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Building A $2M-3M/year Link Building Service for SEOs and Marketing Agencies

Learn how Adam started his $3M/year SEO agency.

1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?

My name is Adam Steele, and originally I’m from Canada. Loganix is the marketing arm of agencies and businesses.

Our marketing departments take care of the minutiae involved in marketing that other businesses don’t want to do, like SEO. This generally means less headcount for them, fewer folks to manage, and better margins on the products or services they sell.

I started 10 years ago. I had seen similar companies; their success and their style of working were very attractive to me. They were affiliate marketers, so while I didn’t end up doing the same, I latched onto it. I was interested in the way they were marketing advertisers’ products and felt that I could do the same, but for small businesses.

At the time, I wasn’t aware that there were digital marketing companies, so I didn’t know what to call it then. I found a very niche offering. I began by submitting to local business directories like Yelp, specifically for digital marketing agencies that had locally based clients.

I was on an internet marketing forum with a buy, sell, trade section where others would market their products and have a PayPal purchase button at the bottom of the thread — so I just replicated that. In a way, this was my MVP. 

My first hire was a Filipino gentleman from about 9 years ago and is still with us today. We work with both full-time and part-time subcontractors — we don’t have actual employees, per se.

We were making within $3million/year pre-COVID; this year we imagined ourselves at $5M, but that is not going to happen (which is very okay). Despite the situation, I feel very positive about it and I’m grateful that we only saw about a 50% reduction in business and not more, that we still have a viable service and people continue to buy from us.

2. How do you attract and retain your customers?

If I were to look at Google analytics, it would tell me that the greater majority of our clients come in by a direct means, which usually means they’re coming in from word of mouth or for reasons that aren’t necessarily directly related to specific marketing efforts. 

The next chunk of folks come from organic means, through search engines that are searching for various keywords and finding us that way. 

The last chunk comes from our paid marketing efforts like people retargeting. As far as retaining – I don’t know that we necessarily do anything very deliberate, but we always try to make sure that the folks that we have in support really care about our customers and will do their best to go the extra mile for our customers. On my side of things, as somebody who spends a lot of time thinking about our products, I’m just trying to make products that are valuable enough that somebody might order it a second time or continue to order from us.

3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?

Having a virtual team is always a challenge. It would be better to have people that you could just tap on the shoulder because they’re next to you or they’re just a couple of desks from where you’re sitting. There will be challenges around people’s ability to focus or stay on task and to put in as many hours as, as we hope for them to be able to without the distractions of the day or the distractions of working from home. But there are arguments for both sides because some people are more productive and happier working from home.

There were a lot of technology problems – simple things like getting my website hooked up with paperwork, connecting Stripe, and making the buying experience as simple as possible. In the early days, I had to learn how to do very basic coding. While I got better at doing that, eventually I was able to hire people that are much better than myself.

Leading off of that, finding terrific people who could work remotely is also a challenge. While there are people that are great at what they do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a good fit or well-suited for a remote lifestyle. Over the years I’ve hired a few of the wrong people and it’s had adverse effects on the company culture as well as customers leaving, in some cases. Sometimes it’s not about hiring the wrong person, but putting the wrong person in a certain role.

My personal challenge is that I’m not a particularly strong money manager. One of the best things about my current business partner is that money management is a strong suit that he geeks out on, so by merging my company with his, it became less of a problem.

Being a manager has also been a challenge for me. I’m learning how to be more empathetic, to listen more and be more thoughtful in replies to my team members. My mother – a manager and business owner – has said that managing people is a lot like raising children.

what she means by that is you can’t manage each of your children the exact same way. Every child requires a slightly different management style. Being empathetic, understanding where each individual employee is coming from and what their situation is and then coming up with an approach that is suitable for them specifically has been a challenge from day one and continues to be a challenge.

There are a few things I would’ve done differently. Earlier on, when I was starting my business, I was using my credit card – not a wise move. Putting off hiring a bookkeeper was also a mistake. The taxes eventually caught up with me.

4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?

Tools like Slack, UberConference, any of Google’s suite of products – sheets, docs, drive. We use Asana and previously Trello. Evernote has been valuable for personal note-taking and planning out my day, week, month, etc. We use Zapier to connect our different apps. We used MailChimp, but switched to Active Campaign for tracking customer behavior, automating welcome sequences, etc. We’ve used Intercom for a number of years and it’s been great for live chatting customers and using it as a knowledge base.

Traffic Think Tank is one of my favorite marketing event conferences, and it’s virtual (and free) this year. 

Some books I would also recommend reading:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half The Time by Jeff Sutherland
  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (a classic)
  • The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (made me rethink a lot of the things I was doing)
  • The Alliance by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman

I’ve also subscribed and listened to many podcasts over the years. The two I would highly recommend most are The Joe Rogan podcast and the classic Tim Ferriss podcasts. Both would usually lead me to other episodes on other podcasts that are quite helpful.

As far as decisions, partnering with my current partner, Aaron, was a terrific one especially given the times that we are in. If I were doing this alone, I certainly would not be weathering this storm. Lucky to have him.

5. What is your advice for those that are starting productized services?

Firstly, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to create something that is brand new, never been done before. There are a lot of folks out there that are doing really well just offering something slightly different from what their competitors are doing.

It’s very human to feel discouraged early on and want to throw in the towel. Wanting to quit is normal, not because someone is weak – it’s just a human emotion. In this event, you need to get a win (or a few) and build momentum. That can be quite easily achieved by doing what someone else is doing, just better or different. They have already proven there’s a market, so you don’t need to create one. If you’re starting out, lean towards the easier path.

Secondly, find the right software to sell your services. It’s easier than trying to build your website and your systems by yourself. I would encourage you to look at what already exists and is inexpensive to start off. Most can go for less than $100/month.

6. What are your plans for the future?

We had a lot of goals and plans for what this year would look like. Obviously, there’s been such a huge change and we’ve had to adapt and evolve. We’re going to be living in different worlds in the short term and perhaps in the long term as well.

Right now we’re in survival mode, watching our cash flow every week to make sure we’re not sending more money out the door than we’re taking in. So for now, we just want to make sure we retain as many good people as possible. There’s not a lot of focus on growth metrics like revenue. We’re doggy paddling. 

7. Where can we learn more about you? 

Check out Loganix.com and see what we’re publishing on our blog.

You can get in touch through our Slack community, follow my Twitter (@AdamGSteele), or email me at adam@loganix.com.

I’m curious to know what the community imagines the world will look like on the other side of this – the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoy conversations like these, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

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