Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey Everyone, my name is Rahul Alim and I am the founder of Custom Creatives, a Digital Marketing Agency that helps connect business owners with their dream client, AKA, The Peoples Agency.
We are specialists when it comes to creating & executing affordable digital marketing strategies that turn clicks into paying customers. We use social media and search engines to drive target buyers to your storefront or website to explode sales using our CAP Method (Customer Acquisition Program).
Monthly revenue is often the indicator many people use to determine the success of an agency or individual. While I don’t disagree, I put more emphasis on the success of our clients and the fact that we retain clients for many years, and in our case, many for over a decade. We have consistently been over 7-figures year over year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My intention during and after high school was to move to Europe and play soccer (football) as my career. However, I was persuaded to try my hand at college which eventually took me down the path where I am today.
I grew up in a family full of entrepreneurs, thinkers…people smarter than me so I was definitely lucky to be in the right room.
My first job was selling credit card machines and processing. I was raw in business but determined (or stubborn) to make it alone with the help of no one (NOTE, this was a dumb idea and everyone should get help at every stage of life). When I started, I thought I was in a finance position. It turned out I was in a sales position, responsible for calling businesses to sell them on our services. It was the best thing to ever happen to me at this stage in my young career.
I was forced to talk to people, negotiate, persuade, help strangers over the phone - I learned one of the greatest skills of all time, how to sell over the phone. I had never sold anything, I learned sales in 3 days, then practiced every single day. This position lasted 30 days, but the grass only got greener. I was somehow recruited to a company called Homestore, which owned Realtor.com where I eventually became a top sales account executive managing the East Coast as my territory.
I went from the worst at sales in the company to the top 10 in the company. I took my sales learnings from my first job selling credit card processing to selling to internet advertising to Real Estate Agents, Brokers, Lenders and those involved in the real estate transaction.
After just a few years, I left Realtor.com (for no reason whatsoever, I loved working there) to start my own company. Young, dumb, no plan, no office, no product, no smart idea, but I had one thing to offer… I decided to help realtors manage and promote their listings on the internet.
This quickly turned into a referral business from Realtor.com to send me clients to do paid customer service which was a win-win-win. Clients leveraged the power of their account, sales reps at realtor.com didn't have to worry about support and could sell, we got free clients through the power of the network.
One day a client called and asked me to do a banner ad, naturally, I said YES. I had no idea what or how to do this and did not know what to charge so I charged a huge amount for a 468x60 banner ad.
I went online, found a designer, finished the ad the same day then, that sparked the REAL launch to CustomCreatives.com. Realtor ended up hiring my company to be the exclusive vendor to provide all of their agents with a marketing strategy for the digital campaigns that included:
- Writing ad copy to inspire conversions
- Design interactive ads that attracted an ideal client
- Built-in tracking technology for optimizing campaigns
- Landing page design which helped convert clicks to leads
- Customer support to coach their team, real estate agents & brokers to success
In my relationship with Realtor.com, my company had worked with over 40,000 Realtors & Brokers!
This helped me finance my company, grow, scale and build into a full-service digital marketing agency serving multiple industries to leverage and attracted “wallet out” customers from Social Media and Search Engines.
Working from home as a startup
Now my company services a broad audience where we white label for Digital Marketing Agency Owners of any size, Real Estate, Law Firms, Medical, Restaurant, Fitness, and more. They say there are riches in niches, however, we failed flat once we niche down - go figure. Goes to show that you need to make your own decisions and not always listen to the gurus or experts out there.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
My very first service was a virtual assistant service where I helped realtors upload photos, property descriptions, and used my experience from Realtor.com to make my clients stand out online over the millions of agents out there.
That was a bad plan. I did not anticipate all the hats I would have to wear such as paying bills, accounting, sales, fulfillment or vendor management.
I started by calculating my time I would need on average per month per client, per year per client, then I decided I would create “buckets” of pricing. I based my pricing on the past 12 months’ transaction history to determine how much time I would invest. Then I created 2 prices for each bucket:
- Annual pricing for a discount
- Month to month pricing
Most people chose annual since I made it attractive, and because I was just starting and wanted to front-load revenue.
I had NO start-up costs that came out of pocket. I had sold from day one so I used that revenue to fund everything. I have never been in the “red” since starting. I have had turbulence along the way, but I planned ahead for “winter” to come.
