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Cutting Through the Noise Is All About Creating Quality Content – with Michael Norris

Michael Norris - The Drag & Drop Podcast
13 minutes read

Welcome back to the Drag & Drop Show!

There are three main types of marketers out there, all working for similar purposes, but in different organizational structures, dwelling with different resources and budgets. The first type works for a full-grown company, usually as part of its marketing department. The second one operates in a multi-purpose agency, and the other one works as an independent freelancer.

In today’s episode, we chose to approach a multi-skilled marketer who is working for a top-notch digital agency. Michael Norris is the CMO of Youtech., a full-service company offering web design and app development solutions, as well as digital and traditional marketing services. 

Michael first started working at Youtech as a Product Manager back in 2015. During that time, his list of tasks consisted of implementing inbound marketing strategies, executing social media plans, and taking on many other marketing projects. In August 2019, he moved up the company ladder and became the Chief Marketing Officer there.

As you are about to find out, Michael has spent the last five years of his career testing out several marketing and advertising approaches for both local shops and big industry players. Maybe the most intriguing aspect of his professional progress is the fact that he is a self-made marketer who managed to adapt to many industries in an ever-changing digital world.

Hit play or keep on scrolling to hear Michael’s perspective of online advertising and what are the steps to follow to become a trustworthy information source for your industry.

Now, let’s drag and drop some ideas from this episode.

Key Takeaways


Transcript

John Biggs: Welcome back! I’m John Biggs. Today, we’ll chat with Michael Norris, the Chief Marketing Officer of Youtech. It seems like the CMO (position) is disappearing. You see a lot of CCOs (Chief Commercial Officers) and a lot of CHOs (Chief Happiness Officers). Are you guys just old fashioned in that way, or what’s the situation? 

Michael Norris: Yeah. You know what? We’re a (digital) agency, so marketing is at our core. It’s in everything we do. We started just by building websites, but really, the marketing cushion has taken off, so I like to think that the CMO position is pretty vital to the organization. Still, we also have a COO (Chief Operating Officer) and a CEO (Chief Executive Officer).

John Biggs: So, as CMO, do you market your own services? Is that the goal, or do you market for clients?

Michael Norris: Little bit of both. A majority of my day is spent on client work, but recently we have taken an interest in marketing ourselves a little bit more. We were built through word of mouth and quality work, but as we get bigger here, we definitely want to practice what we preach, so (to) spend a little bit more time on that (on marketing).

John Biggs: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the biggest question for a lot of folks right now. There’s a lot of service providers, a lot of folks doing software, websites, and some agencies. How do you go from zero to- to 25 miles an hour, let alone 60 miles an hour, which it seems like you guys are hitting?

Michael Norris: So, we started in our CEO’s parents’ basement when he was still in college. He was about 22 at the time, and he’s 28 now… um, uh, 29, sorry. We’ve had the business for about seven years. He’s an entrepreneur at heart. So, what he would do is he would call 100 companies a day and try to sell them $500 websites on WordPress. About 97 of those companies would say no, or even hell no. But three would say yes, and so gradually, he started building the company. 

He had one of his best friends when growing up there with him for the ride and one of his friend’s dads also, who is in IT, who’s kind of the backbone of the whole thing. He’s still pretty much our backbone today. They started to get things off the ground and eventually, we went to our first office space, got a second office space, third, fourth, and added digital marketing services along the way. Because not only would people want websites from us, but they would say: “Well, can you do our SEO?” or “Can you do our PPC?”, or “Our social media?” And that was just how it took off. We started doing those things, and I’ll admit—we’re a lot better at them now than we were in the beginning.

I was about the 10th employee here, and at the time, we probably had maybe 15 clients or so on retainer. And then today we’ve got a little bit over 100, I believe. So, that’s how we built it.

John Biggs: Yeah, that’s pretty wild that you guys started out. Is that what you would recommend for somebody who’s just starting somewhere? That you call 100 places a day?

