Business strategist and CEO of Ajax Union, Joe Apfelbaum, explains how to pivot your company, why networking doesn't work for most people, and why LinkedIn needs to be part of your business strategy.
Is it time for your company to pivot in a different direction?
If you’re ready to shake up the status quo, I’m excited to share my interview with business strategist, acclaimed author and motivational speaker Joe Apfelbaum, CEO of Ajax Union. Joe shares his personal experiences with growing million-dollar companies and demonstrates how pivoting is crucial for personal and professional growth. He outlines his proven method for staying “mojovated,” energized, optimistic, action-oriented, and hungry to succeed. Finally, Joe demystifies why networking doesn’t work for most people, explains why LinkedIn needs to be part of your business strategy before it’s too late, and breaks down the steps to successfully build your brand online.
I know you’re going to love the awesome energy and information in this interview, so listen below and enjoy!
Listen to the podcast here:
Download the audio file here.
Pivoting Through LinkedIn With Joe Apfelbaum
Our guest is Joe Apfelbaum. He is the CEO of Ajax Union, a B2B digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn, New York. Joe is a Business Strategist, Marketing Expert, certified Google Trainer and the author of High Energy Secrets, a book on how he lost 95 pounds and has more energy than ever. He’s also known for mojovation, as he likes to say, entrepreneurs at events and on social media. Joe and I will discuss how he took risks early on to build Ajax Union and how he pivoted to the business he has now. Pay attention to how Joe explains why LinkedIn needs to be part of your strategy. Also, listen to the way Joe breaks down the steps on how to build a strategy for your LinkedIn success. Finally, pay close attention to the practical tips that Joe shares on how to build your brand.
Joe, thank you for joining me on the Let’s Talk Business podcast.
Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here. I can’t wait to have this conversation with you.
We have known each other for years now. I want to go back to the time you started doing digital marketing and you opened up the Ajax Union. Tell us about that journey.
We first met each other at a trade show at the New York Expo. I have a video of you. We interviewed you at that trade show. If you go to our YouTube channel, you’ll be able to see your interview in 2010, 2011 and so on. I was the CMO of a company called The Watchery and I was running their company. I got their company from $3 million to $40 million in revenue and I had seven side hustles. I had seven different businesses. I had a building business, I had an IT company and I had lots of different things that I was doing. One of my side hustles was Ajax Union, where are we would help companies with search engine optimization. We were doing a lot of different things for people and we weren’t focused.Where focus goes, energy flows. Click To Tweet
At the end of 2008, I sat with my partner in a room and I said, “I have to quit or you’re going to quit. If we’re going to build a $1 million company, which is what our goal was. We wanted to become financially independent, be able to build something meaningful and not have all these little side hustles and these jobs that we both had.” He said, “What are we going to offer?” We sat down until 3:00 in the morning. I came up with an idea called the Newbie Plan, articles, blogs, classified ads, directories, and social media. I said, “It’s going to be $599 a month. There’s no contract. It’s month to month.” We’re transparent.
I wrote the whole thing down on the back of a napkin and I said, “This is it. If we get 100 clients that pay us $599 a month, we’ll be at $1 million in revenue and we can pull it off next year. He said, “Who the heck would want to pay people to blog for them? Who would want that stuff?” I told them, “I spend myself over $10,000 a month on SEO for The Watchery. As their CMO, I have agencies. People want to invest and small businesses need SEO. This is the year, 2009 will be the year of SEO, Zevi. We’ve got to do this.” He said, “I don’t know. Find a couple of clients. If the clients want it, then we’ll make that our number one offering because we can’t just be offering everything to everybody. We were doing everything for everybody and we weren’t growing.”
We didn’t have a message. We don’t know what to say. Anyway, the bottom line is I went to five people that I knew well and I said, “If we offer you,” that I read off the napkin and they’re like, “That sounds amazing. I’ll try it out. It’s a month to month. Why not? I don’t have something to lose.” I said, “What if there’s a setup fee?” They’re like, “I’ll pay the setup fee.” I was like, “Awesome.” I went to Zevi and I said, “These are our first five clients. We can start in January.” This is November and Zevi’s like, “I have more kids than you have. Why don’t you quit your job? I’ll work on the side until the business builds up and then I’ll do it.” I said, “Fine. That makes sense. I’ll quit my job and then I’ll focus.” The next day, he calls me and he’s like, “Did you quit your job?” I said, “No, I didn’t,” and he’s like, “Don’t quit your job.” I said, “Why is that?” “Because I got fired.” I was like, “I guess you’re all in.” He’s like, “I’m all in. Let’s do this.” We got a little closet somewhere in Flatbush. We started doing it, we hired a sales rep and we started going crazy. Within the first year, we didn’t hit $1 million.
In 2009, we were only $500,000 in revenue. The next year, we hit $1 million in revenue. By the end of 2009, we were already on pace to do $1 million in revenue and the next year, we had $2 million in revenue. We’re growing. We’re number 178 on the Inc. 5000 and we’re one of the fastest-growing companies in the US. I think to myself, “Why? How did I get to that level?” The number one answer was focus, because I remember in 2009, when Zevi was like, “Go quit your job now because we can pay you a salary. We could pay you what you’re getting at The Watchery plus. Jump in and let’s do this. Let’s grow this. Let’s get another million in revenue.”
