In today’s #ChampLifeSeries, we are super excited to introduce Andre Palko, the king of visual content marketing. Andre has been working as a marketer for more than a decade and has a versatile portfolio that enables him to help multiple businesses.
He will share his insights on visual content marketing and discuss all the essential practices to help you out in this session!
So let’s get to it.
Fahad: Hi Andre, thanks for being a part of our #ChampsLifeSeries. Starting with our first question, Please share your career’s journey with our readers.
Andre: I moved to New York City to join a rock-n-roll band as a bass player in my early twenties. The band leader’s family owned a printing company, and I was fortunate to get a job working there by day. At night we followed our youthful dreams and played clubs around the city.
We managed to get a record deal, but it never quite came together. So I spent my first career working in the printing industry. After 9/11, I was laid off from my sales job and couldn’t find another. So I started my own business selling print finishing equipment.
One of those products took off and turned into a 7-figure business. That’s where I fell in love with marketing.
The product manufacturer had a marketing guy who opened my eyes to direct response techniques. We ran with those ideas, added more of our own, and within a few years, we made it to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in North America.
Fahad: What led you to start Small Business Rain Maker? What was your inspiration behind it?
Andre: I love the creative buzz of printing. Every job was new and different. I was fortunate to meet fascinating artists, writers, designers, business people, engineers, and salespeople.
It turns out I was also pretty good at operating machinery. I enjoyed the challenge of setting up a machine, then fine-tuning it to run at maximum productivity, and teaching others to do the same.
Marketing involves both elements—creativity and machinery. Creativity is pretty obvious. There is no end to the creative angles used in any marketing project.
Marketing and machinery? Well, if you think about it, Google and other search engines and social media platforms are machines. They’re computers programmed to do certain things with the content fed into it.
Plus, direct response marketing has lots of “machinery” that has to be set up and managed for maximum output. Contact management systems, email autoresponders, websites, chatbots, and ecommerce platforms. All of that machinery has to work well with all the search engines and social machinery. When a vital element is missing, the machinery doesn’t produce. For example, a local business without a Google My Business profile is less likely to appear in local search results. Or, a company without a contact management system is leaving a huge amount of money on the table for the competition.
To me, it feels the same as running physical equipment. That’s why I think I took to marketing so well. It wasn’t really that big of a transition!
What happened was, while I was selling those print finishing products, I started a side business doing newsletter marketing. Several years ago, I sold out my share in the print product business and decided to work full-time on marketing for small companies.
So, it’s kind of a nomadic journey to where I am today. Yet every experience adds richness to what I bring to my marketing work.
Fahad: What were the struggles you faced at the start of your journey, and how did you overcome them?
Andre: One of my biggest struggles was back in my twenties. Right after the rock-n-roll dream faded, I started a business. It was ill-conceived, and I made every textbook mistake possible. The result was bankruptcy, and at the time, I thought it was the end of the world.
Through that experience, I met several mentors who taught me valuable business lessons that helped me succeed in my later efforts, which stick with me to this day. I discovered that life goes on after such a traumatic event. I learned that money comes and goes, but it is constantly flowing.
I found that commitment and persistence to good ideas will always pay off. But I always work with experienced mentors or coaches to keep a solid perspective.
Fahad: We would love to know about your book Secrets of Peak Performers; what’s it about?
Andre: That was a collaboration from my years in the Peak Performer’s business coaching group run by Dan S. Kennedy, Lee Milteer, and Bill Glazer. The three of them, myself and others in the group, shared our stories hoping that other entrepreneurs could benefit from our real-world experience.
Fahad: How can businesses go around using video marketing for their brand? What should their approach be towards using it as a part of their content marketing strategy?
Andre: People seem to get overly excited about the video itself. It’s understandable because the video is supposed to be exciting and engaging. So they make a few videos or hire someone to make something flashy. They might put it on their website, maybe a couple of social channels. Then nothing happens, and they say, “Video doesn’t work.”
