James: All right welcome back my friends to yet another edition of the Big Value, Big Business podcast. I am your host, James Lynch. I am really big, big, big-time super excited about my very special guest today. His name is Taylor Treese. Taylor is the co-founder and CEO of MediaTrax.com. MediaTrax is a one-stop shop for wholesale online marketing solutions. They offer an end-to-end product suite consisting of and it’s way too many for me to name them all but they have pay-per-call, they have call tracking, search engine marketing and all that goes with that. Business profile management, syndication, online reputation management, landing pages, websites, hosting, analytics conversion, as well as customized engineering solutions that I hear they do a hell of a job with that.
Anyway you can find that all at MediaTrax.com and without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce Mr. Taylor Treese to the Big Value, Big Business podcast. Hello Taylor, how are you?
Taylor: Hello, hello! Thanks for having me.
James: Hey awesome, awesome. Good to finally connect and how are things—I believe you’re in sunny southern Florida?
Taylor: We are. It’s in the depths of our summer at the moment so I always call this our winter because it’s brutally hot outside and you don’t want to go outside at this time of year.
James: All right, so we’ll come it inside keep the air conditioner cranked. But we’re doing pretty well ourselves up here in the northeast. It’s kind of warm but I digress. Listen, thanks for coming on I’m really looking forward to having you share some of your knowledge and insights on how we can successfully leverage our online marketing tools which you have a full toolbox of. You know to successfully and economically bring our content and our messaging to the masses. So does that sound like a plan sir?
James: Cool, cool. So just to jump right in, can we get started like with Taylor’s backstory maybe—obviously you’re an entrepreneur and just kind of get to know a little bit about you and the journey that brought you here to where you are today.
Taylor: Sure, sure. So I grew up in the northeast, originally from Connecticut and I grew up in a very entrepreneurial family. So I’ve always just been around that. Ever since I was a kid, my father has always owned his own business and naturally my mom did the exact same thing. They were both in and around the publishing sector and me being in my mid 40s, there was no digital back then so it was all really the print world that I was immersed in. But needless to say my father was an entrepreneur and they both had separate businesses that kind of played off one another. So I got to see that a lot growing up. Got to see risk taking, thinking outside of the box, all of the things really were just natural to me growing up.
Went off to college, my father thought it was important that after school I worked for a big corporation and kind of see what working at a big company was all about before joining the family business per se. And I did that for a number of years, worked for a number of groups, some of the bigger companies were like Ericsson, Telecom. And I was very much always in the tech or telecom space.
I got very itchy after being there for quite some time and that zone. Didn’t like the red tape, didn’t like the politics, it all kind of ultimately boiled back down to me starting something. And my father and I started MediaTrax together. He had a consulting practice at the time and I came up with the product idea and he helped me fund it. And before you know it, here we are basically ten years later just doing a ton of different things. So that’s my story.
James: And you’re sticking to it?
James: All right sounds good. Yeah I had the pleasure to know your dad, Roger, as well. He’s a cool guy and that is so great. What a great up and coming, I mean you’re exposed to all those things. I love that you put the risk taking, working out of the box. It just like so sets the stage for everything that you do not get in a conventional education. So hat’s off man. And then you got the boot and said get out there and see what the other guys are doing and come back in a little while and then we’ll get this thing going you know what I mean? That’s awesome.
Taylor: It’s important, it’s important to know how both sides work. As you know, big companies just operate completely opposite from what an entrepreneur would do. So I think it really is important to see how both sides do what they do everyday.
James: Absolutely, I know that all too well myself. So yeah ten years, I was going to ask, so started with a seed project. Do you care to let us know what that was and how things kind of progressed? I mean I rattled off here probably just touched on, or scratched the surface of, your product suite. But where did it start and how did it get to where it is to this big—I love that end-to-end analogy, you can just soup to nuts—everything to do with online marketing. But you know where did it start and how did it quickly evolve into what it is now?
Taylor: Yeah so the name kind of speaks for itself, MediaTrax. Our first product was called “Tracking Product” and I had just come out of the telecom sector so being very familiar with all that technology and linking up with my dad’s consulting practice in the publishing sector. He began to describe to me one of his clients who’s a call tracking vendor. They were looking to tap my dad as a sales resource to enter the newspaper and yellow page sector. And I kind of got involved with them and starting lending my knowledge to the telecom sector to my dad. And the more I got to understanding what they were doing, it seemed like just very straight forward and easy to me to build the exact same solution.
