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The Best Growth Lesson

Here it is…

Who finds who first can make or break the sale.

I’d like to share a story with you.

It was 2001 and right after the dot-com bubble crash. The world was going to hell in a handbasket. It felt like there were 500 people for every 1 tech job available, budgets were nonexistent, and everyone had both hands on their wallets.

I was 24 and had just been laid off for about 5 months. I didn’t think I would ever be able to get another tech job. One day a friend from college who was a tech recruiter called me and asked if I could help a startup IT training firm rebuild its websites. I said sure. I interviewed and by the luck of all-mighty Zeus, I got the gig.

From day one I could tell that the firm was struggling and likely to go out of business. They were in a 1970’s crumby office with computers that felt like they were from the mid-1990s. 

My job was to update the design of their websites selling IT training services to corporate buyers. You know, 30 people in a class are learning programming languages and such for a few days.

I sat in a 10×10 ft office with another gentleman. He and I sat back to back. I was building the websites and optimizing them for the search engines with another colleague and my officemate was making 60 cold calls or so a day trying to get companies to buy our training. His job sounded miserable. Nobody seemed to be buying during those times.

 One day shortly after I got to the office and sat at my desk I could hear heavy footsteps running down the long hall from the CEO’s side of the office. My door burst open and the CEO asked, “What in the hell are you doing? The phones are ringing off the hook with people wanting to pay for our training classes!” 

We said, “Well, a few days ago we launched the new website and launched a pay-per-click advertising campaign on a search engine called”

Our CEO said, keep it up! I’m going to work on hiring more people to take the inbound sales calls.

We ended up doubling our revenue that year and Google did a writeup about the work here.


Here’s what happened and this was the big AHA! Moment.

With the advent of search engine marketing, we were now able to get in front of people the moment “they” were looking to buy what we were selling. 

This was the game-changer we’d been looking for and needing. You see, I was told a few days before the phones started ringing from potential customers that the company could only pay me for a few more weeks. We were about to go out of business.  Now our phones were ringing all day from people looking to buy what we sold. 

Search marketing was brand new, so new that Google didn’t even have Adwords yet. Nobody knew what search engine marketing was and if they did they thought it was a gimmick, not a real business tool. Believe it or not, other executives would laugh at me when I told them that search engine marketing was to transform how we got new customers. Hard to believe considering that Google makes 90% or more of its revenue from search engine ads and they are one of the most successful companies in the world today.

The lesson here is that there was a huge paradigm shift. When you go from chasing people to getting in front of them the moment they are looking to buy what you sell your leverage goes up. You don’t have to convince anyone about needing what you sell. They already have decided and sought you out. This is magical for a company that is bootstrapping, has a very low marketing budget, or is even a large enterprise.

Once I discovered this search marketing has been the backbone of every business I’ve started or worked with over the past 20 years. 

We start with a search, iron out our offer that converts the best, then we take this offer to other means of advertising. It’s a golden, yet overlooked strategy.

Let me put it this way, my B2B clients have had the good fortune to have a combined exit value of over $2 Billion, and every one of them utilized search marketing in their toolset to attract new customers.

If you want to chat about this formula for your business feel free to schedule a time. I’m happy to discuss this with anyone who’s willing to listen 🙂


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