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Whether you are a new start-up or an established business, brand visibility is always key. If people don’t know about the new things you are doing, how can you make a sale?
We have Chris Dickey, CEO and Founder of Visably AND Owner and Founder of Purple Orange, on the podcast this week. Chris shares that 89 percent of B2B marketers labeled brand visibility and awareness as the most important goal over sales and lead generation. In this day and age, with so many communication platforms, advanced technologies, and modern ways of thinking, what are the most effective methods of getting your brand out there? In this episode, Chris unwraps the ROI for PR, the important pieces to measure brand success, and relates it all to the customer journey.
Chris Dickey has a resume that spans publishing, in-house marketing direction, public relations, and software development. Chris is the Owner + Founder of Purple Orange Brand Communications, a PR agency specializing in outdoor and active lifestyle brands. Chris started exploring the intersection of search engine marketing and public relations using his agency clients as the guinea pig. Chris started by having his agency audit search results for PR opportunities, eventually scaling that strategy to win over large swaths of highly valuable organic search results for his clients, using PR tactics.
In 2019 Chris took this strategy a step further by founding Visably – a new marketing / PR SaaS platform that audits search results for brand mentions and provides an analysis of a website’s “channel” for further segmentation and list building (so PR practitioners can extract clean media-only lists out of the keyword data).
George: On this edition of the Conquer Local Podcast, we’re gonna go all the way deep into Wyoming. And we’re gonna talk to Chris Dickey, the CEO and founder of a couple of different companies, one of them, a PR agency called Purple Orange which has been working with a number of the biggest outdoor and lifestyle brands in North America. But he recently has launched a SaaS startup called Visably and we are going to dig deep into search and why it’s important to rank on the first page of search. And what I’m hoping we’ll find from Chris are some things that we can utilize in our day to day in encouraging our customer base that there is this idea of utilizing some public relations tools and tricks to get your brand listed and to help you to become authoritative. And if you’re selling anything in e-commerce, maybe there is a way to use some of the e-commerce marketplaces to build your brand. So a deep dive into SEO and ranking on search with Mr. Chris Dickey, the founder and CEO of Purple Orange and Visably coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.
George: It’s the latest edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. And this week, joining us on the show, Chris Dickey. Chris is the founder and CEO of Purple Orange and has now launched a new SaaS company to solve a problem that… And I guess, Chris, you’ve been living this problem. So welcome to the show first off. And the other thing I wanted to mention is I don’t think we’ve had a guest from Wyoming, so I’m excited. I also, there are only three states that I haven’t been to, and Wyoming’s one of them.
Chris: Oh, man, you gotta come visit. We got a lot to show.
George: I know. I hear that. Big state. Beautiful places.
Chris: We got some huge mountains, a lot of, I don’t know, animals. It’s a good spot.
George: I wanna first talk about Purple Orange. And you’ve been working with some massive brands over the years, primarily in the PR space, but also in helping them on e-commerce and those sales. Can we talk about your background and your time with Purple Orange?
Chris: Well, thanks so much. Yeah, so it was great to be here. Thanks for having me. And yeah, so I’ve been working in the marketing and sales field for about 17 years in a variety of roles. I’ve been an in-house marketing director. I worked in publishing for the last, I don’t know, 12 to 15 years. I’ve been on the agency side. So I’ve worked for large and small agencies. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked for my own agency. It’s called Purple Orange. We specialize in active lifestyle and outdoor consumer brands. So a lot of the stuff that you would play with outside. If your listeners are Canadian or wherever… In the US you might go to REI, we work a lot with those brands. In Canada, we might go to NBC. We work with a lot of those brands.
George: Got it. So action, a little bit of a maybe adrenaline junkie. Is that you, Chris?
Chris: I mean, I think that there’s so much that can be said for spending time outside, whether it’s adrenaline or disconnection or whatever you wanna call it.
