I Started A Digital Marketing Company At The Height of The Pandemic [$36K/Year]

Joshua Hurley
Founder, 930Tech
$3K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
930Tech
from Knoxville
started April 2021
$3,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
2
Employees
1
followers
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I Started A Digital Marketing Company At The Height of The Pandemic [$36K/Year]

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Joshua Hurley, and I am the owner of 930TECH, a company that provides businesses with digital marketing and technology solutions. My company and I reside in Knoxville, TN. I have lived and worked in East Tennessee all of my life.

Before starting my own company, I spent 16 years as an executive at Zoo Knoxville. I had dual roles as Guest Services Director and IT Director. After leaving my role at Zoo Knoxville, I became Vice President of Operations at Anakeesta in Gatlinburg, TN. From there, I became General Manager at Adventure Action Park and later Smoky Mountain Resorts.

930TECH provides digital marketing services as well as Managed IT Solutions. We currently offer Search Engine Optimization Services, Web Site Design and Development, Social Media and Email marketing, and much more. Due to my background with a non-profit organization, I am very passionate about nonprofits.

Currently, my company is making about $3,000 per month.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I was born and raised in Tennessee. Tennessee has always been home. As a child, we never had much as a family. For the most part, my father worked at a low-paying job while my mother took care of us at home.

After college, I applied for some management positions at the non-profit organization I worked at. I got my first management position at 21 years old. While most 21-year-olds wouldn’t be excited about a management position in the service industry, I was ecstatic. I had a mapped-out plan mentally of where I wanted to go in my career with the company and beyond.

From a young age, I had always wanted to start my own company. Growing up in the family I did, I didn’t have the means to do so right away. I kept my head down and focused on growing at the company I was at. At 25, I was hired as the youngest executive in the company’s history. Everyone on the executive team was 15+ years my senior.

Refine your pitch. Ask for feedback when it makes sense. Come back to that possible client 6 months down the road. Never leave a door closed completely.

Two years into that role, I was given a dual executive role as IT Director and Guest Experience Director. From that point, I was part of a complete rebuild of the technology from infrastructure up to the organization. After 16 years, I left the organization. At 35, I was offered and accepted the position of General Manager of a major theme park. I had a similar job of building up the infrastructure at that location as well.

In 2020, when the coronavirus struck, I started to get serious about starting a new company. After a few months of coming up with a business plan, I decided I would launch my business in 2021. In April, I made my intentions known to my employer. I officially was open for business on June 1, 2021.

I have always worked closely with the marketing departments of every company I have worked for. I also worked with the agencies hired. I always felt like something was missing in the services offered. This gave me the idea to start something different. My focus is to walk my clients through the avenues with the most up-to-date technology available.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

My first set of products was initially available through my website. I spent several months tweaking and improving my site. I wanted to offer tech solutions for both marketing and office/back of office situations. Initially, I started building websites on WordPress. My goal was to learn the other platforms as I grew. My first full website build was for a client in Maryland. The site was simple. The process took about 4 weeks to complete.

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With my background, I knew there was a gap where companies could maximize the use of one company to provide solutions to everything technology-related. I applied for my business license and had an attorney draw up the paperwork. I felt this was critical so there would be no slowdowns in the process.

I researched what other similar companies in the area were offering and what they weren’t offering.

From that point, I developed a pricing strategy to be competitive. At first, I came to the market with too low of a price. It initially hurt my sales. Once I raised my pricing, more companies were interested.

I focused on getting my name out there on social media for the first several weeks and designing my website. I started with people I knew and had worked with. Then, I started creating new connections for my network. My social media growth has been focused on organic building.

I spent a lot of time building a potential client list locally and then regionally. I focused specifically on individual niches like dentists, FECs, law firms, retail boutiques, etc. I wanted to be able to gauge the need in each niche to determine where to best spend my time. Once I developed a list of about 500 companies and contacts, I sent cold emails and made cold calls. As I started and refined my pitch, I received many, many no thank yous. I did not let that deter me from continuing to pitch. For every 100 pitches, I ended up with 5 - 7 good leads.

Describe the process of launching the business.

