Should you let your employees bring their pets to work?

Pets in the Office, POS Systems and Search Engine Rankings for Small Businesses

Mike Kelly and Elizabeth Larkin

Are you thinking of switching to a point-of-sale system or mobile payment processing for your small business? Are your employees pestering you about bringing their pets into the office? Do search engine rankings confuse you? Join hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks as they tackle these topics on this episode of the Small Biz Ahead Podcast.

Show Notes



Elizabeth: Welcome back to the Small Biz Ahead podcast, it’s Elizabeth Larkin. I’m here with small business owner Gene Marks. Gene, how are you doing?

Gene: Doing well, thank you.

Elizabeth: Great, I’m very happy for you.

Gene: Yes. I think I have poison ivy. Do you?

Elizabeth: Yes. It’s funny you should mention that.

Gene: Who gets poison ivy when you’re like an adult now?

Elizabeth: I don’t know.

Gene:   I had that when I was in summer camp when I was eight.

Elizabeth: I know, I blame it on my dog. Because she runs around on a farm on the weekends, and then comes and jumps on me. I think it came from the dog and then transferred to me, but I keep getting it. I got it two weeks ago. Then I got it, I keep getting fresh patches popping up all over the place. I don’t know. I need to do an intervention. She did get a bath last night.

Gene:   You guys can’t see this, but Elizabeth’s her entire face is covered with calamine lotion. It’s all pink and crusty.

Elizabeth: I look crazy.

Gene:   It’s terrible.

Elizabeth: Anyway, we have two exciting announcements this week. One, the podcast is now on iTunes, so you can go subscribe. That’s awesome. Two, we have an official form now where you can submit a question to us. Previously, we were having people submit submit questions via our social media channels, Facebook and twitter, and we still want you to follow us there, but now we have an official form where you can submit your questions. That is now in the show notes. Go over to and look for the podcast and you can scroll down, there’s a form where you can submit your question, and we would love to answer your question on the air. I’m also going to review, read a review that we just got on iTunes, which is so funny and this one talks about Gene drinking beer. This will be good.

The review is, and we got five stars,

“Gene sounds like the kind of guy I want to have a beer with or maybe some sushi. Their answers to the questions are helpful because they look it at from all sides. I like that Elizabeth knows less than Gene so she can ask basic questions for new business owners.”

Gene:   A back handed compliment to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: I see that as my role though because you’re the expert. I know a little, but I know enough to prod you with more questions.

Gene:   I always … When people say I’m the expert … I run a small business, I write a lot on this stuff and all that, but …

Elizabeth: But you know a lot of small business owners.

Gene:   I do. That’s where … It’s funny, my business sells CRM, customer relationship management software. I don’t consider myself … We have a lot of clients that are doing a lot of things, and I learn a lot from them. I have one client I got to every week, Elizabeth, that I’ve gone to for fifteen years. I kind of act as their part-time controller and as a consultant. They’re a hundred person company.

Elizabeth: Is this the paper company?

Gene:   Yeah, that’s exactly right. I’ve talked about them before. Every time I go there, these are smart guys, way smarter than me, way better business guys than me, but every time I go out there, I always learn stuff that I can say here’s something to try.

Elizabeth: What would we call you then? Not a small business expert? A guy who has a lot of knowledge about small business.

Gene:   I think, you know, it’s fair enough.

Elizabeth: An aficionado.

Gene:   Drink beer and wine out of a box.

Elizabeth: And sushi.

Gene:   Pretty much what I do.

Elizabeth: We’re going to be right back with our first question, which is about working from home. No, actually, sorry, this one is about bringing your pets to work, but we’re going to hear from our sponsor first.

QUESTION #1: Should I Allow my Employees to Bring Their Pets into the Office?

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with our first question. This one is from Anyssa Kay in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Anyssa, I like that name, it’s very pretty. Anyssa writes,

“I run a small tech company with a handful of employees. Recently a few of them have approached me about bringing their pets to work. I’m not opposed to the idea, but I don’t want the office to turn into a zoo, literally. What should I consider before making my decision?”

