Episode 31 – Ramón Rautenstrauch – Impossible SEO

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Audio Transcript:

Voiceover:

Hello and thanks for coming along to …and we have an office Dog, the Digital Agency podcast where we talk to agency owner-directors and learn more about what makes them tick, from the things that make them similar to the things they’d rather have known sooner, where they’ve had success and where they’ve learned some hard lessons. All will be revealed with your host, Chris Simmance, the Agency Coach, and he’ll be talking to a different awesome agency person in each episode, asking them four questions and seeing where the conversation takes us over the next 25 minutes. Okay, so let us begin. Over to you, Chris.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Thanks, voiceover guy. And on the podcast today, we’ve got Ramón, the founder of Impossible SEO. How are you doing, Ramón?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Fine, thanks.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So, Impossible. Is SEO impossible or is it that you do the impossible with SEO?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

We do the impossible with SEO and with link building, because link building has very impossible things that we try to do.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Where is the agency based?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

We are based in Valencia, in a town in Spain, but all our team is remotely working now for 10 years or something like this all over Europe.

Chris Simmance (Host):

That’s cool. Valencia is a beautiful place when it’s sunny.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Yes.

Chris Simmance (Host):

First and foremost, tell me, other than what we just said, what do you do in the agency? What’s the agency’s biggest successful thing? What is it that makes you special, just in case a potential customer is listening?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

We specialize in international SEO made from a country like Spain, where, when we started, there was no other agency that specialized on this type of service. This was the decision why we started with it, because we thought that, okay, don’t let’s do something that all other agencies are doing, let’s search for something that we can specialize and be unique.

Chris Simmance (Host):

And it’s worked out well for you, because it’s 10 years now, so it’s doing well.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Well, the agency is 20 years old now-

Chris Simmance (Host):

Whoa!

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

… because we started as a website development agency.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Ramón, you’re a dark horse. I’ve known you all this time, and I thought it was like 10 years or so, but 20 years. You are an original internet nerd.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Yes. Well, we started thinking of how can we earn money in Spain, and well, back then it was quite difficult, and the internet was in Spain just starting. So we decided to start making websites. And it was quite difficult, because the customers didn’t understand why they needed a website, something that in 2022 is normal for everybody to have a website. But back then, our major problem was trying to convince big companies that they needed a website and that they needed a website if they wanted to do international business. They didn’t care about it, because they thought that that was not something that could be important for them, and many of them declined back then.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, I can imagine. In a sense, the internet 20 years ago is a little bit like blockchain now, in that it could easily be just a load of rubbish, but it also could be the next big thing. And you just don’t know, and it’s hard to convince people if you work in there. Over the last 20 years, what do you think has been one of the most big successes that you’ve had?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Our biggest success, I think, has been that we have been able to understand big customers and understand how they work internally, because when we started, we always tried to focus on medium or large size companies, and this set us apart from the other agencies, because we knew how the internal procedures of these large companies work. It’s not that you go and speak with the owner of the company and have to convince the owner. No, here you have to convince somebody in the marketing department that has a budget, that has objectives. And what we always sold in the last years is that we help them to achieve the objectives they have in the company. This has made us gain quite big customers, because their marketing persons, what they like that you help them to achieve their goals. And they are getting more. Many of them are getting paid according to these objectives, and we have been able to help them achieve them.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I think a huge part of selling anyway is knowing the audience and understanding how to talk to them. But when you’re trying to sell things that either they don’t understand or they don’t know that they want, plus having the layers inside a large organization, that’s actually quite a big thing to be able to learn and understand and know, isn’t it? So it is a big success, because you’ve been doing it so well for so long.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Yes. Well, for us, it was very difficult at the beginning, but then, in the years that were passing, we made it that this was working for us and not against us.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. That’s really good. And if you could go back now… The people listening to this podcast, they can’t see you. It’s a audio-only podcast. For anyone who has never met Ramón, Ramón does not look like he’s been running an agency for 20 years. Ramón looks very young considering the length of time the agency’s been running. But if you could go back in time, Ramón, and you could give yourself one piece of advice that would help you for the next 20 years, what would it be?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