I sat down with my CEO at the time and he used to mentor me all the time. I would sit down and most people were afraid of the CEO. I was friends with the CEO. That’s how I was. I was always knocking on people’s doors and asking for support. He’s like, “How’s your friend, Zevi? How’re your other businesses that you’re doing on the sides?” I would tell them everything that I’m doing and he would give me advice and I said, “Zevi says I should go and work full time and be the CEO of my own company, but I’m not comfortable because I love the comfort zone that I’m in right now. I’m getting my life and my health insurance paid. This is a big company.” He’s like, “Go be your own CEO. You did much for me. I want to do something for you.” I gave him a big hug. He said, “Go be your own CEO and I will become your biggest client.” I was like, “How could I say no to that?”
I walked into the office. There’s Zevi and I told him what I decided to do and how is it going to work. He’s like, “This is perfect. It is exactly what we need,” because we needed the revenue at that point. He’s like, “You can’t work here yet,” and I was like, “What do you mean? It’s my company. We’re 50. What are you talking about? How could you say I can’t work here?” He’s like, “You have all your side hustles. You’re not going to focus. You have your business. You have your IT company. I said, “I can’t leave that stuff. I’m making tons of money on the side. I’m not rolling it into this because it has nothing to do with SEO. He said, “You can keep whatever you want to keep as long as you’re not doing the work, because the purpose of Ajax Union is for us to grow the business, not to be in the business. We’ve got to be on the business. All the other businesses we ever had, we were doing the work. This is about not doing the work. This is about hiring other people and getting the work done.”
I looked at every single thing that I had and the reason why none of them were growing is because I was the one doing all the work. I had part-time people helping me, but I was the hub and they were the spokes. I was the person that was limiting the growth of those businesses and this business was different. I got rid of all that stuff, everything I was doing. I either I sold it, closed it down, gave it away or rolled in aspects of it into Ajax Union or I was all in. Because of that moment, that’s the reason why we were able to keep growing to be one of the fastest-growing companies in the US and it changed my life. It taught me a massive lesson that where focus goes, energy flows.
I took out a couple of different points from what you just said. First of all, it’s a risk and everything you’ve started doing is a risk. There’s a comfort level when you have a job and there is a risk when you start your own business. Second of all is identifying the market. You said, this is the year that every company will need SEO and that has to be part of the recipe for business. Most important, the importance of having a focus when you open a company. Fast forward, close to 2020, how important was pivoting within your company?
My company, some years ago, we realized we got to a certain place and we’re like, “We’re not growing. We stopped growing at a certain point. We were adding clients, losing clients and we’re like, “What is going on?” You’re in the agency space and you lose every client you get. We’ve started realizing that we needed to change up what we’re doing. We had to become more of a relationship-based business. I started looking at LinkedIn as the way that I can build relationships. For ten years, I’ve been teaching LinkedIn, I’ve been working on LinkedIn and using LinkedIn, but it was to find employees. It was to do other stuff. Since Microsoft paid $26.2 billion for LinkedIn, I decided I’m going to go all in. I started writing articles, updating and networking. I used my offline networking skills that I’ve learned by getting big accounts to use them on LinkedIn. I started closing large accounts, 6 to 7 figure type accounts. I was like, “This is incredible.”
I started teaching this to other people for free. I’m saying, “Do you want to learn LinkedIn? I’m going to teach you. I want to show you how to create a dashboard. I’m going to show you how to recognize, strategize and prioritize your context. This is what I’m doing. This is what worked for me.” Over 100 people took me up on that and I started educating people. I’ve decided to open up a new company that focuses on training people on how to use LinkedIn. It’s called Social Sellin’ and we have a three-step process. We go through what works for me today. In 2019, Gary Vaynerchuk said, “2019 is a year of LinkedIn and 2020 is also going to be the era of LinkedIn.” If you want to be able to grow your B2B business, LinkedIn is the number one platform. A few years ago, we decided we were going to be a B2B company and not focused on SEO anymore. Although it’s part of what we do, in Ajax Union, we offer strategy, assets, execution, and we create funnels for B2B companies that are between $10 million and $100 million in annual sales that have a marketing director and sales.
We’re specific with our target market and we turn away almost 95% of the customers that come to us because they’re not right for us. We hand them to other agencies. The reality is if you want to be able to grow your business, you have to focus. Focusing on a platform like LinkedIn, focusing on a strategy like networking and doing it the right way is a game-changer. We’ve opened up the company and we have over 200 clients that signed up to our training programs on Social Sellin’. I have to pivot again because I called it Social Sellin’, which sounds like LinkedIn because it ends within. LinkedIn says, “It’s a copyright infringement. You can’t use Sellin because it sounds like LinkedIn.” I’m like, “What? Are you kidding me? I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars building a business. We have a team, we have clients and we have things going on. Now, you’re telling me I can’t use my company name and I can’t use this brand anymore?”
Pivoting, startup or start figuring out what to do, and how to do it. There’s a lot of answers that I still don’t have when it comes to building an education-based company, which I know is typically much more profitable than a service-based company. When you closing the account, you know firsthand, you have to make sure you have the right ratios in order to be profitable. If the client’s not happy, set expectations and make sure it works and projects that never finished that have scope creep. There are many issues when it comes to running an agency and most agencies get stuck at the $2 million level. They can never get past. Even the ones that get even past, 96% of businesses can’t even get past $1 million in revenue. Many people said, Joe, “How did you have the thing to go out on your own when you had a great job?” My goal was not to have a great job. My goal was never to have a great job. My goal was to be financially free.2020 is going to be the era of LinkedIn. Click To Tweet
If I just stayed at my job, I would have never been financially free because you never know when you’re going to get fired and you never know what’s going to happen. I wanted to take it into my own hands. I saw my mother grow her business, try to get to the million-dollar mark and never made it to the million-dollar mark. Eventually, in 9/11, went out of business. I see hundreds of business owners that were my clients and made them successful. The more successful you are, when the tide goes down, then that’s a faster way to go out of business. When you’re selling stuff that is not profitable, you grow and you have good marketing, that’s a faster way to needs merchant cash, advance loans. Eventually, go out of business. For me, the risk was not doing this. It was a much bigger risk for me not to quit the job and not to do this because then I wouldn’t be able to get to my goal. I was always in a good place financially for myself because I always live within my means as a person. Even if I make $10,000 a year, I’m going to live within my means.