George: Well, in Wyoming, as in Canada, we got a lot outside. So taking advantage of that. I’m interested to get some learnings from you. I’ve always been fascinated by the agency business because, in my career as a media sales rep, that’s where I got my start 30 years ago, I was introduced to agency folks quite early on because that’s where you go to sell inventory. And that business has changed a lot. If we look back at the last five years, what do you think are some of the most remarkable changes in the PR and agency business that you’ve seen?
Chris: Oh my. Yeah, I mean the PR industry since I’ve started has completely changed. When I started it, and I’m sure you remember the assist, the main way… So what PR does, just to step back for a second, is we effectively are lobbyists for our clients to get them in the news cycle, to get people talking about them, to help get these third party endorsements rolling. So you have other people who are helping promote the message of your clients. And so it’s not advertising. We’re not paying for these placements. People are, you might say, earning them. So it’s earned media. And through this process, 10, even five years ago, when I started this, the iPhone didn’t exist, I mean. So imagine just a world without mobile, right? So that’s the biggest change right there. The fact that we’ve migrated from a place where we receive our news via a print and news cycle to a place where we receive it maybe on our desktop to where now we receive it on our mobile devices and mobile has overtaken desktop nationally in search, at least in the US. So there have been so many ways that I think people receive the message differently. And I think that’s a huge one. I think podcasts are a massive change that we’ve seen. So podcasts did not really exist 10 years ago, or it was really in its infancy. And now it’s a massive platform and very, very well received across the media landscape.
George: So you would then say, if I’m putting two and two together, that podcasting is a form of public relations?
Chris: I think it can be. I think what PR is is just how do you meaningfully connect with an audience using a third-party arbiter?
George: Well, the reason I asked that question is because I’m noticing that our podcast is driving authority for the brand, but also it’s lead-gen and we’re running… Our reps are finding… Yeah, I talked to this new prospect today. They’ve been listening to the podcast for a year.
George: And it’s hard sometimes to get the attribution. So producer Colleen has to produce her reports and she has to then go to the corporate marketing team and say, “This is why we need to keep investing in the podcast.”
Public Relations and Return on Investment
George: And they go, “Okay. How much money are we making from it?” Or, “Have you had to solve this?” And I’m not specifically talking about just podcasting, but I’m specifically talking about the loop between public relations and return on investment.
Chris: Yeah. No, that is such a good question. And it’s something that PR grapples with every single day. And I would say that for most larger brands, there’s just a general recognition that PR is an important piece of their portfolio and we’re gonna be able to measure it to X extent, but not the same extent that you’re to be able to measure an ad. And especially, knowing that the customer journey is very nonlinear, somebody might have to have many touchpoints before they actually circle back and make some kind of call to action happen. And so to track the customer journey, especially when it happens through a podcast or somebody sweeping through a newspaper or whatever it might be is really, really challenging so no question about that. But this is what led me to where I came out with Visably, the SaaS solution that I’m also working on on the side and it’s recognizing that one of the most productive avenues for our agency has always been search. And what I mean by that is not just the ads, not just how your website is ranking, but how other people are talking about you in search. So it’s effectively PR, right? And so what search does is it delivers an incredible customer that no other platform provides. If you need this widget and it’s super niche, where do you go? Do you go to your hardware store to get it? Or do you just like type in the name of the super niche widget and you see what search provides? That’s likely what your customer journey looks like today. So again, where else do you find this customer? And then the thing about it is, everybody clicks at the top of the organic search results. 70 plus percent of all the tracking for keyword will land somewhere in the first five organic search results. A high performing ad in search for a non-branded search term does around 2% of all the clicks on a page. So I mean, it’s still 2%, there’s still customers clicking, but it’s 98% of the people are clicking somewhere else. And then what’s really interesting is by the bottom of the very first page, you have about a 1% click-through rate at the very bottom of the very first page. And there’s virtually no traffic on page 2. So I guess to summarize, search delivers an incredible customer. It’s very predictable where they go to find the information, the top of the first page. And if you can penetrate that real estate, you’ll do very, very well.
