We’re gearing up for our big Meetup in Dallas on August 21 called The Local Social. If you haven’t gotten tickets you can get them here. In preparation for the event we’re interviewing some of the speakers that will be presenting! This week we’re interviewing Steve Floyd.
As the CEO of AXZM, Steve Floyd has worked hard to build the company he always wanted to work for. Founding AXZM in the spring of 2003, Steve has since grown his agency into one of the most recognized and trusted digital marketing boutiques in North Texas. Starting his career in the early 2000’s designing for print & web – later evolving into LAMP application development and over the last 5 years, Content Strategy, SEO & Inbound. Steve is also the founder / organizer of the Dallas Content Strategy Group and Co-Chair / Founder of SEMPO NTX.
What are you working on right now?
At my company, a lot of the same type of client projects we have become known for. Mostly mid-market to enterprise companies looking for big agency capabilities and acumen in a boutique price point – with sporadic small business and start up projects sprinkled in.
As far as what I am working on personally, that’s a secret! I can say that by this time next year (possibly sooner), we should be in a position to stop taking on clients for a while if we wanted to. I will leave it at that. 😉
Where did the idea for AXZM come from?
To be honest it came together over time. Like most businesses, there was a lot of trial and error before we had revenue and regular referrals.
Before building and marketing websites for companies, I was marketing music events in my early to mid 20’s for a live hip hop production company I started back in 97′ called Nice People. After 4-5 years of working in live music production and marketing, sometime around 02′-03′ I came to the realization that I would never make enough money to buy a house or start a family. I came up really poor, so the drive to get out and get something of my own was always there. While doing a residency and sound at a local bar in 03′, the owner asked me to do a print and web campaign for his bar to get more customers because my night was the only night he was making money.
I had done a lot of fliers for my events and knew some other freelancers who could help me with the rest. The owner asked me what company name to put on the check and I told him d/b/a “AXZM” which was actually one of my graffiti names. I literally learned as I went, fulfilling various internet marketing and print functions myself, or by contracting with other creatives I knew from the local music scene. Google was my teacher in those early days, as the cost (and debt) of college wasn’t an option.
Needless to say, I was really sick of being broke trying to chase a dream only a handful of people half-heartedly believed in. Marketing always came naturally to me and here people were trying to pay me for it. It was a no brainer. Like so many other people in the industry, I basically used the same skill set, network and hustle I acquired in music marketing and promotions to transition into doing it for small businesses. I’m not going to act like it was all perfect though. Success is the child of failure. I refer to the first 3-4 years of my career as “Freelance Follies”. Although none of my early customers left unhappy, I was not charging enough to grow the business and I often ended up sweating out a lot of goal based work. I was still freelancing for bigger agencies off and on over that time period and even went in-house for a while in 05′ at a non-profit in Southern California when times got rough. In those days I didn’t have many peers, co-workers or mentors that offered help, I was really on my own.
By 06′ I evolved AXZM into A through (X) Z Marketing (A.X.Z.M.) and came back to Dallas to give it another try. It took a while, but things have really started to come together the last 3-4 years. To this day, our company has not taken one red penny of debt or conceded any ownership to outside investors. We got here through hard work and that is something we are all very proud of.
What does your typical day look like?
I get in early (unless I was up late working the night before) so I can get my thoughts about me and draft out an overview of the team goals. I try to put together a full overview of current clients and campaigns and include team members in each wrap up, clearly defining deliverables, deadlines and expectations. I then meet with my team leads and make sure they know what is expected of them. Based on importance, I work my way through meetings, client conferences, emails, presentations, proposals, invoices, estimates, contracts while juggling ongoing blogs and internal marketing initiatives and budgets. Seldom do I get to program or design anymore.
Most of my time these days goes toward managing people and processes. Any time I have left I use to write blogs and build decks for speaking engagements. That should change soon though, we are hiring on an administrative staff in the near future. Hopefully I will get more free time to create again soon after that happens.
As an Online Marketing expert, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I never liked the idea of people in the industry who called themselves or were referred to as “experts” or “guru maven ninja” or whatever. We are all learning to better understand this ever evolving moving target that is the internet. I came from the weeds, so I know a thing or two about a thing or two that I have learned from real life experience, but I hardly see myself (or anyone) as an end all “expert” in an industry so relatively new. Rather than outline some a-typical rehashed “7 Point Plan to Success”, I will let you all in on 3 simple principles that have guided me every step of my career:
- Know your value
If you don’t believe in your product or service, who will? Do research on industry scale for the work you and your team are doing and charge appropriately. Sharp, technical problem solvers are in demand these days, especially in the Search Engine Marketing industry. With all the changes Google has rolled out the last 2-3 years, our work is harder than ever. The days of people low balling us are over, know the value of your work and don’t be afraid to stand up for it.
