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Fail Quick and Fail Often… – Interview with Matt Walde of Advision Marketing

Matt Walde is President of Advision Marketing in Denver, CO. I got a chance to visit his office to discuss traffic, conversion, talent, and making the jump from evenings and weekends to full time agency owner.

Matt acquired his first client for Advision Marketing by accident in 2006 and moonlighted his role at Advision for the next few years. Matt kept telling himself that he would make the transition when Advision was bringing in the same amount as Matt’s day job. Watch the interview to learn how Matt turned this side gig into a booming Denver agency.


  • Why did you start Advision Marketing :20
  • Making the jump 2:37
  • Traffic and Conversion 6:36
  • Function over design 8:18
  • No Nightmare moments 11:40
  • Adding talent 12:56
  • Unique gift 14:48
  • Some of your best clients 16:13
  • If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing 19:38
  • What is next for Advision Marketing 20:23

You can find more information about Matt Walde and Advision Marketing by visiting their blog, and following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Video Transcript


Brent Weaver: I’m Brent Weaver and you’re watching uGurus, the most watched web series to become a more profitable and in demand web professional. Today I’m in Denver, Colorado hanging out at Ad Vision Marketing with their president, Matt Waldie. Welcome to the program.

Matt Waldie: Thanks for having us.

Brent Weaver: So, why did you start Ad Vision?

Matt Waldie: That’s a great question. Partially dumb luck, right? So I was working at a massive online retail company in Omaha, Nebraska about 8 years ago, and I actually showed up at this job not knowing what I was going to be doing, until the first day I realized I was getting involved in paid search. And immediately in that first day or two when I figured out the mechanics of how the platform worked, I was sucked in. I thought it was fantastically cool in how you can set bids to keywords and that drives traffic and I track conversions back and so on and so forth.

Well, after doing that for about a year or so, the light bulb went off and it should have gone off a lot sooner, but this is applicable to any business, and so even though I’d been telling my buddies what I did for quite a while, they didn’t really listen, didn’t care too much, until one day one said, “Hey, Matt.” “Waldie.” Probably more realistic, he said, “Hey, Waldie. My boss is kind of on my tail about more web traffic. I don’t know anything about this. Would you mind stopping by and talking to us for a little bit?”

And so I did, and low and behold, I got my first client out of that lunch meeting when all I thought I’d be doing is talking to them about how this stuff works. Well, it’s addictive. Once you see that you can truly help a company by driving more web traffic and helping them convert more of that traffic, for me it’s a high. It really is a high and there’s a great deal of satisfaction that I get out of that, so for a long time I was working and living two lives. I mean I very much was.

The company that hired me back then probably wouldn’t love seeing this video, but I would work full time in their office, I’d have extra sets of clothing in the car, and I would take a lunch break, and I’d go have a meeting, and then I’d get back to the office, changing while I’m driving, right. Very dangerous in hindsight, but it was a life that I chose and something I wanted to do because I loved doing this for other businesses.

When they can see that light, and it clicks for them and they see how it works and how easy and predictable paid search is, anyway, because that’s what I was doing in the beginning, it’s just an insanely awesome feeling.

Brent Weaver: So you worked for the company sort of moonlighting, that kind of created your own company. Tell me about making the jump right, because I know a lot of people are thinking about, you know, they’re maybe doing a little freelance on the side, and they’re like can I do this full time? What was that dynamic for you?

Matt Waldie: That’s an awesome question. In hindsight, I probably drug it out too long. I didn’t have the guts to pull the string right away. So I knew that Ad Vision had to get to a point where I could at least pay my bills before I would make the jump, but that created a very difficult life right, because I’m working 40+ hours a week at my full time job, conducting meetings over lunch or in the mornings before work, if they’re on the east coast or whatever, but then it forced me to also have to work full time when I got home.

So it’d be a situation where I had so much business from Ad Vision that it was great, it was starting to get pretty leveled out. I wasn’t making very much money at the other company. But it got to the point where I’d work full time, get to my house, literally walk in the door and the laptop’s open. Dinner’s a two-minute microwave meal that I’d eat in three minutes, and then it’s right back to work until 11 o’clock.

So for me personally, I wanted that comfort of getting it to that level, but it’s also a very difficult path because you’re working, stressing out, and it was really hard. The story of how it all kind of happened, the jump, the day I made the jump is really funny. I’m from Omaha, Nebraska of course. I went to Creighton University, and at Creighton, three or four of my best buddies now live out here in Denver. So we’d come out and visit these guys and have good guys’ weekends, and it was on one of these trips that I met my wife.

