Mike Munter works as an SEO and online marketing consultant. His mission with each client is to help them increase the amount of traffic to their website, so they can improve sales for their business. Most of the time, Mike fills the roll of marketing director for his clients, as most of the business owners he works with either don’t have a marketing department or they only have one person assigned to marketing the business. This is a role he functions well in, since he’s been a self-starter all his life.
A self-admitted “bottom-up” guy, Mike is no stranger to entering a new business venture and learning it from the ground up. It’s how he got started in his first career as a personal computer and network technician in 1986. After six years and having grown tired of troubleshooting IT problems all day long, he landed a job with the Bowie Baysox, the Double-A minor league of the Baltimore Orioles. His attraction to working with the Baysox was his passion for baseball and he quickly learned that name of the game in minor league sports is sales. He spent the next 10 years selling sponsorships – while holding down many other positions with club – until he was named the team’s General Manager in April 2003.
Two years later, he transferred to Portland, Oregon, accepting a position as the Assistant General Manager at the Rose Garden Arena, home to the NBA’s Trail Blazers. In 2007, after billionaire owner Paul Allen negotiated a “buy-back” of the arena, Mike opted to leave corporate America, rather than pursue a job with the team.
By the end of 2010, he’d developed a curiousity about how Google ranked websites. He hired an expert in the field to train him, and within 2 months, he landed his first client.
Since then, Mike has focused on developing long term relationships with a handful of small and mid-sized local business owners, helping them increase their bottom line by improving their online visibility.
His fascination with the entrepreneurial spirit and the opportunity to connect people led him to launch Inspirery in 2013.
What do you do?
I help businesses get more traffic to their website and increase sales using online marketing and white-hat SEO strategy. I also have several reputation management clients I work with. Aside from that, I grow and can a lot of food and am always thinking about ways to improve existing businesses and make systems more efficient.
How long have you been doing it?
I started in 2011, after a month and a half of rigorous training.
What inspired you to do this kind of work?
At the time, I had several friends who owned small businesses and I felt like if I could figure out how to get their website to appear in Google’s organic search results, I could help them make more money. The idea of helping businesses market themselves had been running around my head for a while, but it didn’t gain it’s substance until I learned something about how to generate leads for them online.
How do you earn money?
Clients pay me – usually a monthly fee – to help them get found in Google. That’s how most of the conversations start, but at the end of the day, I know what they really want is to make more money. They see “getting found in Google” as the way to do that. Clients vary in size and what they spend with me. Some clients get pure consulting where I advise them on what to do and help them be more efficient online and others are too busy and prefer me and my team to do the work for them. I also offer one-off consulting gigs for people who truly want to do it themselves.
Who is your target client?
Since 99% of my leads are inbound, I don’t have a specific target. Usually, when I’m writing blog posts or making a marketing video, I assume the people who will see it are the business owners or in-house marketing representatives looking for a way to increase traffic. My reputation management clients are usually professionals who just need a little help burying a news story or changing the Google autocomplete. For whatever reason, the reputation clients I interact with are often business owners, which is great, because many times a reputation management conversation goes hand in hand with the online marketing work we do. So, those relationships can wind up being long term, too.
What is a typical day like?
Coffee and on the computer by 9am. I have a few local Portland clients I occasionally meet with, but most clients are located somewhere else in the world. I’ve had the privilege of working with clients in Norway, the UK, India, and Australia – so that’s pretty cool. Skype is always open and usually at least once a day, I’ll be interacting with other people in the business who do what I do. We’re always sharing ideas and trying to find the best ways to help our clients. A typical day is usually spent doing a little bit of web design, improving an existing site’s content, writing/sending press releases, and email marketing. I actively manage teams in India to help with distribution of content and work with writers in the United States to help produce the quality content the shows up on a client website. Every day is different, the needs of every client are different, so that keeps it fun.
What is your company structure?
I do most of the work. I have a writer in New York and a writer in Portland. I work with different teams in India to help with some of the necessary work of directory submissions and press release syndication. We’re growing and I’m always looking for talented people with a good attitude to help execute our strategies on behalf of our clients.
