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Origin story of iconic fashion brand with advertising expert John Follis – Episode 76

3 top tips from John Follis:

1. Work with someone you can trust your with.

I would, I would say, if you’re not working with a really expert marketing person, someone you can trust, fine, find someone that you could trust to work with because you really should not be doing it yourself. And if you’re working with someone who really knows what they’re doing, you’re not going to be hitting your ceiling, they’re going to, they’re going to help you with all the issues you might be struggling with, from a marketing standpoint, because they’re experts at what they do. And, and, you know, part of the problem.

2. Look for marketing experts.

Some of these people who pitch themselves as marketing experts really are not marketing experts, they’re really salespeople, really expert salespeople. And they’re really not the kind of people that can help small business owners with their unique marketing issues. Because every issue, although they may be similar, they’re not going to be exactly the same. And so it really takes someone who can listen, to begin with, not immediately start talking and giving them answers, because it starts with listening, which a lot of marketing people because they’re more salespeople than they are marketing, people are not very good at listening. They’ll, they’ll blah, blah, blah, but all things you should do without really listening to their client and understanding the specific issues, their nuances, and really finding out what the focus really should be.

3. Build a brand.

So the point is that you don’t need to have millions of or 1000s, even 1000s of dollars to begin thinking like a big company and start thinking about what your brand is.


Debra Chantry Taylor



advertising, people, marketing, agency, tv commercial, successful, business, brand, called, syracuse, instructor, career, Debra, realize, business owners, thought, big, creative, phonebook, website

John Follis  00:00

We created a campaign in New York that it was very attention getting and won a lot of awards. It was for a designer called Kenneth Cole, who at the time no one knew who he was because Kenneth was just a 25 year old kid starting out, but we created the the ad campaign that essentially created the brand of kindness called it ultimately became an International Iconic Fashion Brand.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  00:24

Good morning, and welcome to another episode of Better Business, Better Life. Today, I am joined by John Follis, who is the founder and creative of Follis And we’ve just been having a bit of a chat and Jon Hamm reckons he has been in advertising since I was in primary school, but I don’t believe that for a moment. But he has been running agencies since of 1989. Where in New York, he founded Follis and Verdi, and they work with some amazing brands like VW ,Pizza, Hut, Coke, you name it. And then in 2004, he was one of the first online consultancy agencies. And in 2006, I think it was his first marketing podcast, which would have been absolutely revolutionary at the time. So wow, what an amazing kind of background. Welcome to the show, John.

John Follis  01:03

Thank you, Debra. Glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  01:06

Oh, absolute pleasure. Hey, look, I’m really intrigued to find out more, because you know, you are the marketing therapy guy, you you help people with their marketing, their videos, their online stuff. Tell me a little bit about how you got into what you do. Why did you Why advertising?

