Tips on how to use a long tail approach to finding and retaining customers by Casey Graham

  • I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers
  • I learned that numbers matter…
  • To make sales, go where your audience is
  • On Social spend time connecting one on one with influencers, connecting with people, and add value to them.
  • The conversations that you have on a one on one basis inform scalable activity. The words that people use in your conversations become your marketing copy, the story that you tell
  • If you don't have a clear list of what you want out of life, fear is going to dominate your life
  • Two questions to ask: Number one, who are you? Number two is what do you want?
  • Take intentional action and be accountable

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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Doug: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today, we're going to have a no fluff, no theory, just a practical talk about useful business tips because that's what Casey Graham's mantra is. Casey is a fired up entrepreneur with a tremendous passion for bringing value to other business owners. Casey's transparent and high energy leadership style have made him the go-to voice in the small business community, a real business growth expert. So whether it's running a failed credit card processing recovery pioneer Gravy, or hosting the seven-figure CEO podcast, Casey's message centers on helping business owners create profitably, valuable companies, crafting long-term plans to keep people paying you, bringing greater value to your business, and I know we all want to get paid for what we do. So I'd like to welcome Casey to The Real Marketing podcast today.

Casey: Hey, thanks for having me today, Doug.

Doug: Hey, super excited to talk to you and kind of dive into what you're doing. I mean, as a fellow CrossFitter and someone who's coming into our part of the world, we've got a couple connections going there. So tell me a little bit about your business experience, I mean, because you said you've been an entrepreneur for about ten years?

Casey: Yeah, so I'm just on my ten year anniversary of leaving a steady job, a job where they provide a paycheck every two weeks and you don't have to really think how that's going to happen. And I was just talking to somebody yesterday at an event, and she has a job and she just couldn't believe that I enjoy not knowing how it's going to work and how it's going to work out, those kinds of things, but I really, really love it. So it's been about 10 years. I started growing and sold three companies. One was an accounting company, accounting, and bookkeeping, one was in the church space actually, which was an education company for church leaders. Now, I'm in a company called Gravy, which does revenue recovery for subscription-based businesses. So it's been a wild ride.

Doug: So how does somebody go from … How long were you in your original career before you moved? Like at one company?

Casey: Yeah. I was actually a pastor, believe it or not. And I wasn't a head pastor, I helped start a church. And so I was there for five years, and then at 27 is when I … So I left college, 22 to 27, five years of being on staff at a church, and then jumped ship and started a company.

Doug: Well, that's a really … I mean, there's a big difference between running a company and obviously working with volunteers. I've heard it's said that when we're employers or run a company, you know you have some leverage over people, so I'm sure you had lots of people, talents that you had to develop, leading a group that was obviously some paid staff, but obviously lots of volunteers as well.

Casey: Totally, yeah. There is no paycheck. It's all about vision and influence, and there is no income to [inaudible 00:02:57] to any of it. And so it was definitely a great experience in learning marketing, actually, and learning how to get people to raise their hand to jump in to do something that they don't get paid to do, and keep them fired up doing it for years.

Doug: That's really cool. So let's start with your first company. Tell us how you got it started, and then how you built it, and then exited.

Casey: Yeah. So I started out in the church space. And what I did is I would drive around in my 1998 Ford Red Ranger pickup truck with a box of curriculum strapped in the side. And it was a company that I focused, it was called Rethink Money. We tried to help people get out of debt, learn how to save, and all this kind of stuff. And so at 27 years old, I'm driving around, never heard of marketing before, honestly, I just had been working at a church, just thought you just went knocking on doors. So literally, it was cold calls. I literally just walked up to churches, drove around the southeast, and walked in and tried to sell them me coming to speak and me coming to do a workshop at their church. And so that was a really, really, sucky experience. I got told no a bunch. I didn't have a database, I didn't know anybody, I didn't have any influence, nobody knew who I was. It was just, you know, a young guy looking to make a difference and help people. And so that's where it started out.

One of the things I learned real fast in that business was, man, this really sucks. I work all week trying to get gigs, and then I have to be gone on Sunday because that's when they meet, and then I have to do a workshop all weekend. And so, it was a seven day a week kind of deal because people weren't attending workshops obviously during work hours. And so that was that first start of business. The big transition in this one was realizing that with these churches and with these people is that, number one, that was no fun, but number two is, showing up and having to get paid time for money, I found out real quick I hated it. I didn't like having to always have to get the next gig to make a living. I had a one-year-old at home, my wife was a stay-at-home mom, so there was no other income. And when we started, it was just me, and we had 30 grand that we'd saved up over our entire life and said, “Hey, we're just going to make a go of it.

