First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mike Krass: We are doing our best to thrive in the face of this global pandemic.
To describe how we’re doing in a few words:
· Persevering: My wife works in the hotel industry. As you may know, the travel industry has all but ground to a complete standstill. Every day is a new adventure for her at work as they try to safely keep their doors open.
· Bonding: I don’t believe that our family has communicated as open and honestly as we have prior to this pandemic. It’s been a unifying event for us.
· Creative: It’s impossible to stay locked up in your house without going completely insane. We happen to live in beautiful New Orleans, LA, the USA, where the Springs and Falls are very steady in terms of temperature (70’s-80’s F). So we’ve been getting creative while maintaining our social distance! Date night dinners in the park, bike riding around the city, learning how to golf, kayaking in the rivers/bayous are some (of the many) ways we have gotten creative. We even celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary with a socially distanced photo session and takeout from 3 of our favorite restaurants!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded MKG Marketing.
Mike Krass: Find below information about myself.
- About me:
° I’m a curious person!
° I constantly travel (less now because of Covid-19) because I enjoy meeting people from different cultures or value systems, walks of life, and backgrounds
° My passion outside of work is flying small airplanes
° I left the best job that I ever had to start my company, which is somewhat unusual as I was actually really happy there!
- My career: I had the advantage of learning on the job at my first few jobs. And, whether I deserved it or not, being trusted with a tremendous amount of responsibility. This helped me grow professionally faster than I ever could have grown had I been in a traditional corporate structure where I was expected to do one thing well and not spread my ‘wings’ so to speak.
- Founding MKG Marketing: We founded MKG Marketing on the principle that we wanted to do MORE for our clients in the realm of performance marketing. We wanted to work with customers who were interested in being able to compute, “If i spend $1 with you, how much will you get me back in return?” That lead to our first tagline – measurable media – which has now expanded beyond paid media into the realms of marketing analytics and Search Engine Optimization for B2B technology or healthcare brands.
How does MKG Marketing innovate?
Mike Krass: Innovation takes time. Business-changing ideas don’t just fall out of the sky; they often take a lot of conversation, careful thought, and the courage to put ourselves out there by releasing that idea, concept, or execution out into the world.
When we innovate for our clients, we ultimately ask them if they trust us with a big idea that has come to mind. Do they trust us to try something new that may actually not work?
A great example is the Protocol Library project we shared with our client, ExtraHop Networks.
· We shared that there was a huge opportunity to create a dictionary-style section of their website that outlines security protocols.
· This idea took years to finally get the resources behind it to execute.
· Now, it’s a section of their website that provides tremendous marketing value (brings in 1000’s visitors each month) as well as sales value (sales enablement, definition, industry library, etc.)
· This idea took time to concept. Time to get resources budgeted. And a time to create once it was green-lit. But now, it’s an incredible asset for ExtraHop Networks that none of their competitors had when it first went live.
· Take a look here: https://www.extrahop.com/resources/protocols/
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mike Krass: Coronavirus has taken a lot from our business this year:
· Revenue from clients who can no longer afford a digital agency
· Excitement and energy from the lack of in-person meetings as well as our fun annual retreats
In terms of coping:
· I’m reading a lot, particularly a lot of stoic greats such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.
· Educating myself on understanding economic cycles and swings.
· Looking for opportunities for business growth (they exist!)
· Telling myself, my team, and my friends that it’s honestly alright to not be alright on any given day. In true stoic fashion, “this too shall pass.”
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mike Krass: As the leader within a company, we make choices every day, which are incredibly difficult.
· Where are we thin? Where do we need more muscle/person power in the agency?
· How long can we work with an unprofitable client?
· What is holding us back? What door could I open for the team that would allow them to be stronger, faster, and better?
Lately, there is a single lesson that applies to all of those choices (and more) that I’ve been paying a lot of attention to.
That lesson: Move FASTER.
When you know, there is a problem, put everything down and address it now. Don’t let things sit or wait. Tackle it head-on the moment you recognize it’s going to hold you back.
Moving faster doesn’t mean that you act without thought. It just means that even if you can only make 1 step forward today, it’s critical to take that step and not delay.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and MKG Marketing in the future?
Mike Krass: In terms of dealing with stress/anxiety, the first thing that I believe is important is this: how do I spot the fact that I’m stressed?
· Tend to curse a lot more and also say things that I immediately regret once it leaves my mouth
· Can’t think clearly, meaning I fixate on things and fail to see a bigger picture
· Events start moving faster. If I’m not careful, huge chunks of time disappear while I’m “in my own head” (minutes, hours)
To bring down my stress levels, I cope by:
· Go for a walk.
· Talk to someone outside of the stressful event.
· Walk away.
Sitting still does not generally help. E.g., I can’t just take a nap because I’m usually too worked up.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mike Krass: We compete against two opposing forces:
· Other digital agencies
· Clients hiring out our capabilities in-house
For us to stay in the game, we need to be really clear with our clients at all times on four key things:
· How are you (client name) doing personally right now? Where’s your head at?
· What is happening within your industry? What has your attention?
· How are we doing on your behalf?
· What could we be doing better for you right now?
Having those honest conversations regularly is incredibly important to make sure that everyone is on the same page. If we take care of our people and our clients, I don’t need to worry too much about other agencies or in-house hiring, as those are decisions that are not 100% in my control.
Your final thoughts?
Mike Krass: Our #1 value is People First.
People are People First. We are all human.
We speak to each other and clients as humans, in plain English (not in the jargon), positivity, and thoughtfulness. We lead with joy and remember to laugh.
We don’t jump to negative conclusions and find the most respectful interpretation of what people say before taking things personally or getting defensive.
On the flip side, we don’t assume people know what you’re talking about and provide context.
Finally, no person is an island. We work together and harness each other’s strengths to better ourselves and our services all the time.
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