+1 Entrepreneur Interview: Reactiv Social
+1 Entrepreneur Interviews celebrate Fort Wayne area entrepreneurs who deserve an upvote. This post celebrates Reactiv Social, a new Fort Wayne digital marketing services business.
I first met cofounders Aaron Robles and Al Linsenmayer years ago. Aaron was in high school studying graphic and Al was a friend of a friend and was starting a web venture.
Aaron and Al got to know each other while working together at marketing agency Boyden and Youngblutt. Eventually. Al pitched Aaron about collaborating on a social media venture — and Reactiv Social was born.
Aaron has always been an artist, and initially planned to work as a graphic designer (and received kudos for his freelance work). He has had 2 very prominent influences in his life. In high school at Anthis Career Center (where I met him), Aaron studied graphic design with Karen Gillie, who has grown from a teacher “who really cared” to a life coach he continues to call upon today. About graphic design, Aaron says, “I first thought graphic design would be my profession. I now know that it’s a tool and just a part of my profession.” He learned the majority of his business and marketing skills at Darlington Holiday Warehouse, working with another mentor, Brian Ellis. As Aaron puts it, there he learned how to run a “good, profitable company.” And, I’ll add that somewhere in there he learned how to put that all together to create a brand.
Al has never been interested in a “J.O.B.”, although since middle school he’s always worked hard to afford what he wanted. In high school he contracted with Amazon to help MapQuest identify “ending destination photos”. Interesting side note — MapQuest founder Chris Heivly spent some time at the Atrium coworking space where Reactiv Social works, where he and Al got to spend some time talking about those “old” days. Al has always tested various ways to make money, from importing replica items from China to promoting hip hop artists. The two common threads throughout all of his work are a strong imagination constantly creating new ideas and an ability to see and sense patterns in communication. Those came together when Al worked with mentor Brandon Smits of GrowthInc (formerly B2BGrowth), where Al learned how to apply his creativity to lead generation.
Reactiv Social launched July 17, 2017. The team works in downtown Fort Wayne at the Atrium coworking space.
What started out as an idea to focus on managing social media and creating sales funnels has expanded to include that plus complete branding services and website creation. As Aaron and Al explain, “Not only is that what customers were asking for, but those services are prerequisites for effective social media and digital marketing. So it just made sense to expand.”
As Al puts it, Reactiv Social creates “custom sales machines that leverage social and digital traffic”. They work with business owners who, although they could probably take time to learn and apply digital marketing techniques, would rather put their valuable time toward working on the core of their businesses. The “machine” could include elements such as:
- social media management
- email maketing
- sales funnels
- paid social and AdWords advertising
The focus is always on lead generation and sales — not just generating social media or website activity. As Aaron and Al say, “Likes don’t pay the bills.”
Startup Challenges Overcome.
Reactiv Social is a young startup, less than 6 months old at the time this is being written. They have worked the way through a typical startup progression of 1) no meetings and 2) meetings but with the wrong people (not ready, no budget, don’t see value). Today, they’re past that — they have five clients, and nearly half of their meetings are with people who approach them. Aaron and Al attribute that to their philosophy of giving. As they explain, “We give a lot of value up front — advice, consulting — that others might want to charge for. We freely and intentionally help our prospects understand what they’ll need to do to be successful — without strings attached. Three things happen. One, they appreciate that, and their trust in Reactiv Social grows. Two, when the time comes to implement those strategies or programs, they come to us rather than do it themselves. Three, they tell their friends about us!”
Aaron and Al work through their business issues and set strategy by spending loads of time talking together. Although it helps for partners to have complementary skills, they attribute the strength of their partnership to “100% us liking one another. We can always hire skill sets, but especially during our first three months we had to figure out how to get on the same page. We intentionally didn’t pursue customer interaction until we had made time to understand and agree about what we were building. Customers need to trust us, and we knew that they wouldn’t if we weren’t on the same page as partners.” It helped that they hit it off from day one and found it easy to communicate openly.
The next year will be a building period for Reactiv Social. Not only will they be building their portfolio of customers, but they will be building a more “routine” operating structure into their engagements. They also plan to grow their team, first contracting with specialists in key digital marketing areas, and then hiring the best of the best. They also are considering hiring 3 interns soon to help with some production and marketing work — and also to grow a pipeline of prospective future employees.
Eventually, Aaron and Al plan to have their own bricks and mortar office. But, because they recognize the benefits of coworking, they plan to offer coworking at that office. They both feed on the random connections and social interaction of being immersed in a diverse coworking crowd.
At the same time, they both want the freedom to travel — to work remotely from anywhere and to “not spend our 20’s behind a desk.” Whether it is Rome (Al’s favorite), Atlanta, Portland, Colorado, or the West Coast, they will craft a working structure that allows them to be energized by working in new places with new people.
Other Locals On Their Radar
From a peer viewpoint, Aaron and Al point to Cartt, another Atrium member company. Cartt’s founders, Dylan and Justin, restructured (pivoted) their on demand delivery business to adjust to what others might have considered a venture killer (more on that coming soon in another +1 article). They play a strong role in the local entrepreneur community — taking advice, giving advice, and always being helpful and collaborative.
From a mentor standpoint, Aaron and Al point to Joe Noorthoek and Jaret Wieland, who they have dubbed “The Marketing Dads”. Aaron and Al appreciative how these guys openly share their experience and don’t skirt the tough questions. One other entrepreneur, Jamal Robinson, has helped Reactiv Social understand the role of business development — or how to be strategic about sales.
Advice to Startup Founders
Starting up is still quite fresh in their minds, so the lessons they’ve recently learned are plentiful. Here goes.
- Find the right people to be a support system — a community of entrepreneurs that will help you cope with the doubt you are likely to face.
- Saying it out loud puts it out there.
- Take intentional action. Gain experience. “You learned it. No one can take that away from you.”
- You don’t have to be perfect at day one — or know everything at day one. You can learn the things that you have doubt about today or don’t know how to do today. You can, and you will, grow into things tomorrow that look impossible today.
- You need a partner. We repeat, you need a partner. Don’t try to do it alone.
- Most new ventures rush to sell and gain traction. We advocate first getting to know one another and coming to an agreement about what you are going to build. We invested our time to sit down together and talk for a full 3 months — before we even had the first customer interaction. We attribute lots of our subsequent success to that investment in getting on the same page.
- Once we had an idea of what we wanted to do, we overly focused (and still do) on “the work today”, not some arbitrary long term metric or goal. That helped us make strong progress each day — and instantly see when and how we needed to adjust to what customers wanted.
Congratulations to Aaron and Al for getting out of the blocks so well and growing a new venture here in Fort Wayne!