Aiden Fishbein – Author, Filmmaker, & Agency Partner at Vitals Agency
Aiden Fishbein Producer and Co-host of the Fizzle Show and Blogger at megafisbein.com
“Stay Curious & Challenge Convention”.Aiden Fishbein
Today, we have a very special guest who’s the creative director, author, filmmaker, and agency partner at Vitals Agency. He’s also the producer and co-host of The Fizzle Show. Welcome, everyone, Aiden Fishbein. How’s it going, Aiden?
Aiden: It’s pretty good, man. Nice to be here.
Quin: I gave everybody a quick introduction to you. Tell us basically who you are and what’s your story as a person.
Aiden: Well, it’s a long one as most stories are typically for people. I’m definitely an all-over-the-place kind of guy. I have a lot of passions. Obviously, my title’s gave you a little hint that I have many different things that I enjoy, I do many different things for clients at my agency. As a result, I’ve had to learn a lot of things which makes me qualified, I guess, to help other people build their businesses.
That’s how I give back to the entrepreneurial community and sharing that stuff with people on The Fizzle Show. That’s my life story. It’s being very interested in lots of different things, not knowing exactly what to focus on. Dabbling here, dabbling there. Also, back and forth between technical and creative stuff, so it wasn’t just always artistic filmmaking, writing, stuff like that, it’s always been technical, too. I was drawing the math and chest and strategy, and all that.
Aiden: No. That was the kid thing. There’s a lot in the middle that is probably just more the same. When I started realizing that I needed to earn a living, those were the first kinds of things that I dipped my toe back into, and it just so happened that, yeah, I could actually just ground some sense together doing some creative stuff. Marketing started entering the picture, and you could do some creative marketing and strategic branding.
Long story short, worked for some people, some creative professionals. Some of them were out of their minds, some of them were brilliant. [laughs] Some of them were out of their minds and brilliant. [laughs] Yeah, learning from those people, sticking close to those people, and eventually starting to freelance on my own and I built a business with a partner. That’s actually the shortest little nutshell story I’ve ever given after re-listen to this episode. [laughs] [inaudible 03:33] do it again.
Quin: I don’t know if you’ve ever searched yourself on Google.
Aiden: All day, everyday.
Quin: Do you really?
Aiden: [laughs] No. Not really. It’s been a little while. Maybe I should do it, dude. [laughs]
Quin: When you do search, it shows up on one of them, somewhere in the first page it says, “Known for movie Nightmare Alley.”
Aiden: Oh, man.
Quin: That’s a 2010 movie. What did you do there?
Aiden: That’s kind of a hilarious story. Nightmare Alley was one of many really, really, awful horror movies that I was making back in the early 2000’s. Some of the most fun, creative projects that I’ve ever done. Also, for me, that was all free. Everything was free. All the actors were unpaid actors.
But at one point in time, I think it was in Nightmare Alley, there are like horror shorts or five, six-minute videos, we had Alice Cooper’s daughter, Calico Cooper. We got to hook her up with some blood-squirting machine and cut her throat in some alley here in Phoenix, Arizona. [laughs] It’s so funny. That is technically my one and only IMDb entry, right? ‘Cause you found it on IMDb?
It’s extra special. In that movie, I did a bunch of things like I was just saying. I was a production assistant. This was early in my filmmaking career but I was a production assistant. I was an editor, I cut the trailer. I’ll try and find a link to the trailer for Nightmare Alley for you after this. Then, I was also an extra. I got stabbed in the neck myself by Jack the Reaper.
Quin: [laughs] Nice. Nice. You’re agency owner, successful agency owner now, you’re also one of the hosts at The Fizzle Show. How did you get into The Fizzle Show?
Aiden: It’s interesting. I haven’t had anybody dig into Nightmare Alley as a springboard in any recent interview, but it’s actually perfect because that was a creative endeavor. It was free, I was just doing it because it was fun, I was with cool people, and a lot of these people, I was working with at this really, really awful call center.
We all worked in this telemarketing phone room during the day and on the weekends, we would write these awful scripts and shoot these awful movies. What that did, it was this really weird microcosm in 2008 and 2009 for me where I was developing pretty hardcore sales skills, too.
I was developing all that high pressure, many, many rejections over and over and over the low, closed ratio sales skill in the phone room, and honing creative craft at the same time. It was just a matter of time before those things started to marry each other. They started naturally doing that at first. I got a little bit of a reputation as somebody that could do these creative things, and having gotten comfortable selling, I was no comfortable asking for money from people that wanted creative stuff. Not just home-based businesses. [laughs]
That started happening. Maybe this is a pretty common trajectory for most people. You start realizing you have a passion, you do some of it for free, some people start noticing what you’ve been doing, and then you’re like, “Okay, maybe I can actually take this place.” You start to look for places to learn.
For me, what was really conducive, ’cause I was riding my bike to work, it was podcast. I didn’t have time to read books. I wasn’t in school and I didn’t know about coaches and mentors and stuff. Podcast, putting headphones in and riding my bike half an hour each direction to work was how I started learning.
If you’ve listened to The Fizzle Show, it is an incredibly addictive way to get business information. It is maybe the silliest, most lighthearted but still super robust actionable insight from guys that have done this, that have proven track records and good variety. You’ve got crazy chase, you’ve got lean analytical core, but at the time, they had Caleb and Barret, and also Steph, and all these people brought these really interesting perspectives, all super seasoned but all super personable.
