In this interview, Kasim Aslam reveals how niching down allowed him to scale and catapult his agency to success.
Kasim is the CEO & Founder of Solutions 8, a top-ranked PPC Agency. He's also a traffic coach at Digital Marketer who was hand-selected by the executive staff to be one of the four coaches for their ELITE Growth Accelerator program.
Once upon a time, as a generalist agency, Solutions 8 struggled to break $500,000. Now, as a specialist, Solutions 8 is at $2.5M gross revenue.
Joe Troyer 0:49
Hey, everybody it's Joe Troyer and welcome to another episode of Show me your nuggets. No, I'm sorry, Show Me The Nuggets. Today, I have a, becoming a good friend Kasim Aslam on the show, super excited to have you Kasim when we chat my brain rolls right I get excited. I have really good conversations with you. I feel like you're a nerd at heart just like I am when it comes to advertising and marketing and a such a student in the role, right? I feel like you're always learning always pushing the boundaries. And so whenever we talk, man, I feel like we just jive and super excited to bring you on to the show and and share with everybody else what they've been missing man our conversations.
Kasim Aslam 1:32
Yeah, well, I appreciate you having me, I'm super excited to
Joe Troyer 1:34
So Kasim, you run a digital marketing agency called Solutions 8, I know that you are very highly ranked with that company. You also work with Digital Marketer and are one of their traffic coaches. You've, you've wrote a book. And before we go too deep on things, so to speak, and get into the weeds. Give me a little bit of a background on you know, 15 years in the industry before we get into that, like how did you just enter into this world? How'd you, How'd you find digital marketing?
Kasim Aslam 2:03
Digital marketing found me Just kidding. I wanted to be an actor. That was kind of my sad, pathetic, you know, like, embarrassing history. I've been in 80 films all horrible. And I needed something that I could do from anywhere on my own time. And so it didn't start off with digital marketing. And I started outsourcing little software builds. I've got a cousin in Pakistan who had a little he couldn't even call it a software house. It was like two dudes in a basement that could like, hack some stuff up. And it turns out that I'm not a very good actor, but I ended up being pretty good at kind of it's some of that problem solving stuff. So where the acting went by the wayside, I ended up with this little business that started to grow. And software led really quickly to to marketing because when you build something for somebody, the next question they ask is, well, how do we get this found? And initially, I was like, I don't know dude, like Best of luck to you. But over time, you know, the entrepreneurial nerve kicks in and you're like, well, maybe I can solve that problem for you, too. So yeah, man, it you know, like my my quote, unquote, real passion led to what ended up being like the best career I ever possibly could.
Awesome, man. So you got started doing some dev work, and then ultimately ended up in marketing through osmosis. Kind of right. Like, people just Hey, you did this for me. Great. Now let's get it found I need to help bring in some revenue.
Kasim Aslam 5:11
Yep. Yeah, that's exactly right. And then, you know, I think every market I've ever been on the phone with started an SEO, that seems to be like, you know, the the marketers gauntlet. So we started in SEO, and that ends up being a little bit less than scalable. Hopefully nobody, you know, fires any rockets at me for saying that. But it opened up the world of marketing for me for sure.
Joe Troyer 5:28
That's awesome, man. So tell us a little bit about Solutions 8 today, like, what do you guys do? Who do you guys serve? What's your team look like? Open Pandora's box?
