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 experiences.

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

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The Riches Are In The Niches

Tim Fitzpatrick
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 experiences. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks if you want to accelerate revenue growth. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. Really excited to have with me Chris Noles from Beyond Computer Solutions. Chris, welcome and thanks for taking the time today.

Chris Noles
Well, thank you. Hello, everybody, and thanks for having me, Tim.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Absolutely. I know we're going to have a good conversation. We had a nice pre interview conversation. I'm excited to dig into what we're going to do today. Before we do that, I want to ask you just a few rapid fire questions. Are you ready to go here?

Chris Noles
I believe so. Let's go for it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
No time like the present, right? So very quickly, what do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Chris Noles
So today we are keeping people out of the evening news. Kind of interesting.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it.

Chris Noles
We do cyber security, and obviously, we know that if a company gets hit, they will end up in the news and that's going to hurt their reputation. T hat's a big part of what we're doing now. But for 23 years, we have been providing IT services for small businesses and medium sized companies, especially here in the Atlanta area, where it didn't make sense for them to hire one person for IT when they could partner with us to have a whole team.

Tim Fitzpatrick
IT, like a lot of fields. Man, it was a whole lot different 20 years ago, wasn't it?

Chris Noles
It sure was.

Tim Fitzpatrick
It probably didn't feel simple at the time, but looking at what we have to deal with today, it was much simpler, wasn't it?

Chris Noles
We had fewer computer problems. Well, we have fewer computer problems today, I should say, in terms of desktops. But back then, we didn't have to worry as much about viruses and cybersecurity. So it's just a different problem today.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's the most important lesson you've learned in running your business?

Chris Noles
I got to say that all the different hats that I've had to wear and things that I've had to manage, it has been cash flow management. That has been the one thing that's moved the needle the most for us in terms of making sure our revenue and profitability is good. I think.

Tim Fitzpatrick
A lot of business owners think because I'm increasing revenue that everything's okay. That's not always the case, is it?

Chris Noles
It's not. I fell into that trap for a while and I've learned you can actually have less revenue and more profit and that's more important.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So growing a business is hard. We all know that. Do you have any mantra, something you say to yourself, share with your team that helps you guys push through those challenging times?

Chris Noles
I think the most important thing for us has been me, especially as the owner, communicating our core values and our why every single day that we go after support calls or projects or anything that we do. Those core values, some of those include excellence and definitely having faith. Those things keep you grounded no matter what's happening each day. You know that you're doing your best and you believe in something bigger than yourself. That's super important.

Tim Fitzpatrick
One of my mentors talked about gently and relentlessly beating the drum. With core values and creating culture, that's what it's all about is just that gentle consistency over time that really helps those values in that culture become ingrained. Thank you for sharing that, Chris. 

Honing in on Your Target Market

Tim Fitzpatrick

One of the things that we talked about in the pre interview was your target market. It's very narrow. I want to dig into that a little bit. First off, what is that target market for you? How did you decide to focus on that particular market?

Chris Noles
Yes, it's a great question because a lot of business owners that I talk to, they have a niche, if you will, and we have ours, too. It happens to be real estate law and title companies. The reason for that is really back 22, 23 years ago now, I just happened to come across some opportunities to work with real estate law firms. It wasn't that I chose them, they chose me. I knew I wanted to be in business for myself. I knew I wanted to support small businesses with their technology needs and it just happened to be that I fell in this space where there was a need for them to have servers and infrastructure, and they had this special software that not many people knew about, and so I got familiar with it. At the time, I had a business partner. He and I set up several law firms with the software and these servers, and then we would set up a support plan for them. Back then, it wasn't so much people paid monthly to prevent problems. They paid as they go. It was amazing how well we did just considering all the computer problems that we had back then with more complex things that have gotten a little easier today. That's how we got started. Of course, those clients, they referred us to more people just like them. I started hanging out where they hang out. We just built our niche around that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
There's a couple of things I want to pull out of what you just shared, Chris, because I think it's super important for most people to understand. It's not uncommon for marketers like myself to talk about, Well, you've got a niche down. You've got to identify who your ideal clients are. And it's really hard to do that. There's a lot of different roads that people have and as you pointed out, sometimes your niche finds you. And especially in the beginning, oftentimes we may not have enough experience to really know exactly which niche we want to be in. One of the things I always share with people is you just got to niche for now. You got to make a choice because you can't target broadly. It's absolutely impossible. You were very fortunate for that niche to find you pretty early and things clicked. Sometimes people niche for now and they're like, Oh, my God. I've been working with dentists and man, this is a freaking nightmare. I got to shift and that's okay. But at least while you're niching and focused, you know exactly what you need to do because one of the other things you talked about was going where they hang out. Well, you can't figure out where the hell to hang out unless you identify who the hell you want to hang out with. But once you do that, it becomes so much easier to create that list of where they are so that you can get in front of them each and every time. Now, one of the other things I want to pull out from this, too, is as you niched and you focused on this real estate law and title company niche, what are some of the benefits that you've experienced in doing that?

