025 - How To Niche Down Until It Hurts With Greg Bray




CEO Blue Tangerine



Show Notes

Josh Tapp 0:00
What's up everybody? Josh Tapp here again, and welcome back to the lucky Titan podcast. So today we have Greg Bray on the mic and Greg is the founder and CEO of blue tangerine, a multi million dollar marketing agency. And Greg is here today to share with us how to niche down until it hurts. So Greg, let's hop right in. All right, Greg. So tell us one thing about yourself that most people don't know.
Greg Bray 0:23
Well, when I when I think about that, one of my my secrets is my first failed business. It happened back when I was a teenager. My my brother and I were just trying to make smile Hey, let's start a lawn mowing business. And so we went around and put fliers on all the neighbor's mailboxes, and just said, Hey, we cut your grass and we got crickets. There was nothing. We ended up actually getting one job one time for a neighbor who was moving who had already moved out and their lawn was totally overgrown you know when they saw all these kids will come cut it and it was took you know three times as long and then we never got anything else fortunately my dad did not charge us to use the family more or we would have gone negative overall so he let us keep our meager profits but but yeah, my first failed business was in but but it is yeah, I look back on it, john and see that it was a great lesson in the idea that you can't just, you know, throw marketing out there one time. Yeah, it just doesn't happen. You know, and I think I think when I looked at it, we we put flyers on mailboxes and we figured that would be all it would take, you know, we never followed up. We never went back again. We just sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. I think I think sometimes we all get caught with that sometimes in generally in business. But yeah, that's that's fine. My first failure. It's not my last but
Josh Tapp 1:54
I know how that goes. Actually the first few episodes this podcast, you'll hear my my origin story, and I had a Very similar experience where I realized, wow, marketing is so important.
Greg Bray 2:04
Oh, absolutely, absolutely.
Josh Tapp 2:06
It's a good thing to learn at a young age too, because then you're not, you know, worried about it moving forward. So, all right, so let's let's delve into your background a little bit here. So Greg, tell us a little bit about how you got started in business and where you're at right now.
Greg Bray 2:19
You know, I've, I've always enjoyed business. And as I was trying to decide what to do, and college, I was kind of torn between computers and finance. It was kind of my two interests. And I had a friend's dad at the time who, who worked at IBM, this is back in the late 80s. IBM was really booming and, and such and, and he said, Look, we don't need more MBAs to tell us how to spend our money. What we need are technical people who can help us build things and do things that can help us make money and and that that one kind of resonated with me. And so I ended up going the computer route and then when I got the MBA, So I could kind of mix those two. And of course, at that point kind of come out of school in the mid 90s. This, this internet thing was new, and to be honest, kind of stumbled into that first job where I was helping build webpages. And we were putting documents online for the EPA. No, it was it was their whole push to make information generally available through this web that very few people even understood and and we're beginning to use, and from there, it was just really exciting because you were learning something new every day. It was changing constantly. New technologies coming out all the time and really just kind of bit me as I want to. I want to do this forever. So that was kind of where I started as far as getting into the internet and website development and that's grown into digital marketing and helping companies really use the internet to drive their business forward.
Josh Tapp 4:00
So you've got quite an extensive background in in the marketing side, but you take an interesting take because you have the, you know, the technical background, which most people don't have when they start. That's really interesting. Well, so I'll go ahead.
Greg Bray 4:14
It's definitely, you know, something that that's easy to forget, you know, there's a lot of marketing people out there that lose sight of the technical, and there's technical people lose sight of the marketing. And so I do think that, you know, it's sometimes we talk about, you know, peanut butter, meat, chocolate, chocolate, peanut butter, somebody already came up with that one, but you know, I think they work well together.
Josh Tapp 4:38
Yeah, I completely agree. I actually had a guy interviewed a while back and he was saying, there's only three pieces to a business, you have marketing, you have sales, and you have fulfillment. And so I mean, technical people fall into fulfillment. Marketing obviously falls into marketing or sales. And, like you're saying it's a combination they have to be put together or you're never going to succeed, right?
Greg Bray 4:59
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well,
Josh Tapp 5:01
so tell us a little bit about blue tangerine. That's kind of your that's your new company, the one you're most, I guess not new. You've been in that for a while, but that's a company you've been running with for quite a while.
