Embracing Sales & Marketing To Drive Revenue Growth

Welcome to the Rialto Marketing Podcast. Today's episode is a Revenue Acceleration Series Interview where we talk to seven-figure B2B professional service firm owners that are actively trying to grow their business and get to the next level. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly so that you can learn from their experience.

Join Tim Fitzpatrick and Bryan Hornung for this week’s episode of The Rialto Marketing Podcast!

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Embracing Sales & Marketing To Drive Revenue Growth



Tim Fitzpatrick
Welcome to the Rialto Marketing Podcast. Today's episode is a Revenue Acceleration Series Interview, where we interview seven figure B2B professional service firm owners that are actively trying to grow their business and get to the next level. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly so you can learn from their experience. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks if you want to accelerate revenue growth. I am super excited to have with me today Bryan Hornung from Xact Cybersecurity and IT. Brian, welcome and thanks for being here.

Bryan Hornung
Hey, Tim, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I'm looking forward to digging into this with you. Learn more from your journey. First, I want to ask three rapid fire questions. Are you ready to rock and roll?

Bryan Hornung
I'm ready.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay, very quickly, what do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Bryan Hornung
Sure, we protect businesses from losing everything to cyber criminals, and we also have a managed IT services businesses where we are basically the IT department for a lot of small businesses out there. We've been in business for 18 years now.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Congratulations on that. That is no small feat. What's the most important lesson that you've learned in the 18 years of running your business?

Bryan Hornung
Wow. A number one, there's never a destination. This is a journey. Every day is a challenge. Every day, I'm growing and learning as a leader, and I think one of our core values is embrace change. And that's something that I've had to do since the beginning. And changing as a leader, as somebody who can coach people, can bring the best out of people. Not really something I expected that I'd be doing 18 years ago. I just thought I'd be helping people with computers, and I really had to work on myself first to get to the point where I could lead other people effectively. And I think that's one of the biggest learning lessons, on top of the fact that at the end of the day, with business in general, it's about growth, it's about new business, it's about revenue, and none of that happens without sales and marketing. And as a very technically gifted and minded person, that doesn't come very easy where I have competitors who are not technical like me, and they're more salesy and marketing focused, and their growth has exploded compared to a lot of my friends who are the technical side of things. So really, I had to embrace probably about a decade into my business, I really had to embrace changing my mindset from it's not all about the tech. Yes, you want to provide a great service and keep your customers happy, but at the end of the day, if you want to hit your goals and you want to create a real business with employees and be able to afford all that, it doesn't happen without sales and marketing. So you have. Every company in my mind, every company that exists, no matter what industry you're in, is you're a sales and marketing first company. And whatever you do as your main service or your main product, that's secondary to figuring out sales and marketing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love that, man. I always say you could have the best product or service in the world, but if you don't have sales and marketing bringing in leads that are coming into customers, then none of it matters. Man, we've all been through ups and downs in our business. We got to push through roadblocks and challenges. Do you have any kind of mantra or something motivational that you say to yourself, to your team to kind of help push through those challenging times?

Bryan Hornung
Yeah, I'm a big sports guy, so if you walk around our office, I have canvas prints of pretty much anybody who is influential in sports all around the office with some kind of quote from them on the print. But the biggest thing for me is you got to get a mindset where you're very gracious and you leave with gratitude and you're always looking to have a positive mindset. And those are the two biggest things. I'm not going to give anybody here some fancy quote or anything like that. It's really simple. It's almost like a light switch when you really focus on and work and you have to work on it. Nobody is gifted with the ability to lead their life and run their everyday with gratitude and nobody's really built as a human being to think positively. Our minds are kind of wired to go in the negative to protect us all the time and it really takes a lot of practice and some becomes easier than others. But to maintain a positive mindset, once you get over a certain hump, your brain just works that way. Instead of everything being negative, your brain just works in a way where everything's positive and you kind of notice all the negative in the world a lot more because you want to keep that away. Because the more that you allow that into your life, whether that be from your spouse, your parents, you have to recognize that these could be influences that are negatively impacting your growth and your ability and just your mindset to think bigger than where you are today. So that's the big thing. Just work on yourself and get yourself at a point where you have a really positive way of thinking and the universe kind of works in your favor when you get there.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. So one of the things you touched on ten years into your business, you realize, man, I really need to start focusing on and leveling up my skill set with sales, business development, marketing. In that regard, what's worked well for you and where have you seen success?

