Watch Episode #3: an Industry Q&A Session with John Baskerville
An Inside Look at Marketing for this Industry
In this Automation Unplugged episode, Ron Callis interviewed John Baskerville, One Firefly's Director of Product. John and Ron discussed best practices in digital marketing for the automation and AV industry, the process of developing new products, and top takeaways from John's attendance at Social Media Marketing World.
About John Baskerville
As Director of Product at One Firefly, John is principally tasked with the management and deployment of all web efforts, both internal and client-facing. John’s career in web spans nearly two decades. Since joining the One Firefly team in 2009, his knowledge and expertise have been tapped to help successfully build up the creative division of One Firefly.
The live interview covers a series of topics surrounding the AV and automation industry, such as:
- John's start in marketing and web design
- His role as One Firefly's Director of Product
- The process of designing and launching new products
- Key takeaways from Social Media Marketing World
- Trends and tools in digital marketing that integrators should be taking advantage of
- Rookie mistakes when getting started with digital marketing
- Black hat vs. white hat SEO
- And more.
Ron: Hey everyone, Ron Callis here, with One Firefly. How are you guys doing? Thanks for joining us today. What is it? 12:30 on Wednesday, May 3rd. Happy to be here with all of you guys. And this is now our third industry chat with Ron, live Q and A with different members of the industry. And today we're gonna have a lot of fun. I've got a longtime associate and friend of mine and just so happens to be our Director of Product here at One Firefly. I've got our very own John Baskerville let me show you guys John, how's it going John?
John: Hello, how's it going Ron? How's it going Facebook audience? I am doing well.
Ron: John, is this officially your first Facebook live or have you ventured out in the past?
John: You know I've been paying attention to Facebook Live but this is going to be my very first appearance during a Facebook Live.
Ron: Awesome well you are doing great so far. Just so you know you're A+.
John: All right let's keep it that way.
Ron: Let's keep it that way. Well awesome. Well, John, I've got some questions prepared here. A lot of our audience our customers our industry peers may not know that much about you and your role here at One Firefly. And so my goal is over the next 30 minutes or so we're gonna ask you some questions and have some fun and learn a little bit more about John Baskerville and what you do for One Firefly and kind of ask your opinion on different topics, you game for that?
John: Awesome. That sounds like a good plan and let's do it.
Ron: All right. Well , first of all, let's start what got you into the marketing space and into web design? That whole genre. How did that happen?
John: You know it happened a long time ago. I'll start there. You know I've always had a creative bug, I knew I had to learn more about this space at some point. Early in college, I was doing a lot of you know I went to college to learn computer systems and my second year in college I was doing a lot of lawn work, waiting tables. You know nothing unusual for that you know that chapter in your life. But you know that was definitely not satisfying it was it was good, hard lessons learned but you know I had this creative bug and I knew if I can combine that with the technical skillset that the world of possibilities would have been infinite to go online and actually create. And so I did that, I accelerated my studies into that side of development, design and then eventually opened my own business and started developing websites and offering all other sorts of online marketing and service. So I felt like I could actually create and now help people and that's more satisfying to me and so that's why I put all my time and energy and been doing it for the past 20 years.
Ron: Now you mentioned you owned you know like many of us. There was a life before One Firefly. So you, in your former life you owned a marketing agency and you ran that. And so a lot of our customers here at One Firefly are small business owners of different shapes and sizes. What was the experience for you like just running your own business? What were some of the ups and maybe the downs of that? That side of things?
John: Well you know the upside. I'll keep that up pretty brief. I mean the up was you know obviously going out there and creating something of your own. You know you have these wildly ambitious ideas of what you can do and you go out there and you make it happen. And so I did that. And so that was satisfying and I had a successful business. There was nothing wrong with it you know. But there were challenges there were definitely challenges and I would say there are two challenges that come to mind for me. The biggest one is finding a regular audience. All right. You know it's hard when you don't have an established or regular audience to build a client base and that was just always a challenge for me, trying to find a regular audience to communicate my services to . You know rather than just being spread out all these disparate places and trying to educate people about what you do. So that was the biggest challenge finding a regular audience. The other challenge was that because of that, you're constantly bidding for work and you're constantly bidding for work you're constantly driving your prices down to actually win that work. And that's just an impossible scenario. You can't structure you can't do any financial modeling around your business and construction your products and services , your margins are always being cut into. But you can't plan to grow that way, you can plan to stay alive and survive but your margins are always variable. Sometimes they're almost non-existent by the end of a bidding process. And so that was just an impossible way to survive. And it was just you know month to month at that point and you know I was always doing well but it was just a stressful thing to not be able to expect what's coming in the door next month because you cannot effectively plan and the grind for bidding.
