Off The Record: An Informal Conversation with DMTG’s Marketing Director, Joe Schaefer
Off The Record: DMTG’s Marketing Director, Joe Schaefer
Cassie Barnes is a college student about to embark on a career in digital PR. Cassie reached out to Digital Marketing Training Group’s Marketing Director and Lead Instructor, Joe Schaefer, for a fall school project. The project required Cassie to find seasoned digital marketers and through an initial ‘discovery’ interview (information collecting) to better understand the nature of DMTG’s business, she was then to interview the subject — our own Joe Schaefer.
Below is the result of that informal interview exchange.
Digital Marketing Training Group’s program is designed so that everyday people don’t have to have prior tech or marketing experience to run a digital marketing agency (their own business, not a franchise).
The way it works after class is new agency owners simply find clients, where then DMTG’s professional marketing geniuses will do all the work to generate measurable results for the new agency owner’s clients under their own company name to preserve their branding identity.
I met up with DMTG’s marketing director and lead instructor, Joe Schaefer, to ask him a few questions about training, but not the details of what happens exactly in class. Instead, I asked questions more about Joe’s experiences with the industry and the training itself. Various people from all walks of life come to the training every month from all over the country.
About Joe Schaefer: Marketing Director & Lead Instructor
Joe brings over 16 years of agency and freelance Digital Marketing & SEO experience to the Digital Marketing Training Group.
Having worked for nationally-recognized Internet Marketing firms over the years, Joe brings those strategies, lessons learned, and tactics to the various clients, niches, and graduates that the Digital Marketing Training Group works with on a daily basis.
Off the Record: A Conversation with DMTG’s Joe Schaefer
Q: What is the first impression people have when they start training on day one?
A: Great question! And the answer is probably not what you think. More often than not, we notice that people arrive on day one and there is a feeling of relief. When they step off the elevator and realize that DMTG is a real place, with real people, and real training — they relax quickly.
You have to remember, it’s a huge leap of faith to travel from all over, get to the hotel, find that a hotel room truly is waiting of them, and then to walk into the offices and find a real, experienced marketing team waiting for them — with bells on — it has a huge impact on them.
People from all walks of life spend hard earned money and give up a lot of time to come to us — their expectations are high, but so is their anxiety — although we walk everyone through the expectations before they get here — it’s still a huge unknown to many of them.
Q: What is their impression at the end of training?
A: I haven’t had a negative comment or any impression of dissatisfaction yet. I think a very common thing people express is the fact that class is not one long, 40-hour lecture for 5 days. People seem to appreciate and truly learn from the way we present and immediately get people involved with group projects, visual examples, and the ability to ask questions to the team in a one-on-one setting.
For example, when we have a group discussion about not ‘counting all your eggs’ before taking care of the chicken, I have an actual chicken prop and eggs — now, I know that makes no sense to the reader at first, but I’m a true believer in teaching people by using visuals and stories that they can relate to. That way, the learning happens in a scaffolding way — by connecting new ideas to things people already know and understand, they grasp the basic concepts quickly, then we build on those!
Q: What is the lesson behind the eggs and the chickens?
A: Are you asking me to give away the secret sauce (laughs)?
In a nutshell, think of this concept through a question, “Did you count all your eggs and ignore the chicken?” Through discussion and my trusty chicken and egg props, I describe how a person, a farmer, or even a grocer can’t expect to have a lot of eggs — healthy eggs — before they build a strong and healthy chicken. With me so far?
With a business and their online presence, business owners typically want to know how much money they are going to make or how many new customers they are going to get from a marketing campaign — when in all reality, those are the eggs — and, we can’t deliver all the healthy eggs until we give a lot of attention to making sure the chicken is strong, healthy, and always able to produce awesome eggs.
This doesn’t translate as well by me describing the lesson — but let’s take it a step further. Let’s use a business website as an example. If a business owner is selling widgets on the site and she wants to sell more widgets (those are the eggs), the marketing agency has to first make sure the website is doing its job and is in ‘good health’ (that’s the chicken) — attracting the right people, keeping them on the site, engaging them, walking them through the path to the sale, and so on. So, if you want to get the business owner more ‘eggs’, you have to educate the business owner on building, maintaining, and redeveloping a better chicken.
Trust me, this is much better in the groove of class — not so great in print I’m sure (laughs)! I’m sure it will come off as elementary to some when they read this, but that’s but one of many examples of how our classes are different and not just a droning lecture or stale training video that has to fight for your attention and keep you from pressing the ‘pause button’ to go get a snack and not come back for a week (or more).
