Bill Berry On iHeartRadio “CEO’s You Should Know”
BAM Advertising’s Bill Berry recently appeared on iHeartRadio “CEOs You Should Know” show with Jonny Hartwell, a monthly podcast that spotlights business leaders and introduces you to the person behind the success of these companies in our communities.
JH: This is the CEO You Should Know podcast. Let’s say
hello to Bill Berry of BAM Advertising and Marketing. Thank you for joining me.
BB: Pleased to Be Here, Johnny.
JH: Tell me everything we need to know about Bam
BB: BAM Advertising is unique, and it really traces its
roots back to 2004 before there was a thing called an iPhone. It’s amazing how fast
time changes – at that point, I came from an agency that didn’t even have a
website. I kind of got unleashed. Terrible time to start a business… we dug
in and worked really hard, and we firmly placed our stake in the digital space.
And since then, we’ve been operating at a high level on the digital side from
web development to paid search, to SEO for over 18 years.
JH: So, what do you specialize in?
BB: Performance media lead generation. It’s truly our
specialty. We generate leads. That’s what we do. Whether it’s phone, whether
it’s web, whether it’s from directories. It’s all about generating leads. And
the biggest thing really is transparency. We got really tired of hearing
clients say, “Well, I don’t think it’s working” or “I’m not sure
if we’re getting the right message out there”, so we built a tool. It’s
called the BAM Lead Tracker, and it’s also a CRM. It really was awakening for
the clients that we work with, particularly in the Culligan ecosystem where we
work with dealers in about 34 states, both individually and collectively as
part of co-ops. At that point, the tool enabled us to track true results and
set true goals.
JH: How does that work?
BB: Basically, the BAM Lead Tracker is something like
Salesforce or a tool similar to that, but it was built exclusively for the
water treatment industry. People that use very broad-based CRM programs and
lead generation programs generally are not exclusively for the business someone
is using it in. Conversely, in the BAM lead tracker, we track from search to
sale. So, if somebody clicks on an ad, we know what ad they clicked on so we
can optimize click-through rates, and then in turn we optimize all the way
through the process. The lead comes in and needs to be handled as fast as it’s
humanly possible, and we have built out technologies to handle that lead in
different ways. Say somebody submits a form on a website, we have technologies
that automatically will glean that person’s phone number, send them a text
saying a colleague and dealer will be in touch with them shortly, and call them
all in less than one minute from the time they hit the submit button. That was
kind of a culmination and a realization for a lot of people in sales about how
important that quick turnaround is. And then in turn, we can ask on the sales
side “What happened? Did we get an appointment? Was there a demo? Was
there a sale? How many units were sold? What units were sold?” After that,
we can create KPIs like cost per appointment, cost per lead, cost per
transaction, etc. It’s not a revolutionary process, but at the time when we
developed this in about 2010, it was particularly for the verticals we work in.
So, any home improvement industry, whether it’s roofing or siding, windows,
doors, solar. All these different home services verticals are our fertile
ground in which we drive results.
JH: Is this your secret sauce? Is this what makes you
different than maybe other ad agencies?
BB: I think on the development side, yes. There are not a
lot of small agencies, particularly in Pittsburgh, that have development teams
that create massive tools like ours. We were able to take our model and extend
it into other verticals. When you work with a team like BAM and we have our
lead developer who’s been with me for 14 years, it becomes a trusted
partnership because we can show results, and our customers can just judge us on
that. It takes the mystique out of people that like to call our clients and
persuade them that maybe we weren’t doing a good job. The data is black and
white, so we can defend it.
JH: So take me through the whole process of if somebody is
interested in in your services, they call you, what do you do? What’s the first
BB: Kind of like we’re doing here, John. Let’s talk. It’s
getting to know that person and kind of figuring out where they’re coming from.
Some people aren’t really transparent about what their goals are, and
conversely, some people don’t know what their goals are at all. So, our process
at the beginning revolves around ferreting that out. I’ve been doing this way
for 40 years, I engage people and it’s what I like to do, and on the other
side, we have other people on our team, like our VP of Client Services, Neil.
He was on the client-side at Nextel, and also, he worked for Culligan
International directly as the first franchise liaison between dealers and
Culligan. It’s just getting that person comfortable on the other side of the
JH: Well, I think where I see a lot of people, they just
think, “Okay, I’m going to advertise. I’m just going to put my place where
I need where I think it ought to be” and they don’t think about branding.
