Leslie Carruthers: Great. I’m so excited. Mitch Tarr is in the house. He is going to share with us how he, as an agency owner, author and trainer is dealing with preparing for the rebound of the recovery from Coronavirus and also how he’s advising his clients to rebound and what they’re bringing what he’s seeing in the market. So, thank you for being here. Mitch, really appreciate your time and expertise. 12 years as an agency owner, you know, a few things.
Mitch Tarr: Yeah. Thanks
Leslie Carruthers: yeah, you’re welcome. You’re welcome. Thanks for being willing. And you go back to the early days of the internet. Right and started training people and how to do digital marketing.
Mitch Tarr: Yeah, when I started my agency, it was about 12 years ago, and the primary specialty at that time was email marketing, specifically for wineries. So we had a love of wine in the Napa Valley and number of times the market was big enough. And I went out and did research. I went looked at what wineries were doing online and they were just they were just weren’t doing a very good job. So I just said, there’s a service, there’s a need for a service. And that’s where we started. And that was our first book. First Book, and I actually did that in the summer of 2008, which is the last fun crash.
Leslie Carruthers: Whoa, yeah. Got it. Yeah. Life is fascinating, isn’t it? Yeah. Great.
Leslie Carruthers: So what are you seeing as the positives of this experience of Coronavirus?
Mitch Tarr: Positives, there’s actually in our world there’s quite a lot. And I could probably talk about this for a long time. But I think the biggest thing that has just stepped in front of me has been mindset, like what happens in your head is not what really happens. So, you know, when we’ve been working on a home based business and my people in my team are all across the country. We’ve been remote, the operating for a long time for our operating environment hasn’t really changed. I mean, we’re used to Zoom we’re used to online, we’re used to all the tools to keep in touch, we don’t see each other face to face of all the customers I’ve had over the years, like over 300 of them, I think I’ve only seen maybe two of them face to face. So by creating environment, that part was all normal. The abnormal part that changes were just really simple things.
One of the biggest changes that we noticed, though, is really just how people react to things unnecessarily. It’s all mindset.
So when we talk about what might happen, we start to think about it with our customers, and they start to worry, you can see them or you can feel it. And then we start to go through the numbers and we say, Well, did this actually change? Like, no, our sales numbers aren’t down? Well, did people order anything after we sent out this last email it like no people ordered, well, you know what’s happening is different and and then a lot of the e commerce customers that we have, there’s not very much that was different. So then we realize it’s like, Alright, well, a lot of what is happening is happening in our mind. And that’s not to diminish what’s really going on, you know, with the change in human behavior. But really, probably the biggest thing in our view is sort of what people do with it in their in their own headspace
Leslie Carruthers: Got it, so you’re a coach, as well as service provider.
Right now, there’s a whole bunch of people, nine out of 10 of them that are being taught how to shop online, they may not have done it before, they may not be good at it, they may not be comfortable at it, and how they’re doing it.
Mitch Tarr: Well, we were working with our clients, we work with them every week, when we’re talking to them about what’s coming up. We’re planning like, what are we going to do differently? What are the thoughts and ideas that we have? And you could steal some of the fear in some of our clients, but also we had clients that were just sitting there surprised that like, our sales went up. We don’t know why, but we’re okay with that. Because they were expecting the worst because that’s what they were told to expect. And so We started feeding off of that a little bit and said, well, it doesn’t have to be bad. We don’t think. So I sent out an email. I’ve got prospects on on a marketing list, and I sent out an email every other week. So I sent out an email and I said, you know, last year 580 million dollars was spent in online sales 2019. That’s a round number. And then that’s only one in $10 that was spent in retail. So right now, there’s a whole bunch of people, nine out of 10 of them that are being taught how to shop online, they may not have done it before, they may not be good at it, they may not be comfortable at it, and how they’re doing it. And all of a sudden, the space that we’re in for our ecommerce customers is their eyes were open, it’s like, oh, well, the market might be half as big, but they’re still twice as many people out there buying on an ecommerce. So that’s that was probably one of the other real surprising things that came up from this.