Q: It sounds like that example is an analogy that new digital agency owners could also use when talking to business owners who can’t yet wrap their heads around digital marketing. Do you agree?
A: Very insightful of you! Yeah, I agree — but part of that prospecting and pitch process depends on being able to read the business owner. That analogy can definitely work, but you have to be careful not to make it too simple for business owners who can be more savvy than you think. It’s that classic sales tightrope. Which, by the way, is another analogy we use when teaching about digital marketing sales.
But, back you your comment — so many of the things I say in class, the lessons, the mantras, the reminders for the self, the stories I tell — they all have multiple reasons why I tell them. They apply to so many situations and concepts in the process of learning how to think like a marketer, digital marketing itself, sales, and more.
Q: How often, then, do you update or change the curriculum or training content?
A: Ah, that’s a question that has a lot of answers.
Basically, no class or week of training is the same way twice. My main digital marketing deck, I have a different deck for digital services themselves, is probably 200 to 250 slides long. We never go through them all.
I add things, remove things, re-arrange things every class week. It depends on the progress we make in class from day to day, the types of questions I get, the level of engagement I get on a daily basis, the level of experience in the room — you have to remember, I have to teach this to a wide spectrum of people from month to month — in any given class, I can have an airline pilot with zero marketing knowledge and a seasoned SEO in the same class — so, there’s that tightrope I mentioned — I walk the tightrope too, every day in class.
During class week, I typically start each day at 2am and I don’t leave the building until every question is answered and all the attendees go back to the hotel. So, that’s typically 6pm every night. So, I start at 2am, reflect on the day before and I get busy re-arranging and adding and editing the day’s training content. No two classes are the same.
The structure and outline is always the same, and we can talk about how marketing is always marketing, but the content and means of delivery varies from month to month. That’s also why I encourage our graduates to come back for refreshers when they can. And, there’s no additional charge for returning for a refresher.
Q: Do those lesson changes include changes in the industry?
A: Of course. A common thread in this industry is that “it’s always changing.” Which, by the way, is a misleading statement. So on one hand that’s true, but I can argue on the other hand it’s not true.
Q: How So?
A: Like I said, marketing is marketing. The basic reasons why we are marketers, the need for marketing, it’s basically always the same and has been since the dawn of, well, marketing itself.
But, the strategies change, the tools and data availability changes, the search engine rules change, how people search, where they search, the phrases they search with all change — and so on.
But all in all, marketing is still just marketing. For example, in the 80s and 90s and 2000s, marketers started gaining access to, started distilling, and started shaping their strategies based on new forms and availability of data.
If we think of the days of television commercials, the data available to marketers and media buyers and business owners was what it was — and it worked for a long time — but think about this — what if advertisers and their business-owning-clients could better target their product-purchasing audience with television commercials that only played for that specific audience? Follow me?
In those days, with traditional marketing, advertisers had good data that they based media buys on, but they were still throwing messages at the wall and aiming to get it to stick. They had very little choice whether the television viewer got up out of his chair during commercials and got a snack. That can be super expensive.
With digital marketing, there’s so much more going on here — not only can advertisers be much better at targeting the exact audience and only pay for that advertising, the data availability today helps us to better shape the messaging based on very granular data — not just focus groups made up of specific product-consuming people.
Then, with the data we can access, we’ve become much better at understanding what is making people tick. A basic example would be the fact that when people feel like ‘they found you, your product, your brand’ — at least in some cultures, especially the American culture, they seem to be more likely to be open to your messaging. It’s really just the swap in of inbound marketing psychology and tactics for traditional outbound (I like to call it ‘interruption marketing’) marketing.
Q: You mentioned ‘reflection’ from the previous day of classes. Would you mind sharing a mistake or flaw you’ve come across over the course of all the trainings you’ve done?
A: Nothing like putting me on the spot! Gee, I have to think about that one. Ok, I know one that is a personal struggle that I’m always working on. Every day at the beginning of class, now keep in mind I’m not a nervous public speaker, but the beginning of every class finds me looking for my ‘groove’. Once I’m in the groove, we’re off and running. But, it seems to be a personal struggle to get to that groove — though, I can say that I get my groove in the first 5 or 10 minutes.
Here’s my example. I used to play live music, a lot. And even though I know I have the talent, I always had to choose a song to start with that I knew I could do in my sleep. But, that song also had to really have an impact — the point is, I had to gain a comfort level with the moment, the crowd, the stage, the sound guy, my equipment — it all made me slightly nervous before hitting the first note. But once I get through that song and I found the mood of the room and was confident with all the other stuff, I found my groove and played my set.