Ron: You and I ended up meeting, we knew each other when we were kids and we met much later on the social media right?
John: Yeah. We ran into each other on social media, you just contacted me out of the blue. Oh, Ron Callis! And yeah we reconnected at that point and got exchanged and so talking about you know One Firefly, well I think it was Firefly Design Group at that point right ?
Ron: That's right.
John: Yeah. Firefly Design Group at that point and you were talking about the things that you were doing and it was very exciting. I mean right off the bat I don't know how long that initial compensation lasted but we got into some pretty deep conversation. You know right off the bat and what you were doing at that time was pretty interesting. I thought fascinating you had an established client you had an audience right? That was the most interesting thing to me at that time is that you had an audience and so there was lots of ideas being thrown around in that first conversation. And you know it's really fascinating I think you would agree to look you know fast forward now and just see where we have come what has crystallized as a result of those initial conversations.
Ron: Now, most of our audience and I welcome we are live on Facebook here. I'm watching the feed, we've got some people checking us out. A lot of our customers and maybe just folks that know you and know One Firefly may not know that you have such a tenured career in the wrestling world, wrestling . That's how my dad would say it too. Wrestling.
John: A lot of people say it that way. Indeed.
Ron: So you know I did a little bit of wrestling when I was younger and now I'm afraid to get near a mat, I might get broken in half. But you've had quite the tenured career. Do you mind just sharing with our audience a little bit about your love for that sport?
John: Yes so sure , that is part of how me and Ron got to get to know each other. Ron also has a singlet somewhere in his closet and some wrestling should be using some headgear. He was a pretty tough cookie. It's always been a passion for me wrestling , I've been wrestling in high school , did pretty well a high school went to college, did pretty well in college and then all of my friends and were also doing well eventually went out to Colorado Springs where the Olympic training center is for the U.S. men's wrestling team. I made it there eventually they had you know egged me on year after year to get to come out here and train with them. And I eventually did. And that's where I am based currently here in Colorado Springs. Our studio is very high. It's an ideal place for a lot of the U.S. teams to train and that's where I'm currently doing my training so I'm still active in the sport and I'm still planning to compete in next year's round of sanctioned international events and trying to get myself ready for that. And so I've been a fairly decent job trying to compete with the young guys in this old age. Keeping myself in shape and I'm going to accelerate the intensity of that in the coming year so that I can actually get..
Ron: John, are there rules like around how old you're allowed to be and still compete in the sport? Are there any restrictions where they're looking out you know? AARP restrictions or anything like that?
John: There's an AARP tournament for old folks like me. You know it's a funny question. I mean I would say there's an unspoken rule certainly that you know at some point you're supposed to you know put on the polyester shorts and grab a whistle and become a coach and not compete anymore. And I've resisted that .
Ron: A lot of our mutual friends over the years have gone on to be wrestling coaches.
John: Yeah, a lot of our friends have gone on to do that. It's very fulfilling. You know it's like to take what you've learned and give that to others is a noble path. And so that's not certainly not to downplay diminish those paths. But you know I'm still in the competing spirit right now and a lot of our friends are coaching and teaching and bringing up young men and teach them great things and there's always going to be a component for that. For me as well, always giving back and doing clinics and that sort of thing and helping out a good friend of mine here that's a veteran of the training center. He also does some of that in his spare time but I'm also competing, there will come a point where that's done. But right now it's not gone, still gonna happen.
Ron: I josh with you about the topic but you know we're all proud of you that you're out there doing that.
John: I appreciate that. I appreciate that.
Ron: All right. So here at One Firefly, you are our Director of Product. Can you help our audience understand what that means? What is it and maybe build upon that further, what dos a normal week look like for you if there is such a thing?