Kasim Aslam 5:38
Yeah, we're 100% Google ads, which would also I was brought along kicking and screaming, I brought in a business partner about five years ago. He was my worst client. Really, really brilliant, young man and his family owned the company. That was, it was rocketing to the moon. As far as the efficacy, they helped automotive dealerships nationwide with unsold follow ups. And when it started to take off, one of their investors tried to steal the IP, and the whole thing came crashing down. So I watched one of the smartest hardest working people I've ever known, basically kind of start from zero. And he ended up getting a job somewhere because he's hyper employable, he's very competent, and he's making more than I could afford to pay him. And, you know, he had more security than I could have offered him. But it was also very much a grind. And so I just man, I just, I just worked on him. And you know, I think six months worth of conversations and me calling to check in, he decided to come over and help me with my little agency at the time, which at the time, I was trying to be an absentee owner, I wasn't trying to dig in, I was trying to get out. And I had this weird, you know, Tim Ferriss dream of just setting up little businesses that that ran and made me money. And what's funny about it is when he came into Solutions 8, we had eight core service offerings as what were called Solutions 8, stupidest name in the world. You know, I was doing video and SEO and web dev and PPC and content and social and, and we had, you know, staff for each of those sales basically running 8 companies. And John, my business partner was the one that identified everybody that successful with us. We're successful with Google Ads first. And it makes a lot of sense now from the outside looking in, because that's the Coliseum. That's like, let me walk into the octagon with my three biggest competitors and see if I can win this fight. And then if they can, now you know, content, video, social, all those things end up being far more accessible. So we began to not cut services off, but we just began to use Google ads as like the litmus test. And it wasn't very long before we realized, man, we should just do this, like, we're really good at it. And this is where, you know, we can prove the model because there's a ton of value to SEO, or social media marketing or any of those things, but it's really hard to tie revenue back to them. And you know, agencies that run those businesses will be the first ones to tell you that I like being able to say, Hey, I made you 400% return on adspend. You can't fire that guy, you know what I mean? Like, or if you do, you're kind of stupid. Or you end up coming back, which happens to us relatively often, anybody who takes a walk, like there's the joke inside is, oh, they'll be back. And they tend to be because they come back 90 days later thinking like, Oh, this is this is a lot harder than I thought it would be. So that was a bit of a tangent, Joe, forgive me. But that's, that's how we ended up where we are. And I think we're one of the best in the world. And it's because we niche down, you'll hear a lot of these thought leaders and you know, the consultants and whoever tell you to the, you know, the riches are in the niches and as a young entrepreneur, I didn't listen to that because I thought it could be good at everything. But as soon as I niched down, it just gives you the opportunity to really dig deep and sink your teeth into something.
Joe Troyer 8:30
Dude. I love that. Ithink that I agree. Google Ads is so key. And I loved I loved your analogy of of going into the octagon, right and fighting with your top competitors and seeing like, Can they make it out alive? Right? And you're so right, right? Like if they can make it out alive, then the rest of the marketing is like a cakewalk almost right, because you've made it out in the most competitive most cutthroat part of the industry, I believe. But if you can make it there, you have volume on demand, right? And everything else like with with organic, you're going to get a great return on investment. But until you know those keywords and if you know that you can compete. Dude, I love it. That's that's really, really smart.
Kasim Aslam 9:15
Yeah, well, you just nailed it there too. I think I think PPC is that I don't think it's the only thing people should be doing. I don't even think you should do forever. If you want to work yourself out of having to pay for traffic. That's awesome. Good for you. But until you know what keywords perform, don't run SEO. And so you know what narrative pushes don't run social and so you know what, you know, your your best hooks in your call to action and how your product is priced. Like, like bottom of the funnel. paid advertising helps define everything else that you should be doing. It's the sandbox, so it's, it's the first thing you should do. And then if you can work yourself out of it. That's, you know, some people can some people can't. But I think it's the quarterback in you know, if we're if we're if we're on a chessboard, I think it's the thing that kind of helps drive everything else.
Joe Troyer 9:55
A guy that's local here, Rich Schefren says right, whoever can spend the most on advertising wins, right? And Google Ads is gonna, in most verticals probably be the most expensive. But if you can get into that octagon, right, and go up against your top competitors, and you can come out winning, right, like you've built one heck of a company that's going to probably survive the test of time.
Kasim Aslam 10:18
Yeah, well, that's, you know, I'm stealing this this line from my buddy Scott Cunningham, who runs social life. He does Facebook ads. But he did a talk for us in an event that we ran. And he was talking about how people will say, Oh, yeah, I tried Facebook ads, and it didn't work. And Scott goes, Well, I'm pretty sure Facebook did its job. Like I'm pretty sure Facebook brought you the traffic. And I feel that way about Google. It's, it's you're not testing Google, Google's testing you. If your competitors offering a better product at a faster speed at a lower price, you know, it has a better Ascension model and better customer service, etc, etc, etc, etc. You lose. So a lot of people that enter the Google ecosystem, they just find out the inadequacies of their business model, which, for some entrepreneurs is exciting. It's exciting to jump in and be like, okay, here's where I need to improve. I think there's value there, too. there's value in a failed campaign, because it tells you where your holes are, what it is that you need to go fill.
