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Check back here often for the latest news on our new product releases, awards, recognitions, and other exciting achievements.

Home Automation Podcast Episode #79: An Industry Q&A With Jordan Wills

Creating brand identity

This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Jordan Wills. Recorded live on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

About  Jordan Wills

Jordan has worked with Cloud9 Smart since graduating college (MSU - English Degree) in 2006.

Jordan started out working as an assistant in their office and learning more about his passions. He is now the Director of Marketing for Cloud9 Smart and takes pride in focusing on brand identity and video production to roll out on the Cloud9 Smart social media accounts.

Interview Recap

Here are some of the topics Ron had the opportunity to discuss with Jordan Wills

  • Getting your business in front of the right audience
  • Staying on Google's "good side"
  • Video production best practices
  • Brand identity and standing out from the competition

SEE ALSO: Home Automation Podcast Episode #78: A Custom Integration Industry Q&A With Josh Christian


Ron:  Hello folks. Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Thank you for joining me. It is Wednesday, June 19th. It's about 12:30 PM. We are approximately going live on time. And let me go ahead and jump over to Facebook. Let's see if we are in fact actually live. So give me a moment here, see if we can get technology to behave. There we are and we look good. Well I hope all of you are happy having a great day now if you're watching live, thank you for doing that. Certainly don't forget to like and or comment and if you feel so compelled share and if you're watching on replay, which is likely to be most of you do the same. Don't be shy and let us know your thoughts on the content and our guests. So super excited. We've got a gentleman by the name of Jordan wills. He's the Director of Marketing of Cloud Nine Smart. He comes to us out of New York City and this is one of the more forward thinking integration firms in North America in terms of how they are driving their business forward, talking to trade partners like architects, designers and builders, and conducting education and really some really cool marketing concepts. So without further ado, let's go ahead and talk to Mr. Jordan and let's get the show started. So let's see here. He should be joining any moment. There he is. Jordan, how are you sir?

Jordan: I'm good. I am super.

Ron:  So you are coming to us from New York City, correct?

Jordan: Yeah. Union Square. Union Square.

Ron:  Are you at your offices or at your home or where are you?

Jordan: Yeah, we are headquartered in Union Square. I apologize. There will be sirens in the background at some point. It's just the nature of the place.

Ron:  It wouldn't be New York City without some sirens. Right?

Jordan: Yeah.

Ron:  Well Jordan, for those that do not know you and know your background, I always like to start with a little bit of the background of my guest. Can you maybe tell us kind of where you come from and how you landed in this industry?

Jordan: Yeah, I'm a little nervous man.

Ron:  Nervous? Don't be nervous!

Jordan: Yeah, you do the countdown and then you know, you build it up and I've never done anything like this.

Ron:  Yeah. You know, we all got to have our first, but no, you're doing great so far. How's that for positive reinforcement?

Jordan: Thanks man. Alright. So I'll give you a little background. I went to school at Michigan State, studied Film and English and moved to New York the minute I graduated and met the folks here. It was around 10 people at that time. That was 13 years ago. Around the same time you launched One Firefly, I think.

Ron:  Yeah, I launched One Firefly in 2007 at that time we called it Firefly Design Group, but yeah same business.

Jordan: Yeah. So I just, you know, I didn't know anything about the business world at all. I had studied Telecom as a minor, which is how I got the interview. So the first year I was just answering phones and building Ikea furniture and just, you know, being the office assistant. From there over the last decade plus just been figuring out this marketing thing.

Ron:  So did you, so you didn't study marketing in school?

Jordan: No.

Ron:  Very much like me. I didn't study marketing in school either, although many people on my staff did.

Jordan: So that's good. Yeah. That's handy.

Ron:  So when you were studying in school, what did you think you wanted to, to do when you, you know, quote, got a job in the real world. Did you think it was going to have anything to do with integration or anything to do with marketing?

Jordan: You know, I got good grades until I was a junior and I found acting and then I just decided I'm just going to be a famous actor. Yeah. I'll just come to New York and immediately I'll just make it big. And I ran out of money in about three months and then yeah, it quickly became okay. So I like storytelling. I like writing. I love playing with the camera when I was in school. If I ever had the chance to make a little movie instead of write a paper, I would always do that. So it became, how do I sort of fit those interests into the business world? And I was lucky enough to try my hand at a few things. Our founder actually told me after years, okay, well what do you want to do? Try a little sales, try a little accounting, try a little HR, and marketing was the best fit.

Ron:  Got it. And so, a big, broad, hairy, scary question. What does marketing mean for you? Like what does it mean for Cloud Nine Smart?

Jordan: Yeah. For me, it's putting the polish on the brand and we have a real inbound marketing philosophy. We don't like interruption marketing very much. Meaning, you know, we don't do a lot of advertising. But when people are looking for us, we want to be the easiest to find, the easiest to comprehend and the easiest to contact.

Ron:  Got it. And so these days at Cloud Nine Smart, I mean your full time as director of marketing. What are your responsibilities, what's a day in the life of Jordan like?