Chris Noles
So many wonderful benefits. Not only do you build a report in what seems to be a small, tight knit community of professionals, but you start figuring out other ways you can serve them. We started out with serving their needs for putting software on a server and supporting that. The next thing you know, internet speeds aren't fast enough, so we're able to sell them better internet. Their phone system is failing from 15 years ago. We're able to sell them more modern voice over IP telephone services. The other cool thing is not only are we able to cross sell and upsell in that niche. But you get to know people personally, and then they know people who can refer. Again, referrals have been a big deal for us in that space, but they start to refer you to other people. There's a lot of trust. They see you as a thought leader because you're working with so many of their peers. Not only that, but the big reason today why we're still relevant in that space is we've learned how to stop wiring fraud. I'm not saying that we have a silver bullet approach, but we are educating these law firms now because they're getting attacked more than ever with people trying to fraud home buyers and such. Because we've been in the space so long, they're coming to me for solutions on that now as well. W e're still very relevant 20 years later.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I had a conversation with somebody a couple of weeks ago, and he said, I'm paraphrasing here, but he was like, Once we focused, life became much easier. Have you found on that to be the case for you?

Chris Noles
I'm going to say yes and no. The reason why is because at some point a few years ago, I really ran out of opportunities for that space. Great recurring revenue and great recurring relationships, don't get me wrong. But I learned that there's only so many people who do this type of practice. We have been taking on other types of clients for years. The hard decisions were, do we take on another vertical just because we need more money, or do we figure out ways to go deeper with these clients? What do you say yes and no to? That's hard to figure out.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Is most of your business geographically located around the Atlanta area?

Chris Noles
Most of it is, yes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Is there anything preventing you from staying in the niche and going beyond the geographic area?

Chris Noles
There's not. In fact, we've been successful in having out of state clients. Most important thing for us as a technology company is making sure that we have somebody locally in their market that we could send on site if on site is needed.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it. There are multiple ways to expand, right? One of them could be going outside the geographic area. The other is staying in the geographic area and starting to go into other niches, right? But yeah, it's just a matter of figuring out what's going out, what's going to fit best for where you guys are at.

Chris Noles
One thing I'd like to add to that is there's nothing really stopping somebody from maybe picking one or two niches instead of just one. We actually have three verticals that we serve regularly. But again, my core focus is on that one. I found that if I start trying to do just any business that wants to pay for IT, that's when things get a little messy and we start picking up some bad clients, unfortunately.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I think one of the other big benefits when you niche and you really understand who your ideal clients are is it's a measuring stick so that when people do approach you, you've got that measuring stick to see, do they measure up or do they not? And if they don't, that's okay. Like you said, it's okay to say no because you know that you're not going to be able to serve them at the level that they're going to want and that you're going to want. And you can refer them to other people, right?

Chris Noles
That's right.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Refer them to somebody that's a better fit. One of the things, I don't want to go too far subject here, but when you look at real estate realtors, you look at some of these guys and girls that are on these real estate shows getting all kinds of notoriety. And you look at it and go, Well, gosh, they only sell in New York, or They only sell in Southern California. Guess what? When they get referrals for people in other states, what the hell do they do? They refer them to an agent in that state and they make a referral fee. So they're generating all kinds of revenue for not doing anything other than connecting people. So yeah, all kinds of opportunities. I love it. 

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Learning from Marketing Mistakes: When Big Investments Yield Little Return

Tim Fitzpatrick
One of the things that we talked about in the pre interview was you had mentioned, Hey, you'll have to remind me how far back this was, but there was a time where you guys invested a decent amount of money in some of your marketing efforts without much return, which is not uncommon. This happens all the time. Can you tell me a little bit more, what do you think went wrong there? What learning experience did you pull from that?

