Paul Kortman, Founder of Connex Digital Marketing, and digital nomad, joins me on this episode to talk about sales careers and how they intersect with our own personal joy.
The Sales Enablement Podcast with Andy Paul was formerly Accelerate! with Andy Paul.
Andy Paul 0:35
Hello and welcome to the Sales Enablement Podcast. I am very excited to talk with my guest today. Joining me is Paul Kortman. Paul’s the founder of connected digital marketing. And perhaps more importantly, I guess I’d call him a digital nomad. I mean, he and his family are what he says location independent. I think that’s the term that he uses. And so with a family of six and two, Paul, his wife and four kids are traveling the world and yet and living around the world, and at the same time, he’s growing and running a successful digital marketing agency. So we’re gonna talk about that. So Paul, welcome.
Paul Kortman 1:00
Happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Andy Paul 1:10
Yeah, a little different show than we normally do in terms of focus, perhaps but this whole idea of living life on your own terms is really an important topic. Because I think that in a sales audience, I’m sure there’s lots of people listening that feel like they’re, you know, sort of doing the same thing day after day, aspiring perhaps to do something different and you really took a big step. And said, Look, we’re just going to, we’re not gonna live life on else’s terms are gonna live life on our own terms. And maybe by way of saying that it’s you know, introduce yourself in terms of you know who you are, what your businesses are, but more importantly, what you decide to do with your family?
Paul Kortman 2:15
Well, first of all, thanks for having me. And for sales folks. It’s really, like we’re ambitious people. And so we have plans and goals and visions. And oftentimes, that’s for our business. And for our family. It’s like well, I just need to move up that next rung of the social ladder or whatever it is, or buy the next thing and I fell into that and it’s really hard to avoid the next thing being will this make me happy?
Andy Paul 3:15
Surprisingly, surprisingly, right.
Paul Kortman 3:18
So, you know, so there’s that poll. Well, guess what? You can’t I mean, like, unless you’re Superman, you cannot avoid that poll, while living in the States. I know very few people who can because the culture is too thick with it. And so we decided to uproot our family and leave so that we can avoid that so that our kids aren’t met with those advertising messages every day. Oh, yeah. And I’m an advertiser. So the irony there is kind of fun, right? But, like my goal with our family is to say, Let’s live where people go to vacation because it’s cheaper to live there in certain places. So let’s cut our costs, which means I don’t have to, you know, kill it for 80 hours a week. And we can spend more time as a family. So we lived in Michigan, in the United States and for the weekends, you know, for a Saturday activity, we’d go to the beach, it’s freshwater lake michigan.
Andy Paul 4:19
Grand Rapids, I think, right?
Paul Kortman 4:21
Yep. And so you just go hang out at the beach, no big deal. Well, what if you did that same thing, but your house or where you’re living sleeping at night happened to be in Cancun. And so on Saturday, when you go to the beach, you happen to go snorkeling and swimming with real whale sharks. No big deal. It’s just you happen to be in Cancun. So that’s what you’re going to do. By the way, I am in Cancun right now. And that’s what we’re going to do this Saturday. So people think while we’re traveling the world, like, all these amazing adventures and all that and it’s like, yeah, we just that’s what we do on the weekends because we don’t have to shovel the driveway. We don’t have to, you know, do maintenance or upkeep on our house, you know, like, we’re just here in Cancun, we’re gonna go hang out on the weekend. And, we happen to be snorkeling in the Caribbean. It’s just what you do when you’re here. And so,we can pick up and move further down the coast or wherever we want to, because of our lifestyle. it affords us a lot of freedom. But what it also affords us to do is I don’t have to shovel the driveway. I don’t have to do more.