John Follis  01:24

That’s a good question. I was undecided when I started my college, career, or my courses, I really, I was always good creatively. My mom was an art teacher. So artistically, I was very, very strong. But I didn’t really know what career to go into. Until my second year of college, I took a graphic design course. And the instructor about halfway through the course pulled me aside wanted to speak to me, which is usually not a good sign. And she asked me what I wanted to do with my life. And when I said I wasn’t sure, she said, Well, can I give you some advice, she said, I really think you should pursue a career in something that’s creative. And this is not the school right school for that, I would strongly encourage you to find go to a better school that has more of a variety, of course, curriculum curriculums, like marketing, or advertising or architecture, or fashion design or photography, or any number of creative focused businesses that would allow you to really take advantage of your your talent. So that’s kind of how I went got into advertising. But it did not start out well, because I transferred to one of the top advertising schools in the United States, Syracuse University. And my first advertising course I did not get along with the instructor. And my I had always done extremely well in any creative course. Certainly anything that involves art or design or creativity, which this course involves a lot of, and my course my grades started out it’s as C’s and kind of went, I don’t know how your grading system is New Zealand, we have a B’s and C’s and D’s and F’s here. And so I started out getting C’s and go went downhill from there. And toward the end, with maybe three weeks left to go in the class, the Instructor pulled me aside. And unlike the first Instructor who told me, I was really, really talented at that other school, this Instructor told me just the opposite. He said, I don’t really think you have a talent for advertising. And I’m going to give you a choice. You can either accept the grade that I’m going to give you with three weeks to go and you’re not going to be happy about it. Or you could drop the class, really, which to me was not really a big choice. I’m not someone who gives up easily. But when someone tells you that that’s your choice. Pretty much it’s really not a choice, he was going to flunk me. So rather than get an F, I decided to do choice B dropped the class and get an incomplete so I didn’t have to tell my dad I flunked the first advertising class at the very expensive college that he was paying tuition for. And decided at that point that was that was a real come to Jesus moment. Because I was more than halfway through my college education just decided on advertising as my career and basically told by someone in the business who was teaching, it was a New York guy who Syracuse is about five hours away from New York. So a lot of the instructors kept flew up to Syracuse to teach why they would do that. I don’t know. But when someone tells you that, well, you know, with with that kind of a professional background, you have to take it seriously. And fortunately, Syracuse had a program where they had multiple instructors to teaching the same courses. So it permitted me the opportunity to try that course again, because it was a required course, that I had to do well in to proceed and take it with a different instructor hoping that the result will be different. And fortunately, that proved to be the case, different instructor totally different experience, I think I got like an a minus, and it with a different instructor. So that was a very important lesson for me to learn very early on, I’d say in my career was actually pre career. But in essence, it was, it was kind of the beginning of my career, realizing that a lot of success has to do with the personalities that you have to deal with. And I found that out pretty quickly thereafter, when I started working in the business in New York and got fired four times in the first eight years of my career. Not because I wasn’t talented, although at that time, I didn’t know that. But it had more to do with the dynamics and the office politics that I had to deal with that I was totally unprepared for. They didn’t have a course and office politics in college. And two of the four times I got fired, were situations where the guy who brought me into the agency who hired me, decided to leave for a better job within a few weeks after bringing me in, which is not necessarily a reason for me to get fired. But when the guy who wants you at that company is no longer at that company, it does make you vulnerable. And I don’t know if you have the the show survivor in New Zealand, do you? Yes. But working in New York City and advertising business, and I’m sure in many industries in many different cities, is a little bit like that show survivor, where you have to figure out who’s on your side and who’s not on your side, and you have to watch your back. And for any number of reasons you could get. You could get blindsided and you could, you know, you could get voted off the island, shall we say. So I got voted out of the agency a few times. And you know, two of those situations were for that reason. And but you know, the the other thing I should say is that my personality did not fit well with a corporate environment. And I didn’t realize that the the personality traits that made me be unsuccessful. And that big agency corporate environment, were exactly the same person personality traits that made me hugely successful as an entrepreneur.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  08:13

And I think that many of us can relate to that. I know that I actually got asked to leave school to, to when I was in my sort of late teens, they suggested that might be a better place for me that I was very disruptive. And maybe I should go into something that was more suited to what I was doing. And I’ve been sacked a couple of times as well in my life. And at the time, it feels awful. But it’s probably the best thing that can ever happen. Because it it opens you up to Yeah, that actually I was a square peg in a round hole. This is what I’m really designed for. But still, I mean four times in eight years that would that would have an impact on your confidence. So yeah, how did that work? And then what how did you decide to go into your own agency?

John Follis  08:50

There were many late nights where I really began to reflect back on that college instructor who told me I sucked at advertising and shouldn’t pursue it as a career and started wondering if he wasn’t right, you know, but there’s something called in New York called rent that you have to pay. And in New York City, it is not inexpensive. So that’s that’s that can be a pretty good motivating force to get your ass out of bed and start to try to get yourself work. And listen, there was a day where I’m this is back in the day when the internet didn’t exist. And I went through the phonebook. You know what a phone book is right?

Debra Chantry-Taylor  09:34

I think a little bit older than the other assuming I am we’ve had lots of phone books over the years.

John Follis  09:38

Okay, well, for some of your younger people phonebook is where you you have listings of companies you can call on the phone. And I because I was running out a place as agencies where I could get an interview, I just decided that the best thing to do was to go through the phonebook. I’m looking at ad agencies in New York, and there are many of them and start with the A’s and start making phone calls to try to get myself an interview. And I remember one particular day, I, I got three interviews, but I had to call 106 agencies to get those. Yeah. But it was one of those three interviews that actually, over the coming years ended up being a turning point in my career, that enabled me to start doing some freelance work, which is what I pivoted to doing freelancing for smaller agencies. And one of the guys that call me was one of these, these three people, these three agencies that I had gotten an interview with, it took two years for him to get back to me. But two years later, he called me back I had a project to work on. And it was one of the projects that was incredibly successful. We created a campaign in New York that created a lot of buzz in New York, everyone wanted to know, who was doing this creative work, because it was very attention getting and won a lot of awards. It was for a designer called Kenneth Cole, who at the time, no one knew who he was because Kenneth was just a 25 year old kids starting out. But we created the the ad campaign that essentially created the brand of Kenneth Cole that ultimately became an International Iconic Fashion Brand. And it also attracted a guy who turned out to be my business partner. He was really curious who was involved, who was the corona of the creative people involved with his campaign. And he called me up and he was really eager to meet me. And within a few weeks, we started working together. And within a few months, we won our first big piece of business that allowed us to basically put up a shingle as follows and Verdi and call ourselves an ad agency. And within four years, we became one of the most successful and Award Winning Agencies in the US.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  12:20

Yep. Excellent. So tell I’ve gotten really curious, did you go back to the teacher at college anytime?

