VGTM_Stewart Gandolf_Full Audio Interview_Edited_V1
[00:00:00] Corey Quinn: Welcome to the Vertical Go To Market Podcast, where you'll discover new [00:00:05] opportunities to grow your business from seven figures to eight from the world's most successful [00:00:10] agency and B2B SaaS executives. I'm your host, Corey Quinn. Let's [00:00:15] jump into the show. Today, I'm joined by the CEO [00:00:20] of Healthcare Success, Stuart Yandoff.
[00:00:22] Corey Quinn: Welcome
[00:00:23] Stewart Gandolf: Stuart. I love the radio voice.[00:00:25]
[00:00:28] Corey Quinn: My wife, [00:00:30] uh, actually it was my wife, I think it was my wife or my mom. It's, it's, it's embarrassing. I mix [00:00:35] those two up, but they, they said, I love your energy on your podcast. You have such good energy. I'm like, [00:00:40] well, you know, I'm having a good time.
[00:00:41] Stewart Gandolf: It's really important to get your listeners paying attention from the [00:00:45] very beginning.
[00:00:47] Stewart Gandolf: The story. I don't, you know. No,
[00:00:49] Corey Quinn: yeah. [00:00:50] Right. Exactly. Would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself and your background with the [00:00:55] listening audience?
[00:00:55] Stewart Gandolf: Sure. I think we're gonna talk about that maybe more. So I'll just say, hi, I'm Stuart [00:01:00] Gandolf. I'm CEO of an agency, a digital first integrated [00:01:05] agency in the healthcare market, and we've got about 40 people we're growing [00:01:10] and I was introduced to Corey.
[00:01:12] Stewart Gandolf: I don't know, about half a year, a year ago and we're friends [00:01:15] and just happy to help and share some of my experiences with your audience, Corey. [00:01:20]
[00:01:20] Corey Quinn: Beautiful. Can you share with the audience a little bit about what your agency Healthcare Success [00:01:25] does, who you serve, the type of services you provide? Yeah, that's relevant
[00:01:28] Stewart Gandolf: actually to the whole story.
[00:01:29] Stewart Gandolf: So we [00:01:30] are, it's a long, long road that we can talk about as much as you want to later, but [00:01:35] I sort of stumbled into this world that we're in with healthcare. [00:01:40] And, um, but the short answer for right now is today we're working with definitely multi location [00:01:45] healthcare providers, so it could be, uh, multi location of any medical [00:01:50] specialty or dental specialty, addiction, and then also work with health systems and pharma and [00:01:55] device, but especially those multi location providers is [00:02:00]
[00:02:00] Corey Quinn: Beautiful.
[00:02:00] Corey Quinn: And tell us a little bit about your role there as CEO of the agency. What is [00:02:05] your day to day like?
[00:02:05] Stewart Gandolf: I don't work very hard, at least for me. That's a myth. I [00:02:10] work really, really hard. So as much as possible, I delegate. So I [00:02:15] delegate whenever I can, but I still work probably 12 hour days. And so my leadership [00:02:20] is.
[00:02:20] Stewart Gandolf: As CEO, I have to be the, you know, make the decisions about strategy. I have to make the [00:02:25] decisions about management with my team. I do have a management team who's strong. [00:02:30] So my job is to be a leader, to be a coach, to be a mentor, to [00:02:35] make the business decisions tough, even when I don't want to. And on top of that, I'm still [00:02:40] pretty involved with business development.
[00:02:41] Stewart Gandolf: And part of the whole concept that we're probably talking about today is [00:02:45] scaling. And, uh, but still for our niche, the [00:02:50] expertise is really important. So I'm still involved with business development. I have salespeople, I have a whole bunch of sales [00:02:55] stuff, but I still lead the marketing function. But all the other functions in our agency, like digital.[00:03:00]
[00:03:00] Stewart Gandolf: SEO, Creative, Design, Writing, [00:03:05] Programming, Project Management, Accounting. Those are all managed by other people. So, [00:03:10] this is the only place where I still play. In the machine, everybody else.[00:03:15]
[00:03:17] Corey Quinn: What's the origin story. Tell us how you got [00:03:20] started with healthcare success. What were the things that led to you starting this? [00:03:25] I think a
[00:03:26] Stewart Gandolf: couple of steps back. Cause I think it's,
[00:03:28] Corey Quinn: of course. Yeah. Take it, take us from [00:03:30] wherever you think it would be helpful. Yeah. Well,
[00:03:32] Stewart Gandolf: I always thought I was going to be an engineer and [00:03:35] cause I was good at science and math.
[00:03:36] Stewart Gandolf: Got into engineering and was quite bored by it. So I stumbled into [00:03:40] marketing. I also knew that I always wanted to leave where I grew up was Ohio. [00:03:45] And as soon as I could, I escaped once upon graduation, like a whole nother story. [00:03:50] But anyway, so I stumbled into working. And the big thing is I started on a direct response company [00:03:55] and started learning that whole world.
[00:03:57] Stewart Gandolf: And then migrated my way to J. Walter Thompson. So [00:04:00] worked out of the client side and the agency world. And worked on back in the [00:04:05] nineties, a really big agency client was, um, Bally's Total Fitness and the. [00:04:10] That core company. And so we had an 80 million budget in nineties money. [00:04:15] So that was a big, big budget, probably the biggest.
[00:04:18] Corey Quinn: And that, and that [00:04:20] was all for direct
[00:04:20] Stewart Gandolf: response. The valleys, we had shares, you know, I mean, these are big, big, [00:04:25] they're still big names, but back then there were huge names. So we had shares, you know, Easton and Heather Locklear is our [00:04:30] spokespeople. And so it was mostly. Traditional advertising, but I was the account [00:04:35] supervisor for the direct response side of it.
[00:04:37] Stewart Gandolf: And so it was more, and I [00:04:40] was about maybe 10 million of that. Still a lot of money for back then. That's, it was a huge budget. You've still, [00:04:45] it's still good money. And so, um, it was there. I figured out that I'm also a [00:04:50] creative person, not just a suit. Cause I thought I was a suit at first. And then eventually I got, I was [00:04:55] really annoyed that my salespeople were making a whole lot more money than I was as an account supervisor.[00:05:00]
[00:05:00] Stewart Gandolf: And so I took a leap into sales and doing some other stuff, but eventually got [00:05:05] recruited into this, now we're finally where you ask, this business that did, a niche company [00:05:10] working with doctors, and this is in the mid 90s to early 2000s. [00:05:15] And I thought, how do you guys make any money with this? I think that'll be relevant to your readers, [00:05:20] right?