Michael Norris: I mean, it can’t hurt. I think that today anyone with a website is probably inundated with people trying to sell them SEO services, probably every single day. 

You have to find a way to set yourself out from the crowd, and one of the ways to do that is by picking up the telephone a little bit.

It’s what you put in. I mean, if you’re really just banging your head against the wall and working hard, and pushing and being adamant in getting in front of people and, you know that you do quality work, I think that’s how you’ll start on the right foot.

John Biggs: How did your small, original team know that things would go well?

Michael Norris: You know? It was weird. I mean, we were just a bunch of kids who were straight out of college at the time. I almost want to say that we were naive in that sense and that we just believed we could do it. Maybe we were even a little bit too confident at times, but we learned, and it just all came together. Luckily, we had a really good cast. Most of those people are still here today, and we’ve just learned together, we’ve grown together, we’ve experienced things together, and I’d like to think we’ve gotten a lot better.

John Biggs: What’s the endpoint for a company like yours? Where do you guys want to end up? Do you want to be sold? Do you want to keep doing what you’re doing and get bigger?

Michael Norris: Definitely, right now, we’re in growth mode. We’d love to hit a specific number in terms of monthly, annual revenue and get to that point. We’d love to sell for $100 million or something if we could. We’ve seen some of our competitors take off and do things like that.

Obviously, that will be great, but right now, we just love doing what we’re doing. We’re good at it, and it’s fun. We’ve got a great environment here. My dog is actually in my office with me right now, sleeping on my couch. So, it’s great.

John Biggs: Okay, that’s nice! What kind of online stuff do you guys recommend for product selling? Talking about Creatopy’s, there’s obviously banners, but what are some best practices for online advertising these days?

Michael Norris: I think number one, first and foremost, everyone needs some form of SEO. Really, any business can use it. You want to get found on Google, that’s where people are looking. When they’re in that moment when they’re trying to find something, they go to Google and perform a search, whether it’s voice, whether it’s just traditional search. So, I definitely recommend SEO to anyone.

Outside of that, I think it depends on what it is that you’re doing. If you’re doing service work and you’re in a boring field, social media’s probably not for you. If you’re in a pretty competitive space, like HVAC, I would say that PPC, pay-per-click ads, are going to be great for you. And the same thing with retargeting (ads), banners, all that stuff—that’s really when that comes into play. 

Then if you’re an e-commerce trader, Instagram and Pinterest are a great option for you. So really, I would say there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but at the end of the day, the principles remain the same. You want to get in front of people when they’re making that decision, and depending on how big of a budget you have, if you can brand yourself well prior to that moment, so they recognize your name, they recognize the quality of work that you do.

John Biggs: So say I’m an HVAC team or I’m an HVAC company, what can I do by myself? And when should I hire you guys?

Michael Norris: This is a great question. We’ve worked with massive HVAC companies. We work with a company on the east coast who really does pretty much everything there, and then we’ve also worked with mom-and-pop shops, local to the Chicagoland area. I think that the biggest thing you can do is to run some PPC ads. I’ve seen that work, even for the smallest companies, and even small mom-and-pop shops. 

Google has made it easier now than it was in the past for you to just jump in and figure out how to do it (set PPC campaigns) yourself. There will be a learning curve, you’re going to lose some money on the onset, and there is a learning phase as well, that campaigns go through when you first set them up, with automated bidding. But the beauty in the automated bidding, and of a lot of the automated structure that Google’s put in, is that it can do a lot more than a human can do. Even some skills of the best people running Google Ads 10 years ago are now outdated or unnecessary because of the automation of these campaigns. So, if you can learn the principles of PPC ads, maybe get some Google certifications, take some of those tests, and figure out exactly how to run some of these ads for you, and then just test things, just throw some stuff at the wall and see if it sticks. I think this going to be really good for you in the long run. Then just answer the phone when people call—that’s it. Be friendly.

John Biggs: How do I how much to spend? How do I know when it’s working?