Leslie Carruthers: Excellent. So things are possible inside of the situation that weren’t possible before.
Mitch Tarr: Yeah, I think that’s true things things are. They’re the same but different. So right now, I’ve always had this belief because I’ve been through a few business cycles, ups and downs. marketing is the last thing you cut. And the absolute last thing, so in our own business, we said, you know, we have a certain percentage of our revenue that we spend on Facebook ads. And we said, we’re not changing that percentage, no matter what happens to us, we are going to spend at least that much money on our advertising. And, and it worked. It has worked for us. So we always kind of when we’re talking to prospects, we say, you know, we bring more value to a business than any car lease or office lease or, you know, almost anything else that you have.
Because with marketing, if you’re not getting a customer today, you’re getting a lead. And it might not be a lead for this month, but next month or the month after or the month after that, that person is still a person and they’re still in business. They’re there, and they may still have the need for you. So now’s the time to invest in those leads and contacts because they’ll come back to you in a few months in three months and nine months and 12 months. They’ll still be there.
Leslie Carruthers: Yes, yeah, I just have to stay keep stay open. Understood. So what are you saying that either you or your team or your clients have learned that they wouldn’t have learned if not for Coronavirus?
Mitch Tarr: That’s a really good question. Because we learned some really good lessons. We were growing aggressively in the first part of the year and that was our plan. We were last year was structure this year was growth. So we were growing and we were doing things fast. We had a chance to step back a little bit and start to look at some internal reports and productivity numbers and conversion numbers and marketing ratios. And we just got a chance to look at our own numbers. And we discovered we were operating really inefficiently we had some things we weren’t really paying attention to. So it caused us to reorganize, reorganize ourselves internally a little bit, and also to do some things differently.
But the big lesson for us was, we were sure happy that we had that data. Because when we had a chance to stop and look at the data, it caused us to behave differently. So we’re actually we’re about the same size we were in January, we dropped a little bit and then we grew back back again. But we’re way more efficient.
So our numbers are better. And it was only because instead of rushing, we had a chance to stop and look at the numbers. So it was it was really a good lesson for us to sort of pause and reflect more than anything.
That’s probably what the right term is.
Leslie Carruthers: Great, how are you preparing for the rebound? What are you doing? What are you not doing?
Mitch Tarr: What are we not doing once thing that we are not doing is we’re not making any assumptions or taking anything for granted. So a good example of that is, every month we run our accounts receivable number, and we have some, and we used to look at the accounts receivable number and say, Oh, yeah, we’ll get that money. You know, it’s money. And now we look at that number and go, it’s nothing until it’s actually the money. So our attitude about accounts receivable has shifted from, oh, well, that $10,000 will come in to, well, we don’t have it now. We have to operate on the basis that we not might not ever happen. So we’re not assuming things that we used to take for granted. Same with it’s really simple things. Used to assume that everything works, like Zoom will always be available. Or if you go to your bank to open up an account, they’ll always be able to see you. And we can’t make those assumptions anymore. Because I went to the bank today to open up a bank a checking account. They’re like, okay, you can book an appointment for Friday. I’m like Friday, that’s like I don’t have till Friday. I’m used to Today, I get the account today we do the work, we’re on to the next thing. So those types of assumptions that everything is all the way it was, we, we really have made a point of being more cautious to just not believe everything that we used to think. So that’s a, that’s a big change. What we are doing it just in terms of planning is we worked hard on structure last year, and we’re working hard on structure again. So our goal is to be able to, if we stay the exact same size that we are, we’re fine. Our business runs great. If it drops in half, it still runs great. If we can triple it. We have it. So it still runs great. So our thinking now is more. We have a lot more scenario based planning like this might happen. That might happen. This could happen.
So the big difference. We’re thinking a little more.
Leslie Carruthers: Great. I heard reducing risk. You’ve got a number of ways you’re reducing risk. And that you’re really being smart about the business and prepared.