But the transition here was that I realized that time for money wasn't any good. And so I started going, hey, I can help you guys with your finances, but what I found is that you guys at churches, you really suck at keeping up with your own money, and so I'm going to start a bookkeeping company that helps you. And the reason I did that is to help them, but also the model was better of once you get somebody as a bookkeeping customer, they pay you every single month. And that was the first intro into recurring revenue and marketing a service where we provided something for churches, and that's where that started.

That company grew and I brought in a partner. The partner had sold a $50 million business before, and he was a president of a bank board. He took out an $80,000 line of credit that I didn't know about and ran it up, hired all of his old staff back, and I had no idea about how to run a business, how to keep up with an operation, any of that kind of stuff. And long story short was one day he came in and said, “Hey, if you sell one more, I think we can make payroll.” And I was like, “What do you mean, make payroll?” And I'd been dug in and found that we're $80,000 in debt that I didn't know about, that we're two weeks away from not being able to pay everybody in our office, and the company was about to go broke and about to go out of business, and I had no idea what was happening, 28 years old and just completely clueless as it relates to running a business.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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So my first big failure was not paying attention to the numbers and not running the business, just thinking that sales would cure it all if that we just sold all the time. And that's where that started. That was my first real big hiccup in business.

Doug: Wow. I mean, that's a lot of learning in a really short period of time, I guess. The good news is you got it out of the way right up front.

Casey: Yeah. I just learned that numbers matter, and that keeping your head on swivel matters and knowing, digging in. Because all I heard was, Mark Cuban says sales cure-all. That sounds good, but it doesn't cure everything. And what I found is that sales, fast sales, oftentimes cover a multitude of sin, and it's usually operational sin that's happening. And that's where people can get in trouble. And so I ended up flying to the Philippines, outsourcing the business to the Philippines, which was crazy. I did that in a week's time. I had to lay off three people of no fault of their own. It was the first time I had to look at people and say, “I can't pay you in two weeks.” And I outsourced the business to the Philippines, figured out a way to sell it to an accounting shop in Atlanta, Georgia, near us, about six months later, and I ended up making a profit and making good money off of the sale. But, man, it was a hell of a trip.

Doug: Wow. I mean, that's super interesting. I had the same feeling that Mark Cuban does, and I guess my take on it really is coming more from the side of most of my exposures to people in business is that they are procrastinating and doing things that look like marketing and sales, but they're not really selling. So I totally agree, you need to know your numbers, have your operations and systems down the path, but you also need to go out there like you did, and without the skill set at that point, you just went knocking on doors. So you need to sell stuff to really be in business.

Casey: Totally, totally. During that time I hated it. Looking back, here's the best thing I learned, is I learned what I didn't want. And so after I sold this company and got out of it, I literally wrote down on a list, and I don't have the list in front of me, but I wrote down 10 things that I never want again in business. And the I don't want list started making it very clear what I do want, and the list of I don't want, it is really long, and the list of wants started getting smaller and smaller. So I got clear, and that's when I was able to start the next company which was an online education company. So to this point, this is 2010, I'd never heard about online marketing. People have been online marketing for over a decade.

Doug: Sure. Yeah.

Casey: I hadn't heard anything about it. never once. I didn't know about Google AdWords, I didn't know about Facebook marketing, I didn't know about Twitter stuff, any of that. So about 2010 is when I really started to understand that, and then that's when I started my second company called the Rocket Company. Now the Rocket Company was focused on online education for church leaders to teach pastors everything that they did not learn in seminary. We sold memberships courses, we had a SAS, an online giving platform that churches could use to get donations from the people in their church. And that's when that whole second company started, and we learned a lot about marketing and that we can dig into if you want to.

Doug: What's really interesting, I mean, I like the space that we're in now. I think we're in a time in the world that the barriers to entry, in my opinion, anyhow, are lower than they've ever been because of all the opportunities online. So why don't you walk us through a little bit of your journey on how you took advantage of the online, and what tactics you used to kind of bootstrap and start your new venture?

Casey: Yeah. Well, see. Here's the number one tactic that I've used. I'm not a pure, good digital marketer, okay? I don't know how to run ads effectively. I'm not good at ad copy, per se. That's not who I am. I am good at what I call, it's rifle fire marketing, one to one marketing. And so when I started The Rocket Company, the number one thing I did is I went where our audience was, and the pastor audience in 2010, 2011 was on Twitter. That's the number one place they were. And so what we did is every single day I would wake up, and every single day I would find pastors on Twitter, and I would connect with them one, by one, by one, by one, by one, and I would literally have conversations with them not only to add value but also after adding value, I would literally get their contact information and I would say, “Hey, can I put you in our email database? And we're going to email you stuff about whatever the topic is that we were talking about.