As an employee, I would love to be able to bring my pet into the office, but at the same time, I think it would actually be really distracting for me. Gene, you have a remote workforce, but you did have a traditional office for a while.

Gene:   I did.

Elizabeth: Would you allow your employees …

Gene:   No, no I wouldn’t. It’s funny too. Look at The Hartfod, look at any big, any client that I go to. I rarely come across clients and businesses that allow their employees to bring pets to work. There’s service animals obviously are excluded. I’ve had some clients that have experimented with, you’ll bring your pet to work Friday kind of thing. It never ends pretty. It always, it’s chaotic. It’s funny too because I’m a full believer that if you had one dog, just one, that sometimes I see. I have one client actually. It’s a little precision control company. They have about fifteen employees, it’s a very small office. The owner’s dog is there all the time. It’s a big German Shepherd.

Elizabeth: That’s pretty common.

Gene:   The dog is awesome and everybody loves the dog. Even when you come in, it’s the most gentle. It’s sweet. Dogs put people in good moods. I think that’s a wonderful thing. But two dogs? Ten dogs? Fifteen dogs? Now you’re getting into chaos. I don’t think that having a bring your pet to work policy is a good idea for productivity.

Elizabeth: What about … For productivity definitely. What about, we were just talking about in a previous podcast, those fringe benefits that draw in people? One of my friends is a freelance writer and she just sent me an ad for a job at a small firm in Connecticut. In the job ad, it said we have a dog friendly office.

Gene:   That’s interesting.

Elizabeth: I thought, okay, that’s not going to appeal to my mom, but to me, that would really, I would think, “I could bring my dog into work every day.”

Gene:   It’s a really interesting concept because again, and we’ve talked about this in previous podcasts for trying to recruit good talent and good employees and whatever. There, you’re saying wow. As a potential employee, you’re like, “I’ve got a dog and I’d love to work at an office all day with dogs.” Now, if you’re allergic to dogs or you’re afraid of dogs, now you’re alienating that crowd. There is a balance. I still, I’ll hold firm to saying, you can do special pet days, you could provide a fringe benefit where you could pay for dog walking, you could … But to have a policy where people can bring their pets to work every day, I think that overall that’s going to start, and it’s a workplace and I think that’s going to be a problem. I love dogs.

Elizabeth: I know. We’re both dog owners, we love our dogs. But they are animals.

Gene:   They are.

Elizabeth: They do get into fights. They don’t like each other. They defecate openly. They don’t go to the bathroom.

Gene:   We’re talking about not my kids. We’re talking about dogs, right? Just want to make sure.

Elizabeth: Yes, not your twenty year old children.

Gene:   Good to know.

Elizabeth: I think, yeah, I don’t think it’s a good idea for a business. As much as I would love to bring my dog in every day, I think it would be really distracting for me because I’d be thinking about what she was doing the whole time. Is she bothering someone? Is she jumping on someone’s lap that doesn’t like dogs? You are alienating some people. Having maybe a monthly bring your dog to work day.

Gene:   That’d be fun.

Elizabeth: Or bring your dog to work in the afternoon, I think that’d be really fun.

QUESTION #2: Are Point of Sale and Mobile Payment Systems Right for My Small Business?

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with question number two. This is from Jonathan from Beaufort, South Carolina. I love that people give us the towns. A lot of times people just give us the state, but I love it when they give the town because it really elicits, it gives me a picture of where they’re from and I have …

Gene:   When I think of Beaufort, I’ve never been to Beaufort, South Carolina, I’m thinking Civil War. I think there was a general Beaufort for the Confederate Army, right? I’m thinking white picket fences and lots of sun.

Elizabeth: Hot. Humid.

Gene:   Yep.

