Episode 08: Mark Stern

Entrepreneur Conundrum Podcast

Episode Summary

Join us at Mark shares his tip for giving great client experiences.

EC 01   |    4min

About The Guest

Today I’m talking with Mark Stern about how he builds stronger relationships to stand out in the marketplace. 

Mark Stern is a serial entrepreneur and founder of rough street digital, the custom box agency and live online.

Prior to entrepreneurship, Mark was a top-ranked strategy consultant from the world’s largest consulting firm, Deloitte.

For the fastest way to his heart is through barbecue and tacos and he lives in Austin, Texas.

CustomBoxChallenge.com

CustomBoxAgency.com

RoverMethod.com

 

Episode Transcript

Virginia Purnell:

Welcome to entrepreneur conundrum with Virginia Purnell where growing entrepreneurs share how they get visible online. 

Hi everyone. Today I’m talking with Mark Stern about how he builds stronger relationships to stand out in the marketplace. 

Mark Stern is a serial entrepreneur and founder of rough street digital, the custom box agency and live online.

Prior to entrepreneurship, Mark was a top ranked strategy consultant from the world’s largest consulting firm, Deloitte.

For the fastest way to his heart is through barbecue and tacos and he lives in Austin, Texas. 

Welcome, Mark Stern.

Mark Stern:

It’s good seeing you, Virginia. Thank you for having me on.

Virginia Purnell:

You’re welcome. Great to have you here. 

Mark, you’ve done some pretty big things in the online marketing space and I’m thankful that you’ve graciously consented to this interview to share with us some of those cool tricks, tricks, and tips that you’ve been able to use to become visible in your space and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to share those so that our audience will be able to implement them as well.

Mark Stern:

Awesome. No, I’m excited to share some, we have some great things that I’m excited to share with your audience.

Virginia Purnell:

Cool. Just jump right in. So could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Mark Stern:

Happy to. So I was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and I was always raised with the idea that there’s this perfect, you know, pathway to happiness. You go to high school, you graduate, have the dream job, eventually go back to grad school and then afterwards it’s, you know, pick defense family and the rest is history. That’s the fast way to happiness. And I would joke that like, I think I was like the poster child for it because I loved high school. I was president of my student body. Same thing in college, had my dream job, went to my dream business school. I went to Duke university, and was president of that as well. And then I graduated in 2012 with a job that was amazing. It was with Deloitte consulting, world’s largest consulting firm. But I find myself locked into a two year minimum commitment to the consulting firm.

Mark Stern:

And I had just walked out of business school with $165,000 in student loan debt. And at that time for me, like I had those ambitions to want to be an entrepreneur, but based on the situation that I was in, when you work for a consulting firm, anything you produce is owned by the firm. 

So this whole idea about having a side hustle and addition to your day job that pays the bills, I couldn’t have a side hustle because if my side hustle would be owned by the firm. So what I did instead, and I think a lot of people are in this, especially if you work for a consulting firm, or big tech. A lot of companies out there own what you produce. So because I couldn’t really scratch that itch, I ended up going to every digital marketing conference out there. I’d read every book and I just dream until I realized I was using that as a form of medicine to address the bigger issue, which is I needed to scratch this edge. I needed to go all in and make the leap into entrepreneurship. So I officially did that in 2018. The thing I did right out of the gate, that was the game changer for me, was launching a virtual event. And so much of what I put out in the marketplace is so much of what you talk about, which is how do you increase your visibility online, and how do you stand out in a, in a way that attracts your ideal avatar.

Virginia Purnell:

Yeah. It’s quite a journey that you’ve taken on. So you made the leap in 2018, correct?

Mark Stern:

Yeah, right at the beginning of the year. The second after New Year’s Eve, I came back and was like, I’ve got to do this. If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it.

Virginia Purnell:

Kind of like a New Year’s resolution.

Mark Stern:

Oh, unexpected New Year’s as a little bit going into it, I didn’t know that I was going to come out of it saying, you know, here’s my notice.

Virginia Purnell:

So were you an overnight success when you did it?

