IAM680- Entrepreneurs Helps Brands Level-up Their Marketing Campaigns

Podcast Interview with Dan Golden

Dan Golden is a veteran digital marketing executive, entrepreneur, and business innovator. Dan is a search geek at heart and still spends time auditing accounts, testing new tactics, diving into analytics, and making strategic recommendations for his clients. Dan has spent time on the client side, with large agencies and had a brief stint at Google before launching BFO. As President and co-founder of the Chicago-based digital agency, BFO has been awarded as Ad Age’s #1 Best Place to Work and a 6-time Inc. 5,000 honoree as well as recognition for client work from the US Search Awards, Landy Awards, and the US Drum Search Awards.

Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Mashable have featured Dan’s thought leadership. He speaks regularly at conferences like ANA Marketing Futures, Conscious Capitalism, Pubcon, HeroConf, and Inbound and is an Adjunct Lecturer on Digital Marketing at DePaul University and a guest lecturer at Northwestern University.

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Website: http://www.befoundonline.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dangolden/

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[00:00:02.20] – Intro

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, start-ups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkness values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I am CEO CEO podcast.

[00:00:30.19] – Gresham Harkless

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Dan Golden of Be Found Online. Dan, it's awesome to have you on the show.

[00:00:39.70] – Dan Golden

Happy to be here.

[00:00:41.29] – Gresham Harkless

Definitely happy to have you on. Before we jump in, I wanted to read a little bit more about Dan so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. Dan is a veteran digital marketing executive, entrepreneur, and business innovator. Dan is a search geek at heart and still spends time auditing accounts, testing new tactics, diving into analytics, and making strategic recommendations for his clients. Dan has spent time on the client side with large agencies and had a brief stint at Google before launching BFO.

As the president and co-founder of the Chicago-based digital marketing agency, BFO has been awarded as Ad Age's number one best place to work and a six-time Inc. Five thousand honorees as well as recognition for client work from the US Search Awards, Landy Awards, and the US Drum Search Awards. Forbes, Huffington Post Incorporated, Inc. Magazine, and Mashable have featured Dan's thought leadership as well. He speaks regularly at conferences like ANA, Marketing Futures, Conscious Capitalism, PubCom, Herocom, and Inbound, and is an adjunct lecturer on digital marketing at DePaul University and a guest lecturer at Northwestern University. Dan, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

[00:01:50.50] – Dan Golden 

I am. That was a mouthful. Thank you for the intro.

[00:01:53.40] – Gresham Harkless

No problem. I was definitely gonna say you're definitely a rock star. I'm glad you have everything in the back to, prove that as well too, but I wanted to kind of rewind the clock a little bit. Could you take us through, what I would call your your CEO story and let you get started with the business?

[00:02:08.09] – Dan Golden

Yeah. Sure. I, well, funny, funny to mention that because, I was touring with the band out of college and, needed a side gig, and I was either gonna work at a cigar store or, I found a search engine marketing internship back in two thousand three. Right. Right when Google launched, then AdWords. So  I think I picked the right thing. That's amazing. And, you know,  I'm that got me into the industry, and I, I loved it. You know, I started, I had a day job working on the client side and, my brother was just launching the company and I explained all this search marketing stuff that I did for him and or that I did, and he was like, can you do that for my business? And, of course, I said, sure. So I had this side gig for probably five or six years. You know, I worked for a big agency. We were acquired by Google actually while I was, while I was at a performance in DoubleClick, and always had this sort of gig on the side, and, you know, grew through referrals and was servicing since I called it my six to ten, not the nine to five.

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[00:03:14.90] – Gresham Harkless


[00:03:15.80] – Dan Golden

I guess more realistically, it was like six till two, in the morning. And, you know, eventually, I decided it was the right time to, take a plunge with both feet and and start, what turned into a real company.

[00:03:30.30] – Gresham Harkless

Nice. Well, I definitely appreciate that. And I'm sure as you've seen, from the very beginning, I'm sure search and and how people are finding and and connecting online has probably transitioned a tremendous amount.

[00:03:42.30] – Dan Golden

It has. I mean, that industry I mean, I officially launched the company in, in two like, in the middle of a recession. Right? Mhmm. The, in, you know, two thousand eight and two thousand nine when, when I jumped in and made it official. Obviously, you know, as we think right now, and I know this is getting published in June, perilous times. Right? You know, this is conceivable, you know, at a time like that, do you stick with the big company day job, or is that when you jump in with both feet and, and start a company? I would say search and the type of marketing that we focused on was certainly in the, you know, in the right place at the right time.

