Ben LeDonni is the CEO and Founder of Creative Multimedia Solutions (Creative MMS), a company that grows established B2B solution providers by building authority, trust, and expertise with their audience using data-driven digital marketing. Ben’s leadership embodies Kaizen, a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement around working practices and efficiency — he seeks out the latest trends in digital strategy, along with company efficiency. When Ben is not strategizing or leading his team to new heights, he’s out in his garden, adventuring with his three kids or enjoying a sunset with his beautiful wife.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Ben LeDonni talks about Creative MMS and how it serves its clients
- What does digital marketing involve?
- How does data drive digital marketing?
- Is it challenging to learn marketing principles like SEOs?
- What Ben did before launching Creative MMS
- Where the idea for Creative MMS came from
- Challenges of leading employees who are smarter than you
- Values Ben looks for in people when hiring
- Milestones that Ben is proud of since launching Creative MMS
- Ben tells the story of a company that came to them and how they helped
- Ben talks about web 3.0 and the next venture that he is working on
In this episode…
So many things in the world are now being done online — but do you know how to create powerful digital experiences?
People have to evolve as the world does if they want to succeed. Learning and embracing new trends and practices is essential. With all the technologically focused online capabilities, it’s almost impossible for companies to be successful if people aren’t learning ways to market and grow their businesses digitally. Leveraging the latest technologies and best marketing practices to empower their business, the team, and serve their clients in the best way possible is the surest way to achieve success.
In this episode of the Top Business Leaders Show, Chad Franzen sits down with Ben LeDonni, the CEO and Founder of Creative Multimedia Solutions (Creative MMS), to discuss marketing. Ben talks about digital marketing, how data drives digital marketing, the advantages and disadvantages of having employees who are smarter than you, and much more.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Email the team at Rise25: [email protected]
- Creative MMS
- Ben LeDonni on LinkedIn
- Lockheed Martin
- Adobe Dreamweaver
- Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
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Chad Franzen 0:02
Okay, here we go. Three, two, one. Chad Franzen here Co-host of the Top Business Leaders Show where we feature CEOs, entrepreneurs and top leaders in the business world. This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses reach their dream relationships and connect with more clients, referrals and strategic partnerships and get ROI through done-for-you podcasts. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships, there’s no better way to do it than to profile the people and companies you admire on your podcast. To learn more, go to rise25.com, or email us at [email protected] Ben LeDonni is Founder and CEO of Creative Multimedia Solutions, a leading strategic digital marketing agency based in Philadelphia. He has built and leads a team of 17 data development, design, marketing, and techie geeks like him that work together to deliver effective digital marketing results for their clients. He’s also working on his next venture, which will launch very soon. Ben, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?
Ben LeDonni 0:59
Oh, I’m great, Chad. Thanks for having me, man.
Chad Franzen 1:02
Hey, so tell me a little bit more about Creative Multimedia Solutions and what you guys do?
Ben LeDonni 1:08
Yeah, sure, man. So we work with mostly business-to-business companies that are already established and looking to grow. And we do that through building trust, authoritativeness, and expertise with their audience online. So a lot of that is nailing down and pinpointing their target audience and the customer journey, that that target audience is seeking online. And then we make sure that the entire journey looks the part so that they can help convert potentially more leads, attract right now it’s a lot of times it’s attract more talent, because hiring is really big and top of mind, and making sure that the overall digital presence kind of rises, the tide lifts and helps grow the organization.
Chad Franzen 1:47
I’m sure most people know this, but can you tell me just kind of like, what does digital marketing involve? I talked about development and design, what does that involve?
Ben LeDonni 1:58
Yeah, so I mean, to me, you probably get 30 different answers from 30 different agency owners, because everybody has a different flavor of it. But if you really think of the core underpinnings of marketing, there’s knowing the audience and making sure that your brand is aligned with the audience from the mission of the brand, all the way through to what the services are that you provide, as well as the full cycle of the customer experience and everything in between. So digital marketing really takes it from the old school methodologies of sending print pieces in the mail, or even like magazine advertising, billboard advertising, things that we would consider static or print and looking at everything other than that. The things that are digital in nature, that have data oriented, that are measurable, and so on. So, really, it’s imagine that there’s a layer of that brand stuff all the way through to customer journey. And everything in between that happens on the digital forefront, from the consumer standpoint, is really just looks the part, acts the part, says what it needs to educate the clients as it needs to, and make sure that the experience is on par.