The biggest piece of advice I would give to myself is, don’t focus on the work, let the work be done by the employees. Because at the beginning, one of my mistakes was that I got to make a lot of work which I shouldn’t have made, because there was an employee that should have made this work. But there were many times that I decided to step in and do the work so that the customers were satisfied. But the price for this is, don’t have any free weekends, don’t have any holidays, because you have to run the agency. You have to look over the work of the employees. And if you step too deep into the daily business, finally, you don’t have material time to take a look at everything. And there were quite a few years that I dedicated too much time in executing work which should have been done by somebody else.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. So essentially to delegate early the things you know you can trust with people, but also keep an eye on the top of everything. It is a massive piece of advice, I think. When you’re running an agency in the early days, it’s really hard to not do the work, because you want it to be perfect, and you set the agency up in your own mind to be exactly how it needs to be. Do you think if you went back in time and, say, 20 years ago, pop, older Ramón was talking to younger Ramón, do you think you would’ve listened to the advice you were being given?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that I would’ve listened, because at this time I thought that this was the correct thing to do from my job. And now time has passed, and well, now I see it quite different, because now I know that not everything has to be perfect. Many times it has to be done, and afterwards, if it’s not good enough, you can make it better. But for the customers, normally the most important thing is that you do and that things get done, no that things are perfect.

I remember some years ago until something wasn’t perfect exactly as I wanted it to be, we didn’t release it to the customer. And this finally was a big mess, because the customer was angry. We had to invest more time in something that could have been done much quicker. But now with the age and after the years, I think that nothing has to be perfect. It has to be done. And this is against my German mentality, but it’s more important that the things are getting done that than the things are perfect, or that the things are so perfect as I want them to be.

Because this is another thing that happens a lot of times in our daily agency business. I make my mind up on how something has to be, and the consultants that are working with me make something much different and much smaller up in their minds. And the customer makes something also different, so we have to try to combine all the expectations.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I totally agree with you. And I think even though I’m British and not German, we used to have a similar problem in the same sense, because in your head, you know what perfect looks like, and you know why you set the agency the way you set it, and everything like that. Someone said to me years ago, “Done is better than perfect.” And like you just said, if it’s done, you can make it better if it’s not right. But getting it to the client and having the deliverables sent over is better than not sending them the deliverables because they’re not perfect in your mind’s eye.

And what’s perfect to you might not be perfect to the customer, because they have different expectations or different understandings of the deliverables. I mean, how many times have you built a website or delivered a website to a client where it looks exactly like the designs from your perspective, but they look at it and they see something that objectively isn’t different, but they see it differently? So you can’t hold it forever and not send something to them. It is a good piece of advice to give to yourself, but you wouldn’t listen to. That’s fine.

In all of these years, all of the things that you’ve done, you’ve learned how to communicate with clients to the point where you can sell to them and keep them, so that’s really a big success. That’s hard to get perfect. And you know that if you were to go back in time, you’d give yourself some very good advice that would be ignored entirely. But is there something that you’ve done over the last few years that you think that was either a big mistake that you learned something from or something that was like a really big win that you think, we’re going to now make that a big focus of the agency?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

It’s a big mistake, and then it was converted to a big win.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Oh, wow. Okay. Exciting.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Because I always thought that everybody should work from where they want. If they want to work from the beach, they can work from the beach. But here in Spain, it’s all office-centric. You have to be at the office, and the customers, until the pandemic, they wanted to come to your office to see that there are people there, sitting. They don’t care about what these people are doing, but they want to see that you have an office, that you have people there doing something. And only with this, they thought, okay, this exists, they have a lot of people working there, so they must be good.

And our team has been distributed all over Europe now for the last 10 years, more or less. We had very hard times to gain some bigger customers in Spain, because they came to the office in Valencia and there were three people there. “Okay, the team is too small. You don’t get the project.” “No, but I have sent you a list with all the people that will be working on the project that are based in different countries, because you need different languages and they are all native speakers.” “I know. I want to see them sitting in your office.”