Elizabeth: Jonathan’s question is:

“I own a small shop in which I sell goods produced by local artisans. Generally, I man the cash register while my two employees handle customer questions, put out food samples, stock shelves. On weekends, it can get really busy and I often have to step away from the cash register to help with customers. Someone recommended that I trade in my cash register for an iPad with the square reader attached, but that seems risky, like I might forget to ring up a customer. Is this something I should consider anyway?”

We just did an article on this, how if you run a business and you are working at a farmer’s market or any kid of open air market, or if you’re Apple, then you should use, it’s a POS system. Is that point of sale or point of …

Gene:   Point of sale.

Elizabeth: Point of sale system. The only thing you have to think about with that is A.) security and B.) there are fees attached to that. I know the nail salon I go to, I’m always talking about my hair salon and my nail salon.

Gene:   I’ve noticed that’s strange as well. You shouldn’t have to say. It’s all natural. This is all yourself.

Elizabeth: The nail salon I go to …

Gene:   Do they have a point of sales system?

Elizabeth: Yeah, they use an iPad and Square and if you pay cash, you just pay the price. If you pay with a credit card …

Gene:   Pay a little bit more?

Elizabeth: They make you pay extra.

Gene:   Do they really? That’s a whole other thing. I think that’s ridiculous.

Elizabeth: I think it’s obnoxious.

Gene:   They shouldn’t be doing that. What they should do is they should have the extra price for everybody and that’s that. You don’t have to think about it twice.

The whole fee thing, smart business owners I know, when they have fees, as long as they’re competitive, they build the fees into their pricing. And that’s just what it is.

Elizabeth: One thing I forgot to say about this, and sorry to cut you off.

Gene:   Sure.

Elizabeth: The great thing about this is these systems, I think, can be hooked up to your accounting system.

Gene:   Of course.

Elizabeth: So that way you know exactly how many widgets you sold without having to rely on someone to ring it up properly and then transfer it …

Gene:   There is Revel, Intuit, Shopkeep, Shopify. These are all, maybe we could put these on the show notes as well.

Elizabeth: Yep, we’re going to put them all in the show notes.

Gene:   Some good point of sales systems that you can try. The world is going mobile and the smart merchants that I know are coming out from behind their cash registers and engaging with their customers. A guy or woman, they’re from Beaufort?

Elizabeth: John.

Gene:   John. Saying he’s not keeping track of his customers. I don’t know what kind of volume he’s got going through his store … To walk around with your iPad or tablet, doesn’t necessarily have to be an iPad, but a tablet. Your employees go and do that. They’re engaging with their customers on the floor. It is helping the customers get answers to their questions without having to wait in line. You can ring up the sale right now. These systems, not only do they integrate with your accounting system which is great, but as they get more and more advanced, number one, they’re recommending other things. Imagine, you’re showing somebody around in a clothing store and they’re interesting in a pair of jeans and you’re ringing it up. You’ve got your iPad system saying, ask them about this certain shirt that goes with it or a belt that goes with it …

Elizabeth: Do you program this?

Gene:   The applications themselves, you’re putting the input of all your inventory in there and then you can connect inventory items back and forth to each other.

Elizabeth: You could tag it, like if this person buys these skinny jeans …

Gene:   Ask them about these things as well.

Elizabeth: They might also want this.

Gene:   Which is, right? It makes complete sense. Rather, think about that, as opposed to being on the back where you’re behind a counter at a cash register, where the transaction is almost over at that point, you’re not making any … Here, you’re actually on the floor and you’re engaging.

In addition to that, what these systems do, because you had mentioned that it integrates with your accounting system, after you start doing this for a few years, it recognizes your customers when they come back.

As you’re talking to the customer of the floor, you’re like, “Have you been here before?”


“What’s your name? Or your email or just whatever.” Pull it up and say, “I see you bought this from us before. You might be interested …” The system will automatically prompt you to offer discounts to a customer, saying, “Welcome back. I see you’ve bought from us before. I see you’re a good customer. We can you an extra five …” Really great stuff.