Chad Franzen 3:09
So how does data drive it?
Ben LeDonni 3:11
It’s everything. I mean, if we look at each piece of the puzzle, as being like, for example, if you have a sales team and a marketing team and your business to business company, your sales team is responsible for hitting key metrics in terms of revenue and targets. Your marketing team might be responsible for generating leads and making sure that the lead volume is up through the marketing efforts with a nice return on investment. Everything I just labeled there, there were three main KPIs. There was revenue, that was a big part for the sales team, there was the number of leads that come through from the marketing team. And then there was $1 amount return on investment. So that’s data that most businesses are measuring from a sales and marketing perspective. And what we do is take another layer down from that data and say, what are the other data points that matter to try and get those dials turned off properly. So things like traffic to the website, if it’s website oriented, that you’re trying to get leads through there, ads that serve up in Google or nowadays, a lot of LinkedIn, social media, stuff like that. The eyeballs plus the conversion ends up equaling a lot of the leads in the lead volume. And so those measurements become important. And there’s a lot more to that, too, things like just pure SEO data around what keywords are driving the biggest organic results. And what are we known for as a brand in the industry when you’re talking about competing with other companies like you?
Chad Franzen 4:34
I mean, I’m sure a lot of those things are difficult for most people to learn. But how difficult was it to learn kind of those marketing principles like SEO and things like that. Did that just kind of fall right in line to what you’d already been doing?
Ben LeDonni 4:46
Well, for me, it’s easy because I’m a geek and I love it. I mean, to me, I’m living and breathing it. I’ve got books on it that I like to read, I stay up to date. I use Google as kind of like, as I’m searching for things and integrate reading more and engaging more. Google sends me articles that are like that. So there’s always something new that’s coming into the feed. So it’s not that complex to me. But ultimately, it may be complex to like, let’s say a CEO that’s been doing things a long way, a long time, maybe it’s been sales meetings face to face. And now they’re trying to shift towards digital and don’t really have a good understanding. Or a lot of times, we also hear that maybe they’ve tried SEO in the past, and worked with a company that truly didn’t know what they were doing, and that the value didn’t really go up. And so they’ve abandoned it and see it as voodoo magic, that doesn’t really work. So there’s a lot of those in betweens that are truly challenges for people to get a grasp of, but I’m very data oriented in it. And so really, what I think of it is the way that I said it before, where you have sales numbers and marketing numbers, and you try and identify the objectives and those key results to get to those numbers. And each of those key results have data points to be able to get there.
Chad Franzen 5:52
What did you do prior to launching Creative Multimedia Solutions?
Ben LeDonni 5:55
I was a developer. I actually went to Villanova for computer science degree and stayed there for a master’s degree. And then went out worked for Lockheed Martin as a software developer for them for a couple of years. I was the chief Software Architect of a small company that was building web applications and learned all the underpinnings all the way from server database, all the way up to design development, project management and all that. And I had started Creative alongside that and built it up hiring people that are better than me, and all the things that needed to be done. So that’s why I have a very geeky and technical approach towards things because I’m a logical thinker. And I really feel like if a website or campaign isn’t built on data and good, solid technical foundation, that it’s not really going to drive as many results.
Chad Franzen 6:42
So you say you launched it while working concurrently elsewhere. How did you come up with the idea? And how did you kind of get it off the ground?
Ben LeDonni 6:53
Yeah, I mean, it’s, I’m going to date myself here, but I was always a big fan of those AOL profiles, and messing with the colors on AOL. And then when I was in college, I was big into creating HTML websites and using stuff like Dreamweaver and things like that. So I kind of have always stayed with it through there, got into it, because at the time I was graduating, Villanova was 2002. And there were a lot of small businesses that were just trying to get online at the time. And they were like trying to figure out how to build a website and buy a domain from one place, stitch it together with hosting from somewhere else, and then build the website that could communicate. So I had friends and family that were reaching out to me because I was topside. I already always loved the design and user experience aspects of building websites already knew how to do it. And so it was a passion project for me that turned into a business. So I’m really lucky.
