Will Watrous | Six Marketing Paths to Choose From

Adam LeanPodcast

In his consulting business, StructureM, Will Watrous focuses on helping home improvement contractors improve their marketing. But the tools and techniques he shares can improve the profitability of any business.

With consumers being bombarded with marketing online and offline from the moment they wake up, Will says companies must find a way to cut through the clutter to survive. 

He says one of the best ways to do that is create marketing messages that repel more people than they attract. 

We unpack exactly how that’s beneficial, and also get into…

  • The importance of measuring marketing ROI and how it propels growth
  • The 6 marketing paths you can take – and how to choose the one right for you
  • How to identify your ideal client – it might not be who you think it is
  • Why you must create a foundational strategy for your marketing efforts
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to get more leads and win more customers. We’re going to talk to a marketing expert on how to scale up your business through marketing. This is P is for Profit. 

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project are passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Will Watrous. He’s a certified marketing consultant and CEO of StructureM which is a marketing firm for contractors. Will, welcome to the show.

Will Watrous: Thanks, Adam. Great to be here today.

Adam: I’m excited to dive in because, of course, we all know that sales is one of the most needed things in a business, having more sales. And the best way to get sales is through your marketing efforts. So before we dive in, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started on your path to becoming a marketing consultant and CEO of StructureM.

How Will Became a Marketing Expert

Will: Yeah. So many years ago, I want to say maybe 10 or 12 years ago, I was the de facto marketer for a large nonprofit organization. And when I say de facto, what happened is basically, the executive director of that organization one day said hey, can somebody help me with marketing? I need a little help here. And so I was stupid enough to raise my hand and I proceeded to get loaded with basically the complete marketing responsibilities for the organization. 

So it was trial by fire, just thrown into it and it was a multimillion-dollar organization with a large variety of marketing efforts from, you know, websites and search engine optimization and social media, email marketing, reputation management, all sorts of stuff. So I kind of got thrown into the deep end and just learned by doing. And that’s how I kind of got into the realm of marketing. And a few years later, I actually moved out here. I’m in the Tulsa Oklahoma area. 

My wife wanted to attend college out here so we picked up and moved out here. And I bumped into a friend who had a small local business. It’s actually an auto repair shop. And he was facing some big marketing challenges. And so just out of the kindness of my heart, because he was actually, you know, someone I kind of knew, wasn’t close with him or anything. I said, Hey, you know, let me know if I can help you with those marketing things. And he reached out and said, Oh, my goodness, I need your help. So I wound up just helping him. 

And since he owned an auto repair shop, the deal was, look, I’ll do, I’ll help you here and there with your marketing and you can fix my truck if it breaks down. And so that worked for a little while. Now, he is a really smart businessman. And so at some point, not long after that, he said all right. Well, I’m going to pay you, and I think it was like 500 bucks a month or something like that. He said, I’m gonna pay you because if I want you to do something, I want you to have to do it. Which is smart, right? When you’re on this, like, you know, bartering or whatever, there’s no real commitment there. 

Well, his business grew remarkably, and mostly because he’s an excellent businessman and does great work. And so we were just kind of pouring gas on the fire in that way. And it turned out that he also knew a lot of other business owners. So I started having other business owners coming to me saying, Hey, will you do for us what you’re doing for him? And that is kind of, you know, where this was all born about 10 or 11 years ago. And here we are today. Full agency, you know, and working all over the country with clients everywhere. So yeah, it’s been a fun ride.

Adam: Marketing. I mean, of course, we know that, we’ve all heard of marketing. But I mean, the ultimate goal of marketing is to attract qualified buyers to buy something from me. So, let me ask you this. What is the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to marketing?

The Importance of a Clear, Effective Message

Will: Yeah, great question. You know, something we see a lot of, unfortunately, is that they blend in with all the noise. There is so much marketing going on. We are being bombarded with thousands of messages per day, every day, from the moment you wake up and look at your phone to the drive into work if you commute still. Certainly, if you’re going online, you’re getting bombarded. 

And so, so many companies do not have a clear, effective marketing message that really resonates, that attracts the right people and really repels the wrong people because an effective marketing message actually drives more people away than it attracts. So case in point you just said you want ideal prospects or qualified prospects. Well, that’s not everybody, you know, unless you’re Walmart or Amazon, that’s probably not everybody. And so a lot of companies do not have a clear effective marketing message, which includes, by the way, a very important element of differentiation. How are they different from competitors? 

Why are they different, better and more valuable than someone else, you know, than another company that the customer might be considering doing business with? And that’s probably, you know, the biggest mistake I see. One other one I’ll mention is what I call shiny object syndrome or flavor of the month marketing. And that is, that happens when you have a business owner who is wearing too many hats usually. And there’s no clear strategic direction. There’s not a clear marketing strategy that they’re working overtime. And so they’re getting solicitations by all sorts of marketing companies. 

