Interview John Follis: Marketing Therapy for Entrepreneurs
[00:00:00] Shelley Carney: Hello and welcome to the messages and methods. Livecast Life 2.0 livestream podcast, hosted by Encore entrepreneurs, Shelley Carney, and Toby Younis. We inspire excitement for content creation and marketing your brand and business while answering all your technology and digital marketing questions. We love to help you.
[00:01:01] Our content creator friends with actionable tips to land more clients, nurture leads, and gain trust as an expert in your industry. Chat with Shelley and Toby live every Thursday on YouTube or Facebook. Hello, and welcome to messages and methods. I'm Shelley Carney. Toby is on vacation visiting family this week, but we do have a wonderful guest to speak with today.
[00:01:29] His name is John Follis and he started his career on Madison Avenue, working for top agencies on major brands. He co-founded his own New York city agency in the 1990s in the early two thousands. He came across many small business owners and entrepreneurs who didn't want, or couldn't afford an agency, but they were desperately needing marketing help most were confused and overwhelmed by the shifting digital Landscape.
[00:02:00] In 2004, he changed to an online consulting model branded as Follis marketing therapy, helping business owners and entrepreneurs around the United States with their marketing branding, creatives and video. Welcome John.
[00:02:16] John Follis: Hey Shelley. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me on.
[00:02:19] Shelley Carney: You bet. So I'd like to know more about your early days before going online and maybe we can.
[00:02:27] Hear about that from you today?
[00:02:30] John Follis: Sure. Do you want me just start talking or did you have a specific question?
[00:02:35] Shelley Carney: Oh, you just tell us about your origin story. How did you get started in marketing and grow such a large presence in New York city?
[00:02:45] John Follis: I got started in advertising. As you mentioned in the introduction, I worked on Madison avenue for some of the big advertising agencies, some of the top agencies in the country.
[00:02:57] On it counts like Coke and pizza hut and Volkswagen, which was a great training ground. I don't think there's any better training ground for learning about advertising and marketing and strategic thinking and certainly creative because I came up on the creative side and, one thing you learn when you're doing those big ad campaigns is that you really have to get the viewer's attention.
[00:03:21] So that was a great place to learn. And then when I started my own agency with a partner, things shifted in that we weren't working for those big brands. We were a lot working for a lot of smaller companies, smaller mid-size companies. So they had slightly different issues. And I got to by working directly with the business owners got to Apply my marketing and advertising talents in kind of a different way, because they didn't have the, obviously have the money and the budgets that some of these big advertisers had to spend.
[00:03:58] So they had to be a little bit more thoughtful about how they were spending their marketing and advertising dollars. So that was during the nineties, Shelley. And then in the late nineties, I started finding. At various business events being approached by a lot of business owners who were really very confused about what was going on because the landscape, the media landscape was changing.
[00:04:24] And it was shifting from traditional to digital. And these people were so confused by it and wanted to pick my brain and half the time dealing with these people because they were so involved, emotionally wrapped up in their business. Many of them were very small business owners solo entrepreneurs or startups.
[00:04:45] They, I talking to these people half the time, I felt like a marketing counselor and the other part of the time, I felt like I was a therapist talking to these people. So that's what sparked the branding of my online consulting as Fallis marketing therapy in 2000. And back then 2004 was pretty early on for doing online consulting.
[00:05:12] Obviously zoom did not exist back then, but Skype did. So I was interfacing one on one with these business owners around the country via Skype.
[00:05:24] Shelley Carney: What types of problems were they coming to you with that? You could then lean on your experience to help them.
[00:05:34] John Follis: Oh, it runs the gamut. Shelley.
[00:05:37] As anyone who runs a business knows there are all kinds of challenges. I, a lot of the questions seem to revolve around the digital media landscape that kept changing at the time. This was 2004. So this. Pre social media by a few years. But shortly after I got into doing it social media then became a thing and people were saying what about, posting on Facebook?
[00:06:09] And should I what about my videos? And should I have a YouTube channel and what's a blog and should I be blogging? And I, I. I have a brochure. Should I still be doing my brochure? And what about email marketing? And should I have a tagline? And what do you think about my logo? It just went on and on.
