How To Create A Business (Our Story)
Most of our messaging is about you because at the end of the day our focus is to help you grow your business through ridiculously effective marketing. In this mini-series, you’ll get to know us as an agency, what makes us different, and things you might take away to grow your own business.
We hope you enjoy it and as always, if you’re looking to grow your business, contact us today to get a quote and find out how easy it can be to grow your business.
Starting a business
Growing a business can be hard, but you’ve made it this far. Knowing where to invest your marketing capital can be scary because you’ve worked so hard to earn it or you’ve been entrusted with it and don't want to disappoint the people who committed it to you. We understand both of those feelings well. That’s why I started Caffeine Marketing.
My journey with marketing started long before Facebook or Instagram had come around. My first experience marketing to grow a business was with my grandfather and my dad. My Grandfather began Knox Jewelers nearly six decades ago in Atlanta, Georgia. My Dad eventually came along and started a diamond wholesale company that operated out of Knox Jewelers as well. I’ve grown up around brilliant business leaders and entrepreneurs. I saw the blood, sweat, and tears that went into each day building and scaling a business.
Between my Dad and Grandfather, I developed a lot of empathy for the small business owner. These feelings not only sparked a desire in my heart to start my own business but to help others grow theirs. As a student, I helped my Grandad not just around the shop but with marketing initiatives he dreamed up. He majored in marketing like me and was my mentor in that regard. He taught me the basics as well as how to leverage brand awareness, develop a holistic view on marketing, and branding.
Fast forward a few, and I’ve run a handful of little businesses that were great learning experiences and even experienced selling a company I built to someone else. At the time, I was ecstatic about selling. All of this led up to me marketing for a non-profit in Charlotte, North Carolina. After running their paid advertising and social media for a while, the idea sparked that I could do this for multiple companies at the same time. From there, I built a business plan, and we moved down to Atlanta where I grew up.
We moved down to Atlanta at the beginning of 2017, and that’s when I started Caffeine Marketing under the name Knox Media in honor of my Grandfather.
Choosing a Atlanta Digital Marketing Agency
So why Atlanta, Georgia and why another social media/digital marketing agency? These are great questions. Maybe you’re aware of this, but there is a surprising number of people and agencies that are essentially selling snake oil. Deception is in every industry, but I feel that it’s exceptionally accurate for the advertising industry.
It’s possible a marketing agency like that has taken advantage of you before, or a person has promised something they couldn’t deliver on. I always imagine a shoddy guy trying to sell you SEO for $1,000 a month and never does anything but take your money. Beyond ethics, here is the problem with that; there is a massive opportunity for businesses to grow, but they're paralyzed in fear. They don’t want to be taken advantage of and also don’t know how to invest money to make it flourish.
We’re here to change that.
We seek to deliver an exceptional return on investment for our clients and be as transparent as possible. It’s hard being the CEO or CMO, and we think marketing is one less worry you should have.
So why Atlanta?
It was admittedly more of a God thing than a strategic move. We (my wife and I) felt like we were supposed to move down to the Atlanta area, so that’s what we did. Looking back, if I were trying to be strategic, if I were thinking about a city and people I cared about, I would pick Atlanta again. There are so many businesses in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s fantastic! It’s full of innovation and great people. It’s notoriously diverse for the Southeast, and it's also my hometown. What more could we ask for? Honestly, ski slopes and mountains would be a great addition! :)
What does this mean for you?
Care more about the people you’re serving than making money, and you’ll find a whole lot more purpose in what you’re doing.
Follow your intuition, and don’t be scared to do it. Life is SO short, and you really don’t know when will be your last. Just do it.
If you’re in or out of the Atlanta metro area, we’d love to talk and see if we can help you grow your business in revenue and maturity.
Maybe you’ve had a great idea but were not sure where to start. I get that, I was there. When I was laying the groundwork for Caffeine Marketing, I did not have the answers, but I learned a ton along the way. Maybe you’ve heard of the term bootstrapping. That is mainly our story; I’ve always hated owing people money so from the get-go we were not going to take out any loans. I also wanted to have total control over the business so that it would fit the goals I had in mind. I’m certainly not against a partnership, but for where I was in life, I didn’t want the added pressure. Side note; I’m feeling a little weird about how many “I”s I’ve used so far. Anyway, back to business formation.
I highly suggest you take this route.
You are welcome to do a partnership, but make sure it’s with the right person. If you choose this route, I suggest bringing someone in who makes up for your weaknesses. A light-hearted example is that my grammar and spelling are terrible. I need to either: factor in that I need to outsource editing or find a partner who can excel at that. But I would not suggest taking out money to start your business, at least to start.
I’m sure there are scenarios where you don't have a choice, and that’s okay, but think through every possible way you can make it happen without borrowing first. It will become a distraction and keep you from carrying out high-risk decisions because of your responsibility to pay investors or a loan back.
So anyway, Caffeine Marketing was bootstrapped. I wanted to keep overhead as low as possible, so I started in our kitchen and tried to minimize any recurring expenses. We are formed as an LLC and maybe one day might switch to a C-Corp, but for now, the LLC provides some liability protection as well as the flexibility and low overhead.