I mean, it’s kind of funny, I own a marketing agency and I get solicitations from other marketing companies saying hey, we’ll do your marketing for you. And so business owners get bombarded by all of these marketing companies and so they, you know, well, yeah, let’s try this or yeah, let’s try that. So one month, it’s here and the next month it’s there. And over time, that just turns into a giant mess that definitely underperforms, under delivers and doesn’t help them grow their company like they really need it to.

Adam: Yeah. They’re sort of doing a lot of different things, but not doing any one thing well. 

Will: Correct. Yeah. 

Adam: And, you know, a lot of, you know, I’ve worked with clients a lot, you know, of course, and a lot of their marketing coaches or consultants or whoever, their marketing team will say things like, Oh, you should just create, especially digital marketing, create content, write a blog, post, make videos, post on Twitter, all those. 

You know, a lot of it just seems like a waste of time because there’s really no strategy behind it. So I guess, if you were to give, you know, sort of a list of two to three things that a business owner is really not doing anything with marketing right now, where would you have them start? What’s the first, second and third thing that they should do when it comes to marketing?

Tactics For Beginning Your Marketing Campaigns

Will: Yeah. So, you know, it’s funny. A couple of things we’ve already really touched on. And so the strategy before tactics is the mantra. It really is so important because tactics, it’s busywork. You’ll do a lot of activity, you spend a lot of time and energy and money, and you don’t get the return on results. And then if you do all strategy and no tactics, of course, it just has no teeth and you never get anything done. 

So what I would recommend starting with is having a really clear picture of who your ideal client is in the first place. Like, really narrow it down to the point where you might even develop a document like an ideal client profile or a persona. And that really drives everything else. Your company exists because you solve a certain problem for a certain kind of person. And if you’re not really clear on who that certain kind of person is and what that problem that they’re facing is, then man, I feel like everything else is going to suffer. It doesn’t really matter what other kind of marketing you’re doing. 

If you don’t have that down, you’re gonna, you’re not going to do very well. And so that’s the big piece. And then the matching piece to that I would say with this strategy is your messaging. What is your value proposition? What is your differentiation? What is your brand promise? That has to be really clear in order for people to, you know, want to do business with you, as I said, especially with there being so much noise out there today.

Adam: Yeah. No, that makes sense. Yeah, it’s very important. You mentioned, before we started recording this episode, that you have, you came up with these six marketing paths for contractors, things that they need to do, specifically for contractors because you and your firm work with contractors but I’m assuming these are things that almost any business owner can do. So do you want to dive in and tell us what these six marketing paths are? And sort of maybe the pros and cons of each?

The Six Marketing Paths and Their Perks and Caveats

Will: Absolutely, Adam. So this, there’s, you know, this is not judgmental. These are like the valid options in front of businesses that are wanting to grow. And I just kind of like to run through what they are, what are your options and what are the pros and cons of each. And some of, many of these work very well by themselves, but it just kind of depends where you’re at, I guess, in your growth cycle and the maturity of your business, where are you at. 

So the first one is really just depending on referrals. And so the main idea there is you get the most business from people who hear about you from previous customers, of course, and you do that by, you do great work, you be intentional about asking for referrals, you develop maybe a strategic referral network or a partnership program, something like that. 

And that results in strong buyer confidence. So people are coming to you because they’ve heard good things about you. And that’s so nice. You know, Stephen Covey wrote about the speed of trust. That shortens the sales cycle. They’re not having to really, they’re not doubting you or questioning you so much that they’re just willing to do business with you right upfront. And that also allows you sometimes to command higher prices when you have that kind of great reputation. Now, the downside of it is that it can really limit your growth. 

You’re basically at that point dependent on other people to send you business. And that often results in a feast or famine type of lead flow. When things are great, wonderful, but then things dry up and now you’re kind of looking around and wondering what you should be doing in order to generate more business. And so that’s the first one. And Adam, jump in if you have any questions. Otherwise, I’ll just jump on to the second one.

Adam: Just deciding, right. But you’re just saying these are the six different paths or different paths that business owners could take. And the first one would be referral marketing, getting leads through referral, basically. 

Will: Yeah, if they want to grow their business, here’s like six different ways to do it. And these are six different ways that we see people doing it. And sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s not so great. 