Bryan Hornung
Well, I would say I think back ten years ago, maybe seven years ago, we didn't have marketing. We didn't have a system. We didn't even think about it. It was word of mouth and no sales process. Show up. Hey, do you like me? If you like me, you write me a check. And that's really how we built the business for the first ten years, because like I said, I was a technician, and then I would have to answer your question probably a little bit differently than most people expect. What's worked has been just plugging into the right people, the right communities that were, okay, we identified a problem. We're not growing like we should. We're not keeping up with say there's all these metrics on how fast companies are growing in your industry and why we would always grow. We're growing 5-8% year, and other companies are growing 20%, 30% a year. And it's like, why aren't we seeing that level of growth and then just plugging into the community. So specifically in my industry, there's a woman named Robin Robbins who run really good marketing coaching community. That's the best way to describe it. She brings together all these like minded managed service providers who are basically there for all the same reasons. So we're all lined in our goals and things like that. There's not one thing that she teaches us in marketing that works or doesn't work. It's just a consistent effort at very a lot of different things, right? So it might be direct mail marketing, it might be email marketing, it might be social media, it might be podcasting, logging, you name it. But the name of the game is consistency. And that's probably the biggest thing I've had to learn and deal with, with marketing is it's not a faucet. You're not going to turn it on. Well, it can be a faucet once you get it there, but in the beginning when you're starting out, you're not going to go turn on the faucet and get leads. It's a consistent effort. It's not an overnight success. You have to become a student of marketing, and you have to learn who your market is, what words, and what things you can say to make them trigger. Because in today's day and age, people are inundated with marketing and just information and how do you bang your drum a little bit harder so somebody notices you? And that takes a lot of effort and time to just figure out, because every day you're going to create a message or you're going to create a headline or you're going to write some copy, and it's going to sound good on paper to you, but when you go and test it, it may or may not work. And then you have to adjust, right? You have to run that campaign and then go, okay, it's not working, it's not working. What can we adjust here? What can we change? And that's it. That's every day what I've been doing for the last three or four years are showing up every day and looking at this piece of marketing, looking at that, what are we saying? Is it working and adjusting it and improving it to speak to the specific avatar that we've identified to talk to. And that has to be very specific. Right. And those are the things that we learned over time, is like, okay, what works in this market? What works in that market? Who's the audience? And quite frankly, what we've learned is in the various industries, we're talking to three or four different people, depending on whether it's the CEO, the CFO, maybe the IT director, or CIO. And this messaging that we're putting together has to be very different to all three individuals within that company, because what's important to them and how we can serve them is very different. The it director cares, he wants things to work, and he doesn't want to get in trouble for anything if he hires a company like us. The CFO just wants things to be cheaper and faster, more efficient. And the CEO, simply put, if you're talking about cybersecurity, they just don't want to have an embarrassing situation where they have to go to a board or talk to a reporter about a cyber attack. So these are the three different conversations that you have to learn to have in your marketing in order to really make something resonate, where somebody's going to say, hey, I'm kind of interested in what you're saying here. That's the biggest thing that we've learned is it's just a consistent practice where you're going in every day and you're changing and improving, and what worked yesterday might not work in six months. Right. That's why you have to consistently stay at this.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I want to pull out some things because you dropped a lot of value in the answer to that question. Consistency over time with marketing is so key. So many people think short term rather than long term. And that's why they run into issues with marketing. And I talk about that all the time. It's great to hear about it from somebody else that's not actually in marketing. So thank you for sharing that.

Bryan Hornung
Everybody's in it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Whether they think they are or not, they are. So the other thing that you said that I think is so, so important is about testing. The reality is most of the things that we do from a marketing standpoint are not going to work. And that's why testing is so, so important. Getting it out there, testing, figuring out what's working and what's not, and making those course corrections to get better and better results. So I love the fact that you touched on those two things. From a marketing channel standpoint, what are some of the main marketing channels that you're using? Is it LinkedIn or email marketing? What does that look like for you?

