This episode explores encouragement to start a business, networking tips and marketing. The stories range from start-up phase to managing multi-million dollar clients and networking awkwardness to taking leaps of faith and consulting pricing structures.
Today I’m talking with Elias Zepeda, founder and CEO of First Class Marketing Group. Elias specializes in strategic marketing, growth hacking and sponsorship procurement skills. He’s taken his company from start-up phase to representing industry leading clients. Network after work, America’s largest networking organization, mo-wett shandon and shark bait are just a few of first class marketing’s impressive list of clients. So happy to have you today, welcome to the show Elias!
- How Company Started – 1:38
- Taking a Leap of Faith – 5:32
- Transitioning – 10:01
- Objectives for Clients – 11:38
- Executing Strategy per Client – 13:10
- Creating a Pricing Structure – 15:20
- Getting Referrals for Exposure – 16:44
- Being an Extrovert, Public Speaking and Pitching – 18:58
- Evaluating and Improvising – 23:32
- Preparing and Practicing Pitching – 26:10
- Networking – 27:20
- How to Meet People at Events – 28:46
- Compliments and Ice Breakers – 36:16
- Finding Networking Events – 41:54
- Keeping Track of Networks – 45:58
- Getting New Clients – 47:12
- Getting Ahold of Potential Clients – 51:26
- Working in New York – 54:50
- Last Thoughts and Recap – 1:05:46
Tiffany: I’m Tiffany Lopez and you’re listening to ”Posh,” incredible podcasts where I interview ordinary people who are making extraordinary transformations in their lives and for others. I believe we’re all here to transcend and assist the ones around us to grow into the people they were born to be. The pathway of awakening is a noble life pursuit and it starts now.
Today, I’m talking with Elias Zepeda, founder and CEO of First Class Marketing Group. Elias specializes in strategic marketing, growth hacking, and sponsorship procurement skills. He’s taken his company from startup phase to representing industry-leading clients. Network After Work, America’s largest networking organization, Moet, Chandon and Shark Bait are just a few of First Class Marketing’s impressive list of clients. So happy to have you today. Welcome to the show, Elias.
Elias: Happy to be here. Thanks.
Tiffany: Thank you so much for coming. We’re at WeWork Williamsburg in a room that looks like a forest. So if anybody’s ever been here, it’s the forest room. So I guess I have, I wanna start off with some questions. And sorry about my voice. I’ve been sick for the past week, but I promise I sound way worse than I feel. I could not get out of bed this weekend, but here I am. I really…okay, so you told me when you got here that you had started your business 10 years ago. Could you just tell us what you do and how it started?
Elias: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m president and CEO, First Class Marketing Group, which is a national marketing agency. Our specialty is event marketing. So we primarily work with brands and corporations that are looking to activate, promote products at events, or also host their own events and are looking for marketing professionals to help amplify, to help increase their event attendance, or to basically help fulfill whichever marketing objective they’re looking to fulfill. So that’s kind of what we do.
When I started the company, I was fairly young, I was 19 years old. And started it, to be honest, it was out an accident. It was an accident how it happened. It wasn’t my intention to start a company at such a young age, but I was working as a manager for a marketing company in Long Beach, California. And at that time, what we were doing was we were training and hiring promotional representatives to represent the LA newsgroup, Langue News, which was like the number newspaper, right, you know, right below the LA Times.
So we were at events. We were at USC football games, we were at the Lakers, at Clippers games, we were at convention centers. We were at events pretty much anywhere we can have a presence in and have a booth in. And I would manage teams of, you know, 10 to 12 to 15 people that were at events promoting newspaper subscriptions, giving out incentives and things like that. And so I was hired at this marketing company as a manager. And within like a couple of months, pretty much I realized that I had more ambition than the CEO of the company.
And granted it was a small company, but I realized that I was being held back because certain things that I would do, I wasn’t really getting kind of support with. So I’ll give you an example. I was able to kind of broker an agreement at a very well-known outdoor mall in Pasadena called Paseo Colorado. And I was able to broker a deal. We were giving them like $50,000 worth of worth of ads on the newspaper, because we had that to leverage, and they were giving us a kiosk for a year, which was a really big deal because we were always looking for events to participate in. And now we had a kiosk that we were able to be there, you know, pretty much all day until late hours. And for some reason I don’t know if, you know, my boss at the time was like intimidated of how quickly I was moving and maybe changing things around. But I wasn’t really getting any support.
So little things like we needed insurance to kind of close that deal. And it was being delayed for weeks. And long story short, the circulation director of the newspaper, which was the client, he for some reason really kind of maybe admired my ambition. And long story short, he’s the one that told me in a meeting that I was being held back and he said that he’d be willing to give me my own contract, which means I would need a, I can be a contractor, which would really mean that I needed to start my own company and have, you know, have, you know, the proper permits and stuff. So it was quite scary. You know, because I was, you know, really a year or two out of high school. So I decided to just go for it. I decided why not? And…
Tiffany: Wait. Can I ask you a question?
Tiffany: So sometimes I’m really, this is like something in people that I’m very curious about taking these really big leaps of faith. Because when you’re, you know, like two years out of high school, if we could all go back to that time where you’re just, I mean, we don’t really know what the world real world is like usually. And so I’m just curious. Like what do you attribute being able to like help you make that decision? Was it having him tell you like, you have a client already? Or was it him just giving you a little bit of courage being like, Hey, like a little bit of a push? Like how are these decisions made? If you could go back in time and tell me like what was going on in your head, if anything? Maybe it was just like…
Elias: So there’s a couple of things. One, his encouragement. You know, I would’ve never thought that, Hey, this was only a couple months into this position as a marketing manager. So, you know, I didn’t think it was enough experience and time for me to become an entrepreneur. So it was something that I really had not thought about. But him encouraging me and him letting me know that I’m being held back, you know, he was anticipating what it was like, it was gonna be for me over the next couple of months or a years or however long I was gonna stay there. And so it was a combination between him encouraging me and this is someone that I’ll forever be grateful for him to encourage me to do it, you know, is awesome. But, you know, outside of that also I called, you know, my father, you know, who also has been an entrepreneur his whole life. And he was someone that I had asked for his opinion and also someone else that says like, you know, go for it. You know, this is something you should be doing.