I love them, and I love that podcast. It was like me just listening, doing the things that they said to do. A lot of times, things in my life were syncing up with podcast topics. I got like, “The universe is totally pointing me in the right direction here.” That was the beginning. I was a long, long, long time podcast listener before I started paying Fizzle for their product, which is $35 a month for a membership that accesses all the courses they’ve ever made.
A community of entrepreneurs that are also doing the same thing that won’t let you quit, that are doing it alongside you that you can rely on and connect with and help hold accountable. And webinars and live-coaching. This is crazy value for 35 bucks. Finally, I justified after years of listening to the podcast to dip my toe in the paid program, which I tried for free. They were like a five-week free trial. After the five weeks trip, I’m totally in.
Fast forward another couple of years, what they taught me in their courses happened to work. I built my business. Then, when they had an opening for the giving back community-based content thing, I was like, “I’d love to get involved.” I’m now a case study, too, so it was a cool, perfect world scenario where they needed an opening and I just obviously swallowed bait and tackle their message and followed their footsteps, and it worked. I’ve learned my lessons in the creative world. That’s the story right there.
Quin: That’s a good one. You mentioned there how The Fizzle Show is addicting how you can learn about business stuff in a fun way. I can really vouch how true that is because I went there.
Aiden: [laughs] Yeah, your episode.
Quin: I went there to listen to an episode and, in particular, I wanted to know what the intro would look like with sound, or what it would sound like with music, sorry.
Quin: And I heard it. I’m like, “This is so, so cool.” I wanted to change my intro immediately. I host two podcasts. I’m like, “I gotta change my intro, man. I gotta do something so exciting that gets me want even more.” Although, I can’t just change now just like that because get used to hearing one kind of personality.
Aiden: Be gentle with change.
Quin: Yeah, yeah. Anyway, what ended up happening was I subscribed and I have now close to 17 hours of listen time of The Fizzle Show because it’s cool.
Quin: There you go.
Aiden: That’s funny, man. You hadn’t listened to any Fizzle Show before you on our podcast where we interviewed you and you got to hear Chase without music, just going crazy, right?
Quin: Yes. That was the part. Yeah.
Aiden: Got you. Then, you heard the music. [laughs] I’m sure that was just a bizarre experience for you. [laughs]
Quin: It was. I mean, it was so cool that I’m still tempted to do a bit of changes on my intro.
Aiden: Iterations, man, yeah, it’s always good. Always good to develop.
Quin: Very good. As a creative person, we already saw that, it’s very easy to see how you got into agency because, in my personal opinion, you need to be super creative and love being creative to run an agency. That was a perfect fit for you, and it is working obviously for you.
Aiden: Yeah. Oddly enough, like you said, it’s really easy to see an artist like a kid that likes to draw and make pictures growing up to be a graphic designer. It’s easy to see something like that, finding themselves in my position. What’s extra special is that, like I said, I’m not just creative. I really do have a analytical and an operations-oriented mindset, so it was even more perfect. I can be organized, operational, strategic inside of a business that provides creative services. It’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful combination.
Quin: The analytical part is something that I wasn’t originally, and I had to train myself.
Aiden: Most peopel have to do that, yeah.
Quin: It doesn’t come easy and it’s very, very needed.
Aiden: Absolutely. A lot of times, what I geek out about a lot is the relationships between founders. I was on another podcast recently with a fizzler, Tom Ross, on his show The Honest Designers Show. I was giving him a lot of credits to this other platform of entrepreneurial education that’s called EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System.
I forgot the guy’s name, but they write books and they have courses and templates and stuff. They’re not the first ones to do this, but they’ve come up with what they believe to be a really incredible partnership structure. It’s between somebody who is a visionary and somebody who is an integrator which is like the analytical person.
What’s more important than the fact that they’ve discovered this and figured out how to diagnose you as one of the other is the case studies that they do. If we look at Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, one had the idea, one was the executor. Same thing with Walt Disney and Roy Disney. Nobody knows about Roy Disney, his brother, but Roy Disney was like the money man. He was the genius behind the licensing, the franchising and the merchandise.
Walt Disney just wanted to make pictures and he had used a genius. He revolutionized the animation system but he was awful with money. He had almost of his money when he died under his mattress. Roy Disney was the business mastermind behind it. As a result, many of these relationships, they’re incredible. The rocket fuel in the sense that they get these rocket ships up in the orbit.
But as you can imagine, these are very, very different kinds of people. Just like rocket fuel, it’s highly combustible. You might explode. You probably will explode at some point. Hopefully, it’s after liftoff. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famously had a falling out but it was after they had made some amazing, amazing equipment and what I think, what, is the first trillion-dollar company? Was Apple?
Quin: Yes, it was.
Aiden: There’s that. At least, the rocket ship blew up later. But it still blew up, ’cause analytical people and creative people are very different. They can help each other out a lot but it’s a delicate, delicate relationship.
Quin: It could be misconception, but it’s my idea that creative people are a bit all over the place.
Aiden: Sure. Fair assessment.
Quin: Kinda like a squirrel, “I wanna do this. I wanna do that,” and just be creating things. You have to work with them, how hard is that?
Aiden: It’s a great question. Prior to having my own agency, that was what my careers were defined as. Being creative was played second fiddle to my analytical stuff. I’d always get sought out and I was attractive to these crazy creative people. The very, very distractible kinds of guys. I think it’s fair assessment. We should stereotype it completely with the distractible people.
Plenty of these creatives had successful businesses, obviously, before I came along. That’s the truth. That was a push and pull kind of thing. I came into situations with creatives that couldn’t stay focused and helped them stay focused. They would push back and I would help them, and they would also help me be more risky. Be more atmospheric in my thinking. I’m very risk averse. I’m very conservative with my stuff and I could afford to be a little bit more distractible and creative. I had a lot of those relationships.
