Guest of today is an innovator. He is Robin Alex. He has walked the entire path from being a techie guy who developed software and worked in server administration tasks to then go to customer services and finally becoming a successful entrepreneur offering software tools to automate the process of Digital Marketing.
Robin is owner and CEO of Innovate Fast, a firm located in Dallas, Texas. A business that helps scale businesses through sales and marketing.
Welcome, Robin, we are so excited to have you.
Thank you for having me on. All right, great.
So why don’t we get to know you first, what, tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background seems like you have varied interests, from technology to Server Administration, and now digital marketing about that journey.
Yeah. So, you know, since a young age, I’ve been the typical Indian kid who, you know, was it was easy for me to get a hold of a computer and try to figure it out as quick as possible back when you know, Windows 3.1 was around Windows 95. And all that. My dad was, you know, he was a car mechanic and all that he was also interested in technology, which allowed me to get a hold of a computer and everything. And so from there, it was always. You know, how I can be ahead of the curve in whatever way possible. But so I was in high school, it was, you know, online gaming was very popular and stuff like that. And I got into the online gaming world and actually offering servers hosting servers all around the world for different people. And by the time I was 19, I had the fortunate experience of selling it, selling that company. And what was interesting in the company that I sold it to actually sold it a couple of years later to Rackspace, which of course, is a, you know, large, large organization there. So it was kind of cool to see him that at a very young age and how that worked out from there, I, you know, went to school at Texas a&m University and had the opportunity working with a company who was a subsidiary of SAP, you know, so there are Oracle and SAP. And, you know, I learned a lot about software development and what you have to do get there, and we actually built out a piece of software that was on the team. And we actually got a little bit of trouble because what the software was doing was logging into Oracle software on behalf of clients and downloading all their update packages. And of course, you know, through IP, you know, litigation and all that SAP just said they didn’t want to do with it because Oracle sent them a $1 billion lawsuit. And in that world, you know, that sort of stuff happens all the time, but it just wasn’t worth their time. They ended up shutting down the company, and through that shutdown process. They allowed me to learn about software administration and the servers and how it all kind of works in the core. So you know, I just kind of learned these different things along the way, you know, in different circumstances. From there, I turned into becoming an IT consultant, helping businesses really try to figure out how to build up infrastructures, how-to, you know, network, multi-location around the world, things like that. What was interesting in the early to late 2000s going into 2010 and all was that the companies were spending a lot of money in IT, you know, $100,000-$200,000 a month in expenditure just in hardware, right. And then you have the consulting, putting it all together and stuff like that. So mostly for small businesses that were, you know, anywhere in the $5 to $10 million range. That’s a lot of money that they’re showing out. They didn’t know why they needed it. They just knew that they needed to do it. And those same expenditures were happening in marketing, right. You know, you needed a website and a basic five-page website. Someone could walk in at that time and say this website’s going to cost you $100,000 to build. Yeah, yeah. And no one had any justification for it. No one could question it. And it was signing checks. So the nice thing about being a consultant and building up a lot of rapport with our clients, they would usually come to me and saying, ‘Hey, can you help with these projects? Do you know anything about it? Obviously, you know a lot about computers. You can help its websites, and all that’. Through there, I started getting up, you know, projects over time and building up databases, building out websites and stuff like that. So that’s kind of how I transition into the marketing space. Well, at least the first foray into it. So what I learned was that it turned into a feast and famine mode, and in the feast and famine, right, like you signed a big project, and you’re like, oh, I’m going to kill it. I’m going to do great with this, and you stop selling, right? So now we’re just focused on this. And once that project is done, your clients did right, there’s very little to be back on that level again. So now you’re selling again, it takes time to ramp up and build it up. And so what I learned was for me to really turn this into going from a freelancer trying to turn it into a business to let’s turn this into a real business, I needed to figure out how I can get into a business’s revenue line, which is really focusing in on their ability to acquire clients which are more on the marketing sales strategy and delivery side. So that’s where we you know, built innovate fast. And now we focus a lot on paid strategy, you know, through PBC, Facebook ads, Snapchat all these different aspects and running advertisements. And that’s how we’re able to grow businesses. Now. We’re also doing websites, video services. in past couple years, we found out that a lot of businesses were struggling, we can bring them potential leads, right leads is a big term, but they didn’t know how to take those leads and convert them into a client. So potential clients for themselves. So that’s where we built out a piece of software.