I start with strategy: “What’s the purpose of the video?” Is it to generate leads? To answer customer support questions? To demonstrate a product before the purchase? Or after the purchase? And so on.
For example, if it’s a lead gen video, we start by selecting the primary keyword phrase. Then I write a script around that phrase that leads to a compelling call-to-action. Then we make the video. Then we optimize the title, description, tags, and thumbnails around the keyword phrase. Then we upload to an optimized YouTube channel to get it to rank on Google for the keyword phrase. Then we re-use on relevant social channels.
On the other hand, a customer support video only shown to clients after purchase would have a different approach. Always start a video project with strategic questions, then create the video.
The second important piece of video advice is to get started. Companies don’t need flashy videos to accomplish their goals. Cell phone videos or screen recordings are great if they’re planned in advance.
Fahad: What would be your advice for someone who’s just getting started with his entrepreneurial journey?
Andre: Two quick pieces of advice. One, don’t go it alone. Find an experienced, trustworthy mentor. It can save you tons of money and years of heartache. Two, listen to your heart. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. And make sure you have passion for whatever it is you’re doing.
Fahad: How necessary are marketing automation tools when it comes to distributing your content online?
Andre: Automation is essential. Marketing sophistication is much deeper today, and it’s not enough to be on one social channel. Manually distributing content on multiple channels is too costly and tedious.
However, the personal touch should never be left out. Rely on automation to distribute the content. Then rely on humans to engage with comments, likes, and shares.
And as with everything else in marketing, it should be driven by strategy. A plan needs to be in place before the automation starts.
Fahad: Stepping aside from work, how do you enjoy your free time, any particular activity that might fascinate our audience?
Andre: I’m a private pilot and love to fly. I’ve been away from it in recent years because I spend too much time on the business, but I hope to return to it soon. Something new is that I’m learning how to bake bread from a starter. There is quite the learning curve, but having a tangible product is very rewarding at the end of all that work. But so far, I think marketing is easier!
Fahad: Who inspires you the most, both personally and professionally?
Andre: Dan S. Kennedy, a successful business consultant, and author, has had the biggest impact. It was inspiration from his writing that helped us take our business to a level I never thought I’d achieve. And he has a personal story that I can relate to that’s always inspired me and keeps me going. Being part of his coaching program with Lee Milteer and Bill Glazer were all big influences in my personal and professional life.
Fahad: Now it’s time for our rapid-fire round.
Rapid Fire Round
|Your favorite social media platform?|
|Your favorite content to consume?||Any aviation video.|
|Tea or Coffee?||Coffee! Can’t live without it!|
|Your favorite travel destination?||I love the countryside in New Jersey and the northeastern US. Kayaking on the local lakes and walking the local area is good for my soul.|
|Social media or Social Networking?||Social networking. I’ve met many great people by reaching out to them directly on Twitter or LinkedIn.|
Fahad: Please share some pro-tips for our readers.
Andre: Following are my pro-tips:
1 – Devote time to looking at your business strategically. Get away from the day-to-day grind to work on it, as well as in it.
2 – Systematize everything. This means there is a standard, documented way to do all the essential things in your business. For instance, far too many companies don’t teach their employees how to answer the phone or reply to an email. A 2-sentence script can eliminate the “customer prevention” department. It doesn’t detract from creativity or passion!
3 – Automate wherever possible. There are hundreds of tools available to automate your repetitive, mundane tasks for far less than what you’d pay an employee. Yet most small companies don’t take advantage of this.
4 – Be omnichannel in your marketing. Make a plan to test multiple channels and media. Two under-utilized channels right now are direct mail and video. Mailboxes are empty today, yet direct mail is great at driving traffic online or into physical stores.
Video, done right, can get ranked on Google search results just minutes after posting. For companies who already have a search presence, video can help them dominate the search results. Companies starting can get nearly instant page one exposure without waiting months for long-term SEO.
But the problem I see is the lack of strategy. Companies will try a few videos, then stop when they don’t see results. Start with the strategy and then move on to creation.
Thank you, Andre Palko, for taking the time and letting us interview you.