I’m going to figure out a way to live within my means. There are people that I know personally that are making $200,000 and they spend $250,000. I know somebody is making $500,000 and he spends $550,000. I know someone making $1 million and he spends $1.5 million a year. How’s that going to help you? Even if you make $1 billion, you could still spend $1.5 billion. For me, it was always understanding and living within my means. It’s important. I’m not a person that needs lavish luxuries but I do want to have a good life. I do want to own a home. I do want a vacation home. I want to have all those things which I was able to buy for myself. I was able to become financially independent person that I always wanted to be and always wanted to create for myself. Now, I love teaching other people the path that I took, both in my agency and in my life in general.
I do want to dive into LinkedIn, understanding a little bit of your process and what it does for business owners. I admired you always being out there but more importantly, always with a smile and motivation or as you call it mojovation. I’m a business owner and you are a business owner. Tons of our readers are business owners or even employees in larger companies. We always have our ups and downs. What are the ingredients for your mojovation?
I used to look for external ways for me to get influenced. I used to go outside. You probably know this because you saw me several years ago. I used to be 265 pounds and if I needed to get mojovated, I’ll go to Kosher Delight and order a chicken basket with French fries and an egg roll and a large Coke with no ice. “Don’t shove ice in there. I need more Coke.” I would go there and do that. What happened was when I stopped going to Kosher Delight, they went out of business. I was the one supporting them. What I realized is that there are certain things that you need to look at when you want to change your energy levels. When I teach people about sales and I teach people on networking, I say, “Besides the number one thing, which is learning how to deal with rejection, the second most important thing in order to be READY, R is rejection and E is energy.” You have to understand how energy works. I wrote a book called High Energy Secrets: How I lost 95 pounds, kept it off, but energy is not just about food. Food is important, but you have to realize there’s mental energy, emotional energy and then there’s physical energy.
Your body, if you don’t drink enough water, you’re not going to have enough energy. Most people, number one, they’re dehydrated. If I didn’t drink water, I would look like I look like Yom Kippur. I would not have the amount of energy that I have because I drink half my weight in ounces. I make sure that I have enough and I make sure that my body works. Your body’s over 80% water. Your brain is over 80% water. What happens to spaghetti if it’s not hydrated? It becomes stick- stiff. It doesn’t move. It doesn’t flow. I want to flow, I want to grow and I want my mojo to go. If I want that to happen, I need to have the right hydration. That’s number one. That’s the most important thing. Also, water is interesting because water can be a crystal or water can look poor and be damaged. When you say 100 blessings a day, when you have gratitude and when you wake up in the morning instead of focusing on the things that are not working and your problems in life, and instead you focus on what you appreciate and what you love. You give thanks for giving you all the blessings that you have and you think about it. You internalize it and you don’t just say words.
For a long time, I was saying words. I wasn’t understanding what I was saying, but now, when I think about the things that I want, the things that I’ve accomplished, the things that I’m proud of, and the people that I influenced. I focus on gratitude, joy, on happiness and that’s what gives me a tremendous amount of energy. Of course, I have to get out there and physically get my heart rate up to a certain level for a certain amount of time. Most people are, especially in our community, we do not appreciate exercise. We appreciate going to the bakery, but we don’t appreciate exercise. I started exercising. I started running a couple of years ago and that completely changed my life. I used Facebook as a motivator and I told people, “I need to lose weight like this and I’ll run one minute per like.” It turned into this whole campaign where people started motivating me to run.
Before you know, I ran for the Friendship Circle and I failed at my first half marathon, which is a whole story in itself. Finally, I was able to do it and I lost the weight and kept it off. Not only that. I wrote a book about it and I helped over 100 people lose 40 pounds and keep it off as well. If you want more energy, you have to, number one, drink water, your body. Number two is your mind. You have to get into a state of gratitude. Your emotions need to be affected by your exercise because your hormones determine your feelings. Your feelings come from how you are. If you don’t exercise, your hormones are going to make you feel depressed. If you want the hormones that make you feel happy and if you want that runner’s high, you got to have that enthusiasm and you got to get out there. Move your body, jump, run, go to a dance. Get yourself break a sweat every single day.
The last thing that I have in terms of energy is if you want to have energy, you have to have a mission and a purpose. Some people’s purpose is their children. Some people’s purpose is making money. I don’t think making money is a good enough purpose because there are going to be at times in life where you’re going to be losing money. Money comes, money goes. My purpose is to help 1,000 hungry entrepreneurs go from frustration to mojovation. That’s what I want to do. I have a lot of enthusiasm for that. I want to help people be able to improve their life in their business, whether they work at a company, whether they’re a CEO, whether they’re a professional and they want to be able to take their lives to the next level. I want to be able to share what works for me through my creativity, through my curiosity, through my levity and through making jokes. That’s what I love to do. Once you find yourself and you get complete with yourself, you start loving yourself. Not in an egoistic way, but accepting who you are. You’re a piece of God yourself. If you can see that, you’ll be able to see that in other people and you’ll be able to be in a more positive attitude.