Do you start with that kind of conversation? Where do you figure out where a
customer is in their particular niche?
BB: There’s a learning curve for sure. We have to do our
research. We have a wealth of tools available to us that help us align reality
with someone’s perception of a brand. And what we look for are areas that we
can improve on. Ultimately, what tools do we have in order to make that
possible? It can be anything from focus groups to looking at results that
they’ve been generating on their own over time. There’s one company, in
particular, I share with a lot of our prospective clients, a company on the
west coast by the name of more heating, cooling and air conditioning,
and solar. It was an opportunity for branding that I just was so
excited about because they had every tool but a brand. They knew people knew
the name, but they didn’t know what they were. They didn’t understand the
California culture, or environment, or all those factors that kind of separate
the west coast from other places were manifested in this company. So, we were
able to go in there, talk to the guys, and put together a plan. These guys had
never done really radio or TV, but they had an okay presence on digital. When
we start, digital is the foundation of every plan we build, so we want to make
sure that the entire landscape is in order, because it’s going to generate the
best results. While we read the other websites, while we did their search
campaigns, we began the branding process. We used the people that own the
company and the people that worked at the company and projected the culture
that was missing. This company went from 18 million to 42 million in about two
and a half years.
JH: Wow, so you’ve saw a growth from 18 to 42 million?
BB: Yes, in a very short period of time, two and a half,
three years. But the world’s a little different today. Private equity venture
capitalists are buying mom-and-pop shops and mid-sized companies more all the
time. So, we’ve lost business to that, to huge conglomerates going around and
buying different companies up. That’s okay. There’s plenty of opportunities.
JH: That also presents an opportunity for somebody else.
BB: Absolutely. And also reinforces the work that we did.
We’ve had many private equity people come in and clients that we were working
with and bring their people and say, “Hey, let’s look under the hood of
that website. Let’s look, let’s test those campaigns you have.” But the
results speak for themselves. And that company in Santa Rosa, California, is
about two-thirds of the size they were when the original owners and Bam worked
with them. And we follow this method throughout.
JH: Does that take a lot of the soul out of the companies
BB: Oh, without a doubt. And the beautiful thing was these
same people are the two primary owners of that company. The gentleman that was
running it at the time started from scratch where San Diego just three months
ago. And two short years they had their first million-dollar month and they’re
on the third consecutive million-dollar month incremental growth measure
growth, we like to call it. But that’s done by having the people sitting at the
helm that understand the business, understand the hiring process, which is a
huge hurdle these days. But if they can build that culture where someone’s
comfortable and making a commitment to them, they feed it. And again, the
results speak for themselves. This company had goals to be 7 million in sales
in year one. First-year covered by 2020. They missed it. They did 6.2 million.
But that’s a hell of a goal for year one. You got people in their lifetime that
aren’t doing 6 million in sales.
JH: Take me back a little. Tell me about your journey to
CEO. How where did you start?
BB: Oh, boy. The fertile ground was a cool time back in the
golden age of advertising. I think maybe a little later than the Golden Age and
Mad Men and things like that. But I started in the early eighties at IBM.
Cramer was a player number two agency in the city of Pittsburgh behind Ketchum
Advertising, a group kind of portioned off that included Bill Sprague and a few
others, and I got my start there. Prior to that, I did internships at Ketchum,
but working with IBM Cramer was great. About 140 people in the agency on the
47th floor of the U.S. Steel Building. Short two and a half, three years later,
we were at about 250 people, and that’s a party. In advertising probably of
that 240 people, probably about 200 of them were under 30 or very early thirties
and down. So, it was a good time. It’s a little different than it was today.
But we worked at big brands. We were buying fur and doing research for tasters,
Lean Cuisine, Johnson and Johnson Shoes, Iron City, Beer, Foodland, and other
kinds of great accounts, both local and national in scope. And that’s where I
cut my teeth. From there money stalled a little bit. People weren’t paid a lot
starting out in ad agencies, so I went away and worked with some a great guy
named Paul Cress that I think most people in the city of Pittsburgh know. Paul
has been around forever and was fortunate enough to become a sales manager at
age 27. I learned from the other side of the desk and had an opportunity to go
work for my father-in-law Jaclyn Coyne advertising and was there for 14 years.