So, you know, between encouragement of the client at the time and then in friends and family, I decided, you know, why not? Like, what is, you know, what’s the worst that can happen? I have so much room to fail, you know. And so I decided to just kinda go for it. So I did it. And we had that client for about three years and, you know, through that client we were at so many different events, we were all over the place and, you know, through working those events, I was really able to network with other people, other sponsors that were there at the events, at the football games, other brands that were also there as well. And that led to my second client, to my third client, my fourth client. And so after three years, unfortunately, as we all know, the newspaper, you know, the print subscriptions were declining, right? So…
Tiffany: What year was this?
Elias: This was like 2000 and like 2008. About 2008. So we were already getting a lot of people because we were giving away amazing incentives. You know, because the way the newspaper works is they’re looking to build their circulation, right? So they need eyeballs because really, the profit generator for them is the advertising, right? And so the people that are actually reading the newspaper, it was, you know, is as not as important as the amount of people, as the revenue generated through their advertising dollars, right? So we were able to give out some amazing promos. Like at that time, in California, we had…gas was like extremely high, right? And so we were giving out like $20, $25 gift cards, like we’ll give you a gas card if you sign up for like $8 per month or $6 per month.
And it was kind of a no brainer deal for us to be doing that so we can continuously increase the circulation numbers. But yeah, around that time we were getting a lot of, I read my paper online or a, you know, a lot of those rebuttals is what we were getting. And then slowly but surely, you know, it started declining significantly of course. So, you know, every month we’d notice people from, that were working for the newspaper company, you know, their business force was like declining 15%, like every month. It was really kind of sad to see. But anyway, that client was, you know, my first three-year client that we had and that opened up just the doors to everything that we’re doing now and a lot of the experiences that I’ve generated over time.
Tiffany: So when you saw a lot of your newspaper clients were declining, is that when you made the transition to doing something else?
Elias: Yeah, so at that time, you know, newspaper isn’t really, it’s not a sexy product, right? I mean, it was easy to promote because we had these amazing incentives but, you know, it wasn’t really a sexy product. So my second client was a vodka company that was already at these events. They would sponsor like the events for like the football teams or, you know or, you know, or other like influential people. And so they were looking to have a promotional team. So I would hire like the promotional models to be there. And that was obviously a lot funner than, you know, then promoting newspaper subscriptions. So there’s been a lot of transitions in the company.
You know, at that time, digital marketing was not nowhere as ubiquitous as it is today. So you know, at that time, you know, people really weren’t blogging as much as they’re doing now. There were certainly no podcasts at the time. And so we’ve been able, you know, throughout the years to be a part of, you know, the transitions of the tools that we’re using to get the message across. So now we consider ourselves a digital marketing agency. We do social media marketing and we do, you know, paid ads, content marketing, sponsorship strategic partnership. So it’s been some different transitions over the past 10 years of how we’ve evolved as a brand and as a company.
Tiffany: What are…okay, back when you, in the beginning, I have a note here and it’s asking what are the different objectives? I think that was referring to in the beginning, you were saying like your different clients have different objectives and you kind of help them fulfill those objectives with what they wanna do. Like what are some of those? What are some of those?
Elias: Yeah, absolutely. So I mean marketing, in general, is such a, you know, it is such a general term. So you know, some clients are gonna have different types of objectives. So some clients may say we are looking to build our engagement and the amount of followers that we have on our social media channels, right? And then there are other clients that really, you know, could care less about their social media presence and are really looking at just getting people to attend, you know, their webinar or their workshop or their business conference. And so, you know, no two clients are alike. And right now, we’re working with a lot of event companies that are even in the same industry, in the same, you know, niches but still, you know, they all have different objectives.
So in, you know, in terms of marketing, it could be increase social media engagement, increase social media followers. It could be finding sponsors for a specific event, finding speakers and business influencers. So there’s so many things that the client can really put an emphasis on as far as what their core objectives are. And it’s our responsibility to assess that we have that capacity and execute it so that the client’s content.
Tiffany: Do you always execute a strategy or are sometimes clients just asking for a strategy and they’re like, we have a team, we can execute it?
Elias: That’s a great question. It depends on the client itself. So I’ve seen the bigger clients typically already know what they’re doing. They’ve already had…they have an existing marketing team and maybe we’re coming in as their outsource marketing department. So they may already have a strategy that really has been working well for them. And we’re basically, you know, a vendor to help execute whatever that strategy is. And so that tends to happen when you’re working with a bigger company that has more capacity to have, you know, capable marketing professionals. And I’ve also found that smaller companies, you know, let’s say like a regional brand, they may not be aware of the many strategies that they can implement to fulfill their marketing objectives. And so in those scenarios with smaller brands, you’re determining the strategy.
So it’s a little bit of both. But I’ve found that, you know, the bigger brands that have already worked with agencies or already have a fairly big marketing company already kind of know what they’re doing. So we work with both scenarios. Sometimes it’s fun coming up with new strategies that the client may have never thought about that, you know, that gets them really excited. But also when you’re working with a bigger company, I tend to enjoy that a lot too because everyone’s experienced. So, you know, there’s different personality types that you’re working with when you’re working with multiple clients across the country.
And I tend to like the types of clients that are already experienced because you move a little bit faster, whereas another client that may be a smaller brand, it’s more energy in educating them. This is why we have to do this and this is why we’re doing this. And it’s more of explanation whether you’re working with a more experienced brand, you know, it’s just get out there and do it instead of explain to me why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Tiffany: One question I had was with so many different types of clients and so many different objectives, how do you come up with a pricing structure?