John Follis  12:27

Did I did I won’t go back to the

Debra Chantry-Taylor  12:29

Teacher at College that told you you’d never be any good at advertising.

John Follis  12:32

Did I ever get back to I did see him at a networking event. I think he was standing out with a shrimp bowl. And I was I was tempted to go up and ask him if he remembered me. But I really didn’t see the point. I mean, I’m not, I’m not into gloating. You know, if he remembered me, he would have seen my name in the press, because we got a lot of press. When we were when we were winning business and doing award winning work. So to me that that was that was the satisfaction just being successful.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  13:07

Yeah, absolutely.

John Follis  13:08

 And in many ways, I am very grateful to him, because, you know, he forced me to really decide whether or not I wanted to pick myself up and continue pursuing that, that path. And which was not an easy thing. But I think the the, the, the value of success is not so much what you’ve achieved, but also what you’ve had to overcome to achieve it. So I kind of take that as as a badge of honor that I was able to overcome, being told by my first college advertising instructor that I sucked at advertising shouldn’t pursue it as a career and then being told four times that I didn’t, wasn’t good enough to work at that their ad agency to then have my own a ad agency and become one of the most successful in the country.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  14:15

That’s fantastic. Great story. Hey, I’m just interested, what did you learn from your time in those larger advertising agencies that you then took into your own business when you started your own business?

John Follis  14:27

The challenge was a much smaller part of being successful than I thought it would be and should be. I you know, in at Syracuse in the advertising program, they really, it was, like I said, one of the top in the country and they really focused on being the best advertiser came up on the creative side. So the best at the creative side of advertising, really being the best, and having the best advertising portfolio. And I thought that if I was the best creative person with the best average creative work, that I would be very successful, and it was kind of a hard pill to swallow to realize that, that was a much smaller part of being successful in that big agency corporate environment.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  15:29

Okay, so what did that

John Follis  15:31

I also realize that when you’re just starting out, it’s like, you know, when you’re a rookie, if you’re on a sports team, you know, you really need good coaching. You know, you can’t just be out of college be on a football team or soccer to I don’t know how it is in soccer, we have football here. And you know, when you’re a rookie, you may have been the best college player. But when you’re in the pros, you really still it’s a whole different ballgame. And you still need a lot of coaching to be successful to make it in the NFL, as it were. And so, if you don’t have someone in an agency, who’s got more experienced than you, who wants you to be successful, and wants to support you and enable you to be successful, you’re going to have a tough time, I don’t care how talented you might be. It’s, it’s a whole different environment, you’re really not prepared for that. Like I said, they don’t have courses in office politics. So it really does require someone internally to help you to nurture you and help you to become successful. So when the guy went to have those situations when the guy who hired me, was no longer there to help me. That That certainly was one reason why I wasn’t able to be successful, I think.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  16:52

Sure. And so how did you foster that kind of environment in your own agency as well? Because obviously, you know, your award winning your successful agency, what did you need to do to, to create that environment?

John Follis  17:05

You mean for other people for junior people?

Debra Chantry-Taylor  17:08


John Follis  17:10

Well, I enjoyed helping people. I mean, one of the things I did on the side, when I was in New York was teach, I should teach night school at three of the top universities in New York City, we have School of Visual Arts, we have Parsons School of Design, and we have FIT, or fashion Fashion Institute of Technology, otherwise known as FIT, they’re three of the top schools in the country. And I taught at all of them, and I enjoyed it. I like nurturing people who are really had the passion for the business, you know, you have some students that don’t give a shit. And you have other students that are really determined that really want to be good. So for those students, I enjoy helping them as I enjoyed helping people who were more junior people at the agency that I had co-run had was the creative director of. So to me, that was, you know, if they if they did great work, that that helped us that helped my agency. So there was no reason for me not to be supportive in a big agency environment is, like I said, it’s like Survivor. So you’re dealing with people, they’re not owners of the business, they see you as more of a as a competitor, right? So if they have any way to like, step on you to, to to promote, you know, to, to promote themselves or move themselves ahead. They will do that. It’s a whole different dynamic and a big agency versus a small company.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  18:49

Yeah, I get that. Okay, so you, you went into your own agency, you won the awards, you were doing very well. And then if I read it right, you then sort of did one of the first online consultancies. So you were really ahead of the eight ball in terms of where things were headed.