Andy Paul 5:37
It’s a bigger goal than just avoiding shoveling the sidewalk as you talked about. It’s getting away from your influences. I mean, we just listened to a or watched a video from Simon Sinek talking about sort of the issues involving millennials these days. I’m not labeling millennials one way or another. But he was just saying that, yeah, there’s certain because of the way they were raised, and it’s actually putting the blame on people in my generation. I’ve got two millennials that I’m sure I know, as I was listening to this video, I was thinking guilty as charged several times. But saying that, yeah, they’re growing up because of the tension that they pay so much to the technology. They’ve haven’t really learned how to build relationships. And so you can certainly see that as an influence that you’d like your kids to be able to avoid, that ultimate in this life, we’re here for, you know, person to person interaction as opposed to person screen interactions.
Paul Kortman 6:42
It has been a long time for me to develop this but like, I have this hardcore Protestant work ethic that if it’s nine o’clock in the morning, and I’m not on a weekday and I’m not working, I have a heavy load of guilt.
Andy Paul 7:00
I think it’s Midwestern Protestant work ethic.
Paul Kortman 7:03
Same thing. Yeah. It’s just, it’s oppressive. And I’m able to now kind of poke my head up and realize, you know what, there are billions of people in this world who don’t live that way. And who, for whom relationships are way more important. And so this millennial thing that Simon was talking about, which by the way, I am a millennial by age, and not by age, by mindset. And so, like, I Guilty as charged, I’m still addicted to my phone, and I’m still like, I’d rather text you then actually talk to you because I don’t know what to do with you. But looking at my kids and saying, How can I do better than my parents did? How can I do better than what everyone else around me is doing for my kids? And it’s really not that I am God’s gift to my kids. I mean, we can debate that but it’s more along the lines of the more I invest in my kids, the better they will be. And so if I can arbitrage my time, and be able to have more time with my kids will be better off.
Andy Paul 8:24
Okay, so let’s back up a little bit. So you started this when?
Paul Kortman 8:35
So we sold our house two and a half years ago in Michigan, and, and then flew around the world for our first adventure, promised the kids we would be back home with extended family for Christmas. And then we regrouped, rebuilt or reconfigured some things in the business, bought an RV and a year and a half ago. Maybe two yours now and then drove with the intention of driving to Ecuador. I can’t remember. I mean time, what did we get here? It’s a good question.
Andy Paul 10:00
So six of you in an RV?
Paul Kortman 10:05
It’s a big RV.
Andy Paul 10:07
Nonetheless. It’s still probably less than 1000 square feet.
Paul Kortman 10:13
Andy Paul 10:15
I figured you probably know every single one of those by heart. How do you guys coexist over that period of time?
Paul Kortman 10:23
Well, to give you some idea, my kids are 10 and under, so my youngest is four. When we first started, he was less than two, so that we didn’t have to pay for his plane ticket. That was like the big thing once we decided we were going to do this like, hey, let’s get out there before we have to pay for the two year olds plane ticket. You know, six grand on getting out of the US for a two year old, right? Yeah, it’s just like, Oh, really? That’s insane. We saved $1,000 just by leaving before he was 2. So anyways, all that being said with kids 10 and under It’s, there’s just a different level of demands that they have. They’re not teenagers. They have minds of their own and they have their own wishes and desires. But if you say no, they still obey you. So that’s like, right there that kind of sets things apart. The other thing is we have always homeschooled our kids.
Andy Paul 11:00
You’ve got two years on that, by the way.