[00:05:20] Stewart Gandolf: And that company actually... was a real pioneer in this idea of [00:05:25] niching. And so it was a content. This is before the words content marketing were even [00:05:30] imagined. Like this was not popular parlance at all. This is all [00:05:35] new. So the model there was That we would sell a newsletter [00:05:40] to these doctors, and these are small individual doctors, and they'd spend a hundred bucks.
[00:05:44] Stewart Gandolf: Then we'd [00:05:45] upsell them to a seminar, and then we'd, from there, upsell them to [00:05:50] agency services. And so that was the model, and I stumbled into this, knowing direct response, knowing [00:05:55] marketing, and had, I thought this was going to be a six month job, tops. I was, I got into commercial [00:06:00] real estate. And I was about to finally make 300, 000, which back then was massive [00:06:05] money.
[00:06:05] Stewart Gandolf: And then the riots happened and I was poor again. I was really getting tired. [00:06:10] So I thought I'd be doing this for about six months. But, uh, it turned [00:06:15] out that I was a speaker, so I was traveling around the country and flying all around. [00:06:20] Corey, I had never spoke before, so anybody that's in your audience that might be speaker [00:06:25] phobic, I had never spoken before, and I committed to a job where I was leading a small group of, [00:06:30] like, 12 people.
[00:06:31] Stewart Gandolf: for three days. I've never spoken before. That's [00:06:35] a big leap to go from zero to three there. And these,
[00:06:37] Corey Quinn: these, these are the seminars, which were an upsell [00:06:40] from the newsletter. And
[00:06:41] Stewart Gandolf: so the model there was just sharing all [00:06:45] kinds of best practices and best understanding and taking this world of a very [00:06:50] unsophisticated marketing audience.
[00:06:52] Stewart Gandolf: And helping them understand how it works, why it works, [00:06:55] all of that. So, and it turned out I was a good teacher. I didn't know. I didn't, you [00:07:00] don't know until you do it. Right. But I just figured I had to learn this stuff again. I understood the marketing [00:07:05] really deeply. So it was easy for me. I was an easy transition to teach it, but I found [00:07:10] that we're working with doctors and this is probably true with a lot of audiences that it's all about [00:07:15] credibility.
[00:07:16] Stewart Gandolf: And they liked me because I was credible and especially doctors. Doctors are [00:07:20] used to being the smartest in the room. And if you come out and tell them something that they saw, like, [00:07:25] let's say, for example, my big joke here is if you're a financial planner and you're telling them stuff, they just [00:07:30] saw on Susie Orman, like, get out of here, stupid.
[00:07:32] Stewart Gandolf: You don't know anything. This is stuff I can learn anywhere. [00:07:35] So that lack of expertise. Means that you're just one of the crowd with everybody [00:07:40] else. And so meanwhile, we had specialized knowledge and then over every [00:07:45] Over those 10 years I did that I did hundreds of them venues during that time So I became [00:07:50] absolutely expert and I got better every time and the one of the things was also great about that [00:07:55] experience was Now I did understand nephrology gastroenterology physical [00:08:00] therapy or whatever is that I got really used to being on my feet and being able to interact with the audience [00:08:05] and being able to be expert.
[00:08:07] Stewart Gandolf: And so it became unconsciously competent. [00:08:10] And so those were mad skills. And to this day, I tell my team, I wish I could just suck that out of my [00:08:15] brain to share that experience. Cause people say like, how do you go in these meetings and just wing it? Like, well, it's not [00:08:20] really winging it. It's just, you know, years and years and years and years of experience.
[00:08:23] Stewart Gandolf: Yeah.
[00:08:24] Corey Quinn: Unconscious [00:08:25] competence. That makes perfect sense.
[00:08:25] Stewart Gandolf: So that was
[00:08:27] Corey Quinn: a fantastic experience. How long did you end up, you said you were going to be in there [00:08:30] six months. It was going to be sort of a touch and go. How long did you end up staying? I was
[00:08:32] Stewart Gandolf: there for 10 years. And so it's funny, [00:08:35] I became really good at it and.
[00:08:38] Stewart Gandolf: I eventually actually during the [00:08:40] internet age, I dropped out sort of, but I stayed as a consultant, so I still was there for 10 years. Then they brought me [00:08:45] back as VP of marketing. And I was also at that period that the term [00:08:50] fractional CMO didn't exist, but it's kind of what I was. I was VP of marketing this company to others at the same [00:08:55] time.
[00:08:55] Stewart Gandolf: And so the whole, journey lasted about 10 years and then I left [00:09:00] the business for a few years. And then the fun fact is, and this will also be relevant to [00:09:05] your listeners, so I left and I was now doing high end estate tax [00:09:10] mitigation. So I love to just throw myself into things and figure it out. But [00:09:15] I hated leaving all that knowledge in the field or just like let it go out in the field.
[00:09:19] Stewart Gandolf: So [00:09:20] my former business partner asked me, Hey, do you want to start a company? I'm like, well, let's see what we can do. So I went [00:09:25] out to like medical economics and we did a audio CD series that we sold [00:09:30] on a co op basis. We went to dental economics and I wrote a column. It was fun. I was doing these [00:09:35] estate tax deals and I was going to the recording studio, recording these audio CDs between [00:09:40] meetings.
[00:09:40] Stewart Gandolf: So, but again, it was stuff that I did before. It was very natural. And then we created a [00:09:45] website with SEO in mind from the beginning. This is [00:09:50] 2006 is when we founded the company. So, you know, we rocketed to the top of [00:09:55] terms like healthcare marketing immediately. And so, and because we're at the top of Google, we [00:10:00] got, we kind of saw everything that was going on.