Chad Franzen 7:42
What were the early days like?
Ben LeDonni 7:45
Oh, man, a lot of hustle, still is a lot of hustle. I think just part of me is like I don’t stop. So I like to keep moving. But early days, there’s a lot to answer in that early days of running the business was learning about things like profit and loss, and all the key metrics that you need to run a business. Most entrepreneurs start a business because they’re passionate about doing something, but then they need to gravitate into becoming a CEO or business owner or leader. And that might not be just something that they were trained in. So those early days were the start of that ramp. And I’m still on that trajectory to continue to get better and better at being a business leader, as a owner of a company or team leader or founder. But I think back to those individual pain points to get me along the way. And that’s what the early days really resembles to me.
Chad Franzen 8:39
As you mentioned, you hire people who you say, are smarter than you. I mean, that’s great if you guys can all work together as a team, but what are the challenges to kind of for lack of a better word, managing or leading people who are probably all brilliant in their skill set?
Ben LeDonni 8:56
Yeah, so there’s a couple things to that. There’s a there’s a theory out there on hiring smart creatives, which is kind of just like the meshing of the creative side and the logical side of your brain. I think it’s Google who says that, hire smart creatives all the time. But I think it starts before that with hiring based on culture, fit and core values of the company. This is again, on that trajectory of learning things, I’ve done things the hard way and started to realize that, you really want to hire people that exude the same values that you’re trying to uphold as a company. Because a company is a team of people and if those people uphold those same values, then the company will reflect that resemble it. And so we now hire first based on culture, based on is this person good fit to the team, will they jive with others? Do they resemble the values that we already want to portray to our clients and to our partners and friends and family? And then from there, it’s are they smart creatives, are they always learning or do they know what they need to come into the job? I mean, I would rather hire somebody that doesn’t necessarily have all of the skill set, but is it always be learning type of person with the right culture, fit and right personality fit and hire somebody that knows it all already, and will tell everybody they know it all and not fit the values that we have in terms of being a good team?
Chad Franzen 10:15
What are some of the values that you look for?
Ben LeDonni 10:17
Well, so first and foremost is team culture, the fact that they will get along with others that they seek to understand before being understood, it’s a really big one for us. We have quotes up on our wall, and one of them is that it takes an orchestra to whistle a symphony. So you’ve got really a whole bunch of people that are trying to work together. And if one person is the know it all, that breaks down a lot of silos that you don’t want, or I should say, it breaks down a lot of the communication, creating silos that you don’t want. So those are some of the big ones. Like I said, always be learning is huge for us. This industry in and of itself is super-fast paced, we talked about Web 3.0 is a new term that’s out there wasn’t didn’t even exist a year and a half ago. And so we’re always immersed in what’s coming up and what’s going on, and even mobile. We have a conversation this afternoon, educating a client on the index split between mobile and standard devices, and why they really need to be thinking about mobile devices, as its own thing to think about. And there’s just constant terms of learning and educating. Patients is important, too, I think we are big educators for our clients. And we’re not the agency that’s just going to take on a client that has to know it all already and say, “Oh, they don’t know this, so we can’t work with them.” So that patients in education and believing that we will take the time to educate clients is important too.
Chad Franzen 11:39
Is it difficult to kind of stay ahead of like web 3.0? As somebody like me, I probably hear about it, like three months after it after it existed? Is it difficult for you guys to stay ahead of that? Or are you guys just so into that world, and you’d probably do that even if it wasn’t your job?
Ben LeDonni 11:55
I’m doing it even though. It’s inherently built into just what we’re passionate about. I mean, when given the choice between reading anything, I’m going to pick that like, what is the newest geekiest, coolest thing that’s out there. And so I think, again, going back to that hire based on culture and values fit if we hire people that are exuding that value of always be learning, and looking at that latest geeky thing, and creating a home for them to share it, which is also important. Our Slack channels are filled with the geekiest things that probably some people would not really want to care or care to see. But we love it, where we get behind it, and then learn it and be able to apply for clients when it’s relevant.