Mark Stern:

I wish I were. I wish I could say I was. You know what I learned was I came from a corporate job that, I mean, it basically occupied my entire mental capacity. So, you know, I think I put a lot of unnecessary stress on myself to say, if I’m making the leap from corporate to becoming an entrepreneur, I need to have the business all figured out. And the reality was when I made the leap officially, I put my notice in January. It took me five months to transition out just because of the projects that I was working on. So when I left in May, I had no idea what I was going to do. And what I learned was that’s okay because I knew that once I left, I could release all of the mental capacity from my corporate job and then really get into that zone of creativity to start to figure out what it is that I want to be when I grow up.

And what where that led me was I knew that I loved conferences and the simple idea of doing a virtual conference where I can customize the message to who I wanted to serve and really attract them as well as build relationships. And then selfishly I was someone that really struggled initially putting myself out there online. It was another platform that forced me to get uncomfortable because I was trying to put myself out there in the digital realm, which is something that was brand new to me at the time. So I was not an overnight success, but it helped prepare me. I felt like I very quickly flipped on the switch to bring attention to myself based on the steps that I did take pretty quickly. And that was the virtual event.

Virginia Purnell:

So you had mentioned that it was hard for you to put yourself out there with promoting your company and getting visible online and stuff. What did you find helped you to do that?

Mark Stern:

So the first thing that I, for anyone in this, one of the easiest ways, especially if you struggle to get traction and take action, is to declare it publicly. So I started posting what I was going to do and I tied it to a specific date. So that was when I said… So I left in May and it was the end of June that I started posting publicly that I’m launching this fall conference in October. Here’s the date of it. And I mean by simply declaring it to the public and just knowing myself, if I say I’m going to do something by a certain date, I’m going to do it. Whether or not I felt like it makes me uncomfortable or not. 

So putting myself in, forcing myself publicly to be in an uncomfortable position, I think was the difference between me taking that massive action in a short period of time. So declare it. And I’ve done this practice so many different ways and I’ve tried this again and again and I always find that the best things I put out in the marketplace or when I’m vulnerable and I declare it publicly as then you’re on the hook,

Virginia Purnell:

Otherwise you make a liar out of yourself, right.

Mark Stern:

Yeah. And that was the other thing is that I didn’t want to be, and it’s funny because going through the process, I kept on telling people I’m doing this version and this is before everyone started like getting loud with virtual events like they have in the last, I’d say 18 months especially right after the pandemic hit and all live events got canceled. But a lot of people, it was so funny cause when I would declare it publicly to say I’m doing this, I’m going to do a launch, a virtual event, we’re going to launch a publication off the back of it and do this, this, this, and this. People would be like, nod their head like, yeah sure you are. And then I do it and they’d all be surprised that I did it. So it’s funny that like when you declare things and you actually follow through, like it’s part of your brand, you know it’s part of who you are,

Virginia Purnell:

Which is huge because you can build stronger relationships that way.

Mark Stern:

I mean totally, totally. Because people can find you. I mean any of these things that you do that you put yourself out there, even doing a podcast by just the act of doing this, like you’re getting, giving people like a glimpse into who you are and you know what it’s like to collaborate with you or work with you or have a conversation with you. So it’s just such a powerful means that people are attracted to different personalities. You and I can teach the same thing, but there are certain people that may gravitate towards you and others that gravitate towards me. But being able to put myself out there, I can better attract the people that know that I could be their trusted mentor to serve them and get them to the next level.

Virginia Purnell:

I know you do a lot with custom boxes. How does that add to visibility and the effect that it has on your customers?

Mark Stern:

Yeah, it’s a really good question. This is something that I’ve been having a lot of fun with lately and it was something I stumbled upon by accident. I did a virtual event. Most people who do virtual events sell as their low ticket item, the recordings from all the speakers so people can watch it on their own time. I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t, I just looked at that as selling more education. I want to sell action. So when we did a high ticket online, I think it was a year ago, we instead crafted a custom box and it’s, you know, a custom box. It’s initially like taking a typical box you’d ship in the mail, fully brand it. So it’s like a beautifully branded box and then really tailoring the contents inside for your customers. So for me, we did as a means to say, if you buy our digital product, we’re going to send you something physical in the mail to compliment the digital experience.