And long story short the consulting retainer expired and that client went away and I took whatever funds I could gather and we built a competing technology. And we immediately just started approaching all the clients that my dad already knew and we understood the feature set that they wanted. So we were very nimble and we just built what they wanted immediately and just jumped into the market, undercut everybody else and that’s kind of what got us going. And we chose the name MediaTrax cause we were naturally tracking their media for them and helping improve value to their customers.
James: That’s awesome. Yeah you took a business model and totally reinvented, innovated it and I like that you listened to the people that you were doing business with and you evolved and created your business towards their goals and what they needed. So that’s perfect. That’s so important to know and to listen to your customers especially for the entrepreneur to be able to do outpace and innovate over and above the existing solutions. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
So tell us about a day in the life at MediaTrax. What do you guys do from day-to-day? Is it a whole bunch of different things? Is it mostly agency-centered? Do you deal with small mom and pop or is it mostly larger clients?
Taylor: We really run the gambit. It’s funny we probably, I’m just guessing, 20-40 small agencies. And I lose track of who’s kind of with us nowadays from that side of the fence because they tend to come and go based on what their needs are. And we’re very much an a la carte type shop. We don’t believe in holding your feet to the fire, making you sign some big, long, crazy contract. So we do have a lot of agencies that maybe only sell two, three thousands dollars a month in search or sometimes agencies that only want three call tracking lines. And so I never really know who’s on board and still using us from a day-to-day perspective unless I’m looking at the invoicing at the beginning of each month.
But then we—it’s kind of crazy but I think that model works really well. But then we have huge, huge customers. We have Time Inc. and Conde’ Nast Digital and groups like that with big brand name customers like Andersen Windows and various universities. So it really does span from the small mom and pop advertiser on up to a really huge corporation that’s doing display advertising.
James: Awesome, now the reason I ask is the majority of my listeners are small mom and pop business consultants, entrepreneurs but you never know they could be an agency executive out there that’s looking for a solution. And we hope to bring this podcast and your message and my message to everybody out there. But it’s good to know that you don’t discriminate and I really like that idea of—too many companies make it very difficult for you to disconnect from them. They get every hook imaginable and they just pile it on and pile it on to make it difficult for them to disconnect. But you offering an a la carte services makes it really easy. Give people what they want, what they need, as much of it and when it’s served its purpose then you part friends instead of being aggravated I guess.
Taylor: Yeah it’s very much that new world mentality that I think Google kind of helped spark. Whereby you can just dip your toe in the water and if the service works for you then great, pay it. And it’s performance based and you pay for what you use you know? There was a great book I read years ago called What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. And I swear you could pretty much apply most of those concepts to just about any business nowadays and help yourself be successful.
James: What Would Google Do? We’ll definitely put that in the show notes and you’ll find the show notes at BigValueBigBusiness.com/episode31. Talking about books, What Would Google Do?, what are some of your most favorite authors inspiring—you know what’s on the bed stand today even or what really struck you back as you were coming up?
Taylor: Yeah I love probably more broader in spectrum type books like anything that Malcolm Gladwell has written. I think I’ve read all of those. Just love his approach to business and the greater world around us as well.
I do a little bit of reading on the drier side, there’s an author by the name of Nassim Taleb. He wrote The Black Swan and it deals with the concepts of—there’s always going to be a black swan. In other words, most swans are white, that’s what you expect. Maybe the better analogy is Thanksgiving. The turkey always thinks he’s happy and he’s well-fed and his life is great but there’s one day out of the year where it’s not so great to be a turkey. And Nassim Taleb uses that analogy for investing. Most people try to bet on who they believe the winners are going to be and they put tons of money on who they think the winner is or will become. Whereas if you kind of flip that table around and maybe put tons and tons of smaller bets out there and know that something is going to happen. And he used to talk, in the book The Black Swan, he talks about September 11. Nobody ever saw that coming but that completely changed our lives and the financial markets. So it’s a really interesting read. It opens your mind up to some different concepts.
James: So diversifying, maybe contrary to all your eggs in one basket kind of thing in everything?
James: That’s very cool. Very interesting, I love Malcolm Gladwell. He’s kind of an enigma from The Tipping Point on back to—yeah he’s got a really interesting worldview. Awesome, awesome. I want to just go back a little bit, we were talking about my audience and I kind of was a little up front with you the size of audience. So talking about search, and you’ve obviously seen it in your ten years plus probably before that, kind of evolve in search. And myself, I’m thinking everything’s content driven. I kind of push folks to get quality content out there to get customers, to educate. How do you see search marketing evolving now—less and less direct response and more content from your side. Are you seeing a decline or are you seeing—is direct response as strong as ever? Or you seeing more a content marketing branding, getting to know us, getting to know our product suite, do you see that kind of coming into? I’m interested to know your perspective because you do have a lot of clients at scale so you do have a pretty macro view.