Paul Kortman 11:20
Nice. Thanks. I know it’s leaving, but my oldest isn’t the Trailblazer like she should be. So it’s quite nice. But she is our problem child and in a different avenue. So we have been homeschooling their whole lives, and so they don’t know an alternative to a certain degree. And so, like, they just know this is how it works. And this is how, you know what not my wife is a very much an introvert and a homebody. I know you would think what a homebody, but she loves That we have this RV now and it’s our home and our stuff is where it belongs. And she has what she needs everywhere she goes. But she’d rather just stay in the RV. Whereas I’m like, Oh, sweet, we park the RV. Let’s go exploring and so like for an extroverted explorer where she’s like homebody, but yeah, we work together on this adventure because she loves moving our house to different places. She has creature comforts. Well, the other thing is, some of our kids have that built into them as well. And so like, they’re just cool with just chillin, just chilling out the house. And so there’s this fun dynamic of how we live in 300 square feet. Our kids fight with each other a lot, but I think it’s normal kid behavior at that age. And, and the fact that we have four kids, they actually have playmates built in. They’ll switch up every day as to who’s their friend, but you know, like we have friends over right now that they have two kids and they you know, they’re They’re going stir crazy because they don’t have friends. And it’s like, well, you know, we have four, he adds two more into the mix. And it’s even easier because they’re off playing and it’s no big deal. You got to the other. The other thing with an RV is there’s a mindset once you get into an RV that as long as it’s not mosquito outside or 100 degrees, you basically live outside, right. So the RV is the house, that’s where your stuff is, but you’re spending more time outside. So our kids in the last year and a half have spent more time outdoors than they did, you know, for seven years living in Michigan, which has great outdoors. They just never would go outside because we had, you know 1200 you know, oh no, we had 1800 square feet in our house. And so it was just like, there’s plenty of room to live inside. And whereas now, it’s more often, Hey, can you open the door and call the kids it’s dinnertime right? That never happened before.
Andy Paul 14:02
So throughout all this you’re running a business. And that’s like growing a business. So a digital marketing agency. So, yeah, how do you manage your business whenyou’re managing on your own terms, obviously. But, you know, as you said, you’ve got ambitions. So how do you manage? I mean, what are some of the unique challenges you face trying to manage it remotely?
Paul Kortman 14:27
Oh, there’s a ton of unique challenges. The Internet’s always an issue, because it’s not stable.
Andy Paul 14:33
Does that integrate? Hey, we’re gonna find a good wife WiFi place?
Paul Kortman 14:38
Yep, it definitely dictates that. We’re a little addicted to Mexico right now because we have unlimited Wi Fi through our cell phones, unlimited data. And so it has pretty good 4g coverage. So we get an up through our cell phone, no worries. And so you know, like watching Netflix and YouTube, you know, like, Well, yeah, we can, we’ll typically consume 200 gigs of data in a month. And so like, no big deal, which is why we’re really happy with Mexico right now, or with living here because it’s, you know, it’s a challenge, right? So typically, we research now that we’re in Mexico, we have this setup, where we’re really lazy. We don’t research anymore, because it’s just like, oh, we’ll go there, our cell phone will work. We’re fine. We’ve gotten a luxury for that. But the internet is really impactful on how you run your business. And my first year out, I had a completely different business model than what I have now. And, and I actually lost my business in the span of three months while we were in South Africa. I lost 90% of my revenue
Andy Paul 15:52
On the first trip?
Paul Kortman 15:53
That was on the first trip, and because this is why we came back to the States was because I needed to reconfigure the business, get more work. Some of the reasons why I lost business was what I would say the majority of it is. I didn’t realize where the source of my business was coming from. I thought I knew, but I was wrong. And I discovered it quickly. So what was the source of my business is a second tier referral. It’s not the people who I know or who know me. It’s the people that know somebody who knows me. And so what happened was when I was stopped, because like all the people that I would network with, were never my clients. But they were introducing clients to me, or they were saying you need to talk to Paul. You know, he knows what he’s talking about. And so then when I stopped being in town or in those networking events, they would, my friends would refer off to the next guy. And so it was just one of those things where I thought because I hadn’t met over 75% of my clients, I just hadn’t met them ever. They called or, you know, were referred or whatever. And so I thought, Hey, I can keep up my network. I can keep it warm and keep activating it well, digitally. And leads will keep coming in. Well, the moment we left, leads stopped coming in, but I didn’t realize the impact until six months later when the normal cycle in an agency bottle. Some clients come and go and you always have to have new clients coming in the pipeline, because you’re going to lose clients and it’s not because we’re in a bad agency or we made mistakes or anything. It’s just frustrating to change your turn. And so unfortunate we had a churn, we had one of our clients make a mistake and completely blew out their budget and kind of went bankrupt. And, we had issues.
