Justin Ward is the Founder/CEO of Ward Media, a digital marketing and social media agency that delivers creative marketing programs to help businesses build brand awareness, attract qualified leads and drive sales.
Announcer: Hello, and thank you for listening to the Founder’s Corner Podcast, hosted by Ajay Prasad. Join Ajay as he sits down with business owners from around the world to discuss their business struggles. As an entrepreneur and proud owner of many seven-figure web-based businesses, Ajay has dedicated himself to helping businesses of all shapes and sizes grow. If you would like to reach out to Ajay, fill out the form on our site. Enjoy the show.
Ajay: Hello and welcome to the Founder’s Corner. This is Ajay and with me, I have Justin Ward. Justin got into the family business of owning an Invisible Fence Brand dealership, which led him to starting Ward Media, being featured in Entrepreneur Magazine. Justin has always believed the harder the work, the greater the gain which I happen to also agree with. How are you doing today, Justin?
Justin: I’m doing fantastic, Ajay. How about you?
Ajay: I’m doing fabulous; beautiful California weather. I hope the weather is still good in Maryland.
Justin: It’s getting a little cooler here, so we’re getting into the fall now. We’ll hold onto that warm weather as long as possible.
Ajay: Justin, let’s talk a little bit about yourself, your business, and your successes.
Justin: I graduated in 2010, and I always wanted to grow up being a farmer. That’s all I’ve known. My grandfather was a farmer, and that’s how I actually got into my bucking bull business for the PBR. In 2010, I had to make a decision with my dad whether or not to sell our invisible fence brand dealership, and that’s when I got hands-on with that.
What we do is train dogs to stay within the yard so they’re not running out in front of cars; they’re not going over to the neighbors, chasing wildlife. We can also do indoor solutions. Especially this time of year, we sell a lot of indoor solutions to keep the dog from eating the Thanksgiving turkey, getting into the Christmas tree, things like that.
We’ve been doing Invisible Fence Brand since 2000, and we’re just buying dealerships left and right here on the Delmarva Peninsula, the Delaware area, and Maryland; just growing. From the experience of being on the farm, I always learned to work hard and if you want something, you’ve got to go at it fully 100 percent and that’s what I’ve always done ever since.
Ward Media is what I started next; that came with Invisible Fence Brand business because I was getting questions from guys that were in their 30th year of business of how are you marketing so fast, how are you growing so fast. What are your ideas? Where do they come from? So I started Ward Media.
I enjoy building businesses and the experiences you get with people and their dogs; it’s opened up a whole new world for me. I want to buy my farm, so I figured being in business is the best way to do that.
Ajay: Where are you spending most of your time, at the Invisible Fence Brand dealership or now mostly on Ward Media?
Justin: I’m trying to get into Ward Media a lot more. Invisible Fence Brand takes up most of my time because I do a lot of the estimates and meeting with clients. That really takes a toll. I’ve got more people involved with the Invisible Fence Brand business that I’ve got to talk to on a daily business. But slowly we’re working into the Ward Media side.
Ajay: Perfect. Tell us about some of the successes and some of the challenges that you have faced.
Justin: With Invisible Fence Brand, I've run into a lot of people. I’ve been able to meet a lot of celebrities and people who had dogs and heard their stories and have been able to have that one-on-one conversation with them, hearing first hand of all their successes. I was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine on growing our business so fast. The Invisible Fence Brand for us is like a franchise world, and I would never in a million years want to get into a franchise because of all the regulations.
But I’ve learned to be able to walk around them and handle them a little bit differently, and know that my job as a dealership is to get out there and be one-on-one with the client. That’s where I’ve really gotten the success. Like I said, we’ve been able to build and pay off debt so fast that we’ve been able to expand pretty quickly, which has been a real success for me.
Even with Ward Media, my Bucking Bulls is staying debt-free. You’ve got to be very, very patient, and I think those are my big success points. So just getting on radio shows and talking to people has been the most rewarding of all.
I would say that the downfall is just your daily operations; a lot of it is family that helps us so you get into those tough conversations every once in awhile where you hurt somebody’s feelings. That’s kind of the downside, because at the end of the day you’ve got to go eat dinner with them. If you’ve made them mad throughout the day, it’s not a very good dinner conversation.
There are a lot of clients who disagree with what we do, but it’s a latter of getting out there and educating them; that’s the kind of downfall each day; you might talk to a client that just thinks you’re the worst person ever. It’s your job to educate them and hopefully get them halfway understanding.