Taylor: Yeah absolutely it’s been a real rollercoaster with search marketing. We were present in the early days before Google really had a handle on it and the yellow page sector was truly the king of direct response and the newspapers. And they really dropped the ball as digital emerged and obviously we saw Google take over and really win that whole sector. I think what we’ve seen happen lately is that obviously it’s not as inexpensive as it used to be. In the good old days, you could pay 20 cents a click and they were legitimate leads and people were happy to do that all day long and those were obviously the early adopters.
And now we’ve even seen crazy click prices upwards of $100 for something very niche, legal, or an expensive product. So I think Google is going to definitely go through a bit of an evolution and I think they know that. I think that’s why they’ve been looking to diversify. I think it’s obvious when they invest in groups like HubSpot which is pretty much all about content. So we’re trying to figure out how that evolves from here. We have not really seen a decline in search marketing but we have seen prices go up. And anytime you see prices go up, obviously that spells a difference in the market and it’s going to be more and more difficult I think for the smaller guys to really play in that space and get a ton of leads.
Do I think they’re going to go away? No. No time soon. That’s like saying the yellow pages will go away. Everyone predicted that they would be gone and they’re still here and they’re still making billions of dollars a year. So I think we’ve got a long, long, long time to go but we’re definitely approaching some kind of a maturity phase I think and I just don’t know where exactly we are.
James: Yeah so you speak about Google’s interest in HubSpot and we all know that HubSpot is all about in-bound content marketing. And I’ve got this thing in the back of my head cause you know I’m on the forefront of a very diverse portfolio of businesses so I see the variation in click prices and it’s out of sight right now compared to what it was. But what do you think about these Outbrain versus Taboola, the content marketing platforms? I see Google, cause they’re smart, I see them kind of getting from their display network and meeting somewhere in the middle between the Outbrain and the current display network. I just see a good quality content distribution network with pretty low cost of entry that the small business owner could—I don’t know maybe I should start it. I don’t know I just described a perfect world but I’d like to see the small business owner still be able to play you know what I mean?
Taylor: Yeah and I think that it’s something that they have to do now. Content marketing has just become so important mainly because the search engines’ algorithms rely on all that content that’s being driven, the backlinks that are being created. So that’s obviously the new frontier. The difficult part is that it’s really hard to measure, it’s really difficult for the channel to sell because it’s pretty much just hiring bodies and that doesn’t scale well and it’s not super profitable for the channel.
So we’re definitely in a really weird quandary right now because you’re seeing a lot of agencies begin to weigght what they’re doing for people into the social and content marketing realms. And a little bit less, they’re pulling back from the paid advertising aspect. But I think right now it’s crucial to have a good balance between all of those.
James: Yeah absolutely and you put it succinctly in a way that I couldn’t. Totally. But I do see you, we are on a cusp of a kind of an evolution. So great I appreciate your insight on that.
How about Taylor and what gets him going? I mean you’re obviously an entrepreneur, you’re well read. Do you have any business resources, mastermind groups, guys you hang out with? Do you have a particular mentor? Reason I ask, a lot of the entrepreneurs, most of the entrepreneurs I talk to, have a mentor or a peer group or a mastermind group or something that they check in with for accountability, moving forward. I don’t know that could even be your dad for all I know. But what do you have going on?
Taylor: Yeah I definitely have several things. I belong to a group here in south Florida but it’s actually a global organization called EO or entrepreneurs organization. We have a south Florida chapter I think that’s about 250-300 entrepreneurs strong. And then the 300 or so of us are broken up into smaller groups called forums of about 7-8 guys. There are women involved as well they’re just kind of few and far between. But my forum will meet once a month and they almost act as kind of a board of directors for my company and I would likewise act as a board of directors for their company. And we just discuss general business you know the group that I’m in is quite diverse. There’s people in high-tech, there’s people in construction, there’s people in the law/legal industry. So it’s very diverse but it really helps to be able to talk to a fellow entrepreneur about things like meeting payroll or a legal issue you’re battling because a lot of my other just day-to-day friends just work for big companies and they have no concept of what some of those things are that I face.