Joe Troyer 11:11
No 100% I was chatting with with with one of our partners, he sits on the board of one of our companies. And he's like, tell me about this new offer you guys have been pushing that you've been having great luck with with Facebook ads on with paid acquisition on He's like, asked me some questions. Right, great new business just had a 50k a month. And he's like, Joe, let me ask you a question. What's your cost per sale? And if the $5,000 offer, I'm like, Man, it's it's only 1300 bucks. And he's like, that's great. That's great. You know, fantastic. great luck. You know, so I'd like to give you one piece of advice, like, Okay, great. He's like that one piece of advice is I want you to get that cost per sale up to $4,000. And I'm like, wow, he's like, I want you to be able to spend $4,000 to acquire a customer and not think twice about it. Because then if you do, nothing can stop you guys. Because like, if not, the offer is probably gonna work for two or three months, and then it's gonna fizzle out, fast forward, two or three months. fizzled out, right. So we worked on getting up the average customer value, being able to actually afford to pay that on a cost per sale basis. And now it works month in month out like clockwork, because we really can pay more than anybody else in the space to acquire that customer.
Kasim Aslam 12:26
And that's brilliant. What fourth? What I mean, the foresight there, I think is you can just tell he's a grizzled entrepreneur, you know, he's made that mistake before.
Joe Troyer 12:36
Yeah, but it's such a backwards thought, right as us as marketers, they're like let's drop down for sale. You know, we need to be as profitable as possible. No, he's like completely counterintuitive, says the opposite. No, Joe, I want you to be able to pay 4000 because then you can't lose. And I'm like, Wait, what? Like
Kasim Aslam 12:54
Yeah, yeah, well, you've destroyed a competitive ecosystem. You basically go throw a grenade in the in the center of every one of your competitors marketing models, because now you're willing to give more it's even more Yeah, I think it's I think it's super sharp.
Joe Troyer 13:05
So man, I love I love what you guys have done focused on PPC. Is there any niches within PPC that you guys focus on you guys take all types of businesses, Ecom local will help me understand who's who's the right type of prospect for Solutions 8, well, the new solutions, the solutions, one,
Kasim Aslam 13:22
yeah, solutions, one that's so funny, I should should go grab that domain. We've been, we've been PPC specific for a couple of years, we made a really heavy footprint in the e commerce space. So we were founders, in the Shopify challenge, if you've heard of it, I spoke at traffic and conversion on smart shopping. I think there are very few people that know what we know about smart shopping specifically. So e commerce is nice, too, because it gives you the opportunity to really tie like I said earlier clicks to revenue, as opposed to saying, you know, hey, you know, Mr. Attorney, essentially 50 leads this week. And now I have to see, did you follow up? Did you qualify to do you know, I end up going to war with those clients a little bit. With e commerce, it just we made you this much money that can prove it. So love eCom. And it's, you know, it's a more scalable model. I also like, I like the entrepreneur that's attracted to a ecommerce business, because they're systems minded. You know, they're, they're very intentional with the way that they do things. And they understand. They understand the machine, they understand that they're building a machine as a business, as opposed to not that I have anything, you know, we have a ton of service based clients, I'd say half of our clients actually, you know, service in some capacity, but they don't look at their businesses and machine. And so it becomes very hard for you to tweak you know, if you're making a recommendation or an improvement opportunity or whatever, they kind of take it a little bit more personally than the ecom business owner who just like oh, yeah, let's go you know, let's go sharpen this off.
Joe Troyer 14:48
I think that's really interesting, I think, not all the time. But a lot of times you end up with a more educated client, right? Like being an ecom like your your cash flow models very different than most have like the service businesses that that we would serve as an agency, right? And I think like having to learn that model, know that model, know, your numbers becomes so much more important in that business. I mean, a couple bad months, and you got to reorder inventory and man like you could you could go out of business.
Kasim Aslam 15:16
Yep. Yeah, what you just said, Man, it's brilliant, know your numbers, I am shocked. I mean, like floored blown away. If I think about it, it'll depress me at how many entrepreneurs and tenured folks do like people that have been in business for 10 years, and I end up on the phone with them, you know, for whatever reason, and they have no idea, you know, what's your, what's the cost per acquisition? On your average client? I don't know, what's the lifetime value of a client? I don't know, what are your margins? I don't know. I'm like, how are you here? How did you survive this long? You know, like, it's just one of those things that man, and it's not hard. It's, it's probably 90 minutes worth of work, open up QuickBooks, but you know what I mean, like, go figure out what those numbers are. Because then you get to have the conversation that you know, that your buddy had with you, which is, hey, let's get that number all the way up to $4,000. You know, where your, your your room to play is. So I hope that didn't come across as like judgmental or catty. But it's just one of those. It's one of those things now, because that's my world. It's so hard to understand how people can run a business that way, it feels so stressful to me.