So for a while I was in Omaha. She was a girlfriend at a time, but living in Denver. I was working full-time in freelancing, and everything just sort of fell into one weekend. In a 48 hour time period, I quit my job, took Ad Vision full time, and moved to Denver, and moved in with a girl who I never lived with before.

Brent Weaver: No risk there.

Matt Waldie: No, not at all. But I mean I want to fail quick. It’s kind of a theme that we say around here. We want to fail more often and fail more quickly. So like a Band-Aid, I just viewed that whole situation like it’s, let’s give it a shot and see what happens. So I know it was a very long answer to your very simple question, but I drug it out to the point where Ad Vision was about at the point where, in terms of what I was making at my other job, and I pulled the cord.

Brent Weaver: So, once you gave up the other job, what happened then? Does it feel like it took off immediately? Were you able to, having that extra time, did it make a big difference in what kind of projects you guys were taking on?

Matt Waldie: Well, at that point it was still me. It was only me. So everything, as Chris had mentioned prior, we were paid search-op for five years. Only paid search. It did enable me to do a little more networking, maybe a little more business development, but at that point, I mean truly I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff. I mean that’s the truth. So then as it is today, a lot of our business is referral-based. Now we have Chris and other abilities and resources to proactively pursue business, but at that point I had more time to spend more time with my clients, so there was more phone calls, more meetings, more confidence building, if you would, in myself an Ad Vision. So I think that bared a lot of fruit.

That resulted in more referrals. And there really wasn’t a whole lot of proactive selling or prospecting. Sure, I did some very small paid search for myself, but the budget then was maybe a hundred dollars a month, maybe, so it was nice. It nice and it did free me up time to, what I think, gave me an opportunity to produce just a better product for those clients I had.

Brent Weaver: So, it sounds like you started working in this trafficking conversion paradigm pretty early on compared to most of the web industry. It seems like content marketing, traffic conversion stuff, still seems very new to a lot of web professionals out there. What was the attraction? Was it just because you had the experience coming from this other job, but what attracted you to the trafficking conversion paradigm?

Matt Waldie: Sure. You know, what’s funny about the job that I took in Omaha that got me introduced to paid searches is the fact that I didn’t know that I’d be doing paid search until like day two or three, but once I saw it, for me it was like that was it. Like this is what I want to get seriously good at. Today, that’s changing. Paid search is integral. 80 percent of all of our clients do paid search. Beyond that it is S.E.O., beyond that it is strategic media buys based on personas that we help develop and so on and so forth. And then the most recent, most exciting thing that we’re getting into, like you said, is the content marketing. Proactively generation, the marketing automation if you will.

So for me it was, it was A: in just understanding how the platform worked but knowing how powerful it was and how it can generate serious results and have huge impacts on clients’ businesses. So anyone who doesn’t have a true passion for that part of the business who just wants to get into Google AdWords and pull some levers and add some keywords and write an ad, I’d say it’s probably not for you. You have to truly love and care about the outcome that that tool can provide for your clients.

Just is HubSpot, a tool that we use quite often here, as well. If you just want to pull levers, don’t get into this, but if you really want to make a difference in your clients’ businesses then absolutely go after it.

Brent Weaver: One of the things that you mentioned was that you don’t build websites, so how do you work with websites for clients? Is there a moment where you say this website just needs to be scrapped and rebuilt, but how do you guys approach that with your clients?

Matt Waldie: That’s a tricky—that’s a difficult topic, and some people have ugly babies. You have to tell them.

Brent Weaver: But it’s harder to do things with ugly babies that you don’t–

Matt Waldie: [Chuckles] We don’t say it that way, no. We have to break it very gently. There are a handful clients that I will not name right now that need some website help. We wouldn’t approach it in a way to say, “Hey, we really think this banner should be a different color of fuchsia,” or whatever, but if we can get into the analytics of the site and we can say, “Client, with the current website you have in place now, 80, 90 percent of your traffic is bouncing.”

So think of it this way, 80 to 90 percent of the traffic we’re getting in the door and you’re paying us for is not doing anything for you. If we can convey it in terms of dollar amounts, we aren’t a design shop, so we’re not going to tell you, this is how your navigation needs to be, or this how you should really spell out your service, content wise, but we look at things from a statistical standpoint and we say, the site right now just isn’t working.

We have a lot of strategic partners who are fantastic web developers, web design agencies. They can help you, we can’t, but it’s our job, and it’s our due diligence, I think, to at least raise that hand and say, this site isn’t helping us out. Maybe you’re wasting money on us and on the platform that we’re working on for you because of your site. So we’re totally fine in those situations to pump the breaks. Stop marketing, stop paying us, connect with an agency and get a true website in place that will convert.