Quin: Being a little conservative, does that mean that you don’t take too many big risks so you don’t have many failures?
Aiden: That’s a good question. I think the quick answer is yes. The longer, more complex answer that I tell myself is that I put in what I believe to be a healthy and responsible amount of research and planning, and that helps me mitigate failure. I will be the first one to tell you, though, that there are more risks that I could be taking.
I could do well to be pushed further outside of my comfort zone because the truth is I built my agency without missing a paycheck. All my three partners at the time. My two other partners, we built this company and didn’t take paychecks until we could. We all transitioned out of our other jobs into the business at the same time and we had structured it in such a way where we didn’t have to do that.
Two and a half years later, we still have not gone without a paycheck. Now, we’ve also not grown at lightning speeds that you see some other companies grow at. It’s always a trade-off and I think that generally, if you did look from an outside perspective, which I tried to do myself and it’s always good to have people around you that can tell you when you’re being stupid and crazy. My stupid and crazy is just me and my thinking. I’ll give it a lot of credit and I’ll think it’s the only right answer.
As a result of that, I’ve gained a little bit more perspective on the fact that, man, it’s time to take another leap. There’s a springboard, I can hop on it and see how high I go. Maybe I’ll hit the ground. Maybe I’ll hurt myself a little bit, but the truth is there are more safety nets for me put in place that I will never have to use, so I might as well use some.
Yes, the process of calculating risk is super good, but you’re never gonna be able to be certain. You’re never gonna say, “Before I take this leap, I know exactly how I’m gonna land. I know I will make the jump. Fill in the blank.” There’s always gonna be uncertainty and, at some point, you’re just gonna have to leap.
Quin: Exactly. If you knew how you’re gonna land and where you’re gonna land, it will be nothing exciting about.
Aiden: Right. Wouldn’t everybody be doing it?
Quin: Yes. True enough. Earlier, we were talking about how you were having a bunch of failures before but you were not learning from them and now, you actually are learning from documenting your winds as well, right?
Quin: Can you explain that to us?
Aiden: Many aspects of my life have had a process like a reflective process. Like stepping outside or astroprojecting if you will, or just looking at your thoughts, very meta. “How did I feel yesterday?” Journaling is an example. Meditation is an example. In the business world, there are these things that I’ve always been a fan of, called post-mortems or project retrospectives.
Very simply, they’re just when you finish something, a project or a relationship with the clients or products, a launch. You just take some time afterwards to look back and see, “How did it go? Did it go good? Did it not go good? If it didn’t go good, what could we have changed and what should we do next time?”
Those are the very fundamental questions but out of those questions, you can ask a thousand other questions depending on your specific industry. If it’s a client relationship, did all decision makers make the planning meeting? Was there a planning meeting? Were the feedback given?
Anyway, we didn’t have any of those things in place in the beginning. The worst thing in the world, even worse than making a thousand mistakes and then making another mistake, the same mistake you’ve always made and be like, “Why can’t I learn from these mistake,” because you haven’t examined it, what’s worse than that is finally hitting a home run and be like, “That was amazing. How do I do it again? Where do we start?”
Especially because if you’re going from flop to win, which is pretty typical. You try something, it doesn’t work. You try something it does work, and you have to start another project without faith that it’s going to be one way or another, it’s a hard thing to do. It’s hard to sustain excitement, emotion, and your energy level if always a coin flip whether or not this next thing you’re gonna try is gonna be good.
Like what we were just talking about, you’ll never be able to guarantee success. But it’s just like any scientific experiment. You have enough successes, and if you’re documenting them, you start noticing consistencies. You start noticing things that, everytime you have a project that does well, it’s because X, Y, and Z were part of process A, B, and C. You take those things and the next time you start a project, “Okay, the most important thing to do is make sure that we get everybody on the same page before any money exchanges hands, or make sure that we have a good regular update protocol in place for us to give rounds of revision to clients and for them to give us feedback.”
Those are real examples that, in the beginning, we didn’t think they were important. We didn’t even know that those things were needed and now, they’re part of a booklet and a worksheet that we use everytime we finish a project that house all these questions for us so we don’t have to remember the questions even. Just go through this list, we asses the project and if it was a win, we put that in the win bank so that we can look at it next time we start a project.
Quin: You know what? I really love that because the opposite is something I do. If something fails, I make sure it gets documented and let’s not do this again. Unfortunately, I have done that before and the one thing I hated the most was repeating failures.
Aiden: Making same mistake twice.
Quin: Exactly. That was like, “Why did I have to learn that same lesson again?” That was painful.
Aiden: Yeah, it’s painful. [laughs]
Quin: Exactly. But documenting the wins, that’s such a great thing because when you’re winning, you’re not thinking, “Let me write this down, how it was done,” all that stuff.
Aiden: Right. Pain, it makes it really easy to focus on it. But when you’re exuberant and experiencing joy, the last thing you wanna do is sit down and spend 30 minutes with a journal. You don’t wanna do that, you wanna party. Celebrate.
Quin: That means you have a ton of systems in place. Is that right?
Aiden: That is correct.
Quin: These systems, do you write them yourself when you’re on that spot? You have VA to do that? How does the process work?
Aiden: It’s a good question. Specifically, with the post-mortem. We have three different kinds of post-mortem. It’s just a list of questions. It’s something that we view in a Google doc, me and my partner, and at the end of a client relationship, for example, we’ll do a client post-mortem. Very, very specific about the relationships.
