Wellspring Search, LLC Chief Development and Marketing Officer
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How did you get to where you are today? What is your story? What incidents and experiences shaped your career path?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
So it's a somewhat winding road that I took. I went to Frostburg State University and was originally on art education, major. But then I realized quickly that I didn't have the patience for all the bureaucracy of a school system. And so I sort of cut that short just became an art major. So when I graduated, I really didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, so to speak I was working at an aquatic nursery all through college. So a friend of mine and I actually started a business building waterfalls and water gardens and that sort of thing. Then I quickly learned that I'm not the best person for seasonal backbreaking work. I have a bad back, and I'm not good with downtime. So, I got out of that. And, I was in some sales roles for a while, and I really wanted to get back into marketing and creativity. Marketing has always been sort of my calling in some shape, form or another. I did all the marketing for our small business when we started. And so I actually got a job in 98 with a Web design firm. And so that was very new back then. And, I worked there for a little while and then, actually got a friend of mine, a job there, and, he and I were sorts of running the place and decided that a long story short that we felt like we could do something on our own. That was is a bit more to our liking. So we started Wood Street, and I was doing project management, writing, marketing, sales, all kinds of stuff there. I actually, in the last few months, I just sold my shares in my business and took a position at the company you see here, Wellspring search. I got to the point where websites are being very commoditized. And, a design and development firm really wasn't what I envisioned my company to become solely. So I always wanted to tear off in a marketing path. So I ended up meeting my now boss, Carl Hindle, and, we just talked a lot, and we felt like we were really on the same page when it came to marketing and where the Internet's had. I sold all my shares and I went to work for Wellspring. And so now I'm still doing sales. Always do some sort of sales. It's just a kind of nature of a small business role. But I'm doing a lot of content marketing and I'm doing a lot more marketing just in general. And so it's been kind of a serendipitous path of just following opportunities as they present themselves. That's how I ended up where I am today.

Can you walk us through your first few weeks, especially challenges, when you started working as a consultant? How did things change over the next few months?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
They were definitely challenging. It was exciting though because I'm now working for a company that does all the things that I get excited about. And so it was a lot of learning. It was a lot of figuring out, my role specifically and trying to find opportunities and trying to get my head around how I wanted to market this firm. So there was a lot of sort of figuring out processes. And I think it was just a matter of at a lot of meetings with my boss, Carl. And we did a lot of a sort of strategy discussions. And, I have ideas all the time. He has ideas all the time. Another guy who runs it with us called Corey. He has ideas all the time. So the three of us kind of check each other a lot. So it was just a matter of learning to work with a new crew and learning to really fully take advantage of all these new opportunities or that we're in front of me. And so it was exciting. It was a little scary, cause it's not my company, and, it was a little different, but it definitely was exciting to come on board. The next few months are really gonna be about, you're trying to build the business trying to bring in more clients trying to streamline our marketing in house. When you're a marketing firm, you're the client that suffers the most yourself because you're worried about all the other clients. And, you know, they come first, obviously. So we were really making a point of forcing ourselves to pay attention to our own marketing. So I'm doing a lot of that management and working with Corey on that, in terms of getting us out there. So we're really trying to really target our area, which is the DC metro area, but also nationwide. We have the service that we can easily target all those areas. And we're also very interested in growth. it's market growth. So I believe we're probably gonna hire if all things go well, we'll probably hire another 3 to 4 people in the next, I would say 6 to 8 months. That's the future so far.

What tools (software programs, frameworks, models, algorithms, languages) do you use at work? Do you prefer certain tools or services more than the others? Why?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
I don't work a lot with the tools. We're mainly working on the dashboard. So at least we have designers and developers who work in their set of tools, and I don't really know what those are, specifically, but for me, I work a lot in SharpSpring, which is our marketing automation platform. We work a lot with Ahrefs, with SEMrush. There's a bunch of other ones, because mainly what we're trying to do is we're trying to figure out traffic patterns and how to build traffic and build link profiles and that sort of thing. So working in a lot of an SEO and SEM, dashboards, mainly, obviously, in Google AdWords in the social media marketing round. So, the more technical stuff is not really my area of expertise but probably is as far as I could get into to answer that question, It just depends on what the need is of the client. The thing is like for us. We're tool-agnostic in the sense that we use what we need to find the truth and to find out what's going on. So, sometimes it maybe we spend one client a ton of time and on the Google platform. And sometimes we spend a ton of time in the say, Facebook or LinkedIn platform for advertising. And then what? Spending a ton of time and say hub spot or Sharp spring or marcato from their marketing automation? So it really depends on what the client's needs are. And sometimes the client will dictate that we have one client who is the hardcore like Microsoft team. And they use my dynamics and they use, I forgot the name of the marking automation tool, but it just it really just depends on what the client needs are. And I think that's important, too, to think about, especially if you're getting in digital marketing is you need to have a good understanding of some of the more popular platforms. But don't be scared to open a new platform and try it around because the client is always gonna sort of dictate which way you go.

