Just about every small business owner can relate to problems surrounding growth.
Greg Head (pictured), Chief Marketing Officer for Infusionsoft, joins Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends for an exclusive one-on-one interview on the topic of systemizing a small business (or “systematizing a small business” depending on which word you prefer), to spur growth. Greg shares his thoughts on that, as well as the tremendous impact this can have on lifestyle, outlook, and optimism – not to mention business sales. Automation, says Head, is the source of freedom and creativity. Read on to see what he means.
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Small Business Trends: How long have you been with Infusionsoft?
Greg Head: It’s been four and a half years.
There have been a lot of changes during that time to the product and the company, haven’t there?
Greg Head: Yes, Infusionsoft wasn’t a startup when I arrived. It was already an up and running company. Over four years ago, we had a hundred and thirty employees and we had four thousand customers.
Today we have over 600 employees, 30,000 customers, and thousands of partners. And we have thousands of people now attending the ICON15 event, and our conference just keeps getting bigger.
At Infusionsoft, we know we’re going to grow bigger. But we’ll still always be as connected to small businesses as we were when we were a small business ourselves.
Our mission is to help small business succeed.
What are the key issues you see small businesses encountering when it comes to their marketing — and why do so many of us struggle?
Greg Head: The marketing problem has to do with driving the things that drive revenues and getting sales and getting cash — and making that consistent.
It’s the number one problem of companies of all size. And it’s especially challenging for small business owners, those in the early stages who are just getting those first revenues and getting out of survival mode.
The challenge for small business owners is that they jump right into the firefight with lots of frenetic activity. Then it’s difficult for them to work on what’s underneath that could make their life a little easier. They aren’t able to figure out which part of all their customers they should really focus on to create a stronger business and how to improve their messaging and their reporting.
A lot of small business owners get stuck in these tactics. It’s especially hard with digital marketing. It’s not like the old days where people called when they wanted to buy. You just wrote it down and maybe there were a few sticky notes.
Now there are 20 different tools with emails flying all over the place. It’s really hard for small business owners to keep track of. Every year, there’s a different tactic they have to add to their marketing toolkit.
So there’s a lot of tactical distraction that keeps small businesses from building a better marketing foundation for growth.
You’ve got 30,000 customers. We know that Infusionsoft is not for everyone, so who is it for? What do you consider the kind of user that’s going to get the most value out of Infusionsoft and perceive that value?
Greg Head: With 27 million small businesses and five million in the U.S. that have 2 to 25 employees, not all of them are online or active or growth-oriented or progressing.
Let’s call the Infusionsoft customer the progressive small business that either wants to grow the business or keep increasing its capabilities and improve.
These businesses are also online. Their customers are coming to them through their website or through their Facebook page. They’re moving beyond just having a simple website and sending an email once a year.
Infusionsoft isn’t the first tool that business owners use when they first go online and send their first emails.
Infusionsoft is what they graduate to.
Infusionsoft is the platform they go to when the system starts to work — when people fill forms in on your website, and you now have a bucket of names and email address you don’t know what to do with.
We handle the problem when you have a flow in your funnel with customers — and all those transactions are starting to kill you.
Another thing is, the Infusionsoft user has a flow of transactions. There’s pain when it comes to that — and an opportunity. The opportunity is to systematize that customer flow to grow your business, so you can convert better on the front end to make more sales and do more business with your existing customers.
Not all businesses have that kind of transaction flow. Some consultants have a few clients every year. A lot of freelancers are like that. They don’t have the problem that Infusionsoft solves.
Other small businesses, though — whether it’s home services, landscaping, real estate or dentists — have a steady flow of transactions.
One of the issues that a lot of small business people have is they are not marketers by trade. Terms like “conversion” and “funnels” — they are not sure what you’re talking about. How do you deal with that?
Greg Head: As part of our kick-start process, we teach a lot about life-cycle marketing. It’s that flow from attracting to selling to delivering and keeping up with your customers. So there’s education provided to new Infusionsoft customers.
From the small business’s side, there needs to be some commitment to understand basic marketing principles. With our educational help, they would understand the flow of attracting traffic, converting leads or converting conversations into sales, and then continuing the conversation with customers.
There’s also a mapping of what’s actually happening in their business. That’s actually the first epiphany, “Oh, my gosh. That’s what it looks like!”
We help reveal that to small business owners. We provide a lot of educational resources so they can understand that.
When there is customer flow, a simple math problem happens. We can do that math pretty quickly. How many customers do you have, and how could you systematize things so you can handle them all more efficiently and get more sales?
For example, every landscaper around Phoenix has 500 to 1,000 customers. Yet they all act surprised when we call in the middle of summer, when you trim your palms out here. You can do that math pretty quickly.
What should happen? The landscaper would collect their customers’ email addresses. Starting in May, they’d start sending an email and scheduling customers out in advance.
When we have those kinds of conversations with small business customers, realization comes pretty quickly.
The great thing about small business is there are opportunities all over the place to do amazing things.
We actually see that as part of what we offer. It’s not just the software, but it’s seeing what’s happening in their business and the education around it and that revelation. Success isn’t just a software problem. It’s everything else that goes along with that.