[00:06:30] Shelley Carney: You were experiencing a lot of these changes at the same time that they were. So how did you keep up with what was new and burgeoning on the scene and stay ahead of those people who were asking you those questions?
[00:06:43] John Follis: absolutely. And, as you just said, I started. I in my 35 year career I spent about 29 of those years as a non entrepreneur.
[00:06:53] So I could really identify with the anxieties that they were experiencing as a business owner, especially regarding marketing, because I had to figure them out myself. I did because I was always intrigued by the changing landscape. I made it my business, my made it a priority to figure this stuff out.
[00:07:14] As I just mentioned to you, when I asked you how long you've been podcasting, I started hearing about podcasting back in 2005. And I was just fascinated by it. I was listening to a lot of the podcasts on how to podcast and thought that boy, that would be a really cool thing to be able to do. Just two or three months after listening to those podcasts on how to podcast, I had one.
[00:07:40] I started the marketing show with John Follis in early 2006. So again it, a lot of it just comes out of my curious behavior, but I think if you want to stay relevant and if you want to continue offering a service, a marketing service or creative service to a smaller business owners, you really have to be ahead of the curve.
[00:08:02] I was highly motivated. To learn that stuff. And the same thing, with a blog, I was learning about. Blogging back in 2007 and 2008, I had a blog. And when I started hearing about explainer videos in 2012, I created a separate business model called big idea video, where I was creating a lot of video content.
[00:08:23] It wasn't exclusively explainer videos, but I was getting into animation and learning how to do those kinds of videos because that's what people were wanting back then. I see. I think, what explainer videos are correct?
[00:08:38] Shelley Carney: Yeah, I do. Yeah, you wanna explain it to people if you like, it's basically it's it can be animated.
[00:08:45] It can be text on the screen. It can have a voice over or not, and it's basically. About one particular concept that you're explaining, is that correct?
[00:08:54] John Follis: Yeah. The idea is nothing new. You see right now you're coming to one of the channels that says big idea, explainer videos, the majority of those type videos used simple animation and some of them used whiteboard.
[00:09:11] Animated executions. If you look at the first video there you see my hand drawing and that uses some animation that gives the effect of drawing on a whiteboard. And the reason why they became so popular is because they did a really good job of explaining things that required a bit.
[00:09:35] Explanation, especially for businesses that were in the B2B space business to business that really needed a bit of explaining. Obviously if you're selling Coke or McDonald's hamburgers, or, corn chip, you don't really need an explainer video for that, but many people. Were involved in service businesses or selling products that did require a bit of explaining.
[00:09:58] And that's why they, those videos became very popular back in 20 12, 20 13.
[00:10:04] Shelley Carney: Okay. So I'm hearing is that you start with something like the podcast Which kind of led you into other things of blogging and the videos, then it seems like you've let those things go is what's taking their place now.
[00:10:24] John Follis: That's not true. I. I've started doing videos in the late nineties and I still do them. Okay. I just know a lot more than I did when I started. And a lot of those explainer videos are created with certain types of video software. , they're all done essentially from sitting in this chair at the desktop.
[00:10:45] I'm, I am not a video person that uses a video camera and lights and camera and audio, and knows how to, do the sound stuff. I'm the kind of person that creates it from a desktop. So it's a different style or different kind of creative. But I still do that. And the podcasting I did for seven years, which is about six years longer than most people podcasts once they get started.
[00:11:13] I think the average the average period of time for someone who starts a podcast, I think I read somewhere is about six months. So I beat that by a few years and after seven years, I. Felt it becomes very time consuming, especially if you're a perfectionist about it and you spend the time to edit it and make sure it's a well produced piece as it takes time.
[00:11:35] So seven years I thought was a long enough period for me to experience that and decide to move on. And I think that's when I got more involved, you only have so many hours in a day and I decided to. Switch my focus more on doing video creation at that point. Okay.
[00:11:54] Shelley Carney: So let's fast forward to where we are today.
[00:11:57] If you're speaking to a client, who's coming to you, an entrepreneur, small business owner smaller sized business, and they need help with their marketing. What's the first thing that you would encourage them to get started with?