Andy Paul 18:46
Yeah. Especially a supportive family. Yeah, so what do you do to reconfigure them?
Paul Kortman 18:52
So it’s been a long time in the making. What I did initially was I returned back to Michigan and and really warmed up my network to buy me some time. And that bought me about six to nine months of where I got a couple of projects, a couple of longer term clients and got some things going. And then something that I always knew that I’ve been wanting to do that I’ve tried multiple times, and just never hit it. I was able to develop a productized service and a productized service. If you don’t know what it is, it’s actually the holy grail in the service industry where instead of custom quoting things, I say, Listen, I’m going to do this work for you. This is the work that I’m going to do. And this is how much it’s gonna cost. I don’t do anything else. And I’m not going to do your custom little thing and all of these variants, I’m going to do a, b and c and it’s going to cost you this. The price is straightforward. It’s super simple. I take your credit card online before we even talk and you know, and then inside my staff, my team, my system business processes are really well defined. And so what happened was, I’ve been trying, you know, I’ve been in business for over seven years, and I’ve been trying to pitch these different productized services. Well, what if I did this? Would it be anybody interested? Or what if I did this, would anybody be interested? And you know, it’s the whole business, you try and try and sometimes you succeed, and sometimes you fail? Well, what I was doing was leveraging my network to have revenue, so that I could, you know, stay in the industry, have a good solid client base, have money coming in, I was outsourcing as much work as possible so that I could actually work on the business and develop new ideas. And I was constantly networking and pitching these ideas and one of them stuck. And, and now I’m nine months into this, and it is, it has 100% replaced my service. business, I have one client left, that is on a custom project. Everything else is all through the use of productized service.
Andy Paul 21:10
And so how do you solve it?
Paul Kortman 21:13
iPeople call and they say, Hey, I heard you know this or blah, blah, blah and it’s like, well, this is what we do.
Andy Paul 21:21
Are they calling you, you have somebody that’s a sales staff member?
Paul Kortman 21:25
I don’t have a sales staff member yet. I’m still working through that process. So far I’ve been using, basically a network and then a couple of groups that I’m in that are business owners, right? Because it is a marketing service. Anybody who owns a business is interested. And so what it is I just found the sweet spot of where the pricing, the need for the offer, it just all comes together and it’s almost like a no brainer. So here I’ll give you the pitch so that you know, this big, wondering of what this thing he’s talking about everybody understands SEO, as you know, if you’re going to try and sell anything online, you need to rank in Google, or you need to pay a lot for ads. And so SEO has been around for 16 years, it’s cumbersome, it’s challenging to hard. There’s a whole bunch of gray stuff that happens. And you’re not sure is that right? One of the facts that we all know about is that in order to rank, you need good quality content. And in order to rank, you need backlinks, you need people talking about you linking to you referring to you. So we’ve tried over the course of the years to do both of those separately to try and you know, get them, you know, here you need better content. Let’s provide that for here. You need better links. Let’s build those for you. And one of these gurus in the SEO industry. Brian Dean did a case study on one of his strategies on how he built backlinks and it’s called scraper technique and sway.
Andy Paul 23:02
Someone was just telling me about that last week.
