BluShark Digital 0:00
Welcome to the SEO insider with your host, Seth Price founder of BluShark taking you inside the world of legal marketing and all things digital.
Seth Price 0:10
Welcome, everyone. We are thrilled to have JC Hite here on the SEO Insider – welcome. It’s great to see you, it sounds like you got a lot going on Office wise and otherwise. So you know, anybody watching does not see your normal office behind us, tell us what’s going on in your world.
JC Hite 0:32
Yeah, man. So we’re making a lot of shifts. So we’ve been one an organization that’s always love the aspect of having an office culture getting in, but we’re going through a new season. So we’ve committed that at least over the next two years, we’re gonna go fully remote. So we had about 2000 square meters. So what does that you know, 18,000 square feet, and we moved everything down to about 1,500 square feet and 90% of our staff went virtual. So we’re going through a big change and…
Seth Price 1:00
Is this the international staff or domestic staff?
JC Hite 1:04
So most of our domestic staff is virtual anyway. So we’ve got in Central America, we’ve got a big office, we got about 150 employees that as of two weeks ago, worked out of that office.
Seth Price 1:15
Let me ask is okay, as the path not traveled, we have international staff, but it’s all remote to begin with. You know, I always was enamored by the fact you had the culture, you had people under one roof easier for training. What why I assume costs are less there, you’re not dealing tremendous cost? Why not? Have the people come? And then have virtual on top of that?
JC Hite 1:38
Yeah, a great question. So I think it would be good to even step back. You know, I think a lot of people are overseas, because they start in the US. They’re thinking, affordable labor, great people, all this good stuff. And then they start hiring overseas, we’re different. My wife and I moved to Central America. And because this is where we wanted to live, my wife is Nicaraguan. And we started an agency here, this is where we actually started it right. And so we started with a very small office, and we built it and we kept growing and kept growing. And you’re right. Most people when they they have an office in the US and virtual abroad, we’re the opposite of this, right? And so for us, so we’re five years into business, we’ve got over 200, people under the height, umbrella, working full time, full benefits, all this good stuff. So very fast amount of growth there. The reason we have the office is because I’ve always been and I still am to this day, that in order to develop leaders you need that in-person interaction. And that was where we really needed a lot of help was okay, how do I bring someone in and within a year, they can actually take over a team, right? Because that’s the path of which we were growing so fast
Seth Price 2:45
…mid level management
JC Hite 2:47
Mid-level Managament, That’s right. That’s right. And so and even within two years, being able to have, you know, a director or a couple of these, right, and so, as we were growing instantly, that was our biggest hurdle of how to how to get over it through COVID, we were able to, you know, get through it. And we did just fine. We actually ended up coming back to the office, I guess, a year ago. And now we’re switching. Why are we switching? Well, we’re switching really because of two elements. One is we are finding that we’re doing a lot of hiring in this 21 to 25 age range. And these guys don’t want stability. They don’t want health insurance, they want retirement, they’re not thinking those things. They’re thinking, man, if I can make 20% more working remote, that’s cash in my bank, and let me live, you know, kind of more of a day to day.
Seth Price 3:33
It’s so funny, because in one sense, I love this because that’s the model that I’ve used internationally. My attitude is, why one country? Why not an entire continent and pick people? You know, I made a decision not to go to the Philippines, but rather the Latin America, why not have the three best people in Peru or Argentina or what have you? Right? So I guess that’s a positive. But you know, look, it’s if you’re there, and it’s cost effective there, I mean, again, yes, hiring from beyond. But you know, will there be a place that if people do want it, because you’re sort of saying overnight, is there still going to be sort of like space if you want to get out of the house and work because some people’s houses may not be conducive? Are you going to have a band aid in between?
JC Hite 3:33
Yeah, we are. And we’ve got tons of events. So you know, we didn’t just have a normal office here in Nicaragua, we were in the tallest building in the entire country. And we had, I mean, we bicycle in the office, we had a full on cafeteria, we had a nursery for kids, like, I mean, I was paying US rates for the best of the best, right? So we’ll still have a small office where certain people will come in and so on and so forth. We also have monthly outings and we have tons of other things. Every year, we take our entire team and their families somewhere in the world. Last year we did Costa Rica, I don’t know where we’re going this year yet. We’re a little behind on schedule, but we do something big right. So we’re very this whole cultural aspect is really complex in a virtual world, which again, is something we’re trying to figure out. Okay, how do we overcome? How do we put forward all of this?