Ajay: I understand. The key words that I picked up, and I think that is really critical for success of every entrepreneur is hard work and patience. I also mentor some entrepreneurs locally, and they want to have a major success in six months. Even my clients for my own business, they come in and say I need to be successful in six months; I just say I’m the wrong person because I don’t know how to do that. Unless you have a long-term view, it doesn’t work.
So having the persistence is absolutely critical. I always say that’s the most important factor. If you look at businesses that succeed and fail, the one thing that always stands out is the persistence. So, it’s a good thing that you already understand that; that’s great.
Now, let’s get into your questions for me, because it’s about you. I see one of the questions is how do you market yourself and find clients? When you are talking about entrepreneurs, especially the smaller businesses, and you already have success so you would understand better than many people; first things first is you have to decide who your ideal customer is before you can even start to find them and start to sell to them.
The most important task for every entrepreneur is first create almost a profile of who is my ideal customer, and then really narrow it. Make it into as small as possible. Even if you have a huge goal, you want to conquer the world; you always have to start with your back yard. That’s the first thing. What you need to do is figure out who is your ideal customer based on your values that you are going to be providing. Obviously, unless you’re providing some real value for your customers, then no one’s going to buy from you, right.
So the first important thing is nail down your exact value; why you are in business. Once you have that, then what you want to do is create the ideal customer, and then make a niche. For example, if you decided your ideal customer is going to be doctors, then simply find it. Then, you may want to say what kind of doctor? And you may say okay, family care physicians. Okay, now let’s start with targeting primary care physicians in my area.
So, you see how I’ve taken it from mass marketing to all the doctors down to a specialty and to a small area? Because then, once you have that, you will have the resources. Then you have to first go after them. All of a sudden you’ll know okay, these are the 500 people I’m going to market myself. Once you have a narrow niche, you can find it and compile a list very easily. You can go to the Yellow Pages; you can buy the list. It’s not going to be very expensive. Then, you start to test your marketing message; what resonates with the client?
I always encourage people to do surveys. If you can, just go and talk to the doctors and ask them; I’m getting into this business and I just want to get your input about what I am providing; is there any value or not? You’ll be surprised how many of them will say yeah, sure, I will talk to you.
So again, finding the client, the most important thing is why you are in business, and your why has to resonate with your prospective client, the doctor; and you have to test it. You have to do all of this without going bankrupt, obviously. So just focus on a very small niche, very small area. You already talked about patience and that’s what I always say; you have to be patient.
Then, once you know, number one, what marketing message is working on that small group, you know now that you are able to sell. I always say the first sales are the most important. So once you sell them, now you further talk to them to make sure that the value they are getting from you is really worth it for them.
Once you have figured it out, you just expand your horizon. Initially, I would suggest just primary care physicians, and go all over the state. Then you can go all over the country. Then you can start to add other doctors.
I’ll give you a very good example. I’m sure you’ve heard of how Facebook started. When they started, it was only for Harvard. After that, they said okay, all the Ivy League schools can come in. So again, it was a very narrow target they could market. Once they conquered Ivy League, then they said okay, any college student. So in 2005, 2006 timeframe, you needed to have a dot edu email address to join Facebook; otherwise you couldn't.
Then at some point, when they had enough value that they were providing, they just opened it up to everyone. So again, it took ten years for them to become a very significant business. Of course that is more like an outlier, but the process is very similar for everyone.
So like I said, finding clients, and before you find clients, you have to really understand why you are in business, what is driving you. And whatever is driving you has to resonate with your client. Then you test it with the ideal client you have created in your area. Once you have done that, then you can start to plan on how to grow. Am I making sense?
Justin: Yes, absolutely. The biggest takeaway I get from that is just finding your strength and making sure you’re doubling down on them, and really take a fine-tooth comb and go through your details slowly, and with that comes patience.
Ajay: Exactly. And again, I have always said unless you are creating a real value for your customers, it’s not a business anyway; it’s like a hustle. Every entrepreneur thinks that he’s creating real value, so the best thing to do is just test it with your potential customer. This means you have to define who is a potential customer. You test them, and if they say yes, this is a real value; then all of a sudden you start to succeed. So, it is really important to understand why something is not working.
It’s actually more important sometimes to understand why it is not working then why it worked. I have been in situations in big corporations where we launched a campaign and it became successful, and that turned out to be the biggest curse because we thought hey, this works. And it was just a quirk. It just so happened that it worked one time, and then after the next four times we failed. Then we say well, maybe this strategy is not the right one. So learning is very important, and you learn very well from failures.
