#327 Mail-Right Show: We Interview Robert Newman Founder & CEO of InboundREM
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From Call Center Manager To SEO Expert We Interview Robert Newman Founder & CEO of InboundREM
Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folks to the Mail-Right show. Yes, it’s me, Jonathan Denwood the founder of Mail-Right. Robert is with us, but I’m doing the intro for this particular show folks because I’m going to be interviewing Robert and finding all the secrets that Robert has been trying to hide. It’s linked to the interrogation that I got last week. So I thought I would take the opportunity to get my own back and we need to know more about this character that you’ve been listening to for over two years now. So Robert, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the audience Robert?
Robert Newman: Sure. This audience probably knows me best for being an SEO expert and an inbound marketing expert that’s focused on residential real estate for the last 16 years. I publish a lot of content on YouTube and my website that helps realtors, become masters of the digital space and create leads for themselves.
Jonathan Denwood: Thanks for that, Robert, and I’m the co-founder of Mail-Right, We build websites for real estate agents semi or full custom based on WordPress that drives now almost 45% of all websites. You need to own your main digital asset and not lease it. And that asset is your website. I think a concept that most of you agents will understand. If that sounds interesting, plus a suite of other marketing tools that we bundle with your website, go to the Mail-Right website and sign a demo and a chat with me truly. I’ll be privileged to help you out. So Robert
Robert Newman: Yeah,
Jonathan Denwood: Interrogation, time now it’s linked to our discussion about what should be on your, about us page last week. So Robert, people that have been listening to the podcast, as you said the start of your professional career was around telemarketing managing large telemarketing teams and centers. So maybe we’ll start there. I think like last week you said that your childhood, that your parents were kind of semi hippies, maybe give a brief outline what our childhood was like and maybe before you got into telemarketing and then we are delved into that. How does that sound Robert?
Robert Newman: Sounds great.
Jonathan Denwood: So give us a brief.
Robert Newman: Brief, brief.
Jonathan Denwood: Well, a reasonably brief description of what your childhood was like before you got into telemarketing.
Robert Newman: So I was raised in Southern California. We bounced around a lot. I was born in a hoax hospital in orange county and then my parents moved probably I want to say six times between the ages of 3 and 11, Santa Monica, a thousand Oaks Culver city, just to, to name a few. So we bounced around a lot. My parents were on the hippieish side, they were definitely part of the free love culture, and they were fuzzy logic people. And for those who are listening, who may not know that terminology, they were on the cusp of, they were both in technology, but they were both in technology 30 years ago. So they were dealing with, huge eight-millimeter tapes. My dad wrote, the original helped write some of the original code for the day and night tellers, for the first interstate, which most of the people listening to the show probably don’t even remember who those people are anymore.
So I was raised in that environment and one of the most interesting things that I’ve said in other places that have impacted my entire life, my career, everything is that they didn’t, allow media in the house, no TV. They were really religious about it up until the time I was about 14 or 15. And, the only thing that they made easily accessible to me is a personal library that they created. So by the time I was 11 years old, I was reading at a collegiate level and I was reading Heflin and a lot of deep sci-fi. And, they had all sorts of books that I don’t think you would normally give to children like the joy of sex and, and the bastard, which is a really like almost adult-like series and just all sorts of stuff.
This copious amount of reading that I was doing, it did two things for me that have impacted my entire career. When I hit a challenge in my career or my professional life, I seek books. And when I was young and I had problems in my personal life, like high school problems, which we all had, I read books and the ideas that I was getting were from very advanced authors. Like I was reading like really deep psychological stuff, Freud and young, by the time I was 12, 13. So, somebody’s like, I’m going to hit you. And I’m like, you’ve got a problem with your. So like this, it’s impacted my entire life. Unfortunately, it made me an outcast in my early years. I had very few friends in school. So that certain kind of set me on the path of always kind of walking my own road and doing things the way that I was going to do them because I had zero social support and zero social relatability from anybody that I was surrounded with.
Jonathan Denwood: Right. So did both your parents work and if they did you said they were both in the tech sector. How did they make their living basically?
