Business Spotlight Series: E-Circle Marketing of Manchester Owner Mike Keiser
All right, Mike, thank you very much for joining us, you can just give a brief introduction of who you are and what you do for a living now and we'll get started. Sure. My pleasure, TJ, thanks a million for having me.
Mike Keiser, I'm the co-owner of E-Circle Marketing where we're a small, full service digital marketing agency, right in downtown Manchester. As I said, we're a small group, there's a grand total of eight of us. We do web design. We do search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media marketing, email campaigns.
And we bring in professional video production people or commercial photographers when necessary. So we're just a small, but again, full service digital marketing agency, mostly working with small-ish privately held businesses, and some nonprofits, also, longtime member of the chamber member of the board of directors of the chamber, and a big fan of Manchester, overall. Great. So how did you how did you decide to open your own business? Wow, that's a that's that's a, I'll make it very short. But I was in my last real job I'll call it with a company called New England mobile X ray, I was on call I was down at Danbury hospital one Sunday and talking to one of the radiologists that was about to read some x rays, I had just shot.
And he said, did you know that Mark and I are leaving the hospital. We're opening our own radiology practice. And he he said to me, have you ever thought of starting your own business? And I looked at him and I said not until this very second. And that was it then I have since since what year since 1996. I've never worked for anybody else ever again. We've talked before and you mentioned that you were in military and spent some time in San Antonio so let's go a little bit through like after high school what did you do and you mentioned also going to college but what did you go to college for? Sure.
Wow, like I guess most people's story, it's not a direct line. It's a it's a quite a circuitous route I, I joined the army because I was accepted into Warrant Officer Flight Training. I wanted to be a helicopter pilot.
So my intention of joining the military was to be a pilot in what they call primary flight phase. So you go through Warrant Officer entry course and then you go through three phases of flight training. In in my first phase of flight training, they call it primary flight.
I broke my leg real badly on a run and I got what's called a downed slip, which means I was not allowed to fly anymore. I was actually given the option to leave the military or choose another field. I became an X ray tech and X ray tech school was in San Antonio, which was one of the greatest places I've ever I've ever been I absolutely loved San Antonio, and then went from there Fort Knox Kentucky. Korea, Fort Devens, Massachusetts, Iraq spend time, you know, in, in the Middle East, in in the first Gulf War.
And then came out thought I wanted to be a doctor. So I got a degree in natural science and studied also a lot of physics and chemistry and did not get accepted into medical school, believe it or not. So that's when I was working then for this this company, New England mobile X ray and got the entrepreneurial itch. started a company that was medically related, we did onsite bone density testing for osteoporosis.
And that business went really, really well until it didn't. And so what I mean by that is insured because a lot of hospitals and larger medical practices started getting their own bones and bone density equipment. Insurance reimbursements went down. So we not only lost client base, but we lost we lost we lost revenue as well. But so we ended that business but realize that what I loved the most was the business of business and growing a business so American Novel our bone density company grew that from an idea to, at its peak about 2 million a year in revenue and I just, I really fell in love with, with growing businesses.
So I am officially totally unqualified to own a marketing agency completely, absolutely, totally unqualified. But we've, let's see that this April 23, will be our 18th year in business. So, Well you're doing something right. Sorry, if that was a very long answer, No, not not at all and, you know, qualifications, you know, success is its own qualifier. So, you know, I think being in business for 18 years that, you know, it says something. So, you've been around since 18 years.
So you started the circle marketing about 2003. Why, why he circle marketing. Again, because what I found really loved and had a good knack for was, was growing a business, so reaching an audience or having an audience, grasp or understand a message. And also, having gotten the the entrepreneurial itch back in 96. Love, just love being around people that were, what's the phrase in the arena, you know, that we're out there doing it, that we're taking their chances? A lot have succeeded a lot have failed a lot. It's just, it's a, it's a really cool world to to I was, I was having Margaritas is with a former client, he's a very successful business owner.
And, and we were just talking and he said, he said, Mike, we are near like, wild animals, that just, we, we were probably unhireable, because we're just like wild animals that have to do it our way. And I can do it, I kind of love people that have that spirit, and to help them. You know, people, it's so the old cliche, but cliches are cliche, because a lot of the time they're true, they say people start a business because they're good at something good at building a widget or providing a service.
And it's the it's really cool to help those particular businesses grow and be found on the internet and, and bring more clients in and expose how good they are at their product or service. So it's sort of shallow to say it's really fun, but it's really fun. So, so how'd you come up with the name E-circle? Entrepreneur, so the the, actually the the official name, the legal name, if you will, of the company is the Entrepreneur Circle.