Justin: That’s good. That leads me to my second question, which is what are your methods of advertising and networking? Maybe give examples like your doctors of how you can actually go into the workplace and build that success?
Ajay: First what is really important is say you are targeting doctors. Just start with the premise that not every doctor is going to sign up with you. So first, what you want to do is when you create your value statement, your why, why you are in this business; the people who that will resonate to are the ones who will become your customers. And you know that no matter what you do, it will never resonate with 100 percent of the people.
All you want to do is find the people who have the same values as yours, who have the same desires or goals and the same vision of that you have for them. And then you have the automatic choice after that. That’s what you do. Once you narrow it down, you start to narrow it even further down by making sure of where the doctors are and how many of them there are where exactly your value resonates.
This is the reason why you have so many brands of the same products selling. Because every brand has their own message and it resonates with their loyal customers. That’s how it goes for the brands. Every small business has to build their own brand, and that brand will never have billions of dollars to advertise just like the big companies.
So again, what you do is go after the right people and then growing from there.
Justin:Yes, that totally makes sense and the one word that stuck out is funnel. I know we do a lot of chamber events, do it makes sense to go to those events and funnel through people. You’re shaking hands one-on-one, and you’re really learning who you can target to and who you can not target to, so that totally makes sense what you’re saying.
Ajay: One of the best ways to do that is by educating the people about your business, about your values. Because then again, like I said, the people who will find that their values are consistent will automatically not only come to you, but you will be the only choice for them. You’re going to be the automatic choice. This is the challenge that every entrepreneur faces; how do you become the automatic choice of your frustrated clients?
Justin: Absolutely. A lot of times I meet people that have success but then they don’t know how to carry on with that. If you keep working the system, changing your new ideas and building off your old ones, I think you can continue on being a success.
Ajay: Correct. Like you, since you have grown your business, you know that complexity grows in multiples of many. It’s not like if you have one business, one dealership and you open a second one; your complexity just doubles. It’s five times more because all of a sudden now you have to deal with maybe needing to have a new manager, new staff; how do you track the performance?
And then when you have five of them, now the complexity is much bigger because you can’t be managing all these managers so guess what, now all of a sudden you have a district manager and all different training. Someone who is successful and growing, with each level of growth they need to take a step back and say okay, whatever we are doing, is it going to work in this environment?
Because if you are not always tracking and making sure that the systems and processes that you have created are still working flawlessly, then all of a sudden you are going to run into a roadblock and you won’t even know that you have hit a wall. So you’re going at 100 miles per hour and you hit a wall, and that’s not a very good scene, right?
Justin: Absolutely. That leads into my last question; what do you think the future is for people in business, and especially with your experience where do you see things going not only in the marketing world but how people handle themselves in business and continue growing?
Ajay: I think that is the future. I’m telling you, very soon with artificial intelligence coming in, with outsourcing and literally call sourcing that is happening, all of these full-time, nice jobs that frankly when I started my career that I was used to, are disappearing. Like I said, people will have to take charge of their own lives, rather than depending on a company, this large company that I worked at for 75 years and I retire and get whatever; $300.00 pension. Those days are going to be gone.
So, I think what you’ll see is more and more people who in the past would have considered going and working for major corporations; they will start looking into creating their own businesses. From my perspective, the future in America for entrepreneurs is fantastic. Because with every new challenge, which as you know the market is throwing tons of challenges; there are going to be opportunities.
I’ll give you a simple example. You may have read about the autonomous cars that are coming in. they’re saying there won’t be need for truck drivers anymore because the trucks can go on their own, which is very correct. I think in our own lifetime we will probably see trucks on the freeway on their own with no driver. Of course if you are a truck driver, you need to say wait a minute, so what happens? What are the trucks doing? Now all of a sudden the truck that is running, say 12 hours a day because drivers have to sleep, is running 24 hours a day. So you are going to have fewer trucks on the road, also.
But at the same time because it is moving more cargo, every truck is becoming more efficient so you will need more people to unload and load and all of that. So you can see where the market is shrinking and where the market will grow. Then you will need to adjust to it. And the people who will be able to adjust to the changes are going to be very successful in the future.
So like I said for entrepreneurs, I think especially people who like to take control of their lives, this is fantastic. This is the best time to live in. The people who want to get a job and are happy with it, there’s nothing wrong with that. In the past there was nothing wrong with thinking okay, I’m a truck driver and I've driven 25 years for this company, I retired, I have a pension and I like to go fishing. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But unfortunately, that model is going to disappear. So now I am saying that if someone was thinking now about being a truck driver, they should take a look back and say wait a minute, I have no control because this technology is going to replace my job. So what do I need to do? That’s where the entrepreneurship comes in. Then you say what are the opportunities that problem is creating and you delve into that.
