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IAM1780 – Marketing Strategist Helps Small Businesses Market and Manage Better

Podcast Interview with Ray Sidney-Smith

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless Jr. interviews Ray Sidney-Smith, the President of W3 Consulting, which helps small businesses use web, mobile, social, and digital technologies to market and manage better. Sidney-Smith is also the author of “SoLoMo Success: Social Media, Local and Mobile Marketing Small Business Strategy Explained” and a digital marketing strategist with certifications from Google, Evernote, and Hootsuite.

Throughout the episode, Ray shares valuable insights on digital marketing and management strategies for small businesses. He emphasizes the importance of understanding a business's purpose and values, and aligning marketing efforts with those principles. He also discusses the benefits of using productivity tools like Evernote and Hootsuite to streamline workflow and improve efficiency.

In addition to sharing his expertise, Ray also offers practical tips and resources for small business owners. He recommends the book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-free Productivity” by David Allen as a helpful resource for improving productivity and reducing stress. He also encourages entrepreneurs to embrace failure and learn from mistakes in order to grow and improve their businesses.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights and advice for small business owners looking to improve their marketing and management strategies.

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Ray Sidney-Smith Teaser 00:00

Most people say marketing and they don't understand that marketing strategy really includes product development, it includes your pricing strategy, it includes your promotional strategy. What most people think of as marketing, they really mean promotion and of course placement where are you going to distribute your product and make it available to others?

Intro 00:16

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you are in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:43

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners. Or what I like to call the CB nation architects, those that are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focusing on knowing thy numbers. I could hear the phrases from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank, and if you understand or don't understand exactly what numbers is, think finance, economics, accounting, capital, investment, funding, bootstrapping, anything that's around numbers. So we have to understand how important it is to know your numbers and how important that is for you to forecast, make decisions, and to be able to truly strategize around your business and do that successfully.

Things are gonna be a little bit different, obviously, this month. So look for CEO hacks and CEO nuggets and interviews that focus around this. But more than everything else, make sure that you know your numbers because they're extremely important to the life of your business.

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting. Ray, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Ray Sidney-Smith 02:09

Great to be here. Thanks, Gresh.

Gresham Harkless 02:11

No problem. Super excited to have you on and before we jump in, I wanted to read a little bit more about Ray so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing.

Ray is the president and CEO of W3 Consulting, which helps small businesses use web, mobile, social, and digital technologies to market and manage better. He's also the author of SoLoMO Success, Social Media, Local and Mobile Marketing, Small Business Strategies Explained. Ray is also the managing director of W3C Web services, which provides WordPress and website hosting domain name registration services and related web services affordable for all small businesses.

As a digital marketing strategist, Google's small business advisor for productivity, Evernote certified consultant, Evernote regional leader for North America, and Hootsuite global brand manager, Global brand Ambassador Ray is often invited by economic development organizations to speak to small and medium-sized business audiences, facilitate group training and conduct strategy sessions with small business owners on management and marketing strategy as well as productivity technologies.

Ray, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Ray Sidney-Smith 03:15

I certainly am.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:16

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Awesome. Let's do it. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, and hear a little bit more on how you got started. Could you take us through what I call your CEO story? What let you get started with your business.

Ray Sidney-Smith 03:26

Yeah, so my story's actually rather entwined with my current client base, which is that I had just wrapped up exiting my prior company. So I had started a real estate company back in 2000, and I'd run that and decided to exit the company. I saw the writing on the wall in terms of the economic downturn and just decided to leave that. After exiting that business, I was just deciding what I would do next. My background was in legal technology. I had then run a small business, running a real estate company and didn't really know what I wanted to do.

At that time, I had been volunteering for the local SBDC in Alexandria, Virginia, and one day I was just in a conversation with the executive director, Bill Reagan. I'd known him for many years at that point, and it feels crazy that now it's been nearly 20 years that I've known him. But he said to me, 11 years ago now, you know what you should teach social media to small businesses. You really have a knack for understanding how to do that. And I said I could teach them for the SBDC. I could just come in and do some workshops and seminars. That's how it all started.

I came and I taught some full-day workshops on Facebook. Back then, 11 years ago, people didn't quite know what to do about Facebook. They didn't understand Twitter. They didn't understand LinkedIn. I just started teaching classes for the SBDC on how to get set up and how to really think about your marketing strategy in the context of a business. That's how it all began. I started working for the SBDC and then later the state office. The Virginias SBDC network then asked me to come and do work for them and it was a snowball effect. Other SBDCs around the country and more broadly, more economic development agencies started to ask me to do work for them, helping their clients understand how to do digital marketing strategy.

