Managers should talk to people and teams, it's just about connecting with people.
MEDIA 7: Being the Co-Founder at HighLevel, how did you come across the idea of coming up with this platform?
SHAUN CLARK: While working at a prior SaaS company, we were working with a lot of small businesses and all of them said that they want more customers. So I thought, let's see what we can do about that and so we wrote some software that we felt could help them get started. In the process of trying to get a user we found out that this was complex and difficult. Most people didn't have the expertise or the time. So we ended up partnering with marketing agencies, specifically, because we realised that they were the actual people that had the ability and the understanding to make it happen for their clients. So we then just completely shifted focus and started working with these agencies directly.
M7: Your website says that you have an all-in-one platform that caters to sales and marketing needs. How does it help agencies and marketers to thrive in the business?
SC: Two big ways, so one is if you have been an agency for a while you have had that situation where you are generating leads and trying to create business and then you go to the customer and think “didn't I do an amazing job”? “Look at those hundreds of leads I put on your spreadsheet for you!” And then the company says what are you talking about none of them came and gave me a dollar. This is terrible and you are fired. Those leads have to get nurtured and if your customers don't do the nurturing they are not going to return as customers. With HighLevel, you can automate that nurturing process and you can create a lot of visibility around it too. If you can automatically reach out to the leads within two seconds saying, thanks a lot for registering for my offer it would be great if we can get on a call, we can schedule the booking and automate the booking and then if that person says yes, we can automatically set up the link to get them in. If a person doesn't say yes and they say that they like the idea but have a question first, we have a whole interface which allows them, the business owner to get the response be it desktop or mobile. So that's the first step where we help people.
Now, the second big thing and this I feel is way more important for the future. Today, most agencies are in the services business but in reality there is an emphasis on technology. Like, I can give you this service but you need to buy that product. Well, that's kind of a disjointed experience for a customer. So what if as an agency you show up and say we will do the whole thing right, so we provide all those services and we also provide the technology, which is why HighLevels was able to grow, and we only sell to agencies. This whole thing adds additional revenue which is awesome and if you ever get into the scenario where someone does this thing and says I don't want your services anymore it means, they are fired, there is no revenue and you are left with zero. With the software, it is incredibly sticky so now you can create that software but you can keep that going for years and years and years even if you are not buying the SEO services or other services, you sought that as a revenue stream so it's a whole other way for agencies to make a lot more money.
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M7: We all agree that the future is going to be Data, Machine Learning, and AI-driven. What is your vision at HighLevel to incorporate these aspects in the day-to-day functioning of the organization?
SC: In our app today, we use AI and Machine Learning quite a bit. We do all the bookings, the AI bot that connects goes back and forth. So if someone says that they want to come in tomorrow, the bot asks the booking time. You decide on a time and it asks for confirmation. You say yes and it’s confirmed. Right, so we have already used a lot of AI and machine learning in the app. I think we will continue to do that more and more as we go forward. One thing I always do cautiously is pairing the AI nicely with people engagement. So the idea is that we will be nurturing your products where it's going to be human beings on the frontend with AI sort of partnering up. The AI will handle the job but the minute somebody says something that is not perfect then the AI stops and the human being comes in and continues that conversation forward because otherwise you get these crazy weird responses from the robots and nobody converts.
M7: Being a business leader, how do you prepare yourself for an AI-centric world?
SC: You have to put it into your product as soon as you can, experiment with it all over the place and just try to embrace it and figure out what are the pitfalls and then just don't do that, but find a place where it’s an easy win and make sure you implement it. Make sure your whole team is immersed in it. As things evolve, make sure that everyone is trying to learn about it and more importantly put it in the app and make it a part of the feature set.
M7: What are the SEO and SMM related tools that you usually rely on?
SC: We use our own platform because it is comprehensive and holistic. We have our website builder and text messaging app. Owning a sales and marketing app, we use our own product.
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If your lead comes in and you get them in the first 5 minutes your likelihood of conversion goes way up.
M7: How has the post COVID world treated you? Are you working from home or are you working on a hybrid model? Also, how do you keep connected with your employees and keep them motivated in these tough times?
SC: I have been remote for at least 12 years. We have built our whole organization remotely. We have 170 team members now throughout the world all working remote. We have at least 50 team members in India all working remote. We have been remote for a very long time and I think we will probably continue to be remote as long as we can. I am the only person in my state so I am always going to be remote. We do have an office in Dallas with 30-40 people there and even there is a flexible environment. I love remote so I am going to always take care of that.
I feel it's just a matter of how you organize yourself. So, managers should talk to people and teams, it's just about connecting with people. Like this conversation over Zoom and so daily, different groups have a different method. I meet with people in my organization either individually or as a group and it works straight. Pre-Covid we had a lot of trouble hiring and it was mostly because top talent would do this interview and they will say; that they love the idea but they wanted to be in an office, the idea of working remotely wasn’t preferred. That has drastically changed after Covid. People are more willing to work remotely than from office. Covid let us hire better. Especially when it comes to getting new talent.
M7: What is your advice to the marketers, sales executives, and entrepreneurs around the world for generating effective leads and converting them into customers?
SC: So the number one problem with every person I have ever met who generates leads is that they make up stuff, it's the simple idea we hear it all the time. If your lead comes in and you get them in the first 5 minutes your likelihood of conversion goes way up. If you don't convert them in the first touch point it’s late, it's about who can follow the lead for the longest right. All those things are incredibly true. Well, here is the most important thing, people are terrible at it and if you are automated you will win. I don't care who you are, everyone who is in the competitive market, could be a local business, it could be a national business. It could be any technology it could be in manufacturing, at the end of the day it comes down to, we are potentially interested in talking about what we do, so you better be on, you better get to them quickly, you better get them scheduled for that next step which is journaling an appointment and if you are using automation you are going to win and if you are not using automation, you are done for.
M7: What is you secret to stay at the top of your game in this overly saturated MarTech industry?
SC: We get to help people every day who are doing amazing things, we help a lot of marketers for their businesses and be successful and then we also get to help their customers, which are small businesses and I have always been passionate about small businesses so when I hear those stories I get motivated. I also have a killer team and we are doing cool stuff and we have grown quite a bit in the last three years or so and so it's a great place to be in and I feel so humbled and lucky to be here but I am also enjoying and excited to see where we can take it because I think for us anyways we were doing something that no one else was doing. We only work with marketers, we only work with agencies, and right the best I ever hear is people say we have partners or like whatever no one just works with agencies. I think all the people in that space are totally wrong this whole partner thing is wrong, I feel you should only sell to agencies. Because these are the people who have the skills to truly do amazing things with the tools otherwise if you don't know what you are doing you are taking really big fancy expensive complex tools and you are just handing it over to amateurs and it's just a waste of time you are not doing anything to these people you are wasting their time, you are hurting them in the long term and you are doing it just because you can and trying to make money, for us it is different, we are going to sell it to marketing agencies because we want to see amazing things happening and we refuse to compromise on that. So it's kind of fun there.