Are their industry trends the particularly excite you right now?
Well, I think what’s most exciting is that it’s getting harder and harder to game Google’s search results. The more that happens, the more it’s going to weed out these jokers who offer cheap SEO services. All these services do is robotically create massive amounts of internet spam in the form of backlinks. That stuff used to work, but it doesn’t anymore – Googlebot just ignores it. So, that does two things – it forces the hacks out of the business and helps put a premium on the marketing firms who do it right and follow Google’s guidelines. I think there’s a ton of growth in the entire industry – websites need to be updated and content needs to added and improved. There’s a lot of room in most niches for a small business to come in and dominate over time.
What is your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenges have come in the area of discipline. In every other job I’ve had, I worked for someone else. There were set parameters in terms of what time you were expected to be at work and what your were expected to achieve. Starting my own business – especially one that is largely internet based – means I have a clean slate. I can work whenever I want, as long as the work gets done. So, for me, my biggest challenge has been not overdoing it – taking breaks and trying to stay balanced. I’m learning but I still usually wind up working nights and/or weekends!
Could you share a funny story or something quirky about your work?
I can’t think of anything off the top of head for this business, but I’ll tell you a good one from my time in baseball. Me and a junior sales rep were out visiting a car dealer, trying to sell him an ad in our souvenir program for the upcoming season. I presented the program and told the car dealer to take a look through it. As he was browsing, I said, “You’ll notice we try not to put ads on back to back pages; there’s always a good story or something to catch your eye on every page you turn. As an advertiser, we think that gives you more value for your investment.” The car dealer nodded and continued turning pages in the program. After about 15 seconds, the junior rep chimed in and said, “You’ll notice we don’t jam all the ads together.” The car dealer, without missing a beat, looked up from the program and said, “Do you always say what he says?” I think we still made the sale!
What motivates you?
I’m motivated by growth. I like to build things and work at them and enjoy their growth. Whether it’s traffic to a client’s website, my own business, or the tomatoes in my garden, I get a lot of fulfillment out of being a part of things that work. Being a systems guy, I’m constantly looking for ways to improve on what we’re doing.
What frustrates you?
I’m super frustrated by incompetence and wasting time. Either my own or someone else’s. I’m learning to handle it by delegating those tasks that someone else can do better.
What makes you laugh?
Seinfeld, Larry David, Taxi. I like “character” humor and enjoy the dry stuff.
How do you maintain your morale when things are not going well?
Just take a break. There’s really nothing else you can do.
How do you keep yourself balanced?
I try to talk to my sisters, Dad, and East Coast friends at least once a month. Gardening grounds me immediately as does a good bike ride or any kind of sports activity.
Who do you turn to when you need help?
I’ve got great relationships with several people in the business I talk to on a regular basis. Since we all know “there’s enough business to go around,” we’re always sharing ideas/experiences and helping each other troubleshoot problems.
What’s the biggest challenge facing businesses who want to improve their online presence?
I think there are a couple things. First, this isn’t a hands-off business. If you want to be successful online, you’ve got to play a part. We obviously play a big role in that, but if I’m working with a podiatrist, I can’t create content for him. Everything starts with content – whether it be blog posts, images, or videos, so most of that has to come from the client. We spend a lot of time helping put systems in place to make it easy for a client to create content. One way we do it is to just interview them over skype. A good interview can cover several topics and then that raw content can be used as blog posts, podcasts, videos and more. Other clients, we help them get their staff involved to supply us with what we need. The other thing is many businesses don’t have a modern, quality website. I’ll get a call from a business owner who’s website looks like it hasn’t been touched in 10 years. And they wonder why they’re not getting any traffic. The website is the foundation for everything else. Smart business’s know this and they also realize that if they ever decide to sell their business down the road, their website is going to a tremendous asset that could add a lot of value to the selling price.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to watch movies and I really enjoy watching a good series on DVD. I abhor television commercials, so I think that’s the best way to watch. I also love to play online chess, play with my dogs, and eat pizza.