Finally, you’re collecting data. Like in Apple, you go and you buy something at the Apple store, they give you the old “would you like us to electronically send your invoice, your receipt to you by email”. They’re collecting your email address and of course, they’re using that for all sorts of marketing and reaching out.

Elizabeth: Question, though, when I go in, and every two years I get a new iPhone, because I’m a slave to Apple, they can see what I’ve bought in the past?

Gene:   Yeah.

Elizabeth: They know what accessories I’ve bought and everything?

Gene:   Yep, they have all that available to them. Now, are they making use of that in the right way? Are they training their employees to make those suggestions? That’s a whole other issue. Because Apple, great company, but even if you talk to people inside of Apple, they’ll give you a list of a hundred things that they should be doing that they’re not. But the data is there. A smart merchant will do that.

Elizabeth: Talk to me about, you have a cash register, how much does that system cost compared to having a POS system?

Gene:   It’s a really good question. The cash register, short term, excuse me, long term is less expensive. It’s just less because when you buy the register itself and the card reader and it’s just stationary, you’re generally paying a specific price. Then you’re done with it. It’s a piece of hardware.

Elizabeth: Do you own it or lease it?

Gene:   Usually people lease it but then they own it at the end of the lease. Whereas, if you’re going to get the tablet and you’re going to subscribe … All these systems that I mentioned, Revel’s, and the Shopify’s, and the Shopkeep’s, they’re all cloud based subscription services. You’re paying by month, by the user. People say, well, originally, initially you’re putting out less money up front, but after three, four, five years, you are spending more money. That’s with any cloud based software that you buy.

Back in the good old days, you could buy Quickbooks for a few hundred bucks and stick it in your computer and be done.

Elizabeth: Now it’s a monthly subscription.

Gene:   Now it’s a monthly subscription. That’s the way the world is going, but the benefit to that is if you’ve got multiple locations, now you’ve got a cloud based system so you’re sharing the data on the cloud. You don’t care about integrating it anywhere.

Elizabeth: Also, you could have, Jonathan has himself and two employees, they could all have a POS system and then there’s no lines in the store.

Gene:   Correct.

Elizabeth: There’s no …

Gene:   That’s exactly. You’re moving customers in faster, you’re collecting marketing data, you’re hopefully getting add-on sales because you’re making suggestions to the customer. Most importantly, I think you’re giving your customers a better experience. We all hate waiting in line.

Elizabeth: Waiting in line.

Gene:   When we go to our pharmacy, which is a chain, and we go there and we’ll pick our, and there’s a line. Boy, it would really be great if there was somebody just out there with the iPad. You’re checking me in, getting the thing, bringing it out to me, swiping the credit card. I can move on.

Elizabeth: Why don’t more big chains do that?

Gene:   Because they’re slow moving. They’re slow moving. There is an investment that needs to be made and it has to really be a demand driven from the costumers. They’re not innovative enough to do it. I think that more smaller companies and more innovative chains will push that in the future. Because customers will be attracted to it.

Elizabeth: I know Olive Garden now, you can pay at your table.

Gene:   That’s a whole, you go to restaurants …

Elizabeth: Don’t ask me how I know that. My boyfriend loves Olive Garden so I have to go once in a while.

Gene:   They use, as well as a lot of other restaurants, very popular service called Ziosk. Ziosk. They are tablets that are on the table, just like you said. You go in, you place your order, you play games, you swipe your credit card on the tablet, and there’s somebody brings your order out. Think about that. If you’re in the restaurant industry, how much that’s saving on employment costs. Because it’s all about saving on employees. That has a huge impact on a restaurant’s profits.

Elizabeth: I wonder if people leave bigger tips or smaller tips with that system.

Gene:   That I don’t know, although I’m also a believer that with minimum wage is going up, I think ultimately we’ll see tipping go away.

Elizabeth: Like in Europe, interesting.

Gene:   Yep, and Australia. I was telling you earlier, I was in Australia, we were in Australia, and they don’t have tipping in Australia. You don’t tip, you go to a restaurant and you pay and that’s it.