John Follis  19:05

Yeah, and I just want to mention, because one of the things you you ask your other guests is what what are the things you’re most proud of? And one of the things that occurred when I when I was running my or Coco running the agency is we had an opportunity to do some national public service TV commercials for the cause of child abuse prevention, awareness and prevention. And they had the commercials had a lot of media money behind them. This was this was 30 years ago, now about 2530 years ago, and it had $5 million worth of TV media, which now would probably be twice that and they ran during a six week period. So to have what would in today’s dollars 10, $10 million worth of TV time I went over a six week period meant that they were seen by a lot of people. And apparently one of the people that saw those spots could have been the president of the United States. Because a month after they ran, I got an invitation from the White House, to come to a special reception, to be honored for the work that I did for this, this particular nonprofit. And I wasn’t the only one to be invited, I was one of I think, maybe two dozen people from around the country who were doing various involved with various nonprofit causes. But it was quite an unexpected surprise and honor to receive a personal invitation to the White House to a reception where I had a chance to meet the First Lady, and get a photo op with the First Lady and, you know, be acknowledged for this work. So that was that was one of the things that was most proud of. And then what’s interesting, Debra is six months later, I got kind of a similar invitation this time to the United Nations for another public service and a different ad, same cause Child Abuse Prevention. Somehow they saw the work and they have the letter said we’d like to acknowledge your work by giving you the first this is the first time we’re doing this public, this United Nations Public Service Award, and we’d like to honor you with that award. So that was that was those two experiences that happened the same year, were probably two of the career experiences that I’m most proud of, because it was for a really good cause.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  21:46

Yeah, that’s, that’s phenomenal. Well done. Congratulations. Yeah.

John Follis  21:49

So back to your question. I just wanted

Debra Chantry-Taylor  21:51

To know what, what were just going on that route? And what about personally, what’s been your sort of most, you know, the, almost the thing you’re most proud of in your personal life?

John Follis  22:01

Well, you know, when you’re running your business, it kind of does become your personal life in a way, you know. And the work the ad that that ended up doing, eventually allowing us to do this national TV campaign was an ad that I came up on my own one night when I was sitting home on my couch eating potato chips watching TV, and saw a documentary on Adolf Hitler that mentioned that he was an abused kid. And when I saw this documentary that mentioned that fact, a light bulb went off over off in my head. And I thought, gee, maybe I could come up with some kind of an ad that reference the fact that Hitler was abused as a kid and turn that into a provocative ad for child abuse prevention. And so that, that that was my personal life, I was just home watching TV, and I came up with an ad. So I don’t know if that’s the answer you’re looking for. But like I said, you know, when I was running my my own agency, it was also very much my personal life I could, I was home at home by myself watching TV. And that’s that was the the genesis of this whole experience that ultimately got me honored at the White House and the UN.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  23:21

Yeah, that’s fabulous. Okay, so then back to my other questions. I asked them. So, yeah, you’re one of the first online agencies, right, sort of the first online marketing because

John Follis  23:30

Well, was it? Yeah. My first website, it wasn’t, I wasn’t, I don’t know if I call it an online agency. But I discovered the internet 94. And in 96, I had my first agency website. And that was pretty early on. There were a lot of big agencies in New York that I think still in 96 didn’t have a website. So I kind of designed it and had a technical person do all the backend, I did the front end design, and they did all the back end coding. And I was pretty proud of that. And I just for me, it was just another way for as more and more and more people got online and use that to get information. It was another way for me to market my agency promote it, because all my work was there. So I was unlike a lot of my peers who were kind of confused by the Internet and didn’t really think it was going to be something to pay attention to. I took a different attitude and said, I want to learn as much as I can about this, which you know, carried on throughout my career. You referenced the podcasting I got involved with I started learning about podcasting and blogging. From the earliest days, I was reading about our I was actually listening to podcasts in 2005. And now after listening, listening to a few of them, I thought this would be a very cool thing to have. Let me let me see if I can have my own podcast. So my marketing show with John follows went live in February of 2006. And I continued it for about seven years. And I got into blogging about the same time. But a couple of years before that, and you referenced this in the introduction in 2004, when Skype was a new thing. I, you know, and Skype is and I assume your your listeners know what Skype is, I think it’s still around, it doesn’t seem to be quite as popular as zoom.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  25:40

