In this episode, we meet Nathan Delack. Nathan is the Founder and CEO at Delack Media Group. Which is a creative video production agency based in Chicago. Nathan is a creative communications professional with extensive knowledge of current and emerging trends in media technology. Having amassed 24 years of video production experience, Nathan has won multiple regional and national awards and his work can be seen globally on various cable and regional networks.
03 - Nathan Delack - Founder and CEO at Delack Media Group
Benjamin Dell: Welcome to the Master of Letters podcast, where CEOs, marketers, and consultants share the tactics and activities that are driving traffic to their sites and helping them engage with their audience. If you want to learn what's working for others right now so that you can grow your own business then you've come to the right place. I'm your host, Benjamin Dell and here's today's episode. We have today Nathan Delack. Nathan is the founder and CEO at Delack Media Group, which is a creative video production agency based in Chicago. Nathan is a creative communications professional with extensive knowledge of current and emerging trends in media technology, having amassed 24 years of video production experience.
Nathan has won multiple regional and national awards and his work can be seen globally on various cable and regional networks. Nathan, thank you so much for joining us.
Nathan Delack: Thanks for having me I'm not sure if I'm worthy of that amazing bio that you have.
Benjamin Dell: Well, I bastardized it based on what you sent me, so I hope it's right.
Nathan Delack: Thanks. Appreciate it.
Benjamin Dell: No, it was great to have you along. So I ran an agency for 10 years previous to Missinglettr. So I'm guessing yours is a similar model. It's a service-based business. Tell us a bit about the nature of the business, what it is you do specifically, and how do you make money? What's your revenue model?
Nathan Delack: I started the company in 2009 and before then I was actually in television news for over a decade. I was shooting murders, fires, you name it all around. It started in Iowa, but then also went to Chicago, which is where I grew up and where my family was. So when the opportunity came to come back to Chicago, that was great for me. And in Chicago we have a huge problem with murders and just crime in general. So news is fascinating to me. I could ride around and capture whatever's happening and be the eyes and ears for people at home who couldn't be there like me.
So in 2009 I branched out and started my own company, the Delack Media Group. And we started out doing weddings primarily and weddings were good for us because we could see, five, six, seven months from now kind of what our revenue was going to look like. And as we kind of carved a special niche in the marketplace when we were doing weddings it was more storytelling based instead of the long boring, like two, three hour wedding video that maybe our parents might've had. We kind of put together a short form cinematic film of their day. And so not only were the couples amazed at what we were doing for their weddings, but their parents or the companies that they worked for were like, Oh my gosh, do you guys do something like that for businesses? And we were like yeah, why not? So that wedding work all of a sudden started branching into commercial work and now primarily we are doing the majority commercial work.
Benjamin Dell: Interesting because you used the word predictable revenue there. And so you started out with weddings as a focus and there was some predictable revenue around that. I suspect you have future bookings nicely ahead. So you had a nice pipeline there and that can be a blessing and also a crucifix as well. It can be a bit of a problem because predictable is what you want really, as a business owner, having that revenue booked in is it's a nice position to be in. So to what extent was it an easy decision to switch over? I know you had some leads and you had people interested from the business side of things, asking if you could replicate some of those approaches for them. But to what extent was it an easy shift to go from the predictable to arguably a bit more risky or, or did you find your feet fairly quickly there?
Nathan Delack: I think as entrepreneurs we're always taking risks, in everything that we do, it's like, you have to push yourself to do something different because otherwise you're just stuck in this rut and making the switch from that paycheck that you always expect to being an entrepreneur is hard. You take that leap of faith, is this going to work that you're always wondering and worrying, but it all worked out. The same thing for switching from weddings to commercial work, it just kind of had this natural progression and every year we started doing more and more commercial work to the point that it's now the majority of what we do and the brands that we work with, they see the value because my background is in storytelling. We use that kind of storytelling feature in the films that we create for brands. And they're like, oh my gosh, this is amazing. Now that you've done this one project for us, our CEO saw the video and now he wants, or she wants to do a whole series of videos about our clients or whatever it might be. So it's interesting how it all just kind of progresses and branches out.
Benjamin Dell: That storytelling component; is that something that you take on in terms of scripting and everything else, or are you given that material by the client? Because it sounds almost as if you're becoming part marketer and part sort of videographer and video production.
Nathan Delack: Yeah. We take care of everything from concept to creation. A lot of clients come to us and say very simply we need a video about our brand, we don't have anything right now on our website. We don't have anything on social media. We need help. And we know we need a video, but we need you to help us kind of put it together.
Benjamin Dell: Yeah. I mean, most businesses are terrible at telling their own stories. It's a fact.
Nathan Delack: That's the thing. And it's like the painter who has never painted his house. It's like we're in the business of doing whatever we do and sometimes, we're not the pros that are tweaking our website or producing a video or putting together those graphics that you might need in a print ad or something like that. Sometimes it's all about focusing on what you do best and then outsourcing those things that you need help with. And just recognizing that, Hey maybe that iPhone and that iMovie editing system that our intern has, maybe that won't cut it. I say a lot of things, a lot of times the brands it's like, video is an extension of your marketing. So would you have an intern put together your website? The same goes for video, make sure that the quality of your video matches the quality of your brand.
Benjamin Dell: For sure. Interesting. Okay. So what's your revenue model? How do you make money? Is it pure sort of project based? Do you work on retainers or something else?
Nathan Delack: The majority of our projects are project based. So a client comes to us with a specific need and says, yeah, we need either a braining film or something for social media, maybe a commercial for broadcast. We do have some retainer clients as well though.