All the questions will be about communication and feedback. “Did they like our work? Was it top-quality? Were the QC and quality control rounds in place or were we shipping sub-par design?” We do also just stuff like that. We’ll do that independently, so we’ll just say, “Okay, the project’s done in the next week. You do yours, I’ll do mine. We’ll find a time to talk about our answers together.”
What’s cool is at the end of that, before we share our answers, we’ll make very sure that, “Okay, this is not a place to be critical of one another. We are going to be ascertaining weaknesses in you.” It’s very difficult not to just point the finger. You have to look at yourself and analyze your mistakes, but you also have to very kindly and assertively express, if there’s anybody else involved in this project, where you think they may have made a mistake without demonizing them. That’s a really important consideration.
At the end, you [inaudible 25:51] and you make a commitment to each other. Ours is a long line of I commit myself to my team members and partners from past, present, and future. When we are aligned, there’s little that can stop us. We signed that. It’s a little ritual that we do, and that’s just one example and the same kind of process follows for independent project. We’d make an info product, for example. We’d have questions related to that project that we go through and we do it the same thing. He does his, I do mine, we do it together.
Finally, we’d do a quarterly one where it’s just a 50,000-foot view of, “Where are we now? What about our short-term goals? Are we hitting those? What about the medium ones and long-term ones?” These kinds of questions asked about recent periods of history can be applied to any area.
Quin: You and your partner, you guys were friends before this? Or was this partnership that happened just due to the business?
Aiden: An interesting situation. We used to have another partner. It used to be three of us. I was good friends with this guy and I worked for him a couple different times in the past. He worked for me a couple different times in the past. He had known Mo, who’s my current partner, and they had been part of a mastermind group together. They had decided that they were gonna start a business and I had joined them on a trip to New York for a workshop that was to be the beginning of the business. I’d impressed Mo enough. I just met him for the first time. Muricio, who you were gonna connect with, Quin.
He was like, “Why don’t you be the third partner?” That made a lot of sense. They way the relationship was built at that point was Aaron, our third partner was very, very creative. Mo was a very, very technically savvy. He’s a sass guy. He built a software in the past that code matrix reading data dealer. Then, I was in the middle. I was the analytical guy that was creative. I could speak both languages and I could communicate. I could translate the language of these two guys to each other. That’s pretty cool. That’s how I met Mo.
When Aaron left the company, it was an interesting thing. Obviously, Mo and I have become friends but I think because we didn’t begin as friends, I don’t know how I can recommend this to people but I think it’s a really good way to build a business relationship. Because I’ve seen a lot of business relationships that started as friendships. Have these strange dynamics that are often very hard to deal with and often lead to the business failing, or the relationship dying, or both.
It’s hard to prevent that. I also know that it’s one of the most rewarding things in the world to make some money with a buddy. It’s interesting, but Mo was not a friend. I met him and we were partners, and we’ve got a really stable relationship that’s predicated on business, and then the friendship next. I don’t know if that answers your question, but it’s an interesting thing that’s evolved between he and I.
Quin: Yeah, it does. I was actually trying to find out if maybe the best thing would be to have a business partnership when you were not previously friends because that could interfere when you know somebody as a friend, you may look at that as a friendship partnership instead of a business partnership.
Aiden: It makes certain conversations hard. Money is the great exacerbater, as I’d like to say. It makes everything difficult. It complicates family relations. It complicates friendships. It complicates marriages. It complicates country, international relationships. Money is delicate. It is also something that obviously builds things, too. It builds relationships quite well and if things are going well, there’s little that money will do to hurt that. Money is nothing but fuel to the success fire.
As another dimension, I guess, is the point. It’s a really appropriate comparison to say a business relationship with a friend is very similar to marriage. I am no expert. I’ve been married for a year but I’m already psychoanalyzing everything that I do. The prerequisite is that both parties have to be committed equally to work because it is work.
It is perpetual progress and when resentment starts to brew, it’s usually because there’s one party that’s not pulling the weight that the other party thinks they should. Maintaining that perspective is also delicate because we’re delusional humans. But if you can manage to prove that everybody’s working hard and the goals are all aligned, the beautiful things will happen both in marriage and in business with friends.
Quin: Absolutely. There’s a guy that I followed as a podcaster you probably know. He was the host of the Art of Charm.
Aiden: I’m not familiar.
Quin: His name is Jordan Harbinger. Yeah, it’s Jordan Harbinger Show now. The one thing that may cost those kinds of bitterness between partners could be expectations that you create in your minds.
Quin: Then, you don’t share that expectation with that person so now, you expecting something that they have no clue you are expecting.
Aiden: Right. That’s a great point. Yeah.
Quin: Thanks to that, I share that with my partners that I have as well in other business. We decided that if there’s any kind of expectations, let everybody know.
Aiden: Write it down.
Quin: If there’s any kind of resentment, anything that one did wrong, the first thing we do is let it out so there’s nothing that builds up. That’s a great feeling because it gets to the point where, you know when you’re so close to somebody that you can insult them as a compliment?
Aiden: Yeah. Totally. [laughs]
Quin: That’s kinda how we do it.
Aiden: That’s really important that you bring up, and I think that might be one of the reasons why all things considered when we did lose Aaron and our third partner, it was pretty amicable. We had a pretty robust operating agreement in place in the beginning. This is what I see happened, when friends go into business, they say, “We don’t need an operating agreement. Everything’s always gonna be fine.”
We’ll always be able to tell each other stuff. We’ll always be able to communicate. The truth is, it’s hard when things actually start going bad. People are, what is it, they don’t like confronting. They’re non-confrontational, especially when things are going bad. Everything is easy to talk about when things are going good.