And so we literally built our email database. At that point, that's the first time I'd ever even heard that that was important by one-by-one marketing. And what I found is that those relationships of starting that early, because when we launched our company, those people bought in droves. Our conversion rates were outrageously high. And the reason was, is we had a one by one connection.

So one of the things I see people do is that we overlook that now, and now it's all about, let's run an ad, or let's do this thing on LinkedIn, or let's do this big strategy. And those things work, but what I found that creates long-term great connection and customers that love you and that you love them, is if you have that one on one connection. So I know that's more of like a biz dev/marketing kind of thing, but I think it's way overlooked in our digital age of now let's get 100,000 people following us and run an ad to a million people and just look at the metrics.

Doug: Well, I think you're right there. I think there are two sides to that. I mean, we obviously do some stuff that's on sale, but you're right, the one on one works. And I guess the first time I heard somebody talk about it is I was at a conference in the Philippines, and John Lee Dumas was there with his wife, Kate. And he was speaking about running his business, and he said, “Do some stuff that's not scalable.” And that kind of stuck with me, and I came back home and I thought, “What can I do a little bit of every day that's not scalable?” And I did exactly what you're suggesting.

We used Twitter more than Instagram, but both to reach out and start building relationships. And what I found was we developed relationships with people all over the world that became evangelists for our brand. So they weren't necessarily people that would buy from us, but they were people that would continually share our stuff and talk about us online, which was actually better than just having one or two people who would buy from you.

Casey: Yeah. And what I found is I shifted from Twitter to Instagram probably … I don't remember the year. But when I shifted over there, I spent and I still spend a lot of time connecting one on one with influencers, connecting with people there, add value to them. And it's so funny that like if you have the long tail in mind, if you have the long approach, the people that are your heroes end up becoming your friends if you just add enough value over a long enough time, and you just continually show up and you're just not a douche bag, trying to get them to market your product, or do anything for you for years.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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And so now some of our biggest referrals at Gravy, which is my current company, come from the years of one on one connection, the years of commenting on people's post, the years of telling people, hey, you did a great job with this podcast, years of emailing people and saying, hey, this was awesome. It's all coming to fruition because of adding value years, after year, after year.

So I know we kind of stayed on this for a little bit, but I think it's overlooked and I think that a lot of people listening to this, they hear and go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I just need a tactic, I need a tip.” This is the tip. It is the long tail. And I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work.

Doug: Yeah, you just need to be patient and just keep plugging away, I agree.

Casey: Yeah. So that's how that worked. And so, we grew this company, The Rocket Company, was an Inc. 5000 company three years in a row, ended up selling the company to a private equity group. And one of the things about marketing that I'd never known is that you have to market everything, even the sale of a company. And so making your company and telling the story correctly, and getting the company ready for purchase was even a marketing play, and going out and doing that with private equity groups for something that was a very unique use of marketing that I've experienced.

Doug: Yeah, I agree. I think that you're always selling. And I don't mean like you said in a sleazy way, but even when you look at our retail situation, I've worked with a lot of clients in retail and hotel and hospitality, and I spent time with the owner talking about training their staff because their staff are frontline, and they really need to be selling your services, or if I'm negotiating a lease, you really need to be selling the tenant. So yeah, I mean, it's a process. People are looking and making decisions based on how you present yourself and/or your business.

Casey: Totally, totally. And so what I would say is in this whole idea of marketing, and that's what you guys focus down on, is number one, like you talked about, do those things that aren't scalable, but then number two is that the conversations that you have on a one on one basis inform the scalable activity. So when I would have conversations with people in a one on one basis, they would say the words that would then become the marketing copy, would then become the story that we tell, would become those things. And so everything is learning, everything is about that. And then we would take that stuff, put it in the digital format, and that's what created real success really fast, was using real words that real people say, instead of us coming up with this marketing lingo that we think that's the way they say it, or we think that's what they type in Google, or we think that's how they feel. Man, it just works really well.

Doug: That's pretty radical. You're going to actually talk to people.

Casey: I'm telling you, dude. It's so different. And I've listened to so many of these podcasts and I love, I promise I love hearing all the strategies, but the best strategy I know of is actually listening to other human beings and just listening. And when you listen to what your potential customers want, and when you ask them, or your existing customers, you say, “How else can I serve you?” They'll tell you. If you say, “What do you think about this? They'll tell you. And it's amazing how powerful that is.