[00:10:01] Stewart Gandolf: So that's really the origin story. It's not like a simple story, [00:10:05] but it really, the interesting thing was, again, I joke that we were doing content marketing wildly [00:10:10] before that ever became popular. We were doing, we called it a newsletter, but it was a [00:10:15] blog, you know, way, way back. We were doing conference calls before they had webinars [00:10:20] back in the 90s, you know, so we just always did that.
[00:10:24] Stewart Gandolf: And [00:10:25] it's always been for me, Corey, the education just works. My dog's in [00:10:30] the background. Sorry. It's great. I love it. He's listening [00:10:35] intently. He's arguing with me. It's always worked for me to be the expert in the room. It just gives [00:10:40] me the confidence that I like. It plays to my strength and that's why we did it.
[00:10:43] Stewart Gandolf: So it makes niching a whole lot [00:10:45] easier if you have that kind of experience. Can I ask you
[00:10:48] Corey Quinn: just a quick clarifying question? [00:10:50] The, so you mentioned in 2006, was that when you started launching the audio [00:10:55] CDs, talking, you know, on the, on the topic of Dr. Marketing? Is that what that was?
[00:10:59] Stewart Gandolf: I [00:11:00] think it was something like 27 proven ways to, you know, grow your practice of marketing, something like [00:11:05] that.
[00:11:05] Stewart Gandolf: You can probably still buy it. It was the last I checked it was still there. But we [00:11:10] did it on a co op deal. So, uh, they don't do it anymore with medical economics, but we did a [00:11:15] revenue share. So it was awesome. I actually made a lot. It was like, I made six figures from that [00:11:20] and it brought us tons of new business.
[00:11:21] Stewart Gandolf: And so because of that, because of our, [00:11:25] you know, our experience in the SEO, we never took a loan in the company ever. [00:11:30] And we just sort of started the whole, it was honestly, Corey, an experiment. I just wanted to see, I was [00:11:35] still doing something else. It was an experiment to see if I can get an agency off the internet.
[00:11:39] Stewart Gandolf: [00:11:40] And if it's funny though, another thing that might hopefully be... [00:11:45] helpful to your audience that all that time I was doing that, I wasn't trying [00:11:50] to build my reputation. I was working for this other company. I wasn't worried about my own personal reputation, [00:11:55] but when we found the company with that much sort of credibility, [00:12:00] we did have people knew who I was already that helped.
[00:12:03] Stewart Gandolf: And so it [00:12:05] wasn't like a huge builder for us, but it definitely gave us open doors for us. And so we just went straight at [00:12:10] it. And anyway, so that's how we started.
[00:12:12] Corey Quinn: And so you, it sounds like you [00:12:15] probably just focused on the medical sort of, um, was it doctors [00:12:20] exclusively or was it medical practices and healthcare organizations?
[00:12:23] Corey Quinn: So
[00:12:23] Stewart Gandolf: when we started, we kind of [00:12:25] did very similar to what we did in the past. So the old company I worked with, we broke [00:12:30] down and we talked about not just the sort of traditional advertising stuff, but branding and how to build doctor [00:12:35] referrals and how to get patients to refer us. So it was much more consultative and we've been taught a lot of stuff that [00:12:40] we don't do or we didn't do very much of because.
[00:12:42] Stewart Gandolf: Just, you know, help them be successful. [00:12:45] But really at the end of the day, we're selling mostly like, you know, branded brochures and collateral and. You [00:12:50] know, some ads and stuff. Interestingly, when we first started, even though we were doing a lot of digital marketing for [00:12:55] ourselves, we didn't sell that much of it because the clients didn't want it, they weren't ready for it.[00:13:00]
[00:13:00] Stewart Gandolf: But over time we became more and more digital. And when I took over the company, like I said, we just [00:13:05] sort of picked up, it's kind of like you turn the lights off in another room, you're walking, you turn the lights on, it's the same thing. [00:13:10] But we began pivoting pretty quickly. One of the things that we, you know, some of the things that may be, you [00:13:15] know, valuable to your listeners again is.
[00:13:17] Stewart Gandolf: I decided, and I used to use this metaphor, [00:13:20] like selling projects is like a shark where you just have to keep swimming in order to breathe, and [00:13:25] you never rest, and you finally get, you know, a tuna, you eat it, then you have to go back and hunt again. [00:13:30] It's exhausting. And the theory was I'm big on metaphors, Corey, as you [00:13:35] know, the theory was in the old company was that, well, doctors really [00:13:40] don't want to pay ongoing.
[00:13:41] Stewart Gandolf: They just want a transaction. And so that's what we [00:13:45] thought. But what I realized was it's exhausting for us and unfulfilling for them, because [00:13:50] at least for us, they want as a partner. Now, over time, though, we also moved [00:13:55] away from that audience of little individual practices because it's a bloodbath. [00:14:00] And as marketing automation became, or as marketing tech Became more prominent and [00:14:05] low end competitors.
[00:14:06] Stewart Gandolf: So today at the low end, there's millions of little competitors [00:14:10] out there and they're all built about scale. People are always looking at what we do, though. But the [00:14:15] thing is like for us and our market is we're just have such deep [00:14:20] knowledge that it's, it's a, a little bit of a barrier to entry because, you know, getting into the [00:14:25] yard to be able to speak.
[00:14:26] Stewart Gandolf: So, you know. authoritatively is a big [00:14:30] competitive advantage for us.
[00:14:31] Corey Quinn: So my experience in [00:14:35] serving these types of markets is that the buyer of your services is not [00:14:40] necessarily going to be very sophisticated or at least be able to [00:14:45] distinguish between, let's say, someone who isn't as experienced as you are but has a really [00:14:50] flashy website and a really flashy promise.
[00:14:52] Corey Quinn: How do you... Communicate that [00:14:55] expertise in those years of experience and the reps that you have in this space so that [00:15:00] so that you stand out and differentiate.
[00:15:02] Stewart Gandolf: So it's really interesting. So you're [00:15:05] right. Many times they don't like everybody want. Here's a couple [00:15:10] sad truths. Like one is everybody wants expertise.
[00:15:12] Stewart Gandolf: That doesn't mean everybody wants to pay for it. [00:15:15] So everybody really seriously wants expertise. Not everybody's [00:15:20] right for us. And that's important. I think for your. If you're, if you're talking about [00:15:25] agencies anyway, to understand not everybody's right for you. There are some people out there [00:15:30] that are win lose guys or gals.