Chris Noles
I had a coach at that time. Not the great coach I had as of late, but early on, I had a coach who advised me to really go into hyper growth mode, as they call it. We were looking to scale, looking to grow, and we just felt like any industry would do. We didn't really have any specific focus. We just thought that the demand for our IT services was so hot that our problem was people just didn't know we existed. So all we needed to do is just spend a lot of money on branding and making sure people knew we existed. So what we ended up doing was sending out a lot of postcards. We had an appointment setter who was making a lot of phone calls. No real specific niche, no real plan other than target companies a certain size in revenue or certain size in employees in being Atlanta. Well, that unfortunately went really wrong. It went really bad because we spent probably $30,000 or more on all of this activity. And not only did we not close any new business, but we didn't actually even get any leads, no responses. And so we had to really rethink our approach. And what I learned, because I don't really have a strong sales and marketing background. I've learned a lot since then. But what I've learned is that anytime you do a campaign like that, you need to be a lot more specific. And maybe there's better ways to do marketing than just sending out cold emails, cold calls. But that was our experience. Again, it was very timely, very costly. And it hurt us financially during that time because we waited until we were really in need for new clients before we were taking action.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Okay, so there's a couple of things I want to pull out here. One of the last things you just said was you had waited until the need was there, right? And one of the things that I always share with people that we're talking to as potential clients is marketing is like a bank loan. The time to go get a bank loan is not when you need it because you're probably going to have a really hard time qualifying for it. Marketing is the same way. It's not a it's not a switch, we can turn on and off. It's more like a flywheel. We've got to give that flywheel the momentum so that it starts going. Then once it's going, then we just continue to feed it. Jeff, you're not alone in going down that path. So many people run into that same roadblock. The other thing that I want to pull out of this, and it's really appropriate to what we talked about before with your niche. The biggest mistake, and you already pulled this out with those campaigns you invested in was they were too broad. And you talked about specificity. I can't remember who I heard this from, but it's always stuck with me is specificity sells. We've got to get much more specific because... And that's why it's so important for us to really hone in and narrow our focus because a broad message just doesn't resonate with anybody. But when you niche down and you're only talking to real estate law offices and title companies, all of a sudden your message can be catered to them specifically. It can be in their words because, hey, cyber title companies and real estate attorneys, my guess, think about there are different aspects of cybersecurity that are far more important for them than other people. You touched on this, wiring fraud. You talk about wire fraud with some other business that doesn't wire funds, it's fallen flat. But when you talk about that as a potential pain point with title companies, you've hit a nerve, right?

Chris Noles
You have. There's one thing I'd like to let you know. I had a fear at one point that if I changed all my marketing to only attract real estate law and title companies, that I'd be excluding a lot of other good opportunities from some of our other verticals that we do proudly serve. But what I found is that that hasn't been the case. They still come to us because at least they see that we're a specialist in something. It doesn't exclude a manufacturing company, which is one of our niches. It doesn't exclude financial, which is one of our niches. They actually look at our marketing and say, Well, he's a thought leader in this space. It may not be my space, but at least he's specifying something. If I were to just say, We're just a great IT company that serves all small business, and if your money is green and you have a pulse, we'll take care of you. Nobody sees that as a unique differentiator, right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
No, they don't. They don't at all. Thank you for sharing that because that is another common roadblock people have. People are still going to come to you. Hey, I see you service title companies, but can you help me, I'm in this space. Again, there's still aspects of that measuring stick you can measure them against and go, Can we help them or can we not? Again, make that choice. The other thing that's I think important that so many people overlook is the vast majority of businesses don't need that many clients. So you're far better off just going, Well, gosh, if we niche down to this niche, is it big enough? And one of the things I always tell people is, look, if there's a conference or a gathering around that niche, guess what? It's big enough. Because nobody holds an event for something that's not big enough to generate some revenue. Most of us are not Fortune 500 companies that need hundreds of thousands or millions of clients. We just don't. So when you're in that boat, it's not going to hurt to niche. So thank you for sharing that. One of the things you touched on was differentiating, which leads me into the next thing I want to talk to you about. In the cyber and IT space, it's crowded. There's a lot of people, there's a lot of competition. 

Harnessing Unique Differentiators to Stand Out in a Crowded Cybersecurity Market

Tim Fitzpatrick
One of the things that you've already done to differentiate is niching down into that specific niche market. But are there other things that you're doing to differentiate?