If you’re in a positive attitude, the A is the attitude in READY, is being able to deal with the rejection. Don’t reject yourself. Being able to have the energy, having the right positive attitude, we take responsibility for everything that happens in your life. Having the D, desire and hunger is the difference between a person who is super successful and a person who is not. I met many people that are just not hungry when I go to shows or whatever it is. People are sitting there and they’re hungry for cake, but they’re not hungry to find themselves, to personally develop, to make a difference, and to learn and to grow. Lots of people don’t have that because they’re rejecting themselves.
Finally, with the Y, it’s about saying yes and taking action. Action cures fear. The biggest cure to fear is courage, which gets you to take action. Ultimately, if you start being more successful in your life and have that progress, progress is what equals happiness. Do you want happiness? Stop trying to go eat cake or chicken that’s going to make you happy. Instead, focus on having progress, having growth and your relationships. If you can do that, your whole life will change. That’s how what works for me and for the people that I educate.
I feel that the biggest problem that society faces in this day and age is people not living after their potential. We were focusing on all kinds of obesity and this, that and the other. If we would focus on educating people on how much potential they have, if they focused on growing themselves, we would have a better world.
If you want to have a better world, you need to start with yourself. You have to love yourself before you can love anybody else. Most people are afraid to love themselves because they’re busy rejecting themselves because they’re focused on their insecurities and imperfections. Instead, realize that all that is changeable. Your character is changeable. You can improve your character with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. You can become somebody else, but your spirit, the person, the thing inside that has that awareness, that is always perfect the way it is. I don’t care what your body looks like. I don’t care what you think. I don’t care about any of that stuff. You are perfect the way that you are. Once you recognize it, realize that and commit to progress then your life becomes much better.
Let’s dive into LinkedIn. You’re passionate about it, so I’m going to play a little bit of a devil’s advocate. You’re talking to a busy entrepreneur, busy business owner, somebody that just starting off or maybe even a successful company already years in the making. We know that there’s something called the shiny object syndrome. Which is every now and then, we get a new platform, new ideas, and something new and we get all excited. Maybe we put some money and resources behind it and it doesn’t work out as planned. Can you speak about marketing in general and point the conversation more in the concept of strategy?
Somebody came over to me and said, “Joe, networking doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time. I was part of BNI for years. I tried to network and I got terrible clients. It didn’t work.” I said, “How many introductions have you made in the past six months?” He said, “Maybe 2 or 3 introductions,” and I said, “It’s not that networking doesn’t work. It’s that you don’t work. You are not networking. You’re dabbling, you’re lurking and you’re waiting for things to happen. You’re trying to get lucky.” The guy that comes to me and tells me, “Joe, I invested $100 in Google AdWords and AdWords doesn’t work. I was like, “I make 100 introductions a month. Every month, I’m committed to 1,000 a year minus Yontif because, on Yontif, I don’t do email. My goal is to do 1,000 introductions a year and I track it on my email. Every introduction I make between two different people, I track every single one, so I get back about 10% introductions.
If you’re going to make 100 introductions, you’re going to get ten back. If you want to get ten you have to make 100.” People are not willing to commit to that. That’s number one. People are dabbling. If you’re dabbling, it’s not going to work. I don’t care if you’re doing SEO. Dabbling in SEO is not going to work. You’ve got to commit long-term. If you’re dabbling in print advertising, how many times you have to show up in a print ad, someone put up a print ad for one week and nothing happened. You’re like, “What are you crazy?” You got to put it on for three years for you to get the results that you want. If you understand direct mail, if you send one piece, it’s going to work. It’s never going to work with one piece. You got to send it over and over, then you’re going to get a 2% conversion or whatever the conversion is. People are not willing to do that. If they don’t get results right away, same thing with a diet. They don’t see results. They don’t lose 200 pounds right away. They’re not going to go into it. What are you talking about? That’s not how it works. Your body’s not going to keep it. You’ve got to keep it off for six months in order for you even have a chance to keep it off.The difference between a person who is super successful and a person who is not is the hunger. Click To Tweet
What I want to say is, if you’re want to be successful with LinkedIn, you have to first ask yourself the following questions. Are relationships important to my business? Because it’s not for every business owner. Not everybody needs relationships. Some people are transactional. Why? You’re a cleaner. You want people to walk down the street, walk-in and send your dirty shirts or whatever when they need it. You have a fruit store, you don’t need LinkedIn. If you’re a B2B, B2C and you have an eCommerce company, LinkedIn is not that important unless you want to recruit, you want to be an influencer or you have other goals when it comes to getting clients. Unless you’re in a B2B environment where relationships are super important to your business, then ignore LinkedIn for now because you don’t need it unless you want to build your brand, which is important. It’s a whole another conversation about personal brand and how important that is if you ever want to have a future and you lose your business.
In terms of generating revenue, the bottom line result is you’re starting a business. If you need referrals and if your best customers come from referrals, then LinkedIn is the number one place that you need to spend your time. Facebook, people are thinking about their friends and their family. They’re thinking about food and having fun on Facebook with an F. I always say the F word, but I want to keep it kosher. People are thinking about fun when they’re on Facebook. Why not LinkedIn? What do you think about LinkedIn? I think about personal development, inspiration, networking, revenue, growth, CEOs and employees. That’s what I’m thinking about and that’s what everyone else is.