Adam: Yeah. No, it makes sense. And I used to belong to a referral organization where we met weekly and passed referrals to each other. And, you know, I have sort of a love-hate relationship because it, you’re absolutely right. It’s a, people that came through referrals are, they trust the person that gave the referrals. So, therefore, I would be able to leverage that trust. They trust me if I got a referral from the person that they trust. But on the downside, if you don’t get any of those referrals, you’re right, it’s this sort of a feast or famine. You have, you’re relying on these other people and you can’t force them to give you referrals. 

Will: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it’s, I think every business should probably have a referral program. But if you’re looking to that as the only or the primary source of new business, then you’ve got, I think you should have some real concerns about that. 

Adam: Yeah. Excellent.

Will: Yeah. Second one is shiny object syndrome or the shotgun approach, I call it. And that’s what happens is marketing kind of gets treated as an afterthought. You know, it’s really important when business is slow but it’s not important when business is busy. And so business owners typically entertain a variety of tactics. There’s a lot of trial and error, just sporadic marketing attempts. 

And a lot, as I mentioned, a lot of times just getting sold a marketing tactic by various vendors or companies trying to sell them marketing tools or tricks or whatever. And there’s no coordinated effort or comprehensive plan really tying it all together. So, you know, there’s actually pros and cons to that as well. It’s low cost, It’s low risk, it’s convenient, it makes it easy to lay blame when it doesn’t work. You know, that’s, I suppose a pro. 

The downside is that you waste a lot of time, you waste a lot of money, the results are lackluster and it’s pretty frustrating at the end of the day. And that’s why we call it flavor of the month marketing are shiny object syndrome. And unfortunately, we see a lot of really busy business owners become a victim to that. Yeah, so the third one is where the business owner orchestrates multiple marketing vendors. And so what that means is, they basically outsource key pieces of their marketing to different vendors. 

And they endeavor, the business owner endeavors to keep them all pointed in the same direction. And so they might hire specialists for various marketing efforts. For example, they have a website developer, or a website company. They might have another company that manages their Google ads, digital ads Pay Per Click ads, for example. They might have another company that does all their social media content. They might have another company or person yet that does their email marketing. And so, you know, just, and they’re the quarterback. 

The business owner is the quarterback kind of keeping everybody in line. The benefit of that is you do have a pretty high level of expertise in each one of those individual areas because that vendor specializes, let’s say, in email marketing. So they, you know, they have best practices, they know how to do that well. The problem comes with a lot of disjointed efforts. So the business owner or maybe the marketing director has to do a really good job, be diligent to keep everybody on the same page in the same direction. And so that takes lots of time managing and communicating. 

There’s also usually a learning curve for your industry. So whatever kind of business you have, an email marketing firm might do email marketing for all different kinds of industries. And so there might be a, they sometimes, there’s some trial and error, some learning money dollars you need to spend for them just to kind of understand how they can leverage their expertise in your niche or your industry. So that’s that third one is where the, again, they’re, the business owner is orchestrating multiple marketing vendors and trying to keep them on the same page. 

Adam: Yeah, I’ve seen that a lot with especially internet-based businesses where they’ll have like a Google Ads specialist run part of it and then an email marketing, like you said, and an SEO company. All these things are just, they’re highly specific, and you need to be an expert in almost every area. But you’re right, it does lead to a lot of disjointed, you know, marketing efforts. 

Will: Absolutely. The fourth option that we see is a company will hire an in house marketer. So and I say, I use hire loosely, a lot of times that is merely an office admin or a systems are someone kind of like how I started. And they say, hey, you’re gonna start doing marketing. And that person may or may not have a very high level of marketing expertise, but nonetheless, it’s their realm to dominate. So they get handed all of this stuff and maybe trained. And so there’s some, again, pros and cons of that. 

A pro, a good thing is that you have a high level of input and control over that. They’re on staff, they’re right there in the office and you’re communicating with them pretty regularly. And another thing is that communication is probably quite efficient. They know the company, they know what, you know, what’s going on. You don’t have to bring them up to speed all the time on what you’re trying to do with the company. 

So that’s good. But the downside of this option of an in house marketer often is it’s a limited skill set. Most companies aren’t going to hire $150,000 a year marketing executive who really do does know what they’re doing and knows how to bring it all together. And so, you know, for example, can this marketing manager, do they know how to manage Google ads, which is like its own world? Or do they understand search engine optimization? 

And so you know, there’s a limited skill set. Also, it’s going to require some pretty significant oversight and management of that person. Typically, there’s trial and error experiences, results typically are kind of mediocre with hiring someone in house. They’re kind of trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. But it’s, hey, it’s better than nothing. That’s why I say there’s no judgment here. If you self-identify with any one of these, it’s fine. It’s great. Just know what the pros and cons are, and maybe that’ll help you navigate to a higher level.

Adam: Oh, that makes sense.