But it's a DBA is as E-circle Marketing, but because it was really built for that small business owner. So and when I say small, the average size of our client is about 2 million a year in revenue. So they're small, but they're established. Usually, the founder is still the owner, although we have a couple of second even a third generation company as a client. That's not the norm.
Most people are still in charge every day. So the E, the E-Circle came from Entrepreneur Circle. Nice.
Now, you mentioned last time we talked that you work with a lot of startups as a consultant rather than then bringing them on board as a full service client. Can you talk a little bit about that? Oh, sure. So it's, um, so most of the people that we work with, will say, I, I understand what we need.
Can you just do it for me? And some of the things I mean, I won't, I won't sugarcoat it, some of the things cost money. So one of the big things that that we that we've really borderline insist our clients engage in is search engine optimization, for example. But it isn't cheap, it's it's not cheap at all. So for us to become somebody's full service marketing department, their outsourced marketing department, it can be, it can be upwards, this isn't typical, but it can be upwards of $2,000 a month. Most startups and which is cheaper than hiring a full time marketing person in your company. But for an average startup $24,000 in a year is is not terribl y realistic.
Right. So one of the things we love to do either do them in workshops or do them individually, is it's helped new businesses be do it yourselfers, so help them understand the kinds of content that they should be creating and putting out. We talk a ton, for example, about the value of video, we are huge, huge, huge advocates video, not only because people retain more information from video, but they feel like they get to know you, they feel like they get to know your personality, you don't always need to bring in a professional video producer, you have this like you have your Right your phone, if you have something valuable to say, you can shoot a 62nd video on your cell phone, the production value is not necessarily relevant. If you're putting out something that's that that is interesting and relevant to your target audience. So for startups, it's it's really helping them to be good. Do it yourselfers, because they can't really afford to hire a full service agency much of the time.
Yeah. And I was talking to, I was talking to a client yesterday. And, and she was saying, she was saying, I don't know if this is good or bad. She said, but how good you are at your service, or how good you are at your product is really important.
But she said for your business to survive, you need to be really good at getting your word out, again, educating your target audience and letting the world know you exist. And so for startups, we're really happy to consult with them about things they can do themselves. Because I can't tell somebody that just started a business, hey, here's a here's a marketing plan, it's only going to cost you $2,000 a month, right? After their job, you know, comes up up the floor, they'll say No, thanks.
Right. So you said your average average client really asks you to do stuff that, that they don't necessarily have time or the expertise to do. Right. So, Right.
Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, you know, because we have a lot of students that may dabble in social media, we have students that are getting a social media specialist certificate, like, you know, stuff that that, you know, I'm really trying to focus on businesses, and we could show Hey, this is a possible career path when you're gone. And when you're out of MCC. Yeah. Oh, wow.
So I, I was kind of hoping you would ask a question around that. Because if there is some, so the biggest problem that most small businesses have is that they are invisible on the internet. So we're we just brought on a new client, for example, and I they're in they're in a home improvement field. and there are two competitors that they have better that have been eating them up on Google. So there, there and the company we're bringing on, you know, from from their own testimony are very, very good at what they do.
But they were just simply not being found on the internet. So for MCC students that are getting into looking into the to the marketing world. One of the first things we talked about TJ is search engine optimization and I sometimes get accused of speaking in black and white.
But one thing I strongly strongly believe that if a company is not engaging in search engine optimization, as far as marketing, they're almost not doing anything. It's so important, it's so important to be found organically, online, especially on Google. So for students that are in the marketing world, learning search engine optimization, and learning search engine marketing, so paid search you know pay pay per click and that sort of thing.
There, the need for that is only going to explode, it's only going to explode. The the need for paid social media so paid Facebook paid LinkedIn, the knowledge the need for that is only going to explode. I believe strongly now statistics are statistics and I'm totally making, making this up.
But I believe, if you were in the market for, I don't know, let's call it a pair of running shoes. I believe that 70% of the buyers journey takes place before they ever actually speak to a human being about it. So meaning, you're going to online, you're going to look up those running shoes, you're going to read reviews about those running shoes, you're going to look at Google reviews on running shoes. So anybody that has the skillset, of helping a business be not only found but be credible, online is is a skill set that is only going to grow more, and more, and more, and more people are going to be doing business online and what's wonderful about the internet is it's easy to put out your own content, it's easy to put out your stuff.
What's terrible about the internet, is we are being bombarded. This is not a made up, this isn't my made up statistic, this is actually real. But between audio ads between pop up ads between radio between TV between print ads, wherever we are, we're being bombarded more than 2000 times a day, people trying to get our attention.
