Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Howdy! My name is Dmitrii Kustov, I’m the founder of Regex SEO, a data-driven internet marketing agency. We help $5M+/year businesses get the most out of their marketing budgets, so they can increase market share and revenue.
I started Regex SEO in 2015 with no investment, and it has been a one-man company for almost 3 years. In 2018, I have partnered up with 2 friends of mine, and we have been growing quickly ever since. As of now, we have 16 full-time employees, and over 30 contractors, with $1M+ annual revenue pre-COVID.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
While studying Applied Mathematics in the IT industry, I had been doing a lot of programming and web development work as a hobby. When I moved to the US, I started working at a local digital agency as a PHP developer. Within days, the management realized that there was no need for extra web developers, but rather an SEO specialist. So, I had been given an ultimatum - figure out the SEO game, or get fired. Well, short story even shorter, within 6 months I have been running their marketing department. The secret to my success was hard work. I had to deal with the task I was given. And to my surprise, I enjoyed it. I worked a full day at the office, then I would come home and sit up until midnight figuring out the intricacies of SEO.
In 2015, I realized that my potential would not be fulfilled at that agency, and I faced a choice of either going to work at another agency or putting my skills to the test by opening a business of my own.
So, I bartered a small closet room at a local commercial collections agency for building a website for them and providing marketing services at a discount.
And, as they say, the rest is history.
Take us through the process of building your agency.
When I worked at another agency, I saw many areas of potential improvement that have not been taken into consideration. The idea was quite simple - data-driven marketing that brings real results. Not to sell for the sake of selling something, but rather to find a solution that would help a business grow, get more exposure, and increase revenue and market share.
The goal was, and still is, to find a combination of marketing solutions that would, along with properly structured business, brand, and sales strategies, would provide the highest ROI possible within a given budget and time constraints. The main issue and problem are that it all takes time. Having enough clients, time to test theories, implement strategies, and see the result. In SEO, it takes about a year to truly test a theory.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I started the business back in 2015. In the beginning, I was all alone. My first client was a vet clinic, where my wife was working. Their website was horrible, and it didn't have any SEO. So I saw it, and one day I talked to the doctor, who was the clinic's owner, and offered some help. After some time, I started cooperation with two of my friends, who at that time had a web-design company. Before this collaboration, I managed to do all the internet marketing myself, except for design; these tasks I was outsourcing. So, we worked according to the following scheme: they would give me all the SEO tasks, and I would entrust them with everything concerning design. After some time of this kind of work, we realized that the most logical solution would be to merge into one company. And so we did.
They say you have to learn from your mistakes, and I say you have to learn from mistakes, but not necessarily from your own.
Our first site wasn’t perfect. That was a custom-coded site, and I created it over the weekend. Initially, it had three pages: a home page, a content page, and a list of services. I launched it and, over time, created new pages and added more content. However, it was a success in terms of UX and tech optimization. Everything was convenient and understandable; it worked quickly. Here are some screenshots of it:
We started our business from scratch. Our only investment was our knowledge and skills: I was in charge of all the data work, my friend Servando took care of all the design stuff, and our friend Josh took care of all the tax and money stuff.
My biggest revelation was that just having good knowledge in a specific field is not enough to run a business successfully. Before Regex SEO, I had no experience in entrepreneurship. I overestimated my capabilities. I had no idea how to do bookkeeping, how to hire people and organize the whole process. I was learning from my mates and learning everything as I went along.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
From the first days, our priority was the individual approach. That was the reason why I left hiring to go into entrepreneurship. I wanted and still want to change the perception of internet marketing. Today, many people still treat this area as just a waste of money. This is especially true of SEO. Companies simply do not understand why it is worth spending thousands of dollars. This also comes from the fact that many companies are not interested in providing quality services in the market today. They simply offer Internet promotion "packages" without explaining to companies why they need them. As a result, the agencies are not interested in the real growth of their clients, and they spoil the entire field.
We wanted to change that, so we quickly gained the loyalty of our clients, who were happy with our approach because it was different from the rest. We talked to customers, got into the intricacies of customers' businesses, and thus we were able to launch successful campaigns and implement good marketing strategies.
Because we had no budget, we did not run PPC or social media advertising in terms of attracting customers. We also did not resort to traditional marketing methods. Instead, our approach was organic traffic growth through good SEO. We also attended trade shows, conferences, and other public events where we could make ourselves known and find potential clients.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are profitable and growing year after year. Right now, we are planning to grow, and we are looking into opening hubs in other countries. This way, our employees will have a place to meet each other in person. Right now, we have a lot of people working on a contract basis with us from all around the world. But we want them to have someplace to communicate.
To be successful in business, you have to be resourceful in how you do it. You don't have to copy the people around you. You have to look for something that makes you stand out.
Also, we are working on our software for project management purposes. We are developing a system that will help us and our clients keep track of the results and progress of our work. Still, we also want to release it on the big market because we think that today's market cannot offer any software that fully meets the needs of Intranet agencies.
We are also now already working on the launch of the media branch of the company. So far, we plan to launch our podcast in the near future.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lesson I've learned is the importance of a good team. Your business is your team. It is impossible to build a successful business without good people who look at the world through your eyes and who fit your spirit.
Retaining and attracting good people is something that many businessmen underestimate at the beginning of their journey. I've learned the ins and outs of hiring the right people during my entrepreneurial career. I have learned a lot of things about HR. Now one of our priorities is our team. We make sure that people do what they want to do and what they are good at. We try to provide a comfortable environment for our employees: after covid, we all have stayed in the home offices, we have flexible working hours, and we regularly hold various team building events, we travel together to various conferences, and we try to maintain a friendly atmosphere within our company. Our goal is to make people want to come to work on a Monday.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Our primary tool for project management is Accelo. As I've said above, we are working on our software, but we are using Accelo. All our employees and freelancers manage their tasks with this software. Since we are a company that positions itself as a company specializing in SEO, we regularly use things like Ahrefs, Moz, SemRush, Yext, and Google Analytics, of course. We prefer to create custom websites, but we also work with WordPress and Laravel-based websites. Our designers prefer to work in Figma.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I can't share the exact book, podcast, or film, but I can give two names of people who inspired me at some point and made a significant impact on me. Their names are Seth Godin and Simon Sinek. To be more precise, the speeches Your Job is to Make Art by Seth Godin and Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
These speeches and works of these guys opened my eyes. They taught me how business should be treated not just as a way to make some money but as an art. After 'meeting' them, I realized that the goal of "just making money" doesn't work; you need meaning. You need some kind of contribution to the world. That is the only way to become truly successful. In addition, their work only strengthened my desire to stand out from the crowd. To be successful in business, you have to be resourceful in how you do it. You don't have to copy the people around you. You have to look for something that makes you stand out. This is more important today than ever in all areas, and it is crucial in the field of Internet marketing.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
My advice would be to find an opportunity to talk to a businessman who is already running a successful company that is doing something similar to what you would like to do. Yes, it isn't easy, but the experience is irreplaceable.
A person who has already walked the path you are about to embark on can tell you about pitfalls you may not have even thought of. He or she can also give you helpful tips on how to overcome the challenges you will face in the future. This will help you avoid making mistakes that you might have made. They say you have to learn from your mistakes, and I say you have to learn from mistakes, but not necessarily from your own.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, we're expanding, and we need everyone:
- Content Editors
- Content Marketers
- Content Writers
- Fullstack Web Developer
- PPC Specialist
- Project Manager
- Marketing Specialist
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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