LinkedIn has 650 million people and 40% are logging in regularly. Some people even say a daily basis, but there are only one million posts going up. That means a few people. That’s less than 1% of people are ever posting on LinkedIn. That means lots of people are paying attention and few people are taking that attention. By the way, it’s only one million posts going up a day. Most of them are coming from me. Most people don’t even realize the opportunity that they have with the organic reach on LinkedIn. I get about 1,000 views in every piece of content that I post. If I had to advertise, it costs $0.10 for you to advertise. Let’s say on Facebook to a targeted list, $0.10 a view, that means it cost me $100 every time I get 1,000 views. I’m getting $100 worth of value for every post that I put up. If you can make it rain $100 bills, I post ten times a day because 1,000 people will see every single post. You got to be dumb not to do that. I make $250,000 in advertising from LinkedIn than I do personally for myself.
Forget about my employees, my clients, and my brand. For my equity, that’s what it would cost and this is not going to be around forever. This is limited. There’s a limited time only because the LinkedIn is going to catch up, it’s going to squash the algorithm and do everything about advertising. This is coming at the end of 2020 so you don’t have that much more time to tap into this but even forget about the exposure. If visibility is not even what’s important to you and you want revenue, then staying top of mind with your most important relationships is going to be the number one factor of whether or not someone’s going to refer business to you. You see me all the time, you think about me and that’s why you’ll refer a speaking gig to me. That’s why you’ll refer a LinkedIn client or a coaching client to me. That’s why you’ll refer a B2B company that might need a marketing funnel or that might need a marketing strategy that’s specifically B2B or needs that technology thing with B2B. You know I’m constantly putting out that information and I’m staying top of mind with you. Most people are not top of mind with their network and I’m not talking about new strangers. I’m talking about the people that already know you, like you and trust you. That’s the game when networking.
You mentioned time. People don’t have time and it’s a shiny object. Spend fifteen minutes a day. Do you have fifteen minutes? Everybody has an extra fifteen minutes or prioritize fifteen minutes into proactive networking. There are three things you need to do on LinkedIn to be successful in terms of strategy. Number one, post. Once a day, post something. Post a picture, post a video, post an article, post a link or post something to stay top of mind. Even if only 100 or 500 people see it. How long does it take you to post something? It doesn’t take that long to post something.
Most people don’t have an asset library or a content calendar. That’s something that we can create for people or teach people how to do it in our course. The bottom line is to post something. It takes a few minutes, then engage. Like on something. If you have somebody that posted something and you log into your feed for 2 to 3 minutes, like on a few things and leave a couple of comments. I’ve commented on your stuff and you noticed it because I’m the only one commenting. Even your mother didn’t comment. Nobody’s commenting on your stuff like me. You’ll get to remember me, see me, and offer me to be on your amazing podcast. Finally, the third thing is they say, if you build it, they will come. That’s not true. I’ve built it many times and people don’t come. If you build it, you got to get out there. You need outreach and that’s called the direct message on LinkedIn.
I don’t know how many emails you get, but I get way over 300 emails a day but I don’t get 300 direct messages a day. Most people don’t get more than 2 or 3 direct messages a day. If you send a direct message to somebody, chances are they’re going to see it. By the way, they also get an email with a direct message and they also get it on their app on their phone. When you send someone a DM on LinkedIn, they’re getting it in many different ways, but you got to be smart with how you’re doing it. You can’t sell because networking is not selling. Networking is building relationships. You have to understand the greeting, feeding and meeting process that we teach people of exactly how to start having offline conversations.
That’s something that a lot of people are struggling with. They hear about it and they start doing it. It’s not giving them results and they quit. What would be some of the stuff you teach, the process of reaching out and starting that conversation?
Number one is goals. A lot of people talk and give LinkedIn tips, but they don’t even talk about goals. You said results. I wrote a few articles about this on LinkedIn, so go check out my LinkedIn articles. If you guys want to check out my LinkedIn, go to JoeLinkedIn.com and you’ll get to my profile. You can read my articles. But the bottom line is if you want results, you need to understand what your goals are. What are your business goals? What are your marketing goals? What are your LinkedIn goals? If you haven’t hashed out your goals, we teach people how to do this. We give you a framework on how to do this, but at least on the back of a napkin, write your goals down. If you didn’t write your goals down, it’s not going to work. You can’t get results without writing your goals down. People say, “I want more.” What are you even talking about? What does that even mean? How many conversations do you want to have? I’m like, “I don’t know. As many as possible on a number.” You’re never going to be satisfied. You’re never going to be successful. You’re never going to be able to measure it and you never have to improve it.
Number two is, who is your target market? Most people are targeting everybody and anybody. If you’re targeting everyone, you’re not going to be successful. If you walk into a networking event, you’re like, “I’d like to meet decision-makers.” You might as well be saying, “I’d like to meet people,” and most people are a waste of time. Stop saying you want to meet people. You don’t want to meet people. You want to meet the right people. You don’t want to be partners. You want to meet the target partners that will help you grow your business. Who are they? Have you told anyone? No, because you haven’t written it down. We teach people how to figure out their target market. The third step is, what is the messaging? What are you going to say to these people? If you don’t know what you’re going to say to them, what their pains and gains are, if you don’t have clarity on what’s going to motivate them to want to get on the phone with you and have that type of conversation, it’s never going to work. You can talk to them about Thanksgiving to get in the door, but after that, it’s not going to turn into a phone call unless you know how to have the conversation.
