Ontraport’s Original Certified Expert.
Tobin Jarrett was one of Ontraport’s earliest employees, having met CEO, Landon Ray, before Ontraport had been founded. Inspired and motivated by Landon’s vision and early success, Tobin was the fourth hire on the Ontraport team as the first customer support rep and worked his way up to Director of Client Education. He also later helped write and launch an early version of the Certified Consultant (now called Certified Expert) training program. Today, nearly 13 years later, Tobin remains a Certified Expert, and runs two thriving businesses powered by Ontraport. We wanted to hear more about the early days of Ontraport, what motivates him as a business owner, and glean some gold nuggets of insight that only someone who has been connected to Ontraport since the beginning could offer.
From Modern Ontrapreneur
Modern Ontrapreneur: You were one of Ontraport’s earliest employees, working closely with Landon. Can you talk about how you came to be employed at Ontraport and what you did in your role in those early days?
Tobin Jarrett: Landon Ray is one of the most influential people ever to come into my life. Much of my success in many areas of life is due, at least in part, to his influence. I moved down to Santa Barbara from Morro Bay at 20 years old, a doe-eyed fledgling with a dream of going to Brooks Institute of Photography and becoming the next Annie Lebowitz. I’ll never forget the day I met Landon on the beach in Summerland. We became instant friends and my life has changed in more ways than I can count as a result of that day.
Landon and I, along with a handful of other incredible humans, forged an uncommon bond and spent most of our time together. We called our little crew “the tribe,” and for those few years we could often be found cooking meals in his outdoor kitchen and showing the Santa Barbara nightclubs how it was done.
But alas, all good things must come to an end. I did not go to Brooks, after all. Instead, I left Santa Barbara to go to Humboldt State University and get my degree in photography. Afterwards, I figured I’d move to San Francisco, hang out a shingle and start booking clients like shootin’ fish in a barrel. The trouble was that I didn’t know how to market myself or run a business. At all. I called myself a pro photographer, but the truth was, I was a waiter who very occasionally got hired to do photography.
Since Landon was one of my besties — and one of the smartest dudes in my life — I lamented to him about my struggles and asked him what marketing books I should read. He said I should move back down to Santa Barbara and answer the phones for a new marketing software company he’d started, and that I could get a crash course in marketing and entrepreneurship by helping support the first handful of customers. So that’s just what I did. I sat down across from Pin Chen and Steven Schneider, the two original developers, in the stuffy yurt on Landon’s ranch and got to work. This was the winter of 2006.
It was there that I wrote the first instruction manual for the platform. I answered the phone and tried to learn the software fast enough that I at least seemed to know more than the customers on the other end of the line. Sometimes it worked, sometimes, not. I also began making training videos to help users learn the software and, with Landon’s blessing, I infused those videos with my *ahem* unorthodox sense of humor. Some old school Ontraport customers may still remember The 9 Moves, the Kung Fu-themed series of training videos aimed at getting new users acquainted with the basics of the system. I wanted to make my videos fun enough that people could tolerate sitting through them long enough to glean the intel within. Some people totally loved them. Others, well, you know who you are, and I thank you for your patience.
"Most entrepreneurs are really great at the part of their business that lights them up, which isn’t usually marketing automation software. I was drawn to working with Ontraport clients because I saw a large chasm between where most business owners are in their understanding of the software, and where they need to be in order to get the most out of Ontraport."
Over the next several years I grew the customer support department, helping hire and train the next forty team members, eventually earning the title of Director of Client Education. In 2013, I left Ontraport’s payroll to focus on my photography business, which by then was thriving, and I continued to serve Ontraport clients as a consultant.
MO: As an Ontraport Certified Expert, can you tell me about what it was that motivated you to get certified and what your specialty is?
TJ: One of the last things I did while on the team at Ontraport was to write much of the curriculum for the inaugural Certified Consultants Program (now called Certified Expert). So, in a way, I was sort of the de facto first-ever Certified Consultant.
Most entrepreneurs are really great at the part of their business that lights them up, which isn’t usually marketing automation software. I was drawn to working with Ontraport clients because I saw a large chasm between where most business owners are in their understanding of the software, and where they need to be in order to get the most out of Ontraport. That’s why far too many Ontraport customers wind up using this robust and powerful platform like a glorified MailChimp. It pains me to see that kind of thing.
My specialty is viewing the entire customer lifecycle in my mind’s eye, mapping it out, and then designing and implementing systems that move buyers smoothly through the entire journey. So instead of focusing just on the acquisition of new leads and first time sales, I look beyond that for ways to optimize the rest of the journey. I ask things like:
I’ve grown a bit cynical and resigned about certain elements of the internet marketing world because of what I find to be its slimy underbelly: the cheesy, bombastic and dishonest claims — all just to make a quick buck. So a big thing for me is making sure that authenticity and humanity stay central to even the most sophisticated of automated systems.
For years I focused exclusively on one-on-one consulting. The way I work with clients is very intensive, so I could only take on about three clients at a time and still maintain my sanity. From the beginning, I noticed that although the offers, voice and brands of the clients varied, most of the campaigns I was creating from client to client were very similar. So I began to think that, instead of having to reinvent the wheel for each new client I serve, and having to create systems from scratch each time at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, perhaps I could take the core strategies I’d deployed for my clients over the years and create templates out of them. What if I could do 80% of the work and strategic heavy lifting for them with these templates and then use training videos to walk them through the last 20% of customizing it for their business? This way, all the client would have to do is put the finishing touches on. And what if I could offer this to existing Ontraport clients so that they could get the benefit of these battle-tested strategies for a tiny fraction of the cost of working with me one-on-one?