John: You know I think I would preface this by saying you know what? It's really trying to understand what best products and services. There's a lot of things that we can create and develop out there right in the world of online space. But really what are the best products and services that we can develop? What can we innovate that is gonna help our clients? That's going to benefit our clients. Right? So not getting distracted by all the fun things that you can do. What are the things are actually gonna have an impact on this industry and people in this space that are out there working hard and trying to grow their businesses? So a lot of that question in and of itself you know lends itself to a lot of research a lot of understanding what things can work what things can be developed and then from that we then get into a development cycle. And so a lot of planning is involved in that and we eventually then beta test and release new products and services on some regular frequency. But then what comes after that is you know making sure that we're nurturing those products. So we launched a product making sure that the launch of those products are successful. Making sure that the client experiences are well and then figuring out what we can do to further enhance those products or better improve the experience for our clients that we're not simply producing products and saying on to the next thing. So that is part of my role, is to look at the things that we're currently doing, not just the things that you know what new things can you do. But look at the things that we're currently doing and constantly scrutinizing. There are always areas to improve, so that is also part of that. And then beyond that, the day to day, I mean the day to day for me you know we have a fantastic team that I manage of web designers, graphic designers, content managers, social media marketers, client relationship managers, traffic managers and making sure that the day to day for our internal staff and for our clients is happening as seamlessly as possible that we're delivering products efficiently that we're staying on schedule and in task. That there's S.O.P's developed. There's any number of products that we produce that we then introduce to our staff and say here's how to do those things, here's how to deliver those services and making sure that they know the steps, all the steps involved, the sequence of those steps . It involves quite a bit of SOP development and so there's quite a bit involved on the day to day. And so there's no shortage of work. We're all busy, we're all working hard and but we have a fantastic team and I think that's what makes my day to day easy, makes my job stepping in logging on every morning and knowing that I've got a fantastic team behind me this is one of the treasures and treats working with One Firefly. But you know in a nutshell that's what I do on a day to day.
Ron: You just came back from vacation right? So you were just away in California for a little bit?
John: That's right. San Diego.
Ron: And you made a comment to me I figured the audience might appreciate that you made a comment that it was actually OK to come back. You weren't completely buried or swamped. And is there a reason for that or is that? Did that surprise you that that was your experience just this past couple weeks?
John: You know I think when you know we've been doing this for a while, Ron, and we have grown quite a bit. I think we're about a 20 man team. But you know we didn't start that way. We started with three people. That eventually grew to five people six people seven people but there were a lot of people wearing a lot of hats at that time. And it's always hard to decide when is the appropriate time to take a vacation when you have such a small team that's responsible for so much. And you know this vacation that I just took. I would say is the first time that I came back from a vacation and things were pretty seamless. I stepped into my Monday and just picked up where I left off and that is a testament to how well we have structured the business. We thought really long and hard about how to structure our business, how to structure our team, and we have just again a fantastic team. In operations, in our traffic management, in our client relationship management department. We have leadership within the content department and web team that's all making sure that things that are supposed to be happening are happening. And so when I came back from vacation and saw that you know what we're sitting good and I'm going to step back into my Monday without having to put out fires and without a stack of things that I need to catch up on. And that felt really really good. So that's a testament to our team and I thank everyone if any of our team is listening in and that is fantastic. It's always been a struggle for us to structure properly and I think that's probably the case for any business particularly if you're starting out to get to the point where you are actually structured properly. I think we are better structured today than we've ever been. And so that's really fantastic for us.
Ron: By the way John, Kendall is giving you a shout out on Facebook she says. Thanks John for all that you do.
John: Thank you , Kendall. Big shout out back to Kendall. Kendall is our lead web designer for our web department and she is certainly a part of the reason I came back to relative peace and so that's Kendall has been working really hard for us so thank you Kendall big shout out back to you.