This operating agreement set the expectations and made it very clear that when expectations weren’t being met, nobody could be confused about it. Part of that post-mortem process is very communicative. We are airing or doing laundry on a regular basis because bad news always travels slower than good news. Holding that in, like you were saying, is cancer.
Quin: Yeah, and as it is. I wanna ask you something about the agency but before I do that, I wanna bring up something that I was gonna mention at the beginning of the show. For those that are watching the video edition, it’s a fact that Aiden is inside a closet.
Aiden: Yeah. Physically, not metaphorically. [laughs]
Quin: Yes. Yes. Actually really in the closet. The reason why is because it’s the place that has best soundproofing.
Aiden: Yeah. That’s correct. Honestly, just to give you a little bit more information, my wife was an audio engineer. She’s a pro, man. Whenever we move somewhere, it always takes us the longest to finally set up a studio. We just moved back from Portland to Arizona and, obviously, this is not what a studio looks like.
But the rule of thumb as a filmmaker is people will always forgive bad video if the audio is good. But if you’ve got the best video in the world and the audio is bad, for some reason, people just cannot forgive it. If you’re going to skew one way or another, go for the audio, and that’s what I’m doing.
The truth is, these coats are beautiful. [laughs] We’ve got mink, we’ve got fox. Some real, sorry. Some not. Then, we’ve got the comforter. We’ve got everything that can possibly dampen sound is in this room. [laughs] By accident so we decided to use it at least temporarily.
Quin: There you go. I actually bought a kit from Amazon. It is like a portable studio so when I travel, and I go and podcast from there would help, you could put a microphone inside this foam booth. It’s like 1×1 foot and you put the microphone inside. It’s just as if you have your portable studio.
Aiden: That’s great. For those of you that can’t afford the portable studio or would rather not buy it, some of the most amazing audio quality I have produced has been simply with the on-board microphone of a Mac book and a heavy blanket over your head. If you sit on a bet in a hotel room with a heavy blanket over your head and the computer, there’s no reverb in there. That is the deadest, most clean audio you’ll get. It’ll block out New York City firetrucks. [laughs] Or you can get that phone booth, you know what I mean?
Quin: Yeah. The booth is like a portable $100 booth on Amazon.
Aiden: Cool. I have to check this out.
Quin: Yeah. It’s not much. Back to the agency, what exactly do you do? Is it only marketing?
Aiden: Just like everything I’ve talked about so far, it’s a little bit of everything. It probably shouldn’t be. I, philosophically, am a big believer in niching but in actual practice, I found it very difficult to do that, and I think that’s a lot of people’s story. You see the value in being very, very focused in your product, in your target market, in the ideal user.
But when it comes to it, there’s people always asking us for software. There’s people always asking us for video production, graphic design, branding, strategy, copywriting, content writing. Then, also, funnel build-outs, landing pages, pay-per-click advertising, Facebook, we do a lot of that. With these post-mortems, though, in the last couple years have been pretty good in starting to whittle down. We don’t do a lot of web builds anymore.
We do app development but it’s very different than web builds. We’ve determined that there are too many variables, the communication has never been perfect. I’m sure there’s other people that have perfected this process but the time and energy that it would take to continue perfecting it would be difficult and would not be worth it because we’ve already identified at least a handful of other products that have clear ROI where we can see from the beginning to the end and the light at the end of the tunnel before the project starts, and we know how much expense is coming and we know how much profit is coming.
We’ve got long ways to go until we find literally the holy grail product that we want to dump all of our eggs into as far as that basket. I do believe in that but it’s a hard thing to do. It’s a hard thing to justify. Also your reputation that you’ve set doing amazing works in the past, on your portfolio, continue to attract people in this world where no data ever gets removed from the internet.
People are still calling me up to get their wedding videos done. I used to make amazing beautiful wedding videos, just jerks the tears right out. But it is not a very profitable thing. It’s a very demanding relationship between the producer and the clients, and the stakes are pretty high if you mess up. [laughs] You know?
Aiden: The cons and the pros are pretty clear and I don’t do wedding videos anymore. [laughs]
Quin: For your agency, what are some of your favorite tools? Or for you, personally, while working at the agency, what are some of your favorite tools?
Aiden: Trello is the project management platform that I live and breathe daily. It’s a very simple kanban-type project management system with columns and cards. You’ve got different phases like backlog to-do, doing, in process, done. You create tasks and you move them from left or right from doing to done. It’s really good in project management in the way my mind works, but also in communication.
What’s funny that I find with a lot of companies is they always have a standalone chat interface. A lot of people use Slack, some people use Stride or Google chat and stuff like that. But Trello has a nice comment interface. Why would you go into Slack and say, “Remember the project where we’re three rounds and I’m talking about version A of the graphic design for the banner B placements? The upper right-hand corner of that, I need you to change the blue to the green.”
Why would you do that in the chat if you can just go into the project in the task and say, “Here’s the attachment. Change the upper right-hand corner blue to green.” Simply by taking it inside of the project task itself eliminate all the need to describe everything else. It’s a contextual conversation. I like Trello for those reasons, and I’m just a big fan of Google Drive and the Google Suite. Collaborative creativity is the way the world works.
From project strategy and writing, either in a Google doc, spreadsheet, or Google slides, to invoicing or proposal crafting and finally to file version storage and transferring and sharing, it’s a beautiful little thing. I’m not the only person that like it, of course, because Google is a huge beast. I find it nice to have it all in the same place.
Quin: They are still a huge beast. Do you still use Google for advertising for your pay-per-clicks and sponsor ads?