Jordan: Yeah, so a day in the life, we always have a couple of content pieces in the works. We've been doing a lot of video the last couple of years. And before that it was very writing heavy. So we'll be generating, our next video is going to be in this room. We've got some in ceiling speakers here. Okay. So our office is a place where we test equipment and where we demo it for clients.

Ron:  Those were squares. So those were either what, Sonance or James?

Jordan: Exactly. Yeah, James. And then we have the completely invisible ones next to them. So clients are always asking, what's the deal with completely invisible? Do you have to sacrifice, you know, audio quality? So we'll make a video on that.

Ron:  Now when you're making a video, like what is? I know that I follow you guys on social media and so I see you guys are doing all different types of video. So can you just speak at a high level, is it your background in acting and being behind the camera that has you comfortable not only being behind in front of the camera but also behind the camera and you guys are shooting different types of content? Can you talk to me about that? I mean, those of our, I'm way more comfortable behind the camera these days. But Chris Smith, who has been on your show before, when he first started working with us, he's a great guy. I know. He came to me and said, what do you want to be doing? And I really just wanted to shoot video. He said, well, let's, let's shoot as many videos as possible.You know, we did a couple of dozen last year and we just start brainstorming, you know, it's about what do we think would have some broad appeal but also be relevant to a potential client? So that can come in a product that we sell. You know, we're trying to be, you do some light research. You see has anybody made a great video on this yet? Most recently, it was the Bowers and Wilkins formation series. Those that came out and we said, well, let's just jump on this and that'll be our next video. We'll try to beat everybody else in the punch. But we'll also do videos around culture because a big part of, I think any integration firms marketing should be showing a little bit behind the curtain. People want to know who they're doing business with. You know, if you look at, you probably find this with your clients. We find with our website where we map out where people go, they land on the homepage, they go to the About Us page. Yeah.

Ron:  For me it's usually homepage. Then to the team page

Jordan: Yeah. And ours are, it's About Us on top. I mean everybody's got their bio below. But yeah, those, I'd say those are the two main types that we do inside their product or it's cultural or it's a categorical sort of a broader look at the product.

Ron:  Now what are you guys doing with this video? So when you shoot video, and I'm assuming you edit this in house or do you have a marketing company or video company that does that for you?

Jordan: Yeah, I edited in the Adobe Suite, so I'll shoot, edit. It starts with outlining some bullet points. Actually we tried to fully script stuff, but then throw the script away because I find that interviewing people, it can often come across as stilted.

Ron:  Yeah. If I actually had a script to interview right now, it would not be good. Yeah. I do best with no script and just, I think it comes off as more watchable and it's easier to listen to. And I think overall for me, and maybe some people easier to produce when it's you know, a general direction you want to go, but you don't know, you don't have to be precise with exactly what words to say.

Jordan: Yeah, yeah. Nothing bums me out more than watching a small business video where the person is trying to manage everything a little too closely. It's a little too clean for two paradigms.

Ron:  Now, some people watching are probably thinking, Ron, you really should use more scripts. But if you feel that way, comment below and tell me that.

Jordan: Ah, that's the format. That's the format. The long form.

Ron:  Long form, live interactive. And all right, so what I'm gonna try to do here, I'm gonna try to share my screen and I'd like you to talk, let's see if I can get technology to behave I can't do two things at once, at least not well. Alright, let's see here. There we go. That this is your website. And I know that I actually clicked just a little bit earlier, so I pulled up a couple of your social platforms. I'll start with LinkedIn. So you guys have a corporate presence on LinkedIn. There you are. You're promoting this guest appearance on Automation Unplugged. Let me give that a light. And you've got some of your video's here. Is this one of the, is this the primary place you deploy, the videos that you produce?

Jordan: It's equal, right? I mean they all get uploaded natively to each platform. The only hang up is Instagram and Twitter are, I think the time limitation is, is it maybe 90 seconds respectively? But yeah, they all get uploaded to YouTube embedded on the website and then uploaded directly to each channel. Okay.

Ron:  So what's going on with this top video? Robert? looks like Robert Frankie?

Jordan: Rob Frankie. Yeah, he is. So it's an employee spotlight video. It's the first of, of three that I shot the interviews for and cut down a while ago. I've just been shooting some B roll around the office and you know, he's a really interesting dude. Before him we had no purchasing system. Really. We were really struggling because when you try to do this equipment heavy business in Manhattan. It's a constant game of Tetris we are so lucky that we found this guy. He's an odd dude in a good way. It's obsessed with process. Like he always knows where everything is at all times and he carved out the whole department. So it's just a little 60 second bit about him.

Ron:  That's very cool. And so is the concept there that you're going to do an employee spotlight across different key people around the organization and post those?

Jordan: Yeah. You know, you see how people like the first three and then, you know, I'd love to do one for everybody eventually. I think, I mean really people, potential clients do get a lot of value out of seeing what's the deal with these guys? I think the, you know, the TYM guys in Utah.

Ron:  Yeah. Yeah. Those guys, guys are all over social media.

Jordan: They're so good at it because they, they are able to just stick a camera in front of themselves and not, you could just tell it's real. And I think that they are so much better at that than I am. I admire what they do.