Elias: Yeah, so our pricing, like you’ll know, like on our website we don’t have, it’s not like a Chinese menu, you’re gonna get this for this and this for that. So typically the way we price things is based off of a multiple factors. How much time are we gonna be investing in this project? How many team members are gonna be required? What are the hard costs, if any? What type of marketing budget you’re working with? And so there’s so many different factors that are associated with how we price things but just like the objectives, you know, may not be alike, same thing with the pricing. We have clients on different pricing structures because we may have a client where we’re their full outsource marketing department. We’re doing email and social and sponsorships, strategic partnerships and so forth. We’re like their complete outsource marketing department. And then we may have another client that says, we’re just gonna use you guys for, you know, for this specific service.
And so the pricing really is contingent on the multiple factors. So there’s really not just a, a menu that they can choose from. It typically, the way we approach that is obviously by understanding their objectives and the amount of people that are gonna be required and the amount of workload. And then we put a proposal together and pitch it to them.
Tiffany: How do clients or potential clients usually find you?
Elias: You know, what’s funny is we’re a marketing company, so you would think we’d like consistently market our company, but a lot of our clients are generated through referrals.
Tiffany: It’s such a powerful way to market.
Elias: Absolutely. Referrals are our golden and they’re great because you typically will have a higher, you know, conversion ratio because it’s someone that referred someone. And so, you know, typically referrals are great. You know, for us four years ago we, you know, we landed a fairly large industry-leading client. So, you know, one of our clients and their vertical is the largest in the country. And so kind of the way I explain it, this may not be the most appropriate way to explain it, but it’s like when you have a client like that, it’s like if you’re dating, you know, the hottest girl in school, right?
And so people are always wondering like, Hey, how was he able to get this client or how’s he able, you know, to have her as a girlfriend? And so it becomes a lot easier once you land that big client, it kind of spirals. And other companies start asking like, you’re representing this client, you’re working with this client. Well, what can you do for us? If you’re working with this brand that’s a well-known, established brand, then, you know, there’s probably a lot you can do for me too. So it kind of, once you land that big breakthrough client, it becomes a lot easier. And, you know, it’s a, you know, six, seven years for us to get that, you know, big breakthrough client for us. But certainly once that happened, it became a lot easier.
I’ve noticed that when I’d email people, people would now respond to me. And granted, there’s still a lot of un replies that I get in my line of work. But, you know, I’ve realized that people are more inclined to speak to you because now you have that credibility. Now you’ve developed that rapport of working, you know, with a brand that size. And so that’s been a lot of fun to have that. But referrals, you know, referrals and then we do do some business development as well and we do put proposals together. So personally that’s one of my favorite parts is business development. And pitching is something I really personally enjoy.
Tiffany: One thing I’m working on personally this year is speaking. So not just I am working on public speaking, but I’m also working on just speaking in general because I’ve lived the majority of my life in my own head and not talking to people and not being able to express myself through words. And so one of the questions that I was gonna ask you is, you seem like so comfortable talking. And I always admire people who could just talk for days because I always, I find a lot of the time that I’m like searching for ways to talk more. And when people can just like let it out and talk, I’m just, and it comes so naturally, I’m just so amazed. So have you always been like that? Is that something you developed? Like what do you think it is?
Elias: So I consider myself an extrovert, right? And I, you know, have known that word, but I really didn’t know what that meant until like maybe a year ago. You know, what really is the difference between a extrovert and introvert? Right? And so the way that kind of really stuck to me, and one of the definitions, not a definition but one of the underlying ways to differentiate each other is you get your, as an extrovert, you’re getting your energy from being with other people, from interacting with people. And the opposite for an extrovert, you know, you may get build that energy when you’re by yourself. And so for me I’ve pretty much always been an extrovert. And I enjoy, you know, talking to people and I enjoy networking and meeting new people. It’s something that I personally enjoy but even as an extrovert, there are times when, you know, you get burnt out, you know. Sometimes when you go to an event, you’re at a conference for a long time, you get into your moods where you may just not really feel like talking to someone.
So it’s not always on 24/7, right? But for pitching, for me, I really enjoy it because it’s fun. It’s just fun to me. You know, what I enjoy is, you know, depends on what you’re pitching of course, but if you’re pitching a strategy, you know, on a proposal and you’re explaining things, you know, most of the time the person who you’re pitching is probably gonna have some type of, maybe an epiphany or a light bulb is gonna go on their head where like, “Oh, this is a great idea.” And that I think that’s probably the part I like the most is, you know, having that awakening for them to realize like, “Oh wow, this is a great idea.” And so I think a lot of the parts where I excel when I’m pitching is parts that are improvised.
So sometimes, you know, when you’re pitching a client may add something and then building off of that energy and coming up with new things that are improvised during your pitch is something that I think separates us because, you know, it really just justifies our abilities and our knowledge. And that’s why I also really like to stay up to date on like what are the marketing trends, what are the event trends? So normally when people ask me like, what’s your favorite book? Right? And there’s a lot that I have, but you know, I’m on a panel and people ask me that question. I like to say that I read up on my industry news. I think it’s so important.
So I’m on, you know, TechCrunch and I’m on eventmarketer.com and I’m on, you know, other sites that relate to my industry because I think it’s important for us to know what are your competitors doing? What is the industry doing, what are the latest news and trends, the newest technologies that you can adapt? And I think, you know, us being so into the industry is really how we’ve been able to really separate from our competitors or people we’re pitching against during our, like presentations and proposals is having that knowledge. And I think a lot of our clients see the passion that we have.
And I think that I think clients can see right through it and really appreciate that. You know, because we go against some really big companies that, you know, that have offices all across the country and things like that. But I think they see the drive and the energy and the passion that we have. And I think they may feel that we’re just gonna work harder than the other company that may be, you know, 20 times larger. But I think a lot of those things is something that clients will appreciate
Tiffany: When you’re pitching, do your potential clients know that your, when you improvise that you are improvising?