Doug: So that is a great tip. Let's just stop there just for one sec. So I think of how many emails I get every day from a variety of probably hundreds of the newsletters I've subscribed to. And most of the newsletters go something that's like, “Hi, I haven't talked to you in a while, but I have some new stuff for you to buy.” So listeners, here's a different approach. Instead of sending out yet another email telling people, hey, buy some more my stuff, why don't you send them out an email saying, “Thank you for being a customer. How else can I serve you?”

Casey: Totally. And that's what I spend my whole life doing now in this current company called Gravy. After selling The Rocket Company, we really didn't need to work again. And we could spend at about $20,000 to $30,000 a month personally for the rest of our lives and never run out of money. And so the question then became, okay, what am I really passionate about? Because if money is not an object, what would you do? And people think that's just kind of like something you say or some story. No, it really was.

No, it took me a year of depression, my marriage being strained, me just going in the crapper really, emotionally going down, and really figuring out, okay, what do I care about? And the thing I care about, for your listeners and the people listening, is I care about the long-term success of entrepreneurship. I care about small businesses winning. I love it. I don't know why I don't know how I don't know why it's in me. Just cut me open, that's what you see.

Long-term value is one of the most overlooked things in business, especially when it comes to marketing because people only associate marketing to the front end of a business. Now, I spend everyday marketing to the backend of businesses, to keeping customers, to upselling customers, to getting customers back online because the long-term value of a customer is way more significant than just going out and running another ad and getting new customers.

Doug: So I don't want to gloss over what you said. I mean, you said that you exited a business, you exited it at a very high level, did extremely well, could have retired and done whatever people do when they retire. I just think that's interesting because I think so often entrepreneurs or small business people look and they think, “If only I had X …” fill in the blank whatever the number is [inaudible 00:19:00] the paper, “I would be happy.” And what I heard you say was, no, I had that, fill in the number, maybe in bigger number than you expected, and that didn't do it.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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Casey: It didn't, no, no, no. Because though you gain a pile of money, there were three intangibles that I lost that, man, they meant so much more to me than I ever even knew. The first intangible that I lost was a sense of purpose. And what I mean by that is, there's something about waking up every day, and whether you're a solopreneur, or whether you're a CEO of a large company, having something to go accomplish, and something to work on, and something to do, that matters. There's something about that that's just good to the soul like we're made to do that. This isn't, we just work because, oh, I got to work to pay bills.

If you're an entrepreneur, if you're a marketer, if you're listening to this, you got something inside you that's deep and meaningful in that way. And if you just quit doing that, it's like, okay, that was fun for a week, maybe two, maybe a month, but then you want to kind of get back out there and do something.

The second intangible I lost was a community. So one thing I didn't really realize is that, hey, I handed over the keys to this business, I walked out. I'm sitting in Starbucks two weeks later, all those people that I'd hired, and loved, and they were still working, and great culture fits, and all this kind of stuff, they're still rocking and rolling it. I'm the one that's out.

Doug: Yeah.

Casey: Cool, I've got a great bank account, but I the people that I love and the people that I worked with, it's just not there anymore. So that sucked. The other thing that sucks is if you get a pile of money, but all your friends don't get a pile of money. You can go on vacations, but nobody can go with you and they got to work on a Tuesday. So there's all that.

Casey: And then the third thing that I lost was a structure of time. If you're listening to this, you might hate that Monday morning meeting that you got to go to, or you may hate that Wednesday afternoon thing, or whatever it is, the structure around your time. And there is something good about having to show up. There's something good about having meetings on your calendar. There's something good about that. And so in losing those three things, I had no idea that they would matter so much. And so it took me a year to figure out that those were the three things that I lost. That really sucked. And then that's why we're able to put those back into play. So it's not all it's cracked up to be to have a pile of money.

Doug: Well, I think it's interesting because I've heard a couple different people talk about what retirement is. And one lady, Laura Langemeier says, “Well if you look at the word retirement and what it really means is you seem to put cows to pasture.” And I'm thinking, you're right, people need to have a purpose. And if you look at how many paychecks the average male collects after he retires, it's not a lot. So you think you work your 40 years to get your retirement, then you retire and you're in poor health where you could die. So having a purpose is really is a key driver.

We heard a speaker come into our church, his name is Bill Wilson. He founded a group called Metro World Child. And he said, “Yeah,” he said, “A lot of my peers look at me and wonder how big my 401(K) is.” He says, “I don't need a big retirement because,” he says, “I love what I do so much. I'm going to do it until I die.”