Ron:  You know what, man? There's, there's always as good as you are at anything in life. There's always people that are better. Right. I'll brag a little bit here. As a parent, my son was just this past weekend at a math competition. So at his school he did pretty well, and then he competed in the state and he did pretty well. And then you go to nationals and, Oh my God, you realize how many smart little boys and girls there are around the world. This is a worldwide competition. And so it's just, it's eyeopening and it's humbling. So it doesn't keep you and I from trying really hard to be good at something. It definitely means that there's always people to look up to that are, you know, doing various things, perhaps better.

Jordan: Yeah. No, I'm just jealous that for me to make a video that's good, I've kind of put so much time into editing and making it super tight. I admire the guys who could just not even, they look like they're not overthinking it at all. Just selfie, you know? And it's immediately engaging.

Ron:  Immediately engaging. So yeah, you're doing lots of cuts and lots of fancy video. Like how did you learn that as this self-taught or do you take some courses in school or something like that?

Jordan: It's all self taught. It's, you know, you pick a program that you're into. I love the Adobe Suite and if you learn Photoshop and Illustrator, you have some language around premiere promote and then honestly finally taking the time, which I should have done years ago to set up all my keyboard shortcuts. It makes it a lot faster. You know, it takes time to get good at any editing software, but I would give you advice to anybody, just sort of front load the work if you think you're going to be doing it a lot. And learn as many shortcuts as you can.

Ron:  Now this video you've done here with Atema?

Jordan: Yeah, Atema Architecture.

Ron:  Got it. Can you talk us through what the concept was here?

Jordan: So we collaborated with him on a nonprofit who wanted to remain nameless. So first I just invited him to the office and to my surprise, he was completely down and we even lost the conference room. But he was like, yeah, we'll sit in the middle of the office. We don't care if people are watching. So we interviewed him. He had actually been the architect of the project and they transported a tree from Florida all the way up. Boomed it up 14 or so stories. And that's kind of a separate piece of the office. He, you know, so he's really into, into ecological elements of architecture. So we just started talking about the most interesting concept and what I got lucky with was the nonprofit, while they, they can't be named. They said, you can absolutely come and shoot some footage. And so what I thought would become the transcribed article, I ended up opening up to, Oh no, we can make an actual video and show people what the inside of this office looks like.

Ron:  Now the idea of interviewing an architect, this is part of your business development strategy at Cloud Nine Smart, is it not in terms of approaching architects and really developing those relationships?

Jordan: Yeah, it's a big part of it. We, in fact, we have somebody, Michael Dye, whose title is Architect Specialist and he, his role is almost exclusively to educate and add value to architects. And interviewing them is something we started doing. We've maybe done five now and it's got a couple of benefits. I think it can make us closer with that particular firm, but it also helps us understand what their pain points are and what might annoy them about our industry. And so we just, ultimately we're trying to copy them and so learning about their process and asking yeah. Talking about their pain points. I always learn a couple of important items to share with the team with each interview.

Ron:  Yeah. It looks like you're pretty heavily, you know, regularly posting on LinkedIn. What's your position around LinkedIn for integrators? I mean, you're clearly doing what I would call some best practice content here. What, why do you guys do that? And, and I want to ask you about LinkedIn and then ask you about, you know, some of the other platforms. But what's your thinking or what's your position around LinkedIn for your industry or for your business?

Jordan: Well, our business is pretty 50, 50, split commercial and residential. So we see a lot of opportunity on the commercial side to use LinkedIn. But honestly, it's as simple as if we're going to create a piece of content, it's probably foolish to not put it out on each channel. You know, there's this theory around you need to go where your customers are. Some of our customers, maybe.. I'm not proud of our Twitter presence at all. I don't, I don't even think we should be on Twitter.

Ron:  Yeah. So I shouldn't pull up your Twitter feed here publicly? Let's not do that.

Jordan: It looks fine, but there's no real angle to it. It's just we only have Twitter because we say, well, some clients use Twitter a lot and you know, it's not a lot of work to take the content that already exists and put it up there. Yeah. I think, the next level, the higher level would be to say, okay, use each platform for what each platform is. It's good at, right. Like maybe being more news centric on Twitter and more sort of eye candy on Instagram.

Ron:  Yeah, no, I agree with that. In fact, you know, as an agency serving integrators around the country, we don't generally advise. We don't market Twitter marketing for integrators. You know, I personally go on Twitter because of the one of my personal hobbies is cryptocurrency or cryptos and the crypto Twitter universe is loud and fast and it's really instantaneous with news. That ultimately could in fact, you know, moves in the market. And I've only, out of when did come out, it had to been in like maybe '05 or '06? I don't know exactly, I'm dating myself. I don't know when Twitter came out, but it had to have been somewhere in the early to mid two thousands. Yeah. I only got into Twitter maybe in the last two years, only because of the instant access to news as it relates to the movements around the world and cryptocurrency.