Got bought out by did Microsoft buy it, I think,

John Follis  25:43

Could have bad, yeah, but you that’s when Skype just became a new thing. And I thought it would be a very cool thing to use Skype as a way of interacting one on one with people around the world. And it was right around this time that I’m still using my advertising agency as my calling card. But I would find myself more and more becoming shall we say, a blown off by people at networking events when I introduced myself as an advertising guy, because these were small business owners. And when they heard the, shall we say the a word, they kind of excused themselves and got another drink. They, you know, and for good reason. You know, when I think that when I thought of an ad agency, they thought of TV commercials and expensive print ads that went to magazines that they could never afford to buy, nor did they really need to do that. So I just realized pretty quickly in late 90s, that identifying myself as an ad agency guy, as award winning as I may have been was still not a very good way to introduce myself. So I started calling myself a marketing expert, which would get a little bit more interest because, well, this small businesses may not need advertising, they all need marketing. You know, marketing, as you know, as much broader thing, it may not include paid media. But it does include everything else. In addition to that, but the marketing therapy thing, which is how I ended up branding, my consulting in 2004 really was a very serendipitous thing that I didn’t really expect to happen. I got a call Debra from a woman out of the blue, who said, John, I got your name from a friend of mine. He said, You’re an amazing, you’re brilliant marketing guy advertising guy, I know you can help me, I really need to talk to you. To which I replied, Well, what do you do and she was kind of a consultant herself. And at the time again, I was still a my mindset was I was an advertising guy, I will come up with a tagline for you, I will write copy for you, I will do a radio commercial or a billboard for you or an ad for you or a brochure. But I’m not going to work with you on an hourly basis consulting, that’s not what I do. I didn’t think that was a very good business model to, you know, a time for money business model. I was working on retainer and on projects, so it wasn’t, you know, pay for play. You know, that’s what cab drivers do. You know, they were they turn the meter on, and you know, they pay for your time. So I said, I’m sorry, I don’t do that. And she said, Well, no, no, no, you don’t understand. You have to help me. I really, and she just would not allow me to get off the phone. And again, I asked her, I said, So how did you find out about me? She said, Well, first I was you were highly referred to me. Plus, I’ve seen your work around the city. I think you do great, great work. It’s brilliant. Plus, I saw you give a presentation once and you were amazing. And, you know, one of the things I made a point to do, Deborah that I know you’re a big advocate of is public speaking. So every opportunity I would get and I was I was always believe it or not. I was a very introverted person when it started out at my career, but I really knew I knew that. I had to get over that. So you know, I took I got involved in something called Toastmasters. I think that’s an international company. And really forced by, yeah, force myself. I took a couple of acting classes. I took an acting class in New York acting for non actors in New York, which was kind of fun. I think. I think Bob dinero actually took courses at the same Actors Studio that I did. I didn’t pursue it as far as he did, obviously, but it forced me to, you know, get myself feel comfortable out there. And so it served me well. And when she said that she was very impressed with the presentation. It made me feel really good. So what I told her I would do was I knew that I, if I, the way I looked at it, Debra was let me give her an hourly rate that she probably can’t afford. But I don’t really care, you know, because I don’t really think this is a good business model anyway. So I’ll just come up with a number, just to get her off my back. And that’ll be the end of it. So I told her, I would think of it I had to think about it, because I had really no idea what my hourly time was work was worth. And this was back in 2004. And I decided to $250. Do you have dollars in New Zealand?

Debra Chantry-Taylor  30:39

We’ve done this in New Zealand as well, yes. Okay. Okay.

John Follis  30:43

So I thought that’s what I was worth. And I didn’t assume that she could afford it. But I, that’s what I told them what I was worth. And she she paused for about three seconds. And she said, Okay, and I said, I want to get paid up front also. And she said, Okay. And she came to my Park Avenue apartment, and sat on my couch. And for the next 50 minutes, she’s she started talking nonstop. And I was sitting next to her with my yellow legal pad and pen taking notes as she was talking, occasionally asking questions. And I felt like a frickin therapist. And as you know, I don’t have to tell your listeners, if you’re running your own business. It’s a very personal experience, right? It is your business. You know, this is why I said earlier, when you said personal thing, when you are running your own business, it becomes a personal thing. So I could appreciate why for her, it was a very emotional issue. And I had to interrupt her because our hour was coming up. And I did I wanted to feel like she was getting her money’s worth. And I said, Listen, we only have 10 minutes left, I’ll give you an extra 15 minutes. I don’t mind doing that. But let me talk a little bit. So I give give you my feedback, which I gave her. And she was happy with it. But she said, You know, I feel like we’re just getting started. At which point I said, Well, what do you want to do? She said, Well, I think we have to meet again. So I said, Okay, well, and we scheduled another appointment when she was in the elevator going down from my 1212 floor apartment and New York. I started thinking, I wonder if I could create a business model around this. What you know, this is an interesting because this woman clearly is desperate to work with me and I if I could find a dozen people are willing to pay me $250 up front. And basically, all I have to do is sit next to them and give them my my feedback. I could do that. In addition to you know, whatever else I was doing with my other, you know, retainer and project based clients. So that’s when I started thinking, Well, how do I brand this and it didn’t take me a lot of brainpower to come up with marketing therapy because like I said it, I felt like I immediately felt like a therapist, and it was kind of like therapy. And at least when I was at networking events, and people said, Well, what do you do? I wouldn’t have to say, Well, I’m a marketing consultant, or an advertising guy just see a glazed look on their face. I could say, Well, I’m a mark, I do marketing therapy. Yeah. Which really got usually got a response, what the hell is that? And they will use to say, Excuse me, did you say marketing therapy, and that would begin a conversation was, which is ultimately what you want to do at any networking event, is engage people in a way that wants them to begs them to want to learn more about you. That’s That’s it,