Can you describe a few significant projects you have worked on? What were the requirements, challenges, skills needed, projects' duration and clients' feedback?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
I'm gonna talk about the project we're working on right now. There's a nonprofit center they've been around for about five years now, and they are completely shifting their focus completely They've changed their name. They changed their brand. They're changing their messaging. So, they changed. They went from ABI to AICBA. Basically, it is the American Institute of Certified Board adviser. So in an organization that helps people become certified so that they can be better equipped to serve on a large company's board of directors. So we redid their logo. We redid their website. We did read it all their branding. We have gone through every bit of their content and either edited it, reworked it or totally rewrote it. We're actually now in the process of the final edits of that content. And then next week, we have a meeting with the client to go through all of what's on the staging website. So it's a lot of what I used to do in my old job. So some of it was definitely old hat for me, but it's definitely different because we're really focusing on marketing automation on this one because a big part of what they're gonna be doing is outreach through email marketing and through advertising. So, I've been kind of learning a lot about how those things plug-in to the website and how the process if you're doing any kind of website process that you need to be thinking about these things from day one. So it has really shifted my focus a little bit, which is great. Some other projects that we've been working on are there's a large I can't really say the name of it, but there's a major league works team that we've been working with, and they had some issues with some reputation management. So they were having some bad SEO issues and they were having some bad issues on social media. And so we've been doing what's called sentiment analysis. We're going in and we're learning, we're analyzing and tracking what people are saying on a regular basis, and so we were actually, plugged into that, and we actually help them avoid what could have been a really, really bad situation. There was a lot of chatter about some Antifa people wanting to go to this sports establishment and start a lot of trouble. And so we were able to alert them to that. And so it's funny because you don't think about the digital marketing team is being your security analyst, but it's just because we're doing the reputation management and sentiment analysis that helped us to find that information, and then their security people take it from there. We don't want we only do so much. But it's interesting just the tools that are available. And you can actually find out now just through different dashboards and different tools about what people are saying about you there's companies don't realize that they actually have a good bit of control. And they can manage that stuff to a certain degree? If they do something really, really stupid, they're gonna have to count and own it, there's no way around it, but they can be proactive. They don't have to constantly react to everything. So I think that's the interesting thing about that project that I think. And most of our projects were really ongoing we have long term engagements with our clients. So, I've been seeing sort of problems as they come up or different winds. And so a lot of it is just a matter of kind of watching things as they play out as we work with our clients.

Discuss weekly hours spent in a client's office, for work travel, and working from home? How do you handle working with clients from different time zones?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
Right here is a little map that I have of the different time zones in the U. S. So it's a quick little reference guide. When somebody some clients on the West Coast wants to schedule a call. I don't accidentally schedule eight at night for May which is fine. But I prefer to are combined business hours, but, um, that's always that. That's always a challenge. But you can work around that. And most people understand. You tell them I'm on the East Coast, you're on the West Coast. There's a time difference. Let's pick a time that works for both the rest of it. We can do a lot virtually. Whenever possible, we'd love to meet with the client. So, we have a meeting today with a client, where we're going to their location. Sometimes clients come up to our location. Just depends if they're a regional client or if they're national. If they're national, we do a lot of zoom meetings. We'll do be doing their meetings all week long. That's been meetings just like this. It's been an effective way to talk to clients into manage projects and that sort of thing. Work, travel. I don't have any trips coming up right now, but I do have a couple of comments is that I'm speaking at coming up in May, and I am a little curious to see what happens with that with the whole Covid-19 thing. I mean, work travel is what it is. If we need to go somewhere, we go there. But I think I think most people are of the mindset that let's do it virtually if we can first. And if we need to have an in-person we will go to that trouble and do that. I do actually work from home quite a bit. Says that this is my home office. I love it. I have a great office here. Great Internet. I have everything I need, but, I do like to be around my coworkers too. So while I do work from home, our corporate office is about maybe 40 minutes from me. So I will go up there as much as possible and meet with them and because I think it's important virtual and working from home. And, all those things are a great opportunity that the Internet has provided for us. But you can't put a value on in-person and face to face. It really does help.