So the idea behind it is to remove any barriers that are preventing your audience for being successful with your product. So if you have a digital course, if you require me to print out my worksheets to be able to be successful with your digital course, you just put up a barrier that’s going to prevent me from that could prevent me from being successful because you don’t want to take the excuses off the table. I don’t want someone telling me that they weren’t successful because they don’t have a printer at home or they haven’t set up their printer to print out those worksheets. So that’s kind of why I liked the custom boxes. I continue swag, I continue some workbooks and worksheets and supporting collateral. I can send you a book in the mail. So that’s kind of like how we got started in that space.

And then we started to do this for all of our products and services simply because what was happening was our audience, as they would get these boxes, they would start to film themselves with the boxes, take pictures with the content, do unboxing videos. They were saving the boxes. So now we were taking up space in their home and it was such a powerful thing that the organic traffic and the social proof that was happening naturally was attracting more customers and we were getting higher conversion rates for our products simply because most people don’t do a physical custom box to compliment their programs. They do digital only. So it’s an easy way for me to elevate whatever I do because you get this cool everyone getting a gift in the mail and it’s just, you know, building upon that just a really powerful, powerful means to do it. So that’s where I, you know, we built out an entire business around, you know, how do we make this more accessible to people so they can provide boxes to their audience.

Virginia Purnell:

That’s really cool. Like, cause you’re right, like everybody loves getting mail and that’s not something that really happens much anymore. Like it used to.

Mark Stern:

And look at what’s happening right now with the pandemic when the pandemic hit live, events got canceled, all mailing vendors are still considered essential. So like the fact that I can’t reach you in person anymore, but now I can like how else do you provide the, you know, the way I describe it as everything online is what you see and what you hear. And when we talk about your senses and how you connect with the world around you, touch, taste and smell. You can’t do with digital only content. Even this podcast is simply what you hear. If I send you a physical box, I can start to tap into the other senses that you just can’t get to when you, let’s just say do a virtual event that is only what you see in what you hear. So that’s like the, to me, the power of it that really just elevates that experience.

Virginia Purnell:

Do you think that there is only one niche or one type of business that could benefit from a custom box or is it more encompassing?

Mark Stern:

No. I think that this is where we’re having a lot of fun with it. I think a lot of people look at custom boxes as just sending someone some swag in the mail, in the box. The way that I look at it is it’s truly a means to think about, extending the lifetime value of your customer. You can use a custom box to the point of customer acquisition, fulfillment or retention until it kind of gives you some examples of that. At the point of fulfillment, I could send a custom box. It’s a networking box to get on the radar of influencers who may be like, like to surprise them in a way to say, look at this thing that this person sent me with a call to action to be, I’d love to do a JV partnership with you or have you on my podcast.

Other things you can do for acquisition is we’re building out a box right now that’s all about client acquisition, so how can I create a prospecting box that has a lot of cool resources so people hire us for what we do at the point of fulfillment? You could do a success box or an onboarding box. I see a lot of people do challenges. Now. A lot of people compliment their challenges with a physical box in the mail. They may have a workbook and a lot of supporting collateral to make you more successful with the digital. So the coaching program that you just purchased. So that’s an example of a success box at the point of fulfillment. And then from a retention standpoint, you know we have clients who are using boxes that we call achievement boxes. So to keep you engaged in our world, we may cross something to save.

If you, if I teach you sales, if you make $10,000 in sales using our system, I may send you a box in the mail as the achievement, a milestone for you to reach to, to try and achieve, to get that box and get the item that is, you know, going to recognize that achievement that you’ve done. So there’s all different strategies you can use across the life cycle of the customers. So I like a lot of times what we’re finding is that when people are purchased for boxes, they’re not looking just for a swag box. They’re looking for a couple of different boxes to really enhance the experience that they’re having with their clients and their customers.

Virginia Purnell:

I like how you had commented that had mentioned the customer lifetime value because that’s really where everything really happens.

Mark Stern:

That’s where the magic is. You know, that’s where a lot of people miss out because they fulfill and their customer has a great fulfillment experience, but they don’t have the strategy in place to retain them. So they don’t really think about retention. Once you’ve like had a good experience, clients want to buy more from you if they’ve had results from you. So that’s where like the power of like studying those achievement milestones are really powerful.