Jordan: Some variation of that is what I hear from everybody who likes Twitter. That they are, they're getting some news faster than, than anywhere else

Ron:  It is. I mean, it's for that. Well, I, and I do read it as well, so I follow the crypto channels on Reddit and that I find Twitter even faster and you know, and I can on, on Reddit, I'm listening to maybe a bunch of noise in a channel where on Twitter I can follow thought leaders that I know they're smart and I know I should care about what they say. And I don't know, I find that very interesting, but I haven't found it terribly interesting for my business One Firefly and I haven't found it terribly interesting for my customers I serve, which are integrators. I just, I don't know that Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Jones, your customers are regularly paying attention to, you know, your feed as a local service business, you know, serving Manhattan. I just, I and if anyone disagrees or believes differently, please comment below and tell us why you think what you think.

Jordan: I'm with you on that. I mean, nobody needs to hear from our firm that as frequently is Twitter's common set up for. But the other consideration I think is how you can target audiences if you're paying for ads on these platforms. You know, Twitter never really impressed me where LinkedIn. Going back to your question about using LinkedIn, getting in front of having sort of in stream ads and targeting, for example, architects when we have a big event coming up or a targeted folks five sort of job title and it's all geo-targeted as well. It's handy.

Ron:  So that actually leads to diving a little bit deeper into this subject of these events. So I mean, I'm assuming this picture here, I'm seeing a training that you guys did at a firm.

Jordan: That is actually our recent lighting summit. And that's Atema back there. The blue shirt. Yeah. On May 30th, we held an educational summit. It was five or six courses throughout the day or five or six hours throughout the day where you could one of three or four courses. So it's a way for architects to just bang out a bunch of, they need these ongoing credits for AIA for the year. So they could just dedicate one day and come to a beautiful space to Savant was kind enough to donate their experience center in Soho for it. They'd present it as well. So we get all everybody and sort of show up and we get the presenters to comment. And yeah, we found that a lot of architects are really grateful to have the chance of just, okay, I'll get it over with in one day.

Ron:  And how are you using, you had mentioned paid ads and so whether that's on LinkedIn or Facebook or these other platforms, how are you using paid social promotion to gain visibility on these events? And is it, is it working? Is what your methods? I mean it's, as a marketer you always have to be willing to say we tried something and it didn't work. Are the methods that you're using in terms of any social promotion, working to drive audience?

Jordan: Not as well as I'd like. You know, they work but they could cost money when you want actually to be taking. I find if you just want to raise awareness for something like brand awareness, it's, you get a lot of bang for your buck. But to be honest, if I look at that lighting summit and I look at the money I spent targeting architects and making it so when they're scrolling through their feed that all of a sudden they see a nice little 15 second commercial for the event. But I look at the money I spent on that versus the time I spent just cold calling firms or working our MailChimp list through email. It's not blowing me away. You know, I wouldn't call it a huge success. But we need to make the content anyway, like the video needs to be made so it, you know, you're not just making that for paid.

Ron:  Do you see? You know, I've read data and we just full disclosure, we have not done ourselves a lot of LinkedIn advertising. We've done a lot more on Facebook and Instagram for our clients do. But I've read that the conversion rates coming off of LinkedIn ads are statistically much better than any other quote, any other platform. And that is what LinkedIn will also tell you. Have you seen in the event promotions or the way that you've been using ads?

Jordan: Facebook has the edge with audience license. I've had at least equal success advertising on Facebook because I can really snipe who I want to get in front of. But the trouble with Facebook is it's often, I think it's a little less action-oriented of a platform. You go there, you know, LinkedIn, I think people sort of get their cup of coffee and they're like, let me get into it. Whereas Facebook is more of a time-waster. So yeah, for me, it depends on the events to be honest, but, I'd say I've had slightly more luck actually advertising on Facebook. Okay.

Ron:  And if I were to jump over from your site onto your Facebook, I see that, you know, can you maybe tell our audience how you guys see Facebook? How does it fit into your equation for promoting your business?

Jordan: Yeah. If we have a sort of behind the scenes cultural video or photo, and it might seem a little bit unprofessional, maybe we won't put them on LinkedIn, but we'll put it on on Facebook. That's really the key difference. Facebook, I think you can be a little bit sillier. Your language can be a little bit more conversational. Whereas LinkedIn where we try to be sort of buttoned up on, there's Chris had him on the show. Yeah. But to be honest, so much of our time is spent generating the content and writing pieces for industry magazines and getting ready for events. I'm also about handling our HR here, that at social I don't get to spend as much time as I as I'd like on it. It's, I don't want to say it's an afterthought, but it can become somewhat automatic.

Ron:  Got it. Now, if I jumped back over to your website, I do see that you guys have a blog and I'd love to know your take on blogging. You do that content or does your staff do that or how do you guys manage that and why do you do it?

Jordan: Yeah, I do that content. We used to do multiple blogs every week. We used to really buy into that Google algorithm theory. Oh, you have to be posting, you know, 300 to 500 word articles multiple times a week. And we've gone away from that. But you know, the website visits were there. We would get more website visits and as a result of that we would get more quote requests. But a lot of them will get young. So we've switched a little bit. In a perfect world would we do quality and quantity but there's not enough hours in a week. So now we're doing one or two posts a month and we just try to make them highly related either to something that we can sell or we take the cultural approach, we'd let people know kind of who we're hiring maybe spotlighting an employee. But it's usually valuable. You have to have some new content and some SEO strategy. Otherwise, if your competitors do, they're going to start to get the edge. I mean, nobody really knows how the algorithms with Google work, but you can see the results within a month or two between the website that's posting new content and then websites that, that's just completely static.