[00:15:31] Stewart Gandolf: They're just win lose. It's their nature. They, they live to [00:15:35] beat you up. They live to grind you down and just have to pass because [00:15:40] you'll hate yourself and your team will hit you and you'll lose people over it. There are people that, and [00:15:45] I don't think it's, they mean to be, you know, bad people, but it's just, they don't make a good [00:15:50] partner for us.
[00:15:50] Stewart Gandolf: We just can't do it. It doesn't make economic sense. Not the way we do business. The second [00:15:55] thing is, some people are not very sophisticated, and so for us, [00:16:00] the key thing is, so the tips are, number one, we ask really, really, when we're [00:16:05] doing this right. Some people are better at this than others in our company, but we ask really [00:16:10] insightful questions, and they know within minutes that we know what we're doing.
[00:16:13] Stewart Gandolf: So I don't have to talk about my [00:16:15] credentials very much, because when I'm talking about my credentials, We do, you know, in an opening [00:16:20] three minutes or five minutes. But if you're talking to yourself very long, you'll lose them. They don't care about you. They care about themselves. [00:16:25] So, you know, it's like we did this, we did that.
[00:16:27] Stewart Gandolf: We did this, we did that. But let me ask you what, [00:16:30] you know, what was it that grabbed your attention today? So those kinds of questions immediately [00:16:35] get them engaged and it's just sales, you know, manship really, I would [00:16:40] say anyway, so that's that crowd. However. What I, it's what I'm [00:16:45] also seeing, Corey, is that there are people that are sophisticated and that's another thing that we didn't, [00:16:50] I honestly underestimate, we made the transition to larger clients a number of [00:16:55] years ago.
[00:16:55] Stewart Gandolf: I didn't, I underestimated how much the service level and investment in people [00:17:00] has to wildly go up to play in that league. It's not just, oh boy, I got a bigger deal. It's [00:17:05] like you have to be the real deal. So some of our clients are very, very sophisticated. [00:17:10] And so what's great about that is. It's kind of like a fine wine.
[00:17:14] Stewart Gandolf: They [00:17:15] appreciate us so much the better. So for us, you know, it used to be definitely they were all [00:17:20] unsophisticated, but where we're playing now, some are. And it's funny, we had, I'll give you two [00:17:25] anecdotes. A couple of days ago, we had a client that, you know, was asking us about a low end, [00:17:30] uh, competitor. They didn't know it was a low end competitor, but basically it was a shell.
[00:17:33] Stewart Gandolf: They had an account manager and the [00:17:35] rest of the company was just doing tech stuff in India, but they thought it was like the same levels. [00:17:40] And it's like, well, actually let's take a look at their LinkedIn profile over here. [00:17:45] So it's important because clients that even like, and the other thing too, is some clients.
[00:17:49] Stewart Gandolf: [00:17:50] We'll gain familiarity with you and they forget how, you know, the expertise you have. On the [00:17:55] other hand though, like yesterday, I talked to a private equity based multi location business. It's a [00:18:00] direct competitor of my, one of my clients and I couldn't take him, but he wanted to do networking, but he was [00:18:05] just blown away.
[00:18:05] Stewart Gandolf: So he gets it. You know, he understood like, and I haven't seen our content and [00:18:10] seeing the way we approach things. He's like, Oh my God. The moment that they, if they're ever done enough to leave, you call [00:18:15] me. So it's that built in credibility is huge. And, you know, I gave him some free [00:18:20] advice cause you know, the world's small.
[00:18:23] Corey Quinn: It is small. Yeah, I love [00:18:25] that. So just kind of, um, just to feed this back to you, the takeaway here. or [00:18:30] one of the takeaways I'm getting from this is you moved away from individual practices, moved towards these larger [00:18:35] clients. And as you did that, you had buyers and clients who were demanding more [00:18:40] sophistication because they, they themselves were more sophisticated.
[00:18:43] Corey Quinn: Thereby, yeah, [00:18:45]
[00:18:45] Stewart Gandolf: yeah, for sure. And again, it's not always, but even when they're not, they could be really sophisticated what they do. [00:18:50] But for our marketplace, they're looking for somebody who's absolutely [00:18:55] expert. That's our niche. There's other people that, you know, another deal that we lost this week, we were [00:19:00] more expensive, you know?
[00:19:01] Stewart Gandolf: So, and it's like, really? Our fees aren't that high, [00:19:05] but for the cheapest, that's not us. I can't afford to pay all these people at that level. [00:19:10] And so another thing that we talk about a lot is, and Corey, this fits with you or your [00:19:15] philosophy, you know, a lot of agencies are really bent around or built around scaling.
[00:19:19] Stewart Gandolf: [00:19:20] And so it's a lot more profitable than we are, but that's not really our approach. We want to scale, [00:19:25] but we're not like, you know, like a lot of agencies are better at having [00:19:30] rules for their clients to follow. You know, like you're going to get this and that and nothing else. And you know, that's [00:19:35] great, but it's just, isn't the way to position ourselves.
[00:19:37] Stewart Gandolf: So we're a little different than that. I wish we were [00:19:40] more like that, but that's not why clients hire us. They like having. Sort of a, you know, [00:19:45] more, not completely custom approach, but more customizable, I think.
[00:19:49] Corey Quinn: [00:19:50] Sure. Yeah. I imagine looking for a partner [00:19:55] and consultative relationship where they can come to you with questions about this or that.[00:20:00]
[00:20:00] Stewart Gandolf: Almost everything. I mean, two decades plus of this. [00:20:05] And, you know, my team is really strong. And then there's other people in my team that have been doing this, like I have for so long. [00:20:10] So that's added value that fits between the lines and maybe another. Theme that might be [00:20:15] helpful, Corey, with your audience is that, you know, you're talking about, and I love the stuff you're [00:20:20] writing, by the way.
[00:20:20] Stewart Gandolf: So I think it's really great. It rings true with the stuff that I've observed and I'm learning from you too, right? [00:20:25] After all these years of doing this, but one of the things you talk about, and I think this is really [00:20:30] important is not just selling them and positioning for them, but [00:20:35] you, it's easier to create a product that you're not restarting from scratch every time, right?