Bryan Hornung
Until about five years ago, we were purely a managed IT company. And that business, for whatever reason, since the beginning of computers, has kind of been one of those businesses where our clients and people that we work with want to work with somebody who's fairly close, fairly local. So I've always looked at that business as a regional business. Some guys look at it as a very local business. I feel like you could probably cover a pretty good region and still be okay and do well. Really hard to push that outside of a region. There's very few businesses that were willing to work with a company based in New Jersey and they're in California. That was very rare until Cybersecurity came along. And because of the talent shortage and because we're at a point now where people understand computers are pretty reliable today, you don't really need somebody showing up like you did back in the 90s when stuff just died all the time and we had an inventory of parts that we would just swap in and out. Now we're able to remote in and things are just a lot different now. So we've been able to expand the footprint of the market that we can serve very successfully because people are more open to working with companies that might not be in their area today versus, I would say even five years ago. So that's the big thing for us is that we are able to expand where we are from where we were. But at the end of the day, you got to remind me of the question.

Tim Fitzpatrick
The marketing channels that you're using, it was regional, it's now expanded.

Bryan Hornung
Yeah. Why I brought that up is because we did a lot of network marketing face to face, rubbing elbows, which still works today for our business.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Absolutely.

Bryan Hornung
But we also are able to now expand our marketing into a lot of other things. So it really depends. The number one thing that we probably do the most activity around is just direct cold calling. Cold calling. But we don't just cold call people without sending some kind of either email because it's expensive. We might do some direct mail to some specific prospects that we feel like are right there and we want to get them over the line, or they're just a really good prospect that we want to go after. But outside of that, I have a YouTube channel, I have a blog that we do, or a podcast that we do. We have a blog on our website. We do a lot of LinkedIn direct outreach, plus we're doing paid ads on Google, on being on LinkedIn using and Facebook using retargeting, which is key. That's where you really turn in my mind, you turn the numbers around when you're doing the retargeting. And we're just doing a lot of things to try to get names into the top of the funnel and we're doing top of funnel type stuff to get them in and get them to raise their hand. So offering as much education as we can through the podcast, through the YouTube channel, through ebooks, through white papers, through reports, trying to get very specific on certain problems. There is this thing coming in June of 2023 called the FTC Safeguards Rule that's going to put a lot of requirements on US businesses around what they have to do around cybersecurity if they are a non banking financial institution. And yes, there's millions of businesses that fall in this category, car dealers. So basically, think of it this way. If you're any kind of business that offers any kind of credit to deliver your service, I think remodelers who, they're redoing a kitchen, and you get a loan through the Remodel to get the kitchen done. The remodeler now falls under these regulations because they're now intaking a loan application and sending that off to some bank or some underwriter to get that loan done and approved. They're usually the ones handling that information, the Social Security number, the address of the customer, and they're storing that. So they're either storing it in the file cabinet or they got it on a computer. And the FTC is telling these businesses, you have to protect this data, and you have to have a cybersecurity program in place. So I'm putting out a video later this afternoon on YouTube FTC Safeguards Rule, how what it is, who it impacts. And then we also have a report that we're going to promote through this video that people can download to learn what they have to do by June to protect themselves. And this was supposed to go into effect in December of 2022. They just pushed it back to June. Don't be surprised if it gets pushed back again because they're going to get lobbied by the Small Business Administration or the US Chamber of Commerce and things like that to just push this back because businesses just aren't ready and they're not investing. But the FTC did come out in December and said, start now. Because if you plan on starting in June, it's too late, right.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you guys are doing a lot you're taking advantage of a lot of different marketing channels. I'm just curious, do you have people in house? Do you have outside vendors? Is it a combination? What does that look like?

Bryan Hornung
100% a combination. There's just certain tasks, like just our lead building that we outsource to VAs in the Philippines just because the labor is so inexpensive. It's what I call a low return task. Just building list. So we're building lists that way. Our cold caller is in house. We have a marketing assistant in house. And then the marketing assistant uses various services to get certain things done, like our printed newsletter that we do that gets pushed out to a printing house, and they print it and ship it out for us. There's a lot of things like those little tasks like that that we're getting done by outside people. I like to think that we run an efficient business here, and we look at not just our operations, but our marketing and our sales team and our finance team. And one of the things I have my employees do is evaluate what they're spending their time on, and can we outsource that function so you can work on something that is a higher return on investment for the company? And we're doing that constantly. Where are you spending your time the last quarter? I look at it over a quarter, and I said, let's look at your time tracking and see where you're spending your time over the last quarter. Okay. Can we take that function and find somebody to do that cheaper for us or something like that or better? And that's what we do, and we try to get better every quarter.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So one of the things I noticed when I was prepping for this interview was, you have an interesting certification that I've never seen, and I want to make sure I get this. Tell me if I screw this up. Comp TIA Security trustmark plus certification. Tell me about that. Why did you do this? Has it helped your business grow? Stick into that.

