Show Me The Entrepreneur
Spending most of my day online, I communicate with folks from all over the world via email and online forums. The Internet has truly made the world smaller by opening the lines of communication like never before. But every now and then… ya bump into someone online, that’s essentially right in your own back yard (in Internet distance). Bruce Marler is a fellow “Show Me State” entrepreneur right here in MO, or Missouri, as he may like to call it (See: Missouri.me). I first came to know about Bruce by reading a story that he was the owner and developer of Missouri.me, which caught my interest. I’m proud of my home state, and I had to see what this was all about. The more I researched, the more I realized Bruce must not sleep much. He is a very active entrepreneur with his development company, LocalTek; his power blogging at BruceMarler.com; and his newly launched HyperlocalSEO.com. Just visit his websites, and you will get that sense also. So I had to reach out to my fellow Missourian and get to know him a bit more. This interview will help you get to know him a bit more also and get a sense of how “alive and well” entrepreneurship is in Missouri.
It’s great to see a resource being built for our fellow Missourians. How is the build-out of Missouri.me going? Have you all been out pounding the pavement talking to local businesses about the site or is it primarily by phone and email?
We believe a “feet-on-the-street” sales team is the only way to accomplish our goals. Although we focus on search engine optimization and bringing businesses online, at the end of the day many of these businesses in the rural areas need to be educated on the value of being found in the proper places online. They also need to be taught to realize how the Internet is changing their marketing plans for the future.
This means we are conducting seminars, speaking to chambers of commerce, and in some cases going business to business. We have been fortunate to get 100 customers in less than 6 months of selling.
You and I had a good conversation on the phone the other day about domain names and development. My way of doing things, or Modus Operandi (MO), to date has been to invest my capital into strong dot com domain names and then put my time, sweat, and more money into building those out. You have invested in dot coms also, but in some instances you have acquired domains in other extensions, inexpensively, for the purpose of build-out. Missouri.me is one, MissouriWine.net being another example. You then put your money and time into building those. We both recognize there are almost as many strategies to build businesses online as there are entrepreneurs. Can you discuss your thought process here and share a bit of how Missouri.me is received when doing sales or business development with ‘end users’ or potential advertisers in Missouri?
As you mention I have been a proponent for .COM for domain investment but when it comes to developing or building a business you have to open up the mind a bit and think about the business more than the name.
All that said, for some time I had major interest in the Geo domain name space. As soon as I heard about the land rush auction for dotME domains, I could see the potential. With the web getting more social and community focused but at the same time personalized, .ME just seemed to fit.
Before we sold one thing we actually went and spoke to businesses to get their feedback on what they would want. The initial reaction to dotME was overwhelmingly positive. People were making the same comments we had come up with, dotME works with community sites, it fits.
Recently we had a discussion with a major regional bank’s VP of Marketing, a very conservative bank, and the person actually stopped us mid-presentation to point out how great he thought .ME was and actually asked to sit down soon just to discuss where we are headed with this.
One more comment we have heard and is something that would be hard to argue is that dotME is the first extension that has really come out since .COM that was memorable, people remember dotME, it is short, pronounceable, and brandable.
I think domain investors get wrapped around the axle on domain extensions at times, they forget it is more about the business than it is the name. With a proper sales and marketing plan you can be successful. There is a huge difference between developing a business and buying a domain for investment.
I’ve been doing business online since the late 90’s. But to date my online ventures have been more on the lines of selling product or providing business directories in various niches. MO.com is my initial foray into “blogging” and truly creating the website content and gaining a feeling of real ownership in the product. I’m learning a lot with each day. You are someone who has been doing it awhile and have developed a loyal following on your blog (BruceMarler.com). How satisfying is that and how do you balance the time commitment with it and building out other ventures?
I have been humbled lately with the reaction I get from readers of the blog. It is amazing to me that people take the time to read what I put out. That makes me strive to be better. I just got back from DOMAINfest in LA and the number of people who came up to me to say they read the blog, people that I have major respect for, was really surprising.
My blog is really just a way for me to get my thoughts out; sometimes it helps me clarify even to myself what I am really thinking. I sometimes blog things that people do not really want to hear but cannot be avoided, people may disagree and that is OK.