Michael Norris: That’s another good question. It depends on where you’re at, for example, HVAC is an extremely competitive field, so you’re going to throw some money at it. I know that in Chicago, the cost per click for certain terms can range around $25 per click, which is enough to drive some people away right away. But with HVAC is one of those things that you are searching when you probably have an emergency. This is why this term is a high ticket item, and the cost per click is so high. Plus, other people are seeing it be successful, which is why they’re bidding so much, and they are making a ton of money off of it. 

John Biggs: Let’s say I’m sitting here, in Chicago, I got a little place that’s been fixing boilers for 50 years, and I want to create a cost per click ad. Am I going to spend $10,000, or am I going to spend $100,000? At what point do I know that I’m actually getting my money’s worth?

Michael Norris: I would start out with a few thousand and see where it takes you. Because let’s be honest, if it’s your first time doing this and you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not going to be great at it. So, run some stuff and see if you can get a little bit going. If you get a little bit going, look at what’s working, look at what’s not working, and then consider adding more to your budget. So, maybe start out with $2,000, $3,000, then bump that up to $5,000, $10,000, and then to whatever you’re comfortable with after that point. $10,000 a month is probably a great budget, but probably a lot of money for a mom-and-pop shop. Depending on your size, you might not even go that high, but if you see the ROI from it, then it’s worth scaling it as much as you can.

John Biggs: The same question goes for almost anything. I think one thing that people don’t understand is that you basically are going to be paying almost $10,000 a month for marketing. It’s not that PPC ads have gotten more efficient, and they are a lot cheaper now. They are actually really efficient, but only when you reach that sort of a high level of expenditure. Is that a correct assumption? Or is that a little bit cynical?

Michael Norris: Well, yes, and no. If you look at traditional advertising 20, 30 years ago the radio and TV were the biggest things, and if you’re going to run some ads on the radio or especially on television, you’re going to need a really large budget. The same principle applies today. With digital, you can tiptoe into it a little bit more, and even approach it with a $100 budget if you wanted to. Now, I don’t think that you’re going to get anything out of that, to your point, and generally speaking, the more you spend, the better you’re going to do. Like I was saying before, those automation algorithms learn better when they can pick up things a lot quicker.

So, if you’re getting 100 clicks per day, the algorithm’s going to learn that people who use a certain type of browser, on a certain device, who search for this particular term and click on this ad, who make this much money, are the people that are most likely to convert (and buy your products or services). I’ll optimize towards those people rather people who are unlikely to convert. So, the more data input it can have, the better it’s going to perform. With that information, a larger budget will give you better results.

John Biggs: I like that view of things. I’ve spoken to people who are spending hundreds and thousands of dollars on advertising a popular game or a mobile app, and the only way they can get downloads is by paying for ads because things are saturated. 

That’s another interesting question: the world is saturated with things coming up at you. You swipe through Twitter, and you swipe through Instagram, you see five million things hitting you at once. How do you break through that noise?

Michael Norris: This brings me back to one of those original ten people here, at Youtech, we used to be able to set up a company profile on Facebook and post things, and get a ton of organic reach. We’d reach all kinds of new people, and they’d like our post, they’d follow our page, and we’d show up on their newsfeed. 

Nowadays, I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. 

Or, if not impossible, difficult. We have brands that we can generate organic engagement with, but you need to have compelling content. You need to have things that are shareable. You need to be contributing to a discussion, especially on a platform like Twitter or- or even LinkedIn.

To me, cutting through the noise is all about creating quality content. And, to be honest, I think that a podcast is a great way to do that.

That’s an area that’s picking up quite a bit, but I think it’s still on the front side of the wave, it’s not quite crashing down like Facebook yet, for example. It’s very tough, but if you create things of quality that can help people and that they can recognize your brand when they’re looking for something, you’re already a trustworthy source. 

One of the ways that I try to do this is by posting videos on LinkedIn weekly on my personal page. What I do is I walk people through different marketing things (topics), how to install Google Analytics, how to set up HubSpot CRM in three minutes, you know, little things like that. 