Chad Franzen 12:37
What would you say are some of the biggest like turning points or milestones that you’re particularly proud of since you launched Creative?
Ben LeDonni 12:46
There’s a lot to that. I mean, there were a lot of them. I would say probably the biggest turning points were also the biggest challenges. So at one point in our office, we had a fire, and it put us basically looking back for we work type space, and the culture of the team really fell apart because we weren’t getting together as much. We lost six out of probably 18 people on the team, maybe it was even less, I think I might have been like 12 on the team at the time. And it really forced us to rethink where we want it to go from there. It was a time period in the business to where I was just like, this is really hard. Do I want to stick with this? Or do I want to give up at this point. And luckily, I have a very supportive wife who said at the time, you didn’t come as far as only come this far. These are learning opportunities. And the growth mindset that we have with my wife and I and our kids just applies to business and work as well. And that was a really big turning point. What it did is it allowed us to focus on not just being a Web Design Development Agency, which we were mostly at the time to be a more of a marketing and return on investment strategic company from a marketing perspective. And when we align that with the fact that digital marketing and digital strategy was a really important piece, it really helped us catapult to the next level in great ways. And so in many ways, it was a shedding of the skin or it was kind of two steps back to take 10 steps forward type of thing, which at the time, I didn’t think it was going to be a good thing. It’s scary. But now I look back on it. That was a pretty pivotal turning point.
Chad Franzen 14:21
Wow, that’s a good story. Can you tell me about a client who came to you and maybe tell me what you did for them and how it helped?
Ben LeDonni 14:32
Yeah, I mean, I won’t get the specifics of the clients and what they do. But we had a client that does something very unique. The first one that comes to mind, they do something really, really unique. And they came to us saying we don’t really have a great digital presence. We haven’t ever looked at the data behind what we’re doing and what’s working and what’s not. They were sizable organization. They weren’t huge, but they weren’t tiny probably, somewhere in the like 200 300 million space. They were like really trying to take it to the next level by levelling up the digital marketing aspect of things. And what we did is we took a look at where they are, where they were at the time. I mean, a lot of what we do is trying to build out a map and a roadmap for where somebody currently is and where they want to go. And we did an assessment of their keywords, the campaigns that they were running, we understood everything about their target audience. We did personas and customer journeys, meaning we started mapping, when they have conversations with prospects, what are those prospects top questions? What do they ask? Where’s their content that they go to look for it? What needs to be on their website to be able to answer those questions, and not just from when they’re a prospect, but all the way through to when they’re closing a deal. And we made sure that we redesigned the website, which took us a little bit, we worked on their new website for four to six months while we even worked on their web campaigns and digital marketing campaigns to learn and apply that to the website. So are these parallel paths going on, I learned as much as we could from the ad campaigns that we’re running, and rebuilt the website with all the customer journey and the insights that we got from the data to a point where we knew the content we were going to put up there was going to resonate with the audience. We just had done all the homework, we put everything out there, within six weeks of launching the site, their SEO, traffic increased by like 50%. I mean, they just were getting a lot more REM organic, inbound engagement on the site went up tremendously. So bounce rate was lower than the time on site, number of pages that people visit was a lot higher. And as a result, they were just doing better as a business. I mean, if you rise all of those numbers, not only do your inbound lead volume go up, but inherently all those conversations that they were having with prospects are also helped. So it doesn’t just help marketing, it helps sales, it helps customer experience. And they were really happy. We worked with them for a couple of years to continue to build out campaigns and work with them. And it’s probably a good success story. It happens to a lot of agencies like us, but they ultimately hired a lot of people on their team and built an agency inside their company that works with them now day in and day out. And we help them get there. I feel like so. It’s a good case study, although we don’t still work with them now.
Chad Franzen 17:12
Okay. Yeah. Well, very nice. Hey, I mentioned in your intro that you’re working on your next venture. Can you tell me about that?