Chris Noles
I say that we've been really fortunate in the last few years to have some cyber security incident response experience, meaning that we've actually been battle tested on knowing how to win a cyber attack when it happens. And so that gives us a lot of credibility. So when we're out there doing marketing or talking to people about why they should use us for cyber security and preventing a cyber attack, we can say we've actually fought these battles before. We've actually kicked the bad guys out and kept businesses from having to pay the ransom. So I think it was good that I got involved pretty early on back in 2016 when this was becoming a hot topic. I had the right relationships and got involved in some opportunities very specifically with title companies that had been hit, and we were able to save their business. So that's a huge win and those case studies have helped us quite a bit.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's a really good point. When we look at differentiation, some of the things you talk about to differentiate yourself, your competitors can share some of those same things. But whatever those three things, four things, five things that you talk about as differentiators, you just want to make sure that nobody else has all three or all five of those differentiators. If you can say that, I believe that's enough to differentiate. Because nobody else can check. Is anybody else you're talking to, can they check all these boxes off? And you know this much better than I do, Jeff, but how many cyber firms actually have experience with clients that have had an incident? Now, I should preface this. To me, it's not if, it's when it's going to happen. But until it actually happens, what you're doing isn't really battle tested, is it?

Chris Noles
Exactly. A lot of my competitors have never had to deal with a ransomware or phishing email issue, and they're selling the tools to prevent it. And that's fine. But if their client or let's just say a business was shopping around and let's say it happens to be a title company and they bring in three companies to talk to, they bring in one of my competitors who's never fought an incident response case, who's never worked with a title company, and who might have been in business for three or four years. Kudos to them for doing what they do. But if I come in and then I say I've been working with title companies for 22 years, I've also been battle tested, having successful incident response work, and we've been established for so long. Obviously, I think we're going to have a whole lot more credibility and a lot more value that we can offer. So I agree with you. I think the more of those boxes you can check off, the better. And it takes a few years to really get good at these things in terms of building up your brand, figuring out your niche, figuring out what you're good at, what you're not good at, where you need to partner, but eventually you get there. I think you just can't expect everything to happen in just one or two years.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, there's no doubt about that. These things don't happen overnight. But I think one of the things you're obviously not afraid to take action. When we take action, we learn.

Chris Noles
That's right.

Tim Fitzpatrick
When we learn, we make those adjustments, and then we just continue to take action and learn from it. It's a constant cycle. Thank you for that. I really love that. 

The Importance of Simplicity and Getting the Fundamentals Down in Business

Tim Fitzpatrick
What do you feel like has had the biggest impact in your growth at this point?

Chris Noles
I want to say it's two things. One was the cash flow management that I'd mentioned earlier, and that very specifically was following a process called profit first. It's a great book by Michael McAuliffe. Pay yourself first, make sure you move money around so that money's there and you don't always wonder where it's going because I don't care how much money you make. If you don't tell it where to go, it's going to find its way, the cracks and leaks and it's going to go away. That was one one thing. The other is actually another thing, another book called pumpkin Planning that I read. It's also by Michael McAulitz. I'm not here just to plug him, but I got to say that his principles have really revolutionized our growth. That book talk specifically about what we talked about earlier, making sure that you niche and that you don't take on bad clients just because you think you need more revenue. It also means that every year I find myself actually firing certain clients that maybe they were at one time a good customer, or maybe I've always known that they weren't great, but I was afraid that I wasn't going to get the revenue first before firing them. But you've got to make that hard choice. You've got to believe that you're only going to take on certain clients in a certain niche, make sure that they're paying you enough, and then just keep marching on. You'll keep finding new opportunities. You got to let the bad pumpkin go, as he says.

Tim Fitzpatrick
One of the things that both of those books, the concepts in there, they're simple. They're fundamental concepts. A lot of times we overcomplicate things and we really don't need to. But when we get the fundamentals down in whatever discipline, whether it's marketing or finance, cash flow management, you get those fundamentals down and it just makes everything much, much easier. Thank you for sharing that because a lot of people are afraid to get rid of back bad clients. But once you get through maybe the uncomfortfulness of saying, Hey, we can't work with you anymore, life gets less complicated, doesn't it?

Chris Noles
It does. You free yourself up to be able to take better care of your core clients that get you where you are to begin with. Let's say you don't find one big client to replace the two or three that were really small and taking up all your time. Your revenue drops just a little bit, but I guarantee you your profitability is probably better because you're not spending so much time dealing with difficult people, being stressed out, answering emails late at night. It's just so important, I think, to make that decision. There's something just about that act of faith that when you make that choice, it's a mindset thing. I'm a big believer in having the right mindset. You get the right mindset that you're going to go and find the right clients. You're worth it. You're going to stay in your niche. You're not going to deviate from your vision. You will be rewarded even if you go through a few tough months. It really motivates you to find ways to find new business in the right business.

