WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU JUST GO FOR IT
Founder and CEO
Eight years ago, Jim Hohl was running a web design business. When he realized that fewer and fewer people were willing to pay for the kinds of services, he was providing, he took a big leap: He went into business with an acquaintance’s nephew — and he’s never looked back.
Q: Where did you get the idea to start Visify?
A: I had a business for about eight years doing website design and development. In that time, I realized two things: I didn’t have a recurring revenue stream, and the amount that clients were willing to pay for what I did was rapidly approaching zero. I wanted to create a business that had both recurring revenue and was not competing against free or close-to-free options. After trying a couple of ideas out, we ended up with done-for-you digital marketing as our sole offering, and it’s been a great decision for us.
Q: How did you get a business partner who is so much younger than you?
A: I knew Lucas Garvin’s uncle and just before the summer of 2011, he asked me if I would be willing to offer his 16-year-old nephew an internship at my company. Lucas was coming to visit NYC for the first time from Savannah, GA, and my friend couldn’t be around during the day and wanted something for Lucas to do. At the time, I was still running my web design company and he told me that Lucas did something “webby.” I thought, “Great, a pipsqueak to deal with” but instead said, “Sure, let me talk to him.” Great decision, as it turns out. He was very professional and mature and impressed me from day one. Within the first week of his arrival in NYC, he got us a client in SEO. We collaborated on some projects after he went back home to finish high school and when he told me a couple of years later that he wasn’t going to college and wanted to start a business together, after a slight hesitation, I decided to go for it. Lucas is now 21 and much more mature and polished as an entrepreneur. He has taken on his personal growth with the same passion as he took on his business, to the point where he is now speaking on stages to hundreds of people in addition to bringing in and working with some amazing clients.
Q: What distinguishes Visify from any other traffic generation or marketing company?
A: We have a clear sense of who we are, whom we serve and what we are best at. For example, we are experts in three things: traffic generation, conversion optimization and marketing automation. We stick to those three things and don’t attempt to take on more than that. If our clients need something we don’t offer, such as video production, copywriting or web design, to make their marketing more effective, we bring in experts to handle it or refer them to our partners. That clarity means that we also know who our ideal clients are and who works best with our approach.
Q: How does your business mission play a role in the work that Visify does?
A: We believe that entrepreneurs change the world. To that end, we are focused on serving mission-oriented entrepreneurial businesses of all sizes to empower them to have the impact they want to have in the world. We also have a personal mission to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and have the dream of setting up what we call the Visify Youth Collective to train and mobilize young people around entrepreneurship.
Q: Can you share any success stories with us, of a company that you’ve helped impact?
A: Sure. One of our clients, Jeff, is a provider of luxury travel advice and tours. This is his second company, which he started just last year after selling his very successful African safari business. Even though he had thousands of people on his old company’s mailing list, legally he was unable to bring them over to his new list. We have been working with him to grow his mailing list from around 400 people, to now close to 10,000 in about 10 months. He has been able to do this on a very limited budget and while maintaining a very active personal travel schedule. In other words, with no compromising of the lifestyle he had grown accustomed to.
Q: What should people focus on in terms of moving forward with marketing?
A: Two big trends that are only getting stronger are video and mobile. It’s just a must-have part of your marketing strategy moving forward — even when marketing to senior execs and B2B businesses. Users are jumping around between devices and from site to site, and not engaging with them in a consistent way is a surefire route to marketing failure. To combat this, you must have an integrated approach across all digital platforms, including Facebook advertising, your website, how you show up in search… it all has to be coordinated and in sync to ensure a seamless experience for your leads.
Q: What changes do you foresee as the next trend in marketing?
A: Real-time video broadcasting is hot right now. Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Mentions: We still don’t know which platform will come out the winner — or if the technique will even persist. But even in the age of on-demand everything, we still crave real-time engagement, so some kind of real-time video platform will likely survive. It’s worth checking this approach out, if it makes sense for your audience.
Q: Do you have any plans for the future of Visify? Where do you hope to be in five years? 10 years?
A: Neither Lucas nor I want to run a huge business, just one big enough to have the kind of impact and lifestyle that we desire. I want to speak more and get paid for that aspect of our business — and I would love to have some more training and passive income in our portfolio. But at the heart of everything I do is being of service to our clients, and whatever form that takes will satisfy me.