Once I went to a wedding and people came up to me, and they were like: “Hey, I watch your videos every week,” you know?, or “Hey, you know, are you guys hiring?”. You never really know who’s watching or who’s looking, but people know what you do. When you’re a trustworthy source, they’ll come to you.

John Biggs: I think that sounds like great advice. I was looking up how to drain a clog, and I found a YouTube channel to help me with that. If I had understood or saw that he was in New York, I would’ve definitely brought him in.

Michael Norris: It’s funny you mentioned that, John. I actually, well, I guess I’m not afraid to admit it, I learned how to tie a tie by watching a YouTube video.

John Biggs: Oh, there you go. See?

Michael Norris: If that (the tutorial) had come from Men’s Wearhouse or something like that with a national presence, I’d probably be more inclined to use someone like that.

John Biggs: Interesting. So that’s a great tip what’s next for your team?

Michael Norris: Well, the sky’s the limit. Right now, content is a really big thing for us, just based on everything you and I were just talking about here.

Things are getting more congested on various platforms, and it’s all about finding those new areas to connect with people and then having that good content at its core. 

We can identify the great channels all we want, but if we’re not putting out something compelling, then it’s just not even worth being on those channels. One thing that we’re trying to build here is our content department, and with that, video—video is our next endeavor. We’ve never really had videographers or anyone of that nature on staff, but more recently, we do. We’re trying just to pound that video content, which can help in various ways. It can help on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and IGTV, and these are our areas of focus right now.

John Biggs: Yeah. It’d be interesting to see if they could do, uh, some kind of SEO management for videos specifically, and maybe video could boost your SEO, but I guess that’s sort of an organic thing. I guess that’s the only place left that’s kind of organic at this point.

Michael Norris: Yeah, I think so, it’s sort of the barrier to entry. A lot of people don’t want to be on camera, and even if they do want to be on camera, they don’t know how to record good videos. You can set up a webcam, and you record yourself talking. Still, if you’re not talking about good things, you’re getting off-topic, or if it’s really poor (video) quality or you have poor audio quality, no one’s going to watch your video. It’s important to have some sort of skill in it. I don’t think that you need to be at that level where everyone was in advertising on TV. I mean, it- it doesn’t need to be a TV commercial quality for you to have some success. What you do want to have some is knowledge, to be able to create something good, and that’ll stick with people. 

YouTube, right now, I think they have two billion logged-in visitors per month, according to our last conversation with our Google reps. That’s just crazy, and the amount of video uploaded each minute to YouTube is unbelievable. So, there’s a ton of content out there, and somehow people keep finding videos, and they keep finding ways to market their videos, even though there’s definitely something I would hit.

John Biggs: All right. Very cool. Why don’t you tell us your website so people can check you guys out? And, uh, how to contact you.

Michael Norris: Yeah. Our website is youtechagency.com. That’s Y-O-U-T-E-C-H agency dot com, and our phone number here, that you can call to talk to me directly is (630) 857-9545. 

John Biggs: All right.

Michael Norris: You can also catch me on LinkedIn, Michael Norris, search for me, you’ll find me, CMO of Youtech. As I said, I post videos every week so that you can watch those, and hopefully, you’ll learn something.

John Biggs: All right. Everybody should call Michael Norris.

Michael Norris: (laughs).

John Biggs: And you guys are right in Chicago, right?

Michael Norris: Yes. We actually have a second location in Scottsdale, Arizona as well. I wish I were there now. It snowed today. It’s rough out here. 

John Biggs: All right. Michael, thanks for joining us. This has been a lot of fun.

Michael Norris: Yeah. Thank you, John. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time today.


We agree with Michael on his theory about standing out in today’s over-saturated digital environment, and this is probably the biggest challenge that marketers face nowadays. We hope that you found this episode insightful and that it inspired you to put more effort into creating quality content.

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The Drag & Drop Show is an original series created by Creatopy.

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