Mitch Tarr: I think reducing risk is a good way, a good way to put it being prepared. Yeah. You know, by running different kind of models than we used to before. One of the things so I used to work for IBM a long time ago as a sales rep. And I remember when I was a new rep, I was like, oh, everything, you know, customer orders the computer, the computer shows up, all the parts are there, the guy who knows how to install, it shows up on time, like everything. And what I was told was, Mitch, if this is important, you need to get on the phone and call the warehouse and make sure they have your shipping. Notice that the computer is ready to go. You need to talk to the guy who put it together or the gal who put it together and make sure all 12 pieces are there. You didn’t make sure that the truck is leaving the warehouse at the time you’re expected and there’s not like a snowstorm or a tornado or something that’s changed up. You get to make sure that you know the next If the delivery date is when the person who is doing the installation is also still available, and you might want to check and see if there’s a backup in case something happens to that person. And these days, that kind of thinking, I think is just really important again, like, when everything’s going 100 miles an hour, you don’t need to think that hard, because there’s so many things happening, and everything is going to work. When everything isn’t working, that’s when you have to check under the covers and just double check. Make sure that all the pieces that you think are happening, are happy. So it’s more work, but you don’t get surprised.
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah, I hear a different kind of thinking, contingency planning, and really a lot of intentionality. Yeah. Which works in a lot of ways. I mean, if you’re able to bring even a portion of that into growth mode. On the other side, you mentioned that you’ve done a lot of looking at structure and making sure that you’re running as efficiently as you can really be primed?
Mitch Tarr: Yeah. I think one other thing that we’re working hard on right now is making sure that our team is better. What’s the right word? Better supportive? Because we don’t know what’s happening at somebody’s house, or neighborhood or city or state wherever they’re at. We’re not 100% Sure. So if we’re talking to somebody who is living in New York, their mindset is very different than somebody who’s in, you know, like Nebraska, maybe or Washington state that might have things buttoned down a little better. So, you know, it’s, it’s just one of those times to be really be aware of people as people. So, you know, a customer, something happens, the customer doesn’t show up. We don’t take it personally. It’s like, no, we’re just going to double check customers, okay? Are they feeling alright? Is everything okay? You know, it’s just not a time to take things personally. So, we look that for our own team, but we also look at that for our customers as well as that we’re a service company at the end of the day. So it’s like, well, what can we do to make sure that what you want to happen happens? So it knows it was a really good time for us to just remind ourselves of that.
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah. Is there a lot of sophisticated elements in business that are really, really great, I acknowledge you for this emotional intelligence. Right? I heard context, and authenticity, like you’re really getting people instead of client number 45. Or Project 624.
Wow, that’s great.
So, Mitch, how is your job changed?
Mitch Tarr: I’m gonna say not very much. I worry like everybody, I’m like, Oh, my God, what’s going to happen? But once I get that out of my mind and start to get back into the day to day and dealing with people You know, I’m planning, I’m thinking, I’m supporting, I’m organizing. I’m asking people how they’re doing. Every once in a while somebody will ask me how I’m doing. Like, it’s not really all that different than it was before. Other than there’s just the purveyor of pervasive uncertainty and fear that was around. You know, that wasn’t there two years ago, Wasn’t there a year ago, but it’s definitely there now.
Leslie Carruthers: How is the Coronavirus situation in this experience affecting how your team is working?
Mitch Tarr: Also again, there hasn’t been much change, other than we’ve made a conscious effort internally. Like we do an ops meeting every Monday morning, and we sort of all right what’s on the agenda for this week. What’s coming up. We added to that meeting a little bit more conversation. We kind of used to be all business like, we’re just like, let’s get at it what’s on the list? Which account needs help, you know, who’s busy, who’s away, like, it was a lot more operation. And we just kind of added to it a layer of, hey, by the way, how are you doing? You know what’s happening? Hey, you live in California, you’re close to the ocean. Did you go to the beach? Was it, you know, what did it feel like?
And we sort of, just really have added, I guess, a little bit more human touch to the things that we were doing. Just because we’re moving so fast. Generally.