And you don’t get a better mentor than a guy who started working in the
business in 1965. I did live television commercials and am still working today,
and we kind of went our separate ways after the first year, and after 14 years
I got the opportunity to start BAM advertising in 2004. I kind of stated
earlier, but it was all about the digital landscape at that point, embracing it
and getting ahead of the curve. And we’ve always stayed ahead of the curve.
JH: Tell me about BAM. Why? Who came up with BAM?
BB: Bam, bam, bam, bam. Interesting, right? So, in life,
you have people like Jack Coyne who help you write. And I have very close
relationships with clients and my best friends are my clients. And it was one
very unique gentleman by the name of Mike McWilliams. Mike was kind enough to
help me get off the ground, he had great relationships in the market. I think
the two biggest ones that most were concerned with was Michael Young, who
extended credit to us. I don’t think they do it the same way today. John, Ron,
those guys, had a few TV contacts, and I could get a business up and going, I
worked really hard. It was not a great time to start a business. Everything was
tanking. Tons of unemployment up through 28, 29, but we did okay and grew
slowly even though the beginning was a terrible time. And I remember looking
down and I was in my 59th month in BAM. That year was not a good year, and I
looked down, I was $50,000 in the hole. I believe it was in August, and he said
that he’s 59 years, 59 months, and we’re still just scratching and crawling.
But the next month, we entered a creative contest with Culligan International
with about 30 other agencies across the country. One two of the categories
awarded us a good chunk of business and ended up making a ton of money that
year. By the end, even though we were down, we’ve never lost money in a month
JH: Is this part of your soul?
BB: I mean, it is. It’s my life. It’s all I’ve ever done.
My friend Mike McWilliams helped me get started, like I said, along with
others. But his name is Mike. You got Bill, you got Barry and you got
McWilliams. So, Bill and Mike. Barry McWilliams. And selfishly, Barry
Advertising and Marketing was an acronym for any occasion in my life. It was
pretty cool and there really is no true name for it. But when you have good
friends like Mike McWilliams, who come to you at some point in your life and
say, are you better with me or without me? And I said I’m better without you.
He walked, and we did a $1 transaction, and the agency was more the rest is
kind of history. Mike and I’ve always been good friends and remain that way
today. We did business together for over 18 years and his son works for me now.
JH: Is this still your passion?
BB: Yeah. And it’s a lot more fun these days. I don’t have
to work as hard.
JH: Let me get something that I gleaned off your website, it
says Bill Berry, greaser of skids. Agency architect, writer-producer. Lake Life
liver skilled schmoozer.
BB: Yes, I am.
JH: In fine footwear wearer of all those. What is
the real bill?
BB: You might have to go over that list again, but I think
it really goes down to one thought process and there’s a lot of different
elements in there, but a lot of those different elements of my life experience
to me that I can relate and ferret out of other people to show some common
interest, and I came out of college as an English major. So, I figure if I
could write, I can speak, I could do anything. And to the one that’s always
stayed by me, there are two things I’d like to say. One, is that they like Bill
Barry. They’ll do business with Bill Berry, right? And then the other element
is to come in, chat with every day, do the right thing, be transparent, and
have a little faith and things generally work out. That’s all you can do is
take your guts every day. And people appreciate that. They know you’re not
sitting on your butt. They know you’re not taking it easy and forgetting about
them. That’s my getaway. That’s where I spend COVID. And it’s down a little
north of Charlotte, North Carolina. Drove up from there yesterday to be here
this morning and got to have fun. You got to have fun and that’s really what I
enjoy doing is being in front of clients, just assuring them that I’m focused.
And I got a team of 23 focused on moving product for them every day.
JH: So, tell us more about your team.
BB: Team is awesome. First of all, my wife’s critical to my
success. Pam is our CFO, for lack of a better term. She oversees all the
bookkeeping of which we have accountants and regular bookkeepers and things
like that. But I learned that lesson also from my father-in-law. It’s not a bad
thing to have family in charge of your money. I’ve had a lot of people that
have been burned over the years in this industry where they’ve not been able to
keep track of the money, maybe run a little loose. We operate on a solid
foundation. Always have. So, she’s been a cornerstone. I could not have done
what we’ve collectively done without her secondary experience. My media
director has been here 15 years and 18 years, and she’s still there, Rachael.