Elias: Yeah. So sometimes they ask questions. That’s really important, you know. When you’re evaluating a company to work with, so on their side, it’s important to ask those questions because anybody can put a PowerPoint together or memorize lines. And so if you’re interviewing someone, it’s important for you to interview and come up with things on the fly to see how they respond to that, to, you know, to have them show you what they really know. So yeah, a lot of the times during proposals and presentations, a client will ask questions and provide input. And so sometimes goes into these tangents, but that’s pretty much the reason they do it. They wanna see how on top of it you are and how, you know, how much knowledge you have on the subject matter.
Tiffany: Yeah. I think the reason I asked is because I think when you bring improvisation into a situation, it really shows and displays like your mastery in your skill, right? Because you can’t improvise without knowing a whole lot or without have having experienced a whole lot. Improvisation does not come to, you know, a novice. Is that the right word?
Elias: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I mean, you’re basically come up with a nicer word for bullshitting, right? That’s pretty much what it is. And so when you it’s harder to BS someone, you know, when they’re asking you questions on the fly. And that’s what I think clients are looking for. You know, in today’s age anyone can put a really nice website, anybody can make up case studies, anybody. It’s so easy to fool people now. And so that one-to-one connection and that communication is really how you’re gonna be able to distinguish yourself from, you know, from other people that may be submitting proposals as well.
And so you’re putting together a well-crafted pitch can make wonders. And it really is just practice because, you know, I’m sure my first 10, you know, pitch presentations were probably not as strong as they are now. It really is just a matter of practicing. So for those people that may be concerned that they maybe don’t sound as good or they maybe have that nervousness, it’s also okay to have someone on your team or to even hire someone to present on your behalf as well. So I think that’s really important to have the right people that are pitching on behalf of the company.
Tiffany: I like that. How do you, I mean, other than just being around them and working with them, how do you know who might be? And maybe testing, I don’t know.
Elias: Interviewing, absolutely interviewing. I mean, you can tell really quickly, you know, how poised someone is and how, you know, the types of, you know, communication that they possess. And so I think, you’ll know right away but it’s something that everyone needs to practice. So the more you pitch, the better you get at. It is just like any other activity or training, you just have to practice it and eventually just becomes so natural, so natural. So now, I enjoy pitching like when I’m not pitching, so it’s like I’m meeting someone and then they ask me a question and I’m like, I see myself almost pitching.
Tiffany: You like get into the groove.
Elias: Yeah. And again, it’s something that’s fun for me, so I enjoy it. And winning obviously is a lot of fun too. You know, you don’t win every pitch, right? And there’s multiple reasons why they may select another company or went with a different proposal or whatnot. But it’s always nice to, you know, it’s always fun to win too.
Tiffany: Yeah. And I guess since you like networking, it’s a networking in a kind of way of networking too.
Elias: Yeah. So we’re huge on networking. That’s the vertical that we’re in right now. Lots of our clients are in the B2B networking. So it’s an industry that we’ve been part of, you know, for seven, eight years now. And we’re huge advocates of it because at these networking events, that’s where you practice your communication skills. It’s where you meet people. There’s so many benefits of networking, I can go on for hours just on networking alone. But it’s something, you know, if you’re listening to this and if you’re looking for more clients, you’re looking to meet with vendors, you’re looking to improve your communication or even meet friends, you know, go to a networking event. It has so many benefits.
You know, there’s really no reason not to go. And some of them are free as you know. So like, you know, companies like WeWork hosts their own networking events and some of them may have nominal or even higher costs associated with it. But overall, the benefits of networking are significant. Networking can work wonders in finding clients and in relationship building, which is what networking is really about. It’s really not about pitching and networking, it’s more about building the relationships to hopefully later lead to potential opportunities.
Tiffany: Going into networking events, what would you say is like the best way to meet people? Because sometimes you walk in and there are already groups of people like talking to each other and they all look like they know each other already, but they don’t because it’s just a networking event. And you’re kind of like looking around and you see other people who are standing by themselves looking around and you’re like, I don’t wanna talk to somebody who’s by themselves right now. And you’re like, kind of scanning the room and you’re like, where are my people? How do you…you love networking and you’re so easy to talk to. I mean, like we, when we met, we just like kinda hit it off and we were talking and then like, you know, it was so natural. Sometimes at networking events it’s not natural because, you know, everybody’s there to either get themselves out, or…
Elias: They have an agenda.
Tiffany: Exactly. So what is your favorite networking approach at a networking event? And what would it be your advice to somebody who’s going out and networking?
Elias: Yeah, that’s a good question. You have to be authentic, right? Because I think people can also sense, you know, un-authenticity, right? So you have to be yourself and you have to go in with a really positive mindset as well. If you’re going to networking and what you’re looking to build your network. And so you have to go have a big smile, you know, be welcoming to people, and just be authentic. Some of like the some great ways to approach people, people love to be complimented, right? So, and you have to be authentic with that too. You can’t be like, those are great shoes if, you know, if you really don’t feel that those are nice shoes. So you have to be authentic with your compliments. But everyone loves compliments. So giving a compliment is really effective way to, you know, to really connect and have that be your opening line. Like, that’s a great jacket. Or a, you know, I really like your business card. I really like your business name, you know, whatever it is. Be authentic with your compliments. But, you know, everyone loves compliments. So that’s kind of a really, really important way.
So you actually ended up going to one of my client events, the Network After Work events. And I’m not saying that because I’m biased because they’ve been a client of ours for four years. But I truly believe that these events are doing great things for the business community. You know, so at these events, you have a color-coded badge, you know, that represents your industry. So that makes things a little bit better when, so if I’m looking to network with let’s say real estate agents or someone in hospitality or IT, I can find those individuals based off of the color of the badge.
And so that’s something so simple that Network After Work came up with, but something so effective. So now when you’re at an event, especially cause there’s 100, 200, 300 people at these events, you know, it’s important to also network with the people that you’re looking to network with. And so that color-coded badge system makes it really easy to find the people that you wanna network with. But yeah, just basically having a smile, having a positive outlook, and focus on building that, you know, that relationship is really what’s gonna separate the good networkers with the, you know, with the ones that are not. What you don’t wanna do is just walk around collecting business cards, interrupting people, you know, you wanna avoid that. But networking can work wonders. I mean, I’m sure there’s lots of people you may have met at the event yourself.