Elizabeth: Are the base prices higher?

Gene:   I’m assuming they’re higher. It’s tough to tell with the exchange rate. Am I paying more or not? Maybe they are, but right now, there are a lot of restaurants now, particularly as minimum wage is fifteen dollars an hour in some cities. A lot of restaurants are instituting no tipping policies. Our waiters and waitresses are getting paid a good competitive wage. You don’t have to worry as a customer to tip.

I think tipping, I’m getting all off topic here, but Uber is another one that is letting that charge. Uber, you don’t tip. People love that. You just pay, you don’t have to worry about tipping. It’s all in the app and it’s all done. That’s getting in to the culture of this country, like, you know what, we don’t really have to be tipping if it’s taken care of somewhere else.

Elizabeth: Tipping is awkward.

Gene:   It is.

Elizabeth: It’s socially awkward. It’s awkward because you’re never sure, is this the owner, do I have to tip them? What are the rules? I try to always tip everyone twenty percent, but does that apply across the board in every industry?

Gene:   Some people come here and think we’re nuts with what we tip and all that. It’s kind of a goofy system. I do think a lot of people who work in the service industry would just like, pay me a better wage and I’m happy not to take tips. People survive off of their tips.

Elizabeth: I remember in high school when I was waiting tables, I would go to the bank with a huge sack of pennies. I worked in a diner type place. It was just ridiculous. Just give me a paycheck.

Gene:   You know what’s interesting? It’s something I intend to write about as well. I’m Mr. Less government rules. Economically, I’m to the right, but you have to think about people who come against minimum wages and say, “it’s going to put people out of, small businesses out of business. They have to increase their prices and all that.” Whenever I go to a restaurant, whatever price they’re charging me, I’m still bumping it an extra twenty percent because I’m leaving a tip. If the price was just twenty percent higher, I’m the, I’m not paying any more, and we’ve alleviated this whole tipping nonsense as well.

Elizabeth: Tip and tax.

Gene:   Yeah, that’s right. It’s a real interesting debate that we’ll see evolve over the next few years.

Elizabeth: The POS system …

Gene:   What was the question?

Elizabeth: POS systems, we’re definitely pro that. Do you think for all businesses or …

Gene:   Any merchant that is a customer facing coming into the store. I don’t run a retail shop, but I have clients that do. If I’m running a retail shop, I don’t care if it’s a coffee shop, I would be equipping my people with iPads or cheap tablets. You can buy inexpensive tablets. They would be engaging with customers right out there on the shop floor.

Elizabeth: I want to go over how this work. Typically, you decide on a vendor, be it Square or what are some of the other ones?

Gene:   Square mostly does payment, although they do have processing as well. Shopify, Shopkeep, Revel’s systems. Imonggo is another one. Again, Intuit has their own point of sales systems. They all …

Elizabeth: Even PayPal.

Gene:   PayPal does. PayPal integrates with all these systems too. PayPal is now moving offline to brick and mortar. They are really making a great move there. They all, these point of sales systems accept the mobile payment systems as well. It’s not only swiping a credit card, but they’ll give you the ability as well, right on your iPad, to have an adapter.

Elizabeth: They send you the adapter.

Gene:   Correct.

Elizabeth: You sign up with them, they send you the adapter, it’s very easy to set up.

Gene:   Correct.

Elizabeth: Then you work with them and they integrate with your accounting system.

Gene:   Your accounting system. The hardest thing that I’ve seen from clients that do this is getting all of your inventory in there and all the pricing in there, and all of, if you have customer data in there. Importing data for whatever you got is tough. The second hardest thing, equally as hard, is training your employees, teaching them what to do. I have another client who runs a fruit and produce stand in Chatsford, Pennsylvania. He moved to point of sales system, just like that. Think about it, you’re picking out fruit, it’s nice to have the employees walking around, “Can I help you? Would you like me to ring this up now.” He struggled the first couple months, getting the data in, and getting the employees used to it. Now he loves it. He loves it.