Joe Troyer 16:14
No. 100% so stressful. Definitely. So I'm sure you speak with agency owners all the time, like we do as well. You're in the same world. Right? When somebody looks at you, and they're like, Kasim man, you guys have crushed it. I still have this Solutions 8, first started agency, I'm still serving everybody doing everything. Like what what advice do you give people in those shoes in that circumstance? Because I'm sure that there's going to be lots of them listening to this podcast that would want to ask you that question. Yeah, how do I go about having one or niching down?
Kasim Aslam 16:49
I think it needs to be a natural evolution. I don't think you should, you know, hear podcasts like this and be like, Alright, we're cutting off all of our services. And we're going here, I think the benefit that I did have is I had eight data points, I got to see the difference between for us for the difference between social and SEO and PPC, and you know, web dev and whatever. And then, because we had that data I had a really smart partner was able to look at and go, Well, this is the tip of the spear. And I'm not telling everybody to go run a PPC business. I gotta be honest, if I if I had to start over from zero today, I don't think I'd get back into PPC, it made a lot of sense for us 2, 3, 4 years ago, and it wasn't as saturated an ecosystem. I know you, you know that way better than I do. You were like the only players in the white label game for a really long time, you're still clearly the best. But all these people have come rushing into it now, you know. So it's really saturated, I would let your market guide you towards the service, offering and or bundle that really makes sense for you to niche down on. So don't go seek out there's something called the corridor principle I wish I could cite cite the author, because it's unfair of me not to steal his IP and to forget who it was that said this, but I was reading a book and he talked about how all the best business ideas have actually come from somebody who's already in business. So you know, you're working at Ford motors, and you're on the assembly line. And all of a sudden you realize, man, the way that this spring works is horrible. I'm going to go build a new spring, well, you never would have known that if you weren't already on the assembly line. So if you're in the coffee shop, thinking about your new business, stop that go do literally anything, go get a job, go partner with somebody, go, intern, go do literally anything. And then all of a sudden, you're going to see the thing that helps you niche down. So if you're not doing anything, go do go to something that just it's just kinesthetic. It just gets you moving. And if you're already doing stuff, don't get the grass is greener syndrome, what you're doing now is probably good, you're probably just doing too much of it. So the entrepreneur, every entrepreneur wants to do more. Because that's that's how we think like how do i do more? What you need to do is go find the thing that works that you can do less on and you know, I think that'll lead you to to a pretty positive niche. How was that Joe? Was that more or less good advice?
Joe Troyer 18:49
I liked it. I liked it. Actually. Most people would say like, start start the business with the vision of where you want to go. Right. But I think it's hard like to just yeah, you know, you got like a blindfold on. It's like Eeny, meeny, miney. Moe, like how do you know? So I do really like that. And it reminds me of a talk earlier this week that I had with an agency owner. And they specialize in a specific niche in local service based businesses, but specifically one niche, but they do all the services, right web design, web design, PPC, SEO, social, like everything, the whole gambit, full service, and they're dying because of it. But they've gotten to like 60 $70,000 a month in revenue. And now they're looking at it and your conversation reminds me of them and they're like, Alright, now we're going to really specialize because we know the marketing, we know how to sell it, we know how to fulfill it, and we know what really drives a good return on investment. And so I think they're the perfect example of that.
Kasim Aslam 19:48
Yeah, well, you know, talking about numbers, we're at about two and a half million dollars gross revenue. Now. What I was Solutions 8 core service offerings. I couldn't break a half million. I am Like physically could not, you know, beat my head against the wall. So, for those on the fence about niching down, you're not giving anything up. You're leaning into scalability, that's how you scale. And the other benefit that we have and I feel this way about pretty much anybody who has their processes defined in a specific niches, we can scale to the moon. Now, you know, my big bottleneck at the moment is just talent acquisition, which I think is most agencies because we're all in a labor business but you know, is fast as I can bring on client managers I can bring on clients, and I couldn't do that with you know, the full eight services fielded in Solutions 8.