Aiden: We do, and it’s interesting. You’re an Amazon guy. We’ve done a lot of Amazon marketing and Facebook marketing, but for some reason, Google, the pay-per-click and the retargeting that we’ve been able to do on Google just continually [inaudible 41:28] everything else that we’ve tried.
We haven’t stopped doing that other stuff because it’s always good to diversify those channels, in our opinion, but, man, it is a hard thing to argue with and their platform for reporting that data is really pretty incredible, too. The answer is a big yes.
Quin: I really like Google, too. Before Facebook was the big beast that it is today when it comes to advertising, Google, of course, was a powerhouse at the time and everybody was on Google. But even back then, there was a lot of chances to lose money or waste money on wrong keywords.
I remember probably, I don’t know, man, it’s probably 2007 or something, Neil Patel explaining that the keyword strategy that he had on his AdWords, and it would be, for example, instead of targeting high-heel shoe, he would not use those kind of broad keywords and put red high-heel shoe something, something.
Aiden: Denver, Colorado, right? Yeah.
Quin: Yes. That means when you actually type that, you’re not just looking to picture of a red shoe to save as and use as homework for a project. You’re actually looking to buy a brand high-heel shoe under 50 bucks, whatever.
Aiden: Right. Right.
Quin: Since then, I started using that technique. All long tails and with buying intent. I was trying to find buy intent, put on those keywords, and it works magic. If you’re only paying for the ones that are actually trying to buy something, it becomes very profitable.
Aiden: Totally. You touched on something that is at the cornerstone of what we preach as branch strategists at Vitals, which is, know what you’re trying to do. Don’t make a pretty picture because it’s pretty. Don’t make a beautiful video because it’s beautiful. Know your users and, like you said, know what you want them to do. You are literally from top to bottom funnel, making sure that the CTA is buy intent. Right? That’s what you said, buy intent?
Aiden: We have a proprietary discovery process. It’s almost like a workshop. Well, it is a workshop. It’s a two-day session that we conduct where they’re at with their current users. We figure out who they’re trying to serve, how they’ve been trying to serve them, and then we dig in to their psychographics. Who else do they listen to? What kind of voice and tone do they respond to best? What kind of look and feel do they respond to best?
We use that to inform every single piece of collateral, strategic campaign. It’s always focused on knowledge of who these users are, what makes them tick, and how to get them to do what you want. Obviously, what the best thing to do is to find the alignment. To find the thing that serves you by serving them.
If you’ve got a product that betters their life and they can pay for it, you benefit by getting money, they benefit by bettering their lives. That’s the way, I believe, the economy ought to turn. I think it does, mostly. If you can figure that stuff out and get that buy intent in, literally, the first thing they see, there’s no surprises. People don’t feel like they’re tricked. They value you and they appreciate that. In our experience, that’s how you build really, really solid brand loyalty.
Quin: I really like that.
Quin: Yeah. Brand loyalty.
Aiden: It’s so hard to build but so easy to break. [laughs]
Quin: Tell me something on your agency, Vitals agency, you’re still finding more clients, correct? For yourself?
Quin: What kind of strategies are you using now to generate more leads into the business?
Aiden: That’s a great question. We, for a long time, and we still to some degree, have this strange struggle where, in the beginning, we weren’t careful about exactly what I just said. We didn’t target our users specifically and as a result, we have two audiences right now. We have an audience or ideal client, the people that we actually do creative services for, they don’t find us online.
These are the people, multibillion dollar venture back tech startups don’t search Google for creative brand strategy. [laughs] You know? But these people send their C-suite marketing strategists to conferences. We go to conferences to find clients. We’re going to hubspots inbound conference coming up here in September. We’ve gone for that conference for years now, we really love it.
We’re always looking for other cool conferences, and it’s referral and word-of-mouth based. It’s strange, it’s hard to scale it, but the other thing is we’re structured in our agency where we’re going for quality, not quantity. We do high-deal, high-ticket relationships and retainer contracts instead of low-ticket, churn and burn products.
Our strategy as it stands, is to build a foundation of clients like that and then focus our marketing and digital spend and all of our content strategy around our second audience, which is the creative entrepreneur trying to do what we’re doing. This is where Fizzle comes in perfectly because we found that the majority of people that come to our site that read our blogs, they work for other agencies.
They came out of art school and they’re trying to get their site up and figure out how to build their clients and how to sell. How to do our kinds of discoveries. How to do our kinds of user-profiling. How to do our kinds of post-mortems. How to buy our yellow shoes. [laughs] Rattling off the products on our site right now. [laughs]
What we do is we teach and we educate via our free content and solve real problems and equip our audience with weapons for their clients in the form of our info products in our store. What’s tough, though, is obviously it’s gonna take a long time to build revenue from the info product thing to ever compete with the foundation of retainer clients, but that’s the long game.
Keep writing. Keep podcasting. Keep teaching. Keep educating. Keep making courses, and all the while pushing digitally without ad spends and our other organic methods to get traffic and sales up on that front. Eventually, we’ll see a little bit of a flippening, hopefully, where all of a sudden, we have a recurring revenue stream from our info products and we’re less reliant on our clients. That’s the only way to really scale a service business without continually adding team members, which we’re really not interested in.
Quin: Yeah. I really like that. I like the fact that you did not mention scraping LinkedIn.
Aiden: Oh my God. Did you see what I posted recently or are you just also frustrated?
Quin: No. I’m also frustrated but I did see your reply to one of those emails.
Aiden: Yeah. This is my new game, I
think, figuring out angry professional ways to respond to people. Can I read
what I wrote recently?
Quin: Yes. Please, please.