Casey: Yeah, I totally agree, and that's what I'm going to do till I die. I will always have my hand in either a starting, growing, running, selling, small business. I'll be helping other people do the same, and I just love it.

Doug: That's super cool. So I want to ask you a question because I was looking at your bio on your background, and you talked about fear and overcoming fear as it relates to entrepreneurs, and I see that as a huge issue, and not necessarily for people.

We're not suggesting everyone run that sort of business, but, I mean, even fear of entrepreneurs that are running a business to take the next step, to try a new marketing tactic, to connect with somebody one on one, get on the phone, or maybe to consider packaging their business and exciting because it's not the perfect fit for them, they have a different passion, like you did, to move on. So how do you deal with fear in a way that it affects entrepreneurs?

Casey: So the number one thing … There's a couple of things, but the biggest thing I've figured out is if you don't have a clear list of what you want out of life, fear is going to dominate your life. And the reason why is, clarity reduces fear. Clarity creates confidence, and confidence gives you the ability to take the next step and do things. If you're not clear on what you want your outcomes to be, and if it's just about, hey, we're going to sell more, or we're just going to get [inaudible 00:23:32], we're going to do all this kind of stuff, what's going to happen is, is that you're just not going to take the steps you need to take because you don't know where you want to end up. And so the first thing I say is to get clear, what do you want? So everybody's like, “Okay, cool. Tell me the next thing.”

Well, here are the two questions I would ask any entrepreneur or anybody listening to this. Number one, who are you? Who are you? And you may go, “Well, that's kind of a weird question.” Well, you've got to know who you are. And it took me a year to figure that out. Number two is, “what do you want?” And write down, what do you want? Very specifically, very clear. Now, what I found is when I asked people, what do you want, they go, “Oh, I don't really know.” And like, it's a hard question to answer. If I ask people what they don't want, they can all give me a list five miles long.

Doug: Yeah, that's right.

Casey: And so clarity is the number one step on that. All right, that's number one. Number two is an intentional action. So when you get clear, you've then taken … I say, “action creates traction.”

The number one way to know if you're driven by fear is if you're procrastinating. Whatever it is that you've got on your agenda, or whatever it is that you've got in your mind and you're not doing today and you're trying to like make a plan for, you're like anytime you start to do it, then you check Facebook, those kinds of things. If you're procrastinating, whether it's a conversation, whether it's a sales call, whether it's taking the next step, whether it's firing somebody, whether it's hiring somebody, whatever it is, you've got to just take the step. You've got to just go into it. But you'll never go into it till you're clear. Determine what you want, take an intentional step.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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And then number three, and this is the number one thing, is accountability. It's a CIA. It's the method I go through every single time I get scared in any area of my life, whether it's your health, whether it's whatever. A is accountability. Who have you told this to? You are not going to break through fear on your own all the time. You can only lead yourself so far. You've got to have people around you, people above you that you say, hey, this is what I want to do, and they're going to come back and ask you the question, have you done it? Have you lived up to what you said you're going to do? And ask for help. That's the number one way I know how to break through fear, get clear, get intentional in whatever next step you're going to take, and then ask people to hold you accountable.

So let me give you a practical example. So you and I talked about CrossFit, right?

Doug: Yep.

Casey: I started CrossFit about four years ago and I've been working out about five days a week doing CrossFit WODs, five days a week for about four years. So you would assume that I would be this ripped up, beautiful looking machine, right? That was not the case. I ate like crap. And over the four years, I gained 20 extra pounds and I've gotten fat, and I hated it. And so I would always tell myself, I'm going to start this diet, I'm going to do this thing, or we're going to take this step, and I would try to do it by myself, and I'll try to eat better on Monday and just try really hard, and I'll always fall off the wagon. And so I got to the point of fearing, of just going like, hey, I just don't ever want to say I'm going to eat well again, or I'm going to lose weight again to my wife, or lose weight again to anybody around me because I know I'm going to fail. So I lived with this fear that I'm just always going to fail, I'm always going to be fat, I'm going to continue to get fatter the rest of my life.

And so one of the things I did in February is I got super clear on what outcome I wanted, I got intentional, I hired a coach, number 56 in the world CrossFit and she goes to my gym, to be my mental coach to help me. And then number three is I went public with my commitment to all of the people in my gym and said, “This is what I'm going to be doing and I want all of you to hold me accountable.” And we did that on a private Facebook page. Nobody had ever done that before.

Doug: Wow.