Software is called Go High Level. And really it’s meant for we actually built it for agencies because we tried to sell it to businesses, but businesses didn’t know how to use it. You know, obviously, they didn’t know how to sell in the first place. They didn’t know how to use follow up, they didn’t know all these different issues. And so we basically took a step back and said, let’s give it to agencies. Let’s empower them so that they can help retain their clients because they run into the same exact issue and so from there, You know, the past couple months, we’ve scaled up to over 600 agencies using the software and over 7000s, you know, small to medium-sized businesses using the platform now.
Nice. Very cool. So, tell us a little bit about automation. So you know, I’m hearing a lot about digital marketing automation. Seems like you’re doing a lot in that space as well. So tell us a little bit about that.
Yeah. So one of the things is speed to lead, right. Getting leads is one aspect group. And when we talk about automation in that world, it’s running paid traffic or even on a website or whatever, you want to be able to collect that information. And not only just collect it, but what is the next thing that’s happening? Starting out, it’s usually manual, right, you receive an inbound notification that someone’s interested, you’re going to shoot them off an email. Well, the struggle that we had and is that most people took two days to respond back or a couple of hours or whatever. But the speed to lead is really important. You have anywhere from Five to 15 minutes to capture someone’s attention and respond to them, engage them, right. So the other statistic that we also look at is that it’s sometimes it takes 7to 12 touches before they even respond. So think about that, you have a short amount of time to reach out to them. And you have to touch a, you know, in different aspects, whether it’s text, email, phone call, whatever, seven, it’s all done before they’re ready to respond. So we needed to figure out a way to be able to do that so that businesses don’t do it themselves because they just won’t. And so we took all of the leads that were coming in, and we were passing it on to the business and trying to automate it one on one. But we needed a better way to have accountability to our clients. And that’s where we built the automation out for our clients through the high level. So now we’re doing stuff to where when a lead comes in, we’re calling their front desk, and it’s picking up Hey, you have a new lead from Facebook, press one and we’ll connect you. So now we’re calling the press one and it calls if that person doesn’t answer, they can hang up. And the system will call the person again and leave them a ring to this voicemail, right? So you don’t even have to leave a voicemail, then we’re just automating text messages and emails. And our automation is just constantly going. And maybe it might be over a six month period, but it’s just constantly sending feelers out until you respond. And then we start getting into AI, right? Because most people who respond it is usually positive affirmation like Yes, yeah, cool, whatever. No intent, right? No, not interested in me alone, right, you have a negative connotation. So we can actually key off of those and build other automation responses based on that. So it’s almost like an AI form of bots, but all done through SMS and email and calling, you know, those sort of touches.
Thanks a lot for those details. Now, one of the things that you know, a lot of people get worried about in this kind of scenario is spamming people you know, if he sent too many touchpoints to many messages, people get annoyed. So how do you get around those issues?
Yeah. So there are two parts to it. One is understanding the psychology of when someone is interested, are you able to respond to them fast enough? Because then it doesn’t come across the span, maybe it comes across as you’re attentive to their needs. The other question that we’ve come about is okay, we’re sending too many messages. So how do you spread it out? But being effective along the way, and your messaging has to be very concise and personal. If you can hit those three pinpoints, it doesn’t come across as spammy. And so what I mean by that is if I send Manuj a text message and saying, ‘Hey, I’m with a company, are you available to talk, you’re going to feel that’s more spammy versus if I send you a message that says, ‘Hi, this is Robin. You had shown interest that you’re interested in this kind of talk, you know, can I give you a call it later today? Yeah, it’s a little bit more personal. And so it doesn’t come across as spammy. So building that personal effective into it and being strategic on the times that you send people based on human characteristics, that’s going to be the solution. So you’re not spamming.
I see. So are you using AI and machine learning to personalize the messages? Or is it more sort of manual process Right now?