Ron:  Now those that are listening Jordan, some of them are very curious about the maybe the idea that an integrator has a Director of Marketing. That there aren't many peers of yours in the industry. I think it's a very forward-thinking approach for your company to do this. And so I'd love from your perspective, if you could share advice for some folks listening, what are some areas of marketing of their business that you would recommend that maybe they should look at or what should they consider and in what order can you maybe kind of riff on that? Give me like your, imagine someone walked up to you at a trade show at a buying group event and said, Hey Jordan, what, like what should I do or what should I do next? What would you say?

"It all should start with the brand, front-loading the work and actually figuring out and distilling down what makes my business special."

Jordan: That's a great question. It all should start with the brand, front-loading the work and actually figuring out and distilling down what makes my business special. So doing some competitive research and for us it was breaking it down into five unique identifiers. And it's not what you want to be. It's more what you think you already are. It's a great argument solver later on because when then you're making any decision with you know, how many colors should be on the page or what tone we should take? We're talking about something you can go back to this brand identity and decide, is this fitting? And you find that you'll really keep consistency there. I know you know the value of consistent branding. I think that's part of your product offerings. Just making sure you know, for this Automation Unplugged Episode, you sent me four different images with slightly different, you know, the same branding but slightly different dimensions. One for each channel. But beginning with brand identity is, really important. So we found, I'll just give us as an example, I'll talk a little bit about that. Is that okay? What are we really all about? Well, one thing is we're collaborative. We have an open office concept. Everybody steps out of their department to help other departments. But we also help traits, you know, we're not the, we try not to be the company that says read the fine print. We didn't say we do this and it's not our problem. You know it's a small island. Reputation is everything. So we try to stay collaborative and then, it's important that we stay meticulous. That's another one of our five identifiers. So anytime there is an issue with the project you want to make sure we feed it back into,we have a feedback loop and that we adjust our project templates so that they go more smoothly next time.

Ron:  Are you guys after projects huddling up and is there a formal process where you insert that a critique of the process in order to define that amendment to the existing process or is it informal or is there a structure to that?

Jordan: Both informally throughout the whole process. Formally in getting a BMPs score or we get a single rating from each client and then share it. Company wide tensions can run high when there's no less than seven. But it's important that when you share those publicly, You get to give accolades or not if there's an issue. It's not about blame. But for somebody to own up or for us to say it's nobody's fault. But if we add in this other phase in the process, you know, we'll be sure to avoid that next time.

Ron:  And Jordan, we just had Maggie, just stopped in and she said hello. She said, good afternoon. Thanks for joining the show Jordan. So thanks Maggie. Appreciate you doing that. I know that, I did separately get a text from someone saying that they were having trouble commenting. And so I don't know, maybe Maggie has broken through and figured out how to get the commenting running. But if you're out there, stop what you're doing for 10 seconds. If you, if I may be so bold and say hi in the comments, just so that we could determine if these are in fact working cause like they're working for Maggie, which is very cool. Maybe post a question for Jordan and, or tell us where you're coming to us from.

"If you're keeping your messaging generic and if you're using stock imagery, you don't have any original content with personality."

Jordan: A great answer. Yeah. To this idea of how you sort of get started if you want to up your marketing game. But something else I could add. The first thing is mapping out your brand and figuring out who you are as a company. And I would say the next part is keep in mind customers are, they're trying to find something real, something real about you. They're trying to figure out what, what are these people really about? Think about what you can offer up and share that is real. Sometimes that is about you're showing your personality. People want to see what's the cut of the jet, who am I really going to be working with? Right? And sometimes it's about what, what can I offer? For a long time, I saw every integration from seem they have the same tagline, making technology simple or your home simplified. And while there's nothing wrong with that as a customer, I think you're, it's a bit of a wall. Okay, I get that. But it's supposed to be simple. But what are you really about? And if you're keeping your messaging generic and if you're using stock imagery, you don't have any original content with personality. And I think it's, yes, you'll accomplish some basic level of validation. But yes, you're a real business but you won't, you really want to get to that deeper level and give people something that that's real. And I think it always makes it easier for them to pick up the phone and call you if they decide, okay, I see what these guys are all about.

Ron:  Can you well let me, I have a question, a follow up on your branding concept here, but let me first of all, post Thomas says greetings for Panama. Ron, great topic, kudos to cloud nine smart, incredible work. So thanks to nice. That's pretty cool. And then we also had Vanessa, she says, good afternoon from the office in Davie Florida. So thanks Vanessa for stopping in and saying hello. You talk about branding and just a little detailed note here for our audience, I will actually be teaching a seminar at CEDIA on branding. So I'm looking forward to it. It'd be the first time I'll be broaching that topic in a public training forum like that. So keep an eye out on your CEDIA curriculum for that course. But what process did you guys go through at Cloud Nine Smart identifying your branding, your brand identity defining your customer persona, you know, how did you guys do that? And I'm just saying there are people listening that are going, well that sounds really fancy and really good, but how the hell do you do that?