Debra Chantry-Taylor  34:05

Which is also the premise of advertising, right?

John Follis  34:09

Yes, yes. So you know, a lot of the advertising skills, you’ve got to get their attention, you know, whether it’s, you’re at a networking event or doing a TV commercial doing a print ad, you immediately have to stop them. If they’re going through a magazine or reading a newspaper, you’ve got to stop them grab their attention. If they’re watching TV, and the first five seconds, you’ve got to get their attention because if you don’t have their attention in the first five seconds, they’re not going to spend the next 25 seconds or 55 seconds. Watching your commercial and you know, tiktok is the new shiny object but basically that the thinking behind tiktok is the same thing that I was doing 35 years ago, when I was coming up with ideas for 32nd commercials.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  34:54

Yep. So you’ve done a lot of these marketing therapy sessions. As with, you know, small, medium sized business owners, what’s been the biggest thing that keeps raising its head as the issue that business owners have?

John Follis  35:10

Well, the biggest issue is that business owners, as as much as they may be experts at their business are definitely not experts at marketing their business, even though many of them think they are. They’re not. And a big reason for that is it’s not a disparagement on them. First of all, they, they didn’t go to uni university, you know, marketing, believe it or not, for many of your listeners, it’s actually a thing you study at university. It’s not something you do, just by watching a few YouTube videos, or listening to a few podcasts, all of a sudden, you’re a marketing expert, although many people think that that’s all they have to do. And God bless them if they want to go for it, you know, but they’re not experts at it. And the other thing, which is an equal or bigger issue, Debra is that they don’t have the necessary objectivity, that you really need to have to be successful at marketing their business, I can’t tell you how many business owners I would start working with because they had a specific problem that they thought was their biggest issue. And I would talk to them for 15 minutes. And in that 15 minutes, realize that that is the least of their problem that they should be focusing on. You know, they just don’t see it. They don’t have the objectivity. One guy was referred to me because I was introduced him as someone who did great TV commercials, and he wanted a TV commercial. And he didn’t know I had this marketing therapy business model. This was early, when I early into while I was doing it, maybe 2004 or five. And so he was, I was starting to talk to him about his commercial or the commercial that he said he needed, and quickly realized, the guy didn’t even have a website at the time, this was 2004. And I didn’t mean to offend him, or talk my way out of what could have been a pretty fun lucrative project. I love doing TV stuff. So at the risk of losing that project, I, I can’t, I’m sorry, I just I’m just too honest with people if, if I’m talking to a business owner, and they don’t realize the the problem that they really should be focusing on, I can’t help myself, but tell them that, in a way, that’s as tactfully as I as I can. Because like I said, a lot of these business owners think they know everything, they think, what do they know their business, but they just don’t have the objectivity. And he didn’t realize that you can’t be doing a TV commercial when you don’t even have a frickin website to go to. So I as tactfully, as I as I could suggest, that maybe that would be something to focus on do TV commercial, after after you do the website, but at least have some place where people can go, when you’re doing your TV commercial, then you have the ability to reference your website where they could get more information, you know, and it is in addition to the phone number, or whatever else you’re going to have, because I don’t care how good the TV commercial lives that may not be enough to really convert them as a customer. And if you have a really kick ass website with some really good video content on there, that that could help close the deal. And fortunately, he he was amenable to that was actually very grateful. And that’s where I introduced him to this marketing therapy, which he didn’t realize that I had. And he ended up becoming one of my best customers. He started out working with me for I don’t know, just a few hours just to try it out and ended up we ended up working together for about two years on an ongoing basis.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  39:12

That’s fabulous. Yeah, nice. Okay, so we can probably talk about this stuff for ages because you’ve obviously got a wealth of experience there. But if we think about the listeners who are you know, established business owners who maybe feel like they’ve hit the ceiling a wee bit, I’ll be the three top tips that you would give them around their marketing or just in business in general.