Greg Bray 5:09
Yeah, blue tangerine is a full service digital marketing agency. We specialize in serving residential home builders and other others in the residential construction industry. And then we also work with specialty retailers to help them with their e commerce work. And it's, it's exciting. I mean, there's lots of new things are always happening online companies have really recognized that the internet is now the platform that they build all of their marketing from, you know, I think there was there was a big change that happened, you know, 2008 2009 as we went through that great recession, period, you know, kind of the death of the newspaper ad in my mind, you know, kind of a thing that that happened kind of in that period, especially for real estate, you know, builders particularly were very much in love with the big real estate section of the newspaper. I don't know if you remember some of those, but there were, you know, the Sunday paper had all kinds of homeless things and things and and that just all kind of changed going through that recession period where were those publications fell off. And as we came out of that the internet has really found its place as the place for homeless. I mean, it was happening before that, too. It wasn't like it was just a total change. But But there were certainly a big transformation that happened in that period.
Josh Tapp 6:33
Yeah. Now and you've been running this company since 2006 2006. Yes.
Greg Bray 6:39
I bought out the previous company that I was working for. He had been a homebuilder himself, the owner there and that's how we've kind of gotten started in that space, made some introductions and such but, but he didn't quite feel comfortable with the technology piece. So he went back to building homes, and we had this whole internet agency and was trying to figure out you You know, where we were gone and he was like, well just don't cost us money and you guys can keep your jobs. And that's not quite a strong enough strategy for me here. Right so so I, you know, started some conversations What should I do? Or should I go kind of thing and and eventually kind of came Hey, well would you like to buy it and like hadn't really thought about that didn't really know what that meant so did a lot of real quick education on what the difference is between the stock sale and an asset sale and some of these terms that I hadn't really explored in detail before and ended up you know, four months after that conversation closing on a deal to buy a company and it was really kind of scary, actually. Suddenly take this leap and go, yay, it's mine. Now what do we do
Josh Tapp 7:50
my job and work
Greg Bray 7:52
and, and that whole time to not really being able to talk about it with you know, the other folks that I worked with having no idea how They would feel that I suddenly went from being a co worker to the boss to the owner, kind of a thing. So yeah, it was a real emotional time. And but exciting. And, you know, there's been more emotion and more excitement and ups and downs since then. But I'm really happy we did it. It was it's been it's been great.
Josh Tapp 8:22
Yeah, I said, so it's good to step out on your own and be able to take ownership for it, you know, and say, okay, like it as this grows, I get to grow. Well, I do have a question to ask you. Because I mean, most of our listeners know, I actually started off as a marketing agency. I was our first, I guess, quote, unquote, real company. I've had multiple companies before, but this was the main one I started. So how have you been able to navigate this competitive environment? I mean, you've had if you've noticed, pretty much everybody in their dog can now be a marketing consultant or agency. So how have you guys been keeping that competitive, competitive advantage.
Greg Bray 8:58
I think that that goes To the heart of why we picked some particular industries to focus on, I think where you, you get in trouble with marketing, right? Everybody needs marketing. Every company needs it something. And there's a lot of common principles that apply to all companies that you can do. I could, I could give advice on that to almost anybody. But by specializing in something like home builder industry, I'm able to deepen my knowledge and deepen my understanding in such a way that then now I'm not necessarily just giving advice, I can feel confident telling them what they should be doing. I can I can, I can streamline my education with each new clients. And even if it doesn't make a huge difference to me, it makes a huge difference to the potential client to say, hey, this person, this company, they know things about what we should be doing. people that I know in my industry have trusted them. You know, those those things. build credibility in a different way. And so I think, you know, to your point, how do you deal with competition? Well, first of all, you get rid of a whole lot of competition because I went from competing with every marketing agency in the world to now there's a dozen that specialize in builders that are either, right and so right there now, I've brought that down. Now, of course, I still compete with the, the agency down the street, you know, yeah, time to time with the local person, right, that they might want to be comfortable with. But again, the the pitch there is, we know you, we know what you need. We're not going to be order takers. We're going to be advisors and strategic consultants and partners with you, because we understand what you're supposed to be doing. So I think that's really the heart of how you deal with that type of competition is you got a specialist in today's world. And now, let me let me back up on that just a little bit and say, one of the mistakes I made is we over specialized And what happened is, we were we were really deep into the homebuilding industry. And in 2007, I discovered that as the housing market started to crash to everybody else uses 2008 is when things went bad for the builders, it started in 2007. And they, they went and you know, the, everybody kind of knows the whole financial thing, the housing mess. We had clients going out of business, not paying their bills. We had no collateral because all their assets were owned by banks who were getting the land and everything and there was no way when they owed this bank $2 million, that they're going to pay me the 20,000 they owe me, you know, it's just not happening. And boy, it hurt it her bad. And that's what I said, Well, you know what, maybe we need two or three specialties, not just one. And so again, when I say specialize, I don't mean that you have to have only one because diversification has some benefits, but you can still Don't want to be just a complete generalist in my opinion.
