Mike Munter is the Owner of Mike Munter, LLC, a business in the internet marketing niche. Mike launched his business in 2011 after a 3 ½ year drought of not working at all. He had been laid off from his prior job in 2007 working at the Rose Garden Arena (now Moda Center) in Portland, Oregon.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do next,” Mike Munter says. “I figured I’d take the summer of 2007 off and an idea would just come to me.”
But nothing came. Mike knew he didn’t want to return to corporate America. In his words, he knew he didn’t want to “push someone else’s product.”
He’d pushed someone else’s product most of his professional life, first repairing and selling computers, then later selling advertising while working in the front office of the Baltimore Orioles Double-A affiliate Bowie Baysox. By the time the Rose Garden Arena gig ended, he was finished selling things for other people.
“The only thing I did know is the one thing I didn’t want to do,” Mike laughs. “But those 3+ years not working were tough, both financially and emotionally.”
Fast forward to 2010.
“I had all of these friends who owned small businesses and they had websites and I wondered, ‘How does Google rank websites?’ I didn’t know anything about it, so I put an ad on Craigslist and hired a gentleman to train me in the field I later found out is called SEO, or search engine optimization.
Five days a week, for an hour or two a day, I’d talk to my trainer (Joe) over skype. We shared screens and he taught me from the ground up how to optimize web sites and improve Google rankings.
Finally, after 8 weeks, Joe said, “Well, there isn’t much left to show you. Now you need to go out and get your first customer.”
With training over, Munter sent an email to everyone he knew, telling them about his new business and how they could help him get a new customer. Several people responded and one of those turned into a paying customer – for $300 per month.
“It took a couple years to learn and grow the business, to get into the black,” Mike says. “It was a real grind in the beginning and I almost quit several times.
But he stuck with it and created Mike Munter LLC, the internet marketing business focused on helping individuals and businesses market themselves online.
Mike is a thought leader, influencer, visionary, and successful entrepreneur. Mr. Mike Munter joins other leading Bestselling Authors, International Speakers & Entrepreneur, and CEO’s taking part in our Leader Roundtable Interview Series. The DotCom Magazine editorial team is delighted to have Mike join us for our Leader Roundtable Interview.
Mike, let’s us start by telling us about your business.
Hi! Well, I wear a few different hats, but in general I consider myself to be an internet marketing consultant. I help businesses and individuals market themselves on the internet. Some of that marketing I handle myself and other parts of the business, I refer leads to a select group of colleagues who are more specialized – and frankly better at it – than I am.
Two things I want to share about online marketing. First, this is a huge and growing niche. Search engine optimization (SEO) and online reputation management (ORM) are broad. There’s a lot of room for specialization within each field. It’s taken me several years to select the areas I want to specialize in. My focus is very narrow and we’re really good at what we do.
Second, the internet is still an open frontier. So many clients have told me how they’ve been burned in the past. They were promised a service, paid a deposit, and never heard from the business again. That’s terrible, but that’s the reality of the internet.
I’ve established relationships with some of the brightest people in SEO and ORM. Although I no longer handle all of these areas myself, I know and trust people who build websites, run Google adwords campaigns, and remove and suppress negative articles. I know a PR specialist who helped an attorney become an “expert lawyer” on CNN. There are also folks I know and trust who have contacts in the entertainment business that have helped clients grow their brand by getting a celebrity to share their Instagram feed.
I vet these folks myself and make sure they do what they say they can do and are fairly priced. So, when a new client comes to me for help, even if I’m not able to help them directly, I usually know someone who can. So, I refer that business out and know that the client is in good hands.
Please tell us how you make sure your customers will become raving fans of your company?
I do what I say I’ll do and never promise something I can’t deliver. I’m honest and upfront with regard to what to expect from your internet marketing campaign.
At the end of the day, what we do is marketing. And while there’s knowledge and expertise in this area, there are no guarantees. For example, we can do all of the right things to help you rank your website better, but that doesn’t mean Google is actually going to rank it better.
Even after a successful campaign, I’ve had clients refer me to others and I’ve also had clients seek my advice on other areas of digital marketing. I think that’s a testament to the fact that they trust me. And trust is the most important thing to me.
Please tell us the one thing that separates your business from the competition.
I look for things that work. That might sound simplistic, but the internet in 2020 is still like the wild west. I provide a niche service to my clients and I’m also well networked with other consultants who specialize in their own areas. I refer a lot of business out and its always sent to someone I – and you – can trust.
And to finish this section, please tell us what the one major key to your business’s success is?
I specialize in very specific internet marketing niches where this is little or no competition. I am relentless about testing and finding something that works, that I can rely on.
I have high expectations for myself and for the services I provide. In order to sell something, it needs to work most of the time. Otherwise, I don’t sell it.
So, again, it gets back to honesty and trust. Some firms will promise you the world and then when it’s not working out, they say, “Just one more month, just one more month.” Before you know it, you’re 6 months further down the road with no results.
If I think I’m headed down that road with a client, I tell them, “I’ve done this for years and we’ve had success most of the time, but that’s not a guarantee its going to work this time.”