How has the demand for certain skills and technologies changed in your field? What kind of consultancy work or jobs would see big growth in the upcoming years?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
It was a matter of, first it was you need to have creative skills or you need to have writing skills. Or maybe you need to have search engine optimization chops. Or you need to understand social media or content marketing. And I think now what I think works well is to have a good, solid foundation. All those things and it's tough because, you know, we work with a lot of marketing directors, And I see some marketing directors have a strong design background there. Someone has a strong PR background. Some have a great content background, but they struggle in other areas because they've been so laser-focused on that one thing that they haven't paid much attention to the others. So just have a thirst for learning. When new technologies come around, you can't just bury your head in the sand and think, Well, that's not really for me. I mean, it could very well be for you. So what I do is I subscribe to a lot of blogs. I read a lot of books. I take training courses whenever I can and so I think the demand for certain skills boils down to being a generalist. If you are trying to get into digital marketing, you need to have a solid core understanding of most of the disciplines within digital marketing. In the future, AI I think I think it's it's gonna get to the point where I hate to say it, but instead of managing a team of people, we're managing a platform, a dashboard, that's taking control. I just watched a demo for a product yesterday that is marketing automation for LinkedIn. And I don't know how well it's gonna work. It's kind of impersonal in a certain sense, but I think more and more, people are gonna have to get a core understanding of what AI is and what it can do, how it's going to factor into digital marketing, and how that might affect the type of job that you want to get in the future. It's important to not look at the marketing world as it is now. It's good to think about where it's gonna be and where it's going to be is a lot of data, Lots of AI sort of running and analyzing and acting on that data, Lots of marketing automation. So I think it's important to have a core understanding of the role I was gonna play in this field.

How do you get new clients and negotiate payment terms? What approaches do work for you and what don’t?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
For new clients, we have a great reputation. So we do get referrals quite a bit. And we practice what we preach. We write a lot of content. We do a lot of networking, so we're always trying to be out there and be in front of the clients. It's a matter of being top of mind, and that that can be showing up in search results or being in their inbox at the right time, or being in their social media feed at the right time. So from that standpoint, that's how we're getting a lot of new clients. In terms of negotiating payment terms. I'm of the mind that if you're fair and honest, it costs what it costs. And, sometimes you can do some discounts. Sometimes you can't. But I think I think it's important just to be honest about what the costs are, why they are, what they are and be firm, You know, for us, we're not just going to say, "Okay Well, you wanted 50% off and you know, we'll just cut that because we want to deal" that it doesn't do anyone any good that hurts in the long run. I think what's more important is to just, to be honest about what your services cost and, stay firm to that. And if they don't want to pay for it, then the problem is not the price. The problem is that you haven't shown value. Payment terms we mean our terms are you pay us monthly because most of our work is a retainer-based situation. So if you can't do that, we'll work with you as much as we can, but it costs what it costs. So we have to kind of firm to that. Yeah, right. Exactly.