Bryan Hornung
Sure. I guess the reason we decided to go for it is because right before we had it, maybe the six months before, I was having a conversation with a colleague, mentor, really well respected cybersecurity compliance guy in our industry. And he and I have developed a really good relationship over the years. And he was just commenting. He sends emails, and he's got a slew of letters and certifications behind his name on his emails. Right. And he's very proud of that. I'm the type of personality that I just kind of don't really pay attention to those types of things and buy into that kind of stuff too much. And he made the recommendation that you might want to think about getting something behind your name to just prove to people that you can do this stuff, and it's not just you saying you can do it. So I took that to heart a little bit, and I weighed a couple of different certifications as options. One of those being, like, SOC2. And I like to make the comparison between, like, well, why didn't you get a SOC2? Why did you go for the one that you got? And the simple answer to that for me is that when I looked at the auditing process, the SOC2 is an accounting industry certification. Ours is an It industry certification. And the difference is that the auditor is a CPA for SoC2. The auditor for my certification is what's known as a CISSP, which many people consider to be the highest level certification you can get as a cybersecurity individual. And being somebody who has had experience going through SoC2 audits and seeing some of the things that some of the clients that we work with, submitted and that were accepted by the auditor, I would look at and go, that really , in practicality wouldn't work, what they're saying. So what it really became for me was the SOC2. While it's still well respected and valid certification, the person who was in taking the evidence didn't really know what they were looking at and that kind of made me question that whole process. So when I have a cybersecurity professional looking at our cybersecurity controls and looking at evidence and he's a cybersecurity guy, that just seemed like a way harder, the right way to go about trying to get a certification for our company. And that's why we decided to go with the CompTIA. CompTIA is an IT industry, well respected organization and we decided to go with that certification over, say, like a SOC2.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Has it made a difference since you got it?

Bryan Hornung
100%. I don't think I would have gotten nearly if you guys Google my name and look in Google News, you'll see all the press that I'm in talking about different cybersecurity events and topics, and I don't think that reporters answer my pitches or even give me a look if I don't say that I have some kind of credibility behind me. So I think initially now I have a couple of years of news spots and quotes and been on TV where I can use that as well. But in the beginning, I don't think I would have got a sniff at any of that if I didn't have that certification and be able to tell people like, hey, we're a certified cybersecurity company, and then they can go to our website and kind of see what that means and how we're the experts.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. When it comes to professional services, obviously, trust, credibility, authority within the space is super, super important. So it's interesting to get your take on that. So thank you for sharing that. So gosh, you've done a lot of different things in your 18 years and it sounds like you've had a really interesting path, become very open to the sales, the biz dev, the marketing side of things. What would you say has been the most impactful thing that you've done to grow revenue?

Bryan Hornung
To grow revenue, the most impactful thing is definitely I'm going to say that it's understanding. I don't know if you've ever read this book, but it's called The Pumpkin Plant.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes.

Bryan Hornung
By Mike Mccallowitz.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, it's been a while.