Same with class — it takes me a quick minute to get to the groove, but once I’m there, very little shakes me.
Q: What is it that drives you to continue trying to improve each training from month to month?
A: My gut tells me it all goes back to my passion for technology and my sincere passion for this industry. Part of that comes from my lifelong attraction to all of it. I’m 49 years old and I was about 13 years old when I first became enamored by computers and computer technology. Thanks to my dad.
Another part of it comes from my need for ongoing self-improvement. For me, once a person feels that they have perfected or mastered something, they’re only fooling themselves. There’s not only room for learning more or improving, but even when you’re feeling pretty good about a subject, you have to exercise those muscles — whether physical or mental. So, as I gain more knowledge or figure out a better way to convey that knowledge to others, I honestly get a huge rush from it and it is really very exciting for me. My fellow nerds may agree with that, but it’s also a personal goal of mine to get better at this craft and to get better at helping people have that same knowledge.
Q: At 49 years old, do you ever feel out of place with the younger generation that appears to be more savvy and reliant on technology?
A: (Laughs). No, not at all. It’s an inside joke at the office, that I’m a dinosaur in the industry, but there are many dinosaurs in this industry. In any industry, really.
Think about it, what can we learn from a dinosaur? What to do and what not to do, of course!
Q: Having been around since this industry was an industry, what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
There isn’t just one. That’s for sure. But at the top of my mind is the fact that everything we all currently use in our lives, even our entertainment — I find myself to be hard-pressed to find anything truly unique. In other words, most everything is a remix of a remix. The things we know and use in our lives are just repurposed pieces and parts from something else.
Q: Really? Like what? What’s an example?
A: Well, do you drive? Do you have a car?
A: Okay, well, the popularization and mass production of the first more affordable automobile is attributed to Henry Ford. Ford mass produced the first affordable automobile and the rest is pretty much history.
But the fact is, Ford didn’t invent the automobile. Ford didn’t invent interchangeable parts. Ford did not invent the assembly line. What he did was, he saw the potential of mixing those 3 concepts in order to come up with something new. See where I’m going?
If you think Apple and Steve Jobs created some sort of miracle device in the iPhone, you’d be wrong again. Touch screens? Not an Apple invention.
Have you ever been to the hospital and seen the tables for patients that have wheels on the bottom, a brace on the side and a tabletop — the hospital staff can move the table in front of the patient and remove it all without disturbing the patient. My grandfather on my father’s side had a patent for that useful device — he didn’t invent casters, or wheels, and didn’t invent flat tabletops; he mixed the ideas to come up with a means of convenience for both the patient and the staff.
The same can be said about the websites and apps and content we encounter online — the majority of it is just re-packaged and repurposed ideas with a twist. Or a combination of a few things from here, a few things from there. With that said, the possibilities seem endless regarding what we can do, create, offer, and even sell online.
Q: So technology runs in the family?
A: Yeah, in some cases. My grandfather, the one with the patent, was a smart tinkerer. An inventor of sorts.
My grandfather on my mother’s side was an early adopter and educator with regard to modern technology.
Although he was a talented physicist, he dedicated a huge portion of his career to technology education, many decades before the home computer. So while he wrote physics textbooks, he was also principal of Brooklyn Technical High School.
Brooklyn Tech is a proven leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based education. That school’s mission is to inspire and challenge potentially high achievers to maximize their talents for the benefit of society.
I can remember as a young kid rooting through his basement on Long Island and playing make-believe scientist with tech equipment of the 70s (laughs).
Q: What are some future trends that you see coming?
A: Well, there are many trends that I think about all day, everyday. So, while I’ve been pretty good at spotting trends early on, my wife would agree, I can sometimes be wrong (laughs).
But really, what you don’t read about too much, or even hear in the general, on-the-surface, conversations, conferences, and marketing blogs is how the ever-popular buzz word and strategies — based on inbound marketing — those common conversations ignore the creeping back in of a form of outbound marketing. It’s kind of a hybrid.
So, we often think of the way we market digitally as inbound as opposed to the days of outbound marketing; the fact is, those lines are blurring rapidly.
Q: Can you explain?
A: Well, let’s define the two. Outbound marketing (dinosaurs like me would refer to radio, TV, and billboards as outbound) is a business initiating the conversation and sending its message out to their audience. Inbound, as most define it, is where a business’ message is found by the potential customer on their time and when they need to find that message.
With that said, inbound became partly popularized based on the data we had in order to make that form of marketing work. And it does. And it will continue to do so; however, those inbound and outbound lines are blurring.