Robert Newman: Well, my dad started off, managing, data backup stacks at night. And then he found somebody that was willing to mentor him and trade him into coding. So he started coding, and he was coding in Cobal and then he eventually, moved into management relatively fast before I was even out of the house, which was the age of 17. He was already moving into management, which is where he spent the whole latter half of his career is getting into higher and higher and higher-end, project management in, what we would call the digital space now. But at the time it was just coding. So that’s what he did. My mother passed when I was 17, but before she passed, she was doing the same thing that my dad did, but she was always on the management side. My mother was always better with people than my dad was. She was a huge personality and people automatically gravitated to her and before she was already working her- every single time she would someplace she would just instantly start getting, well, not instantly, but she’d get promoted into management slots pretty quickly. I think
Jonathan Denwood: So fundamentally in tech, but also in the alternative lifestyle kind of area of the bay area.
Robert Newman: Not the bay, we were always here in LA which means that they were both working for a lot of banks. Banking is big here in Los Angeles and, at a certain time, not so much anymore, but at that time, you’re talking 30, 40 years ago, banking was kind of leading or at least matching the lead for information technology, revolutions. They were trying to process payments and they were doing stuff with check and coding and bickering coding and all those different things. And so at the time, it was a fairly revolutionary industry.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So have you got any brothers and sisters?
Robert Newman: I have a single brother, stepbrother, technically. My father remarried and had a child when I was 22. So I have a brother that is separated by me in the age of 22, and we were raised entirely differently. So, my dad learned all the lessons from me, like what to do, what not to do. He and my mother were so young when they had me, they were out partying a lot when I was, a kid. So, I mean they were 20, I was seven and they were 25 when they got married and I was 7. They were really, really young parents. So anyway, my brother, yeah, I have one brother.
Jonathan Denwood: All right. That’s great. And, I think he does. Does he help in the business at all? I think he does a bit. Doesn’t he?
Robert Newman: He did, actually, up until recently, I don’t think I’ve had a chance to update you. He actually got himself a job at a major white labeling SEO agency and, took a significant pay, increase that inboundREM couldn’t afford to give him. But yeah, my brother worked for me for three and a half years and I mentored him on the SEO skill set, and he’s now taking those tools and applying them out in the big, bad world on major accounts.
Jonathan Denwood: Oh, that’s great. So you said you were a bit of an outsider at school. Also, you’ve been quite open about some of your addiction problems that have been part of your life in the past. Before you got into, telephone marketing and telephone marketing centers, did that addiction rear itself before that? Or was it after a period of time you got involved in that industry?
Robert Newman: I don’t do anything normal, John. No, actually addiction for me only came into play. So my actual blood family, my adopted father. So, my actual blood family, has a very strong, addictive history and I ignored that, but I really didn’t come up. I was not much of a drinker or drug user. I had been raised around it so much that the whole idea kind of turned me off. Because that’s what my parents were doing. It was the culture at the time. There are just all sorts of, marijuana wasn’t as hip as it is now. Like, so I was already being raised around that. I had no interest in doing it. So I was actually a real cling cut. So like 18 through 28, my addiction–
Jonathan Denwood: Which isn’t unusual for people that have been brought up in that, to my understanding in that culture, they tend to be a little bit anti it to some extent.
Robert Newman: Yeah. So what happened for me is that, I actually got a divorce from my first wife and then that was when my drinking problem started almost right after the fact.
Jonathan Denwood: So it was a what? Around dealing with stress and depression was it?
Robert Newman: looking back on it. Yes, you could say it was a type of depression. I made choices that I didn’t think I would ever make was never one of those people that said, oh, I’m going to get married and I’m going to get divorced. I was always one of those people that said if I’m going to get married because that was never a goal of mine. If I’m going to get married, it’s going to be once and done. so when I opted to step away from that relationship, I broke my own heart quite significantly, and took me seven years and a lot of self-punishment for me to come to the understanding that basically I was dealing with a broken heart that I had caused.
In the meantime turned into a total, a wreck of a human many, many run-ins with the law over drugs and alcohol, warrants in different places, trips to jail, never doing the programs that were assigned to me by the state or the city or whatever it was. Just always getting myself in trouble. Lost business, lost relationships, just all the stories that you hear that relate to addiction can definitely be applied to me.
Jonathan Denwood: So if you don’t mind me asking, what was the turning point that turned that around? What was, anything you identified any individual moment inside, whatever it might be that made you decide that maybe another path would be a slightly better choice?
Robert Newman: Well, it was, in the program, they call these God shots. But I definitely had a really dramatic one. I was in a shelter and I had managed to drink myself into homelessness and I was in a shelter down in long beach and, I had no money, so I wasn’t drinking and I, never could quite get myself around panhandling or stealing, so that wasn’t the kind of alcoholic that I was. But I was sitting here in the shelter and I had every intention of getting a job, getting some money, and just going straight back to partying that that was my whole objective when I was in this shelter. And there was a guy in this bed next to me. They closed the doors and make everybody go to bed. And it’s like a shared dorm room kind of experience, like a bunker kind of like, a military, whatever the barracks there we go. It’s like military barracks with everybody set just literally just a few feet away from each other.