- Don’t take sh*t from anyone
If a boss, client, peer or co-worker ever compromises your dignity, stand up for yourself and don’t be afraid to put them in their place. All too often we play it safe in business and “go along to get along” and I think that era of business has long sense passed us by. I have fired numerous clients that lowered me or my teams value and I simply won’t stand for it, regardless of the money or opportunity that is on the line. I’ve learned in business (and in life) when you have respect for yourself and a strong sense of self, others do to. This is at the core of getting people to execute. If you sense someone doesn’t have respect for you, move on to the ones who do because they are the only ones that matter.
- Eat your own dog food
You can’t ask someone else to do something that you’ve never actually done yourself. If you are having a problem getting a team member or client to get something completed, dig in and really look at what they are having a problem with. If you can’t figure it out, or even find a resource that might point to a solution, chances are they are having the same problem. To this day, I dig into deadlines, audits, reports, campaigns and try to think like my clients when I review the work. Get in the weeds with your people, it will help you develop the empathy and understanding you need to be an effective leader.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I have different ideation processes that mirror my creative process in art in music a lot. When I first get the idea fresh in my mind, I try to capture it in notes on my smart phone via Dragon dictate. I will save all those notes and send them to my email to be further drafted out. Depending on what type of idea or project it is depends on how I move forward. If it is a design idea for an app or a website, I will create some wireframes in Balsamiq (sometimes LucidCharts) and try to transfer my notes to the writeframe so I can begin collaborating with my team on the best way to execute it. Sometimes I just do it all by myself and tinker though, it depends on the type of idea.
As far as content ideas, I will take my notes and start writing out an outline. Once I have an idea of the point I am trying to make or the idea I am trying to get across and I believe in the concept, I commit to writing it, usually in sections, sometimes all at once.
As far as programming ideas, there really is no method to the madness. I just go in and block everything else out until I feel good about it. That could be days when I’m in the zone.
Good marketing and applications start with understanding what makes people tick. I always put people’s needs at the center of my ideas.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The trend of businesses realizing they need to get it together and stop cutting corners is refreshing coming out of the last decade. Entity based search and the convergence of the link graph, knowledge graph and social graph are all very interesting to me right now as well. I’m also really happy to see the SEO and Content Strategy communities having a more open dialogue. I think the next 10 years of search marketing is going to move leaps and bounds compared to the last 10 years. Hold on, it’s going to be one hell of a ride!
What will you be talking about at the Meetup in Dallas?
It’s a panel talk, so whatever comes up. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve, you’ll have to go to the event or read about the wrap up to find out!
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
@RobGarner Rob was one of the first people in the search industry here in Dallas to really take me under his wing and vouch for me. He has given me solid advice on how to handle difficult situations and helped me get the SEMPO NTX group off the ground. Aside from all that, he knows as much (or more) about the search marketing industry than anyone I have ever met. If you haven’t checked out his book, I highly advise you do so. He use to do music too, ask him about it.
@Suredoc Keith is one of the most brilliant content guys I know. His understanding of strategic content initiatives at the enterprise level and experience working with all types of content are mind blowing. He’s provided me key insights time and time again. Keith also works tirelessly on the Big Design conference, a staple tech event here in Texas.
@iPullRank – Mike is always up on the latest and greatest tools and tactics, check for him if you are not already. My production company actually use to book him for shows periodically back in the early 2000s, we have crossed paths many times over the years. We were actually on a Texas based hip hop compilation together. More than that, Mike is a solid dude outside of the internet marketing world.
What motivates you?
- God, my family, friends and my team.
- Changing the way the world currently works to something more sane, sustainable and reasonable, or to at least nudge it in that direction within my lifetime. I’m a hopeless idealist, admittedly.
- Fear of not trying.
How Can People Connect With You?
Twitter – @nawlready
LinkedIn – http://www.linkedin.com/in/axzmgroup
Blog – www.axzm.com/blog
If you haven’t gotten tickets, make sure to reserve them today!