Leslie Carruthers: Have you attended any virtual events or spoken virtually since the corona virus came here to the US?
Mitch Tarr: I have attended a number of events mostly in the form of either networking or masterminds or I sort of sort of reconnected with an old mentor from a long time ago to kind of follow through one of the programs he was running. And it was just a good. It was actually the timing was perfect for it because he was going through his marketing strategies and how he does sales, copy and landing pages and kind of all the good old fashioned marketing things we know how to do online. And it was it was really just a good refresher to go, Oh, yeah, of course. Just stick to the fundamentals. Don’t forget the key things that work that used to work, they’re still gonna work. You know, the world, the human nature, like Jay Abraham, who’s one of my favorite marketers. He says, human nature is immutable. People are the same, and they’re the same now as they were five years ago, and therefore the way that you reach them now and what you reach them with is the same now as it was five years ago. So it’s, it’s no sure it’s the internet and not a flyer, ensure it’s the you know, something on zoom and not television set, but Now the way you get someone’s attention is still the same. So that that part of it has really been helpful to sort of not just spend too much time in my head, but to talk to other people and see other things and see some of the basics and just kind of maybe reconnect with people a little bit more than than before.
Leslie Carruthers: So the number one problem of marketers, so our clients is bandwidth resources being limited in that way. Now, your clients might have someone who’s actually dealing with COVID19 themselves or a family member, they might be helping to care for a family member there or they might be double income parents or single parents at home now without access to childcare. How are you seeing people deal with those situations?
Mitch Tarr: I see that’s a really good question though. One thing that that I have seen pervasively is, like I work from home. And so it’s me here and there’s a dog around here somewhere. But my wife’s Art Gallery was shut down because of the local ordinance, like your business is not essential. So you’re shut down. So all of a sudden, now she’s here, as well, the same amount of time that I am. And I see that continuously.
The kids are at home, the spouses at home, the families at home, grandparents might be there or people might be at their grandparents. Like there’s the work environment that used to be a nice quiet work at home type of situation. Totally change. Because now there’s something in the background. You know, there’s something going on. And the really big difference that I notice is, it’s okay.
Nobody is really stressed about it used to be like. When the doorbell rings because the FedEx guy is here, and the dog goes nuts is like, Oh, I’m sorry about that. Now, it’s kind of like, Oh, you got a dog, you know? It’s a totally different vibe, because people are all dealing with the same thing.
Leslie Carruthers: Yes, What do you think of this will carry forward? After the rebound. This relaxed vibe, this authenticity that we’re seeing with people and situations,
Mitch Tarr: I think it’s gonna shift from, there’s way less dependence or need for something like Facebook for that little piece, I think it’s going to be more more of this kind of conversation face to face and the humanity is going to be more, I’ll talk to you, you know, kind of like we used to in the old days with a phone. And now it’s just going to be a video call instead of the phone for like the old Dick Tracy watch thing, I can talk to you on the watch. So it’s going to be it’s going to be more of what you know, kind of makes the technology work which is helping us talk and connect and less of that whole superficial, you know, there’s a million messages and needs and chats and that stuff. I mean, personally, I’m not even missing that at all. I’m spending way less time engaged in Facebook than I was Last month or the month before,
Leslie Carruthers: Got it so connectivity and humanity.
Got it so connectivity and humanity.
Mitch Tarr: Yeah. Yeah. A little bit more. Because I’m used to I’m an online person so I’m used to that world like I don’t if I was in retail, I probably have a different perspective. But you know, from my, my laptop, it’s that’s what I think that would look like. Fair enough.
Leslie Carruthers: So Mitch, What about the Coronavirus experience has surprised you.