I often feel like a stock broker: Historical results are not an indication of future performance.
I try my best to set expectations up front by being 100% transparent and honest about the results you can expect. For me, I feel that’s the only way to operate a business.
For our readers just starting to build a business, what advice can you give entrepreneurs just starting out with a new venture?
Drill down and get specific. Don’t shy away from something just because someone else is doing it. Do it better and/or drill down and serve a more narrow niche. This allows you to become a specialist and your expertise is more valuable.
For example, if you interested in being an SEO, consider narrowing your niche to specialize only in SEO for dentists. By doing that, a couple things happen – 1, you can streamline all of your business practices and 2- since you specialize, you become smarter about dentist SEO. And this means you can charge more, since this is all you do.
You could even drill down further and specialize in dentist SEO in Phoenix. That is so specialized, you’d be an expert. And while your potential client base is narrower, you can charge more and earn a nice living by helping this narrow client base.
I learned the hard way that spreading yourself to thin is a recipe for stress and unhappiness. It’s not enjoyable trying to be all things to all people. When Jack Welch took over GE, he said, “Unless we can be number one or number two in sales for a particular product or service, we’re going to stop doing it.” What a great way to trim the fat and hone in on what you’re really good at.
For entrepreneurs seeking to build a business as successful as yours, what big piece of advice can you give them when times get a little challenging?
Relax, take a breath and try to look at the problem from a different angle. Reach out to your trusted circle of colleagues and ask for help. Then give it another go.
Another thing I’d like to add is to start small and make sure something is working before investing too much time or money. I’m really into scaling things, but I test things out manually first before building systems.
You always hear stories about entrepreneurs who have failed at this or that before they hit it big. I’ve had a lot of failures, too, and I always learn from them. Well, mostly I do 😊
I feel like the definition of entrepreneur should be “to fail and start again,” because sometimes that is what it feels like.
When I worked for Global Spectrum, we had an opportunity to hear the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers speak about adversity. He said, “When we’re losing, I always go back to fundamentals. I put my arm around the guys and try to bring everyone together, back to basics.
“And when we’re winning, that’s when I push. That’s when I kick people in the ass and demand that they work harder.”
That advice stuck with me because it struck me as counter intuitive. When I was younger, my reaction when things went bad was to get angry and demand more. Now, I know that when things fail, that’s a time to take a breath, round up the horses and come back to home base, so to speak. What can I learn here? Why did we fail? Does our system need fixing?
Try not to panic when things go wrong. Circle the wagons, get back to basics and rebuild the foundation.
In today’s fast changing business environment, how do you stay abreast of things?
Stay in the trenches. While I don’t operate every single part of my business, I do stay close to it. I learn so much by doing the same work my team is doing. I get to see the problems first hand. I get to find out what’s working and what isn’t. I’m big on testing things and making sure they work and then I like to blow them up once I know we have a system we can trust.
But even after we’ve scaled, I like to go back in and do the manual work to make sure things are still working like they’re supposed to.
What is your “Why”? In one sentence, why do you get up in the morning?
So, I can have a cup of coffee 😊 Seriously, I like making money by putting systems in place. It’s fun for me.
To get even more personal, I have security issues around money. I’m a saver and I know I’m the only one who’s going to take care of me in the future, financially. So, what has driven me my whole life is being independent, not needing to rely on anyone but myself.
For better or worse, that’s just how I am wired. Feeling like I am going to be ok financially has always been important. So, my “Why” is probably based on the fear of not having enough money when I’m older.
In one sentence, what is the most important thing one has to do to be a great leader?
Allow your team to see things from your perspective, then empower them to make decisions based on that vision.
In one sentence, describe how important your customers are to your business?
Many of my clients become friends, so in addition to doing business, there’s that.
In one sentence, describe a positive way that technology can make the world a better place?
AI. The things Elon Musk is doing with Neuralink are very exciting to me.
In one sentence, tell us how something positive to motivate our readers?
The internet gives everyone a chance to be an entrepreneur. Whatever you enjoy and are good at, you can turn that into a business simply by getting a website and sharing your knowledge. If you give great advice, you’ll build an audience and then you can earn money from that. In fact, I’m looking for someone to mentor in this area if anyone reading is interested. Reach out via mikemunter AT gmail DOT com.
In one sentence, tell us how you start your day to get ready?
Coffee and check email.
In one sentence, describe how you handle rejection and setback? Try not to take it personally.
Focus on what you’ve learned from it.
In one sentence, describe what your hiring philosophy is?
Hire for attitude, not skills. Skills can be taught, attitude can’t.
In one sentence, describe how you keep your sanity in a competitive business environment?
I’d run my business by these 3 words – Easy, Fun, Systems. As long as any project meets those criteria, I pursue it.
Mike Munter is the Owner of Mike Munter, LLC
Mike Munter, thank you so much for participating in the DotCom Magazine Entrepreneurs Spotlight Series. We really appreciate your answers and letting people know more about your business, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Please stay healthy, and thanks again!