Yeah so that’s a business group that I belong to and I get a lot out of that and we’re also very philanthropic. We do a lot of things in and around the community. As far as you know a mentor, I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a mentor. But you know what I do like to do is stay in very close contact with the VC community. And so I kind of like to just touch base with a bunch of different groups and see where their heads are. They tend to be pretty smart people, I don’t necessarily really like the way VC’s operate. We’re not VC backed, we do have funding but not from a traditional VC. But you know they can really tell the temperature of a sector. They have put together things that they like and dislike and I really enjoy understanding why they like something or they don’t like something. They also tend to be on the forefront of news. News travel fast, they tend to get it first. They know what deals are closing, what deals are going south. So that really helps to stay in close contact with them. Even if you aren’t getting money from them.
James: Those two resources in themselves are invaluable. I have guys that want to join a mastermind group and they just don’t know where to start. And you know some have high barrier to entry and they don’t know where to go and this sounds perfect. If it’s a nationwide or global organization, your entrepreneurs organization, I totally would recommend folks to go out there and check that out. The other, the VC community, I just kept thinking you know how you check in with them and I was trying to put together a sailing analogy in my head because I know you love to sail. And it was like the VC guys always know which way the wind is blowing you know what I mean?
Taylor: Always, always.
James: Yeah, that’s cool, that’s cool. Hey man this had been great. So as we wind it on down tell me what MediaTrax has going on, what you got in the pipe, anything that we don’t have to sign a non-disclosure agreement for. And just let us know what’s happening and how we can find you. URL, Twitter, Facebook, what’s going on?
Taylor: Yeah sure MediaTrax has got a little bit of a bizarre spelling to it. It’s M-E-D-I-A-T-R-A-X.com. We thought it was kitschy and interesting and relatively easy to type. So it was a good domain that actually took me years to purchase. I think there was a teenager that owned it and he was under the impression that he was going to make millions off of it. But over the years he realized that wasn’t the case and we eventually bought it from him. You know we don’t do a lot, we really should do more. We don’t do a lot of outbound blogging or tweeting. We do have a blog, we do post some relevant content usually once a month and I think I’m going to try and beef that up for the remaining part of this year and next year. But that’s the easiest way to find us, our URL really spells out what we do.
Some of the things that I think we’re probably going to be leaning towards is much more overall management of digital marketing. There are just so many aspects to digital marketing and I think what we’re trying to do, it sort of feels like hurting cats, where we’ve got just so many of these little solutions that you were mentioning when this first kicked off you know between tracking calls, tracking what’s happening on a website, getting ads up on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, creating landing pages.
There are just so many aspects and so what we’re trying to do next is wrangle all of that together into one nice suite that you can enter, order, manage, report on, bill for. And so we’re on the cusp of actually releasing a new product line that we refer to as DMM or the Digital Marketing Management system. And we’re just going into beta right now with Time Inc. on that system. So we’re really excited about it. It looks like it’s going to be tying us into other groups that we weren’t previously tied into like the real-time bidding organizations, the DSPs that exist. So we’re really looking forward to the launch of that. Should be next month.
James: So DMM, Digital Marketing Management system, it’s in beta I guess with your customer Time?
James: So I’m thinking from a consultant standpoint, even entrepreneur, someone that’s digitally savvy. If they wanted to approach local businesses with this product and be able to manage all the needs of a local business, would that be applicable? Could that work for him?
Taylor: It would be applicable for the channel. So if there is a small agency per se that is just having a tough time managing all the aspects of digital marketing. Anything from creating a proposal for the customer estimating what the customer would get out of a search campaign and handling assets. You know a constant outreach to the customer, “Hey we need that logo or your display ad because we’re going to begin running a campaign for you,” the back and forth that’s involved in checking that that asset is the proper size or if it’s some kind of an action oriented display campaign where they’re using a SWF type file. There’s so much that goes into the back and forth of digital marketing. So it’s more about helping the channel reign in all those loose ends. And to stop them from using things like Outlook and Excel to manage the day-to-day process.
James: So accommodation CRM, maybe CRM digital marketing suite?
Taylor: Yes that’s a very good way of putting it. We’ve been writing up you know the literature to describe it and we’re pretty close to having a landing page up for it. And we ourselves are struggling how to describe it but it very much is like an ERP system for digital marketing.
James: Awesome, I like that and I look forward to hearing more about it. So after a month or two in the beta we should have something good to report and hopefully I can throw it on my blog.
Taylor: Great, we will keep you up to date.
James: I have enjoyed this very much. I thank you so much for your time, I’d love to have you back to catch up. And that’s it, we’re going to wrap it up and again I appreciate it. Taylor Treese from MediaTrax.com. We’ll talk to you soon?
Taylor: Thank you for having me, this was great.
James: Awesome, awesome. Thank you sir, take care now.
Taylor: All right, take care.