Ron: So John in the last year we , One Firefly have launched quite a few new products. We launched off the top of my head. You can correct me. We launched the smart layouts and I'm gonna work in reverse order. Now we launched Smart Layouts. We launched web maintenance. We launched Lead Concierge. We launched UI University. There might be a few more in there. But what is the process that you go through and or the team goes through? Just to give our audience a bit of a perspective when we are architecting a new product. I mean what does that process look like? Just if you could you know give maybe a little bit of a behind the scenes. You know just as an example yesterday I was on the phone Taylor and I were with another marketing company having a discussion and they were giving us accolades for the. I think in their case, UI University they were saying that was just really such a novel product. And I think it is unique. So and you're the man in charge of that. So how do we do what we do? How do you do what you do?
John: You know there's a number of steps involved. Again I'll reiterate it's first trying to figure out what what is the product what is the thing that's going to best benefit the client what service can we create to the best benefit the client and a lot of that just has to do with looking out and figure out where there's a void, where there is a service that could be provided if it's not being provided. But once we figure out what that is, you know there's research, right? Before we actually even get into developing this research about you know how do we then , how do we service? How do we develop that particular product? What platforms might we need to assist us in the delivery and development of that product? What are the costs associated with acquiring those platforms that help us in the development and servicing those products and then figuring out from a financial standpoint what's the viability of us then servicing that particular product or service? Right. And then once we've done that we decided that yes this is a viable product we can actually do this. We have the manpower bandwith resources to actually produce and service this product. We then get into actual development and development starts with the concept you know scoping out what the concept is. In some case we get into wireframing if it's you know if it's something that's aesthetic. We get into laying out the actual process, the steps that are involved in delivering the actual product. Right. So what is the process? What happens on day one, what happens on day one hundred and all the steps in between so that we had a full understanding as to what's involved in actually executing and servicing that particular product and then we will run that through a beta phase where we're seeing it internally. We're testing that product out internally amongst our team. We're looking for problems we're looking for errors, we're looking to try to break things a hackathon if you will trying to break things and making sure that that product is stable before we actually release that into the wild. So , in a nutshell, it goes to that sort of lifecycle. And then again once it's released we then make sure that we were constantly paying attention initially especially in that initial launch phase that things are happening the way they're supposed to be happening. But there's a lot of internal, a lot of internal research, financial modeling, and then process development that happens with our products before they actually make their way to life.
Ron: Perfect. Thank you, John, for that peek behind the scenes. Now to change topics you just recently attended Social Media Marketing World out in San Diego. I wanted to join you. My schedule conflicted so I wasn't able to do that. But you went out there, represented One Firefly. What were some of your major takeaways just from that experience? And I believe it's the largest marketing, social media marketing related trade show in the world. Is that correct?
John: It is the largest trade show, largest conference, not just in North America in the world period. So the who's who is there. And you know to that point, I would say they do a very good job of making sure that the presenters the people that are going to put this content in front of the audience. They're doing presentations they're doing workshops they're putting a whole bunch of content in front of you. They did a really good job of vetting that content. You just can't come there for example and do a live podcast. Maybe you've been doing a podcast about Facebook Live or something else. You can't just come in and do a live podcast on stage. They want to make sure that the presenters came there with unique tactics and strategies that we can then go home and then implement with our own companies and agencies. And so I preface it by saying that. And the takeaway that I came away with was that you have to pay attention to the first 100 days of a client experience. There's really two takeaways. It's one, starting with the first 100 days of the client experience. Making sure that after you've made the sale that you're spending a lot of time post-sale paying attention to what happens, one, in the onboarding of that client making sure that they come on with as much joy and exhilaration and honeymoon spirit that they had doing a sales process that carries through through the onboarding process that they're just as happy through that experience as they were when they were excited about the actual product. So that onboarding that you have to pay a lot of attention to the onboarding and then post, onboarding is not going to take 100 days. So in most cases you know that can take 10 days and take 30 days that can take 60 days. But once you've onboarded them, there's still another remaining balance of 100 days and beyond actually that you really have to focus on and make sure that you're constantly reaching out to the client to make sure that their experience is maintaining itself, so that they're still having a great experience with their product or their service. In many ways, they call that marketing after the sale. So continuing to demonstrate and prove your value to those existing clients and that really then got into the second point that they talked about quite a bit, and that was making sure that you're continuing to nurture your existing relationships with your clients. There's always a component of finding new audiences right. And that's important if you're trying to grow your book of business, you have more clients that you can cross-sell product and services to but you know, spend a lot of time paying attention to your existing client base. That's people that have you know these are people that either have spend money with you in the past these are partnerships that you've had in the industry, these are people that already have relationships with you and or trust you and making sure that you're reaching out to those people on a regular basis is one of the best things that you can do for your business. Don't get distracted by chasing the new audience. Spend a lot of time focusing your existing audience .