John Follis  39:32

Well, I know people are looking for simple answers. And I’m hesitating, because every business is different. Every business owner is different. They’ve got their own unique personality they’ve got hopefully they’ve got their own unique or special product or service. So I’m really I really fight against these cookie cutter solutions. I’m not a big cookie cutter solution guy, I would, I would say, if you’re not working with a really expert marketing person, someone you can trust, fine, find someone that you could trust to work with, because you really should not be doing it yourself. And if you’re working with someone who really knows what they’re doing, you’re not going to be hitting your ceiling, they’re going to, they’re going to help you with all the issues you might be struggling with, from a marketing standpoint, because they’re experts at what they do. And, and, you know, part of the problem, Debra is that some of these people who pitch themselves as marketing experts really are not marketing experts, they’re really salespeople, really expert salespeople. And they’re really not the kind of people that can help small business owners with their unique marketing issues. Because every every issue, although they may be similar, they’re not going to be exactly the same. And so it really takes someone who can listen to begin with, not immediately start talking and giving them answers, because it starts with listening, which a lot of marketing people because they’re more salespeople than they are marketing, people are not very good at listening. They’ll, they’ll blah, blah, blah, but all things you should do without really listening to their client and understanding the specific issues, their nuances, and really finding out what what the focus really should be. So that’s what I would. So I really feel for these small business owners who might realize that they they shouldn’t be doing it couldn’t be doing it, they just don’t know who to trust. And one of the articles I do a lot of writing. And one of the articles I wrote as a result of that was, I think it was the seven key things to help you find qualified marketing help. Okay, there were seven of them. And if you want after this, this podcast, I can email it to you in case you want to post it. But I think that would help. Because it’s very difficult. You know, I did just say a couple of them, you could you know, talk to your friends, certainly, referrals are good. So if you know, people that have worked with a marketing resource that has worked out well, for them, that’s certainly one one thing, that’s good, but just because they helped your friend doesn’t necessarily mean the right view, either. But that’s that’s one of the things and there’s, there’s a bunch more their credentials, look at their credentials and look at their tests. You know, have they have they gotten testimonials, you know, things like that success stories, case studies, things like that. But I could send you that if you want,

Debra Chantry-Taylor  40:07

I think that’d be really helpful. And I’m absolutely on your side, I don’t think there is a cookie cutter approach to this. And I’m actually I am a trained marketer myself, believe it or not, that was my first career training, biochemistry first, then marketing. And I it’s true, it is a science, it is not science and art combined, right. And it is something that you actually have to spend, you know, sharpening your soul getting better and better at it. And so it’s not something that anybody should retry on their own. I’ve got an advertising agency I work with, I’ve got a marketing agency I work with, I’ve got a couple of different people who actually helped me with that, because that’s what they’re doing day in, day out. And I would never dream of you know, reading a book listening to a podcast about brain surgery, and trying to do brain surgery. And I think, yeah, there’s this

John Follis  43:45

Thing that a lot of people overlook. And I have to say it here, Debra is they don’t value talent. You know what I’m saying? They look at marketing, and they listen to a lot in salesperson cert salespeople, and it’s all about analytics and systems and all this analytical stuff. And they forget may what may be, I think, the most important ingredient, and that’s creative talent. Our agency was super, super, super successful, not because we had the clients that had the biggest budgets. They had very small advertising and marketing budgets. But the work we did was breakthrough creatively. It was really smart. It was strategically smart. It was on point. It got people’s attention and communicated the message. And it got the results for the small clients that they needed. Because it was it was it involved, creative talent, and that was that was my strength. My business partner was good at the business side. So he helped do the media buys and things like that. But that’s another reason that business owners shouldn’t be doing it because again, it takes knowledge but like you said, it’s the scientific part is more than knowledge. So The artistic side is more of the creative talent side. And it takes both of those those elements.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  45:06

And it comes down to you know that that sort of that big idea that attention grabbing thing that sort of No, but you can’t even get to that point, unless you actually know who your audience is who what sort of pain point trying to solve for them. And that was that’s the word that a good agency or marketing agency does is to actually work through with you on that, to help you uncover that.