Ben LeDonni 17:19
Yeah. So I mentioned the web 3.0 thing. If web 1.0 was people were putting out content online, and it was just very like, the company puts the content out, it’s out there people can see it, web 2.0 was user generated content. And there’s a little bit of a back and forth. And web 3.0 right now is all about these coins and cryptocurrency but mostly about blockchain and the ability for people to demonstrate ownership on blockchain with some of the relationships that they have with brands or companies. And so I’m working on a project right now where we’re building a white label marketplace for NFT’s and smart contracts, not just NFT’s. But for basically brands or companies that are trying to get online, put their content up on blockchain or contracts or images or whatever it is, in a way where they can engage with their audience and the content that they put up there is blockchained and sold to people, maybe there’s royalty, kickbacks, maybe there’s a longevity between those smart contracts and the consumer. But basically bridging that gap and making it really easy for brands to get onto blockchain, being able to sell products directly to their consumers. It’s really, really hot right now. It’s also in my mind an extremely game changing technology to take ownership away from centralized organizations, and allow technology to do it. And so I really believe that a lot of brands should be jumping on the bandwagon to blockchain things that could be centralized, and now should be decentralized.
Chad Franzen 18:47
Very cool. What are a few of your kind of like daily rituals? What’s a typical day for you?
Ben LeDonni 18:54
Oh, man, I love it. So actually starts with the week. Basically, I start with a Monday morning; sometimes it starts on Sunday night. But what are my key rocks that I want to get done with this week? So my boulders, my rocks, my pebbles, what am I trying to do at the end of this week? I love the quote Steven Kobe became at the end of mine. So I look at the end of the week and say, “What am I going to be happy with getting done this week?” And I write that down first and foremost as my folder as really those my rocks, my boulders are the longer bigger picture things that I need to make sure I’m still working on keeping my eyes on. But that sets me up with the top priority items for the week. And then every day, it cascades into the daily wake up, go to the gym, workout, go for a walk, whatever it is to stay active. And once I get aligned, I have my action plan on my things that I need to do. I do spend a lot of time my kids so the night routine these days is driving kids to and from sports, which is a pretty common occurrence for people with kids my age at 11 year olds and a nine year old. And so, that’s a lot of the routine as well.
Chad Franzen 19:59
I have one question for you. But first, how can people find out more about Creative Multimedia Solutions and your next venture if you’re ready to share that, but how can people find out more info?
Ben LeDonni 20:08
Yeah. So first and foremost would be go to creativemms.com. We have a lot of great content out there. One of the things that we do for our clients is put up resource libraries on websites. And we have a great resource library, which we call Creative University, which has a lot of good content about marketing and what we’ve done and white papers and downloads and things like that up there. The new venture is called Deployment, like if you wanted to deploy the ability to mint items on blockchain. So deployment.com is up. It’s a work in progress for just launching, we really have not even launched our first marketplace, but it should be coming within the next couple of weeks.
Chad Franzen 20:45
Okay. Final question. Are there any books or podcasts that you have found particularly valuable or enjoyable?
Ben LeDonni 20:56
Well, so yeah, there’s a couple. I mean, I love Rocket Fuel. And as that pertains to traction, which is kind of EOS or entrepreneurs operating system. So traction as a methodology for running a business is great. I’m not, we don’t run the business on EOS. So that’s not really like, the be all and end all. But that one comes to mind because I’m reading it. And it’s part of what I’m really studying in terms of applying some of the EOS methodologies that we do want to apply. So I do like that one. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I’m sure a lot of people mentioned that one. But that’s a really good one, especially because as you’re building a team with culture, his number one claim to fame is right button, right seats with the culture that fits and I explained to you a lot about how I feel about that. And so that’s, that’s a really good one too.
Chad Franzen 21:46
Okay. Hey, Ben, it’s been great to talk to you and it’s been great hearing your stories and your insights. Thank you so much, and best of luck in the future.
Ben LeDonni 21:53
Thanks. I appreciate having me.
Chad Franzen 21:55
So long, everybody
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