George: Well, it’s interesting. When I saw your name come across our desk to be a potential guest, I’m like, “We need to get Chris on the show because I want our listeners who are local salespeople working across 50 different countries, working with local businesses, to understand that this is at the core of what we’re trying to help the business with, is their online presence. So that when someone searches for the business, they get that organic search result.’ And why it was such an epiphany is I have an auto dealer group that I’ve been working with. Good friends; dealt with them for years. And they said, “We’ve really reduced our ad spend because we’ve achieved the Holy Grail,” which is that organic search result on the first page. They’re there, at the top sterling reputation. They’re doing all of those things. They got to that point. But when you started your SaaS company, Visably, you found that there was a big gap in helping businesses to understand how to get there.
Chris: Right. And if that car dealership is already there, kudos to them. They’re doing a lot of things right. I would say that that is the exception, not the rule. And it’s really, really tough to get at the top of search, especially for the keywords that you wanna be raking for. So let’s just step back for… I think it’s easier if you’re a hyperlocal company and you’re serving a population in a very specific kind of area or region. If you’re just launching a new running shoe and you’re selling to everybody, that’s a tough thing to do. And that’s where it becomes incumbent on how do you find other methods to get in front of the customer? And your e-commerce partners can be a massive way to get in front of new customers. And we all know that, right? That’s a good reason why you go to Amazon in the first place. It’s because they have this massive marketplace, this big ecosystem, and you can merchandise within it to receive a lot more sales or whatever it might be, whoever is selling your stuff. They also have a much more dominant position in the online landscape than you probably do if you’re a new customer. So for instance, all of these shops that you’re working with that have these e-retail presences, they’re doing a lot more than you and they’ve been around a lot more than longer than you and they have a much higher domain authority than you when it comes to SEO. So they’re positioning very, very well at the top of search. It makes sense in those circumstances to work with them, to merchandise better for those search engine landing pages. And what I found, at least with our clients at the PR side, is that none of our clients were even having those conversations with their e-commerce partners about, “Hey, we’re selling camera gear. “You’re showing at the number 2 organic search position, but you’re not merchandising our camera gear on that landing page. How can we change that? How can we improve that?” So we’re not even having these conversations. And that’s where Visably comes in. So just to back up what Visably does, we’ve been talking about it, not for a few minutes. It allows you to do a very simple audit of how your brand is performing at any given keyword search. So you might type in, I don’t know, best camera strap 2020. And if you’re a company that makes camera straps, you type in your name, and then we’ll look through every single link on the page against all the page content within all those links and figure out who’s talking about your brand. Maybe there are some PR hits. That’s where I come from. Maybe there is some e-commerce partners that are selling your stuff and on your landing pages or maybe there’s a bunch of blind spots that you never even knew that they existed, but you have those relationships and now you can go fix them.
George: Yeah. So it basically, the problem that you’re trying to solve is there was no visibility before. And you were finding that there was opportunity. Let’s build a scalable SaaS solution to be able to find those opportunities to help brands to market themselves better and capture that white space.
Chris: Totally. Yeah, exactly. And it was totally opaque. The first page of search was totally opaque. If you’re a brand that wanted to understand all of your potential customer touchpoints, there was no single place to do it. And so what we try to do is make a really simple way to create that audit and see what the results look like.
E-Commerce: More Than a Store
George: I’m finding more and more as we move through this post-COVID, we’ve been smacked in the face now and we understand there’s something there and we’re making the pivot and more and more businesses are moving to do e-commerce. It’s the cart, it’s the… And some of those businesses have very unique offerings that they wanna get broader distribution for. And what I think what you’re saying is you may wanna partner with an Amazon or another large e-commerce solution to build that audience and get that message out there. So you have your own e-commerce solution for your store, but then you could place it on these other marketplaces. And Facebook and Google are doing marketplaces as well. So there’s a whole bunch of them out there. Visably then could help to find out what keywords are important or which keywords you may wanna be purchasing. I just wanna make sure that I’m hearing you correctly.