[00:12:11] John Follis: There's not one size does not fit all. I know everyone is looking for that magic bullet, right?
[00:12:17] That, that easy pill to swallow. They're looking for a Pearl of wisdom that I'm gonna give, that's gonna, solve all their problems. And listen, there are many quote experts out there that, will try to do that. And, if you wanna work with those folks, that's great.
[00:12:31] I take a different approach. I take the time to really listen to the business owner, what their challenges are because no two business owners are exactly the same. Everyone has got different issues. They all have, many of them have similar issues, but every business is somewhat unique. So before I start talking.
[00:12:55] To them and telling them what they should do. I spend a fair amount of time listening to them and really being sure that I fully understand what their business is about and what their challenges are and what I found Shelley is that half the time that I talk to these people, what they think their business their challenge is, or what they need to do is really not what they should.
[00:13:19] And that has happened on a number of occasions where someone will start talking to me about doing one thing and they'll start going along that path. And then I'll just start asking them a few questions. And after I start asking questions I start making suggestions about maybe another direction and the problem with most business owners and entrepreneurs is they don't, when it comes to marketing, at least they don't know what they don't know.
[00:13:49] I'm sure you UN you know what I mean when I say that, right? Sure.
[00:13:54] Shelley Carney: You need a multiple choice to work from.
[00:13:56] John Follis: Yeah. Many of them try to figure things out themselves. Again, if that's what they wanna do, that's fine. But I think the ones that really become successful in growing their business, get to the point where they realize that they need to bring in experts.
[00:14:16] Just the way, it's interesting. If someone's running a business and they need legal help, they're not gonna do the legal stuff themselves. They're gonna go out and find a good attorney, right? They need to do accounting and bookkeeping work. Chances are, they're not gonna do that. That themselves, they're gonna fire find someone who's good.
[00:14:36] They need to build a website. They're gonna hire someone. Who's a good website builder. But for some reason, many of these people, when it comes to marketing, they try to do it themselves. And. For most of these people, I would say it's probably not the best use of your time. The challenge with that Shelley is that there's so many people out there who brand themselves as marketing experts.
[00:15:02] That many of these small business owners, because they don't know what they don't know. They really don't know who would be the best fit for them to work with. So it, it becomes a very challenging. Decision for them to do that. And because everyone likes to get their hands involved with marketing, especially if it's your business, that oftentimes is the kind of the fun side of running a business. You get to do all these creative things, but even Steve jobs back in two 1976, when he was, he is often credited as the marketing genius behind apple. That's how he's perceived. But the fact of the matter is that back in 1976, when he had just started apple, he was smart enough to realize that if he wanted to grow that business, he had to go out there and find a marketing expert.
[00:15:56] Not too many people know the name, Regis McKenna, but Regis McKenna is the guy. If you look him up, he is the guy that Steve jobs went out and found. He was a marketing expert. He had his own advertising agency. And for about five years, he worked with Steve jobs and held, helped him on the foundational marketing work that.
[00:16:18] Helped apple become the business that it is today. So again, Steve Jobs was smart enough to realize as smart as he was that he wasn't smart enough to know all he needed to know about marketing his business.
[00:16:35] Shelley Carney: So if they come to you and they ask you. So what's working best right now. What should I focus on?
[00:16:41] That's going to get me the most bang for my buck. When it comes to marketing, what would you say again?
[00:16:46] John Follis: I, if I say one thing it may be true for, some of your listeners, it may not be true for all of your listeners. I know you're looking for pearls of wisdom.
[00:16:56] I think it starts with make sure that your business product or service is as good as it can be because before you. Telling the world about what you do. Just make sure that it's as good as it can be. If your website, if you have a website and I talk to many business owners, maybe you've heard the same thing they say, oh yeah, I have a website.
[00:17:21] I know it could be better, whatever. That's not a good attitude. You want your, you want to really be proud of your website. So if your website needs a little brushing up, before you start focusing on, what's gonna be the biggest bang for my buck. Should I do video?
[00:17:38] Should I be doing blogging? Should I be doing just take a hard look at your product or service, what you have now. And make sure that it's really up to speed. That's the first thing I would say. Does that make sense? Sure. Yeah. And so once, once you do that, then again, it really depends on who your audience is.