Bryan Hornung
Yeah. And if you don't know what that book is real quick. Basically, if you think about pumpkins and pumpkin patches, right? You have pumpkin patches that you go to with your kids and you pick your pumpkins and they're just average size pumpkins versus a pumpkin farmer that makes those really big pumpkins or grows those really big pumpkins that go in these contests. Right. And the reason that Mike looked at this is because the pumpkins in the regular pumpkin patch. Yes, you're going to make money selling those, but you don't make money selling the big ones. So why were farmers doing that, right? So at the end of the day, when these big pumpkins are grown, they sell the seeds. And Mike looked at the gross profit on the seeds and he was like, okay, that's why they're doing this. They're making way more money selling the seeds, and they are selling these pumpkins, and that's why these guys do this. And at the end of the day, he looked at these pumpkin farmers and how they grew these big pumpkins, and it's just a constant process of weeding out the lesser pumpkins along the way. So pumpkins are you're going to look at, pumpkins are going to grow differently. And just being able to take that and apply that to your business and understand that that's okay. I had a struggle with that for a long time. It was like, okay, you're asking me to go through a process where I'm basically cutting the bottom 20% of my clients. And we look at it two different ways revenue, profit, and how much do we really like working with them, how much do they align with our core values? And we go through that process every single year. And that's the thing, in my opinion, that's helped us grow like we have because it helped us define who we work the best with, which led to us dialing in our marketing even more. So we don't even attract the customers that we don't want to work with anymore. And that's the biggest thing that I think that I've learned, is it's okay to kind of prune the bottom 20% that I always look at it. I always tell people, it's like if you put your hand in a bucket and you pull your hand out, is there a hole there? No, it gets filled in. It's the same thing when we cut these clients and we move on from clients that we don't want to work with. We're not going to lose this revenue. We're going to be better so we can bring better revenue in at better margins. And that's kind of like rocket fuel to me. It's like you're improving your marketing, you're improving your margins, you're improving your culture, you're improving your people because they're all working with customers that you want to work with. And that's the biggest thing that I had to learn how to do and be okay with in my business because it affects almost everything that we do every year, and it makes us a better company.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Bryan, you keep serving me these marketing softballs that I get to hit, so thank you for that. Oh, gosh. Everything from marketing starts with your ideal clients. And the more honed in you can get on those ideal clients, the better off you are. We talk all the time about, hey, your ideal clients are those people you love working with that are profitable, that you get great results for, when you can work with those types of people day in, day out, gosh, you're happier, your business is making more money, and you're getting great results for your clients. So that is an awesome tip, and thank you for serving me that fastball. So this has been a great, great conversation, Bryan. Before we we wrap things up, I want to ask you one last question. After 18 years in business, knowing what you know now, is there anything that you would do differently?

Bryan Hornung
Yeah, I would take it right back to the top of the show. I wish I had the awareness of sales and marketing in 2004 and didn't come to realization of what a difference it could make until 2014. I just tell you, to be honest with you, I bootstrap this business. I've never taken on outside money. I'm the sole owner, and sometimes I look at partnerships and I look at people who have taken on money and say they've had it easier, but they have their challenges, too, with those types of situations. But really, in the beginning, I was just like, I'm just trying to do this so I don't have to go back to a job. Right? And then once you get to, you're like, oh, wow, I got 100K starting to maybe thinking about bringing on some help or something like that. Right now I'm creating jobs. Right. I had to go through that. My parents are blue collar people. I didn't grow up in a business environment. I think that I have friends that did. Their parents were business owners, and they think they started from nothing. I'm like, no, you started with something because you got an education when you were a kid from your parents. Like, I didn't get that. I started from nothing, like no money and really no experience of running a business. Frankly, I had parents telling me for the first five years when you're going back and getting a job because they didn't understand what I was doing. And so just that just wishing I knew what I knew come 2014, 2015, when I embraced the Robin Robbins and her company and just really started to learn that, yeah, I got two employees now, but if I want to get to five and seven, I'm going to have to start doing sales and marketing because referrals and me showing up with a pretty face isn't going to cut it for very long. We got a sales process. The other thing I didn't mention, I've had a Sandler coach for about six or seven years. She's had a tremendous impact on my ability to sell and put a sales process in place, and that's how we build our sales processes working with Sandler.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Very cool. Where can people learn more about you?

Bryan Hornung
You got it down at the bottom. Go to my linktree. Linktree/BryanHornung my last name. H-O-R-N-U-N-G. There's tons of links there. You can check out my YouTube from there. You can go to our company's website. You can get all kinds of good stuff there. So just head right there. You can actually contact me, and I think you can even set an appointment. I don't even know if we still have that there, but that's the easiest way to get a hold of me. And if you'd like to talk to me or get help with Cybersecurity, we'd love to help you.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. I love it. Thank you so much. And we'll make sure that that link tree link is in the show notes as well. For those of you that are listening to this, brian, thank you so much for taking the time. It's been a great conversation. For those of you watching listening, I appreciate you. We've been talking about growing your business. If you want to accelerate revenue growth, you got to remove your revenue roadblocks. If you want to be able to discover and assess which roadblocks are slowing down your growth, head on over to revenueroadblockscorecard.com. Takes less than five minutes. Tons of value there. If you want to connect with us over at Rialto Marketing, you can shoot on over to our website at rialtomarketing.com, be happy to chat with you and give you some outside eyes on your marketing and the direction you should head based on where you are currently and where you want to go. Thanks so much. Till next time. Take care.


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About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

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