John Follis  45:25

Yeah, an agency. That’s you know, that’s why companies go to agencies, that’s why Steve Jobs in in 1976, when he just founded Apple was had had the forethought. Even though he was just 21 years old, start opening his doors with Apple realize that, over the long term, if he was going to be successful, he really needed needed to work with an advertising marketing guy. And everyone thinks that Steve Jobs is the marketing genius, behind Apple. But when he was 21, he certainly was not. He hired a guy named Regis McKenna, who was an advertising guy, and did marketing consulting on the side worked with Regis for the first five or six years. And that basically did all the groundwork and branding for Apple and helped Apple become the worldwide brand it is now they did the logo for Apple and did all the things that people don’t realize that they assume that Steve Jobs did all this stuff. So you know, this is why people need to look at marketing. And I know, you know, this not as an expense, but as an investment. That’s what it is, it’s you’re investing in yourself, you’re investing in your business, and like any good investment, it’s not just spending them, it’s money, that’s going to come back to you, you know, hopefully to threefold

Debra Chantry-Taylor  46:50

And increases the value because I was talking to a client actually just just before this podcast, and you know, what they were talking about their practice and their practices is there’s nothing particularly unique or special about it, what they have done is they’ve built a really, really good brand around what they’re doing they and that then has value for when it comes time to sell or for when you want to even borrow money from a bank, you know, be able to show that asset that you have, which is building that brand value. So you’re absolutely right, it’s definitely an investment and you should be looking for return on investment on that as well.

John Follis  47:22

And you touched on something that’s also important when you said brand, a lot of these smaller business owners that when they think of brand, they think of Coke and Pepsi and Pizza Hut and apple and all that stuff. They say, Well, I’m just a small company, you know, I don’t have the millions and millions of dollars to like Coke and Pepsi in McDonald’s. To do a brand Well, you know, I built a brand, being a marketing therapist, that was a brand, you know, I designed a logo with a with a therapist couch and put up content on the you know, the plate off the whole idea of therapy and really worked up really had fun with the idea of marketing therapy. So the point is that you don’t need to have millions of or 1000s, even 1000s of dollars to begin thinking like a big company and start thinking about what your brand is.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  48:15

And of course brand is way more than your logo, it’s the entire delivery to the customer. But even so, even if we just look at something as simple as a logo, I cringe sometimes when I see people’s logos, because you know, I know they’ve done that on Word or Canva, or whatever it is. And it’s like, that’s the first thing that person is going to see of your, your brand experience, which is much, much deeper than that. But it’s the first thing they see. It’s like when you go into a doctor’s surgery and the reception of the first person you see. And so it’s like, wow, why would you not invest and making sure that’s the best possible representation out front and then deliver on the follow through?

John Follis  48:50

I can’t tell you how many times I experienced just what you said. And you know, telling them their logo is not good. It’s a little bit like telling them when they show you their baby pictures that their kid is ugly, it’s ugly. You know, it’s really it’s a it’s a dicey area to like to talk about, right. So I it prompted me to do to do something, because it’s very difficult to basically tell someone they should change their logo. So a few years ago, figuring out what how do I deal with this issue? I came up with the idea of a logo facelift.

Debra Chantry-Taylor  49:29

Oh, yeah. Tell me more.

John Follis  49:32

So and on my if you go to my website, you can see a link that talks about that. But that was a way of kind of confronting this very important issue with basically not telling them that their baby is ugly, you know, and basically say, Well, I think it just needs to be updated a little bit, you know, it’s not a bit of work. Yeah, it just needs to be a little refreshing. So let me tell you about my logo facelift program. And it’s oh, well, what is that? So they at least they would be open to that, you know?

Debra Chantry-Taylor  50:05

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Hey, look, you’ve given us a huge amount of information here. And obviously, if we if you go to this site you’ve got, we’re going to, you can see the logo facelift because the marketing therapists stuff, you’re going to find the link from for the seven key things to find a trusted or market professional. Just in terms of if somebody does want to get in contact with you. What is the website they should go to? How should they contact you, John?

John Follis  50:27

Yeah, it’s my last name followed by Inc I NC my last name is Follis. And that’s spelled F as in Frank, O L L. I S. Inc, I NC follows Very simple,

Debra Chantry-Taylor  50:41

Lovely. And they can make contact through that website with you too. Is that right? Yeah. Hey, look, it’s been it’s been fascinating. It’s really just a little sideline. I actually owned an apartment in Parnell just down the road here in Auckland, and it was called the Syracuse Apartments. And that was hearing you talk about the real Syracuse was actually kind of quite interesting for me, but thank you for your time today. Thank you for all the amazing information that you’ve given us. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I know that you do this with no other intention now than helping people so I appreciate you spending the time with myself and the listeners to come and do that.

John Follis  51:15

It’s my pleasure. Debra, thanks so much for having me on your show.




Debra Chantry-Taylor 

Professional EOS Implementer | Entrepreneurial Leadership & Business Coach | Business Owner

#betterbusinessbetterlife #entrepreneur #leadership #eosimplementer #professionaleosimplementer #entrepreneurialbusinesscoach

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