I had some version of this thought enough times over the years that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. So, that’s how my Leg Up program came to be. It’s our main focus and it’s been quite the journey taking it from inception to where it is today, but it’s been a labor of love! At its core, Leg Up is a series of campaign templates that, when customized and deployed, allow any client to fully automate the entire customer journey, turning traffic into leads into customers into repeat-buying, testimonial-giving, referral-driving evangelists — all on autopilot. So we include the entire library of page templates free for our Leg Up members. They also have the training videos with me built right into the sidebar of the campaign. Clients are guided all along the way from the bird’s-eye-view strategic level, to click-by-click instructions for customizing the campaign and deploying it. Lastly, I wanted to maintain the ability for clients to have access to me, so I hold weekly group coaching calls for Leg Up members where I go over solutions and ideas for unique use cases.
We wanted to make it easy for our Leg Up members to ditch the extra hassle and cost of the third-party landing page apps while getting to fully leverage the all-in-oneness that makes Ontraport so dang powerful. The idea is that, instead of having to figure out all the strategy and technical stuff on your own, or throw a fortune at a consultant (which many businesses just can’t afford to do), the average business can get those benefits at a fraction of the cost by customizing the campaign templates themselves.
MO: You’ve been using Ontraport since the beginning. How have you seen it evolve and change and what do you see as the most useful and valuable improvements since the beginning?
TJ: Well, the sheer magnitude and quantity of upgrades would be tough to overstate. Compared with what we started with back in the day, the modern Ontraport loads faster than an espresso-guzzling cheetah, is as stable as a brick house, virtually bug-free, and immeasurably more powerful. And then there is the stellar customer support. It’s incredible what this company has created over these few short years.
In my humble (yet accurate) opinion, the product team and the devs should be Sainted and every small business owner who opts to use another platform should be examined for other signs of madness.
MO: Do you use Ontraport in your own business and if so which features do you love using most?
TJ: Of course! We use Ontraport day-in and day-out in both of my businesses. The first business I started was Tobin Photography, and we used it to generate new leads, nurture them, close them, manage the event and workflow, and on and on. For my second business, Tobin Jarrett Consulting, we use the CRM, pages, campaigns, payments, membership site, tracking, and more. We’ve got a long list of stuff we want to automate and refine but, yeah, we’d be hosed without Ontraport!
As to favorite features, we love Ontraport Pages. There isn’t anything my team can’t make in the page builder, and it’s a blast to see them go from design to deployment. The custom display rules for blocks and now redirect conditions for page forms are very slick. I’ve also got a huge crush on the Campaign Builder. The truth is that I was actually a late adopter of it. I was so versed with Sequences and Rules that when the Campaign Builder showed up, I was like, “I’ll figure it out later.” It took me like six months after it launched to make my first campaign. And, like anything worthwhile, it had a learning curve, but once I cracked the code, I felt half a fool for waiting so long!
"In general, though, Ontraport has allowed me to focus on what’s important in my life: maintaining my health and well-being, spending time with my family, and going to ecstatic dance most Tuesdays!"
But the thing I love about Ontraport isn’t this or that feature, it’s the whole thing...the way it works together like a symphony. It isn’t about this or that instrument in a sonata; it’s about how they all sound together...that’s the way I think about Ontraport, and that’s why I think it’s the greatest platform around.
MO: Has automation given you more freedom in your life or more time to pursue other passions/interests, or additional business pursuits?
TJ: Well, yes and no. As I mentioned, I’d be hosed without Ontraport and the automation it’s allowed. I’m the father of two young kids and I’ve got a marriage I like to keep vibrant. I know a lot of entrepreneurs who burn the midnight oil as a matter of course. I won’t say that I never work late — when we’re working on a launch for a client or up against a wall to get a campaign template released to our Leg Uppers, I work 12-14 hour days.
In general, though, Ontraport has allowed me to focus on what’s important in my life: maintaining my health and well-being, spending time with my family, and going to ecstatic dance most Tuesdays! I’m actually starting to finally pursue voice acting too, and I’m excited about the doors Ontraport will help open in that business as well. My passion for voice over was actually borne out of the blast I had making those first training videos for Ontraport many years ago!
MO: Some of your clients say you know Ontraport better than anyone else — what do you think about that awesome accolade?
TJ: Oh, wow. That’s sweet. Truth is that there are a lot of folks out there who are smarter than I am at a lot of the super techy areas — API stuff, folks who love nothing more than geeking out on the deepest reaches of tracking and metrics, Custom Objects and integrations.
I’ve got a unique blend of marketing and business skills, combined with the OP tech skills earned over thousands of hours working in the system...and I love to share, teach and translate the strategies and tools into something friendly, understandable and utterly doable. Even for total newbies. That’s really why I’ve focused so deeply on the Leg Up offering. I wanted to create a way for anyone to leverage the power of Ontraport and battle-tested strategies in their business quickly and easily!
Work with Tobin