Tiffany: The event was great. One of the things that I noticed that the name, so, okay. At that event, you described to me the name tag and the color coding before I got there. But when I got there, I realized that there was a key and you had to fill out the name tag yourself. And so one, you could be anything you wanted to be, but two, it was almost like the table where the name tags were and the markers was a networking in itself. Like, because you’re there, you’re like learning the key, you’re figuring it out, you’re writing it down, you’re interacting with people while you’re doing it. It’s almost like a built-in activity that people can get in on. And you could, you know, like if you just get there, you could introduce yourself to the person who is right next to you filling out their name tag. Like that was, that to me, I was like, I get it. Like it’s almost genius.
Elias: And that was created because we know that there are other, you know, networking has been around for a very long time and there’s other networking organizations. And there’s chambers of commerce that have their own networking events. So, you know, networking isn’t something new and innovative. It’s been around for a long time. But one of the problems that Network After Work solves is having that color-coded badge. Because that’s a big complaint when you’re at an event and let’s say you’re not really communicating with people that you’re looking to communicate with. You know, that can really hamper your experience at that networking event.
But by having the ability to really talk to the people that you’re looking to network with, it’s kind of a really effective tool that they’ve implemented. But yeah, those events are great because there’s lots of people, they’re very well-attended. But also attending networking events in your niche is also really important. So like going to conferences where it’s just your topic itself, right? A lot of that stuff is really important. That kind of goes back to what I was mentioning about keeping up to date with, you know, with your industry trends and news. It’s the same thing, you know, go to the networking events that are related to your niche and your industry. And that’s also gonna make you a better professional as well.
Tiffany: I 100% agree with you on that. Now, a question that just came to mind is the whole color-coding of the badges. Sorry to go back there, but I just, was that something that you guys suggested that they did and they implemented it or?
Elias: Yeah, so they already had that system when we came in. So when we came in, they were working with…they were doing monthly events in about 13 cities. And at that time they had 300,000 subscribers. And I thought at that time, you know, that’s huge. Fast forward four years later, you know, there’s 6 million subscribers and we’re doing over a thousand events a year. So we’ve been, you know, basically very happy to be part of that scale and part of that growth and seeing the transition of, you know, the networking and what networking does, you know, for business professionals in America.
But yeah, that system was implemented by the CEO of the company. It was something so simple, but so genius. And of course, there are copycats now, of course, which always happens whenever you do something that’s, you know, that’s considered pretty cool. There’s always gonna be people that replicate it. So just like they say, imitation is the most sincerest form of flattery. There other organizations that have implemented that. But yeah, Network After Work is an innovator in the networking space and is currently the largest business networking organization in the country.
Tiffany: Very cool. Just to go back on the networking, I one after I discovered that people loved compliments, that is like my number one in at any networking event. And I’ll tell you how I got. So for people who may not believe us about this, one, you have to try it for yourself, but two observe women. So I kind of attached to men, mostly men my entire life. Like had all male friends, grew up with a brother, like would consider myself like male-raised basically. And I had to learn how to be feminine. I know that sounds crazy.
But in learning how to be feminine and also then obtaining women, like girlfriends, like friends who were girls, I would be around girls and I would just hear them be like, Oh my God, I love your hair, or I love your outfit, or great nail polish, or, and I’m just like, what are all of these compliments? What is going on? And I just realized that it’s just a thing that women do. But I took that one step further and I’m like everyone, whether you are a woman or a man, it can be, you know, everybody loves, you’re right. Everybody loves to be complimented. And so if you genuinely like something about somebody, it’s really nice to just be like, hey, this is like looking good, like great outfit.
Elias: Yeah, it’ll go long way. And what’s interesting is that women are better networkers than men and women attend more networking events than men too. So, you know, out of the 65, out of the 6 million subscribers that Network After Work has, over 60% of them are women. And I think that’s awesome. It’s, you know, it’s amazing to see, you know, that women are great networkers. They enjoy networking events and they’re interested in improving their careers. So I think there’s lots that we can learn from women, and I absolutely agree with that.
Another kind of way because the compliments, you can’t just compliment everyone at a networking event, right? You can’t be like, Oh, I like your shirt and then turn around someone else be like, Oh, those are cool shoes, right? It’s gonna get old pretty quick. So you have to come up with other ways too to kind of, to, you know, to get that, what’s the word I’m looking for? Not the…like when you’re initially engaging with someone. What is that term called? I’m totally having a blank right now. Icebreakers. Icebreakers, that’s the word. Icebreakers, so what are other icebreakers? Right? So we have talked about the compliment. What’s another icebreaker?
You know, talking about the event in general, right? So, Hey Tiffany, is this your first event? Right? You know, or, Hey, Tiffany, how long have you been here? Or Tiffany have you tried the chicken strips? You know, like little things like that. Adapting to your environment is also a really great, you know, icebreaker as well. So that way you don’t keep overusing the whole compliment thing and then you have other things to kind of go with. But ultimately, you’re trying to break the ice with someone, right? Once the ice is broken, then you can go into to share information on yourself, what’s the value that you provide to your audience, right, and continue, you know, building that relationship. So lots of other icebreakers to try out too.
Tiffany: Super cool. Yeah, networking is very interesting and very, very valuable. So what’s the best way for people to find out what networking events are going on in their areas?
Elias; So there’s a really cool social network. It’s called Meetup, right? And so, actually, WeWork just bought Meetup a couple months ago. I don’t know if you knew that.
Tiffany: I think you told me that last time.
Elias: Yeah. And that’s awesome. That’s really cool because a lot of people they’re familiar with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, right? But they may not be familiar with Meetup. And so Meetup is a social network for events. So if I’m looking to attend networking events, they’re gonna be promoted on Meetup. I’m looking to go to, you know, crypto meeting, you know, I can go there. And so they have topics. If I’m looking to do, you know, hiking or ski trip, you know, a lot of these events are promoted through Meetup. And so you can find out about your local events on meetup.com. Network After Work has, you know, over 60 different Meetup pages.