Virginia Purnell:

It’s another way of continuing that relationship. Like you can’t just talk once and expect to stay friends forever

Mark Stern:

A hundred percent and to give you an example of an achievement piece, like ClickFunnels or the things that they do is if you make a million dollars, they send you a two comma club award in the mail. Like that is an achievement marker. There are people who are invested in the platform because their goal is to earn a two comma club award. Like that is the achievement that they want. So, ClickFunnels is going to keep them active and they’re going to provide them with the materials to help them get to that level. But they’ve given you something to strive for. And now ClickFunnels has launched a eight figure award and then a $25 million award and a $50 million word in a hundred million dollar award. So part of this is they’re always giving you those milestones to say, I’ve created this thing for you to achieve or strive for. That’s the power of that. I mean, to me that’s such a great market example of the power of achievement to extend the lifetime value of your customers.

Virginia Purnell:

Thank you Mark. So many good nuggets and things to think about. 

Is there any last tips or suggestions that you have to be able to keep that customer lifetime value or to be able to be in front of your customers or how to get there and stay there?

Mark Stern:

Yeah, I mean this is why I think it’s so important to like to be very engaged. Whenever we’re launching a new product, I’m really hands on with it, especially if it’s like a new type of a high ticket program. Oftentimes if it’s a course or whatnot, like I like to be directly in our face staying with a group of people and usually give them a lot more attention. So like I like to be very, very hands on at the launch of any new product or offering. And part of that is it lets me see how other people react and engage to it. And a perfect example is right now I have a coaching program that is teaching people how to launch high quality virtual events. And they came to me and said had I not been very engaged in interfacing with them, they wanted more training on Facebook ads, so I get to then go find someone who’s great at Facebook ads and I get to give them visibility to this group that’s bought into my program. So they’re happy because I’m listening to their needs and I’m able to better cater to what they want to set them up for more success. Cause that’s, that’s what my goal is. If you create a product for your service, I want people to complete whatever I’m offering and get results. So that’s kind of like looking at what can I offer them and then just listening to what they’re saying and what they’re asking for for future products as well.

Virginia Purnell:

I like what you said, like you want them to stay with you and to finish it right? Like not just read it all. That was nice and carry on.

Mark Stern:

Yeah. I mean, I think my belief is that people do not want to buy a bunch of products and services and courses from 20 to 30 different influencers in the marketing space or in the online space or whatever their niche is. I mean, I think that people are looking for two to three trusted mentors that they know that their learning style will get them to take action and they know that like if I were to launch a program on webinars or a program on setting up, you know, you’re like anything how to set up a podcast, how to do this, that and the other. Even if it’s the first time I’m watching it out of the Gates, if they were deciding between me and someone else who really specializes in it, like I want them to be in a position that they’re going to say, you know what, I’m going to, I’m going to buy from Mark because I know the quality of his products and I know that his teaching style will get me results.

And that’s, that’s the reality is I bought high ticket programs that I got no results out of because the way the influencer taught it, they may be good at what they do, but they didn’t teach it in a way that resonated with me and got me to take action. So that’s why it’s important to invest in what you’re putting out in the marketplace simply if you want to truly be in it for the long term game and be that trusted mentor. Yeah, I mean these are the steps that, like, for me that I have to take.

Virginia Purnell:

Great. Thanks.

Mark Stern:

And I’m having fun and you’re having fun. That’s awesome. I’m having fun every step of it.

Virginia Purnell:

That’s the key point right there. Well thank you so much Mark Stern. It was such a great interview. How can people find out more about you and what you do?

Mark Stern:

Yeah, yeah. People are welcome to retail to me on Facebook, so feel free to hit me up if you want to learn more about custom boxes. We have a challenge, which is custom box challenge.com or done for you, which is custom box agency.com so you can learn a little bit more about what we offer there and if you’re looking to launch a virtual event, Rovermethod.com is our do it yourself platform. That is a fun game of fight experience that people want to go learn how to do that.

Virginia Purnell:

Thanks again. You’re welcome. 

Thank you so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe and leave some love through a review and I’ll catch you on the next episode.

Recommended/mentioned links:

Distinct Digital Marketing.com

CustomBoxChallenge.com

CustomBoxAgency.com

RoverMethod.com

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Virginia Purnell

Virginia Purnell

Virginia lives in Northern Alberta on a small farm with her husband and three children.  

Virginia is a master funnel builder having been certified as an FG Society Master Marketer, Funnelytics, and ClickFunnels Certified Partner.

She also helps businesses with their visibility through online searches.

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