Jordan: Yeah, there are a bunch of approaches when we got super lucky that we know a guy called Torsten Gross, he's at Deloitte now. He headed up Horizon's marketing for a while and he was willing to meet up with me for a series of lunches and sort of share this concept of the five pillars. Identity pillars is, it's a big part of it. Another part of it is building a brand rubric, sort of a single sentence around why do you exist? I think it's more internal-facing than client-facing, but what is, what's the point of your company?

Ron:  How hard was it for you guys to come to a single sentence defining your purpose or why do you exist?

Jordan: It's giving me a sense memory headache just thinking about it. It was not easy and it was the first project I took on with Chris when he was brought on. You know, he's our CFO. It was a lot of the source work. It was a lot of why are we.. You know, an example is we found we want to be leading and we chose the word leading very carefully. We don't want to be bleeding edge, you know, we don't want to be the first to install it on the block. We wanted to be the first to install it on the block where it works perfectly every time. So choosing your words very carefully is a big part of it.

Ron:  How, what was the timeframe? How long did this process take?

Jordan: I'd say about a month and a half. And then we went to, so it started with words on paper, what are we all about? And then it, because it, at the time we were doing this, we were, we were merging our commercial and residential brands. It's Cloud Nine Smart home and it was Everglades Technologies. So it was a big exercise and we figured out our brand identity on paper and then we used a, a great company called Maggie Nine Designs where you will explain to the Internet how you, you know, what you want your logo to look like. And then you have a lot more than, in our case, a lot more than 99 different designers submitting. We had, I think 800 something and you would look down, the point is you end up paying, we paid around a thousand dollars and 1500 to the winner. But it's such a great way to get that perfect logo. You know, you get a cast, a really wide net and narrowed down from there.

Ron:  No that's very cool.

Jordan: The other part I think of a brand of our brand exercise was around looking at the customer journey. And there are a few points in the customer journey, right, that are super important. They don't know they need a service like yours and then they find out or I'm sorry for that. They don't even, they don't know they need to service like yours. So the idea of introducing yourself, do you know there are companies that do this that can make all of your technology work seamlessly.

Ron:  So we call that the awareness phase.

Jordan: Yeah. You, you have official names for it. That's great. What's the next phase?

Ron:  The next phase is called consideration. So the example for Mrs. Smith would be awareness. She's building a house. But she doesn't even know that home technology is a thing she should consider. Right? So she's maybe Googling online around building a house and then she comes across content that now talks about maybe putting in an infrastructure so that you could have a whole-home audio system or a whole-home lighting control system. The idea of the customer is that from a marketing standpoint, is that you would have say content as a business owner, you'd have content that could, if you chose this path, you could create content that's a magnet or speaking to that consumer at every phase of the buyer journey. So you could have content that would ultimately result in them finding you when they're purely in that awareness phase or when they're in consideration. Consideration is, for example, she knows she's building a house, she now knows she wants home technology. What are all the home technologies that she should consider? Right? You can do outdoor audio, you can do a home theater, you can do LED lighting, you can do on and on and on. And then the final phase is what? You know, the final phase Jordan?

Jordan: Ours that we learned was after. Are you happy or are you gonna recommend?

Ron:  Yeah. Okay. The next would be consideration. No, not consideration, decision. They have to decide do they hire you or do they hire the next integrator? Do they find themselves overwhelmed? Right. That's right. And so when you guys were looking at the buyer journey for your business, like what did you guys do with the resulting kind of definitions or understanding from that?

Jordan: We looked at off ramp at each phase. Why? Okay, so if it for awareness, why might they not want to go to that next phase? They become aware of us. Maybe they think, Oh, that sounds just like a huge headache or it sounds too expensive and you identify and then you pick what you believe. And by the way, interviewing customers is a great way to figure out to, you know, go from the hypothetical to what's what's really happening in your marketplace, but you figure out what's what's a really common offering. And you design a marketing campaign around that and you dedicate maybe six months to really focusing on that messaging.

Ron:  Did you guys, in all of this energy you've put into your brand identity, understanding the buyer journey. Did you guys ultimately define like the typical customer or the customer avatar? Someone call it the buyer persona, of what a typical customer is, maybe residentially, what does a typical customer commercially what a typical customer is?

Jordan: I've always known we should. We've talked about it and we have a few different variations, but we've never really taken the time and we should have. We will in the future, but to really hone in yeah, what's this person's age, income level or what are their, and where are they, where I was like, where, where are there, they were asking for inspiration if they're building a home, that sort of thing. Yeah. It's on our list of things to do.

"We've created a whole portfolio of buyer personas for luxury consumers and we're going to."