Chris: Yeah. So I think most brands that we work with already have a good sense of what their keywords are. They’re already bidding on keywords from a cost per click perspective. They already have an SEO solution that they’re interested in trying to promote, but they’re not looking at it from a multichannel perspective and trying to align their PR team with winning those hits aligning their eCommerce team with winning more search engine top of funnel visibility with their e-commerce partners and really saturating every single potential customer touchpoint in the first page of search. So that when you look for… So when your customer is actually looking for that widget, that camera strap, whatever it might be, no matter what link they click on at the top of the first page, every single one is going to recommend your product whether it’s your website or not.
George: Right, wherever it could be purchased. And —
George: This is a dramatic opportunity. If you were to start capturing those searches, it can impact sales quite dramatically. Do you have some examples you might be able to share with us of where businesses have been able to take advantage of this white space?
Chris: Yeah, as an agency, we focus on it not from… So as a PR agency, what we’ve done is we looked at it from an informational perspective. People who are maybe not looking to buy right away, but they’re learning to look and gather information around what they might buy. And we go out and we acquire these reviews and things. And a big problem for PR agencies is just figuring out who the heck do you talk to? Right. Who’s the right person to do the review so you get some traction and your client actually makes some money? And what we have realized was that Google has this insane algorithm that elevates the best writers and the best outlets for any subject in the world. And it’s sitting on the first page of their search engine. Now think about it from the perspective of how can you list build using that technology? And so Visably allows you to go ahead and just extract… This is a neat piece of our IP. Is it allows you to extract all the PR hits from their first page of search, cleanly. So it’s not mixed up with all the other junk and static on the page. And you can scale that across tens of thousands of keywords. So all of a sudden you have this massive media list you know exactly who you need to reach out to, all the outlets that are doing the work that’s being recognized by Google. And also they’re literally the ones that are getting in front of the most customers.
George: Is this always a product that’s being sold or could this technology be used for personal branding as well?
Chris: I’m absolutely using the strategy for SaaS. So I can say it from Visably’s own perspective. We’re this young software company, no one’s ever heard of us. We just released our beta this past summer. We plan to roll out a much more robust solution this fall or early winter. The best way people are gonna learn about us is through search. When people are looking for SEO tools or PR tools or whatever they might be looking for, it’s very unlikely that visably.com is gonna show up at the top of search. So then what do we do next? Do we just compete for those keywords? Those are really expensive clicks. May be much better if we could just dial in on who’s writing these kinds of reviews about the best PR tools out there, and get on their radar and nurture that relationship and get them to write a review about what Visably does. So again, that’s a bit our strategy. It’s definitely a growth-hacking strategy, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about that delivery of the right customer.
George: It’s interesting. I have a friend who’s opening a new restaurant at the end of COVID, so good on him. He definitely likes to take chances. But we were talking the other day about how he was gonna position his business to stand out from all the other bloody restaurants that are out there. But he has a very, very storied history in the community of working with various high profile groups and trying to convince him that he should reach out to those people that he’s been helping, the charities that he’s donated to, and get them to endorse his brand. It was like pulling teeth because it’s way outside of what this guy… He’s been a restaurant guy his entire life. You open the door and you do good service and good food and people just come. But we all know that it’s not that simple anymore. And there are ways to leverage this. What I’m reading into this is you’re saying find the people that have the authoritative reviews and get them to review you and use their authority to rank on search. Am I tying those two things together?