[00:20:39] Stewart Gandolf: So that's [00:20:40] really big and so that's a big time saver if you're not trying to figure out how to sell. Okay, now I've got a [00:20:45] bank, now I have a plumber, now I have a, you know, car auto repair shop. Like, well, [00:20:50] how do you spell auto repair, right? Like, so it's on the, but the other thing is [00:20:55] the part that I don't, I haven't seen you write as much about is the added value you can bring because [00:21:00] the network we have is so deep if they want, like, Software.
[00:21:04] Stewart Gandolf: [00:21:05] We can tell them what our experience is. We can talk about which vendors are good for, you [00:21:10] know, professional referrals or call centers or, you [00:21:15] know, programming. We don't always have the right answer. Like, another great example in our world right now, [00:21:20] there's a lot going on with Facebook and Pixels and HIPAA.
[00:21:23] Stewart Gandolf: And so, you know, I [00:21:25] called, we have a relationship with one of the leading law firms in healthcare. So I called their HIPAA [00:21:30] guy, who's the one that's defending the health systems. So it's like, I have [00:21:35] that kind of experience that I know exactly where to go to. So therefore I can help our clients. [00:21:40] And then I also have the credibility with a law firm like that where they'll talk to me.
[00:21:44] Stewart Gandolf: So [00:21:45] that's like all between the lines stuff that's really helpful. So as you grow your niche and whatever your [00:21:50] respective field is, there's all kinds of benefits that are not necessarily [00:21:55] tangible, but they're intangible and really helpful.
[00:21:57] Corey Quinn: Yeah. I also think they're potentially a moat, [00:22:00] you know, and you're comparing, you know, being compared against, let's say, you know, a [00:22:05] company like www.
[00:22:06] Corey Quinn: web. com. That's sort of all things to all people. They're not going to be able [00:22:10] to have that level of expertise.
[00:22:12] Stewart Gandolf: Absolutely. I mean, it's just, it's [00:22:15] really, again, for me, Corey, it's just too exhausting not to, like... You [00:22:20] know, it's funny, like I, people often ask, like, and people on my team have [00:22:25] sort of a lot of passion around healthcare and I do too, but I just like what I do.
[00:22:29] Stewart Gandolf: You know, [00:22:30] I could have done something else. It didn't have to be for me, healthcare. I mean, I [00:22:35] could have done marketing for a lot of different niches, but I do love healthcare. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love it, but [00:22:40] there's other things I could have done, but you know, the idea of sitting there and saying, [00:22:45] it's funny going back to this guy that wanted to hire us yesterday.
[00:22:47] Stewart Gandolf: I couldn't because we have a conflict. You know, he's [00:22:50] like, Oh my God, he's like, the reason why I love you guys is everybody else. This goes right to your, your [00:22:55] podcast is every digital agency is telling me exactly the same stuff. You're not just giving me the same [00:23:00] stuff about why your digital is better and, you know, retargeting or paid search or [00:23:05] low funnel and all that.
[00:23:06] Stewart Gandolf: You're giving me insights that I don't even know about my own business. [00:23:10] And so like, that's, again, it's just makes it easier for us to compete at that level. [00:23:15] And, but it's exceedingly hard. It's hard to recruit, it's hard to scale, [00:23:20] and it's hard to get to that level of expertise. Cause like the other thing that makes us a little unique is.[00:23:25]
[00:23:25] Stewart Gandolf: That we are truly integrated. So a lot of agencies and I'm not [00:23:30] recommending this, this was really hard, but you know, a lot of agencies are mostly digital. [00:23:35] And so they're focused on the digital side, like page search and SEO. Others are branding. It took [00:23:40] us forever, but we really do have strength in all those categories.
[00:23:43] Stewart Gandolf: And so that's another differentiator for us, [00:23:45] but it's hard to do that. I mean, it took us years to stop for that.
[00:23:48] Corey Quinn: Hey, it's Corey. [00:23:50] Almost every day I talk with agency owners who are frustrated with getting their [00:23:55] outbound program off the ground. The truth is, too many agencies are too [00:24:00] dependent on inbounds and referrals to grow their business.
[00:24:04] Corey Quinn: We all know [00:24:05] that it's getting harder and harder to generate inbounds, and that it's just not a sustainable way [00:24:10] to grow your business. I'd like to give you the 6 secrets for driving consistent [00:24:15] ROI from your outbound that I learned as Scorpion's Chief Marketing [00:24:20] Officer, where we doubled the business from 20M to 40M just by adding [00:24:25] outbound to an existing inbound only program.
[00:24:28] Corey Quinn: It's a free 6 day email [00:24:30] course that will transform your outbound from broken to consistently driving [00:24:35] new sales opportunities. You could sign up and get the first secret right now by going to getoutboundroi. [00:24:40] com. That's [00:24:45] getoutboundroi. com. Now, back to the show. Could you talk a little bit more [00:24:50] about what that means?
[00:24:50] Corey Quinn: Because integrated... Some people may think like, Oh, you do [00:24:55] paid social and PPC and then other people, you know, a lot of different things, [00:25:00] online,
[00:25:01] Stewart Gandolf: offline, you know, definition when I'm talking to clients is that it [00:25:05] used to be, you know, advertising agencies, that was the thing. And then from [00:25:10] there, You know, it kind of broke into this new world of digital agencies and so digital [00:25:15] agencies usually the ones we come across are doing a lot of paid search, maybe paid social, maybe programmatic, [00:25:20] and that's like a whole thing.
[00:25:21] Stewart Gandolf: And that's where most, it's funny, it's gone from nothing, right? It used to be nobody, [00:25:25] nobody did it at all to probably two thirds of agencies at least are doing those kinds of [00:25:30] services. And then you typically had, now it's like there's a whole bunch of branding people that [00:25:35] oftentimes are baby boomers getting ready to retire that really want to do creative and do [00:25:40] branding.
[00:25:41] Stewart Gandolf: And so what's interesting though is if you ask most digital agents, oh yeah, yeah, we [00:25:45] have creative, we have branding. Or if you ask most branding companies, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, we have digital. They don't really. [00:25:50] And so like, you know, and that's what I'm saying is we've, we all, we were in that category for a [00:25:55] while there.