[00:18:02] Not everyone has the same audience because if your audience is an older demographic, chances are you don't need to worry about being on TikTok. Exactly. Does that make sense?
[00:18:15] Shelley Carney: you're preaching to the choir on that one.
[00:18:17] John Follis: okay. If you're talking to people in their twenties and maybe even thirties, then, TikTok may be a channel you have to think about, so this is the point I'm trying to make.
[00:18:27] That it really depends on what your business or service is before you can really decide how you're gonna, spend your time and your energy and your money deciding on getting the word out
[00:18:39] Shelley Carney: well, at what point would you recommend somebody to work with you make on your videos?
[00:18:44] For instance, the big videos.
[00:18:47] John Follis: I'm sorry. So at what point would I, yeah, if
[00:18:50] Shelley Carney: they come to you with in need of marketing and getting the word out about them, their business and their service, at what point would you say? Oh video would be right for you.
[00:18:59] John Follis: Video's right for everyone. That's one thing I can say.
[00:19:03] Okay. I don't care what your business is. And I would think you would agree with me. There was a point in time where very few people realized that there were many people, realized they needed a website and they put up a website but they didn't realize. On their website, they need to have some great video content.
[00:19:23] And even now I have to tell you I come across many people who have a website and they don't have any video on their website. And often the ones that do have a video on the website. It's not great video. It's really not exciting. It's not compelling. Maybe they had their 16 year old kid shoot a video and pop it up there.
[00:19:45] There's certainly. Much room for improvement when it comes to anyone who has a business when it comes to video. That, that's what I would say in general to get more specific than that, what kind of video you need? It may not be an explainer video. It may be, something else.
[00:20:02] It, again, it really depends on. What their product or service is, what the message is and who they're talking to. But in general, I would say everyone who's listening to this can probably benefit from having some better video. Okay.
[00:20:18] Shelley Carney: So we talked about improving your website, basically cleaning house before you invite people to the house, make sure everything looks good.
[00:20:25] And it speaks to your target cost customer and gives them a good idea of where they are and what it's all about. Then what's what are some next steps after that?
[00:20:37] John Follis: Because I think video is so important that shouldn't just be on your website. It should be prominently on your website because studies have shown for quite some time that people don't like to read.
[00:20:49] And GI given the choice of clicking on a video or reading a bunch of texts, I think, you know which one they're gonna do. The mistake that many people have when they think about video is that. It's not exciting. It's not compelling. One thing I learned by working for the top agencies in New York and doing TV commercials is that I'm trained to think in 30 seconds, with TV commercials.
[00:21:17] And that is just as relevant if not more relevant now than it ever has been because you have to really captivate. Very quickly with your video and really in the first few seconds of that video. So that's the kind of video that needs to be prominent, and it's better to have multiple videos talking about different aspects of something than to have one five minute video where you're putting everything, including the kitchen sink, trying to explain what you.
[00:21:49] It's better to have smaller bite sized, digestible video. So people can, that are well titled with, certain keywords. So people know what they're about and can make the determination themselves on, what they wanna listen to. But I would say, that's one thing I could suggest as a general rule of film when it comes to video, have it be prominent on your website and have it be short and compelling.
[00:22:15] Shelley Carney: Do you have any examples of say a customer, a client who improved their business greatly by using video,
[00:22:24] John Follis: there are a number of them. If you go to big idea video, the big idea video channel I have, as you just did, initially, you can see a whole, I think I, I. At least a hundred videos on there. Okay. So you can, if you wanna see some examples of some of the work I've done for clients just, take a look at that.
[00:22:48] All right. And that's
[00:22:49] Shelley Carney: on YouTube at
[00:22:51] John Follis: yeah. Big idea. Video channel,
[00:22:54] Shelley Carney: big idea, video. That's right.
[00:22:56] John Follis: Yeah, I think there's, there, there might be a couple of other big idea videos. It's a pretty common name, unfortunately. I think the URL actually says I'm looking at it right now and it does say up on top big idea, video channel, so right.
[00:23:10] Make sure you have the word channel after big idea video. So you don't get some, someone else's big idea video. Okay.