Elizabeth: Another group that this would work well for are people like landscapers, plumbers, anyone, anytime you have a business where you’re sending people out to service someone’s home or cars. Because then, think about it, you’re getting paid on the spot. You don’t have to track that person down and worry about billing and accounts receivable.

Gene:   Those applications, we were talking about point of sales systems, so the vernacular is that point of sales systems are for retail shops and merchants. Now, what you’re talking about …

Elizabeth: Mobile payment.

Gene:   Mobile and field service. That is very, very similar, but you’re a hundred percent right. You send the plumber out there to do the work and then you’re telling people, call in with a credit card and we’ll send you an invoice, then 90 days later you’re collecting from that customer. It’s a huge pain. The smart service providers are collecting payment right on the spot.

Elizabeth: We actually have a couple articles about this so I’m going to link to those in the show notes. If you’re interested and you want to get started. All right, we’re going to be right back with our word of brilliance from Gene.

WORD OF BRILLIANCE: Intrusive Interstitials

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with Gene’s word of brilliance.

Gene:   It’s actually words, Elizabeth. I wrote about this in Forbes, about Google, and the word, there are two words. All right? The words are this. Intrusive interstitials. Elizabeth, what is an intrusive interstitial? Can I ask?

Elizabeth: I have no … It sounds Latin.

Gene:   Google is very concerned about intrusive interstitials and you need to know about that.

Elizabeth: Hackers?

Gene:   Particularly, if you’re a small business owner and particularly, if you’ve got a website which most small business owners do. Intrusive interstitials is Google’s complicated way of saying pop-ups.

Elizabeth: Interesting.

Gene:   What Google is telling the world right now is that soon, if not already, if you have too many pop-ups going on on your site, if visitors are coming to your site and they’re getting bombarded by the pop-ups with driving video and audio or asking questions or whatever …

Elizabeth: Sign up for our email list …

Gene:   They’re going to punish you. You’re going to have, your search engine rankings are going to be impacted because of that. Google is going to push you down on search engine results. If you’re a small business, or a big business, and you’re spending a lot of money on SCO and trying to optimize your search engine results, you want to do everything possible to be ranked up as high as you can. Google is actually is looking at all sites now and if you’ve got … By the way, how many pop-ups is that? Is that one? Is that three? No one is saying.

Elizabeth: Of course, because it’s Google.

Gene:   Because it’s Google. But you have to be careful. Revisit your website as soon as you can and make sure you’re not having too many intrusive interstitials on your site where you may be seeing that impact.

Elizabeth: AKA pop-ups.

Gene:   AKA pop-ups, that’s going to impact your search engine rankings.

Search Engine Rankings for Small Businesses

Elizabeth: Can you talk a little bit about, this is a little off topic, search engines rankings? What do you do for your business to ensure that you’re ranking in the first page?

Gene:   First of all, it’s interesting that you ask that because here’s what I do for my business to make sure that we are ranked as high as we possibly can. Number one, we have hired a consultant. Not the guys that are sending you emails saying you can be ranked number one on Google, you know … Not that. We did searching around and got recommendations and looked on LinkedIn, looked in Upwork. I have a woman who works for my company. She does our digital marketing. She has experience in search engine optimization, and I pay her. Because why? Elizabeth, there’s no silver bullet to being ranked high on the internet or in a Google search.

Elizabeth: It’s a long game.

Gene:   It’s a long game and it’s an ongoing game and it’s always changing. Google, this … What do we call this again? Whatever, the pop-ups issue. What am I calling it? Infinite interstitials. This, every other week, Google is coming out with some other new rule or some other new change in their algorithm or whatever. When business owners say, “it’s really important to me that I be ranked high on Google, how do I get up there?” My first bit of advice is saying in this complicated world that we live in, you’re going to need to cough it up and you’re going to need to hire somebody that is going to be working on this on an ongoing basis.