My launch was on June 1, 2021. It was a soft launch. I reached out to some of the businesses I had worked within the past. From there, my strategy was to build strong colleagues and a business email list. I focused initially on a few very specific niches.

My financing for my company came directly from my savings. My wife and I always thought I should start a company, and we prepared for it. Even though 2020 was rough and I lost my job due to a COVID closure, we were still on track.

The biggest lessons I learned from starting my company were how very hard it is to get that first client. I got my first client about 3 to 4 weeks after we opened. It took about every strategy I had to get the ball rolling.

I know it's cliche but be prepared to hear no thank you over and over again. That’s ok. Refine your pitch. Ask for feedback when it makes sense. Come back to that possible client 6 months down the road. Never leave a door closed completely.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Attracting customers/clients has been a bit difficult but not impossible. The key is to hustle continually. Don’t let that call go to voicemail. Respond to LinkedIn connections. Be open to new avenues of client acquisition.

Google and Facebook Advertising have worked well. One surprise was Bing Advertising. I have had more success with Bing so far than with Google. They hold a much smaller share of the market, but as I found, it is an underserved market.

Hustle. Keep driving. Keep pushing. Good things will happen. Don’t be afraid to try something that’s out of your comfort zone.

My strategy to bring customers back is simple. Communicate how and when they want to be communicated. Some customers prefer a daily update, some like a weekly update, and others just want to know when the job is done.

The other part is don’t just do the minimum. If I think a customer will benefit from an additional mockup design, I give it to them at no charge. If they don’t like something, we work through it until we come up with something they are happy with.

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How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Advertising costs range from $12 - $16 per day per platform on average. Currently, we are seeing between $2 - $3 return per dollar spent. Our average time on our website is 1m31. Our email subscriber list is slightly less than 1000. We currently have 400+ LinkedIn and 300+ Facebook subscribers. It is a major focus of ours to continue to grow our social media numbers as much as possible.

Our plan for 2021 was to be at no more than a $10K loss for the year, and we have exceeded that. We will be profitable in 2021, which puts us well ahead of our financial goals. Our 2022 goal is to bring on additional staff and increase our clientele levels. Long term, our goal is to be one of the top three digital companies in Tennessee.

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Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Hustle. Keep driving. Keep pushing. Good things will happen. Don’t be afraid to try something that’s out of your comfort zone. Focus on being just a little better today in some aspects of your company.

I started this company at the height of the pandemic. The majority of companies were looking to cut costs and save money. If I could have launched at another period, I probably would have. At the same time, I’m happy it started when it did. It pushed me even harder.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

The CRM we use is Hubspot. Our office tools are GSuite or Google Workspace. In setting up the company, I used LivePlan, which was very helpful in setting up budgets and goals.

The Digital Marketing side of our company uses WordPress, Figma, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, MailChimp, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Bing Ads, Yelp Marketing, Paypal, Google Console, VideoPad, Photoshop, and many more.

Our IT side works with Google Workspace, Windows, Windows Server, MS Office, TrendMicro, MS SQL, Apple OS, Apple iOS, Adobe Suite, Solarwind/GFI, Sideline, Acronis, APC, Spiceworks, Sonicwall, and much more.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

The biggest influence on me has been life experiences. I regularly read different articles from several different authors to stay fresh on business ideas. I regularly read Daymond John, Melanie Borden, Kevin O’Leary, and Dan Price. Steve Jobs has always been a big inspiration as well. His drive to be the best in every aspect was just unmatched.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Think through your plan. Plan for mistakes. Failures even. Always be pushing forward. Budget. Budget. Budget. Think ahead. Don’t spread yourself too thin. If you do it, it is going to cost you big time. Clients expect you to deliver on what you say. It doesn’t matter if you get too busy. Be sure you do what you say and say what you’re going to do.

Be okay with being told no but also leave the door open for the future. One of my current clients told me, no, and I left his company with a few ideas. Two months later, he signed up, and we currently manage his marketing.

Being a business owner is hard work. Harder than any job you’ve probably ever had. You will question yourself, but don’t stop. Build off the momentum, and when you succeed, it will be a feeling of accomplishment like no other.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Joshua Hurley, Founder of 930Tech
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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