Aiden: Okay, hold on. Let me find it.
Quin: [inaudible 49:10] perfectly into a show I did about probably a month ago on my other podcast where I grouped together all the emails that I got randomly that had been scraped from LinkedIn. Some really didn’t even have my name right and normally those are probably to buy a bot.
Aiden: Right. Right. That’s not even somebody. Gosh.
Quin: Some of the replies, what I replied to them, so I did a podcast about that.
Aiden: It’s awful, man. It frustrates me quite a bit. The truth is I have to be gentle because this is a strategy that does work. It’s a numbers game strategy. It’s a churn and burn, it’s a scorched earth campaign, and those work. I don’t like them, and I wish the world wasn’t this way, but they work.
Because for every angry that goes out of his way like me or you to write an email about why we don’t appreciate this, there is somebody falling for it. There’s somebody saying, “You found me via LinkedIn. You see the stuff that I’m doing and you think it’s interesting? Tell me more.” And it works. There are good products behind the campaigns that are getting into the hands of people who need it, I believe, so I don’t wanna be too angry. But that being said, here’s what I wrote. [laughs]
This was, I think, the sixth, yeah, it was the sixth email from a guy, I won’t mention his name. I said, “Hey, blank. I’m not interested and I don’t appreciate cold emails, having had my address scraped from LinkedIn. You’ve sent me six emails. Please only send me one more confirming you understand and respect my wishes to receive no further communication. If you would like to include a budget for what you’d pay to have a consult on the betterment of your email marketing strategy, you may do so.” [laughs]
This is the Fizzle thing, man. It’s value first. Don’t disrespect somebody’s email inbox. I did not give you my email address. You don’t have an unsubscribe button. That’s illegal. That is illegal. I could flag them. I’m not gonna report as abuse. I’m just gonna send these funny little emails.
On LinkedIn, if your offer is compelling, and I’ve gotten a couple, and actually I’ll give a shout out to this guy. I forgot his name, but it was funny, it caught my attention. His second follow up email is what got me, and his first one was kind of the same thing like, “Hey, thanks for connecting. I see you’re in the space. I do this. I think we can connect and talk about other things and that always means I have something to sell you.”
His second email said, “Well, it appears as though the same thing that happened to my friend that happened to you. He got abducted by aliens last week. I haven’t seen him since. How are things up there?” I’m like, “Alright. I’ll bite.”
I can appreciate lightheartedness. I can appreciate humor and cleverness, man. You tell me something that makes me think, I’m in. But if it’s just the same old three-paragraph, “Hey, I think we could help each other” nonsense, I’m gonna jump on your throat.
Quin: “Are you open to other profitable opportunities or something like that? Join my email.”
Aiden: That’s the sign-off, man.
Quin: You know what? There was one that caught me as well. I can’t remember word by word what it said, but it was like that one. It had first, just introduction email, “Hey, thank you for the connection, whatever, pleasure to meet you.”
Quin: Then, a few days later, he sent one. He’s like, “By the way, if you thought I wasn’t gonna try to sell you something, you’re wrong. I am.” [laughs]
Aiden: I love it.
Quin: Yes. I’m like, “Oh my God.” I love the honesty because when you get an email, you all know you’re gonna be sold. Something has to be.
Aiden: Just don’t lie to me, man.
Quin: Exactly. We’re gonna try to offer value, try to build relationship, we know the strategy, and no, he went straight to, “If you think I’m not gonna try to sell you something, you’re wrong. I am. Here it is. Blah, blah, blah.” And he went straight to the point and so honest, and I replied. I love the honesty. I actually may use that myself. [laughs]
Aiden: Totally. Totally. That’s what I’m noticing is a trend in every kind of advertising in marketing and I think that’s what Google is optimizing for now, it’s what you’re talking about. I mentioned this a little bit awhile ago, I did this big presentation. There was a cookie company, we love these guys, in New Zealand. It’s one of our first big consulting gigs.
Quin: Sorry. It’s literally a
Aiden: Yeah. It’s called Cookie Time, and they are something like the Nabisco of cookies in New Zealand. The people that own this company, that run this company are just some of the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They flew us out, had us give keto presentations to their marketing team and their factory floor, then gave us a tour of the factory and [inaudible 54:27] cookies off their conveyor belts. Amazing. They took us bungee jumping and helicopter riding on a glacier. We’re trying to get some more relationship building with them.
Aiden: Our keto presentation was the evolution of marketing, and looking into the middle-ages when people didn’t even really know that they could lie to each other. It was, “You have this, I have this.” If it’s a win-win, we can trade. Then, quickly thereafter, people started realizing that you could trade people. People started realizing that I could have this thing that looked like this thing that you would value and I could give it to you, and I could get away before you realized it.” And there’s no leaving a negative feedback on Facebook to scare these people off.
For a long, long, long time, you could be pretty successful and avoid many of the consequences being dishonest in marketing and in advertising. With display advertising in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, in traditional advertising in radios and television and billboards and magazines, you weren’t able to lie anymore but the personability dropped off.
You were casting wide nets. You didn’t really have any way of measuring your metrics, figuring out what campaigns were doing well. If you did, they were really downstream and you weren’t sure how many variables were part of the success or failure. Then, in the 80’s and 90’s, we saw this telemarketing ad then where it was just this horrible, and I was part of it and I take full responsibility. I’m sorry. I apologize.
Aiden: The fierce and relentless obnoxiousness of telemarketing. It’s the same thing that’s going on with this direct message thing. They’ve got a direct line to your most intimate time. Usually, when you’re at home, these are they days of landlines. We’ll call when you’re at dinner and yammer on about something and probably be lying to you about it. It was dishonest, manipulative, and obnoxious.