Mitch Tarr: To be honest, the thing that surprised me the most in the last eight weeks has been the complete shock high level of unexpected fear, pure fear that has crept into my environment because I’m big on mindset I you know, this realization, positive outcomes positive, you know, thinking, you know, read affirmations, there’s so many things you can do that help you help yourself. And I had to work really hard personally, to, to keep those things in place, because emotions came in to, you know, uncertainty came in. And it’s like, I read. So I did read a Facebook meme not too long ago that somebody said, if you were born in 1900, by the time you’re 50 years old, you’ve done, you know, World War One, but then the Spanish influenza, again, the Great Depression, gotten into World War Two. And you know, now you’re 50. And, you know, I look at us and what have we done in the last 50 years? It’s like, well, you had the 70s, you had the 80s. Then you hit the 90s. It’s like, no, that by contrast, things always are gonna work out. It’s just not it especially in North America. I mean, not nothing crazy has happened to us. So Is that perspective?
I think that’s, that’s probably been the biggest thing for me just to keep perspective.
Leslie Carruthers: Oh, it’s taken something.
Mitch Tarr: Yes, taking some work. Yeah,
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah. Any ideas for us anything that’s worked particularly well for you for maintenance of the mindset.
What’s the right way to put it. It’s being mindful of you and the world. So, you know, when you think about what’s happened here, in Norway, in United States, it’s a different experience and what’s happened in Italy, and what’s happened in parts of China. And what’s happening, you know, in Russia, I mean, all of the places have totally different experiences. Yet every single one of those countries has, you know, a couple million iPhones popping around, you know, we all have the same or similar tools but You know, everybody’s experience or perspective is going to be different. So I think that mindfulness of, you know, how you sit in the world and can sit in the world and how you can just basically acknowledge and accept, it’s okay. Like, things that are happening are okay, and people will deal with it.
And you know, some of the best characteristics of a human nature come out all the time in conflict and crisis.
So, just being aware of your role in that whole thing to be that’s the game. So, you know, I get my iPhone powered down. I’m mad. It’s like, you know what, that doesn’t even matter. It’s it’s 10 minutes of my life. I have to survive it.
Leslie Carruthers: Got it. Yeah, context again, in presence. Yeah. Mindfulness, and I also hear a bit of some compassion for yourself and others. Really great. Yeah. Is there anything I haven’t asked you, Mitch that you’d like me to
Mitch Tarr: We’ve talked about this, you know, the Coronavirus and how it’s sort of impacted personally and how we look at things in the outside world, that if you step even back from them, there’s always what was it like six months ago? And what’s it going to be like six months from now? And you can’t, what happened happened, no matter what your situation is that things have happened, and what’s going to happen next, what’s going to happen next. So, at the end of the day, it’s still where you’re at. that’s, to me, that’s the important thing. I you know, I don’t have any really deep business insight that’s going to change that.
Leslie Carruthers: I like what you said earlier about, you know, fundamentals are, generally speaking, they’ll carry through and getting back to brass tacks works. Yeah. Yep. And then What do you have control over and what don’t you have control over and remembering context? Yeah, that’s great advice. Yeah. And I’m really interested to see to how I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we will potentially see brands positions change in the market, depending on how they handle it. Of course, also, which industry or what area they’re in, travels going to be different from security from healthcare. pharma, right. But it’ll be interesting to see the leadership and if people are taking the stance that I hear you taking, really watching the mindset and cultivating the mindset, which you’ve done in the past, but doing it like doubling down now, and taking what you’ve built the structure that you invested in last year, and looking at how sounds like you’re poised to really poised for recovering After this and just wondering if you have any any thoughts about, you know, when you look at the bubble, when you look at the Internet bubble, when you look at the 2008 recession, the brands who just kind of pop the squat versus like you said, we’re not going to stop investing, we have that percentage that we put into marketing for your own company for your agency, that you weren’t going to stop. Any thoughts about the those two major mindsets and what we might see?