Tim Fitzpatrick
We've been talking a not about niching and identifying your ideal clients. I'll share this with those people that are watching and listening because a lot of people are like, Well, how do I start? I found with clients the easiest place to start, I call them the three power questions. Who do you love working with? Why work with people that make you bang your head against a wall? Who are your most profitable clients? As you've pointed out, Hey, we got to make money. If you want to serve people at the highest level, you have to be profitable. And who do you get great results for? You found early on that, Gosh, we're doing great work for title companies and real estate attorneys. This is something we should pay attention to. When you ask yourself these three questions of your current and past clients, you end up with this group that checks all three of those boxes. And it's that group that you can start to dig deeper to see where you can identify commonalities, smaller subgroups, and that makes it much, much easier to hone in on your ideal clients. That hasn't been a problem for you for a long time, so congratulations on that. But it is a problem for a lot of people. I want to ask you just a couple more things before we close things out. 

In Conclusion: The Riches Are In The Niches

Tim Fitzpatrick

This has been a great interview, Chris. What's next for you, man? Where's the focus in 2023?

Chris Noles
It's to continue that pumpkin planning. As we continue that pumpkin planning, as we get new prospects coming in, I really evaluate them just as much as they evaluate us. I want to make sure that they fit our culture. And if they don't happen to do real estate law or title, that's fine. But they've got to still fit within a certain mold as far as the amount of money they spend in, the size that they are, and just the expectations they have. It's really important for us to, every year, and we're doing that again this year, figure out what the ideal client looks like because that will shift and change as industries change and the economy's change. So we're really trying to make sure that this year and beyond that we reframe what that looks like. We only want clients that want our full set of services that include cyber security, help desk, remote and onsite support. We don't want people just taking pieces of that or just paying us by the job. We really want those deep relationships because like you said earlier, Tim, it doesn't really take a lot of clients to have a really good book of business. You just need a few of the right clients that are paying you for everything that you have to offer, preferably. That's my answer to it is we're actually reviewing that again this year right now.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, thank you for that. Man, Chris, you just keep serving me these softballs that I can pull stuff out of. So thank you for that. Oh, my God. That's a rookie mistake. My phone just went off. So you said, hey, we're reevaluating our ideal clients. Marketing is not a set it and forget it thing, and the strategy behind it is not either. As our businesses evolve, as the market evolves and changes, we need to go back to that. Does it mean you need to go back to it monthly? No. But depending on what's happening in the business, we always recommend clients 6 to 12 months is usually a pretty good time window. Twelve months is the most common where you're just reiveting them like, Hey, this is where we were last year. Are things at the same place or do we need to start to make some slight adjustments here? Thank you for serving me that fastball, Chris or that softball. One last question for you. Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would do differently?

Chris Noles
Back when I first started, if I would have had the wisdom to know what type of clients to say no to, if I would have had the wisdom to know how to price my worth, I wasn't charging enough for a long time. Then I found that, yeah, when you become a specialist, you're worth more, so you should charge more. I wish I could go back and would have put those principles in place earlier, but I learned. I think through reading books, you never stop learning, by the way. But read great business books. I already mentioned a couple of them. Learn from others, get involved in peer groups. That's what I do to stay sharp. I try not to have any regrets. All I do is just try to be a little bit better today than I was yesterday and continue to grow and press on.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. Chris, thank you so much, man. This has been a great interview. Where can people learn more about you if they want to connect?

Chris Noles
Now, the best place to go is our website. It's www.Beyondcs.com. I'm also on social media. You can find me on Facebook or LinkedIn, either one. A lot of times I'm sharing some great content there, some videos or posts about some of the things you can do to protect your business. A lot of those things are free, so check us out.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Awesome. Head on over to beyondcs.com. Chris, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. For those of you that are watching, listening, and I appreciate you as well, we've been talking all about growing your business, accelerating revenue. If you want to discover which of the nine revenue roadblocks are slowing down your growth and where your priorities should be. You can find out over at revenueroadblockscorecard.com. It takes less than five minutes and you'll be able to discover and assess which of those roadblocks are slowing down your growth. You can also connect with us over at rialtomarketing.com. Thank you so much. Until next time, take care.

Chris Noles
Thank you. Thank you, Tim.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, you bet.


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About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

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