Yeah. So it is we’re not using AI per se from a how we respond back. We have canned responses, but usually, they’re short. It’s saying, Hey, we’re, we saw that you’re interested in this. Can I give you a call later today? Okay, now, what we are looking for from an AI perspective is the response back, usually, when you send a question, it’s easy, usually a yes or no. And the AI is kind of built around that. And that’s how we kind of solving. You know, the response automation.
Got it. And does this only work for inbound leads? Or do you do something to actually generate those leads as well?
Yeah. So the cool thing that we’re seeing with our platform is using things like database reactivation. The easiest people to sell to are people that have purchased from you in the past, right? So if you take that list, if you have a list of, you know, 2000, 5000, 20,000 people, you can import that into our platform and be able to do an outbound email or an outbound text message, even outbound calls, right or ringing this voicemail and building in that human characteristic to it, you’ll be able to re-engage your audience at a very direct process to reengage them to sale or consultation again.
Right. I was just talking on another interview yesterday. And it sounded like you know, small to midsize businesses or people who are starting off like tech startups. They are not too active in digital marketing. They’re not up to speed on what is happening, what is what the latest and greatest tools available to them are. How do you find the market yours? How do you see it? Like? Are the businesses they are getting more aware of these techniques? Or they still have a long way to go?
Yeah, I think businesses are aware that techniques and channels are available. Like everyone knows about Facebook. Everyone knows about Google and that, I think it’s the how do we potentially monetize out of it, which is, ultimately if we don’t have a strategy like we know that we need to advertise. And so you’ll see small businesses, startups and all that. It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, we boosted a post. Well, why did you boost that post? What were you, no one really talks about, like, what were you trying to accomplish out of it?’ Now, ultimately, startups, it’s what we just want business at the end. But like, if you talk about micro-commitments, what is that small little thing that you want them to do? By boosting a post or getting ads out there to the right people, a small micro commitment, but that micro commitment, what’s the next micro commitment and you just lead them all the way to the actual sale. There’s a strategy that people are missing.
I see. So do you work when you work with new clients? Do you also work on strategy or you? It’s more of a self-serve platform where they have to come up with a strategy and implement it. Yeah. So on our software side, you know, we deliver that to agencies, as they’re the ones that typically have the strategy, they understand the process, and they implement that for their clients. Now, with our agency side, with innovating fast, we actually are the same way we come in, we build out that strategy. And now that strategy could be depending on you know, what channels, whether it’s doing a database reactivation or sending Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, whatever that channel is, like, we have to figure all that out. And then what are those micro-commitments? Now our back end tool to really be the engine to power it all will be our software, typically, to make sure that the conversion happens.
Got it. Got it. And now I was reading some of your posts on LinkedIn and in one of them, you recommend using Facebook ads or Google ads? And you know, obviously I talked to a lot of digital marketers, and everybody seemed to have a different opinion about that. So what can you explain why do you prefer Facebook ads or Google ads?
Yeah, so it’s interesting. There are two ways to look at it. And one of the ways that I really like to position it to people is are you an intent-based business, or a behavior-based business? And what I mean by that is, are you like service-related businesses, let’s say a plumber or an electrician, I need an electrician. You know, my toilet is broken, my water is not working, and they are actually within 10 looking for something. And those businesses tend to do a lot better on Google. Now, the problem there is there are a lot of people also in that same market who are competing for that viewership. And so the cost is a lot higher, but the quality is there. Now when you get into other sorts of businesses, Say like in the medical space or you know something, where there’s not a lot of intent in getting it done right now, behavior based stuff, is a little bit better for Facebook on that channel leads are a lot lower cost, but sometimes the quality of those leads are not as strong. So if you’re looking for a volume play, who don’t have a lot of intent, Facebook is a good start. Now you can eventually build that intent and that quality up as you know, bring them into us micro commitment into let’s say, a website or a funnel or something and have a quiz or filtering out questions and stuff. That’s how you increase it over time. But if you’re just talking about the platforms in general, Facebook is cheaper, cheaper leads quality and is a little bit lower. But you can do really well from an ROI perspective if you have kind of the back end built with Google, it is intent-driven. It’s the right people who want the service right now, but it’s a lot higher a cost.