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah, that’s crazy, isn’t it?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

And the pandemic has changed this. Something that for us was a handicap to gain new customers from one day to another has become a very big win, because we were used to working in remote. Everybody in our teams, we did everything first with Skype, now with Teams. And this has made us stand out from the other agencies that were more office-centric, where everybody was at the office and where they had their mind set up that, okay, I can ask this person that is sitting next to me. And now this doesn’t happen anymore, because there’s a global pandemic and everybody has to work from home. The people were not used to working from home. We were used to work remote, and for us, nothing changed, really.

Chris Simmance (Host):

So it held you back in a sense early on, because people… I remember that same sort of problem, and I think it was mostly the larger, more established industry businesses that had that, we have to see you in the office mindset. And I guess that was partly because the people who were at the top of that sort of business were at the top of those businesses before the internet was in existence, so they think that you still need to sit there like you were an accountant or like you were a lawyer or something like that. The pandemic has kind of accelerated people’s mindsets changing, because they had to stay at home and they went, oh wow, I can work here. If I can work here, everyone can work at home. Oh my goodness. Okay. Well, this makes sense.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

And what has been very funny is that with some customers, what I did is ask my friends that have nothing to do with the internet, with technology to come and sit at the office, because I needed more people there so that they would trust in the agency. But in none of the times that the customers come to visit us, somebody has asked, “And what’s doing this guy over here?” They don’t care. They only wanted to see that okay, there are 20 persons there sitting in front of a computer. Okay, this must be a good agency I can trust and I can-

Chris Simmance (Host):

So at one point you could have potentially had your grandmother, your mother-in-law, your children all sitting at screens but with no keyboards, just to make it look busy.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Yeah.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Brilliant. If there’s a potential new agency owner who’s listening, someone who’s looking to start their own business or has just started their own business, and they’ve been waiting 25 minutes to hear all the way through your podcast to listen out for Ramón’s one piece of advice, what advice would you give to that agency owner, the new leader of an agency?

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

I would say, don’t do it. Don’t start an agency. Do you want to live? Don’t start an agency. If you are passionate about marketing, then start an agency, because this will be your life. Let’s stop talking. The advice I would give everybody, and this is something I try to do with all the people I work with, is look for people that are more brilliant than you. Don’t look for people that follow you. You need to have a team that has more knowledge than you, because if the team has more knowledge than you, you will also get better every day and your agency will get better. That would be my advice.

Chris Simmance (Host):

Yeah. I mean, I know that the joke of not doing it is funny, but at the same time, it is true. It becomes your life. It has to become your life, because it’s everything that you do, even at the weekends. I don’t know about you, but I used to think about how to solve the problem for Monday during the weekend. And there’d be emails you couldn’t deal with on Friday, so you think about them all through the weekend and things. So if you are listening and you are thinking of starting an agency, be sure that it’s the right thing to do. And if you are passionate about marketing and you do know the mathematics of being passionate versus making enough money to feed your family means you need to start an agency, then fine. But don’t do it just because you think it’s a good idea.

But the other piece of advice, I think, is even more powerful, because agencies are people businesses. And if you have the culture right and you have the purpose and the mission of the business right, then you should have people who are smarter than you in the business, because they’re the ones that have to be creative all the time and they have to be smart and they have to be engaged, and you can then focus on the strategy and the sales pieces. Or you can focus on the running of the agency, not on the doing, like you said earlier. Yeah, that’s great advice to end the podcast on, Ramón. So thanks very much for coming on.

Ramón Rautenstrauch (Guest):

Thanks for having me.

Chris Simmance (Host):

I really hope we get to see each other again soon, but because of Brexit, who knows? We’ll have to break the law somehow, meet in international waters maybe. On our next podcast, we’ll have another agency leader to talk about their journey and the things they learned along the way. Thanks very much for listening, and enjoy the rest of your day.

 

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