This old guy who was a real sweet guy seemed to be struggling with his breathing at night. And, I slept next to him before. And this particular time I hear this breathing, then I hear this big rattle, and then nothing. So I actually reached over and kind of put my hand on his neck after whispering, hey, you okay? Are you okay? Cause we’re not supposed to talk or move after lights go out and they’ll kick you out of the shelter if you do that. He was dead. The guy was dead.
The weird thing was, is, I mean, he was sweet, he wasn’t one of those like dangerous addicts. He was just one of those self-destructive addicts. And, I just had this moment of clarity, man. Like I looked at him and realized like, in my head, you go to this place where you’re like, oh my God, I can’t believe this guy did that to himself. And then I realized, wait a minute, I’m in the same shelter in the bed next to him. How can I possibly like there for the grace of God go I. Like I literally had that moment where I said, if I don’t make some internal decisions that are dramatic, I am going to be this guy, whether it’s tomorrow or 15 or 20 years from now, this is me. For sure. I just had this sudden sense of certainty. Like a bolt of lightning hit me right through the head. And that’s when I actually made the first, I tried to give up drinking like 50 times prior, but not with like a high degree of certainty that, oh, if I don’t do this, I will die. Like, that’s what happened for me in that moment. Like I just said, if I don’t change, this is me.
Jonathan Denwood: That’s great. I think we’re going to go for our break. When we come back, we’ll be discussing Robert’s journey, professional journey, from call center wizard and manager to SEO expert. We will be back in a few moments. Folks,
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Jonathan Denwood: We’re coming back. We’re having a bit of dive with my, co-host for the past couple of years, Robert Newman of inboundREM. So we did a bit of a jump cause we because I think you’ve been open about your addiction and your recovery from it. So obviously, we jumped a little bit. So from being brought up by your parents, you then got into call centers. What were some of the lessons that you learned from being involved in that industry? On reflection, what were some of the key things you learned around people management and marketing in general Robert?
Robert Newman: So many, I learned how to be– like how to take being an introvert and deal with people, manage people. I had all of my brutal lessons about people management and like all at a very young age, I was already running or helping run like small call centers when I was, 19. And so I was, but they’re the same things they are today. Usually, you have people at the lower end of the societal spectrum, oftentimes they’re dealing with mental, emotional addiction problems. The people that do call center work are usually not. It’s like, let’s put it this way you’re not going to find somebody with like an MA in some kind of tech that came out of f**king Oxford or something like that. You’re going to find people that are high school dropouts, who are struggling, who took this job as a last option.
That kind of means that they’re going to give you that they insist that you deal with them at a human respect-based level. It’s a very interesting career path to choose. And I got really brutalized. Like I remember once, I said the word folks in the middle of a meeting of about 30 people, and one of the, black ladies at the meeting literally stood me out in the hallway. And for 20 minutes told me exactly how racist I had just sounded. And I’m raised by hippies who loved everybody. Like we had gay friends, we had black friends, we had everybody in my house, there was never any, any exclusionary. And so I was just like I mean, I’m 19 and I’m getting dressed down by like a 40, 50-year-old black lady. And I’m just like, I was just like, oh my God, I’m so sorry. I didn’t, I did not mean to offend you.
So it really taught me a lot of things about human beings. And the other thing that it taught me, which is what plays in today’s career, interestingly enough, telemarketing done well, my mentor, Billy Halberstadt, who was my first mentor at the age 20. He was the first person that introduced me to spreadsheets and the concept of calculating how many calls everybody was making, what our closed percentage was. So from a very early on, and he was the most effective we were working for a little alarm distributor that was working, for AT&T and we were blowing the doors off Southern California. We were beating everybody. And Billy was running all of the calls, the appointment, setting the outbound telemarketing for them.
I was assisting Billy and he was teaching me why he was so effective because he would look at scripts and he would look at changes in those scripts. And then he would look at our numbers and then he would say, did this change here? He also taught me about tonality, which is one of the first times I ever started to realize how deeply it’s not what we say sometimes, but it’s how we say it. And so all of those elements and the list keeps going on and on and on, like, there are so many things that you don’t– like mirroring as an example, mirroring behavior over the phone, which is also something that Billy told me. I got super lucky. My first mentor was a studious guy who had read all the available books. He introduced me to Tom Hopkins, which goes back to what I already shared with you.