Got it. Alright. So, you know, the theme of the show is bootstrapping your dreams. And we typically, you know, talk to entrepreneurs, we talk to professionals who want to uplift their careers and make progress. So if somebody’s just starting off, in terms of launching their tech startup or launching a company, what is your recommendation? What should they do in terms of digital marketing? I remember, you know, when people are bootstrapping, they don’t have a lot of investment or resources to put into paid out. So what is your recommendation in terms of balancing all this out, so that they can get the best bang for the buck?
Yep. So one of the best things that I recommend is everyone has $1,000 plus phone, right? And these phones nowadays take 4k video, and so being able to document your thoughts, your position what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and just putting it out as video content, it’s very easily consumable. And it’s very purposeful for advertising. You can also extract the audio and turn it into a blog or you know, a podcast or something like that. I think just being able to leverage video is the first step that a business can easily take without a lot of overhead and a lot of needs behind it. And then from there, you know, if you talk about low cost and bootstrapping, you know, spending $15 to $20, and just boosting it to your ideal audience. Now, it doesn’t give you the deep targeting features that you can do with Facebook ads, but at least it’s a good start and getting it out there. And then being able to leverage tools such as pixel Lang and stuff like that. The cool thing with Facebook, they really want people to start leveraging their boost feature. So if you boost it to your ideal audience, Facebook, just in that basic concept allows you to say I want to build up an audience of people who have watched at least 20% or 50% of my video. So now when you do your second piece of content, you can boost it to people who have only seen or who have seen 50% or more of that video, because it’s you a little bit of interest, right? And now it’s just getting those people more and more content. And so if you want something quick, dirty, easy way to get it out there is to take video and boost it, put it up on other channels like YouTube and just keep putting out more content. That’s an easy way to get started.
That’s amazing. I completely agree with that. And you know, with so many mediums available these days, you know, video you mentioned video, podcast, blogs, social media, the more content you can put out the more value you can provide. It’s good for your brand. But now you know here one more question arises. A lot of people are shy, you know, they don’t want to come in front of the camera or did they hit their voice It sounds like once it’s recorded, so what do you say to them?
That’s a hard one. And the reason I say it’s a hard one is that if you’re actively trying to start a business, you know, how are you going to sell if you don’t feel comfortable positioning your brand and your product? Yeah, I do think that people love the authenticity of a video that you’re doing yourself, right? Like even as we’re having this conversation I have, I’m stuttering I’m saying arms and ahhs and all that. I don’t think people have the expectation of if you’re putting up content, mostly on social platforms, that you have to be perfect. So it is okay, you know, to stutter and mess up and have pauses and things like that. But it takes time to get comfortable with it. So I think just putting content out there over and over again, your first couple of videos are not going to be the best. People will follow your journey and sometimes your best clients say you know what, I’ve been following you since he started and I’ve been growing along with you. You’ve, you know, two years later, you’ve grown, you’ve grown your business and all that. I’ve grown my business. And now I’m ready to work with you. I’ve seen what you’ve done. You’re ready for me and I’m ready for you. Yeah, yeah.
That’s an amazing piece of advice. Yeah. I mean, when you start off, doesn’t need to be perfect. Just get it done, get it going. And then over time, of course, like with anything in life, you know, you get some feedback, you look at your own mistakes, and you learn from it. So it’s a process that you just need to get through. And, you know, it’s better to start today than to delete any further. All right, great. Now, is there anything else that you may want to share with the audience about digital marketing and automation?
Yeah, just as what we’re talking about. Start out in small little bits and work your way up. Don’t feel like you have to build your whole strategy and accomplish the whole strategy at once. If you are, you know, in startup mode, just figure it out. Like if you’re going out to somebody. Who’s never heard your product? What is something small that they can do to start getting into your business ecosystem, right? It doesn’t mean that they’re going to go all the way to purchase right away. But what is that small little thing, maybe it’s as simple as watching my next video, right watching your next video, go to this website, on this website, when you’re there, you try to capture their email address and just work your way down until you can get them on a call. Or you can get them into purchasing but know that it’s a lot of steps along the way. But just break it down into small little segments and work your way. Work your way up.