They’re localized pages all over the country. Or you can also use Google as well. And if you’re looking to go to Network After Work event, you can go to networkafterwork.com. So it’s pretty easy to find networking events. I think Facebook I haven’t downloaded it yet, but Facebook just, maybe not just but Facebook has their own app that’s specific for events too. And it’s separate. It’s not on Facebook, it’s a separate app that they have where it’s just events near your area. So that’s kind of another one. But there’s no shortage of events happening, especially in a city like this one. There’s always something going on. So it’s just a matter of finding the right events. What are the events that you’re gonna find most value in? Right? So it’s kind of a skill set in itself is finding the right events that are not going to be wasting your time and you’re gonna benefit from, that’s gonna make you a better professional, better person, so you can continue to becoming better professionals
Tiffany: For somebody who networks so much, how do you keep track of your network? How do you keep in touch? How do you utilize it to its best? How do you provide value to it? Like what do you…what’s your, if you have one, what’s your like process?
Elias: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a great question because there’s so many apps now that are coming around that, you know, we get presented. You know, we get pitched all the time on implementing a whole ton of apps for, you know, for our clients because they’re trying to promote the service to networking organizers and event organizers. So we see a lot of these new app companies that are coming out there. And for some reason, none of them have really built that traction, right? So to become a very large brand yet, and I don’t know why. I think it’s really interesting to figure out why have these apps, you know, why haven’t any of them really made it to like, you know, a big national presence. And I don’t have the answer for that. But to answer your question, you know, I follow up, right?
The people that I told I was gonna follow up I followed up with, right? So the follow up is absolutely vital. You have to follow up with people. Otherwise, you’re at an event, you met great people, but, you know, what’s next, right? So I typically store my business cards. I put them in, you know, in my CRM. And then the people that I promise I’d follow up with, I sent them an email, you know, whenever I have, you know, some free time. And so nowadays, you know, it’s fairly easy to do that, right? We can send emails, you know, with our phones. So it doesn’t take too long to put that effort and following up, but you’ll know that it goes a long way. People would appreciate a follow-up.
And meeting someone at an event is just so helpful. So if you are looking to…if you find a good candidate for your business service, and you’re looking to, you know, present your service to someone that you met at an event, it makes it a lot easier to be like, Hey, Tiffany, it was great to meet you last Wednesday at this and this event, right? So, and now by having met that person, now you automatically become a warmer lead, right? Versus someone that is just emailing you, cold email out of the audience, out of the blue that says, Hey Tiffany, this is what we do. I’d love to set up a call, right? And so you’re gonna have that advantage by having met that person. And that advantage is also gonna really increase the chances of them replying and like, Oh hey, I do remember, great to meet you too. You know, sure, I can get together for a coffee, right? So the follow up is crucial and that’s, unfortunately, most people don’t follow up. Right. you know, you were at the event. Did people, did you get emails from people by any chance? Did you give out your business card first of all?
Elias: Okay. Shame on you.
Tiffany: My strategy when I network is gathering everybody else’s information and then following up with them. So not leaving it up to anybody but myself.
Elias: But did anyone ask you for a business card?
Tiffany Yeah. But also I don’t do business cards.
Elias: Okay. I’d love to hear why.
Tiffany: I just, I don’t think that they’re…I mean, yours is metal, so I use it as a bookmark, no joke. But most people just like toss them. I mean, what do people do with their business, you know, business cards. If somebody asked me for contact information, I’ll put it in their phone or I’ll get their number and I’ll call them. I like taking immediate action on things. And so I think like a business card leaves too much room for error, like user error.
Elias: Sure enough, I can see that. There’s also ways to optimize your business card, right? So like mine are metal business cards and that works really well with getting people’s attention, right? And it’s actually a friend of mine that owns the company that makes these cards. And he also makes wood. He makes carbon fiber business cards. So that’s like his specialty is coming up with really innovative business cards to get people’s attention. Because they may be more expensive than card papers but, you know, when you meet the right person that’s gonna save your card, they’re gonna remember who you are and that can lead to do something pretty amazing. But also with paper cards, you know there’s ways to optimize your business cards too.
So there’s someone that I learned from that uses the back of the business card as, you know, as a way to distribute value, right? So, you know, putting the link, download my easy guide to do this, this, and this, right? So also using that card and putting value on it and just doing different with the business card so people will keep it, or people will visit your website, or, you know, basically using the business card as a way to delivering value to your potential target market can be effective as well.
Tiffany: So before you got your, like really big client and then that started building more momentum for you, what was it like? Was your client new client generation based on referrals before that? Or was it mostly like you reaching out to people and pitching them on ideas? What was…
Elias: Yeah, it was a combination of both. It was just a lot harder back then. So because we were unknown, you know, they didn’t know who we were. They didn’t know who our brand was, or what it was about, what it represented. So, you know, at that time it was you just had to put more of an effort on building that credibility and trust with your potential clients. So, you know, one of the strategies that I like to implement is inviting potential clients to my events, right? So it’s a great way for them to see you in action, to see the work that you’re doing. And so for me, that’s been a really, really, really good source of lead, you know, of converting potential leads is when someone is able to see your work in person, that’s gonna automatically, you know, positively affect the conversion rate of them converting to a client because they’re already there.
They see the work, they see that credibility, the authority. And so that also helps a lot. So I would do a lot of that. Like, hey, I’m having this event. Also people, who doesn’t like going to events, right? So it’s like, it’s a way to get them. It has so many benefits. So that’s something that I used to do a lot is invite potential clients to existing client events and also just come up with ways to prove our ability. So if there’s something someone that I can connect them to. So it’s all about providing value, right? So if I had, you know, specific client or if I was looking to work with a potential client and there was some value that I can provide, you know, to them right off the bat, you know, that’s something that’s really gonna help things speed along, you know, the process of them making the decision whether they wanna work with you or not.