Now, here’s what they do. You’re changing your keywords all of the time so that you’re matching what people are trying to search for you. What you’re trying to search on. You’re making sure that your website is always changing and vibrant, it’s not some static page. Because it is a, Google is looking for websites that are refreshing themselves. Google wants to make sure that your website is secure, so you have to make sure that it’s not the old format, which is HTTP, hypertext transfer protocol. It’s got to be hypertext transfer protocol secure, HTTPS.

Elizabeth: What was that, Gene?

Gene:   ACPTS, okay?

It’s got to be secure or else Google will punish you on your rankings as well. You need to make sure that you’ve got, you’re linking to other sites, and they’re linking back to you as well. There’s a whole bunch of activities that need to be done. Because a website is a living, breathing thing. You don’t have the time to do this. You’re trying to run a business. This is, it’s important to you, but literally, it’s something that has to be, it’s a few hours a day of working and analyzing and all of that. You’ve got to hire a consultant to help you do all that.

Elizabeth: You found your consultant through referrals?

Gene:   Yes, that’s another good question. I found Amy through Craig’s List.

Elizabeth: Really?

Gene:   Yeah. I forget if we’ve talked about … I know I wrote about it for The Hartford, about writing an ad or whatever. I’m pretty good at writing …

Elizabeth: I think we have a question in the next podcast about that.

Gene:   Okay, because I’m pretty good at writing ads to find people. I do use Craig’s List a lot. They’re cheap. It’s like 25 bucks to place an ad and I always get buried in them. My biggest problem with Craig’s List is that, and I have a whole system for doing that, as far as narrowing it down to the people that I like. When I found Amy … Then when you get to them, then I start digging in, I start stalking them online. I look at LinkedIn, you know, and what their experience is and then see if there’s any connections and referrals and all of that stuff.

She is a, Amy is a real person, I won’t give her a last name. She worked for a larger company and I wanted somebody local because I meet with her face to face. That’s not really necessary, that’s what I like to do.

Elizabeth: Do Skype and …

Gene:   It’s cool. But her, we meet, and I like that. She worked for a larger company in the digital marketing area and she is a young woman with two young babies and just can’t keep a full time job and wants to raise her kid as well. There’s a huge demographic of smart women that can’t have full time jobs because they want to, God forbid, they want to be mothers to their kids, but are can be so productive. It’s a small company.

Elizabeth: Highly skilled.

Gene:   Right? She gives me twenty to thirty hours a week. It’s flexible for her. It’s great. I narrowed it down and chose her. She brought a lot of experience. She added her larger company, which does a lot of digital marketing, search engine optimization to my company.

Elizabeth: How do you measure success with her?

Gene:   That’s another great question. I met with her yesterday and I’m going to write about this one as well, Elizabeth, because, your marketing people are going to yell at me. All of you guys that do this digital marketing. I feel, and any of you listening right now, this whole digital marketing, some of it is such nonsense to a small business owner. The likes, the follows, the fans, the whatever. To a small business owner, who’s spending your hard earned money on digital or social marketing, or just marketing in general, more so than The Hartford which has gobs of money. Every dollar counts with us. In the end, you just want leads, it’s all about leads. That’s it. It’s all about leads. That’s … Amy and I, she’s been giving me reports every quarter on all our social media activity and demographics. And it was just yesterday I said, “you know, this is interesting from an anecdotal perspective.” I had certain number of followers last quarter, and now it’s going up. Okay, that’s great or whatever. But I’m like, “show me the freaking money.” You know what I mean. Where were the leads here?

So when you ask about what kind of report, we’re starting this quarter, her and me. Whenever I get a new lead in, because they all come into my CRM system ultimately, I’m going to … She’s going to be notified. At the end of each quarter, she’s going to, now, we’re a small business. She’s going to give me a list of every single lead we got during that quarter and her best efforts at where it came from, that lead. Literally, during the course of the quarter I might get a couple hundred leads, so it’s not like The Hartford where it’s ten thousands and thousands. It’s just a couple hundred. I’m just like, “show me a list of every lead we got this last quarter and where it came from so I can see how much of this came from just a website hit versus Twitter versus some ad campaign that we ran.