He gave me some books to read as my mentor and I dug deep into those things. And so, so I’ve started applying professional sales tactics, in telemarketing as well. And then teaching professional sales tactics, because most of the people in the call center were just reading from scripts. They had never learned any professional sales tactics like alternative choice closes, assumed closes, or, trial closes. And the list goes on and on and on. And all these things that professional sales trainers will teach you really weren’t being used in call centers. So I made a career out of that. Like I made a career out of what Billy taught me. Tracking statistics, which belief or not we didn’t have it wasn’t digital. So Billy was way ahead of his time. And so I used that whole methodology of figuring out how to track things. How we used to track things. John, you’ll love this, you know how we used to track calls?
Jonathan Denwood: I have no idea how you did it.
Robert Newman: Tick marks on a piece of paper. Every time somebody made a call, we had them make like a little, I don’t have a clean piece of paper, but we had, ’em make a, like a little just tick mark, and then we’d just have, ’em do five. So we would literally have them track their own calls by tick marks because this is way prior to digital. There was no such thing. So we’d tick mark, their calls. We’d take what, what was called their call sheets at the end of the day. And part of my job as the assistant was, to calculate the tick marks. Like I’d add up all the tick marks and then I would throw them into, there were, I don’t even know if we called it Excel at the time, it was all brand new. Like this was all brand new computers were, were fairly new back then. So we were like, I’d add up all the tick marks throw them into Billy’s little spreadsheet. And then he’d look at the numbers, how many appointments were set, and then he’d try to calculate that into how many deals the salespeople had sold.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. So we dealt with that bit and we’ve dealt with a little bit about your years of addiction and so after your experience with a gentleman in the shelter, how did this lead to getting involved with SEO and the start of your present business inboundREM?
Robert Newman: Well, I was running, some of the largest call centers in the Western United States. There were about seven of them, about 1300 people. It was definitely the largest independent operation that existed, on this side of the country. And, by independent, I mean, it wasn’t like a big telecommunications company or anything like that. And so I was unofficially kind of the CMO for the company. There were people that were in charge of a lot of direct media filming stuff. And that was at the corporate office and I was in a satellite office, but I was basically running all the things related to marketing. And I had a three-person web development department. Those three people were doing 20% of our revenue and I had 1300 other people. So we’re basically saying three people had about the value of 400 employees.
When I saw that on paper, everything I’ve ever done, thanks to Billy. I’m looking at the numbers, I’m looking at the statistics, I’m tracking what’s happening. That I already had been thinking about digital and thinking, oh God, I’m in a shrinking industry. It’s not like what it once was it’s annoying calling people on the phone. They always don’t like you. Even customer service calls are tough where they’re calling into you. So when I saw those numbers, that’s what changed the game for me, John? I said I was just like, so I’m going to reveal something on this show that I’ve never really talked about.
The company in question was a corporate entity of Mantra entertainment, but it was, better known as girls gone wild. And so while the founder of that company was in jail, I was running all the call centers, or at least during part of that time, I was running his call centers for him. And he was, an addict, in his own right, and very unstable. And, I lasted longer than any other call center manager. I lasted a year and a half, but then my time came when he called me from jail and fired me. Because that’s what he had done to every single other call center guy before me. So, when that happened, so you’d
Jonathan Denwood: You’d take care is a badge of honor then?
Robert Newman: I said, I lasted longer than anybody else. And, and he did try to rehire me, which I said, no, because he was nuts. Or actually, I shouldn’t say that, because we’re public. I should say that he was going through a hard time and he was unstable to be fair. So, I will say that, when that all happened, John, I had had it in my head. Like I’m going to get into digital when the time came and that call came through. I just knew even as I was packing up my desk and walking out the building, I’m like, I’m going to get into digital. This is the time I’m newly sober. I just out of this really stressful job, so I sent out 300 resumes, and the first-
Jonathan Denwood: What time period are we talking about? When was this?
Robert Newman: This is about 15 years ago. 16 years ago sent out 300 resumes. It was like 2006 or 2007. It was right in the middle of the mortgage meltdown. And so I sent out 300 resumes, no surprise everybody was panicked. I got no responses from my resumes. Plus I had no tech experience. And then finally I changed things on my resume, which is why I decided to share it on the show. This is funny because I sent out 300 resumes with Mantra entertainment. I ran all the call centers. Nobody called me not one call, a couple of emails back, nobody called me. I was panicked. I’d never had this heard of a time getting a job. So I changed my resume and actually revealed that it was girls’ gone wild and the funny thing is, that the first person that actually called me was John Crabb, the founder of one of the three founders of agent image, one of the biggest developers of real estate websites that exist.