You know, there were a lot of companies pulling back on marketing and budgets, but they were moving it to what I was doing and moving it away from TV and other channels. Right? A lot of companies were hurting then. And just we sort of look at the marketplace now, There's a lot of companies that are, that are hurting. Many aren't gonna make it, and some that are thriving right now. So it's, you know, it's I can't say that I had predicted where the hockey puck was going, but, happened to be in the right place as we were just getting started.

[00:04:54.50] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. No. It's definitely a big thing, but it's great to hear. You know, I think so many times I've heard and I read that you know, during, you know, bad economic times, sometimes some of the best businesses are started during those times. So it's great to definitely have one, for sure on the mic. So, I know I touched on it a little bit when I read your bio. Could you take us through exactly what you do and how you work with the clients you have?

[00:05:15.60] – Dan Golden

Yeah. Absolutely. And that, that is how we do it and how we work with clients, I would say is one of the big transitions we're working on right now, of repositioning the agency. Traditionally, ad agencies were outsourcing marketing departments. Right? So a brand had a marketing manager and we still have a lot of lot of brands we work with in this capacity where we've got a budget, whether it's twenty thousand or two hundred k a month, and, it's our job to help them spend that most effectively and report on the outcomes. As we look at where the industry stands now, there are a lot more in-house teams and a lot more marketers.

Right? Like, that ten years ago when I started this thing, like, you couldn't hire a search engine marketer because there were six of us and they needed six hundred. Okay. So, you know, it wasn't that rare, but, the dynamics are changing and what brands need from age agencies is changing. And so, you know, we're we're moving our service model to be more nimble, more of an extension of in-house teams. We're taking on more engagements where we're adding a ton of value but not in a full-service capacity because there are brand-side marketers who own certain pieces of the puzzle. And so, you know, as an agency guy, it's sort of there's always been this tension of, like, in-house teams are the enemy, because plenty of agencies get that, like, you know, get that call off, like, we're taking it in house, which is a very nice way of saying you're fired.

[00:06:41.60] – Gresham Harkless


[00:06:42.50] – Dan Golden

And so, you know, we're we're trying to swim with the stream instead of swimming up it. And, you know, we've got a lot of great engage like, we great engagements where there are full-time search marketers or full-time programmatic buyers on the client side and we are helping them with media strategy, some brands that, have the brains and need the hands, and we're executing builds and trafficking and doing some of the, what I would consider, lower value work, that is just that is outsourced because of capacity issues. So, you know, that's one thing is you sort of look at the marketplace now of just, you know, challenging what your traditional service models have been, and, you know, finding, approaching things differently other competitors are.

Because that's that's something as a marketing agency, like, we all say we have great people and do great work. I believe it's true. We've got awards and history and accolades and all that to, you know, to back up those statements. A lot of agencies don't necessarily, but there are a lot of great agencies out there. And, you know, a big part of that is just, I would say, embracing our personality and our goofiness and the things that we care about in the world, the movements that we align with like conscious capitalism and the small giant's community. I'm hoping that by the time this podcast is published we will, officially be a B Corp. So some of that is just being authentic and embracing who you are and trying to try to work with other companies that align with those values, you know, just to reduce that friction.

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[00:08:19.30] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. That makes so much sense. I appreciate you for breaking that down, and I think I always often say, like, you can never lose a race if you're running your own race. I think a lot of times when we get in, you know, other races or we're trying to run somebody else's race, that's when we get in trouble. So that alignment that you spoke to, you know, obviously, from a personal standpoint, but definitely from a business standpoint, starts to rain through and it gives you a different, I think, deeper communication you have with your clients because not only are you able to service them which I think, of course, is important, but being able to kinda connect with them on an even deeper level is a huge thing.

[00:08:54.70] – Dan Golden

It is, and it's, it's something you can't fake.

[00:08:57.39] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. There you go. You're you're absolutely right. And, so I might have already touched on this, but I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. And it could be for you personally or your business, but what do you feel kinda sets you apart and makes you unique?

[00:09:12.29] – Dan Golden

Well, I'm not wearing it right now. Well, I got I got a little bit of orange on. Okay. You know, I kinda have my signature shtick when I'm speaking at conferences, and it is it's that authentic thing. It's embracing the weird. You know, I think having a company culture that, you know, that isn't homogeneous, it's it lets people be who they are, and that goes for on client calls. Now there's still some measure of decorum that, you know, we're all professionals. It's a little, it's it's certainly unique because we have a we've had a lot of remote employees. We've embraced that since day one. Mhmm. So this this transition to working remotely is, that part of it has not been hard for us. It certainly, you know, I think gives us an advantage, right now as companies are adjusting. And, you know, I think it's just being authentic and embracing, some of those intangibles and, you know, the way we approach a business is you gotta be having fun while you're doing this stuff.