So interesting enough she’s moving to Florida and she’s going to remain a
full-time employee. I have another gentleman named Neil Catapano. He’s the guy
that worked at Leo Burnett, Marlin Nextel. He’s based out of Orlando as well.
He understands, he gets it. It’s a high-quality person with tons of experience
at some of the best agencies in the country. I also have two sons in the business
which is special. I don’t think I would have bought a building and invested in
as much as I did in the last six months if we didn’t have long-term plans. So
that keeps me focused a lot. But everybody on our staff and I don’t want to get
into naming everybody because you kind of feel like you might leave someone
out, but they’re all dedicated people. There’s not one person in our team that
I wouldn’t want to love to sit down and drink a beer with, and we are a family.
We got a lot of people that have been there a long time and that provides a
level of comfort to clients that a lot of agencies don’t have. And it’s pretty simple.
Come in shop, you would do the right thing. You have a little faith generally
BB: That’s it. And if it’s slow, enjoy it because it’s not
always that way.
JH: All right. So, tell us about your company or maybe your
personal community involvement.
BB: Youth sports were big to me. I was involved. There
probably should have been a little more involved with education, but my kids
took care of that along with my wife. But I think youth sports are an
interesting environment. So, I dedicated a lot of time there. Actually, back in
the day when my oldest son was in high school, he was a pretty good lacrosse
player in Peters Township. It was a club sport. So, in turn I was part of the
first board that took over from a single guy who ran the program and ran most
lacrosse programs in Peters Township. But we put our first board together and
ultimately became president of that board and ran the organization. That
included hiring coaches, scheduling, buying equipment, coordinating fields, all
this kind of thing. A big-time investment. But there’s nothing better than
working with kids because everything we do for our kids and for their kid’s
friends seriously affects their life later on. The other element that I’m most
pleased with, I taught CCD for four years, humbling experience. But it was also
during the days of starting better and it gave me an hour and a half every week
where I didn’t think about anything but going into that classroom, making sure
I was prepared. That was pretty close. The faith element, right? Now I sit on
the Culligan International’s marketing subcommittee. It oversees over 600
dealers in North America, and I am very active there. And other than that, we
try to support things in different ways. But primarily, I work. I’d like to do
more pro bono stuff and things like that. But our plates are pretty full.
JH: So, it’s not all like living.
BB: No, it’s not all like live in Johnny. But that keeps me
JH: It sounds like it’s. What’s your biggest challenge?
BB: It’s always retaining people. I think more than
anything, navigating a family business is always interesting. And that’s one of
my proudest things that we’ve provided a good environment, not overbearing for
a couple of young men to get started in this business. And they’ve got
experience at age 32 and 28 that most people don’t have at that age. Not only
in the advertising and digital but in running a business. And that’s the
future, but it’s like the NFL draft, Johnny. You kind of come up and somebody
gets an offer. And right now, a lot of people are poaching people, they’re
overpaying things like that. And you have to make some tough decisions. And we
lost a young man that had been with us almost three years. Got a nice offer
from donor advertising. It’s not like you’re losing him to the print shop down
the street, but you sit there and say, you know what? Like the draft, can I
afford to pay this free agent based on everything else in there? And sometimes
you got to say, no, I can’t. God love you, wish you were still here, but good
luck where you’re going. And. But more often than not, we’ve been able to
retain our people and seen some wonderful growth in people that have been there
for some time.
JH: How has advertising changed since the time you started
to right now?
BB: It’s not fun as much anymore. People are very serious.
And I think the biggest is that it’s almost a gotcha thing anymore, because
that’s what digital does, right? Everybody wants to assign granular data to any
form of advertising, of which the only thing you really can do that with is in
the test tube, a digital search, and all those things. But we’re talking about
branding. How does branding how does external influence external advertising
influence lead flow? Well, we’ve done that. We’ve tracked that. We can show it.