Josh Tapp 12:03
Yeah. I completely agree with that. And I really like the direction you went, because you went for a very hard to hard to please niche, right? I mean, they're, they're a very high ticket item, their marketing is a lot harder than, say, a restaurant or a gym or something, you know, and that choosing that niche was able to help you guys to establish market dominance in a sense, because nobody else is even going to be able to perform for them so that the guy down the street 90% of time, he's not able to provide the same result you can. But then the other cool thing you said was that you were able to flip the tables on it. I mean, it's, you're not saying oh, you know, here's my advice, like, this is what you do, or we don't work with you kind of thing. That that becomes a really special place in business when you're the one to say, Well, this is how it works. Because you've got that specialty.
Greg Bray 12:53
Now Now I fully admit that they don't always listen to us. Oh, absolutely. It does. mean that they actually do it? And I kind of have a rule when the client tells me No, I'll push back three times. And then if they still don't want to do it, we advise that Okay, we'll do it your way, and we'll see what happens. But we, we do try to, to make sure that and it's not just about telling people Oh, do it this way, right? It's right. You've got to have reasons you got to have a conversation you got to have be able to express yourself and explain it. You know, these are this is the information that that we use. This is why we recommend this way. And I think that's something that we do well is helping our clients understand the reasons behind it, you know, there's always more than one way to solve a problem. Nobody has the only way, right and there's pros and cons and you have to measure those and understand those as best you can and make a decision to move forward.
Josh Tapp 13:49
Yeah, I absolutely agree. One of the best parts for you guys is being able to take that you know that strength of yours and apply it directly to a company. That's Producing you a great income. A lot of people don't even have that ability to take their specialization and make it into a business like that. So I love that. Well, Greg, so let's let's talk a little bit now we're gonna change the direction of the conversation a little bit here because you and I talked beforehand you know, you have a you have a true passion for technology and kind of the direction it's going so in your industry How is how is it been changing because of all the new technology
Greg Bray 14:25
you know, especially with with the builder side one and e commerce as well you know, there's there's all kinds of new things happening right now with with the ability to interact with products online and become more comfortable with that. And I think that also is evolving as the the generation of consumers is now becoming those who have grown up with devices. Right there. They're, you know, my, my kids, those a little bit older than my kids, you know, they've they've always had a phone in their pocket. They don't remember phones, the way they used to Can I tell you a funny story? Yeah. Yeah. So, so my son was in a high school play a few years ago. And he's on stage. And they have in this scene, one of those old phones where the where the handle rests on a cradle and pushes it down to hang it up. Yeah. Can you begin your picture on talking about? He's, he's, he's on the he's on the phone in this scene in this play in high school. And while he's doing that, he's just kind of fiddling with the thing going up and down, you know, with his with his hand, cuz he's nervous, you know, he's up there. He's kind of fiddling when I told him afterwards. Do you know that every time you push that it actually hangs up the phone? And he had no idea. He had no idea that that was how the phone works. He has never seen a phone like that. So it was just kind of you know, like, we talked about the generational gap in technology and the things that have changed and what they've grown up with, it was just kind of eye opening to me, you know, the the head no clue how that phone actually worked. So anyway, It
Josh Tapp 16:01
does it does a good tangent.