I don't believe personally in the doom and gloom of artificial intelligence and robotics and we have hundreds of millions of unemployed people. We have head this story before in history so many times. When the steam engines started, it was like oh my God, the people who are creating clothing will go out of business. Then when tractors came in, it was like oh my God, the farmers, 90 percent of people who are farming will have no jobs. This story has been there.
But there will be a lot of disruption in the future; no doubt about it. I will tell you that almost every business will see disruptions. So again with disruptions, the people who are able to adjust and take advantage of the opportunities; that every disruption will bring problems and it will bring opportunities.
So, anyone with the skills to be able to identify the opportunity and grab it will do very well. I see a lot of people doing very well in the future because I’m an old guy, but I work with only young people and most of the people that I deal with, they are very creative. They think, they are problem solvers, and those are the traits that are going to help them withstand all these changes.
So are you going to see a lot of disruption in the future? Yes. Is it going to create a lot of problems for a lot of people? Yes. There will definitely be some chaos with those things. But then at the same time, for the business, for the entrepreneurs, every disruption will create a lot of opportunity. My thing is that listen, you can’t control what is happening in the world; you just can’t help it. I’m not going to go and stop IBM from working on artificial intelligence. But what I can do is I improve my skills so that I’m able to see what that change is going to bring and then how do I fit into it.
So yes, I’m really excited. I think there is a really exciting future for entrepreneurs, for sure. And I’m not just saying that every entrepreneur creates jobs. The future is also bright for the people who understand that change happens and I have to adjust for the change. And I am always very bullish. I think that people get it and frankly like I said, I don't believe in this doom and gloom that you hear over all these problems that are happening.
Justin: Yes, if you could see me on my end, I’m shaking my head the entire time to agree with you. I think when you and I were in school, there were different jobs we could have chosen to go on. But I think with this new entrepreneur world, that you’re going to have a lot of new jobs that you and I have never heard of that are going to affect that new opportunity. And anybody who’s willing to work, they’re going to have plenty of opportunities.
Ajay: I’m an old guy, right? When I started in marketing, the only marketing was TV, radio, and print. That was the marketing. So all the training was around that. Now, when the digital world started in the mid to late ‘90s, for the last 20 years it’s been digital. Before that, there was not even the broad internet. 13 years back I had a hard time convincing people that they should have a website for businesses.
So what’s happened now, the whole momentum has shifted to digital marketing. So the standard marketing, if you were on TV, radio and print; you have to adjust. The people who never adjusted and said okay, I’m a media buyer for TV so what the heck am I going to learn, and if you don’t learn how to translate those dollars into digital for advertising, then you become obsolete.
So has it disrupted a lot of people? Yes, that is true. Because I’m old, I know that a lot of my friends have retired because of that. They don’t want to go and learn [inaudible] [00:30:17] and all that. But on the other hand, in reality, I think the digital world has created more jobs in digital marketing for people of all levels. Before, you had to be a wonderful copywriter, or you had to be a wonderful creator of video or an ad creator in order to have a good job in marketing.
Now, you can just learn how to manage pay per click at Google and you have a job. So I am sure the number of jobs is multiples of what it was in the old media. So again, yes, old media got disrupted totally; you have a new media. Yes, a lot of newspapers have disappeared because people are going online. But overall, if you look at it, I’m sure that we have created more jobs than we have lost, even in this revolution.
I think this is very typical. Any time when things are changing, you have people who fear change. But if you can embrace change, you’ll be fine.
Justin:Absolutely. My grandparents are that way; they’re afraid of change. But they’ve seen so much over the years. Back to your example with Facebook, the number of jobs Facebook has created is unbelievable. People like my grandparents should see the progress more so than the distress. It’s all about their opinions on what they want to see, but there are two ends and you’re trying to find that middle, and that’s where you’re going to succeed.
Ajay:Okay, good. So Justin, for my listeners, let them know how they can reach you if they want; how do you want to be reached?
Justin: I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Twitter is a big thing of mine, so justward88, or you can look me up on Instagram at JustWard; I’m on there as well.
Ajay: Okay, wonderful. I encourage my listeners to go and really connect with Justin. We have had a wonderful time. Justin, I’m looking forward to this discussion going live and good luck with your business. It looks like you have a bright future in front of you.
Justin: I appreciate it, and it was great talking to you and I wish you luck in your endeavors, too.
Ajay: Thank you.
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