Ron:  You know, there's never enough time, but that's a project that we here at One Firefly have just taken on this year and we're actually avatars. We have them. They're not public yet. But yeah, now we've created a whole portfolio of buyer personas for luxury consumers and we're going to. It's going to be neat. It's going to be neat because now when you know, we engage with one of our clients, you guys an integrator. And just for full disclosure, Cloud Nine is not a One Firefly customer. But when we engage with our customers, when they are activating, say blog efforts or email or social or social advertising or whatever the thing we're doing for them, those campaigns in the future, will be done eyes wide open with my customer having selected their typical customer so that the messaging is all modeled around that. And in theory more on target. Just because the portfolio or the breadth of solutions that you as integrators provide is as varied as you know there are, you know, colors in a crayon box. Or whatever the appropriate analogy is there. They come in all shapes and sizes and form factors and so one size does not fit all. So we're just trying to get better than that.

Jordan: Yeah. And it really varies. I think in an income level too. We, there was a time in our infancy as a company where, you know, we were just taking every job we could get and we've really now landed on the affluent market. We're chasing that high end client. And that buyer persona was totally different. They don't want to see, necessarily something, a price slashed and you know, you buy, now you get this discount. I suppose this to a degree is everybody but our clients do not waste the time, any phase in the process. I mean, there are times the most valuable assets. So everything we're doing is around economy of words and speed of different phases.

Ron:  We've been going here for almost 50 minutes.

Jordan: Wow.

Ron:  Can you believe that?

Jordan: It felt like 20.

Ron:  Yeah. No, we've been going, let's see if I can get us an exact number here. Yeah, 47 minutes. So I'm going to ask you, do you have a question for me about marketing? I've never done this on Automation Unplugged but I figure, why not? You're a leader of marketing in your agency and maybe you have something that's been, you know, tickling the back of your brain that you want to ask me. Why not do it in public?

Jordan: Yeah for sure. This idea of quality versus quantity this idea of always talking as a brand and always being out there I think has gone unchecked for awhile. And I was wondering if you think the tides are shifting with that word or if the tides are shifting with anything that has been sort of status quo in our industry as far as online marketing.

"It's hard to identify any one best strategy for any integration company."

Ron:  Well, I think the one constant is change, right? It's hard. It's hard to identify any one best strategy for any integration company. I think there are a combination of best practices and they actually start with you, the business, knowing what you're trying to achieve in that given year or time span. Right. And when I talk to many of my customers, they often ask me what I mean. I'll give you some examples. If you did X amount of revenue last year, what type of revenue or do you plan to do this year and what type of revenue do you plan to do next year? Right? What's that target or that goal? Majority of companies I talked to don't have such a number defined and so I see that as room for improvement. I think the finding that target helps, I think when you then go to the next layer down and you look at project types, right? So if projects are you guys, you just, you made a comment, a broad comment that you were about 50% residential. Or what I heard, this may not be the fact, but what I heard was you said were 50% residential 50% commercial. And I'll just, I'll run an example. So let's say you were that last year in 2018 here in 2019 is that also your goal? So you want to grow so much. Do you want that revenue split to be equal 50 Resi 50 commercial? Or do you want to grow one more or less than the other? Right? And then you take another layer down within that category of Resi, what are the project size splits? Oh, are they all big jobs? Are they medium jobs? Are they little jobs? And that's a subjective question. A subjective set of answers based on every business. You're little might be the next man's big. Say, Hey, we don't do anything less than a hundred grand and I'm putting words in your mouth. The next guy might say his big job is 20 grand. Right? So, it's a matter of knowing with clarity what you want to achieve. And when you know that, all of the marketing activities become much more straightforward, much more clear. Because now you can target activities and actions and KPIs to watch that are very much dialed into you achieving those outcomes. Yeah. I don't know if that's the answer to your question, but that's something that I'm hot on.

Jordan: Yeah, that's a really good point, right? You have to have a plan so that you can sorta back the marketing plan into it. But let me ask you this though. You, one thing that you guys do that I can never do is you, when we first met it was at, at CEDIA you were teaching a course and it was this checklist of probably a hundred items that websites should have. You guys really have your finger on the pulse of, you know, Google algorithm changes and new products that are available that you need to quickly that your business into. What do you find people are missing? Is there, are there one or two things that aren't just know brand new that you find, you know, if you need to have this and you will probably see some sort of uptick and either website traffic or folks trying to get in touch with you?

"The other major change that's happened in the algorithm is that Google today is significantly penalizing websites that aren't being updated."

Ron:  Yeah, I can tell you what it was. This has mostly been resolved across the internet. Even our industry that's generally a little slower to figuring things out in terms of marketing. And that is mobile responsive design or mobile-friendly design, right? The algorithm changed with Google back in April of 2015 and so they gave the warning to the world that you need to have a mobile-friendly design as defined by Google. If anyone's listening and want to know what that means, go to Google and type in mobile-friendly design or a mobile-friendly website and you'll land on a website and you can drop your URL and it's a pass fail test. Today, most websites listening or most people listening to this have a mobile-friendly website, which is great. The other major change that's happened in the algorithm is that Google today is significantly penalizing websites that aren't being updated. So they're looking for fresh, authentic, relevant content to the search query. And so people that build a website and let's say, I mean, building a website's hard, right? It's a lot of mental energy. It's stressful for many. It's not easy. And although I would challenge, it's easier with us than some, but it's still a heavy lift and so many people go and do that effort and then set it and forget it and they like give themselves a pat on the back for having done and launched a beautiful new site. So the algorithm today is not friendly at to websites that aren't regularly being updated. And so the obvious opportunity is for people to simply learn how to go into their website and regularly add articles, change images. I mean, a little side note there, you had mentioned, Jordan, that you, you guys are regularly capturing content. While content on your website is both copy and imagery. Google is crawling your website and they know whether your image is unique. They are AB-ing your website against itself, but they're also always comparing it to all of the Internet.