Paul Kortman 23:06
And suddenly the lights started going off and it’s like, wait a minute. Now we have this done for you skyscraper technique service where you just tell us your website. We do the research, find the articles that apply to your target audience and that are that have had backlinks that have already shown traction, and that we can improve upon. We write the article we improve upon it, we deliver it to you, you get to edit and approve, publish. And then we also do the outreach, we link out. And we actually guarantee 10 quality backlinks for every piece, every article that we produce through this. And it’s really weird, because I have no idea where these domains are coming from where these links are coming from. When we start, we know who linked to the previous article. And we start with those folks. And sometimes different articles will lead us down different bunny trails, but eventually we get to the Golden 10 link method, or attribute or metric. And then at that point, we move on and we do the next article, and we let all the outreach out there linger and we see what happens. And I’m telling you, it doubles sales in doubles. Excuse me doubles traffic in six months through organic search, because you’re building 10 links a month or 10 links a week to these depending on how frequently you do it. And with one of my clients, he was an existing custom client, I said, Hey, can we try this new process for you? And he said, Sure, do it. I trust you guys. And so we started doing this new process, and worked all the kinks out and got it going. And he doubled his traffic after six months, just through organic search, because through six articles in six months, because we were actually doing it together and choosing good content, instead of sitting there and saying, hey, writers, I need some content about this keyword, and wasting space on the internet. Instead, we look at what was successful. It’s actually already proven to work yet. It’s not the greatest article out there, like that Simon video that you were talking about earlier. That’s a great video. But there are ways to improve upon that. Like actually transcribing the video, and that could be a skyscraper article in and of itself. You know, like there’s all kinds of ways to improve upon that content to pull in resources, to have graphs, to have images, to have snippets of videos and that sort of thing. And you can make a 2000 word article really quickly that people want to read, that people want to share, and that people will link to and refer to because it applies to their audience. So I haven’t had a client who cares about millennials for their target audience. But you know, we were talking about that video earlier, right? Like, that would be I’m now constantly everything, every piece of content I read, like, How did this get to me? And is it worth skyscraping for one of my clients?
Andy Paul 26:49
Why not particularly? I mean, that particular video, just two references. So what do you charge for it?
Paul Kortman 27:03
So we just upped our prices because it’s a new year. Not just because of that, but cost of living and all that. So, but it’s $600 per post. And so you get to choose the frequency. You can do one a quarter, one a year, one a month, one a week. And, and it’s really done for you. I mean, the checkpoints are, you have to initially tell us about your audience. Just read a paragraph, who’s your audience? What’s your website? What keywords do you want to show up for? And then we do the research and give you three suggested articles that we could skyscraper. We give you some stats on them, and you get to go read those articles and basically say, Yeah, I want that content on my website. Okay, then we take that article skyscraper, you know, write better content, etc. We deliver the article back to you in a couple of days, and then you can approve it, you can send it back to us for unlimited revisions. And then we will even publish it to your site for free if you choose, or you can publish it to your site, and then we build the backlinks. And really, you just sit back and wait till the report comes in. So it’s three checkpoints, really, of, you know, who is your audience? What is it about? Do you verify that you want this type of content on your website? And then do you approve of this content?
Andy Paul 28:29
So, sir, a question that springs to mind about that then. So what is the frequency you need to have skyscraper articles in order to have the impact that you want?
Paul Kortman 28:47
That’s kind of a fun question. Because I could say it depends. It depends on your market. It depends on all this and whatnot, but it has 10 quality backlinks. If you need 1000, well, you need more articles. And the thing is, it’s more about speed of growth in those. So the highest frequency that I’ll do is one a week, which is really, really high. And I had one client who wants that, and I’m nervous about it for him, but he’s on board. He’s tested us out, and he’s just like, this is fantastic. Let’s do it. Because the links don’t come in all 10 at one time, they don’t come in from the same websites. It’s, you know, no gray hat stuff you get to know. We send you a final report with every single person we reach out to and every link we acquired. And so you get to see all the data on all of that. But most people, most of our clients do one a month. You know, they might do one a quarter just to test us out or they might just do one One, and that’s fine. But most everybody is looking at this as one a month, and in six months to a year, you will, your rankings will have improved to the point that your traffic will dramatically increase. That all depends on every market’s different chart. To give spot five to spot one on a certain keyword is going to be insane for some people and you may need 20, 30, 40 links a month in order to do that. What is the frequency I should do? It depends more along the lines of what are you comfortable spending, because if you put this many dollars down you get that many links. So if you have the ability to spend this much, this is how many links you’ll get back. And based on your frequency of budget. That’s what’s going to do and we all know that those links are permanent because they’ve been requested they’ve been hand built and it’s not something that somebody’s going to take down or that we paid for anything like that. And it just builds every year every month. And your website will improve every day based on the fact that you now have these links.