Again, based on availability of data, we’re able to target desired audiences with messaging in a slightly different manner — it’s targeted outbound marketing. In other words, the better we get at being able to find the exact audience — and we’re spending more time on that these days than ever, the opportunities to target them with messaging is slightly different.
Think like traditional outbound — if in the 1980s we had a better, a much better, way of knowing exactly what TV shows and times that our desired audience was going to be watching — in a more exact manner, and then if we could only show our commercials to those exact people; we would save advertising dollars, sure, but we would also have a better opportunity to get the right messaging, in the right places, at the right times, using the right pain points to solve the right issues in a highly targeted manner.
We’re so much better equipped to do that today, online. And with the right content and messaging, we’re basically able to perform targeted outbound marketing. Though, I’m cautious enough to say that by no means should we ignore inbound as we know it.
Of course, until broad social platforms shrink into compartmentalized communities (many, in my opinion will become more private and brand-focused or even topic focused) rather than the current illusion of freedom and individuality of our individual profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever else seems to be the social flavor of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, organic search has a special place in my heart, but even that, to an extent — based on SEO strategies and the data we have access to, is strangely a certain form of targeted outbound marketing. To an extent! I have to add that!
Q: Illusion? Social media illusion? What is that?
A: All in all, if something is free online, most likely it’s you being sold. In other words, platforms like Facebook are really just advertising platforms disguised as a ‘social community’ connecting the world. Or, to be more matter of fact, it’s a place to go click ads, only it has another benefit — it’s a place to also post pictures of your lunch for all of your friends and family to see (laughs).
And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not down on that — television of the days of old were kind of the same; television shows needed a way to ‘fund’ the shows that were created via ads, but eventually it felt like a box for advertising that happened to have entertaining or informative viewing content. Does that make sense?
The timeline of television entertainment, news, and television content in general, later started to feel like better shows were being created in order to attract more viewers, in order to sell more ads — in a way, television became an advertising platform that had content to keep you watching and experiencing more and more diverse ads.
In terms of social media, while we all feel like our profiles are ‘ours’ and that our collection of friends and family connected to us in our profiles is somehow this amazing free service that has magically connected the world — that’s somewhat secondary to the platform’s owners and future of the existence of the platform. It’s just that the general public doesn’t see it that way; that, therefore, is the nature of the illusion I’m referring to.
Q: Interesting. What’s one thing you hope attendees walk away with from training?
A: Obviously they train with us so they can own, run, and grow their own businesses. And in my experience in the industry and the many agencies I’ve worked, a common thread has been to sell the services. I think that is completely backwards.
The everyday business owner doesn’t want you to jump into a conversation with, “You know what you need!? You need PPC! You need SEO! I can help your business by optimizing your website!”
I want the digital marketing agency owners that we train to think differently — sell the solution to the business owner’s problem. The services themselves are the means and tools to get to that solution, but they should rarely be at the forefront of the initial conversation.
Q: What does the future hold for DMTG’s training?
A: I’m really excited about some new things on the horizon. We’ll be launching a CRM and an Automated Marketing Dashboard that is truly going to revolutionize the way our attendees do business, organize their business, and with us designing and adding newer services, they be able to order our services directly from the dashboard — at wholesale cost, of course.
Plus, we are now featuring another service (at no additional charge) that offers each attendee pre-determined and researched local clients. There are already various means of which we drive leads and coach people on how to find clients, but this is truly helpful to them — providing them with hot potential leads in their home region that they can practically reach out to and pitch right away. We do that from the get-go. Class week is when you get your first batch, then we provide them monthly.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I mentioned Henry Ford and his knack for pulling in the best of other ideas to create something more unique and valuable. That’s what we’ve done with DMTG and what we’ll continue to do. In other words, we looked into all of the other training options out there, including super expensive and less effective franchise opportunities in the digital marketing training space. We combined all the great things about them, cut out all the really negative things — or fixed them — and then brought in fresh ideas. We didn’t invent digital marketing, training, SEO, social media, or Google — we created a hybrid of all things great about digital marketing training and business opportunities and we’ve come up with a winning formula. And if you think our competition isn’t watching, they are.
We do all of this, not just to be different, but in all honesty, our attendee’s success is important to us — if they aren’t winning, we aren’t winning, and we like to win. And, a huge part of why we’re doing this is to give back to an industry that gave us so much — basically, we know there are a lot of half-baked-idea-toting snake oil salesman marketers out there, so, we’re trying to bring new agencies to life every month in an effort to increase the availability of quality, ethical, results-driven marketers to the table.