[00:25:56] Stewart Gandolf: Really good digital and our creative was good ish, you know, our [00:26:00] writing was awesome, but our design was just okay. So that, like I said, that's hard to do. [00:26:05] I mean, it really is because what we find too, another thing that you may, may be helpful to some of your [00:26:10] listeners is that like really good talent wants to be with other talents.
[00:26:13] Stewart Gandolf: Like SEOs want to be with [00:26:15] other SEOs, you know, branders want to be with branders, you know, content people want to be with [00:26:20] content people. So building an agency like that is really hard. It'd be easier to focus on one or two [00:26:25] things. Like, I remember yesterday you had an article on your blog about... You know, I'm not just a, [00:26:30] a, um, a marketing company for plastic surgeons.
[00:26:33] Stewart Gandolf: I do TikTok for plastic surgeons. Like, [00:26:35] now that's really hyper. And I think that was more of an, uh, you know, example than real, [00:26:40] but it is easier to get expertise super narrow like that than it is to do it broad, like we have. [00:26:45] It's really hard.
[00:26:47] Corey Quinn: Definitely complicated for sure. Today. [00:26:50] So obviously you were very, so you shared that you were very [00:26:55] early in digital and SEO, and as a result of that, that's helped you to sort of grow your [00:27:00] business.
[00:27:01] Corey Quinn: How has this concept of thought leadership impacted your, [00:27:05] your growth? Do you do, do you do a lot of thought leadership? And if so, like, what does that look like? [00:27:10] Yeah, it's at
[00:27:11] Stewart Gandolf: the core of it. Even, I don't know what our breakdown is, the number of [00:27:15] inquiries, because now we get, we get inquiries from the web, we get inquiries from speaking, we get inquiries from just our [00:27:20] reputation.
[00:27:20] Stewart Gandolf: We're now finally getting inquiries that are just referrals. You've written [00:27:25] about that as well. But the referrals are just years of being out there, so that really adds up. But [00:27:30] I can tell you, I'm sure glad I don't just rely on that. I would say another fun fact, [00:27:35] this also fits with your philosophy, Corey, that inbound [00:27:40] is like throwing to me, we have fantastic inbound.
[00:27:43] Stewart Gandolf: So don't get me wrong, I'm not [00:27:45] like demeaning in any way inbound. We love our inbound. But it is like throwing a net into [00:27:50] the sea every day and you pull up what you pull up. So sometimes it's an old shoe. Sometimes [00:27:55] it's a nice, you know, minnow, sea bass. Once in a while, it's a whale, but you're not in control.
[00:27:59] Stewart Gandolf: And that's a really [00:28:00] scary when you pull it up and you get a couple of empty nets or some old shoes, right? So [00:28:05] the net's nice, but we like to go out and we have a very aggressive marketing campaign that [00:28:10] includes speaking, includes outreach, includes inbound. And the speaking is just part [00:28:15] of it. And I think.
[00:28:16] Stewart Gandolf: You know, like stuff like this I'm doing today because we're friends. I don't expect any [00:28:20] business out of this. And it's like, it does happen once in a while. We do speak at select conferences, which do bring [00:28:25] us business for sure. But I think it's more just the aura of being able to speak. Like if you go to [00:28:30] anybody, if you're a listener, Care.
[00:28:31] Stewart Gandolf: You can flip through my speakers page. You'll see, you know, [00:28:35] decades of, and I did, I only picked up the speakers page since we started this company, let alone [00:28:40] before that. So, you know, probably hundreds of different speaking events we've done. [00:28:45] And today, and it's funny, we don't really go after speaking events.
[00:28:49] Stewart Gandolf: They, we just kind of pick [00:28:50] off the ones that seem like they're really relevant to us. And, you know, people reach out to us, but we're not like, [00:28:55] you know, cold calling 50 events or whatever, because most events aren't right for [00:29:00] us. Like, even if they're. Another thing that, you know, like, for example, our niche, most [00:29:05] healthcare conferences are a dog.
[00:29:06] Stewart Gandolf: It's like, you really, it's, you know, a lot of doctors are sort of [00:29:10] shuffling around and that's not really our target audience. So, I mean, they're good conferences, but their focus is medical [00:29:15] clinical care. So it just depends. Having that knowledge matters. But I still [00:29:20] like, I still take most credible offers to speak either me or people on my team [00:29:25] because, you know, it keeps our skills sharp.
[00:29:28] Stewart Gandolf: It gives us both the credibility [00:29:30] and we do get business from it as well. But it's not, I would not suggest, there are [00:29:35] exceptions to everything, Corey, but to build your entire business around speaking would be a [00:29:40] little scary to me. There's a whole lot of energy and a lot of effort. How
[00:29:44] Corey Quinn: do you determine whether [00:29:45] or not a conference is worth pursuing from a speaking perspective?
[00:29:49] Corey Quinn: You know, we've
[00:29:49] Stewart Gandolf: [00:29:50] gotten better at that. Like, I'll give you an example. We worked on one that wasn't ideal for us this year, and I had that [00:29:55] feeling going in. And it's like, because it's not really our target audience, I will just [00:30:00] say without sharing any sort of industrial secrets here. That it really comes down to our [00:30:05] target audience and where do we think we're gonna be likely to find prospects as opposed to just people.
[00:30:09] Stewart Gandolf: And [00:30:10] there's a whole bunch of things where it's not really the focus. So, you know, if you were to go to one of these [00:30:15] massive conferences where you know you're going to the wrong [00:30:20] level. or the wrong type of person. And you've got to be really strategic with who you're speaking out. [00:30:25] And again, like I said, we'll take them.
[00:30:27] Stewart Gandolf: Like this last one, I had four people from my team, but they paid their [00:30:30] way and it was in Fort Lauderdale. So, okay. But you know, we, we try to be [00:30:35] selective for sure.
[00:30:37] Corey Quinn: But what I'm not hearing you say is you don't spend a lot [00:30:40] of time traveling out to SMX or these, these internet [00:30:45]
[00:30:45] Stewart Gandolf: marketing. I will speak at those two.