To small business owners, it’s like, “How come I didn’t know that before?” But nobody teaches this at school, right?
Let’s talk about the Infusionsoft product for a moment. I’m going to hold your feet to the fire here. We know there were some challenges originally with the complexity of the product. The Infusionsoft Campaign Builder seems to have ushered in a new era.
Greg Head: Yes. You see, the company has been around for over twelve years, before Facebook and YouTube and mobile phones.
The product originally was created for people who were relatively technical — for example, the lawyer in Kansas City who knew HTML and stayed up all night digging into it.
Since that early beginning, the product has been going through an evolution. Our goal is to harness the power of automation for business owners who aren’t as technical.
Three years ago, we introduced the Campaign Builder. It allowed people to stitch together all the switches available in Infusionsoft in a visual way.
Now we’re continuing to advance beyond that. Our latest customers say, “That’s nice, but I don’t even want to do that. Can you just give me some pre-made campaigns that I can start with?”
Every year, we’re continuing to deliver more power, without you needing to be an expert. We’re enabling customers to do more things with fewer clicks.
Our partners help tremendously with that, too. Our partners are starting to deliver more packaged solutions to solve specific problems or create a solution for a specific industry — such as for a dentist or a lawyer or a marketing consultant or a real estate agent. The solutions are complete, right out of the box.
That’s just the story of a technology business. We’re making major investments to make our product easier and get people the value faster and solve problems more quickly.
What product development can we expect from Infusionsoft?
Greg Head: Right now, Infusionsoft has powerful tools that when you start, you get a little help from us or a partner and we’ll take the time to create those first landing pages and connect that to a follow-up email you create. It’s a combination of the content you write, the templates for email, the landing page and creative graphics.
There’s a lot of things to stitch together that aren’t just, “here’s my database,” and simple CRM.
At one level, it means simple templates. You might have seven different landing pages to choose from for your particular situation, that are pretty close to what you’re looking for. There’s more of those templates coming.
The next thing on top of that is for people who say, “Well, I’m not even sure what to write in emails and I don’t know what the email sequence should be. What happens when the recipient doesn’t click after seven days? What do you do?” All that kind of stuff. Our partners have created thousands of campaigns. We’ll be able to publish their best campaigns and share them with users.
Eventually, you’ll be able to say, “I just want more of the final answer, including a whole vertical solution. I’m a pediatric dentist. Can you just give me the stack of things, including the final creative, and I can put in my own logos, tweak it and run with it?”
What particular goals as head of Infusionsoft Marketing do you have in mind that you want to share?
Greg Head: Infusionsoft has grown. We have thirty thousand customers.
We’re still early in this journey. Most small businesses are not online, systematized, choosing the path that they want to take.
That’s part of the magic to occur. We’ve been successful reaching the small business owners who are trying to get ahead by investing in their processes.
Part of the marketing job at Infusionsoft is to keep reaching and attracting and growing the business and converting customers. We’re eight years into the ten year journey that the founders set out on when it was a scrappy little company and they said, “Someday, we’re going to be this big company with a hundred thousand customers.”
We’ll be continuing to champion the cause of small business, which we think is not very well understood outside the heads of the small business owners themselves.
Most people think small business owners are crazy. The government and the big companies don’t understand them.
Sometimes business owners wonder themselves. They think, ‘They never told me it was supposed to be this hard, and we’ve got to do all this stuff. I thought I was a dentist. Now I need to be a sales and marketing person, too?’
The magic for small business owners is when they create systems for some part of their business — systems that can make the business a bit easier.
For small business owners, their scarcest resource is time. Unlike a big business that has money and technology, with small business owners, it’s their time. And that’s the biggest crisis going on. The lifestyle business that has no life ….
Being systematic means you automate something, so you don’t have to do it yourself or pay somebody to do it.
Taking a little piece of the business to make it more automatic is part of the magic. It’s where the relief comes from.
The irony is that automation is where freedom and creativity come from. You are freed up when the system runs and you can go back to what you had fun with in the first place.
What else would you like small business owners to know, that we haven’t talked about?
Greg Head: I’d like them to understand that here at Infusionsoft, we know their business challenges are hard. We know because we’ve gone through every step of their journey. We’re on a journey at Infusionsoft, too.
Every small business owner — from the one with a side job to the one saying “I’m actually making revenues” to the one who is hiring staff — is going through stages in this fantastic process.
And it’s hard. It’s confusing. It’s slightly crazy.
But it’s actually the lifeblood of all the great stuff that is useful in the world.
Thirty percent of the jobs in the economy come from those companies with 100 or fewer employees. It’s what builds communities and it makes the next generation of everything. I think it’s the lifeblood of the economy.
And they should know there are people who are going to help them go through that journey.
They will have to keep learning and move their minds a bit to get through the journey. But once they do, they will rediscover the hope they had when they started the business. The freedom feeling and the superhero feeling and money in the bank and all the rest of that.
We know it’s way harder than it used to be in small business, and that’s why we exist at Infusionsoft.
This interview on systematizing a small business is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking executives, entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview was recorded at the ICON15 conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The transcript has been edited for publication.
Images: Small Business Trends More in: Infusionsoft