Stephen M. Kraus is a New York-based marketing professional specializing in SEM (Search Engine Optimization) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). He has helped companies of all sizes overcome marketing hurdles and grow their brand equity through his company. Stephen’s success as a marketer has a lot to do with his passion for all things marketing. As a young boy, Stephen was fascinated by commercials. As he grew older, he decided to pursue marketing as a career and has earned himself several industry certifications such as the Digital Marketing Institute Digital Marketing Pro Certification, Digital Marketing Master, and the Microsoft Advertising Certification. Upon completing his studies, Stephen M. Kraus worked for several digital marketing companies before going solo. Through his prowess in marketing, he has managed to grow his marketing reach from just a small entity to a company that employs more than ten people. With his masterly of SEM and SEO, Stephen continues to expand his reach and plans to expand his services regionally in the next two to five years.
Besides offering marketing services, Stephen is also a mentor. Having gone through lots of challenges before getting to his current position, Stephen hopes to help upcoming entrepreneurs avoid some of these challenges. He has a program through which he shares marketing and other business insights to help entrepreneurs have an easier start to their businesses. Since he started the program, he has mentored more than 50 entrepreneurs, and most of them have gone ahead to become very successful in their various lines of work. Stephen M. Kraus also uses his blog to share marketing insights with his readers, most of them small business owners. He considers this an act of philanthropy since he shares it for free, and most business owners that follow his insights can comfortably sustain their families and those of their employees. Despite his busy schedule, Stephen always creates time to have fun with friends and family. One of his favorite past time activities is skydiving. The thrill that comes with it helps him refresh his mind for work.
How did you get started in this business?
My interest in marketing came about when I was still young. I found commercials and other advertising content to be fascinating, and they always piqued my interest. As a child, I had memorized most of the commercials that came on the television and radio. I particularly loved how they could tell a captivating story within such a short time. This interest grew into a passion, and I found myself looking for ways to integrate marketing into my life as my career choice. I have undertaken several marketing courses, such as marketing design, branding, and identity, among others. With the evolution of technology, I have found it very useful to stay on top of my game by learning about and embracing digital marketing techniques. I spent a lot of time learning and practicing digital marketing before finally deciding to specialize in search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Given how much time people spend on their phones, computers, and other electronic devices, I felt I would best reach my target audience through this medium.
How do you make money?
I work as a consultant for clients, both individuals, and companies, providing SEO and SEM marketing. I create and increase brand visibility for their products, websites, webpage or services. By generating traffic to these commercial sites, the companies and service providers become quickly and easily available to their target market. I also run a marketing agency where we handle clients’ needs ranging from drop shipping, content development for websites, blogs, and social media pages such as Twitter and Facebook
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
It took me almost a year to become profitable. I spent a significant amount of time learning new skills and upgrading traditional marketing techniques to digital marketing. After I had acquired the skills, I took many assignments that were not very rewarding financially because I wanted to gain significance in the field and build a client base. Over time, I built great relationships with previous clients and started to get a steady flow of work. The process of getting together the right team also took a while.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Yes, there have been numerous challenges along the way, but I am glad I kept pushing. One of my main concerns was that with the onset of digital marketing, there were so many new concepts and techniques that my team and I needed to master in order to stay relevant. Given that I did not have a background in IT, I was worried about these digital techniques’ complexity. My other concern was that there was a much younger generation of youth who were very well versed with technology who would present very stiff competition and kick my team and me out of business. I got out of my comfort zone and spent long hours learning these new techniques. I underwent training, as did my team to ensure we stayed competitive. I also took a risk by taking assignments that were not very well paying to get experience. This also helped to steadily get and keep new clients. This has ended up working in favor of the company.
How did you get your first customer?
My first client was a friend of mine who I had grown up with. He had recently started a business and, knowing my passion for marketing, had reached out to me. He wanted to create visibility for his brand online, and I accepted the assignment. He spread the word to his friends and associates and referred several other clients my way. We have maintained a good business relationship to date, and I still manage the marketing for his company, which has grown exponentially since I fast started working on it.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Search Engine Optimization SEO is one of my primary go-to marketing strategies. This is because most online searches begin on search engines. For example, if someone is looking to buy a dress online, they will use search engines such as Google to get what they are looking for. Search engine optimization ensures that my client selling dresses appear among the top options on the search engine, giving them a competitive edge over another business that does not employ the same strategy. I use this for my business too, and it has always worked to generate traffic to my agency.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
During the early days of the pandemic, I went through a difficult time financially. Some of my clients’ shutdown. Others had to minimize their budgets because of how uncertain the markets and the economy were. This was quite a challenge as I was faced with the possibility of shutting down the firm and having to send my team home amidst the difficult economic situation we were in. I settled on reducing wages and managing without bonuses and other benefits. The entire team had to make do with the little that was there, and we barely managed to stay afloat. By a stroke of luck, we have managed to keep working as more and more businesses have sought to create an online presence, and we are back to pre-pandemic levels.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I attribute my success to my adaptability to changes in the field and grit. Throughout my career, I have had to acquire new skills in order to stay relevant and competitive. I have invested time and other resources to learn the latest skills and acquire the right equipment for getting the job done. I have to push myself and get out of my comfort zone. My passion has also made me willing to work through numerous challenges and setbacks as well as learning from them. My capable team has also played a major role as they manage to keep things running while I focus on other aspects of the business. I also have a great client base who trust me to do their job well and have worked with them for years. Their positive reviews and recommendations have helped me grow.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
My most satisfying moment would be seeing my clients’ businesses grow through my marketing services. This indicates that I am making a positive impact in society and my work is changing peoples’ lives for the better.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I am excited about the prospect of expanding our services beyond our borders. The business also plans to offer free marketing services to more small business owners and startups than we have done before. We believe this will be an excellent way to give back to others and boost the economy. I will also spend more time mentoring upcoming digital marketers interested in what I do.
What business books have inspired you?
The 7habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey gave me a lot of insight into efficiency and effectiveness in the most important aspects of life: my personal and professional life. It taught me the importance of being proactive. It motivated me to find ways of managing challenging of situations and always strive to be better. It also helped me get rid of the victim mentality whenever things went wrong.
The second book that has inspired me a lot is Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap… And Others Don’t by Jim. C. Collins. It is very informative on how to grow companies from one level to the next and sheds light on limitations. I like that it is based on research, making it quite practical to follow.
I am much inspired by the book, Getting Things Done by David Allen. It contains invaluable information on time management. It offers great suggestions on how to prioritize and execute tasks resulting in maximum efficiency and effectiveness. It has helped me create time for the most valuable things in my life, such as spending time with friends and family.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would advise my younger self to keep learning. The world is currently very competitive, and it is important to keep acquiring new relevant ideas and skills to be great at what you do. I would also advise my younger self to keep working hard and follow my dreams. My passion for marketing has helped me to stay on course even in the face of challenging situations. Working hard has played a significant role in getting me where I am. Finally, I would advise myself not to be afraid of making mistakes, taking chances, and embracing change. Change is bound to come, and it is better to be ready to adapt than to resist it.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?