Casey: I lost 20 pounds. The only reason I changed my diet was that I had a team of people. I did a Facebook post on it. I did a before and after. Excuse me, the Instagram post of my body before, my body after, a transformation picture. The only reason I did it is that I had about five people in my corner every single day emailing, calling, texting, all over me, all the time, looking at my My Fitness Pal, tracking my food, making sure it's on track. And you may go, “Well, Casey, that's great for you.” Well, I sucked at this my whole life. I will tell you the number one way to break through is to have people helping you. Get clear, get intentional, have help.

Doug: There you go. That's really cool. That's amazing. That's a great story.

Casey: But the same thing is true in business. Like if it's, “I want to grow my business by double.” Okay, great, great. You're clear. What's your intentional, next step? And who is holding you accountable to that? If nobody's holding you accountable, you're probably going to get overtaken by fear along the way.

Doug: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, you need a team. That's just the way it is. I mean, the reality is, we like to think that we can do things on our own, but number one reason that people fail especially, he said, in weight loss, is accountability.

Casey: Yeah, that's what it was for me.

Doug: Well, and it's the same in business. I mean, if you and I were pals and we're going to hold each other accountable and you said to me, “Hey, I'm going to double my business.” And I asked you, “What are the five things you need to do to double your business?” Then we got on a call once a week, I'd be asking you, “So, how did you make out in number one?” “Oh, I didn't do it because …” Or number two. And then at some point, we're going to be encouraging and pushing along because you need to take those steps, you need someone to help you to do that.

Casey: Yeah. And people think like hiring a coach or having people … I have an advisory board, they don't have shares in my company. But I'll always have an advisory board for my companies, and there is a group of about five people that they have different skill sets and different reasons for being there that I learned from. But one of the things is, is that we meet bi-annually. I leave with a list, and I know in six months, I'm going to show back up, and they help me along the way, and they give me coaching along the way, and it is so important to know that I'm going to show back up and I'm going to be held accountable for something. Again, not in a bad way of being held accountable, but in a way of like, did I give my best? Did we grow the way we should have grown? Do we do the things that we should have done? Am I changing as the CEO that I said I was going to become? Did I let that person go that I needed to let go? Or did I hang on because of fear? And those kinds of things. So it's huge.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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Doug: That's really cool. So I want to totally shift gears now because I want to get over to your primary business. And I think one of the reasons it's an easier transition is because people are afraid of rejection. And it's just the way it is, that's the way it's always been. And I think that's the reason why people don't pick up the phone, and there are not as many sales conversations. But I wonder if people aren't equally as afraid of phoning and making a collection call. So tell us how you work with businesses to help them to recover more of the revenue.

Casey: Okay. So our current company's called Gravy, and the link for this show is, Real Marketing Real Fast is obviously what it's for, rmrf, so Now, here's what we do. One of the things I found is that the subscription-based industry is growing faster than so many segments. It's not growing as fast as SAS, but it's growing huge. I mean, there's a subscription for everything, right? From Spotify and Netflix to iCloud, to down to Boxed, Dollar Shave Club, down to whatever. There's subscription for everything.

So one of the things that I did was running a subscription-based business, is that we found that there was a huge issue in credit cards failing. And having a bunch of people on low dollar payments, you would think that's not a big issue, but about 10% of credit cards fail every single month from a customer base.

So after I sold the company and after I went and had my hell years, desert years, I came back and started asking entrepreneurs, “Hey, what are you doing to build long-term value in your company?” And they would be looking at me like I'm crazy. And I said, “Okay. Well, how are you retaining customers?”

And I started just coaching some entrepreneurs on retaining customers are looking at their systems, and they just were losing money hand over fist. If you have a subscription-based business, you are losing money through credit card failures. There are 220 reasons that credit cards can fail, and they just do. And what most people do is they use automation to try to recover that. So the credit card fails, you send out a three email sequence, you get what you get, all the others are canceled, and you keep moving on and keep selling, and you just call it to churn, or you call involuntary cancels, whatever.

And so I just said, whoa, whoa, whoa, that's not good enough. At my last company, we had a whole team of people that followed up on these people manually and personally. And so what we've done is we've created this customer service focused follow up, we don't do collections. Collections wait until it's too late, and they use fear tactics to go get money from people. And that's usually for like big bills and things like that.

We only focus on companies that have subscriptions from about 40 bucks a month to $400 a month, and they've got a bunch of them and those subscriptions fail. And so if you've got 100 of them, 10 of them fail. And we've got an entire team of people that start with … we use email, we use Facebook Messenger, we use text message, we use a phone call, whatever method it is to have a customer service approach to reaching out to people's customers to bring those customers back online.