So so much of it becomes white noise. Right. So developing the skill set of helping people be found an engaged with on the internet is is only going to get bigger. Awesome. Is there an achievement or contribution that you're most proud of? You mean, professionally? Yes, yes, professionally? I mean, you know, as a parent, I'm sure you know, I Yeah Imean, my kids are great.
But Wow. Yes, there is and but it's a strange one. Um, so I told you when the when the medical imaging when the bone density business went bad and to say it went bad. Like it was, so I guess the biggest thing I'm most proud of is, is bouncing back from that and reinventing as E-Circle.
That's I think the thing I am the most proud of is that had to what is it that that Mike Tyson said once everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face? Yeah. and I got punched in the face. But we came back. And I'm not saying the comebacks been easy by any stretch.
I have a I have a friend, a doctor, but started a couple of outpatient clinics doing occupational therapy. This is several years back, and he called me one time, and he goes, he goes Mike, I wouldn't feel like a real business owner, if unless at least twice a day, I didn't want to slash my damn wrists, and so sometimes, sometimes being a business owner feels that way. So guess what I'm most proud of is, is just the just coming back and then dealing with starting a business all over again. But living to tell the tale.
That's awesome. So how about something that maybe you thought you knew going into owning your own business that you quickly realized you didn't? Oh, yeah. I think it's the thing that led to wanting to become a marketing agency, which is the big thing.
The big, big, big thing that hits you in the face right away is that just because I'm open for business doesn't mean that anybody knows or cares. Like it's that was a that's a huge one just because you quote unquote, hang out your shingle that absolutly doesn't mean that you're going to get customers. So that was, that was like a holy a holy mackerel kind of moment. Oh, I got to go out and sell stuff right? That's awesome. So what would you say to someone considering getting into the marketing industry? I mean, we've talked you brought up a couple of things that would be useful to know but what's something that you know, if somebody is really passionate about it? What would you kind of counsel them before getting into it? Into the into the field of marketing Yeah. To to decide who you would like to work with, so where you fit in for, for example, so there's a small agency like ours, you know, we're, as I said, a grand total of eight, there's a, there's several big agencies in Connecticut, one that I'm really good friends with, we have a lot of back and forth, there's a company called Impact Branding and Design, and I, I think they are over 70 employees now, and they work with a whole different clientele than than we do.
So things somebody going into marketing, the one thing I would want them to know is what I mentioned before is that the, the need for any business of any size to be found on the internet is only going to expand, it's not going to go away. But think about where you would like to fit in. So maybe you get hired by a small business and be their inside marketing department, their head of marketing, some people love that role.
Some people want to work with a small group like ours, some people want to be part of a big organization that's working with much bigger clients doing 50 million 100 million a year in revenue, and be part of a big agency like Impact. So I would think what the goal is is not going to change it's to it's to be found, it's to engage potential clients. It's where the you individually feel like you best fit in as an employee in a small company, an employee in a small agency and employee in a large agency, starting your own niche business where it just feel like or think about, where do you feel like you best fit, and because there's gonna be a fit, wherever you best fit, there's gonna be a place for you, it's only gonna get bigger. So think about what you love and the kind of place where you think you could thrive and be your best self. So you're the second business that I'm interviewing for this series and you're the second one to say that, right? Oh, really? Okay. Yeah.
So our first was Meghan Calipari earthly provision. She's plant based bakery in, in Cambridge, up by Boston. Nice.
She talked at length about how, you know, have a niche, or a niche? Know, know, what you want to do, because you apparently at an early age, you know, I she was talking about how she knew when she was little, she wanted to be a pastry chef. And I said, Well, you know, when I was little, I wanted to be in the army, I wanted to be a police. You know, I wanted a lawyer. I was like, sexy jobs. I didn't, I didn't know that I would find my passion in higher ed.
It's interesting that this is a kind of a theme developing that, you know, know where you want to where you want to kind of end up and that is going to drive you, You know, TJ so you just bring up an interesting point, though. So if I could add to that, I, I would, I wouldn't change what I said or what she was saying. But, also, I wonder if at 22, for example, maybe you don't have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. So find a fit for now. And let that let it be a learning experience.
Because you're going to get other experiences you're going to things are gonna say you're gonna say, oh, but maybe I'd really like to do that. So I think now, it's not uncommon for adult adult Americans to not only change jobs, at least seven or eight times in their adult life, but actually fully change careers two or three times. So I guess that would be another message that that I would want people to know is what might be a perfect fit right now. It might be a perfect fit right now. But don't let don't, don't avoid the learning or letting that be a springboard for your next thing you don't have to know at 20 or 22, what you want to do for the rest of your life. I feel like that's completely unrealistic, especially in 2021.