Seth Price 5:08
You know, it’s interesting because same same difference on our side, we were domestic first. And until COVID, we were in a beautiful townhouse in Dupont Circle with 50-60, I used to call millennialsm I think they’re Gen Z’ers now. But you know, sitting there day in and day out with very few people not in the office, and COVID hit DC now, like places like Florida didn’t have COVID. But we had COVID, where nobody showed their asses anywhere near the office for over a year, like I went back, like 9-10 months later, it looked like it was like a nuclear bomb had gone off. And that was just the remnants of what was there on the day that everybody left. And so we we found ourselves in an odd place. Clearly, we were (not that clearly), but we were not able to say, hey, everybody back in the office, we would have lost much of our talent. And instead, but if we had no, if we got fully virtual, there was sort of feeling that there wasn’t enough connectivity at all, we went back to a clubhouse. So it’s an in the Union Market area superhead area DC, where you go in for your weekly meetings, if you want a place to go, it’s their their breakout rooms, you can go any day of the week you want, but only required when your team is there. Not to mention with COVID, maybe 20-25% of that is now not even in our region. So they only come in for our off sites. And then it just a fascinating balance a tail of two agencies.
JC Hite 6:33
Yeah, and we and we, we got really not lucky, that’s a terrible word. But we had a lot of civil unrest back in 2018, in Central America, and we had to go virtual, like literally, it was a civil war on the streets. Literally. And y’all gonna look that up, I won’t get political on the podcast, but that trained us actually. So we went virtual, you’re already ready. We were ready. And we built our entire company on Salesforce. From day one, all automation and, so we’re, we’re excited, man. So I think this is a two year game plan for us. So the first thing, you know, I wanted to be in the office for two reasons culture and leadership development. However, I don’t think we’re going into a season of leadership development. I think we’re going into a season of How do we survive? And then how do we attack?
Seth Price 7:27
Well you said a couple times, what do you mean by survive. What is the economy, the worldwide economy, you’re concerned about? Why why are you in survival mode?
JC Hite 7:33
That’s a I think there’s a little bit of an unknown here. So back deal on me, my wife and I sold our last company, we’ve been very, very blessed. Like, I want to create stability in an unstable world. So for me, the number one metric I went off of, obviously is profitability. But right beside that is how do we create stable jobs among our people? Right? So in COVID, happened, we did not fire one person, we didn’t one salary, so on and so forth. I want to do the same this year.
Seth Price 8:04
But are you feeling this, I mean, we see Google layoffs. We just had Bed Bath and Beyond shutdown in our region. Big deal. Bye bye, baby huge retailers commercial real estate’s going to be screwed. Are you feeling that already from your because you have a whole portfolio of agencies essentially? Or, you know, so are you seeing the economy? Are you seeing a downturn in what people are spending on marketing?
JC Hite 8:27
So we are a little bit and definitely in certain industries? So you know, you have…
Seth Price 8:32
You see everything so what what are you seeing? Negative? What are you seeing neutral? What are you seeing positive?
JC Hite 8:38
Yeah, so here’s what, here’s what we see on a couple of different levels. So one, there’s a lot of businesses out there, marketing is one of them, that the barrier of entry is so small, it’s not even funny. And those guys are going to be the first to go if something major happens, right? So there’s other industries like power washing and things like this, that you know, there’s a lot of coaches out there teaching these young entrepreneurs how to get into they’re going in, there’s not seasoned entrepreneurs that have you know, built a business that have several trucks running so on and so forth. Right. So these smaller industries that are lower barrier of entry, we’re seeing more and higher higher turnover, the middle sector we’re not seeing a lot at all we’ve went up our average last quarter was I think a half a point up in our churn percentage. Where we’re seeing a harder hit is actually on the sales side. So this month, crazy good sales, I don’t know we probably did holistically in the height world, maybe 250,000 in April and sales however, February and March, you add them together, they didn’t equal what January did. So we’re seeing this market where people are like, uhh, what’s gonna go what’s gonna happen and we ready to move this. Let’s see what happens. I think right now, people are starting to move. They don’t know what’s going to happen or when they need to grow their business. And then we’ll see you know, holistically you got people saying depression, you guys see people saying recession, young people saying that it’s all BS. got people saying that the dollar is going to be destroyed, right? I don’t know, what I know is that I want to be as prepared as possible for whatever, you know, whatever hits, right.