When it comes to DM, if you don’t want to fail, understand your goals, your target market and your message. More importantly, always start with a greeting. Greet somebody. Online, when somebody messages me a long message, I’m not going to read it. About 57% of people are on their cell phone and that means they don’t have time for you. They look at it and they’re like, “Too long, didn’t read.” There’s an acronym for that, TLDR. “I’m not going to read this. Move on. Have a good day.” You got to be short, punchy, and to the point. Start with a greeting. Everybody loves a greeting. The second thing you need to do it start feeding people. There are five ways to feed people. Most people are not feeding anybody. They’re just trying to take. How do you feed somebody? How do you give somebody? What do people want? People want education, entertainment and appreciation. There are many different ways that you can feed people strategically on LinkedIn.
If you want to start building rapport, you can feed them and get to know them, what’s automatically going to happen if you’re talking to the right target market with the right message, it’s going to turn into a phone call. Every phone call has a value to it and that’s what you’ve got to go back to your goals. My goal is to have twenty phone calls every week and 1,000 phone calls a year. I know that for every twenty phone calls that I have, one is going to turn into a potential $180,000 client. Out of that one, that’s $180,000 potential, I’m not going to close that one. I need at least four to close one within six months. I have a six-month sales cycle for a B2B client to close. I know I got to do my work six months ago in order for me to get results.
If I’m going to close a publicly-traded company or a mid-market company that’s doing $12 million in sales and needs a marketing funnel, I should’ve spoken to them six months ago, not now. You’ve got to be committed to the long term and do the work measure. If you’re targeting the right people with the right message and you have your goals align, you’re going to be successful 100% of the time. It might not happen tomorrow because this doesn’t happen tomorrow. This happens when doing the work. What’s this saying? Luck comes to those who show up in overalls. It looks like hard work or something like that. You’ve got to put in the work, commit to it and realize it’s a long term strategy. It’s not something that just happens overnight.
The one I use is, every overnight success is years in the making.The biggest cure to fear is courage which gets you to take action. Click To Tweet
Ten years in the making, right?
Yeah. We have known each other. People always ask me how many people are on my mailing list or email list. I’m doing this for years. You’re putting out content for years and slowly but surely, it takes time for people to start noticing.
I heard somebody say, “People overestimate what they can accomplish in one year, but they underestimate what they can do in a decade.” They’re like, “In the next year if somebody calls me now, I’m going to make this a podcast next week in The Breakthrough Maze.” He said, “Joe, I want a $10 million business this year 2019.” I said, “Where are you at revenue-wise?” He said, “$100,000.”
Maybe the company’s going public.
He was serious. I don’t want to pop his bubble, but I want to say, “What are you doing in order to get there? What’s your plan?” He’s like, “That’s why I’m speaking to you. I have no idea.”
This is where visions become dreams. There are no actionable strategies behind that. You spoke about the target market and it’s something that’s worth mentioning because it’s underrated. People don’t realize it. They go into a room of people and they right away say, “Those people are not my target markets.” You forget that if you build relationships with those people and you’re clear with your target market, you can be specific. “Could you connect me to somebody that fits exactly this persona?” Most people fall short on that and this is a lost opportunity. There’s so much time.
The same thing with LinkedIn. Let’s say, the average CEO is 930 connections. Somebody said, “My target market is not on LinkedIn.” I said, “Fine, I believe you. First of all, who’s your target market?” He said, “CFOs.” My eyes opened up wide and I’m like, “Have you searched CFO on LinkedIn?” He was like, “I know CFOs are too busy to be on LinkedIn.” I was like, “Let’s assume that CFO’s are not on LinkedIn.” By the way, I’m connected over 500 CFOs on LinkedIn and they’re posting on LinkedIn. That’s number one. Number two, I said, “Does anyone in your network of 930 people know a CFO?” He’s like, “Probably they do.” I said, “Have you communicated that your target is CFOs? Have you asked them to connect you with maybe 1 or 2 CFOs that they know?” He’s like, “I have not done that,” and I said, “That’s why LinkedIn is not working for you.” You haven’t communicated your target market to your current trusted connections. The number one reason why most people fail at networking, they don’t have a target market and they don’t communicate that target market. They say, “I’d like to meet decision-makers.”
I had this conversation and somebody asked me if I have a few minutes. He started off doing residential houses, the management for the house. He told me that he’s making a living, but he needs to double his clients. He has a few clients and he doesn’t need to be huge. He needs to be able to double his client base and I asked him, “What are you doing?” He says, “That’s why I’m calling you. I want to know what to do.” I said, “Who is your existing client?” He mentioned that he has two clients and those two people are supporting him. I said, “Why don’t you ask those two people if they could connect you to someone that also has probably a few houses that he could do the management?” He says, “I never thought about it. I’m doing it right now.” We picked up the phone to both of them and he got a client one day afterwards.
That deserves a round of applause.
The message of that is sometimes you’re looking for this massive idea, “I want to start doing print ads because I need to double my client base. I need another two clients.” You’re not doing the obvious. With LinkedIn, it’s the same thing. You never asked for it. You never asked for the referral and the introduction. If I know, Joe, you could connect me to someone. I’ll ask you, “Could you please make the introduction?”
I’ll be happy to do it because you’re an amazing human being.
The point is people fall short in asking, not seeing the results and then everything comes crumbling down or it’s not working.
They say, “Ask and you shall receive.” Most people forget that.
