Many entrepreneurs have stories of how they built thriving and transformative companies. These show how they relied on their knowledge, skill and experience to overcome extreme obstacles. Zach Thompson, the co-founder and CEO of MediaSmack, is one such entrepreneur.
In an interview with Insights Success, Zach discusses how he built MediaSmack into a digital media company that offers its clients unique and creative legal marketing services. Due to MediaSmack’s success and his willingness to share his story, Insights Success recognizes Zach Thompson as one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs of 2019.
Below are highlights from the interview conducted between Zach and Insights Success:
Give a brief overview of your background and role at MediaSmack
I co-founded MediaSmack in 2013 with a former colleague. We had previously worked in the legal marketing field and saw a need for changing the conversation of “does SEO really work?” to “my law firm absolutely needs SEO”. We saw many companies in our industry claiming to be SEO and SEM-focused, but at the same time, they were failing to deliver on what they had promised their clients. At any given moment, I have held every position within our company. I have been an account manager, sales representative, website designer, SEO strategist and PPC strategist. In 2018, I became the CEO of MediaSmack and began overseeing 30 employees.
How do you diversify solutions that appeal to your target audience?
Legal marketing, and marketing in general, is a moving target. The legal marketing industry is constantly changing. You cannot get stuck in one type of program and expect it to work for all of your clients. Success in this industry depends on recognizing the unique needs of each of your clients and meeting those needs. There is a ton of variation, and you cannot expect to succeed if you do not create specific strategies for each client. We are a very flexible company that takes pride in adapting to Google’s ever changing SEO environment. Our company makes it a priority to stay up to date with Google’s newest rollouts.
Describe some of the vital attributes that every entrepreneur should possess
Entrepreneurs need to possess adaptive and resilient personalities. An entrepreneur has to be willing to pick themselves up after a failure. It is very much like being an athlete. You are not going to score every goal, make every shot or win every game, but you keep shooting and improving your skills so you can be the best on the field. An entrepreneur has to be driven and dedicated to improving. Success is not going to fall into your lap. You must have a process to achieve your goals. To go from A to Z, you have to be willing to do all of the steps in between.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
This was my first attempt at starting a company from scratch. There was a lot of trial and error, evaluating and strategic planning involved. One of the first experiences that really helped the growth of our company was getting the first big referral from a current client of ours. That referral was a huge boost to our company and showed us the value of gaining trust in the legal marketing industry. Some major milestones and achievements that shaped MediaSmack’s success include being added to the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies (#299) list, hitting a million dollars in sales for the first time, and forming a strategic partnership in 2017 that doubled and then tripled our workforce. The feeling of hitting a million dollars in sales was an incredibly rewarding experience that made us feel like we were finally established in the industry. Our journey of growth continues to this day and is definitely a ride.
What were some of the primal challenges and roadblocks that you faced during the initial phase of your journey?
We faced plenty of challenges and roadblocks while we were pursuing our goals. For example, we had to ask ourselves whether we wanted to be a company with 20 clients or 200 clients. Another challenge was growing effectively with economies of scale. We also had to grapple with hiring the right personnel and deciding on whether we should work from home or in an office. We had to decide on whether to use independent contractors or in-house W2 employees. Many of these challenges and roadblocks are typical growing pains for a business in its infancy stage.
We faced other challenges with trial and error, including choosing the wrong software, making mistakes on hiring or promoting the wrong personnel and making mistakes with our own external marketing goals (such as going to the wrong trade shows). All of these challenges helped shape our journey because we learned from these roadblocks.
Where does MediaSmack see itself in the near future and how will you catalyze the change?
I have a few visions of where I see MediaSmack in the near future. MediaSmack has been doing a lot of speaking engagements. I would like to continue that and grow to become a very prominent speaker in the legal marketing field. We also moved the company headquarters to Austin, Texas this year, and are expanding our presence in the South and Midwest legal markets. Based on last year and this year’s annual projections, we expect to hit the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list for a second time, which is an exciting achievement for MediaSmack.
What is your advice for emerging entrepreneurs?
You have to have a strong support system at home and in life in general. To truly become successful, you have to be flexible and willing to work at any position within your company. You also have to set short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. A successful entrepreneur should always evaluate and set new goals. You also have to be willing to worker harder than your competitors.