Jordan: Yeah. So people will know if your images is unique. Subconsciously or consciously, and that will keep them on your website longer.

Ron:  I mean, C4 provides beautiful images, right. But all of their dealers have access to those images. Right? Right. And I could go on, Lutron, Crestron, Savant, Elan. I mean all of these, you know, Screen Innovations, all these vendors have beautiful imagery and it is good to have beautiful imagery on your site. It is better if it's original unique imagery or original beautiful imagery.

Jordan: Yeah. It's even better if your original imagery is a little less beautiful cause you can sometimes something can be a little too perfect. And the blink tests for customers.

Ron:  Yeah, if it's overly photo-shopped or overly perfect. I entirely agree. And then the last comment I'm giving a really long answer to your short question is video, you know, video centric design utilizing video across all of your marketing channels. Most importantly, you know, you could think of your website as the hub of your marketing. Your website is the hub and you have all these spokes driving traffic into your website. And so video should be a foundational component of your website today in 2019, couldn't say that in the past the internet wasn't ready. My listeners weren't ready for that. But today there are no excuses. You should have video-centric design and then all of your social platforms should be leveraging. You should be leveraging that content then especially our industry because we are in such really cool projects, the imagery and the video is powerful and it does so much of the selling for you. If you simply like you have figured it out, you got a camera and you just start recording and you figured out how to edit, you're self taught, but you're, you're doing this and you're making a difference. I mean, you guys are standout marketers in the country, certainly in your marketplace, you know, the island and Manhattan. So kudos to you guys.

Jordan: You know, one thing I can add to that also is the difficult part is who has the time to do stuff. Right? And I know I often come to an issue where I want to write an article about something, but I'm not as technical as some of my coworkers and they're busy in the field. But what they often will have time to do is join me for 15 minutes. I could have a recorder out. Now I have their conversation on tape. I can send that off to Fiverr. For $25 I can have somebody transcribe it and now I'm not starting from scratch. I've got a couple thousand words that I can edit down into an article we found that's a way more preferable way to get articles done.

Ron:  I think that's a brilliant idea. In fact, I'm gonna end on that cause I might actually take that one and start doing that because that's, and I'll translate it for my audience. Why am I keying in on that? I mean, we are content producers here at One Firefly where when I went 10 to 12 writers on staff writing content every day for hundreds and hundreds of companies around the country. And so, we're writing that content often based on, you know, journalistic practices of going out and gathering data research and synthesizing that in some useful piece of content that is original to the internet. But the idea of, in fact, interviewing customers and recording it and then transcribing that that could result in us elevating our game. So that's a really cool idea. Yeah. Let me know what works for you guys. I definitely will. Let me see where we topped out. We're going to wrap up here right at one hour. I think you are officially the longest interview in the last year, Jordan. And I think it's good. I think I could sit here and chat with you about marketing for at least a few more hours easily. So Jordan, thank you for being our guest number 79 on Automation Unplugged. It was a blast having you on the show. Hopefully you'll come back.

Jordan: It was great to be here. I'll come back anytime. Thanks Ron.

Ron:  Awesome. Thank you, Jordan. Alright, folks. There you have it. The one and only Jordan Wills. That was a lot of fun. I need to get not, this is not a knock on any of my other guests, but we need to get maybe some more marketing personalities on here. I think that would be fun and an opportunity to riff and learn from each other and, and hopefully benefit all of you listening and, or watching the show. So on that note, I am going to leave you with a reminder about our Instagram page. We did launch this page here at One Firefly back in September and it does have a nicely growing audience. We also are running a nice a comp, not a competition. It's a giveaway every month. This summer we're going to have different giveaways. And so if you go on our Instagram, you'll see the rules of engagement and if you were, we're partnering with different manufacturers June, July, August and September. So there'll be different partners and all sorts of fun giveaways. I think this month we are giving away Sonen as our partner. We're giving away a bunch of, 10 water bottles, ten One Firefly tee shirts. And the whole theme is One Firefly summer camp. So there's a bunch of summer camp themed giveaways, including I think this month we're giving away a hammock and and all sorts survival guide and all sorts of other cool giveaway stuff. So definitely check us out there. And then what else do we have here? And then of course, if you want to learn more about One Firefly, don't forget to go to our website or give us a call. And on that note, everybody, I will see you next week. Thank you for joining us. Peace out.


Jordan Wills got his start in the industry after college with Cloud9 Smart. Jordan started out working as an assistant in their office and learning more about his passions. He is now the Director of Marketing for Cloud9 Smart and takes pride in focusing on brand identity and video production to roll out on their social media accounts.

Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly became the leading marketing firm specializing within the integrated technology and security space. The One Firefly team work hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution, Mercury Pro.

Resources and links from the interview:

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