Seth Price 10:11
What I’ve loved about your business model is , I hope this is said with love and comes out positively, is that whenever I’m on vacation, and I go to a town, and it might be a seaside town, it might be a downtown have an area to be like seven restaurants next to each other very narrow restaurants, there’s an inside dining, maybe an outside seating area, and there’s a person out front trying to get you to go to their restaurant. And I always thought to myself, you see these seven restaurants? And wouldn’t it be better if they had one massive kitchen in the back that could do great quality rather than shoving seven tiny little micro kitchens there, and that they would eat just get the stuff out to those seven restaurants. To a certain extent, I mean, that’s how I view you guys, as somebody who took the idea that you don’t need a micro kitchen, but instead you the entire planet to do fulfillments. Let’s make sure that we’re leveraging that and not shoving ourselves into the sweaty little box of a corner kitchen.
JC Hite 11:08
Yeah, I mean, this is what Yum! Brands did. So Yum! Brands owns Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell, all of those. And then you started seeing some of these restaurants that popped up where there was Taco Bell and KFC at one location, right? They found out that, hey, we’re all doing the same thing. And this is where we have in the marketing space. You know, we’re all taught let’s What’s your unique position?
Seth Price 11:29
Yeah, but even that case is not as extreme as yours in that like Taco Bell just has microwaves, they don’t even need anything else. No, I mean, versus where like, your your, you know, I don’t know what you call them affiliate or parent or or, you know, your franchises, you know, are out there. You know, one neat thing is you see from different perspectives, both geography and areas of practice, my my guess is that data is going to be incredibly valuable as far as figuring out where to deploy, somebody may come to you with a franchise say, hey, I want to be in this city with this type of stuff. And you’re like, good luck with it, you know, we, you know, you’re going to actually be able to sort of the soothsayer to tell us what’s going to work and what’s not. That’s right.
JC Hite 12:11
So in our franchise model, and in digital marketing as a whole data is very skewed. Everybody measures things differently. There’s no, there’s no absolutes in digital marketing. There’s nowhere where you have to tell the truth necessarily. It’s all you know, it’s all we’re all marketers, you know. And you’re right in our in a franchise model, because we’re reporting all in because we have all these different locations, all using Salesforce all synchronized up, we can start to read that data, right? We understand what’s the churn rate across the board and Facebook compared to PVC compared to SEO? What’s, what’s the churn rate whenever you have multiple services versus just one? What’s the churn rate comparing, you know, local sales versus national sales? So like, what’s the difference between niching down and an actual location? Like all my clients are in Dallas, versus all my clients are roofers and plumbers, and so on and so forth?
Seth Price 12:59
What can you tell us about that? You’ve seen that, you know, like, we hear a lot of noise that a lot of a lot of a lot of very interesting, smart people say niche down niche down. And then you see other people that are just the opposite, which you know, hit hit a geography and go deep, Who, who, who, of your franchisees have crushed it. Where do you where do you see greater success?
JC Hite 13:21
So here’s, here’s what we’re saying is that the most important factor when it comes to churn, all right, retaining clients is relationships. So if you can build it, you actually can build a persona, where you’re a leader, or a thought leader or anything like that, in a specific niche, similar to what you might do in your city. This is the most important thing, right? And so if you can figure out a way to connect with that brand, or with that location, which way you go is fairly irrelevant. It’s more about the relationship and how you can build. We’ve got an agency right now in Arkansas, population 50,000, they do $1.7 million in monthly revenue, right? The owner just ran for mayor, he’s so connected in this town. It’s not even funny. They they don’t even have a salesperson. It’s all about relationships, again, 45,000 population and the doing about 1.7 million, right? And so it’s more about how you connect relational now, the question here should be why do coaches tell us to niche down and this is really, I think, rooted down into how do we sell, right? So if I go and I’m going to coach you on sales, there’s two ways to sell. One is relational and one is cold, right? If you’re going to do cold sales, cold marketing, cold ads, cold email, cold, LinkedIn messages, anything cold, you got to niche down, it’s got to be some type of specific targeting that you’re doing, whether that’s a city or whether that’s a niche, and most people will go in with a niche, right? If you’re more about building a brand and then how do I attract people, okay, now, it’s fairly irrelevant right? Now, on the retention side again, what we’ve seen is actually in your local market, that churn is much, much lower than on any other type of market. Why? Because it’s harder to cancel on your neighbor, it creates a conversation, your clients more likely to call you up and just say, hey, you know, Seth, I’m having some issues here, what can we do? Right? Because they don’t want to cancel on you know, more than you want to cancel on them. You go to church together every Sunday. Right? So there’s more conversations happening, I guess, so to speak. And I think that’s what helped us in COVID really pushed forward is because we had a lot of relationships through our partners throughout the US, right. And so we did a lot more discounting losing margin versus losing the entire relationship.