[00:10:16.29] – Gresham Harkless

I definitely appreciate that. So I wanted to, switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

[00:10:29.39] – Dan Golden

Alright. Hacks. IFTTT in Zapier. I'm a nerd at heart and I'm inherently lazy, like most of us are. So, you know, I'm, I've done some some work on on where my what I call it the lower left quadrant. If you've been through EOS, there's the stuff you're great at and love to do, and, that's the opposite of what's in the lower left-hand quadrant, and just automating all the little things, that, that drive you nuts and that, that take time. If you've got a, you know, a big budget in a large company, you could have, you know, a PA that does a lot of that for you. But, outsourcing low-value activities, creates ways to automate things.

If I have a blog that I like that I want my marketing team to write about and I wanna remember to read later, I can tag it with the read with Pocket. It's one of my favorite apps. If I tag it with a certain thing, I can just tag an article in Pocket and it will get sent to my marketing team that has a writer that drafts up a post that I can review in a different document. And, again, there are always little things that are not a big deal to do, but that adds up over over time.

[00:11:41.29] – Gresham Harkless

Yeah. Absolutely. And I think transparency, as you said, you know, goes a long way, obviously, within the team. But as we talked about, you know, just, you know, business-wise as well too. So, I think it's something we definitely should all, definitely strive for and implement as much as possible. So, I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. So that could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, or if you were to hop into a time machine, what might you tell your younger business self?

[00:12:06.79] – Dan Golden

I think I did follow some of this. It's, skip your business plan and go where the food is. You know, when I launched my agency, our initial business plan, which was written on the back of a napkin at a diner in Las Vegas in the middle of the night, was to go after hot tub dealers. Because one of our first clients was a hot tub dealer. They had a, their manufacturer got us involved, and we were gonna you know, that that was gonna be our model. We were gonna find other manufacturing companies. Along the way, we picked up some agency partners that brought us enterprise brands where we could have one client that has eight hundred locations and shifted the model. We've done that a half dozen times. You know, in some sense, you can't just jump from one thing to another every time an opportunity comes along, but, you know, our ability over the years to to

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[00:13:14.60] – Gresham Harkless

we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So, Dan, what does being a CEO mean to you?

[00:13:21.39] – Dan Golden

I and you sent this question ahead of time and I still don't have a clear answer on this. You know, it's the, because I have a, well, let me just talk to some of the nuances. I have a fifty-fifty partner. Mhmm. Early on, neither one of us knew the difference between a CEO and a president, and we literally flipped the coin and we're like, well, we need to It seems like those are two titles we should have. So, like, let's let's pick them. You know, and the, as as we've evolved, my role is I'm actually not as much of a CEO. I'm, Steve, my partner, his role is more in the business and operating the business, and mine is more focused on growth nurturing partnerships, and getting out there as a thought leader. So, you know, I think it is, every company needs something different. The simple one, it's the decision maker.

[00:14:17.10] – Gresham Harkless

I definitely appreciate that, perspective, and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional. You can let our readers and listeners know, and then, of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about what you and your team are doing.

[00:14:33.29] – Dan Golden

Sure. Well, I can be found online. It's not just a clever name. So feel free to, track me down on on LinkedIn or any of the other channels. I'm, find findable there. And, if you do please mention this podcast. I get a ton of connection requests and, am always happy to help or talk shop or, offer my perspective, and I truly mean that. My one lead behind is just knowing what year this is. One thing we're doing that we started in twenty sixteen is closing our office on election day, and canceling all the meetings, telling our team to go vote or volunteer in their communities. So that's my one takeaway. If you have the opportunity to do that within your organization, it's a simple easy gesture.

I know more complicated for retail businesses, but, you know, take a look at your business and and see how and where you can have an impact in your community. Even if you're a three-person company, you can you can have an impact within, your company and your community and, find a find a way that you can leverage leverage your business, whatever it is you do, to make the world a little bit better than than what you found.

[00:15:45.20] – Gresham Harkless

Awesome. Thank you so much, again, Dan, for, your awesome words of wisdom and, of course, your your time. And we will have the links and information in the show notes, but I think it's it's a great reminder, you know, obviously, you know, for election day or whatever it might be, like, we have, you know, more opportunities to be great leaders than we sometimes give ourselves credit for. And so many things like that, create, you know, a much better world and and have the people that are in our teams and on our teams reminded of, you know, what we stand for, what we hope to do and accomplish. So definitely appreciate that again, and I hope you have a great rest of the day.

[00:16:20.10] – Outro

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


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This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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