What other major challenges do you face working as a consultant and how do you handle them?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
The major challenge of being a consultant is the act of knowing when to charge and when not to charge. Because my primary role is to help people to guide people along, to give them advice, to manage their projects and to help educate them as to how to do the best they can with their digital marketing. So we, as I said before, we write a lot of blog posts and we're going to do a podcast here soon and so there are various ways that we can put content out there that is very helpful to our current clients and our prospective clients. We could spend maybe two or three meetings of the client discussing strategy and discussing you know what they should do with their digital marketing. But there comes a time when we have to say, here's what it's going to cost from here forward, And I think a lot of small businesses and even sole proprietors who are out there working as solo consultants struggle with that all the time. It is. "When do I have to put my foot down and say, Hey, guys, it's time for charging" because, at the end of the day, people are people. They're going to try to get as much as they can without paying. That's human nature. And you can't fault them for it. You have to help them. Understand that certain thing they have to pay for. So, don't assume that a client's just gonna go, "Oh, I'm sorry. I'm asking you all these questions, go ahead and charge me for that." They're really, never gonna do that. So you have to manage expectations, and you go through it. I think the best thing to do is is to rely on paperwork, to kind of that put that take your sculpture out of it. You say, "here's a proposal for where I think we should go from here." And now you've got a piece of paper that says this is what I cost and to move or do you have to pay that? And so it kind of makes the paperwork the bad cop in this situation is the awkwardness out of it. But, yeah, I think that's important. That's one of the biggest challenges. The other challenge is getting people to have an open mind. I think, there's so much information in that. Anyone can google anything at any time. And there's bad information out there. And I think the biggest challenge that most consultants face is, they have to show the value. They have to be knowledgeable about what they're doing. And they have to be trustworthy and honest and have integrity. And that has to come through in everything they do. Otherwise, your advice is not gonna be taken. And if you want to be successful as a consultant, the advice that you give needs to be highly valued. Otherwise, you're a terrible consultant. You know you're doing something right. So you need that. You need to constantly be putting yourself out there as a thought leader. As somebody who is to go to for various needs in various disciplines and various subject matter. So I think those are big challenges that I think a lot of consultants face. 

What were the responsibilities and decisions that you handled at work? What major challenges did you face in your job?

Based on experience at: President, Wood Street, Inc.
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
 Respnsibilities were sales and project management daily as well and doing some marketing for the company itself. The biggest challenge that I had was bringing in revenue. So it was always finding new business. Working with the clients, to show the value to make sure that I hear everything that they have to say. And so they want to do. they want to sign for the proposal, and they want to do that work with us. The other major challenge, honestly, was always getting materials from the client. You were building websites, so I needed to get branding materials. I needed to get photography. I needed to get content. It was always a stumbling block in every project. And then wrangling stakeholders. So you may be working with the marketing director, But all of a sudden, the CTO decides that they want to chime in on what the Web site should look like. Or what it should do. Or some other manager has a strong opinion in it. And so it was always important to make sure that I made it clear that "hey, this is the time when everybody can give their input on what the website supposed to do and beyond that somebody, one person, every team needs to do be in charge in take that role". So that was always a major challenge. Navigating through the politics of somebody else's company because it's not my company, and I'm not hard there, and I can't tell them what to do. So I have to make sure that we're making it clear to them what the walls could be without telling them what to do. So it's a fine line, but it definitely was important. I had to decide regularly when I needed to put my foot down, because as with anything it's human nature to get the most you can out of some out of someone and so we'd have to say, "Okay, guys let's decide on the design. Let's decide on the content. Let's launch this thing because left to their own devices alot of clients, religious con spin their wheels and just over-analyze every little thing. So one of my responsibilities was really to manage client expectations as well as managing clients and making sure that they understand what their role and responsibility is. And there they have what they need to make a decision and to move forward with things. So, that was always the biggest challenge for me in that role was just managing, actually stations and making sure the clients were doing what they needed to do.

How did the school prepare you for your career? Think about faculty, resources, alumni, exposure & networking. What were the best parts?

Based on experience at: BFA, Photography, Frostburg State University
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
It's funny because I have a fine arts degree and I'm in marketing so they don't exactly go totally hand in hand. But, I did learn a lot about managing projects because I would have projects in the works. I learned a lot about graphic design and design competent composition, which actually helps on a regular basis in managing different marketing tasks. I certainly did learn a lot about networking in school and navigating my way through the art department and meaning different artists and that sort of thing. But I learned a lot about learning. It's that I would say that's my biggest takeaway from college was learning that I need to be open to information as it comes. And I need to seek out new ideas and new inspiration. That was probably the biggest lesson I took from college was learning how to expand my skill set, learning how to expand my thinking and my knowledge base. So that was probably the biggest. And so, if anybody asked me, should I go to college? I would say I think so, yes. I got out of it. Even though I graduated with a bachelor of fine arts and a concentration in photography and sculpture, that's not You know what I do daily, But that doesn't matter. That wasn't the point. The point was to really get a good, solid foundation of a knowledge base that allowed me to drawling those things that I learned in college when I While I'm learning new things from that standpoint, it was incredibly beneficial.

