Meet Matt Gentile, owner of My BFF Social, a full-service marketing agency in Pittsburgh. We asked Matt to share a few details about his challenges and hopes for the future, and of course, his top tips for others just starting out.
Photo credit: My BFF Social
How did you get started with your business?
I directed PR and Social Media for the world's largest real estate brand, CENTURY 21®, for eight years from the corporate HQ in Madison, NJ prior to moving back to my hometown of Pittsburgh. I have a family now and wanted to be closer to my parents. Starting my own digital agency just seemed like the natural next step in my career journey.
What’s your biggest challenge today?
Scaling the work and managing business development as a small, boot-strap company. It's great that I have so much experience in the marketing industry, but running a business is an entirely different thing. I'm learning quickly and making the necessary adjustments.
Is there anything you wished you’d known 6 months ago?
Starting My BFF Social Media, Marketing and Advertising has been incredibly exciting. The amount of interest in social media and how to use it for business is extraordinary. I wish I would have known more about the needs of B2B companies and developed package solutions for them in tandem with our B2C packages. We now service B2B clients well, but their needs are much different than our consumer-facing clients. Fortunately, our experience with the LinkedIn network runs deep so applying that knowledge on behalf of our B2B clients has worked out really well.
What do you hope for in a year’s time?
Our goal is simple – have as many clients as we can service really well. Having been on the client side of corporate marketing, I saw first-hand how big agencies lose site of what made them successful - customer service!
We must be selective in the clients we accept. It's easy to get greedy and try to service every piece of business that presents itself, but we are in the customer service business and it’s very important to grow the business at the right pace to ensure we continue to respond quickly and deliver added value. Good agencies understand the value of the client relationship and never lose sight of it.
What market research did you do when planning your business?
The market for our services is global and serves nearly every vertical. Let's face it, everyone needs a well-managed social media presence, whether you are a B2B or B2C focused business. We have been primarily focused on builders, finance and real estate-related clients with special projects in food, franchise, hospitality and industrials.
In terms of researching the local market, as the son of a steelworker, born and raised in Pittsburgh, I understand the culture really well; however, having worked in larger media markets such as London, Washington D.C. and New York City over the last 20 years, I also developed a deep network and gained keen insights regarding best practices in the social media, marketing and advertising space.
Today's business executives are much more savvy about social media than 3-5 years ago; however, there is a lot of misinformation out there and setting expectations up front is very important. One way we do that is to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) with our clients and then implement a test-and-invest media strategy to gain clarity on how campaigns perform. KPI’s could include community growth for social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn, reach, increased website traffic and lead conversation.
If you could have done anything differently when setting up your business, what would that be?
As a corporate executive for the majority of my career, I learned the importance listening rather than speaking when in meetings. In running My BFF Social, I have applied these same principles. It is so important to listen to what the client says to understand what they want and more importantly, what they need. Early on, I would have set up a better process for screening clients to ensure there is a good fit.
Sales cycles in this business can take anywhere between 3-6 months and it’s important to have a continual flow of business opportunities, but the time required to review and respond can be daunting. The importance of implementing a process to better understand what is a good opportunity, from one that is going to consume vast amounts of energy with very little return, cannot be overstated.
What’s the best piece of advice you could offer someone starting a business?
Be prepared to work harder than when you worked for someone else. Be honest and be yourself. Don't pretend to know everything. Know what you do really well and provide the best advice you can regardless of the opportunity. Ask for the business!
Contact email@example.com today to discuss your digital marketing and advertising strategy.