So inviting them to clients, providing value is really helpful. And most importantly, just having, you know, references and referrals. That’s, you know, that’s a huge one as well. That’s probably a very, very, very important one is for them to maybe know some of the clients you work with or become familiar with them or to hear it directly from their mouth, that’s gonna go a long way in building that credibility and trust with potential clients. So we’re still doing those same exact tactics, right? So now that we’re getting like online events and virtual events, you know, one of the things I’m doing now is taking screenshots of our stats, right? So it’s like, hey, we had this webinar last Wednesday and we had 474 attendees. So here’s the screenshot from our webinar software.
So, you know, what would this mean to you if you had, you know, 500 people listening to your presentation in this webinar? Is that something that you’d find value in? Right? So like coming up with other ways to establish that credibility and trust and that proof, that’s what clients want. You know, in the marketing industry, unfortunately, people they’ve been burned, right? You know, they’ve hired consultants and firms and, you know, it’s become an industry where, you know, people are very cautious over it, right? It’s because anybody can promise, you know, I’ll get you on the first page of Google or I’ll, you know, I’ll get you, you know, 10,000 followers and this and that, right? And so unfortunately for business owners, it becomes harder for them to trust people in this industry. So coming up with ways to kind of refute those things is what’s really gonna help convert the client. But all those tactics kind of led to us winning more clients and from then winning more clients and more clients.
Tiffany: So what have you found the best…is the best way to get ahold of someone? Like a potential client?
Elias: That’s a great question. So a couple of weeks ago, I met with a friend of mine. His name’s Stu Heinecke. And he’s someone that we did a webinar with, and Stu lives in Washington. And he wrote a book called “How to Get a Meeting With Anyone.” And it’s obviously a very interesting topic, right? Who’s not gonna wanna learn how to get a meeting with anyone? And the premise of that book, so his specialty is contact the marketing, contact marketing, that’s what it’s called.
And it’s coming up with ways, sending like unique gifts to your prospect to get their attention, right? And this tactic is used when you’re really trying to get ahold of really important people, right? So people that are really busy or may, you know, be executives or even the CEO of a very large company, those people are harder to get through than, you know, just a local small business owner. So his tactic is actually, you know, learning about that person, right? You know, kind of spy their LinkedIn profile, right? Facebook profile if possible, their social media profiles, to learn as much as you can, what are their interests and hobbies, you know, movies that they watch and then learn something about them and then get them a gift that is really gonna resonate with them.
So in his book, he provides different case studies of things he’s done. And he’s a formerly a cartoonist of the “Wall Street Journal.” So what he would do is he’d create custom cartoons of the people that he was looking to schedule meetings with and they would get him these meetings that would lead to, you know, six, seven, eight-figure deals. And so that’s really interesting. I don’t do contact marketing, but I think it’s really cool. But, you know, some of the things that I do, you know, I diversify. So there was I just messaged someone who’s a CEO of, you know, multimillion-dollar organization in my industry. And I messaged him on Facebook. I messaged him on Facebook, which is a little unorthodox, right? But he responded. So not just focusing on email, right? Because most people will get hundreds of emails a day, but come up with other engaging ways, you know, to connect with people. So that’s what I would say with that.
Tiffany: Why’d you Facebook message him?
Elias: Why did I facebook message him? Because I saw him on Facebook and I saw he was very active on it. So I felt that messaging him on Facebook is gonna get a better response than, you know, than LinkedIn or his email, right? So he probably gets a lot more emails than he gets Facebook messages, right? And so I felt I’d have a better chance. And if I saw he posted something 20 minutes ago, the chances, right? So I’m trying to get them when they’re on their phone, most people have their phones right next to them, right? So being able to message people on the mediums that they use the most versus everyone just goes email, email, email. It’s important to try different things. And so for me, it actually worked. I got a reply. So it was effective that time. But yeah, there are people that are harder to get ahold of than others. And I think you just have to get creative with how you get their attention because email has started to become harder as each year goes by.
Tiffany: When I met you, you said that you would just moved from LA. Your business is still based in LA and now you live in New York. So I totally resonate, resonates with me. We’re on the same page. Like, I think we are on a lot of things actually, especially after this interview. But so what’s it, how’s it going? Like how’s the bi-coastal thing going? How’s communication with your team? How are they doing without you? Like how does it feel to be in New York?
Elias: Yeah. I love it. I love New York. You know, when I left I told my team like, Hey, like would, you know, I wanted to ask permission almost, right? Even though I don’t need permission, but what I’d love to know is this something you’re okay with? Like me not being here physically, you know? And surprisingly like, yeah, don’t worry, don’t worry. So I was expecting something different maybe. But it’s been great. You know, this is kind of a funny story but obviously, New Yorkers are known to be, maybe have a little bit of more attitude and a lot more fast-paced, right? So a lot of times when I was telling people like, hey, I’m moving to New York, a lot of people told me like, oh, like I see you there. Or like, we knew you’d be there sometime, right? I was getting a lot of that comments. And so, so I joke around and say like, maybe I’ve always been a natural New Yorker because everyone was like it’s a good transition for you, I guess.
But what’s interesting is the first month that I moved here, I don’t think that I have a lot of stress personally. I don’t think what I do is high stress, right? I’m not dealing with life or death situations, right? I’m not dealing with criminals, right? There’s a lot more jobs and careers that I think are more, you know, have more stress factors than mine, right? But when I moved here for like six weeks, I started getting like a twitch in my eye. And it was bothering the heck out of me.
And I have actually a friend here who a doctor and I kept asking him like, what’s wrong? Like, you know, what is this? And he’s like, he said, it’ll just go away. It’ll just go away. And it wouldn’t go away. And it was really bothering me because I would go places and think my eye was just blinking. And I felt like I looked like a weirdo. So I went to an ophthalmologist and the first question he asked me was, you know, are you stressed? And I was like, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. But I think moving from one side of the country to the other was maybe subconsciously a big stress factor for me that was causing my left eye to twitch for a month and a half. And it’s interesting because I would have never really thought so, but it eventually did go away, thankfully. Otherwise, I’d be in some loony house right now with my eye twitch.