Seth Price 15:42
Right? You can’t you kept it alive, which is, you know, I don’t get a lot. But when I get it, it’s like a no brainer, like, Hey, you’re having trouble, I don’t want to take your marketing dollars. I mean, I can’t come, I’m not going to put hard costs out, but I’ll cover anybody through a tough time. And that builds loyalty beyond belief. One of the things I’ve always been enamored by, that you at least hourly seem to be able to do is you’ll have a variety of different franchisees bring you everything from lower dollar to higher dollar. But you seem particularly with your international workforce to have done a lot with a little when it comes to what I call lower dollar SEO, right? I mean, I feel very blessed in the legal space. When people give us real resources we’re doing we can do crazy stuff, we can link bill we can do PR we can do, you know all sorts of cool content generation, but we are with a modest budget, particularly with your model like right taking it transparently, your client paying some money, the franchisee needs to make money, you need to make money and you need to actually produce work. You’ve you’ve you know, I, it seems at least from the outside, done some really well targeted very smart asset allocation. Talk to me a little bit about what you’re most proud of in that space, as far as delivering value, but understanding there’s not a bottomless pocket of money.
JC Hite 16:59
So one of the things that I think we’re always working towards, in probably the department that I’m most proud of, it’s probably one of the most unique assets of Hite and how we operate is our L&D department, our Learning Development Department, which includes three areas. So one is our certification department, which got about four or five people. One is our digital certification department. So every single lesson we teach is digitalized. And then third is our QA. So it’s these three areas we have today, out of the 150 people we have just working on fulfillment 18 of which are just in this department. So over 10% of our staff is dedicated to teaching and creating quality assurance within the organization. And we’ve built out some systems and processes there that are incredible. I’ll let me give you one of them. Every single account at Hite is audited within Salesforce and in a system right. And so for example, with SEO, we have an 80 point checklist. If any one of those checks are off, that specific check creates a task back to the engineer to redo that specific task. Not only do they have to redo that specific task, they’re also assigned a video lesson associated with that task with a quiz at the end that they have to answer, right. So I have we build these systems so that anytime a mistake is made beautiful, perfect, great, awesome. It’s gonna be caught within 24 or 48 hours, it’s gonna be reassigned. Not only reassigned, but they’re gonna have to take a quiz, which we then test them on. And those those video lessons we audit. Did they watch the whole thing? Did they watch it on 2x, 1x? What do they do on the quiz? Do they have to take the quiz twice to get it right? So on and so forth. Our entire company is really a training company. How do we train people to grow and to scale within all these words? And then for us the SEO what it hammers down to as we try to over exact overcompensate on the manual labor stuff. Right? So it’s not just oh, you got a US agent doing XYZ, I have them also doing XYZ I’m just cheaper, no, we’re going, your person is doing five pieces of content, I’m gonna have three it’s gonna cost me the same, but they’re going to 15 pieces of content, right or so on and so forth. So how do we double down on this white white hat and very organic, you know, SEO approach?
Seth Price 19:22
So as you do that, right, we’ve talked we’ve talked over the years about you know, different techniques. Do you see you know, AI which is coming fast and furious faster, we can even take it in, right you know, every time I blink, I’m like, man, we should be doing this and that and like I you know, your your training courses, like I gotta rip them apart and put them. How do you see the AI being integrated into the international labor market?