It's great because those customers, they don't have any idea that Gravy exists. We work on behalf of the brands that we serve. And so it's a seamless integration and we bring those customers back. The reason that we call the company Gravy is that all of these people that we're bringing back, we average about 54% retention, where software only gets you to 10% to 15% retention. And so we bring these customers back, and they're getting these customers, and we only get a cut off month one, which is so important. We only get a small cut off [inaudible 00:33:20] and you keep the long-term value of the customer. And that's what we do as a company.

Doug: Wow, that's really interesting. I mean, so with all those types of fails, I mean, how many of them are technical and how many require your intervention, like a phone call or some sort of personal connection?

Casey: All of them get a personal connection, every single one of them. So as soon as the credit card fails, we have a team of people that email, individually, every single person and say, “Hey, your credit card failed. Here's the reason why it failed? [inaudible 00:33:50] payment process so we can see the reason why the credit card failed.

Doug: Yep.

Casey: And then we tell them it failed on this product-specific specifically, and we're super specific, and we're super kind. And so we stay after every single one of them, 100% of them get personalized interaction and personalized contact.

The top reasons that credit card fails are bank holds. There's just something about bank holds where the bank will just hold the funds, it just will not let it go through. Even if it's been on the subscription for the last nine months, even if you have money in your bank account, it'll just go, “Hey, we're not going to process this. There's something maybe a little bit fishy here.” And so that that's huge.

Casey: The next one is obviously there's just a technical side of it being credit card fraud, credit card error, something like that. Then there's like an address change, there's an information change, there's a card change, now we got new chip card came in the mail, those kinds of things. So if you think about it, this is constant in our own lives. And you multiply this out to customer basis where there are thousands of customers, this is a constant issue and businesses just don't have the time to stay on top of it. So we're on top of it every single day and it's a highly, highly manual process. So I mean, we're 14 months in, have a team of 25 people, just to give you a little bit of perspective on the growth of this thing and how much hands-on effort we have with each customer.

Doug: That's really cool. And yeah, I'm familiar with the subscription model. I subscribe to a whole variety of products and I bought products from several of your clients. [inaudible 00:35:21] recognize the brands. So for our listeners who have a subscription and there's probably a large percentage do, how would a phone call or a conversation go? Do you mind sharing with us?

Casey: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. So we do what's called consultative selling. We're not information marketers, we're not internet marketers, we don't have like a click here button, buy now, get five bonuses. And if you buy today, then … There's none of that. We're really more like in the sense of there are some criteria that we have to walk through. So you book a call. If you go to the, and you book a call through there, first of all, what we're going to do is ask for a little bit of data.

We don't get on a call unless we have some data. And the reason why is we only work with a certain size client. So usually over $250,000 in revenue is the very, very smallest that we'd work with, up to about $15 million in revenue is usually about the top end. And so we'll look at the top in revenue, we'll look at how much is failing. So you don't have to know exactly, but we'll need to know how much is failing on a monthly basis. And most people don't know. Most people have no idea. And they think they know and like they pull some crappy report that tells them some number, but it's usually wrong. So we'll have to dig into that. And then we'll look at what you're currently doing.

And so what we'll do on the call is we'll just dig in, we'll look at what your current process is, we'll look at what your current recovery rates look like, we'll look what that is. And then what we'll do is we'll matchmake based upon, do we feel like that you're a great relational fit for us? And are we a great relational fit for you? And the reason why we do that, and the reason why we really slow it down and we walk through, here's who we are, here's what we do, here's who you are, here's what you do, is because this business is highly integrated into your business.

So this isn't like a product you buy, and then if you just can't use one, you're like … Every single week and we're in your Slack channel. We're like hiring a person, right? We're like hiring somebody that's going to be there all the time. So if you think like a marketing agency, and the person that you're talking to them all the time, they're running your ads or whatever, we're all the time working with your customers on the back end. So we make sure that you're a good fit for us and we're a good fit for you on the call.

And so there are two big things. Number one is mutual respect. So if there's mutual respect in the relationship, one of the questions we always ask, Doug, that's fun to ask, is tell us about the last people that you outsourced some work too. And we would just listen. And if they start dogging everybody that they've ever worked with that's been outsourced, then we will just say we're probably not a good fit, because we're looking for a mutual respect in the relationship. And usually, the way people talk about all people in their life is how they're going to talk about you in their life. And so that's number one. And then number two, we look for responsiveness. Responsiveness is huge. Then we're going to have … We're not just the thing you say, “Hey, go chase these people,” but we have an ongoing relationship where it's responsive back and forth to one another.