Soon after starting a client request ended up paving the path for my company and changed my vision.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I had no strategy at first, just determination, undeniable focus, and a work ethic that would never fail me. This style certainly has it’s mental challenges but I just think of Rocky Balboa and the song “Eye of the Tiger”.
That was a bad plan. I did not anticipate all the hats I would have to wear from paying bills, accounting, sales, fulfillment, vendor management, and the part that makes any business survive… SALES.
I had to organize each day with prioritizing sales in the daylight, get vendors to do their jobs on time and get them trained to be more valuable, then all else was an after 6 pm task. Sales above all were the focus.
I’m still learning lessons today but some of my early lessons:
- Provide more value than the price the client pays
- Communicate clearly and often to clients to retain them
- Sell like crazy to last
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I have been a believer in putting myself in my customer's shoes. If we're asking them for money today in exchange for more money in the future, what skills & tools would I need on my team to execute?
This model of being aware and empathetic to the client's situation has helped me offer better service, improve the offering, make my team indispensable to our clients where my team is more valuable than their investments in their stock portfolio, homes they own, or any other investment they could possibly make.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Things are looking very bright at Custom Creatives. We’ve been in the Digital Marketing space since 2004. Working with brands like Realtor.com, Geico, Advertise.com and many other name brands. Since we are a small business, we love working with other small business owners to give them a level up to grow faster with our marketing execution.
Our future is exciting. We have added even more value ads to our core services, that goes beyond driving traffic and qualified leads, but also includes lead nurturing, follow up services, buyer qualifications, and a full CRM integrated with pipeline tracking, 2-way text messaging, email automation, Facebook Messenger, phone dialer integration, call tracking & recording and much more.
Our value proposition is massive so it completely outways pricing for any business that wants to seriously grow and make the change to our platform. I always say, the grass is greener on our side of the fence, you owe it to your business and staff to go with what is best for your bottom line!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I have learned so much. My decision making and ability to adapt are much sharper since they are much more meaningful for myself and my team.
I have also made awful decisions which I have learned the most from such as losing a multi-seven figure contract and making incorrect hires and not firing fast. The failures sting the most but feel the best on the other side when you get through them. Just like going into a very hard work out at the gym that you really don't want to do, but when you make it out, you feel great and are motivated for the challenge and seek it.
What has really helped me the most is clear communication with everyone on my team whether it is positive or negative, we are a family and we must communicate as a family to continue to grow. I keep a daily list of my tasks that must get complete and share my list with my team so everyone knows what I am up to so they know I am going to compete and work hard just like I expect out everyone.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Today, you have to leverage technology to advance your business. Here’s some of my tech stack:
- Basecamp for project management
- Authorize.net to accept payments
- ClickFunnels to build landing pages
- Follow-Up Monster for my email, text, voicemail automation to nurture and close more leads
- Calendly to book appointments
- Buffer to schedule out social media posts
- Zoom to host sales calls and meetings
- G-suite: Google Drive, Docs, Email
- Hubstaff for tracking freelancers and contractors
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
What helps me the most is that when I need help or seeking answers, I contact people that have been where I want to go in the area I want help in, and request we do a 1-1 video interview. Then I list out questions I want answers to and interview them on camera using Zoom or in person. I record, then publish the interview on my social channels to share with others. This has been the most helpful source of knowledge. Find, ask, and execute.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My #1 tip learning is to focus on your goals, not someone else’s. Not Gary Vee, not your parents, not someone who inspires you, or someone that wants to see you fail. Get extremely clear on what you want in your life and future, document it, and make every effort to get there. Eventually, this will be your “flag” of the territory of YOU and you will do whatever it takes to reach it. Success is what you decide it to be. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Mark Cuban, and Bill Gates all had different goals and determination of success, you will too.
Write down your goals every day. Work out 3-5 times a week and keep your body in shape so you can have high energy and be in a better mood. Be around smarter people and vet out quality mentors that want to see you succeed. Stay LASER focused on your goal, do not get distracted or you will go down a rabbit hole.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Currently, I am looking for a digital marketing assistant to help take more tasks off my plate such as refining and tweaking my sales funnel content, write email newsletters and send to our database, assist with my chatbot messages, assist automating follow-ups and personalizing follow-ups for warm leads that are closer to signing with us. I help nurture, train, optimize motivated individuals to scale their talent and get shit done!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help others get started.
Interested in sharing your own story? Find out how!
Are you ready to boost your revenue?
Using Klaviyo will open up a massive, untapped sales channel and bring you closer to your customers!
Level up your email marketing with Klaviyo!