Obviously, that’s something that people don’t like but, again, it was found valuable in terms of it being a numbers game. For people that did not care about reputation, they could do that. But now, it’s hard to not have a scarlet letter emblazoned on you wherever you go, so you have to pick your methods well. You have to be very strategic. Negative reviews don’t go away. There’s reputation management but that will only go so far to bump you down to the second page of Google if your tactics are dishonest or silly.
What’s happening right now is the conventional methods of advertising on Facebook and Google are no longer rewarding this kind of dishonesty and us as consumers are starting to wise up, too. It’s cool to be in marketing, in my opinion, in this time in the world because it has to be a win-win, you have to be creative, you have to be clever. And if you’re succeeding, it’s probably because you’re serving people. How cool is that? I’m stoked on that. There’s still a lot of the weirdness. People will always try the tactics, but it’s getting harder and harder to get away with it and I’m excited about that.
Quin: It is super hard now to get away with.
Aiden: You know better than anybody else, man, on Amazon.
Quin: Yes. Still, on Amazon, the internal system we can use for pay-per-click is still very easy because the product is already there so you’re advertising a product that is already for sale on Amazon. There’s not much on a pay-per-click campaign that you can–
Aiden: Even mislead about.
Quin: Mislead, right. This is the picture of the product. This is the keyword that you search for, and I’m gonna target you for that. That one is still very easy to maintain but still, any product that’s related to weight loss, anything that can have potential claims is just anywhere. Amazon, Facebook, Google, it’s just so hard to be able to say certain words that trigger a negative connotation even through algorithms alone. Not even just a person.
Aiden: Then, the darkness is that when you have something like that, the way you sell your product is to back it up with peer reviews. That was, at one point, really a weapon in the arsenal of the new [inaudible 59:20] like me to get the testimonials and to feature the testimonials, but as we know, there are bot armies out there. They’re being mobilized by very, very incentivized large world institutions to create false personas in the thousands.
We’re not talking about political agendas, we’re simply talking about products that can be spoofed, too. You can spoof enough five-star reviews to bury the real negative feedback, you can do that. There’s still loopholes that’ll hopefully get closed up. What’s exciting, though, is that the platforms that everybody’s using to market their products or sell their products, it’s in the platform’s best interest to put that stuff to bed, to actually get rid of that stuff and cut the cancer out. That’s cool, too. The forces of good are aligned, I guess.
Quin: I get approached by a lot of people that wanna offer the kind of services, and when it comes to Amazon businesses, it doesn’t matter if it’s mine or my clients, I will not touch anything that is black hat, of course. Only pure white hat, no gray, no thing. When it comes to external platforms, I could accept if there is something that is not black hat but, somewhat, it’s not in the terms, just like getting away with a Facebook campaign with the word “Fat loss.” If you could get away with that, I would mind that. That’s not really black hat, it’s just being able to get away with it.
Aiden: I’ve cracked down a little too hard on that, perhaps.
Quin: Just last week, somebody contacted me. They wanted to see if I want a Facebook advertising and they told me, “We can create 2000 Facebook advertising accounts per day. 2000 Facebook ad accounts per day, because they were getting banned that quick and they were [inaudible 1:01:29].
Aiden: They needed to figure out a way.
Aiden: That’s terrifying. [laughs] Yikes.
Quin: It wasn’t people’s accounts, it was ad accounts. That is so insane [inaudible 1:01:42]. I guess it is bots so there’s not too much work involved but still.
Aiden: Right. It’s just a downstream of the same thing because you can’t create multiple ad accounts on a single user profile that’s been banned from the ad account. It has to be at the beginning–
Quin: It has to be users, too.
Aiden: Users and then ad accounts, and it sounds better because you’re like, “It’s not user accounts. They’re just the ad accounts. They’ll probably make you an admin with all the privileges, but, okay, there’s still evil in the world. Our work is not done. That’s what that means. That’s okay ’cause I’m really willing to fight.
Quin: Aiden, let us know, let everybody here just listening, if they wanna find you and Vitals Agency, The Fizzle Show, where do they go to find this?
Aiden: I’d suggest hitting us up at Vitals.Agency. www.vitals.agency. No .com here. Also, if you wanna hear me rant and rave about building a business with some other people that are really entertaining when they rant and rave, go to Fizzle.co or just simply search The Fizzle Show on your podcast app of choice.
Finally, maybe I’ll put this out there just so that I can motivate myself a little bit, but I have a personal blog where I really get weird. If you want a little weirdness, I didn’t give you too much of that, but I live the examined life. I’m just always learning. I don’t have any answers.
If you wanna join me for that weird journey, you can go to MegaFishbein.com. M-E-G-A F-I-S-H-B-E-I-N dot com. That’s my personal blog. Hopefully, I can get some time and energy to start updating that regularly ’cause it’s truly fulfilling. That’s something that doesn’t have any asks involved, there’s no products associated so you know that it’s just pure goodness. That’s that.
Quin: There you go. You could check that one out, Mega Fishbein, and you just did something that I love doing, too, putting myself in the line.
When there’s something I should do more and then if you announce it publicly, you know you have to do it.
Aiden: [laughs] Yeah. ‘Cause, what we just discovered, I don’t like being a liar or a hypocrite so I gotta do it now.
Aiden: It’s been fun, man. This has been super fun.
Quin: Man, thank you so much for being here. It’s always fun talking to you.
Aiden: Cool. Well, another time, then.
The Fizzle Show – https://fizzle.co/show