Will: Great. So this fifth one, and we’ll finish up here and though the sixth one in a second, but the fifth one is hiring a marketing agency, you know, nearby in your city. Someone you know, someone close by geographically. And you hire them to manage all of your marketing. And hopefully, you have an agency that at least specializes in small business marketing or in local marketing. 

And the nice thing about that as you can offload almost all of your marketing tasks and you have a centralized single point of contact with that agency and they’re going to manage everything for you. The one possible downside here is if they’re just local, in other words, they’re a small local agency, you run the risk of, especially if it’s just like a friend of a friend type of situation, the results can be not great. They can be mediocre. They’re doing marketing but they’re, the ROI might not be as high as it should be. 

Part of the reason is that they might have a longer learning curve for your industry. In other words, they’re, you know, you’re going to spend some money on quote-unquote testing, so that they can really understand what works for you. Even though they might do local business marketing, every business is different. And so sometimes, you know, that takes some money to get them up to speed and some time to get up to speed as well. So that’s the fifth one. 

And then I’ll finish out here with the sixth one. And that is to partner with a growth, structure and is what I call a contractor growth agency. And so, basically, the difference, and here’s my differentiation, right, is that we specialize, in my case, with home improvement contractors, and we serve contractors all over the country. And so I have a team here of all these specialists, so if it’s search engine optimization or digital advertising, messaging development, you know, do you differentiate against competitors really well. We do email marketing, social media. Basically, all the things that contractors should do to grow their business as quickly as possible. 

And we’ve got a proven track record. Typically, clients spend, get a minimum of a 10 to one return on investment. So $10 with, excuse me, $1 with us will generate a minimum of $10 in revenue. So anyways, I can go on and on. But the main idea here is that they’re working with a highly specialized firm who knows their industry and can bring it all under one roof for them. It’s like a one-stop-shop. And so if you’re not a contractor, whatever niche business industry you’re in, chances are there’s going to be a firm, a growth agency, someone who can really partner with you and who knows your business already. 

They’re already serving many clients that are just like you and they can leverage all of that experience and expertise for you to accelerate your results. So that’s the sixth option. I would recommend that one. You know, there are cons to it I’ll say though. You know, you can’t complain about lead flow anymore and you can’t hide other business problems, you know, if you’re getting a lot of growth there, there’s no more excuses. So I guess that’s a con.

Adam: Yeah. It’s refreshing to hear you say that you are like a growth agency and that you measure the return that your clients will get because that’s a, one of the things that I dislike about a lot of marketing agencies or people that do marketing for clients, in general, is that they spend money but you have no idea what it’s producing. 

Like I had a client who bought several billboards, they’re local business, bought several billboards and they had no idea if that was even the right strategy but the person sold it to them just wanted, you know, just told them it was a good idea because they just needed a sale. But, you know, like you said you spend $1, get $10 back. I mean, that’s a $10, you know, is 10% you know, spend on marketing. That’s pretty good. I would spend a million dollars a day if I can get, if I can maintain a 10% return on marketing of spend of revenue.

Finding the Right Approach for Your Business

Will: Yeah, absolutely. So with that billboard example you mentioned, you know, I just wish that that person could connect with a growth agency who knows, first of all, whether or not they should even be using billboards. Not, you know, talking to a billboard company, but talking with someone who can direct not only say, yes, you need to use billboards, here’s what areas of the city they should go in and here’s what should be on the billboard. Like, you don’t need to be figuring all this stuff out. 

There are people out there who know it. And so you just need to link up with people. And yeah, ROI is, so our average client grows 15 to 50% in revenue per year, year after year, and the return on investment is so critical because that’s, at the end of the day, that’s what this is all about. It’s just an investment. It’s not an expense, it’s just an investment. And it has to perform. And if you’re not measuring that are able to measure that, then you’re kind of shooting in the dark. 

Adam: Absolutely. I mean, I believe that every expense that a business spends has to produce a return. If it’s not, why spend the money? I mean, that’s the whole point of spending it. And that’s especially true with marketing because at the end of the day, the whole point of marketing is to get revenue. And then from that, the goal is to keep as much of that revenue as possible. So, Will, this has been very helpful. So if anybody listening, especially contractors, because I know I have a, you know, there’s a lot of contractors that are listening to this, where can they find you and StructureM?

Will: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Adam. So structurem.com is the website, And then, of course, any social media channels you like to use, we can be found there. But yeah, we’re online. We’re up to date. 2020. we have a website.

Adam: Well, Will, thank you so much for being here. And anybody listening that needs help with marketing, especially if you’re a contractor, please reach out. I’ll put Will’s website into the show notes so you’ll be able to click on it and go directly to the website. But thank you so much for listening. And remember, the goal of your business should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.