Greg Bray 16:06
But But as far as the industries today, you know, where we're headed is the ability for people to to interact with, whether it's a home, whether it's, you know, something, you know, even buying on Amazon where where we've got the video capabilities are there and video is growing, but of course the virtual reality where you can create new views, you know, a homebuilder, for example, can now build an entire model home virtually so instead of spending $400,000 to build a physical house, they can spend, you know, 40 or $50,000, you know, 10% and have something that you can interact with and be able to understand, is this the home I want, you know, there's, there's, you know, the idea of augmented reality that's coming, and it's here now, and this is where you kind of overlaying the virtual on top of the real system. A little bit different from virtual reality, I don't know if those terms are something that that you're the nuances or something everybody's comfortable with. But, but this is where you know, augmented reality, I can, for example, hold up kind of a tablet that's got a picture of the new home. But I can see through the camera, I can see the watch that I'm standing in front of. So now I can see what this home looks like on this lot. And it's the real lot. But I'm standing there kind of like looking through this frame of the tablet, and seeing the home sitting there on that lot. Hopefully that makes sense. Yeah. And so it's this mixture between the, the virtual and the real, this augmented reality and so these kinds of tools, being able to to help people understand the product and not have to be present. Of course, you know, what the physical isn't going to go away. You know, the the online and offline interactions are still critical and important. But the technology is making it even easier to get further into that buying process online and used to be able to is really so. So what's really changing for our clientele, especially the builder is by the time a prospective buyer walks into a sale center, they are already two thirds, three fourths of the way there. Whereas in the old days, they were just kind of wandering around on a Sunday afternoon looking for houses to kind of look at. And now when they walk in, they've already done all kinds of research. They already know what they want, they know what you have to offer. And it changes the whole salespersons role and presentation and everything that goes along with that.
Josh Tapp 18:30
Yeah, it changed from closer from salesman to closer, right, because they're spending more of their time just figuring out what the person needs, because they already know what they want.
Greg Bray 18:40
And we like we like the term advisor as opposed to closer, closer sounds like you're forcing something on somebody you know. But, you know, the advisor to help them make sure it's the right fit, and they can, you know, meet all their needs. Absolutely. Yeah.
Josh Tapp 18:56
Well, and I love that because it's the concept of you know, adapt or die. I mean in business, a lot of people, and it's funny to be in the marketing world because you watch a lot of businesses who are dying because they're not adapting. I mean, look at all of these massive, even billion dollar companies. You know, when was the last time you saw a blockbuster, right? Yeah, it feels like long ago, but blockbuster got destroyed by Netflix. They even had a chance to buy Netflix. They said no, that's never gonna take, but because they didn't adapt, they disappeared within like two years. Crazy stuff.
Greg Bray 19:28
Absolutely. Absolutely.
Josh Tapp 19:30
So, you know, when it comes to smaller businesses like ours, you know, we're either solopreneurs we have a small team doing things. How do we make sure that we keep up with what's the adapting technology so that we don't die in that same way.
Greg Bray 19:45
You know, one of the areas that we have been trying to do even better than we used to do is is just with the the training for this for the staff. You know, when you're small, you're running fast, your budgets are tight. Training is One of those things that gets pushed to the backburner and, and it's really easy to to ignore it and and I talked about training, I'm not necessarily talking about taking a class, but this is where you're going to conferences, spending just a few minutes a week, just kind of looking around at what others are doing. It's about making it okay for your people to be subscribed to some blogs or podcasts or things where they can hear what others are talking about and doing. But it's about making that a priority. Because you have to keep up especially if you are in the role of the advisor to your client right at the client they need to be keeping up to but if you're the one that's the advisor, it is absolutely critical that you keep up and along with that is we now have changed to where we have to have all kinds of specialists. You know, you can't you can't be for example, searching optimization. You can't be an SEO generalist. anymore, and really keep up, you've got to let that person really specialize and you can't ask him to do other things, if they're going to really specialize and go deep in that particular area because that's what you need again to be that advisor you've got to have somebody and I can't do it all by myself. I have to have a team around me to be able to support that because there's there's too much to keep up with.
Josh Tapp 21:22
Absolutely. And have you seen anything in particular that works well when you're hiring or firing with your with your team?