Doug: That's really cool. Yeah, I like the way that you qualify it. That's really a good point. Yeah, I've got a daughter working in retail, and so it's interesting the customer experiences that she has and how people talk about their other vendors or where they shop?

Casey: No, totally. It's like people that come in for interviews. We're hiring a marketer right now, a director of marketing. And one of the questions I ask is, hey, tell me about the leader of this company? And I'll go through every single leader that they've ever worked for, and it's hilarious. If it's like they've had four leaders and all four of them had something wrong with them, then you're going to have something wrong with you too, so you can just move on.

Doug: That's really good. Well, hey, I really appreciate you taking time and I don't want to keep you from heading to the box. I'ma fairly new CrossFit. I've done six years of personal training, one on one, four days a week with a trainer, so I was accountable. He came to my home, then I went to his gym. And we've just recently switched six, eight weeks ago over to CrossFit and out of the bodybuilding gym. So it's been a lot of fun. And again, we know accountability and their relationships.

Casey: Yeah.

Doug: Tell me what's one thing that you're super excited about in the next three to six months, or 12 months?

Casey: You know, one thing I'm excited about is figuring out how to scale the marketing of this company because I don't know how to do it. And what I mean by that is, it's so relational, it's been fast growth, and that's been cool, but to scale it at a 10x level, and then have a services company that scales with it, I just don't see a lot of that out there and there's probably a good reason for that. But I'm interested to figure that out because, over our next three years, we've got a … two and a half years, we've got a strategic plan and is to identify the markets we're going after and build the Gravy brand in this market as the number one leader in revenue recovery, and then build a direct sales force team that attacks those markets. And so I'm fired up to figure that out.

Doug: That's really cool. Well, maybe we'll have an offline conversation. Back to podcasting. So you're a podcaster, so you spend a lot of time behind the microphone as well like I do.

Casey: That's right.

Doug: Who's one guest do you think I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Casey: Do you know Les McKeown?

Doug: I do not.

Casey: Well, you need to.

Doug: Okay.

Casey: Les has a book called Predictable Success that you and every single human listening to this should absolutely read, and I don't say that about many books.

Doug: Okay. So we will follow up and hook up with Les.

Casey: Yep. His other book is called The Synergist, and is where we send everybody that's applying for a job. It's a free quiz that you can take that is really cool as well.

Doug: Excellent. So where's the best place for people to find you? So you've given out the link to your website?

Casey: Yep.

Doug: So it's Now, what about social media? So are you still a big proponent on Instagram? Or if people want to get social with you, will they find you on LinkedIn, or where would they look?

Casey: Yep. So Instagram and LinkedIn are where I'm spending my time these days. So Instagram is @CaseyGraham, just my name, C-A-S-E-Y G-R-A-H-AM, and then LinkedIn, it's Casey Graham as well. And that's it. I'd love to connect and have any conversations that people want to have about this.

Doug: Well, excellent. I think it's super cool. I really enjoyed our conversation. There's so much going on. And your story really is amazing. I mean, to exit from a job and then move into three different businesses in 10 years, and basically hit a retirement plateau, and then move into something new is, I'm sure you've heard it before, it was quite an amazing feat.

Casey: Well, actually it's funny because when people say that, I kind of hear it, and then I just live it every single day. It doesn't seem really weird to me. You know what I mean? But it's cool, yeah. I mean, it's been awesome. But it's one of those things people go like, “Hey, you've got a crazy life.” And I'm like, “It's not really. It's just the way it is.”

Doug: That's right. It's all about choices, right?

Casey: That's right.

Doug: And like you said, you got to have stuff in your schedule, and part of your schedule is going to the gym, or hanging out with your wife, or doing the stuff that you're doing, so it just means getting it into your calendar. So I want to say thanks again for taking the time to share with our audience and listeners. We'll make sure we post all of the notes so you can find information on Casey, what he's doing, his company, and would recommend you head over to his website, have a look. So I'll check back for the show notes. So we just say thanks very much for listening and make sure that you tune in for our next episode and look forward to serving you.

Casey: Thanks for having me.

Doug: Thanks.

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I promise you, if you have the long tail in mind, it will work and it is the key to finding and retaining customers

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Get in touch with Casey:

Find out more about Kevin:

  • GRAVY on Facebook
  • Casey on Twitter
  • 7 Figure, CEO (Criteria: you must have/has owned/run a company over 7-figures in annual revenue)  Podcast

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