Mitch Tarr: Yeah, absolutely. I actually this is. So if, if those numbers are true, nine out of $10 last year spent in retail, were physical, and a storefront right now, let’s say we’re allowed to go shopping, you know, freely. So I go down to the mall, I go to a store. So the question is, what’s that store? What’s that brand doing differently right now that it wasn’t doing three months ago. The one thing that I can tell is there are some brands that are going to go, you know, what’s really super, incredibly valuable to us right now is a warm body in our store, a person who’s physically in our location. There are some brands that are like, Oh, your back needs to see it. You know, let me know if we can help you. And there’s some brands that are going to be, Hey, would you like to join our super VIP list? Would you like to leave your phone number so that we can talk to you as soon as the latest thing comes in? Would you like to be on our mailing list in case your science comes in? Or that person may not come back to the store as easily, frequently or cheaply as before? The brands that will win will be the ones that figure that out. How do I connect with the human when the human is scarce, so that you know the restaurants that are like, you were here before you’ll be back later. Totally different from the restaurants that are going to say, hey, shoot me your SMS phone number. I’ll give you a quick 10% off or I’ll buy your next What glass of wine when you come in, and you know, one of those restaurants is building. They’re building that relationship electronically, which is where I like, you know, online SMS. Whereas the other retailer that you know, that brand is going to miss the boat, and they’re going to struggle because six months from now, they’re not going to know the same hundred scarce customers. So I think that’s a big thing right now. And I always say that because I was at a location was at a retailer the other day, and they didn’t, you know, it was like, nothing had ever happened, you know? Oh, wow. Here as they should have been working really hard to know who I am so they can invite me back.
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah, because they can’t hear what you’re saying. They can’t count on you visiting in person with the frequency regularity that you have in the past. Exactly. I’m
Mitch Tarr: physically scarce. I’m a rare thing when I walk into a store. And that’ll be true for a lot of businesses for the next six months.
Leslie Carruthers: Right, right now and we and looked at certain industries to really take a cue my 73 year old father just started banking online last week. Yeah, because he had to, he didn’t want to. So scarcity will happen as a result of people’s concerns and the situation and then they’ll be forced into new habits. And which of those will continue and which will Yeah, which will will not hit us omnichannel. So the folks who make it through who thrive in the rebound, will look at the big picture from the 10,000 foot view and look at the customer in the way that works for the customer. Whatever the situation is not just run a store, I can count on foot traffic. Yeah, and make this work. You know, we had Bree blaze back from after pay on a few weeks ago, and she was mentioning that she thought they would there would be some right sizing of the footprint, the physical footprint of retailers something that they have resisted. driving past any thoughts about that?
Mitch Tarr: I read something not too long ago that resonated with me. Shopping malls are at risk retailers having a hard time making the money the you know, it’s not a great business not a good time to be building shopping malls. But the transition is Amazon says, You know, I need warehouse space, where am I going to get those? And what’s a good warehouse space, something that’s close to the customers, which shopping centers are, and freeways, which is if I’m in Amazon, I got trucks driving all over the place. So Amazon is taking old shopping centers that are fighting for their lives and going, you know, we’ll buy that off. Yeah, and, you know, we’ll fill it with goods, and the goods are close to the customers and the grocery close to transportation. So, you know, when you think about a shift like that, there’s still buildings and there’s still space, but it’s just going to be a different usage. And I think the retailers also the other ones that like I know retail, their only revenue source is the retail traffic, the foot traffic. There’s also retailers that have made the shift. It’s like 90% of their business is out the backdoor through eBay or online, because they figured out, you know, they’re not. They’re not a store. They’re a shipping center. So it’s a you know, it’s just like eBay saved all those comic book stores. All the collectible people suddenly had a huge market for their product. And the adapted to that, you know, they were, they were laughing It’s like, I sold all my comic books. I sold my collectibles. I gotta go find more. And other places were shutting down. It’s like all the customers went away. Like, yeah, they did. There’s, they’re buying comic books. They’re just not at your place.
Leslie Carruthers: Yeah. disruption. Well, I really several takeaways here from our conversation. Mitch, thank you so much the connection and emotional intelligence context to look Big Picture to consider how messaging might need to change how you serve or reach the customer needs to change so that you have a strong viable business model post Coronavirus so that your rebound the successful really great points not just for a rebound but always always fundies the fundamentals.
Mitch Tarr: Really great fundamentals. Thank you much.