JC Hite 19:51
Oh, man, oh, you’re gonna get it’s interesting. So I’ll first format this because I’m not the expert, I’m always there. You know, there’s pioneers in business. And then there’s the settlers, right? I’m not a pioneer, I like to watch 1000s of people go out and search, half of them die, some of them survive. And I want to watch those who survived and then do a better and cheaper, right. So I’m not as bored advanced, it’s probably a lot of your guests on the podcast, and certainly not as you are. However, what we see is that it’s just going to enable us to do that much more. So AI is going to be able to make your content writers be able to 5x again, back to those articles, instead of doing five articles a client now they can do 25, we think instead of us doing 10. Now we can do 50. Now we can create more stuff, and at a faster rate, that’s still very, very high quality. With that being said, these are all formulas, right AI, I wonder what Google’s response to all of this is going to be? Are they going to find some way to try to catch this AI content to be able to disavow it or hurt you in some way? Honestly, we don’t know.
Seth Price 20:59
Well, I’ll tell you what I’ve seen so far. I was lucky enough to speak out of PubCon. Right before we spoke last and they send the guy there, right. And his speech, frankly, was horrific. His according to him, he had 20 talking points and legal making made them take 18 out. So it was like it was literally like almost watching a redacted CIA document or something. It was stupid. That said, I got five minutes with them alone. And my question was exactly that. Because you see Bard getting crushed, they’ll figure it out. It’s not like it’s going to be there forever, but certainly not first mover. And my theory was just like Copyscape, they would run content through to see if it’s there. Again, half the time, Google tells you something, they’re really going somewhere else. But according to him, that is not according to Google hourly to me to my face, not from the stage. That was not the that’s not their MO there. They’ve spent there. According to them, they spent two years going for high quality content, and that they don’t care how you produce it, that they’re going to judge it on that. Now both of us are sitting here saying, Whoa, they certainly don’t want you know, chatGPT not owned by them to dominate their search areas. We know that. But at the same time, you know, it makes sense intellectually, that the question is when because very often, you would I read we get somebody brings us something like, wow, this is the greatest piece of content ever. And you know, what, if you’re addressing your staff, or putting in some, like some sort of manual for HR purposes, great. But what we forget is, AI is only pulling stuff from a library. And if it’s plagiarized or not right, or any of the other things, it may sound great, but it passed the test, but it is likely not great. And I think that is going to be the difference. So you alluded to it. The question is, are we you know, I see that we will be the retraining or hiring people that are leveraging that technology in and that it may well possibly not be a first draft for the foreseeable future, probably. But is this what we’re going to do to make our content better? Is this what we’re going to do for me to get spoken language? Imagine if we can take this podcast right now? Run it through AI, get it to the point where it’s actually usable content for search. That’s the home run. That’s the stuff I’m excited about.
JC Hite 23:19
Yeah, and I, we also got to realize, you know, SEO is not about what you do, and how great you are at SEO, SEO is a competition. So it’s how you do in comparison to me, right? How your client does comparison to my client, or so on and so forth. Right? You can be in a very, very small city with only three roofers said, if all three roofers are using SAS, and doing the best SEO in the world, they’re all competing, right? You give me the same pay, it’s about competition. So if you put the AI and content in the same exact boat, right, like, we have to find a way, you have to find a way to separate yourself among these others. And so the easier it gets for all agencies to use AI and push forward, what are the other paths that Google is going to start utilizing to hone in on quality? I think there’s gonna be some other factors come up contents always been the one reviews are very, very important as well. But what are other factors here that they’re going to be bringing into play over the next couple of years to be able to really push things forward? Video is one of them, you know, all this stuff.
Seth Price 24:22
And I guess the piece that is, like the next chapter, I think, will be when the when AI is, is possible to your environment, where you’re like, hey, this is my content. You know, I know what I need for roofers. Let’s now leverage it across my other roofers around the country. That’s the part where, you know, it’s good, it’s yours. It’s not just hoping it’s getting from a decent library, and I’ve seen this in the legal search space. One of my buddies owns a company called Fastcase just got sold for like, or rolled up with the British case search service. So all of a sudden, you don’t want AI getting caselaw, for example, randomly, you want it from a trusted curated environment. And I think that as you sort of allow AI to work within your own world, that’s next level of leveraging your team. So you’ve already figured out how to get labor cost effective. Now imagine if you’re able to take what you’re proud of, and you know, is that they and replicated.