Great. Alright, so now let’s talk about your entrepreneurial journey. You mentioned that you know, you obviously build a company sold it running, which was running servers and whatnot. And now in your current venture, you first tried to build a product for businesses and you pivoted and you realize that you know, agencies will be a better target. Have you made any other mistakes and if so, what were they and how did you overcome them? And what did you learn from them?
Yeah, um, I would say, one of the big mistakes that I’ve made mostly on the marketing side is undercharging and undervaluing myself. A lot of times, it’s, you know, if we are coming in as the business that helping another business grow, you know, we shouldn’t have to necessarily shortchange ourselves. And usually, when a client is asking to, you know, be that low cost, option, and solution, they’re typically not one to take what you’re offering them as serious as possible. And that was something that I just didn’t realize until later on down the road. The other thing that a mistake that I made was getting into the feast and famine, which is searching for these huge projects and stop selling and focus on the delivery. And in reality, the way that I worked out of it was, you know, starting to bring on people, whether it was contractors, full-time resources, you know, employees building a team. So that I can continue selling while the deliveries happening. Now, in that process, mistakes happen. But one of the biggest fundamentals I learned from that was what I have in my mind of 100% delivery, I could drop that down to 70%. And that’s still a clients hundred and 10%. Because we’re all perfectionist, right? We want to over-deliver to our clients. And really, sometimes we just overdo it in our mind, because we feel like that’s all that we can do with our clients. And so once I kind of lowered my personal expectations a little bit, we were still over-delivering mostly when I started giving it off to my team to just handle and so it was passing on to my team. Well, I continued on sales.
Got it, got it. And how did you start it on it? Did you bootstrap this business as well?
Yeah, I bootstrapped the business. I actually for a while I was working as a consultant for another company and on the side was working, you know, building up this business and it just got to a point of time, right? The other business, I was doing really well, but I knew that there was more potential, but I needed to dedicate more time into it. So I kind of sucked it up and, you know, just went full-on into this. It hurt for a couple of months. But, you know, we, I think that drove me a little bit more knowing that I needed to solve it. And, you know, I feel like I haven’t solved it yet. Never. I hope I never solve it. Like it’s just constant new problems and new echelons that we have to keep hitting along the way.
Yeah, for sure. And are there any lessons that you learned from your bootstrapping experience, specifically, you know, how to how to maybe optimize your resources or, as you said, like, you know, get motivated to solve this problem. What are some of the key pieces that you learned from that experience?
Yeah, one of the things in bootstrapping that I didn’t take as seriously that I should have, which is interesting. Is that we tell our clients like you need to be allocating marketing budget, whether it’s 10% of your overall 30% or whatever, like all the money that you make from an ROI perspective, you should be pumping back into advertising and it turns into this big vicious cycle, right? They call it the flywheel effect. And ironically, we weren’t doing that for our business in bootstrapping it. So I wish like early on, I just took every single dollar I made and ran it back into advertising. So that we’re not in this feast and famine mode. We’re just constantly doubling up over and over again, and it just starts spinning faster. It’s, you know, I didn’t make that conscious decision until after I went full time into the business and then from there, it was kind of went down a little bit because I wasn’t used to taking money away from the pie to run back into advertising to grow even more.
Great. And I believe you also have a podcast, right?
No, I do not actually. You know, I enjoy joining other people’s podcast. And, you know, we have too many things going on at once that I can’t have another podcast.
Alright, so how can people, people reach out to you? What is your company website address and what kind of services you can help them with?
Yeah, so we’re a full-service marketing agency, you can check us out at innovatefast.com. And if you are a marketing agency, looking for some software, you can check us out at gohighlevel.com.
Awesome. That’s great. So I’ll add those links to the show notes so that people can reach out to you easily.
All right. Great. Thank you so much for being with us and sharing your views about marketing and how to bootstrap companies. Thanks a lot.
Thank you for having me.
Links & Mentions From This Episode:
Robin’s Website: https://innovatefast.com
TetraNoodle consulting services: https://bootstraptechstartup.com
TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com
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