Elizabeth: Your CRM should be able to do that.

Gene:   It does, because every lead comes right into my CRM system and then, sometimes it’s logged, the source, where it came from, the website or from whatever. Sometimes it’s not. That’s where she has to use a little bit of …

Elizabeth: If they’re coming from Google, you know she’s doing a good job.

Gene:   Yeah, that’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. Not only that, but it’s like … We’re playing around with ad campaigns on Facebook and some promoted tweets as well and all of that. If I see leads that came in from an ad campaign, I’m like, okay, that campaign seemed to … Let’s do another one of those. It makes sense to me. In the end, all the likes and followers, all that social media mumble jumble, I’m like, show me where the leads are coming from. I need to see my leads.

Elizabeth: You don’t have to give me specific numbers, but let’s say you have a marketing budget for your company, how much of it are you spending on SCO? What percentage are you spending on …

Gene:   It changes all the time and right now, again, I’m a ten person company. Amy has been working for me now for about a year and a half. I probably spend a few thousand dollars a month on marketing. Just so you know. Two to three grand a month on marketing. It’s not a huge amount of money.

Elizabeth: But it’s a lot. For a small business, that’s a big budget.

Gene:   It’s a lot, right? For twelve months, three thousand, thirty-six thousand dollars. That’s not … and it’s changing. I’m trying to figure out what works the best. Because, like many small business owners, I don’t know and I’m bad at tracking the data. I’ve always been doing it myself, but as I’m growing, I’ve learned that I need to hire somebody to help me. We’re learning. What I’m finding out is that when you’re running, when you hire that marketing person, you’re literally investing in that person for a couple of years.

Elizabeth: Definitely.

Gene:   Before you get enough data coming in where then you know where to sort of hone in and focus on what’s going to work, do you know what I mean?

Elizabeth: Yeah.

Gene:   We’re still in that data gathering mode. It’s fun. The other way that I look at it is I’m not a gambler. I don’t go to Atlantic City. When I go to Vegas, I don’t gamble. It’s just not my thing. But this I love to do. I can take thirty, forty grand a year and gamble it on business-y stuff. That gives me a jazz.

Elizabeth: Marketing works.

Gene:   It does.

Elizabeth: If it didn’t work … There wouldn’t be. Half the economy would be out of business.

Gene:   It’s all data driven. One of the reasons why, I’ll never forget, I talked to, I interviewed this VP of marketing from Anheuser Busch at some conference. This was two or three years ago. He was telling me they don’t take risks when they market. A few big companies really take risks when they market. They make very educated bets based on their data. Before they decide to have a promotion or a campaign or something like that, they’ve done the demographics. They’ve set up all the tracking. They know that when they spend this amount of money, they’re going to be getting a certain amount of leads and a certain amount of response from it. It’s, of course, there’s some, that’s gray areas, but for the most part, they don’t take risks because they’re driving it off of data.

I thought to myself, “I should be doing the same thing.” It’s ridiculous. I should be able to say, if I spend $5000 on a Facebook campaign, I should be able to know that it’s going to generate how much work for me, or how many leads. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

Elizabeth: As long as you get those leads to sales, then …

Gene:   That’s a whole other issue. I say, that’s what I say to Amy is that, “just get me the leads.” Then it’s my job to convert that to sales. I need leads.

Elizabeth: We all need leads, Gene.

Gene:   We all do.

Elizabeth: That’s what we’re all here for.

Gene:   That’s right.

Elizabeth: All right, that’s going to do it for us for this week’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. We’ll be back with you next week.

Leave a Reply

Disclaimer: Comments are subject to moderation and removal without cause or justification and may take up to 24 hours to be seen in comments. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Please do not include personal policy information; if you have questions or concerns regarding your policy with The Hartford, please log into your account or you can speak directly to a Customer Service Representative.