JC Hite 25:25
Yeah. And there’s tons of opportunities. I’ll give you an example of this inside Salesforce. So with Salesforce, we have our own AI built inside Salesforce. And at this moment, we have our MCC for Google paid ads fully linked up to Salesforce. So every bit of data is filtering back into Salesforce, allowing us to find do a ton of automation based on Oh, performance dropped by 20% over a seven day period and all this different things. That’s what you’re talking about right there. How do we capture it use AI within a system where it’s reading our own clients, trying to create hypothesis on growth rates and things like this. I don’t know why. For me, I get excited. Like I think all of this is is really interesting. Again, I’m more of a settler. So I’m going to be watching everyone else go out and figure this out. I’m gonna be watching yourself and going okay, well, how does this play in? And then how do I do way better, right. But it’s interesting.
Seth Price 26:21
Well, look at our remaining moments, I wanted to hear a little bit about what you have planned, because you do some crazy international meetups, and it sounds like this year is no different. So tell. Tell our audience a little bit what you got planned?
JC Hite 26:34
Yeah, man, I’m excited. So we’re, we’re not selling any more franchises this year, we’re gonna hone in on that. We believe that we have the franchise right now to get to 30 million in revenue over the next couple of years. And that’s what we’re honing into. We have our event every year, the commitment Summit, it’s an all inclusive event in Costa Rica this year, we got John Maxwell coming in, and several other amazing folks. And we’re in a season right now where we’re trying to get ready. So when we see these drops, what we try to do is we try to cut as many expenses as possible, not labor, but all the other expenses, we try to get small. And then what we want to do is save, save, save until after the big hit. And as soon as the big hit happens, if it’s going to happen. Now we want to leverage that be able to compound. There’s going to be agencies going under, How do you get their clients? There’s going to be people getting laid off, How do you get the amazing talent out there? Like how do we take advantage? In COVID, we hired 35 people between March and December of that year, 35 people, right, we went out and hired some amazing talent that got laid off. Google just laid off how many 1000s of people looking for jobs right now. Right? There’s amazing opportunities, if you’re prepared to take advantage of it, right. And so we’re right now just trying to hone in our our savings hone in our preparedness to be able to go okay, let’s what positions do we need all this good stuff to be able to attack? You know, so to speak this year.
Seth Price 27:58
That’s awesome. You know, it is an exciting time. And I look back to when I built my law firm. I my growth mode was like 06′-10′. And we got talent that I could never get again. It was just like, every ad I put out, we get 150 qualified people. And right now, I don’t know if we were feeling I can’t speak to your market, but we were really hurting domestically on hires, where we really weren’t getting many resumes. And I felt in the last, we’re now approaching the end of April 2023. We are finally seeing we’ll see how well this holds up, but we are seeing in the last 60 days, maybe 45 days, we are seeing resumes come that we had not seen before. Some of it direct correlation, Amazon layoffs coming to us. And there are two stages, right? The first step step is I want the $150,000. I’m like, well, your job is slated at 90. I don’t know, but Bezos was giving $50,000 for the bonuses. Whereas now 45-60 days later, a 90 to $100,000 salary is getting that person happily. And it just you know, I’m giddy in the sense that I have so many places I know if I make these hires, I will make more money for myself and for my clients. So I’m hoping it’s an opportunity. But we both know that there we got to keep one eye out the other way, making sure that we don’t see a pullback in the spin but so far in my vertical so far, I have not I have not seen that. If anything. It’s the opposite, which is when things get tighter, we are seeing a more mature audience that saying, hey, I want to spend more and get more.
JC Hite 29:40
That’s right. That’s right. And so we’re in the same strategy so it makes me feel good that you’re in that as well. So I think it’s going to be a those who survived these next six months will have a huge opportunity.
Seth Price 29:54
That’s that’s awesome. Well, listen, JC I really appreciate your time. This is awesome. I hope we you know get to catch up in the same place that sometime soon whether you’re visiting DC or me getting down there.
JC Hite 30:06
Yeah, man. Absolutely. We’ll make it happen for sure.
Seth Price 30:09
Very good, thanks so much.
BluShark Digital 30:12
Thank you for tuning in to the SEO insider with Seth Price. Be sure to check back next week for fresh insights into building your brand’s online presence. Episodes are available to stream directly on BluShark Digital’s website.