Right. But you always got the gotcha. It’s like, “Well, how come my ad
isn’t coming up right now? Why is it my dealership on Google Maps not
registering as high as it should? Why is it not the primary?” There are so
many influences in digital that can be very difficult for a lot of people that
are skilled in it to raise questions. And it’s our job to raise their comfort,
show why things are the way they are, and how the platform itself influences
results and what they’re saying. And I think that’s the toughest thing because,
it’s like I used to say in radio, those in our industry are our own worst
enemies. Because there’s duplicity, duplicitous tactics that are used to try to
undermine people, different ratings that are used never in a million years.
JH: What are you talking about here? So, Bill Barrett
helped you possibly say that.
BB: But again, that’s just it. And that’s why I
think transparency is so important. Review it every month. You’ve got to talk
to your clients virtually every month. Or you kind of lose that confidence and
you’re not giving them the attention that they deserve. And it’s really a part
of our service that is to be in touch those clients at minimum monthly.
JH: So, tell me about the if you had a crystal ball, where
do you think advertising and marketing is going or where do you see BAM
Advertising in the future?
BB: Got to roll with the punches. Digital changes every
day. And I think in the bigger picture, everything becomes more specialized,
and ore targeted. It’s not mass media is not getting it done. You need a fine
blend of traditional and digital in most cases. And too often one dominates the
other. But I think it’s all about the targeting whether it’s OTA advertising
which basically we live side by side on the same street. People know what your
purchase habits are and what your interests are, and they’re going to serve you
up to different ads even though you’re on the same system. And that’s always
been the goal. Cable hasn’t quite gotten there, but other platforms have,
whether it’s Hulu, O.T., all those types of services. And again, continually be
much more targeted, much more I don’t see scattered. But at the same time, it’s
much more specific to what’s going on out there with the roles that YouTube’s
playing. We saw the influence of streaming media in general, YouTube, TV, just
tons of different things that change and evolve. And that’s a young person’s
business. I understand. I got a grasp of it, but that’s not my job to go in and
explain that in detail. And that’s where you need the practitioners that have
grown up in that environment.
JH: You know, you mentioned Michael Young and I had a
conversation with him not too long ago about the future of traditional media
and rolling in some of the Internet streaming and things like that, you know,
print is is just kind of it’s having a horrible time. It’s the deficit and just
a parent television, you know, so many times that you can select the show you
want to watch. When it comes to traditional radio, where can we do a better
BB: That’s a great question. To me, radio’s always been
about local personality.
JH: I agree, right? Yeah.
BB: And that’s that’s becoming more of an anomaly. We had a
great experience at Culligan International. I don’t mean to talk about Culligan
International all the time. But they tend to be at the forefront of a lot of
the work that we do. And we had a new branding campaign and that was
instituted, you had a big national agency coming in and kind of dictating a lot
of things. And fortunately, they got a new chief marketing officer, a gentleman
by the name of Al Patel, that really took a pragmatic look at it and said,
“Wait a second, what are we doing here?” We ended up switching from
TV, cable to radio. Okay. And of course, it’s syndicated and relying on
companies like iHeart and Westwood One and, some sports along with those ways.
But it’s still as a medium, it’s still widely used, streamed in addition to the
broadcast podcasts fit into that that that that segment as well so it would be
nice to retain most of the personalities tend to be more on a national level
but there’s hope and I’ll tell you why. Influencers and podcasts kind of where
you’re aspiring to go, right? Because again, it goes back into what we’re
talking about previously, much more targeted, identified some like social media
to a certain degree that you’re really striking at the interest of the
listener. And that can also be done through traditional radio programs. But the
radio’s there. You know, they said I was going be gone ages ago. Remember when
TV was going to be gone when cable went away? It’s still here. The whole nine
yards and cable still here, for that matter. And to me, it’s always about
integration. Every media has its virtues, whether it’s radio, whether it’s a
podcast, whether it’s the placemats at a diner with all those little ads on,
with guys holding stuff and looking great.
JH: I still love them.
BB: But it’s how they work in concert. As we said, make
sure your digital landscape is in order and there are a billion tentacles to
that. But then your target becomes more relevant. What are you doing? As a
local, as a regional, who are you trying to reach? How often you trying to
reach them? What’s the best method to reach them?
JH: Reaction, right? This has been fun. Bill Barry of BAM
Advertising and Marketing and a CEO, you should know. Bill, thank you so much.
BB: Johnny. It’s a pleasure to be here.