[00:30:47] Stewart Gandolf: I haven't spoken at SMX specifically. But I [00:30:50] definitely don't look for business from that. And there are people who do that, but, you know, again, we're a niche [00:30:55] agency. I'm looking for people that, you know, are in our, uh, niches that we're going after, and [00:31:00] again, they're the right level, right mindset. It's really what I'm looking for.
[00:31:04] Stewart Gandolf: Also, [00:31:05] you know, like panel sessions sometimes are good. Those are great. Panel sessions are awesome because I can just show [00:31:10] up and just be, just answer questions. If I, you know, I've done [00:31:15] keynotes where I'm like, I've done like user conferences for clients where I'm there are 500 best [00:31:20] clients. Like those are like scores, right?
[00:31:22] Stewart Gandolf: And that, by the way, that one, my biggest one, where I got two [00:31:25] user groups from this big, huge oncology business, both came from my white papers. They hired me [00:31:30] to speak as their keynote without ever seeing me speak, just based off the white papers. I'm like, [00:31:35] well, technically I can speak, because you don't know that.
[00:31:38] Stewart Gandolf: But that was, you know, [00:31:40] lots of years of business came out of that. So there are, but that's where the stars align, right? [00:31:45] We were the right, I had the podium, I was in the big show. You know, I had the TV or the screen [00:31:50] behind me, the lights and the camera. That was a very different experience than, you know, flying to [00:31:55] Lafayette, Indiana to speak in a...
[00:31:57] Stewart Gandolf: You know, breakout room for 20 people. [00:32:00] So that's awesome.
[00:32:01] Corey Quinn: When it comes to hiring, you're a niche agency [00:32:05] and obviously you're selling services to healthcare businesses today. Multi [00:32:10] location healthcare practices. Do you hire people with a medical or a [00:32:15] healthcare background? Is that important for the work that you do?
[00:32:17] Stewart Gandolf: It's we teach that it's, we [00:32:20] do have some people with that. It's certainly. Can't help, but it's [00:32:25] more like what we're thing is, it's about being a process expert in your field so we can teach [00:32:30] the healthcare. But we really want to know, like, for example, if you're an account manager, you need to [00:32:35] have digital in your soul because that's like where most of our revenue comes from.
[00:32:38] Stewart Gandolf: And even though we're [00:32:40] integrated, you've got to know that stuff in your soul. And if you're a content writer, you need to [00:32:45] know content. And although I can say that. We are gravitating in content [00:32:50] writing more towards healthcare experiences because the nature of the learning curve there is just so vast. So that's [00:32:55] probably the only thing that's important.
[00:32:57] Stewart Gandolf: But it's funny, we also, people are drawn to us [00:33:00] because of the healthcare thing. Like I said, there's a lot of people who... Love healthcare and they want [00:33:05] to work with us, which is awesome. I have, you know, we have right now [00:33:10] somebody that we're interviewing tomorrow that has no experience in anything, but she just [00:33:15] has mad charisma.
[00:33:16] Stewart Gandolf: She's an athlete. She just has the right. Sort of core [00:33:20] stuff, but she just, the reason we're talking to her, she picked our agency because as number one, like [00:33:25] LinkedIn will tell you that you're like their top pick. So I'm like, okay, I'll give her a chance. But like, it's that kind of [00:33:30] passion that makes great employees because they get the mission.
[00:33:34] Stewart Gandolf: I care about [00:33:35] healthcare. So even though we don't recruit for that, we kind of find that. [00:33:40]
[00:33:40] Corey Quinn: I just have a couple more questions for you, Stuart. What, in your experience now, [00:33:45] having, you know, run this agency since 2006, and your previous experience before [00:33:50] that, what would you say to a young, young [00:33:55] agency owner, whether it's young in age or just young in this, in this field, what are the [00:34:00] positive aspects to verticalizing your agency?
[00:34:03] Stewart Gandolf: Well, philosophically, you and [00:34:05] I are on the same page pretty old. I would say, first of all, [00:34:10] Like I said, it's exhausting having seen agencies that do like I didn't, I skipped over an [00:34:15] agency I worked with sort of in a transition by early in my career. And they were a general sort of boutique [00:34:20] agency and they're trying to work with the big bank and then they're working with a physical therapist and they're [00:34:25] working with somebody else.
[00:34:26] Stewart Gandolf: And so each time you're trying to prove your worth to who [00:34:30] you're pitching, you don't really understand it. So it's hard for them. And then, you know, if [00:34:35] you're perceived as generic, they're going to grind you on fees and you have nowhere to go, you know, [00:34:40] like my widgets are better than their widgets. They don't even care about your widgets.
[00:34:43] Stewart Gandolf: So it's really [00:34:45] difficult to win. It's difficult to keep your fees up. It's difficult to keep them. It's just not [00:34:50] satisfying. That's the thing. I like being an expert. Like, I really like I put me in a room with [00:34:55] anybody in my niche and I will. They want to talk of this shop with me, we're going to do [00:35:00] very, very well.
[00:35:01] Stewart Gandolf: And I just like that because it gives me the confidence to be able [00:35:05] to deliver a great product. It also allows me to, you know, build the right [00:35:10] products and share insights that they wouldn't otherwise see. It's just [00:35:15] so hard. And the other thing to do is that I'll share with you maybe another [00:35:20] metaphor. So I went to Robert McKee.
[00:35:23] Stewart Gandolf: And Robert McKee is a [00:35:25] famous screenwriting icon, and he's wrote, his seminar was called [00:35:30] Structure. And he was talking about, and this was really back when I did this, [00:35:35] you know, there was a big backlash against Hollywood sort of structure. And what is it, what's [00:35:40] the Japanese poetry that has very strict rules?
[00:35:44] Stewart Gandolf: Haiku? Yeah. So [00:35:45] it was, and Haiku has so many syllables, and it's a very, very, very tight. [00:35:50] Rules. I mean, he's used that as a great metaphor of, you know, if you're worried about creativity, [00:35:55] if you have no barrier at all, everything's just a mess when you write a screenplay, when you have some [00:36:00] sort of structure to lay everything on, that's where the real creativity will emerge.