Greg Bray 21:30
We have we've started from from our hiring process. You know, we were struggling a little bit because and one of the challenges our own fault is the fact that we wait to hire as long as we can and then by the time we're ready to hire it hurt so bad it's like get anybody and and so that's one of our mistakes. I got some advice a few years ago from from someone saying you know, you should you should always be hiring meaning that always have always have that job opening out there always be collecting resumes and looking at them and so that you don't get caught in that emergency hire mode because that's what that's where you rush it and make mistakes. The other thing we've tried to do is because we're still we're still not good at that we're still always in an emergency hire mode. But we've we've come up with some simple tests, especially for the more technical people, but even our even our marketing folks that we bring on, we're asking them to actually do a little bit of work and say, Hey, you know what, we want to make sure this works for both of us. We, you know, we give them a little case study and say, here's a client, here's their knees, tell us what you would advise them with? How why would you do it, you know, make a pitch. Now we tell them, don't spend 50 hours preparing this thing. That's not what we're looking for. You know, just keep it to just, you know, a few hours but you know, what, we want you to put a little effort in here. You know, for some of our technical people on the programming side we have, we have some simple programming tests that we use, just to Just to validate some skills, and I'll be honest, we've had people whose resumes look amazing. And they've bombed this test. Yeah. And and it was just it was kind of shocking. It's like how can you put these things on the resume and even get through the kind of the first interview? And then you don't know the things we put on this test. I'm really confused. To the point we had enough of it happened that we started questioning our tests and going well, maybe our test is bad. These people are doing so poorly on it and went back to our team say, guys, is there a bomb with this test? And they're like, I don't think so. And then we finally had a few people that were able to pass it and they felt better. And again, this isn't like Oh, you got to get a perfect score to powers trying to understand where somebody that but but taking a little bit of effort there to, to you know what, let's let's make sure that these people are the right fit. And it's not that we're just trying to grade people. Right, right. You know, we are a small team. Every person matters. Every person has an influence on the culture and the personality. They all have touch with a client from time to time and which is which is your brand and your business is reflected by all your people the right people matter. You've got to have their and we have a great team. We're really excited about our team and, and such. And we've been growing a lot the last year and been adding new ones. So we're trying to improve that process of how do we bring new people on even better and help them get up to speed and be successful? So you're never done? It's always always something you can do better.
Josh Tapp 24:33
Yeah, I completely agree. Well, Greg, we've basically hit our time, but I want to have you give one last parting piece of guidance and let our listeners know how they can connect with you.
Greg Bray 24:44
Well, to connect with me, you know, LinkedIn is a great opportunity to do that or email is fine. Greg gr eg at Blue tangerine comm look getting those love to chat with people. One last piece of advice how we We have we work in the construction industry a lot. And and there's this phrase out there from carpenters, that's, you know, measure twice cut once. Yeah, that kind of goes maybe others have her I didn't make it up. I don't want to claim that. But I think what the challenge I see for people a lot of times is, especially when dealing with new technologies is they're scared to make a mistake. They're scared they're scared to try some scared to make mistakes where they plan and they plan and they research and they go and they get in this analysis paralysis for that phrase before too and they stuck. You know, I am not the best woodworker in the world, right? I trust me I'm not very good with the with the table saw at all. And so I have to measure 20 times and cut five and throw away some wood and go back to the store and get more. But, but in business, in business, sometimes you just gotta pick one and go You've just got to pick one and go, you know, especially when you're trying to shop for technology or for a partner, or whatever, yes, do your due diligence measure twice, right? Don't just measure one, measure twice. But don't measure 20 times, right? Make the Cut, make it happen. Try it out. And you know what you can, you can measure in whatever time periods appropriate, make an adjustment, and go from there. But you know, we can't get stuck there. If you stand still and wait, you get passed by everybody else. So you've got to move forward.
Josh Tapp 26:31
So measure twice, cut once. Well, thank you for sharing that with us, Greg, and thanks for coming on the show today. And I'll put links to everything within in within the description of the video so they everybody can connect with you. So thanks for coming on the show.
Greg Bray 26:45
Oh, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.
Josh Tapp 26:49
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