But I think for I guess it was stressful is what I can say. But I’m enjoying it. You know, after living in Los Angeles for such a long time, being able to meet new people and just go to new places and try new things, it’s basically the reason why I moved here. So because I started my company at such a young age, I didn’t really, you know, I never had that chance to travel abroad, right? I didn’t get to do those cool study abroad programs, right, sophomore, junior year or whatever.
Elias: I wasn’t able to do that because that’s when I started my company. So I felt like I missed out on it and then I felt like life is not meant to be lived in one area. So I felt like I needed to get out somewhere else, experience something new. And, you know, if it didn’t work out, you know, I can always go back. But it’s working out. Now, it’s my now seventh month and I can see myself living here for a much longer time. So the transition has been great and I really liked New York.
Tiffany: Congratulations. I feel like the first six months are the hardest. And the first year after the first year, like it starts getting like six months are pretty, I think like three months pretty hard. And I didn’t, I’m with you on this one too, like pretty low stress. I’m very chill, very relaxed. But there was something about being, like the move was easy but it was hard once I got here. I think I also had a twitch in one of my eyes for several weeks. It was so bad that I thought maybe it was caffeine-related. So I like totally cut out caffeine and I started like removing a bunch of things from my diet. But yeah, I think it’s just a little stressful.
Elias: Yeah. Do you mind if I ask you what was your reason for moving to New York?
Tiffany: This is funny. My business partner asked me, and I kind of forgot about this, but when I told him I was moving to New York, he’s like, ”Hey, do you remember what you told me when I asked you why you’re moving to New York?” And I was like, ”No, I don’t remember.” And he said, ”You said you think there’s something there for you?” And I was like, ”Oh, how mysterious. I don’t remember saying that.”
Elias: Did you get that from a movie.
Tiffany: Maybe. But it’s like when we were talking and I was setting up the podcast recording, something inside of me, it was just like do a podcast. Same thing about moving to New York. Something inside of me was just like, move to New York. And so I did. And there was absolutely no resistance in getting here. But as soon as I got here, I was like, kind of like, whoa, what did I just go through?
But yeah, I don’t know. And now that I’m here, I think it’s pretty obvious what brought me here. There’s almost no place like it on the planet. Like, it has this heartbeat, this energy that runs through it. It’s you can’t explain it. You can only feel it. Some people may think it’s like too intense or because it is intense. I think for people who aren’t sensitive to feeling it can feel it. You seem like you’re pretty sensitive, so I feel like you’d be able to feel it. But even if there’s just like something about… And you gave me a funny look.
Elias: No, it’s so sensitive. I’m like, okay.
Tiffany: There’s a word I never, I haven’t. Not sensitive in like I don’t know, in a bad.
Elias: Cry like romantic movies sensitive.
Tiffany: Sensitive. I mean, you’re a networker and you’re an extrovert. Like you are in some way. Yeah. Sensitive to other people’s, other people’s energies and things like that. But New York just has like this beat to it and then it’s, there’s so much to do. It’s beautiful. Like it’s a beautiful city. One of my favorite things about New York is…so there’s this concept that’s been repeating in my life over the past few years. And I think it should have clicked a little bit earlier, but it’s this concept that if it exists, either in your imagination or if somebody else has it, or if you’ve seen it, even if it’s been make-believe, then it can be yours.
And New York is one of those places where you can see and experience anything. And just being around it I think ignites a little bit of a fire in me. It like almost throws, there is a big fire in me but it almost throws like gasoline or a tinder to the flame. And it keeps it burning, that desire because there’s just so much here. There’s so much that you could see and feel and experience that it almost gives you proof that the possibilities are endless.
Elias: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s certain energy here and everyone here is really determined to succeed. And so that’s, you know, it kind of reads off of you, right? It’s energetic. And so I have to agree. There’s no place like New York City.
Tiffany: Yeah. Okay. So I have maybe like a couple personal-ish questions. Don’t be scared. They’re probably not even as personal as the ones that I’ve already asked. But so you said you live in the East Village, which is probably like one of the hippest places to live. If you guys haven’t been to the East Village, I highly recommend going. It’s full of like little, I don’t know, how would you describe it? It’s just like packed with…
Elias: It’s like the best, coolest bars, or you can walk there, right, in restaurants. And so, you know, there’s so much to do. When I first moved to New York City, I was in the Upper West Side. So Upper West Side to East village is complete, like night and day. And so I realized once I moved to East Village, like, oh, this is where I probably belong, at least right now in this time in my life where, you know, I have the ability to, you know, go out and, you know, meet friends at any time and so forth. So it really is really cool. There’s still, you know, it’s my seventh month here, so there’s just so much for me to become familiar with. Like I told you, this is my fourth time in Brooklyn ever. So there’s a lot more for me to see. But East Village, it’s great. You know, it’s a very young neighborhood. You know, most people, they’re in their 20s and 30s, and there’s just lots to do and lots to eat all within walking distance. So it’s a lot of fun.
Tiffany: Nice, nice. Cool. Is there anything you want to share? Anything you wanna ask the audience or anything else you wanna say that maybe I haven’t dragged out of you?
Elias: You know, I think as I mentioned earlier, encourage you to go out and build your network. There’s lots of advantages to it. So, you know, whether you are an introvert, an extrovert, you know, getting out there and networking is crucial. And it’s something that we all can practice on, become better networkers.
Tiffany: And it’s fun.
Elias: And so many benefits, so many benefits. So encourage you to go out and build your network.
Tiffany: Awesome. Well, thank you. Thank you so much.
Elias: No problem. Yeah, thanks for having me.
Tiffany: This was like loads of awesome information.
Alias: Thanks. This was fun.
Tiffany: Yeah. Thank you so much.