[00:36:04] Stewart Gandolf: The fact that [00:36:05] you have some constraint will make you more creative. And so I would say that's when you can [00:36:10] still from, that's not mine, that's Robert McKee's, what's his name? He's a, if you look it up online, it's. [00:36:15] Either story or structure is the name of his seminar. Anyway, he's an icon in the industry.
[00:36:19] Stewart Gandolf: But I thought that was [00:36:20] always an interesting metaphor. So whatever niche you pick, there's creativity there. [00:36:25] And another, um, thing, objection I hear a lot. One of my artists one time said, Stuart, [00:36:30] because, you know, I'm a, I'm a really strange in so many ways. And one of them is, That [00:36:35] I'm, you know, a creative person and a business guy.
[00:36:37] Stewart Gandolf: And so she says, Stuart, why are you doing this [00:36:40] business stuff? You're a creative person. Like, why are you, it's like, don't you get it? That creating a business is the ultimate creative [00:36:45] challenge. Like it was really, really hard, much harder than writing an ad. [00:36:50] Right. So, you know, it's like, I find it's the
[00:36:53] Corey Quinn: biggest creative challenge.
[00:36:54] Corey Quinn: I [00:36:55] agree with that statement,
[00:36:56] Stewart Gandolf: right?
[00:36:58] Corey Quinn: Yeah. What about the [00:37:00] negatives? What are the negatives or downsides to verticalizing your agency? If any, I would
[00:37:04] Stewart Gandolf: [00:37:05] say one might be, there are some people that just won't fit. They're not going to be good hires because they, especially creative [00:37:10] people. They don't just don't want to do that, but that's okay.
[00:37:12] Stewart Gandolf: You have plenty of creative people looking for something that's [00:37:15] okay. So hiring might be a little more challenging. For some people hasn't been [00:37:20] for us, but that is a potential downside. I would say also, like, depending on your niche, if it's [00:37:25] cyclical, you have high risk, right? So if you're in travel, for example, during COVID, that was [00:37:30] your exposure there became pretty apparent pretty fast.
[00:37:34] Stewart Gandolf: So, [00:37:35] you know, one option, if you're taking a very cyclical or very sort of [00:37:40] risky niche like crypto or You know, travel or [00:37:45] cannabis, maybe have a diversified portfolio of a couple of different [00:37:50] niches so that you, you know, you're not going to put everything on one niche for our niche and healthcare [00:37:55] is pretty stable and we actually want to do better when things get worse.
[00:37:58] Stewart Gandolf: So it's like, [00:38:00] I'm not worried about us, but they're definitely a cyclical [00:38:05]
[00:38:06] Corey Quinn: business. That's great advice. Last question for you. [00:38:10] What's your motivation?
[00:38:11] Stewart Gandolf: I'm right now at this moment, really about [00:38:15] growth. Like I've took forever. I cannot, maybe I tell people, Corey, [00:38:20] I think I've talked to you offline. Like I did everything wrong for as smart as I like to think I [00:38:25] am.
[00:38:25] Stewart Gandolf: I've made so many horrible decisions and not pulled the trigger on firing somebody fast [00:38:30] enough or this or that. But I would say now it's like things are clicking and I'm [00:38:35] just in growth mode. Like, I'm really excited about growing. I'm excited about growing our clients, our number of [00:38:40] clients, the size of clients.
[00:38:41] Stewart Gandolf: The team I can bring to Baronell is the strongest we've ever [00:38:45] had. And that to me is exciting. It's just really fun. Our esprit de corps is [00:38:50] strong. Our people like being there. And, you know, during pandemic was a, [00:38:55] I'll say it nicely, cluster without completing the word. Pandemic was very challenging. [00:39:00] We weren't immune to that.
[00:39:01] Stewart Gandolf: Like. You know, I know at least three agency [00:39:05] owners who went down during pandemic and they had good businesses. One was a branding guy who just [00:39:10] retired because his business has dried up. One was in the clinical trials business and one was something else. So [00:39:15] it was tough for agencies. Not everybody, but certainly a lot.
[00:39:18] Stewart Gandolf: And for us, you [00:39:20] know, we, um, And we made a lot of right [00:39:25] decisions there. We kept it together despite a really challenging period. But I would say now I [00:39:30] feel like we're dusting ourselves off of that. I'm not, I was really just sort of either in that mess [00:39:35] or, you know, recovering for that mess for two or three years there.
[00:39:38] Stewart Gandolf: But now we're focused on [00:39:40] moving forward and it's exciting to me. I'm really actually having fun again, like I used to in the old [00:39:45] days. I'm able to spend time on. The visionary things, the content things, the marketing [00:39:50] stuff, because during COVID, I had to become an involuntary workaholic, you know, [00:39:55] administrator, which is not my thing.
[00:39:57] Stewart Gandolf: It's not what I want to do. I had to, and I [00:40:00] did it. I think a lot of us, it's like, it's like bamboo under the fingernails. This is not something I [00:40:05] enjoy, but you do what you have to to make your agency work. So during that period, it's just. Just crazy [00:40:10] worldwide transition, internal transition, client transition.
[00:40:13] Stewart Gandolf: That was really hard, but [00:40:15] now I feel like we're moving forward and it's super exciting to me.
[00:40:17] Corey Quinn: Wonderful. I'm excited to watch you [00:40:20] guys blossom and grow. It's going to be exciting. Yeah. [00:40:25] So we're, if, if someone wanted to reach out to you to follow up, whether it be to ask a follow up [00:40:30] question or just to learn more about your services, what's a good way for people
[00:40:33] Stewart Gandolf: to you?
[00:40:33] Stewart Gandolf: So healthcaresuccess. [00:40:35] com is pretty easy. You can contact us that way. You can email me. I have an assistant that screens [00:40:40] this, but it'll get to me. So just give me a day steward at healthcare, success. com S T [00:40:45] E W A R T at healthcare, success. com and LinkedIn is great too. So [00:40:50] those are the easiest ways to reach me.
[00:40:51] Corey Quinn: Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank [00:40:55] you. All right, folks, that's it for today. I'm Corey Quinn, and I hope you join [00:41:00] me again next time for the Vertical Go To Market Podcast. If you receive value [00:41:05] from this show, I would love a five star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Thanks, and we'll [00:41:10] see you soon.[00:41:15]