Ron: John the world of digital marketing is pretty you know ever-evolving landscape. You know there's I don't know that a month goes by that some new platform or technology or strategy isn't talked about on some forum or some podcast. What are some of the emerging technologies or platforms that you think our core customer, the technology integrator, should be taking advantage of that maybe they are not right now or they're not aware of.
John: Sure. This was also talked about at that conference and you know they said video. That's the short answer is video, you've got to put out video, performs far better than any other content type out there. And so what are ways? If you think about video right you hear about Facebook Live, live video, it's Facebook Instagram Twitter is now getting in on the action here recently. But I would tell you there's two types of ways that you can use video obviously you can do Facebook Live. Maybe you should be walking around and then showing off your showroom right? You put a lot of time and investment to put in that showroom together. And it's not just for people that you know Google you and do a MapQuest to see if they can find you, if you're still using MapQuest , knocking on your door and finding your location. They can come and look at your showroom that showroom is open and available to anyone if you can put that content online. All right you can do a walk through your showroom. The other question might be well I've done a walkthrough of my showroom. How many times do you want me to do a walkthrough of my showroom? Well, maybe you've got a new flat-screen TV a 70-inch razor-thin pixel display screen TV I just was watching one yesterday of an LG screen. Very thin, all of the pixels, the display is just the pixel display and all the wallpaper displays the wallpaper. Yeah that's right. And all the hardware and firmware isn't the actual soundbar beneath. Right. And so it's thinner than their actual LG phone. All right. So maybe it's got that you set it up you did a showroom walkthrough but maybe you've got something new that you hooked up into in your showroom. Why don't you show that off? Do a Facebook Live, tell everybody about this new piece of hardware which got in and you can regularly do that right. That's an idea of how to use Facebook Live. And you can then market that content once you've created that after the fact. You know another another way that you can use video is not just what Facebook Live, say that's not where you're quite prepared to go. You know, also we can talk about photographing your products. And there's obviously challenging doing that making sure that you have an appropriate licensing and having the conversations with the clients to make sure that you can then film that content or photograph that content but video too. Why not video you know post-build, mid-build pre-built. That's fabulous content , you see stuff like that on HGTV all the time. If you can video that content you know maybe that's a 10 minutes case study maybe you break that down into one minute or 30-second video ad that you can then push out there and cut those into ad pieces. Video is content that far outperforms any other content that you could be developing and learning how to leverage video, repurpose video, make that into advertising material. It's definitely where a lot of the market is going. And so you're going to see a lot of that continue to happen. There's other platforms out there like Animato, something like that, maybe we will drop that in the transcript afterwards that allow you to create short little video clips. But that's where the current trend is. And it's there for a reason it's not going anywhere. So pay attention to that, there are lots of ways you can leverage video content.
Ron: Yeah I would use this Q and A session as an example. I mean the fact that there's the technology that you know all of us mere mortals can easily have our hands on that allow us to stream in multiple video streams. You know I'm here in my office in Cooper City Florida. You're in Colorado Springs. We're streaming this into Facebook Live. We'll further you know organically gain reach via organic and paid. I mean in essence, we have our own show and that technology is ubiquitous at this point. So Facebook Live and the world of live streaming is one take on video but as you said John there's many different formats and uses of video. But I agree and as our customers and our friends and folks checking out this live session. Look at your industry peers' websites and what you're probably going to notice is they're devoid of much video content. Frankly, they probably haven't been touched in recent history. There are sites altogether. So a) if you update those sites and b) put some video on there whether it's you or your manufacturer videos or you purchase video content, stream video content there's a lot of ways to do it. Ty I agree with you tremendously John. Now that said when as a small business owner if someone is looking to market their business and say leverage the world of digital marketing or even content marketing. I would challenge it be pretty easy for someone to feel overwhelmed as they start to dip their toe into that to figure it out and thus there's probably a lot of common mistakes. John, you've been working with these folks for 20 years. What do you think are at least today some of the common mistakes people are making?