And we do get involved in that process. We’ll help an agency implement what we believe to be conversion best practices, but you’re not going to see us coding pages ourselves.

Brent Weaver: You mentioned an 80 to 90 percent bounce rate. Is there a certain threshold you guys look for in terms of this website or the page is not performing well or is that a client by client basis?

Matt Waldie: No, that’s a great question. As a rule of thumb, if you’re below 40 percent, I would personally say you’re doing a pretty darn good job. If you’re between 40 and 60, probably middle of the road. If you’re north of 60, and we’ve seen 90s higher, I think it’s time to have a good conversation about what’s going on here.

In some cases, though, we work with a lot of service-based companies, so is it entirely possible that we’re going to get somebody to a service page? A law firm, whatever it might be. They get to a specific landing page that was built, and there’s a phone number at the time of that page, could they call and then bounce from that page? Certainly they could. Certainly they could. So are there exceptions to the rule? Yeah. If in those cases we can quantify the conversion volume that we’re getting and it’s in the door at a reasonable cost to the client, we might raise hand and say like we’re just wanting to be aware of this, but maybe no reason to freak out yet, because we do believe that people are picking up the phone and calling, and we actually do have tools that can help us really validate that. It’s a great question.

Brent Weaver: On the business side of Ad Vision, has there ever been a moment where things weren’t so hot, maybe a little bit of a nightmare moment?

Matt Waldie: Fortunately, [knocks on wood], no, truly not. We certainly wouldn’t argue if our clients would pay us a little more quickly, that’s one area that these guys probably hear me belly-ache about all the time, for as advanced of a company as we are, technologically, right, we use cutting edge software and we like to think that we’re on top of things from that perspective, we still collect payment via check. So that is just an embarrassment in terms of our operational efficiency. So we are seeking out other options to enable clients to pay us online, pay us more quickly. I even think they’d enjoy it. I think. But no. In fact, if you look at revenue, just high level from January to today we’re up, this year, even 40 percent. That’s phenomenal! I truly could not be anymore excited about it.

But sending those invoices are one thing, right? Getting those checks in the mail and in the bank is another. So I never had a panic moment, but cash flows like it does with any other business.

Brent Weaver: So you started this approach by yourself. How have you gone about adding new team members? Has it been just a very organic growth? Did you kind of wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to make this thing bigger than myself,” or how has that growth path been?

Matt Waldie: Yeah, that’s a really good point. Well, I guess from the get-go I never imagined Ad Vision would only be one person. That just doesn’t sound like very much fun to me. I was very lucky to meet Chris several years ago, and at that point I don’t think even he and I knew what we were going to try to build together.

After hiring our third, which was John, we started to get some momentum, and we were able at that point to really start modeling out. Like when is the right time to bring another body in the door? We have that identified. So we know when Ad Vision adds X in revenue, we really need to get another body in the door. Now what is that person going to do? We use a software called Harvest, Harvest tracks our time. So we can revert back and look at April and May or any other month if we’re all tracking accurately, right? And say well, this is what part of Ad Vision is really demanding resources at this point in time, so that then is used as kind of a guiding line, so we know if this person comes in, they’re going to be doing inbound, or they’re going to be doing paid search, because A, this is where we spent time, and oh, by the way, look at the new business, that’s the other half of the equation, look at the new business we have coming in the door.

And so, when we get someone in, we usually have a pretty good idea as to where they’re going to fall, but that said, we all wear a lot of hats. We all take out the garbage. We all change the paper towel dispenser. We all do everything. So if someone is brought in to do inbound, could I promise that person they’re not going to build a paid search campaign in a month? No, it’s a reality.

Brent Weaver: What would you say your unique gift is?

Matt Waldie: [Laughs] I certainly hope this is true, but I like to think that I can relate to people, and I think that’s important for everyone who’s in this office right now. We work in a very geeky, technical environment, and we have to talk, we’re forced to talk about some really complex technological scenarios with clients, and if you can’t do that in a personal way, in a way that’s easy for them to understand, then I don’t think they’re going to like you very much. They may not be somebody that you’re going to want to work with, and so when I look back at how Ad Vision was able to grow; certainly results have to be there. If you don’t produce results people aren’t going to keep you around. But if you can produce results, you’re accessible, you pick up the phone and you’re nice and pleasant when people actually talk to you, I think that goes a long way, and I truly believe that’s been a key part of our success, just being hopefully somewhat likable, but also having the ability to explain complex scenarios in simple and easy to understand ways.

Brent Weaver: It’s definitely a critical element for dealing with clients, because you have these very complex things. I mean just the idea of traffic conversion and explaining that to a customer could be a several hour or weeks or months before they figure it out.