He was curious about the Girls Gone Wild thing. He was basically, did you just apply for a tech job at my company? Like that was basically his, question. And I said, yes. And I got very lucky because we had this incredible conversation, which I’ll never forget that outlasted hours long. He pulled me into an interview. He had me meet the entire sales team at agent image. I managed to convince all of them that I was a good risk. And then they brought me on for 30 days as a project manager. And then they let me start, their online, sales division, as a salesperson. So, that’s how I got my start.
Jonathan Denwood: Right. So obviously,
Robert Newman: Oh, online marketing, I did say online marketing, right? Like yeah. They had a division they had never done before that was related to online marketing. So I started selling those services. I was the first person in that division to do that.
Jonathan Denwood: Obviously. I’m from England I’m English. So I’m not aware, obviously, you’ve mentioned just quickly. Obviously, we need to wrap up the podcast part of the show. We’re going to be continuing the discussion a bit longer though, but just to finish off the podcast, obviously, you’ve mentioned this TV show a few times, but I’m not actually aware of it. Because obviously can you give a brief outline of why, so obviously in your heart, the way you expressed it, it’s a little bit notorious this TV show.
Robert Newman: Not a little bit. Right now I promise you half the people listening to the show are laughing.
Jonathan Denwood: But I’m not aware of it.
Robert Newman: All You got to do is Google it. But here’s the premise. So girls gone wild turned teenage rambunctious into a national phenomenon. They would get in this bus and they’d basically drive around with this big girl Gone Wild logo on it. And they go to spring break and places where young people congregate and then young, women would go into this bus and take off their clothes for a cameraman and they would film it and they’d create these DVDs and then they would sell these DVDs on cable. Okay.
At the height of Girls Gone Wild, we had a 7 million per month cable budget. So I was running all the call centers that supported that unbeknownst to many people. We had a contract with vivid, which was an adult entertainment producer too. So we’re doing cold calls for both Girls Gone Wild. And so 13,000 people, there are about 150 people in customer service and everybody else was doing outbound calls or what was called product add-on calls for other vendors, which is just where they would add Girls Gone Wild CDs onto the tail end of another offer. So we were just everywhere. I mean, we built up a massive marketing machine. Massive, which is surprising like all this is telling anybody that’s listening is that you did not turn on any US cable TV-like from 2004 through 2008. Like you just didn’t.
Jonathan Denwood: I was listening to the radio my biscuits in my tea. This sounds a little bit more outside. So basically it was a kind of soft porn kind of show.
Robert Newman: Not basically, that’s what it was.
Jonathan Denwood: Right. Thanks for the picture. We’re going to wrap up. We’re going to wrap up. I’m not sure if I want that picture in my mind but there we go. So we’re going to wrap up the podcast part of the show. I’m going to delve a little bit more into Robert’s background. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this. If you have left a comment, on the YouTube channel or on the Facebook page, which you can join an all free. Like I say, we’re going to continue the discussion for about 10, 15 minutes, Robert. What is the best way for people to learn more about you and what you’re up to Robert?
Robert Newman: Well, minus all the detail that we just covered in this interview, you can learn everything that, that I’ve shared with the world about, inbound marketing and about real estate SEO on my website, inboundrem.com. If for some reason, some of you want to contact me, you can do so on my about or services pages and schedule an appointment to talk to me. Mainly if you’re on the middle to the upper end, of your own market, and you’re looking to change your marketing, get rid of all the recurring page services that you love to hate Zillow, Trulia, like KB core sync. The list goes on Ylopo. If you want to take ownership, I would be a good call to start maybe researching that.
Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. And if you want to contact, Mail-Right, our perfect customer fit is somebody between their second to the fifth year in the industry, either individual or a small power team. And you’re looking for a company to build your digital presence on WordPress and also want to help with Facebook and Google paid to advertise. Mail-Right is should be your partner. And please go over to the Mail-Right website and look at what I and Adam have to offer you we’ll be back next week with either we’ll be discussing a subject internally between me and Robert, or we will have an industry expert, to give you more insight about how you can be more successful in 2022. We’ll see you soon folks bye.