How to price your products and services
How to figure out pricing for a digital marketing agency?
That’s a great question, and it’s taken us a few tries to figure out what works best for our clients and us. I researched what other agencies were charging, and I first tried that. Honestly, I think that’s a helpful data point, but it’s not something you should attempt. You have no idea about other companies finical information, and you’re also not them.
Instead, a client gave me some advice to itemize all of our hours and overhead and see how much it costs you. After that, factor in how much you wanted to make. This insight was SUPER helpful. I imagine a lot of other agencies either have huge margins or a high overhead based on their prices.
What does this mean for you?
So if I’m you and you are in the service business, figure out how much time it takes to do the series you’re offering and then calculate how much you want to make per hour after fixed expenses. If you’re new to this, determine the bottom amount you need and start there to build up a base of clients so you can grow into the higher price as demand allows.
If you’re selling a product, determine your fixed and variable cost, and now you know what you need to break even. Following that, you can add a margin. Sounds simple, but it’s way better than just guessing what you should charge based off the competition.
Don’t buy a bunch of crap you don’t need.
Before you launch, hire us to consult for you so you can capitalize on those first few months of you’re business and strategy.
How to find your first Clients
Finding your first clients can be hard. Don’t be dismayed and don’t give up too early. Getting started might be the hardest part. When we started as a social media agency, it was pretty tricky to land our first client. If that’s you, we understand what It feels like to have little to no track record or reviews but believe in what you’re doing. That was us.
We started by offering some people our services for free or at a hugely discounted rate. I can’t decide if I would suggest this or not. It was pretty terrible. But maybe it’s necessary. That’s why makes you so unique if you’re an entrepreneur. You understand that you have to sacrifice and be patient initially to be successful in the long run. You need to live like no one else today so you can live like no one else tomorrow.
My wife and I had saved up a little bit of money, and she was employed so I could focus full time on building Caffeine. All of this is not to say that you have to do what we did. If you are employed and want to start something, I don’t suggest quitting to start it. Come in an hour or two early to work, and you’ll get a free office and an additional workday in the week just for your new business. Doing so will also allow you to be patient since you will still have a roof over your head.
We DM’d a LOT of people on Instagram. I’m sure we came off spammy, and it was super humbling how much rejection we got on social media. But in the middle of that, we switched tactics and found people who were like us who we could grow with, and we liked what they were doing. Some of the people we helped grew their business, and now they can afford us today. That gave us case studies, new friends, and some confidence that we could legitimately make a difference.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re in the service industry, you may want to discount your service to get proof of connections. A word of advice though, don’t work with jerks. They will only drag you down and discourage you. It’s better to work for free with someone you like rather than get paid minimally to work with someone who keeps you up at night.
If you’re selling a product, give your product away for free to a few key influencers or let people try it for a few days and ask for reviews. That will help create a network effect.
How to stabilize company growth
After we got our first few clients, revenue and new clients skyrocketed. The issue, though, was that we hadn't laid it on a solid foundation. That’s okay though, it was a learning experience, and we grew from it. So what happened?
After signing up a few clients, I honestly got a little excited and started taking on clients without really investigating what their current situation or future goals. In addition to this, I compromised by working with people I thought might be challenging to work with. I don’t suggest that.
One of the clients we took on without much investigation had a poor business model and were fronting that they were a larger company than they really were. It’s okay to be small, but the services you need are different than if you are already an established business. Sadly, they eventually shut down (and quite abruptly). Another client ended up figuring out they had some legal issues and had to shut down the operations as well. So there we were two of our largest clients gone within the same month. Thankfully, we have kept our overhead low and went on.
Lesson learned, stay away from questionable businesses if it doesn’t feel right to begin with. That’s probably a sign we shouldn’t have taken them on.
What does this mean for you?
Don’t comprise on clients for the sake of growth. If you are willing to be patient, you will experience more fulfilling and long-term growth.
Do your due diligence. If businesses aren't transparent about their situation, take note. There is probably something bigger at play.
If you’re selling products, quality and ethics always win in the long run.
Finding your Company’s Rhythm
Eventually, we figure out who we are and what we’re great at. If you’re not already there, it’s okay; we’re all still learning. We found that small businesses and entrepreneurs are our jam. We care more about them and their success than just building our own company which no one will remember 200 years from now.
We’re here to grow other peoples' businesses in maturity and revenue. Right now, this is primarily through consulting and a few digital marketing services. The landscape might shift as it did with the introduction of Google Keywords and then Social Media Marketing. We’ll be agile and shift based on what is going to make our clients the most successful, not what’s going to make us the most money.
In the midst of growing other companies, we grow. We try to help our clients see a holistic view of their branding and marketing and take advantage of things that will give them the most return on their investment. At the time of writing this, social media marketing (both organic and paid) are significant investments. In another blog, I will focus on each type of business, what state they are in, and how to bring them to the next level.
Want to have a personalized coaching session so you can have an expert and objective view on your business? Contact us today. We understand it’s hard when you’re so close to your work that you can’t think objectively about it.
What this means for you
Find what makes you unique and stick to it.
Get help so you can see meaningful growth.