Matt Waldie: Or more. Sure.

Brent Weaver: Who’s some of your best clients?

Matt Waldie: Naming names? One of my personal favorites is Nebraska Medical out of Omaha, Nebraska. Of course it has to be an Omaha company because that’s where I’m from. But they’ve been a client for close to five years now, and they’re always willing to try and experiment new and different approaches to getting traffic in the door, and getting for them is really patient inquiries, so they’re fantastic.

Some of the web design shops that we work with here in town, Xen Man, for example, an inbound client of ours, and they’re a lot of fun to work with. With inbound marketing there’s a certain aspect of strategy and personal development and just kind of campaign management that takes place, but there’s also a part that involves some heavy design aesthetics. And so when we can kind of merge those two best practices then in those cases they help us out with some of the design aesthetics.

For us that’s a lot of fun, because we can take and really do the best of what we can do, and meld that with the best of what they do, and the outcome, I think, is pretty awesome.

Brent Weaver: For a client that you’ve had for like five years, how do you guys continue to go back to the table with them to say, let’s do something new, let’s try something new, the trends are changing. Do you guys have something set up, structurally, where you meet with your clients once a quarter or once a month, or how do you guys keep that business flowing?

Matt Waldie: That’s an excellent question. It’s even something that we’re trying to improve upon, it truly is. We’ve had some clients for as long as eight years, and some clients are doing the same thing with us that they were doing eight years ago. Some folks, and maybe we even fall into this ourselves, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it, so maybe we were doing paid search for you then and it’s working so maybe we’d like to just slam on the gas a little bit more, so let’s do more of that. It’s certainly our responsibility to bring up any new opportunities that we truly think would work for clients. We talk with our clients all the time. Some have weekly, some have bi-weekly, some have monthly, quarterly phone calls with us. Lots of folks want to stop by the office and talk to us.

And so any time we’re communicating with the client, we should, and not just to try to sell more, but we feel it’s our responsibility to raise a hand if there’s something new that we think would impact their business. So, I think what you asked was account development. How we’re working on that? Chris is doing a phenomenal job. I mean anyone that he is able to get into an in-depth conversation with him is probably willing to sign up and do more with us, but I think as we’re able to prove out our platforms and develop case studies and things like that, those have proven to be a very valuable and powerful tool to share with our clients and say, well, here’s what we did with this client, they’re similar to what you do, we think this would be a good option to explore. Yeah.

So I think it is a challenge because sometimes it’s hard enough just to get them over one hurdle. We talked to a truly billion dollars company last year that didn’t do paid search, they really didn’t understand it, and so whether it’s a company like that or a three person irrigation company that we have in Omaha as well, sometimes talking to them about paid search is a hurdle in and of itself, to open up a conversation out of S.E.O., or to inbound marketing, sometimes they might feel like they’re drinking out of a fire-hose. So we do try and be careful and diligent about when we bring those things up with clients.

Brent Weaver: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

Matt Waldie: Oh, that’s a fantastic idea! I love getting out and doing goofy, adventurous type stuff. If I wasn’t doing this I would hope that I’d be some kind of, this is going to sound really goofy, but I would love to be like an endurance athlete. I would love to run marathons. I’d love to do triathlons. That is something that I try to fit in as much– well, [chuckles] light jogging is something that I try to fit in as much as I can outside of the office, but there’s definitely a passion for that, and it’s something, I don’t know if I have the abilities to do it, but in a perfect world that’s what I would love to be doing.

Brent Weaver: Very cool. What would you say is next for Ad Vision? You guys mentioned behind camera you guys were looking to do office space. Are you looking to double or triple the size of this agency, or is it more of a slow growth pattern?

Matt Waldie: No, we’re very much growth oriented. The office has to happen, and we’re looking at space plans and approving those now. So, August 1st we’re fingers crossed, hoping that’s going to be the next move. With that, we’re going to have larger space and now I would certainly hope that we’re able to add another two or three bodies by the end of the year. You know, we consistently, year over year, aren’t quite doubling but we’re not far off, and I don’t see that trend stopping any time soon.

You know, I think a mindset that we kind of have right now, is truly expansion in every way, every direction. We’re not looking at limiting what we’re doing, and so could I promise you that we’ll be 30 people next year? No, absolutely not. But we’re hoping so, and that’s what we’re shooting for.

Brent Weaver: Very cool. Well, Matt, I appreciate you guys taking the time to talk with us today, and I wish you all the best with Ad Vision.

Matt Waldie: Thank you so much.

Brent Weaver: Alright! Well, stay tuned for more great content from ugurus.com.

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