When time is money.
When time is money.
Neil Kristianson, Ontraport Certified Expert and founder of emailsplat.com, a business automation agency, knows the pain and the glory of the modern entrepreneur. Since 2013, Neil and his team have been helping small businesses and solopreneurs automate their systems and dial in their processes to help free them up to do what they do best.
From Modern Ontrapreneur
issue 4 volume 3
As one of our early certified experts, Neil’s business has grown right along with Ontraport and as such, he brings a wealth of knowledge to his clientele. We sat down to chat with him about how he’s successfully grown his consulting business from the ground up and to learn more about best practices and trends he sees in the industry today.
Modern Ontrapreneur Can you tell me a little bit about your background before you became an Ontraport Certified Expert?
Neil Kristianson Yes, prior to being an Ontraport Expert, I owned a remodeling company. I like to tell people I'm a “reformed remodeler.” My brother and I owned that for 13 years and sold it in 2013. What I liked best as a remodeler was diving in to all the systems and marketing that went on in the background. Way back in 2006-2007 when the economy was humming and anybody could sell a room addition, we thought we were the world's greatest sales people. Then 2008 came along and the world ended and we realized we were just really good order takers and didn't know anything about sales. Our closing rates went to about 10% in 2008-2009.
So we had to learn how to sell and how to market and that's when I discovered direct response marketing. I didn't know about Ontraport at the time. I just found a basic auto-responder and started producing landing pages and offering up free reports and whatnot, and I was able to get our close rate up 250% using all those systems. So that's what I like to do.
MO Wow, that was quite a leap.
NK It was. So, because we had all these systems in place, we were able to sell the business in 2013. I realized that all the things I liked to do with marketing and processes, I wanted to make a profession out of. When I started my own business in 2013 as a marketer and email marketing guy, I was using SendPepper, the baby cousin to Office Autopilot, and in early 2014 Ontraport sent out a call for certified consultants. I still very clearly remember the video that you guys made of Andrew Wadsworth walking on the beach and saying what he did everyday, and I'm like, “I want to do that. That is for me.”
MO Walking on the beach midday does paint a nice picture.
NK For me, it was the freedom part of it and how it helped businesses. It turned out Andrew and I were like twins as far as how our brains worked so, yeah, I connected with that video. I took a complete leap of faith, even though I'd never even seen the full version of Office Autopilot, let alone Ontraport, which had just been released — 3.0 had just come out. Prior to the training, I read every single support article on the website about Ontraport to make sure I’d pass. In June 2014, I became part of what I think was the second class of certified consultants.
MO That’s OG status.
NK Yes, almost. Andrew is the original OG, but I'm right behind him and there are still a few of us around from 2014. I just fell in love with all of it. All the people and the energy and, of course, the product itself. I just love everything about it.
"From a marketing automation perspective, one of the main things that I think business owners should spend more time on is really analyzing their customers’ journey to find the key areas that can be leveraged to create a better experience."
MO It’s great to hear your genesis story with Ontraport. So as to your consulting business, what kind of clients do you work with and what do you focus on?
NK Our primary focus is small sales teams. And that can be defined as anywhere from 1-15 sales people. Or, it could just be an owner/operator, just one person. We work with automating and building process around sales, marketing and onboarding. Pretty much trying to automate the customer journey for sales teams. I love helping entrepreneurs take all those shiny ideas they have floating around and actually put them into play. I find that most entrepreneurs have a process, whether they realize it or not, and what I do is pull that process out of them and then automate it.
MO Got it. So, what are the aspects of Ontraport software that you find most useful or that you think are underrated that people aren't taking full advantage of?
NK The number one underrated thing inside Ontraport is Tasks. Underrated, underused, misunderstood. I find that with what I do, we use Tasks all the time. We are automating the human touch. People are worried about automation because they are afraid it's going to get cold and impersonal but, if we do it right, we're just scaling that human touch. Tasks allow you to do that because it puts the break in the system and says, “Whoa, slow down; humans need to intervene here.” So then, once completed, the system can take back over. Once my clients start using Tasks, it just opens up a whole new world of Ontraport for them.
MO A lot of people are talking about preserving the human touch right now, yeah.
NK Yes, almost everyone I work with is very concerned that we are going to automate the personality out of their business. Tasks keeps you from doing that.
MO What is one great email marketing tip that you can offer people?
NK Well, my number one marketing tip is: one email, one action. Meaning: What is the one thing you want somebody to do after they read an email? You can't ask them to do seven things in one email. That's what Ontraport helps you do because, if you're segmenting, you can ask the one specific question to the customer that is going to apply to them. Sometimes people try to use email as a catch-all, writing one email that applies to everyone. In that case, you end up with multiple calls to action. But if you have your list segmented, you can use just one call to action that applies to an individual person or group of people.
MO That’s an important point. It's easy to want to put all the great things you have to offer in every piece of content.
MO You very much have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on for small businesses and entrepreneurs. What gaps are you seeing?
NK As a group, entrepreneurs are the most stressed out, overworked group of people on the planet because we see this grand vision of where we're going and what we want to do — so we take on too much. We want it too fast. As I work with clients, the ones who are most successful are the ones who aren’t trying to do it all themselves. Some of them rarely ever log in to Ontraport. They just know what they need it to do. They find the right people and hand it off, and let them take it. I think as a group, entrepreneurs would be much happier people and less stressed out if they could learn that skill.
MO So basically, learning to delegate?
NK Well, it's more about building a team. It's more about training. It's not just delegating; it's finding the right people and training them. So my selfish plug then is that that’s what Ontraport Certified Consultants are here for. We can teach people and help them understand how to use Ontraport and what the software can do. They don't necessarily need to know what buttons to push and what levers to pull to make that happen, but they need to understand the big picture and decide how the software can help their company. And then they need to step back and let somebody else do it, in my opinion. So that's usually somebody on their team who is dedicated to Ontraport who understands their system. But the business owner doesn't need to be the one who knows everything inside of Ontraport.
MO You've built a business around this, so clearly what you do fills a legitimate need. How do a lot of your clients find you?
NK Initially it was tough. It took me a few years to figure out what I was really good at and what I could help people with. Nowadays, my team and I have our own network of referrals and we have a lot of free training videos online so Google is my friend. We get a lot of search traffic from people trying to figure out how to use the tool. Most of it is referrals, though, because I've just built up these client relationships with people and with Ontraport.
MO That's a place where everyone wants to be.
NK Yeah, but it took me a while to build a reputation and to build my own knowledge about everything the software could do. And, of course, everything I teach I do for myself too, trying to scale our systems. This has been the year of fully automating our own systems and, yeah, that's leading to a better business, a better life. It's leading to more freedom and revenue. All the things that everybody comes to Ontraport for.
MO You've grown right along with the company.
NK Yes. These things do take time. That's why we work well with people who've been in business for a while because until you figure out what's working you can't scale it. I find a lot of people come to Ontraport thinking they’re going to scale it right out of the box. In my experience, you've got to figure out what works before you put gasoline on it. Otherwise you just have a big fire.
MO So what's next for you, for your business?
NK Well, really it's kind of simple. It's just to help more business owners achieve that Ontraport dream. Like I said, we are trying to scale our own business so that we can help more people.
MO That’s a beautiful thing. Thanks so much for sharing your valuable insight with our community, Neil.
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