Chris: Perfectly. Yeah, exactly. And it’s not to say don’t pursue your own SEO. Do it. If you can get your own website in the first page of search, that’s the gold standard. It’s just really tough to do. And there’s no question that it’s very valuable if you can do it. But for the searches that are driving the most customer traffic, it’s just you have to display some websites that are much larger than yours. I think at the end of the day, it is all about these influencers. Sometimes the influencers are the e-commerce partners, right? They’re the ones that have insane domain authorities. They’re doing so well on search. And you might as well leverage that relationship to its fullest.
George: Well, that’s what we’re doing when we bring a guest like you on. We put the social post together and say, “Hey, Chris, that was a great episode. Could you share it with your audience?” We’re building out that network of people who could be influencers, but to our point, now to come full circle to the beginning of this show, it’s tough to show the ROI around that. And you’ve been doing this for a long time. Congratulations with the SaaS startup. It’s very inspiring. And for our listeners, you found a problem and it was in your day-to-day PR work where you’re like, “We gotta come up with a solution for this.” And you’re building out a SaaS solution to solve that. So congratulations on that with Visably. If people wanna learn more and be in touch with you, Chris, how would we reach out to you?
Chris: Reach out Chris Dickey. Visably is V-I-S-A-B-L-Y.com. If you just reach out to us via our contact form there, I’m sure it’ll make it make its way to me ’cause there’s not very much staff here yet. Also, you can look me up on LinkedIn at Chris Dickey.
George: We appreciate you coming in and teaching us about the importance of those earned rankings online and how to utilize some of that public relations moxie that you’ve built over the years to help out our conquerors that listen to the Conquer Local Podcast. So thanks for joining us.
Chris: Thank you very much.
George: I like bringing on guests like Chris because he comes from the public relations side of working with a customer. And he has done a lot of direct to consumer brands and especially in that outdoor lifestyle. And he brings a unique perspective on how important it is to rank on the first page of search. Now, if you listen back a few moments into the interview, he talked about hyperlocal and that’s where we talk about the auto dealer that’s ranking on the first page of search because they’re the only Land Rover store in town. So yeah, for hyperlocal, it actually is easier. But what I’ve found when we’re dealing with those local businesses to get them to brag about their product, which is a lot of what public relations is all about, is hard. And one of the hardest parts is to articulate the return on investment. To say, “If we do this work and we get these people that are lobbyists, that have an audience, to talk about you, we can dramatically increase the visibility of your brand on the first page of search.” SEO is bantered around as this thing and it’s something that we need to achieve. But what Chris talks about is some of the key tenants of search engine optimization, getting onto the first page for the things that people are looking for. And then that relates back to the brand. And I am just fascinated by this rise in e-commerce because I think there are problems that we need to figure out how to solve for local businesses. If you sell unique items, you might wanna put it into some marketplaces. Is Amazon the enemy? No. Amazon could actually be the marketplace to drive demand for your products and services. And there are lots of e-commerce brands that are doing just that. So understanding more about these marketplaces, I think, is important. And it’s something that you need to get into your vernacular on a day to day basis. So we are searching high and low to find e-commerce guests that can come in and talk about this. And some of these brands that Chris has been representing over his almost 20 years in public relations are all doing e-commerce and they’re all doing it through marketplaces. And we can learn some things from his history and his background on how we articulate the value of e-commerce and the things that we can do to help newly e-commerce-fide businesses in our own portfolios. So thanks to Chris Dickey, the CEO of Visably and the public relations firm, Purple Orange, for joining us on this week’s edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. You can communicate with any of our guests in the community at conquerlocal.com/community and get in there and ask some questions of any of the guests that we’ve been bringing on in recent weeks. And we actually are finding is a great conduit to get feedback on upcoming episodes. So let us know what you would like to hear in the coming months. We actually are starting our planning for 2021 right now and looking for feedback from our audience on what you’d like to see from upcoming guests and upcoming Master Sales Series training episodes. My name is George Leith. Thanks for joining us this week right here on the Conquer Local Podcast. I’ll see you when I see you.