That's where the book came from. I just basically said, if I got hit by a bus, what would I want to pass along to others if I weren't able to be there? SoLoMo Success was born and now I'm finishing the second edition of that book and I am going to be retitling it because I know how difficult it is to say. But the book came really out of that part of me wanting to really share with everybody what I'd learned over time from helping not only my own businesses marketing on the web, but also all the businesses that I'd been meeting one-to-one and in workshops and seminars, really helping them understand how to contextualize digital marketing for this age, for the digital age.

So that book came together and yeah it's been a real wild ride not having ever planned to be doing this type of economic development work.

Gresham Harkless 05:51

Yeah, it makes so much sense. I think the beauty of what you do and that me having been a recipient of sitting down across from you and then taking in some of that knowledge is, I think there's still so much to learn and people still are trying to find out exactly how to leverage all these digital marketing strategies.

So that's why I love everything that you do and of course provide the overall community.

Ray Sidney-Smith 06:08

Yeah. The thing is that the technology keeps changing. So I tell anybody who's out there, if you're a CEO and you're confused about how the technology works, you are not alone. The technology just keeps moving. Just in the last week, there have been five major announcements from the social networks about new functions and new tools and new features that could be potentially game-changing if you wanted to take advantage of those different pieces. So, don't be too shocked by the fact that you may not understand all that there is about technology.

I always say, take a piece of the pie, figure out that piece of the pie, become successful there, and then grow especially when it comes to digital marketing because you could literally do nothing but digital marketing all day. I don't know about you, but the rest of us have a business to run. So pay attention to folks like me who are educating, but really choose your poison. Choose the particular social network, the particular marketing channel that you really want to go after, and then the rest can stand on the sidelines.

I consider them syndication channels, so there's gonna be one primary network where I'm gonna be highly focused and then the others are gonna be where I syndicate to them through automated means or otherwise. That allows me to be able to really focus on where I have my community and everywhere else ends up being a place where I can draw people from to where I am generally most active.

Gresham Harkless 07:23

I know you work with these economic development centers and these organizations that provide a lot of value for the community. Could you take us through exactly how that works and the relationship you have with them and how that kind of trickles down to the small and medium-sized business owner?

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Ray Sidney-Smith 07:37

Sure. So my clients are economic development agencies around the country traditionally. So that's just the way the business developed. What will happen is, say in the SBDC model, the Small Business Development Center model, they're program of the SBA, the Small Business Administration. We have 900 SBDC throughout the country and a couple of other tangential programs like score and SBDC and the import-export trade Program and so forth.

What they typically do is hire me to do a seminar or a workshop or to do some level of one-to-one counseling with small businesses. So what will happen is I will end up meeting with anywhere from 20 to 80 different clients, one-to-one throughout any given month. I'm just like with you here, Gresh, we're one-to-one. We're talking about whatever issues you're dealing with in terms of your business. It's remarkable because most people think of me as the digital marketing expert for small businesses. But it's so varied the number of issues that come up in one-to-one counseling with businesses.

It could be a business management problem, it could be a business process improvement problem, it could be just a legal issue where we need to refer them to legal counsel or to tax counsel, or to someone who can help them with those issues before they can really get their real marketing strategy in place. Most people say marketing and they don't understand that marketing strategy really includes product development. It includes your pricing strategy, it includes your promotional strategy. What most people think of as marketing, they really mean promotion and of course placement, where are you going to distribute your product and make it available to others?

So I'm thinking about a business and a very holistic perspective. When it comes to the SPDC, we're really helping them with business plan development or lean canvas development. When they're looking at getting help from us, I wanna make sure that they're gonna be on solid ground when they leave the door, usually a little bit head spun because they're getting a lot of information, rapid fire at them. They usually have 45 minutes to an hour with me and and those services are provided free of cost through the SPDC. I'm doing the work for the SPDC and they're providing those services free to the general public, to the businesses in their jurisdictions.

That's my traditional business. I do have, as you noted at the top, I have a web hosting and domain registration business that kind of just came out of the need that, people would come to me and say, you know what? I really need a website and a domain, and I don't know where to go and I'd say I can create easily do that for you. And so just started to go from there. I charge a very nominal rate. I wanna make sure people just have access to it when they need that and I'm happy to hand them off to bigger and better hosting Hosts when they need to because there are gonna be circumstances where we're just not the right fit. So I don't have any real vested interest in that other than helping people where they need it.