Andy Paul 31:15
So can you do it with existing content?
Paul Kortman 31:18
I get that question way too often. And the answer is no. Because it really depends on the content. And I can’t control the quality when you have existing content or when you have a writer writing it. The other issue is that if you have existing content, and, you know, to a certain degree, then we would have to skip the research phase to find out if this is a worthy piece of content that already was successful. somewhere else. And then it’s like, well, I can’t guarantee that you’ll get links for that content. So it ruins the whole process. So going back to a systematized process, it’s like this. This is what we do as a productized service. Sorry, another way to say it, this is what we do. And no, we won’t do these variations. And I won’t let your link builder do it or whatever.
Andy Paul 32:26
Yeah. Well, I sort of test you by asking the question, because I’m not sure.
Paul Kortman 32:34
It has been a huge challenge to do that. Like, seriously, my wife, she has been a rock star in helping me say no, because I don’t say no. Oh, there’s money on the table. I could have that money in my eyes turned into dollar signs. And she’s like, No, no, your life has changed. Now, Paul, you love this. And you simply need to say, this is what we’re going to do. And if you don’t want that, don’t worry. Buy it. If you don’t want a Ferrari, don’t buy a Ferrari if you want, you know, a Dodge Ram then buy a Dodge Ram, but we’re not going to put a pickup bed truck on a Ferrari. It’s just not going to happen.
Andy Paul 33:13
So now we’re in the last segment of the show where I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests and the first one is a hypothetical scenario. I’ve just been hired by a company whose sales have stalled out. So they hire you to come in and do a sales turnaround. And the CEO is really anxious to make sure this happens quickly. So what two things could you do your first week on the job that would have the biggest impact?
Paul Kortman 33:39
The biggest and the quickest impact would be, I would definitely get into paid advertising online and I would I would use Facebook ads because we can drill into their target really quickly, and be able to find out and be able to get our messaging in front of them to be able to get into They’re their conversion information. So to get a phone number or to get an email address to pass that off to our sales team.
Andy Paul 34:07
So, next question. This is some more rapid fire questions, I think give me one word answers or alarm rate if you wish. So, you know, you’ve got this product or service you’re talking about. So when you’re selling that, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?
Paul Kortman 34:22
My most powerful is when I get on the phone and I talk to someone. I have the ability to talk my way into a sale. I don’t know how but it just happens.
Andy Paul 34:33
Okay. So who’s your role model for business? I mean you’re doing as you are becoming the role model perhaps for others, but I mean, who, who inspired you?
Paul Kortman 34:47
Dan Andrews. He is the founder of tropical MBA and podcasts over there. He is the guy who probably inspired me the most to grow my business to develop processes and to systematize it.
Andy Paul 35:08
One book, you think every person in sales or marketing should read?
Paul Kortman 35:14
I can’t remember the title right now but it’s the Titans one that just came out.
Andy Paul 35:18
The Titans by Tim Ferriss. Okay, last question. What music is on your playlist?
Paul Kortman 35:36
Okay. Swedish House Mafia. That’s what I listen to.
Andy Paul 35:39
All right. All right, that counts. Well, good. Well, Paul, thanks very much for taking the time from paradise where you’re living right now and working to join us.
Join my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, Paul Kortman, who shared his expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business and your life. So until next time, this is Andy Paul. Thanks for joining me. Good selling everyone. Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, I want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher for more information about today’s guests, visit my website at AndyPaul.com