The funny thing is when I first started my blog I was still working at my previous sales position, launching Localtek, and blogging, and I really had no true plan for the blog. It did not take long, though, for the theme of the blog to come together, and I have really come to enjoy it.
Now for how I find time, you will notice most of my posts come out LATE at night. Your joke about me not sleeping is not far off. A good portion of my posts come out between 11pm and 3am.
All that said, I recently launched a second blog at HyperlocalSEO.com which is focused on local SEO, and I am lining up other writers for the blog as well and hope to make it a spot for people working with real small businesses to voice their tips and tricks, not to the tech crowd but for small business owners to read.
I read your blog post the other day when you were testing the power of social media in terms of gaining visits to your website. The results were impressive. In fact, after reading your post, I went and registered for a twitter account (Twitter.com/BrianNull). I haven’t used it yet, but you can take the credit for inspiring me to do so… Can you speak a bit about social media and how you leverage it to grow your businesses? Oh and “Show Me” your twitter account too so we can follow you ;-)
My Twitter account is twitter.com/brucemarler, we also have accounts for our other properties as well.
I look at social media as a way to extend the brand. We preach constantly about a “holistic marketing plan” for customers getting on the web. This means a proper website, search optimization, advertising, and social media. For some customers this also means a mobile optimized site or app as well.
The way people access information online has changed; search is the most important way people access info right now, but Facebook actually bypassed Google for traffic over Christmas, do you think that means social media is important? I think we know the answer.
The goal is to make sure you link your website presence to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. If you have a blog it is important to make sure if you do a post it gets automatically posted to your followers on Twitter.
Also, having a Facebook fan page is very important, if someone opted in to become a fan they are likely interested in what you are doing. We have actually won several deals from people watching our Facebook fan page for Missouri.me. Another example is when we followed the Tour of Missouri and created a site on the day the race started, by using SEO and Social media we had over 24 thousand visits after one week on a site that never existed before the race started.
Once again, a holistic marketing plan is very important. It’s not just SEO; its not just a great domain name; you have to have a plan to link them all together. Our success with the launch of HyperlocalSEO.com shows what can happen.
You will be attending two domain name related conferences in the next couple weeks: Domain Fest and Domainer Mardi Gras. What are the biggest benefits of attending these conferences and similar tradeshows in general?
First off, I am really appreciative of both shows for asking me to be on panels or in networking sessions, as well at the Affiliate Convention last December. As much as I have been involved in this online marketing world, I was actually in another industry until July of last year as my full time profession. It has been a great experience to be able to be involved at these shows so soon after launching our company.
These shows offer a great networking opportunity, as great as the sessions are for learning about various business growth ideas or domain name industry thoughts, at the end of the day the real value for me is to network with companies and people that I had not been able to previously.
From the shows I have attended so far I can say the networking has been very productive and valuable business contacts have been made already that will help grow our business.
People sometimes look at an agenda of a show and choose to go or not go based on that, to me that way you judge the show is on the quality of companies you can expect to be there or on the opportunities to network. That is where real business gets done.
Then again, getting to watch Danny Sullivan and Bruce Clay on an SEO panel at DOMAINfest was as good as it gets.
Rumor has it that some investment companies have reached out to Localtek, and you are currently looking at the possibility of taking on investors based on these discussions. Care to discuss?
That is true. Back in December we had a very large private equity company that typically does B Round funding contact us and introduce us to some “name brand” first round companies. We appreciated that very much and were happy to see that people saw the value in the model we have and understood where we are headed.
We are currently talking to several different investment groups and really trying to make sure we find the right fit. When you are raising capital to grow your business, it becomes about more than just the money. The team really needs to bring more to the table and add value to the overall equation. Although I do not want to go into detail on the overall business growth plans, let’s just say that when people look at the details their interest has grown even further.
I see a St. Louis entrepreneurs meet up in our future. Are you in?
Sign me UP!!! I have been talking for a few months about setting up a domain investor meet up for fellow Show Me State investors but I think a St. Louis online entrepreneurs meetup would be just as great!
Find the right Domain Name for your business at Fabulous.com!