This week on Praxis Monday, we were joined by long-time friend of Praxis Tim Chermak, the co-founder and CEO of Platform Marketing. Platform Marketing specializes in running ad campaigns for real estate agents, and routinely doubles the annual income of their clients. As a college drop-out and self-taught marketing expert, Tim has built a business with 20+ employees that supports and improves lives of its clients on a daily basis.
In the call, Tim talked about:
- How he became a marketer after dropping out of college
- How he gained his marketing expertise
- How his freelancing work as a marketer turned into a full-blown marketing agency
- How he found his niche in the real estate marketing space
- What he looks for when he’s hiring
- His top pieces of advice for young professionals (hint: reading is really important!)
Here’s the full breakdown of what we covered.
How do you become a self-taught marketing expert, anyway?
As with anything, there are two keys: knowledge and experience.
First, knowledge — the foundational information required for anything you build. When Tim first became interested in marketing, he started reading copiously — everything he could find on the subject. As he’s built his company, this has continued to be an important part of his approach. He makes it a point to be an expert not only in the mechanics of marketing, but also its philosophy and history.
Want to learn more about marketing? Tim’s top recommendations:
But knowledge is only valuable if you put it into practice. As he started gathering information, he also needed to build a portfolio. He went door-to-door pitching local small businesses (and getting rejected again and again) until he got a yes.
Once he had his first opportunity, he put the knowledge he’d gained into practice — and aced his numbers, drove results, got word-of-mouth referrals, and started building out a freelance marketing business.
His specialty in real estate marketing happened accidentally — by having success with one real estate client and then realizing he could replicate his results for other real estate agents across the country.
As his business grew, he started hiring employees, and it slowly morphed into a full-blown marketing agency (Platform).
Key takeaways: don’t worry too much about where you start. Find something that interests you, learn everything you can, and put it into practice. The rest will fall into place once you start working.
Here’s Tim talking about his journey as a marketer:
Just because a company isn’t sexy doesn’t mean it can’t be awesome.
People often think that a business has to be changing the world or curing cancer to be somewhere worth working. If you aren’t doing something earth-shattering, is it really worth your time?
Companies don’t always have to radically change the world. The more you think about how the market impacts individuals in the economy, the more interesting a “boring” job becomes. If anything, if you convince yourself that your work has to change the world, it’s easy to get stuck limiting yourself within those parameters. It’s okay to work for a company that’s entirely focused on making money and improving each of its customers’ lives.
“If I said “we run social media marketing campaigns for real estate brokers,” no one would drop at out of college and come do this. It sounds kinda boring. But when you realize that most jobs in the economy are boring, but they still add value to people, it becomes a lot more interesting. We have so many real estate agents making $60k a year in their local economy. Average income, but not getting ahead, not taking sweet vacations or putting anything away for your kids’ education. They aren’t thriving. After a year of working with Platform, they double their income. We get to see this all the time — their fixed expenses stay the same but now they have an extra $5k coming in a month. They can take that sweet vacation. They can send their kids to school. And that makes us really excited.”
— Tim Chermak
But Platform is still doing cool things. They’ve reinvented how to think about a marketing agency (focusing on a very specific niche and growing to a national scale), and they built our own marketing software (which you can find at longlivesmallbusiness.com). And each time they take on a new type of client, it poses a new challenge of becoming a marketing expert in another type of niche or field.
Key takeaways: just because a company isn’t setting the world on fire doesn’t mean that it isn’t doing really important work. And just because it isn’t inventing something new doesn’t mean it isn’t an amazing place to work and learn.
Tim breaks this idea down in more detail here:
How to be a killer professional and build a thriving career
“[As a hiring manager] I believe in the philosophy of self-directed learning and in not depending on a credential. I don’t care if someone has a college degree.”
— Tim Chermak
A lot of Tim’s team doesn’t have college degrees. Tim himself is a college drop-out. There are a lot of things more important than a degree in building an awesome career for yourself.
What Tim looks for in a hire:
- Forward Tilt (this goes without saying, but it’s very important)
- An interest and high level of knowledge in the field. You should never just apply for a job because you need employment. Why are you passionate about the space? In the case of Platform, what have you done to become a marketing expert?
- A commitment to going above and beyond (if a customer requests a call outside of normal working hours, you’ll take it, because you’re committed to the success of your clients)
Tim’s top piece of advice for young professionals: meet up with people you admire whenever you can. Ask them to grab coffee, and ask them for their top 2-3 book recommendations. People are always flattered when you ask, and it’s a great way to learn.
Maintain your curiosity about your field of choice. Study as much as you can about it. If you’re interested in marketing you might ask yourself who invented scientific advertising (Claude Hopkins). Who was his mentor? What was the approach of the ad agency where he started? Learn everything. Don’t just read things and learn things when someone else makes you. Invest in knowledge acquisition all of the time.