If somebody’s reading, which maybe starting, the ones dabbling and shut it off or maybe are thinking of starting this next few months or the next few weeks, what will be the first step you’ll say that the person should do?If you want to have a better world, you need to start with yourself. Click To Tweet
Have a strategy. Number one is to write down on the back of a napkin. What are your goals? Who’s your target market? What is your messaging? If you want to watch a webinar, we have a webinar replay that you could watch that hands you the entire strategy. I’ll walk you through it. It’s called The Blueprint, a LinkedIn authority blueprint. If you go to AjaxUnion.com/blueprint, go watch a webinar replay for free. We also have lots of webinars. You go get a little bit of education. If you don’t want to pay and you don’t have the money, it’s super affordable. Our courses were affordable so you can take it. If you want to learn for free, just read my articles and watch our webinars.
If you go to SocialSellinWebinar.com, you can watch our next webinar free and you can learn from us. Of course, in the end, we’ll make an offer and say, “Join the course,” because in fifteen minutes a day, we’ll teach you how to master LinkedIn. We had one guy that take our course, his name is Ben and within two weeks, he closed two $75,000 deals from doing the obvious. Reaching out to the people he already knows, telling them who the target market, and then do two $75,000 deals. You could say that he’s a client for life because he’s like, “I can’t believe that you guys put me in the spirit of marketing, but more importantly, told me the basics of what I need to be doing. Most people go on LinkedIn and do the following, people are going to log into LinkedIn and they’re going to spend three hours on the feed. Three hours later, they’re going to be like, “This doesn’t work. This is ridiculous. Why would anybody even be on here? Why would anyone do anything?”
What I’m telling you is ignore the feed. Most people don’t even say this. I have to tell you the obvious, don’t look at the feed. That means you’re not going to see me, but that’s okay. If you want to see me, go to JoeLinkedIn.com. Don’t go to your feed because a feed is designed to suck you in and keep you there for hours. Instead, do three things every single day on LinkedIn. Post once a day, fifteen minutes a day, engage once a day, five minutes a day, and then message, message X amount of people depending on your goal. I message 100 people a day. Why? Because I want to get on twenty phone calls a week. We have a specific formula depending on who your target market is. Are they using LinkedIn? Are you networking or trying to sell? Of course, your sales navigator, which is a whole another conversation, but this is networking on LinkedIn to get more referrals and generate more revenue.
By the way, I practice what I preach. Go look at my LinkedIn. I’ve had over four million people look at my stuff and I don’t even want to go viral. I want 1,000 people that see me 1,000 times. I want 1,000 of the right people to see me 1,000 times. Can you imagine, Meny? If 1,000 people saw you over and over within a year period, you would generate more business than you can possibly handle. That’s where we’re at right now. We have a waitlist for clients. We’re not taking on clients right away because we have a limited amount of employees, we have a waitlist and we’re selective with the clients that we take in and the employees that we have. The same thing with our Social Sellin’ System, we want people that will commit to doing the work. The last thing you want to do is sell somebody a course and then they say, the course didn’t work because they didn’t do it. What are you talking about? We need people that are committed.
You’re out there, you speak a lot, you develop content and you mojovate people. You have been speaking at different conferences and you also have the business, which is Ajax Union. I hear from a lot of people and they’re confused. How do you manage two brands, which are the personal brand and the business brand? How much should it be connected? How much should you keep it separate because they’re two entities?
I always say that the number one investment that you need to make that will last you the test of time is your personal brand. People do business with you, not with your company so you have to build your brand to make sure that your brand is doing well. One day, you’re going to sell your company, but you’re never going to sell yourself. You’re not going to sell your name. This is an asset that you have for life that no government can take away from you. Nobody could take away your personal brand. Your company can go out of business tomorrow. The government can make a regulation that no one’s allowed to buy from you, the economy would tank or your biggest customer could leave you. If you’re building up your brand and if you’re building up your relationships, it’s never going to leave. What I always tell people is depending on the level of investment that you have. If you have a limited amount of investment, the fastest way to get an ROI is your relationships, who you are and building off your own relationships is the least expensive and fastest way to do that.
If you’re a CEO of a decent company, you’re doing $50 million in sales, and you don’t have a personal brand, invest in your brand if you want to. If you don’t, at least make sure that when people search for you, they see things you want them to see. I was having a conversation with the guy who has a record and he’s like, “I’m ashamed of my record and I don’t want anyone to find it but it’s all over Google.” I said, “I understand it’s all over Google, but you’re not telling your story. Google is telling your story for you.” Everybody has a story. Your story might be that you don’t have a LinkedIn profile. Your story might be that no one can find you when they look for you. Your story might be that there’s some Yelp page with somebody talking crap about you because you weren’t proactive enough to build the story around you and your brand. Take control over the search engine results page. Take control over your brand and have a plan. Your plan might be small, so invest $20 a month on something or to invest $1,000 a month or you might have a robust plan to invest $500,000 on your marketing. It depends on your story, your goals and on what you consider results.
I see your brand as important as your company brand. Again, depending on your goals, mission, your personality, and where you’re at in terms of awareness and the impact that you want to make in the world. If you want to be successful, you want to be out there and you want to have exposure, I want you to consider your brand versus your company. When it comes to LinkedIn specifically, there’s a big differentiator here. There’s a concept called a profile page and company page. In the algorithm, the way things are designed, when you look at the feed and most people are on the feed, this is something you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t look at the feed all day. Most people are on their feed, but if you’re on the feed right now, 99% you will see people’s activities or you will see profiles coming up. Every once in a while, you’re also going to see an ad and you can only advertise company pages. Many people say, “I don’t want to update my profile. I want to focus on my company page.” You’re wasting your time. There’s no organic reach for company pages.