[00:23:19] Shelley Carney: Great. And so can you give us for our audience? We we like to hear things that can help us to really move the needle. Right now we're looking at, inflation and recession and maybe people are a little bit worried about maybe spending money or time on marketing.
[00:23:38] I know there's got to be, a few different ways that work even during recession to move the needle forward on our business, to help us to grow, get the word out about our business and to bring in more leads. So what can you advise our audience to do that will move the needle today.
[00:23:58] John Follis: It all comes down to content marketing and you know what that means. I don't know if your audience knows what that means. Do they. If not, I'll explain it. Go ahead and explain it. Okay. So content marketing is a term that has been around now for about 20 years, and it's a very simple concept. It's just creating a lot of information, digital information, whether it be a podcast or a blog post.
[00:24:27] Or a Facebook post or a video that can be posted somewhere. Whether it be on your LinkedIn profile or your Facebook page or any number of places on online that will help people will direct people to your business when they search the more content you have about your business product or service, the easier you will be able to be found when people search.
[00:24:58] I came up with a term for this back in 2005 that I called G cred, which is just a simple way of phrasing Google credibility. And it's something that everyone needs who has a business needs to have. You don't want to have people try to find you on Google and have nothing come up. So once you start creating this content it's very important for you or someone you work with to know how to post it various places online.
[00:25:29] So it adds to your Google credibility when people try to find you on Google, because that I in general is the way the people who don't know about you are going to be looking for you. The more content you have the more you're going to be able to be found. So that's something you or your kid, if you don't know how to post stuff that I think now most people know how to do that, but the point is, post it as, as much as you can create it, create, keep creating as much content and everyone Should have the ability to write about the business or talk about the business or know how to create content, that's that these days it's so easy.
[00:26:11] There's so many ways you can create content. It's just whether or not you want professional help with that or not.
[00:26:18] Shelley Carney: That's right. Okay. Did you have any last bit of advice that you'd like to offer before we wrap things up?
[00:26:27] John Follis: I think to continue listening to podcasts. I think there's so much information online that could get the wheels in your head turning and help clarify some of the things you're dealing with and answer some of the questions and hopefully listening to an interview like this will we'll do that, but that's what I think every person who is trying to run a business can do for free, easily go onto YouTube or go into apple podcasts and start listening and learning from some of the people who are expert in the things that you wanna learn about.
[00:27:06] And that's a free and easy way that anyone could could learn stuff, just, stay curious and stay stay interested if you're serious about your business. Not everyone is that serious. So for a lot of people, it's just a hobby, but if you are really serious, I think you really have to invest some time in learning what you can and then making the decision on who you need to hire to help you to do that.
[00:27:31] Shelley Carney: That's right. Okay. So we can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm gonna put that into the comments and that'll be in the description box below, and that will take you to his website, where you have some choices you can make, whether you want help with marketing or with video. And is there anything else our audience needs to know about how to get in touch with you?
[00:27:54] John Follis: I've got pretty good G so if they don't know how to spell Follis Inc
[00:28:00] Shelley Carney: Follis
[00:28:01] John Follis: I N C that's it. That's right. They can, it, it certainly helps if they can spell my last name because they would need to pop that into Google or YouTube, I think. I'm not the I no, I'm not the only John Follas.
[00:28:16] So it might help if you put the word marketing or videos in addition to my name, but in Google and YouTube, certainly that will be another way they can find out more about me.
[00:28:28] Shelley Carney: Wonderful. Thank you so much, John, for being with us today and sharing all your knowledge on marketing in over the last.
[00:28:36] Like a really long time, you were here from day one on the internet and you're still going strong. So we appreciate you and all your advice for our listeners. And that's all we have for today. We hope that all of you will tune in again next week for messages and methods and Toby will be back.
[00:28:55] And I look forward to seeing you then. Thank you, Shelley. Thank you for joining messages and methods. Livecast life 2.0 hosted by Shelley Carney and Toby Younis. Please subscribe and leave a comment or question and we'll consider your ideas for future shows. Share this podcast with your family and friends so they can learn about current digital marketing practices too.
[00:29:19] Check the show notes for links and resources. And please come back again next week.