It just feels unrealistic. Yeah, I talk with students during orientation, and I tell them that I go, you know, I'm, I'm Gen X and we were the first generation that went from changing jobs five or six or seven times to potentially changing entire career fields two or three times and now, anybody post millennial. Yeah, I mean, especially at the rate technology is going you know, I talk a lot with people about how, you know, 15 years from now, we're not going to have McDonald's, take up an entire street corner. Right, I mean, you're looking at the way robotics are going that it could end up the size of an ATM, you pull up and go, Hey, I, you know, I want a Big Mac, and it puts it all together and spits it out. So right, that's going to displace a significant section of the workforce, the more the technology advances, the more we're going to have to be able to adapt. And to your point, I mean, that that could mean entire fields disappear.
Right, it can be disappear, or you decide. So I was gonna be a doctor and now I own a marketing agency. It's okay, it's totally okay, if you if you're 22, 23, 24 and go to work in some field or some job.
But then you get new information, or you get new insight and you say, you know, what I would really like to do, I'd like to do this instead and I that so I guess that would be my biggest message is, is that is perfectly okay. It's perfectly legit, to, to change your mind at some point and pursue something else and I don't know why we sometimes we humans sometimes pigeonhole ourselves, but it is completely okay to to, to, to change direction. That's awesome. So, so you've been doing this for a while, what what inspires you Getting the biggest thing candidly is getting to create my own path, that's, that's what inspires me the most, even when it hasn't gone well, I kind of not kinda, I get very inspired by getting to do it my own way.
That that, that keeps me going. It's just getting to design what I want to do. It's a, it doesn't always work out exactly the way they want. But that's the biggest inspiration. Yeah. Hold on a second.
Sure. Working from home the joys of a four year old having the remote control in their hands. Is there anything else you you'd like to share with our students? Wow.
Maybe reiterating, kind of some of the things we talked about, but the, you know, the adage of following your passion is, is quite true. I think everybody should engage in something they love. But the business owner, slash capitalists side of me says, you also have to do something that you can make a living in. And I don't mean to be blunt that way, but you could have a passion. So, I don't know, you could have a passion in something that is absolutely unmarketable.
So I would encourage students to do things that you love. Don't be afraid to change jobs. Don't be afraid to change careers.
Don't be afraid to change your mind. But please keep in mind that you also want to do something as as a successful business owner said to me one time a long time ago, you'll also want to be able to make a buck. And I'm sorry if that sounds blunt, but no, not at all. You got to you've got to be able to make a buck.
Yeah. Is there a question I should have asked you that you know, cuz you know yourself better than than anybody right? So there may be something that you really wanted to talk about that you would have asked yourself that I did. Oh, I no.
I thought, I thought you did great, I, I totally enjoyed it. I just Yeah, I know I think it did. I just can't i can't expand on the message enough of just do do what you're meant to be. Do what you're meant to be doing. So I know I can't think of a question that you should have asked.
So well, okay one I just hit me is. Is, is owning a business. Always a bed of roses, and, or something along those lines and no sometimes oh, I've got I laid in bed in the middle of the night, staring at the ceiling, wondering how payroll is going to be made you go through all of that stuff. So it's a, it's one of those things like becoming an actor or over a musician, you only should do it if you have to.
So as far as owning a business, I would say, only do it if you have to, if you're pushed, there was some famous director on Broadway, I forget who it was. That said, I don't want people that want to be actors. I want people that have to be actors, like they, they just have no other way and that's who I would encourage to, to open their own business. So other than that, no, I think I think we covered a lot. I really enjoyed this. And now if a student was interested in looking at E-Circle marketing and what you do and the services you provide, how would they find you? Oh, well E-circlemarketing.com is a is a great place.
That's a great place. Also, their E-Circle marketing is on Facebook and E-Circle marketing is on LinkedIn and we love well, thanks to thanks to you. We actually have an intern that starting on Monday, and anybody else that was that's looking for real life real time marketing experience could on our website, they'll find phone numbers, emails, we would if any student ever wanted to just talk to us even in more detail about the field of digital marketing.
We're wide open to that too. So, Awesome. We've we encourage and we'd love engagement and love being part of the community. That's fantastic. Mike, thank you very much for your time. Thank you, TJ Great to see you.
Good to see you have a good one.