If you want organic, which means advertising without paying any money, you have to consider your profile is going to get 10 or 100 times more exposure on LinkedIn, then your company pays. That might change in 2020 but if you want exposure in your companies, there’s nothing wrong with that. We can advertise you, you can get out there and you can be specific with your advertising on LinkedIn. It happens to be more expensive than on Facebook. The bottom line is there’s a big difference between advertising your company and advertising your personal profile. Here’s another stat, people on average are spending about eight hours a day on social media, but 97% of people are looking at updates from other people instead of from companies. Nobody cares about your company. It’s the reason why Facebook doesn’t show company pages on the feed anymore. You’re not going to see stuff even if you’d like company pages. They’re not going to show unless they advertise.
LinkedIn does the same thing is because that’s not what people want. Google wants to show you the user what you want and that’s why they’re successful. The same thing with Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok. If you’re not on TikTok, that’s a shiny object right now and I’m testing it out. Gary Vee says, “Spend 80% of your time on one platform and then 20% of your time testing on what’s next.” If you are in B2B and you need referrals and relationships to grow your business, spend 80% of your time on LinkedIn and 20% of your time on Instagram, TikTok and whatever else you want. Most of your time and efforts should be on LinkedIn. If you want LinkedIn organic reach, spend 80% to 100% of your time, but 80% to 90% of your time on your profile and profiles of your executive team because that’s when it’s going to get the most exposure and most return investment.
This was a lot of information and a lot of stuff to consume. Let’s close with the four rapid-fire questions. Number one is, what’s a book that changed your life.
It’s Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. That’s number one. Second, there’s a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done. I used to procrastinate everything in my life and when I learned the getting things done the method, it’s not only changed my life, it changed all my employees. I made it mandatory reading in our company. Now everyone takes the course and not everyone knows how to get things done. I made it our competitive advantage at Ajax Union.
Number two is, what is a piece of advice you got that you’ll never forget?
A piece of advice that I got that I’ll never forget is that formal education might make you a living, but self-education will make you a fortune. I used to think that all these gurus that are teaching stuff are just making money for themselves, but that is not true because it completely changed my life. Self-education, investing in your self-education, reading books, taking courses and going to seminars are life and game-changing. Personally, every successful entrepreneur that I know is because they didn’t just get lucky. They self-educated themselves and they grew their business.If you want to be successful and you want to have exposure, consider creating your own personal brand versus a company. Click To Tweet
Number three is, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?
When I started at Ajax Union, I would pick core values. I would hire and fire against my core values. I would read a book called Traction, the Entrepreneurial Operating System. I would have hired a coach back in the day. I used to think I’m the smartest person in the room and that was the most terrible thing that I could ever imagine thinking but that’s my mindset. I had self-limiting beliefs. Going back, I would probably read more books, get core values, and hire a coach right from the beginning.
The final question is, what’s still on your bucket list to achieve?
I wrote a book called the Average Joe to CEO. I’m turning 40 and I haven’t even launched the book yet. I’ve launched other books like High Energy Answers: Questions your teachers and parents are too afraid to answer and High Energy Secrets: How I lost 95 pounds, kept it off, but this book tells my story and I wrote it a few years ago. I keep not wanting to share it yet because I want to make a big or whatever, but it’s something I want to share my story with the world in a book. That’s something that I still want to accomplish. Of course, there are standard things when I wrote my bucket list. I wrote that I want to dance, I want this, that, and the other thing. My mission right now that I’m on is I want to help 1,000 hungry entrepreneurs go from frustration to mojovation.
I sit out and go through 50 speaking engagements. Thankfully, I got to my goal. I’m going to slow down the amount of speaking gigs. I’m going to do twenty high-quality speaking engagements. I want to be able to impact other people and make a difference. Also, another thing that I’ve always wanted to do that I’ve never done, I got offered to do and I’ll tell you why I didn’t do this, which is to do a TEDx Talk. I wanted to do a TEDx Talk about my story. Somebody contacted me and said, “Joe, I saw on your bucket list because I shared it with a bunch of entrepreneurs that you want to do one. I want to invite you to come to Tampa to do a TEDx Talk.
We’ll film it and it’ll be amazing.” I said, “When is it?” He’s like, “Next Shabbat,” and I was like, “I can’t do a TEDx Talk on Shabbat.” He’s like, “Why not? You don’t have to use a microphone.” I was like, “You don’t understand.” He’s like, “We’ll film it, then you’ll have it later.” I was like, “That’s not how it works. You can’t do that.” I missed that on a massive opportunity at one of my bucket list done because of my values and what I value in my life. I know that it’ll come back to me in 10x at TEDx at some point but it’s a shame. That’s one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do that I haven’t gotten a chance to do yet.
Joe, thank you for joining us. I know your time is valuable and that is why in the name of our readers, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.
Thank you. Stay mojovated.
- Ajax Union
- High Energy Secrets: How I lost 95 pounds, kept it off and have higher energy levels than ever!
- Joe Apfelbaum
- The Watchery
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
- Think and Grow Rich
- Getting Things Done
- High Energy Answers: Questions your teachers and parents are too afraid to answer
About Joe Apfelbaum
Joe Apfelbaum is the CEO of Ajax Union, a B2B digital marketing agency based in Brooklyn, NY. Joe is a business strategist, marketing expert and certified Google trainer.
Joe is the Author of his new book High Energy Secrets, How he lost 95 pounds and has more energy than ever. When he is not Mojovating entrepreneurs at events and on social media he chills in Brooklyn with his wife and 5 kids.