Would you like to share something that is not on your resume? This may include your passions, facing setbacks or adversities, a unique experience, or an unexpected help.

Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
One thing that I learned and I would sort of pass along is through what I'll tell a small store here because I think it's important. When I first started my other company, I was meeting with a client and I play the drums. I've been in bands and I was talking to the client about something to do with recording music and the client got concerned and asked me what my passion was. They implied that if I was passionate about music, I wouldn't be passionate about his website project and I've always sort of thought about that and whether or not he was right and wrong. And I've come to the conclusion that he was very much so wrong. And the reason is that I've always had a passion for music. I love to play the drums. I've been in bands my entire life in a band. Now, that passion, I think is important because if I don't have passion for something other than work, then I have the potential to get very burned out at work because maybe I'm passionate about it for a while. But then I don't have a creative outlet. I don't have something else to balance my sort of my psyche. I'm reading a book called Fan Ocracy right now. And in that, they talk about some companies that only hire people that have another passion outside of their work life. So, because they think that if those people and they've seen it if those people are passionate about something outside of work, they can be passionate too about their work and take that same energy into that job. And so now I work for a guy that plays the guitar all the time, and he's very passionate about music. So it's interesting. I think it's taken me this long to come to terms with that question that that client asked me so many years ago. But I have concluded that he's very much wrong and it's good to have hobbies. It's good to have passions out. I work and I think it helps you learn how to deal with being in bands and playing music. I learned different problems all the skills to and how to work with a group of people, a group of very smart, very creative people on songwriting and that sort of thing. So, I think I think it goes a long way to building yourself as a well-rounded person, worker, manager. Whatever. So Yeah, a rock on, huh?

Do you have any parting advice for aspiring freelancers? What 3 dos and 3 don'ts would you suggest?

Based on experience at: Chief Development and Marketing Officer, Wellspring Search, LLC
Summarized By: Jeff Musk on Thu Mar 12 2020
Know your value. I own that. Don't give things away as much as you can avoid it. You're doing this because you have a passion for it and because you are good at what you do. So don't sell yourself short. Be confident in the fact that you can provide quality service to your client and that service is has a value to it. And you need to get paid for that. The other thing I would say is, is pace yourself. Some people, if they're a freelancer, maybe it's not for them because they don't know how to be disciplined and making sure that they work and get their projects done. But then there's the total flip side where other people are so dedicated and so consumed with it that they worked nonstop and they let other aspects of their life suffer. And I think as a freelancer, I think it's important to set boundaries for yourself and to be disciplined in having a good work-life balance to no one to say, "Okay day's over. I'm gonna go do something else now. Something fun, Something different." So those are two things. And then and then the last thing I would say is don't be afraid to disagree, but at the same time, always remember who you're working for and you're working for the client. You can disagree to a certain extent and you can make your point heard. But at the end of the day and I see this a lot of freelancers at the end of the day, the client's paying the bills so you can only push so far before you got to say, "You know what? This is your being you know what you want. I will do what you want and move on." Those are the three dos and I guess kind of don't, I think it's just important to make sure that you're open opportunities as a freelancer. Because a freelancer could easily turn into full time, full-on business. But be smart about it because as a freelancer, you have to decide do you want this to be a lifestyle thing where you're just paid because you have a certain specific skill, and that's all you want to do? Or are you an entrepreneur? and as a freelancer, I think it's important to kind of make that distinction upfront and be honest with yourself. Am I an entrepreneur? Is this thing do I have You know, this part of me that is gonna want to make this thing full time, full-blown business? Or is this just a lifestyle thing where I have this specific skill? I don't want to manage people. I don't wanna have payroll. I don't want to have a and stuff. I just want to do what I'm good at and get paid for it and call it a day. It was important, to be honest with yourself as you work through that but it's also important. The last thing I'll say is if someone's not paying you, stop working for them. I mean, I see so many freelancers get completely taken advantage of and you have to put your foot down. I hate to make it all about money, but if you want to continue to do what you what you're good at, you need to set the precedent that it does cost money and you do expect to get paid.