We have world class servers and great domain registration, but still there are gonna be people who need something different. So yeah, that's how the whole business is really run. I do take on a small set of consulting contracts throughout the year. It's like one of those things, if you're not doing it, you don't stay sharp, right? And so I do like to take on a few clients and and do that work to make sure that I am staying sharp in executing on the marketing strategies that I'm continually educating and giving to our clients throughout the network. What happens is that I get pretty quick feedback from folks because dissimilar to an individual, small business owners, when they execute a marketing strategy, they do it and then they see success or don't.

For me, I'm seeing sometimes thousands of small businesses executing on my advice so I'm able to then get really rapid feedback and know whether or not something's working, and then I can step back and say, okay, how can we tweak this so that it helps the vast majority of businesses who are coming in the doors? So that's really useful for me in terms of being able to not only understand what marketing strategies work or don't work but then being able to tailor them for the businesses as they come to me, one-to-one.

Gresham Harkless 11:16

Yeah. That makes so much sense. And I feel like, I don't know if you would consider that to be what I call your secret sauce.

Ray Sidney-Smith 11:21

I tend to think of my secret sauce is that I'm extremely curious. The reality is that since my earliest memories in life, I have always been just extremely curious about everything in my world. So when a business owner comes in the door and they've got a new product idea, they wanna build something and they're thinking about 3D modeling it and doing a 3D print and showing it to me, I'm just interested. I'm in the Dale Carnegie Sense, just being genuinely interested in the other person.

It's just built in. I don't know why I have it, it is just there. But if you give me a TI 86 from 1987, I will want to take it apart and put it back together again. If you told me that you were trying to start a business that was helping indigenous tribes in Malawi, I would be interested. I'm just generally interested in the world and so it just has always served me well.

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Gresham Harkless 12:14

That makes so much sense. Everything happens for a reason, so to speak. So, I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what do you feel makes you more effective and efficient?

Ray Sidney-Smith 12:26

Outside of small business marketing, I think the most I'm known online about or in the world about is actually productivity. I'm a huge productivity geek and while maybe some people know about this, I don't think enough people practice it. So I always talk about Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. It's a book and the most recent edition came out in March, 2015. I actually had the pleasure of recently sitting down to interview David Allen himself. He's now 75, I think it is in December of 2020. Just talking to him about his life and work and the way in which it benefits a CEO is that your time is basically how you manifest the future.

So like your present time, whether you are planning, executing, or reflecting on the past or future, you have to spend your time well. What GTD or the getting things done Methodology really helps you do is understand that time is only fungible through action, and you have to understand what actions you're taking on any given day.

Gresham Harkless 13:28

I appreciate that hack. So I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. That could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Ray Sidney-Smith 13:40

I would say to make mistakes early as often and then write them down.

Gresham Harkless 13:44

Absolutely. I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on the show.

So Ray, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Ray Sidney-Smith 13:54

I would think of being a CEO as being personally responsible for what I call the 4 Ps. So that is in essence purpose. You have to have a mission and vision for the company. If the company doesn't have a purpose beyond. The second P, which is profitability, purpose, really needs to be there to begin with. So I really believe in having some kind of core purpose to the business that is beyond yourself that is beyond profit.

The second P is profitability. You are running a business, you're not running a charity. Some people are running a charity and even then, people in charity know that you need to make money, you need to have money coming in the door, either through fundraising or other ancillary services. Otherwise, the nonprofit's not gonna last very long. So you have to have purpose, you have to have profitability.

You have to have a responsibility to people that is the whole community. So it's not just about your clients, but also your employees, your vendors, and your other stakeholders. So I think it's really important for us to think about people as that third P.

Then the fourth P, and this sometimes can sound different to different people, but it's the planet. The fourth P is the planet. The reality is that the resources that you consume on planet Earth are shared among all of us. If you care about the community, you have to care about the planet.

Gresham Harkless 15:04

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 of course, how best they can get hold of you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

Ray Sidney-Smith 15:17

Yeah, sure. So if folks have any questions based on what we discussed today, I'm always happy to answer questions. I guess you can always find me on Twitter at w3consulting. I'm a Twitter fan, fanatic maybe, but people can find me on Twitter.

From there you'll basically find all kinds of other goodies from my podcast to the website and anything else you might need, Twitter's a good one stop shop for people to find me.

Gresham Harkless 15:42

Awesome, awesome. To make it even easier, we'll have the links and information on the show notes that everybody can tweet with you as well.

But again, I truly appreciate your time. I appreciate your work and all the awesome things you do as well, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 15:54

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at 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 This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

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(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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