, so this was a company, actually, that actually launched multiple companies. So they they were a software company, that have a history of launching software solutions for various markets. And they already had the talent base internally and also had some customers from their other business lines that kind of benefited from this particular product. And then you listen to them to from a standpoint really understanding the problem they see that they’re solving, because it’s a complicated solution. And and also, who within the company would buy that solution is not necessarily who’s the decision maker, as I mean, and who’s the who’s going to actually is it the IT person who’s going to implement it? Is it the head of accounting, or the CFO who’s going to implement it. So really, really focusing first on selling the product. And then from there, from a branding standpoint, and getting I mean, this really, again, getting them found for that solution. So when American Express started looking, and they actually did a lot of that themselves to those relationship building, they had the network of, of investors that helped, but when they those when they came looking at it, their their site, their traffic, their data aligned with what they were looking to do. So it was still same thing marketing standpoint.

Jeremy Weisz  24:23  

I love the talk about team. You know, before we hit record, we were talking about how you’re, you’re kind of positioned, and you have all the young people in place to grow faster. So who have you found what positions have you found have been key pieces that you put in place over the years? So now that you’re like your position for that growth? In the beginning, it’s just you, I imagine. Yeah, what’s it look like? Now? What are the key positions you had to put in place throughout the years? Well,

Stacie Bilger  24:56  

one thing I’m gonna give an analogy a little bit of team I mean team is critical. I mean, when I was younger, I was a sports person I played softball, and the, the thing that I realized there was that everybody kind of came with their different skill set, and their different gifts, and recognizing that, and, and embracing that, that was the biggest thing. So the team piece, and really, our proofs development is my desire to recreate that and understand that too. So even though I love helping companies, I love building our team. And so there’s different skill sets you need, you need somebody of recent hire was definitely more overall Strategy person that that’s really been my role lot. And then you have people who do that, dotting eyes and crossing T’s along the way, you have to have the the folks who understand the data piece, the Google Analytics and the Strategy you have, you have to have your business development person, right, you have to have your person who actually is collecting, I mean, from a business standpoint, we have operations, right, we have to have somebody who’s we are in business, we have to make sure we have systems in place that we’re doing all the operations things, we have all the HR pieces in place, we have to have all the cooking and cooking our invoices, right, we do have a service. And so we have to have somebody in those places. You have to have in place the folks. So from a technical standpoint, we build sites, we have developers. And so we built sites, because we found a lot of things we’re not dotting eyes and crossing T’s on that side of it, it made it harder for us to do our job. So we have all those rules, traditional marketing roles that we have to have those strengths. So the developers, the designers, the ads specialists, and then the overall Strategy, really, from my standpoint, and billing more of that higher level Strategy, talent is really going to kind of the next level for the company, which we are have been doing.

Jeremy Weisz  27:01  

I have found, Stacie, talking to a lot of businesses and agencies, specifically that director of operations is really a key role that has helped the founder step out of a lot of minutia and being able to work more on the business. So I love to hear what you look for in the Director of Operations position, and then how you ended up hiring was internal external, just walk me through that process a little bit.

Stacie Bilger  27:31  

One trust, I mean, you have to have somebody you can trust implicitly. So that because you’re you’re given the, I don’t know how many horror stories you have. And from that standpoint, so the biggest piece was somebody that I trust trusted. So that is, that is the most important thing. And also, there are resources there from a company standpoint. So we have someone internally who does that. But I also have a partner, ready, HR, and Papillon group who serve in those roles, who helped me make sure that we’re following all those HR requirements, making sure we have team members across the country. So we were built here, from a standpoint of in Indianapolis, Indiana, however, I have team members who are employees of ours in multiple states. So I have a partner who takes care of all that we, you know, all the taxes related those types of things. So we have, we have a, they are a great partner of ours to kind of help us dot i’s and cross t’s on those operational things, like you said that I don’t want to do or touch ever. So that organ, those organizations I trust, and also our operations, lead post helps manage those partnerships. And then also this this internally, like we talked about the team building. I mean, we’re having you know, we have team lunches, virtually we play, you know, sometimes we’ll take a break and do interactive things with the team. So that’s is that

Jeremy Weisz  29:03  

the the HR company that helps you come up with those things? Or who are

Stacie Bilger  29:10  

our that’s our internal person who does on that pace? That’s our internal person who definitely comes up with an edge and does her job to really make sure that we, I mean, everybody, it’s been a tough few years. And we need to, I mean, we are, I mean, second family to a lot of these folks. And you know, we have to listen and be there for folks. And I’m proud that we we do that. So, especially in the environment, virtual we were set up, by the way, while before COVID on virtual so we were built to work from anywhere a decade ago. So we were ahead of the curve

Jeremy Weisz  29:50  

was the director of operations in this situation. Did they grow internally in the company or did you do a search? Yeah, so Whatever. So what was the trajectory of that person? Where did they start?

Stacie Bilger  30:03  

Well, they were really they were part time. I mean that we didn’t have enough, we didn’t have a team to manage. We didn’t have enough invoices to send or, you know, so they kind of grew from a part time. And they were working in multiple different companies in that role. And then I keep on taking more of that time and say, Hey, I’m on full time over here. So it really was a trust

Jeremy Weisz  30:27  

really grew over time, it was kind of like dating in a sense, like you just were working more and more together.

Stacie Bilger  30:33  

It was It wasn’t that position was definitely a dating position. And it should be because, like I said, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s the engine, I mean, or you can talk about whatever part of the plane it is, but it’s a critical part of the plane. Without it, we don’t have all those things working and putting systems in place, and the systems of time tracking systems of project management systems of invoicing, all those systems in place and operation IT systems, like I mentioned, of payroll, all those things, and managing all those systems. And so those things go seamlessly so that we can focus on our clients. Stacie, I

Jeremy Weisz  31:16  

have one last question. Before I ask it, I just want to thank you. Thanks for sharing your journey. It’s amazing what you’ve gone through and you know, the experience you’ve had with so many companies, I want to encourage people to check out proof My last question is tech stack. You mentioned, invoicing, time tracking project management. So I’m wondering what tech stack you use as an agency for all these things?

Stacie Bilger  31:43  

That’s it? That’s a great question. So the various pieces Couplehood, good Google. I mean, we are from a standpoint of files, organizational Google Suites is where we are sharing documents and those types of things. Our project management is pro workflow, we’ve tried all of them to be truthful, the project management system is use it, I mean, embrace it, I don’t care which one you use, use it. And that also provides our time tracking as well. QuickBooks is our, you know, tech stack there. But we have, I don’t know how many technologies we use. I mean, those are I mean, we have we pay for technology across the board all the way from, you know, a Slack is actually a big tech stack from communication that we use. So those are up all the time, then you have tools like glue, cloud app, one password, a lot of and then obviously, tools from the standpoint of SEMrush and others that are tons of other tech stacks that from a data standpoint that we use. So that’s really our infrastructure we don’t have that’s what we that’s where our infrastructure lies is in our tech stack.

Jeremy Weisz  33:03  

You mentioned like a ready HR is that like our software slash service,

Stacie Bilger  33:09  

ready HR and payable group, they are a organization that helps with that, that payroll piece and that benefits piece that all that all those things that make my life and my employees better life better. So Stacie, thank you, everyone, check out proof Learn more and more episodes of the podcast and thanks, everyone.

Jeremy Weisz  33:37  

Thanks, Stacie.

Stacie Bilger  33:38  

Thanks, Dr. Jeremy. Had a great time.