John: You know a few come to mind. It's top of mind actually you know I would say Black Hat SEO is still out there haunting people tapping people on the shoulder right. It's this idea that you could trick the Google algorithm or other search algorithms marketing algorithms to get an advantage on your competitors. You know there was a day where that was actually possible. You could actually do that. You know that those days are long gone. Google has moved into the realm of artificial intelligence, driverless cars, but are now trying to become a manufacturer in many ways, Smart Home and Google Assistant coming into your home and Google Earth. I mean all the things that Google.. Google has become very very smart. And the days of tricking them is just over I mean you can't trick the system you can't cheat the system. And that's really what it is people looking for shortcut ways to get a leap on their competitors. And the bottom line is you need to follow good standard practices white hat as you know techniques, search engine marketing techniques, and be diligent about that. Be regular about that. Be strategic about them. And if you do that or if you're working with the agency that is doing that for you, knows the ins and outs then you can avoid those Black Hat SEO techniques. The thing about the Black Hat SEO techniques is because not only is Google smarter and it's not going to be good for them they're now going to penalize you. All right you're going to get penalized as a result of trying to deploy those tactics whatsoever. .
Ron: John, Rachel just jumped on Facebook Live and she asked the question she said Can you give examples when you say white hat SEO? What do you mean by that?
John: So yeah I'll answer it first by saying what is black hat and then I'll say what is white hat by comparison. Right. So black hat you know. I'll give you a very common old school example right called keyword stuffing. People would think OK, I have a footer of my web site. I'm just going to stuff a lot of key phrases into the footer of my web site. The footer of my web site is orange. So I'm gonna make all the text orange. So when the user comes to the website, they don't see all of the key words that are in orange in the footer of the website that are stuffed down there, could be hundreds if not thousands of them down there. So to the user they don't see it but in their mind , what they were doing was trying to trick Google, it was going to crawl that website and say oh wow look at all these key phrases that are on-topic for this particular search term we should reward them. Right. And that's a pretty foolish assumption for Google to make. At that point in its infancy in its inception but that's when Google was a child. Google has grown up it says you can't fool us like that anymore. That's pretty ridiculous. That's a common thing and there's other tricks that are a bit more sophisticated. But the bottom line is you can't trick Google anymore. You just can't do it. That's an example of black hat. What is white hat? White hat is, in essence, anything that you're doing in an honest and ethical way. Right. That you're not trying to cheat the system. So if there are keywords that you want to get discovered for. Don't stuff them into the bottom of your footer make them invisible. Why don't you create content that's relevant to that particular topic and make sure that the content that you've developed has the key phrases and the related key phrases within that content? It's woven into that content in a natural way, in a relevant way and in a way that's not abusing or trying to abuse or trick an algorithm. So bottom line white hat is just honest content creation right. It's honest techniques. It's doing things in a way it's not intended to trick the system but develop rich content that's actually going to serve your audience. And that's the difference so I would caution people to stay away from Black Hat SEO techniques. They are horrible. It will hurt your business in ways that you perhaps don't understand but avoid them. There are ways to succeed without going the black hat approach. And we have proven that over the eight-plus years that we've been servicing this space.
Ron: Well John that was an awesome answer sir. Thank you very much and thank you for your time today.
John: I appreciate it. Thank you everyone Facebook audience. And let's do it again.
Ron: Awesome and gang, thank you for checking out our page here watching our video and hopefully learning hopefully you guys are enjoying this. We're going to continue to do this every week. If you have recommendations on people in the A.V. automation or security space that you'd like to see us have on the show have me interview and you'd like to learn more about it please drop it into the notes or business visit us at .comonefirefly and send us a message there. You'll notice there's a live pop-up. We call that service Lead Concierge. Feel free to interact with whoever that is and give them your feedback as well. So thanks again for hanging out with us today. And we will see you next week. Be well.
John is Director of Product at One Firefly. He is principally tasked with the management and deployment of all web efforts, both internal and client-facing. John’s career in web spans nearly two decades. Since joining the One Firefly team in 2009, his knowledge and expertise have been tapped to help successfully build up the creative division of One Firefly.
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 in 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.