Benjamin Dell: So how do you manage, again just remembering back to the bleak old days when I ran an agency, the thing that would keep me up at night was the lack of pipeline or the pipeline being there but it's this notion that being a project based business, you're constantly having to seek out the new leads and then getting through the pipeline and convert them. So how do you tackle that problem? How do you keep it topped up, but how do you also create an efficient conversion at the end of it as you possibly can?
Nathan Delack: Well I think the important part for businesses is very initially to just have a product or a service that people want, people want to talk about and that they want to buy. If we don't have that then beyond what we deliver initially, there's nothing really to talk about with everyone. So it's important to have that service that people need. And for us it's providing that experience, providing customer service that people want to do business with.
You enjoy the whole process because people come to us with - they've never done a video for their website or for their company. And they're like, where do I even start? So just treating them like a regular person. And we've been blessed in the fact that it's all kind of worked out for us. Beyond that initial service what we do is, we have two blogs, so we have one blog for the wedding side of everything that we do and then another blog for the commercial work.
Benjamin Dell: Ah so you are still doing the weddings. Okay. Interesting. Because I was going to say it sounded there as if you were telling me that it's all entirely based on word of mouth and we don't do anything proactive or anything there at all. So you have two blogs. Are those your two primary marketing outputs?
Nathan Delack: Exactly. Yeah. We get calls all the time from all sorts of online directories and print ad kind of stuff and we've found that the best time is spent for us online. That's through our blogs, our blogs are huge in SEO. After we finish a project, then we like to kind of blog about it. And we talk about all the behind the scenes stuff that went into producing that video. And then we kind of optimize that based on certain keywords in the area.
Benjamin Dell: And is there anything specific you're looking for? So you finished a job, you then do a write-up on it. What are we talking? Let's break it down into language that our audience will understand. So you're going to walk through one blog post, or you're going to a series of blog posts. And for those blog posts, what are you trying to get out of it? Is there anything tangible you're looking for or is it just sort of knowing that simply by getting it out there over time, it will create some traffic.
Nathan Delack: Yeah the blog serves a couple of purposes. First it's a marketing tool where it tells potential clients kind of the process that we took to get to that final output, that final video that we produced. Second it's SEO for us. We're trying to target certain markets. So if we produce a video for a lawyer, then we try to SEO ‘attorney and lawyer’ and all that stuff with local words in the blog post. And third we just want to give people kind of a taste of what we do, show them all the videos that we've produced and all that.
Benjamin Dell: But just to be clear for that single project that you've completed, you're aiming to do one write-up on that – a blog post or are you looking to do a series of posts?
Nathan Delack: Yeah for the videos that we produce we'll create kind of one main blog post that talks about the behind the scenes, how we got the video that it is now. And then also we might do kind of like break off blog posts as well. So like 10 tips on how an attorney can start using video, or we have stuff up right now like ‘You know how non profits can raise over a million dollars’ or ‘how you can get more than 500,000 views in one day on a video’. So yeah we look at kind of those projects that we do, and we say, Hey what kind of other blog posts can we create?
Benjamin Dell: Interesting. And do you have any specific goals for each of those blog posts or is that just too granular at this stage? I mean, you were talking about SEO optimized and all that sort of stuff, which obviously makes sense, but are you specifically saying, okay, well, we've just done a project within the lawyer/legal space, let's do a blog post on it and let's aim to get on the first page for these terms. Do you try and go that deep and try and have specific objectives for each blog post? Or are they purely there just to add to the overall collection of blog posts and that's it you move on?
Nathan Delack: Yeah, I think it's a couple of things. We want to inform everyone kind of what we're doing. So not only do we create the blog posts, but then we push it out through social media and we're like, Hey this is the project that we just worked on. So now what we're finding is through social media, they're tagging their friends and they're like, Hey Joe, look, they just did a video for a nonprofit. And they helped them raise over a million dollars at their fundraising event. Check this out. So yeah, it all kind of like spider webs out. So each blog post kind of has its own purpose as far as what we're trying to do with it.
Benjamin Dell: So the numbers behind it is what I'm sort of going after here. You're not saying this one needs to achieve this position on Google. This one needs to get me 60 likes. You're not being that granular.
Nathan Delack: The thing is that Google is always changing and it's the same kind of philosophy that I run my business with. If you have that foundation, that base of treating people right and doing well with the projects, if you create content that people want to read I kind of think that things kind of pan out in the end. Things are always changing with the algorithms online, but if you create that content that is newsworthy per se when people want to click on it and share it and all that kind of stuff, we think, it all kind of evens out.
Benjamin Dell: Yeah. It makes sense. So blogging is your key medium. So how many overall would you say you're publishing on a typical month? How many blog posts are we getting out there?
Nathan Delack: Boy, I'd say, between 5 and 10 blog posts, I try to aim for per month. I think when entrepreneurs chew, it's smaller businesses like ours. You wear a lot of hats. And so I used to look at blog posting as kind of like another task that was daunting to have to push that stuff all out. I knew that you get that initial push at the beginning, but you want to do like a lot of things beyond that and you want to put it out, not just that first time. But there are viewers not just at 9:00 AM in the morning, there's also people online at five o'clock at night or whatever it might be. And before you just had to physically do that yourself. Then Facebook added this scheduled post, which was great. But now we use Missinglettr. Once I found out about this product, it was like life-changing for me and gave me so much extra time. Because all the scheduling that I used to do manually is kind of like done automatically.
Benjamin Dell: Well, that's cool but dangerously getting into an advert now, which wasn't the intention, but appreciate the mention there. So you're talking about many hats there. Talk to me about your team. Do you have a team? Are you entirely independent or do you have people that write for you? Give me a sense as to your team size.
Nathan Delack: Yeah, exactly. So there are two of us full time, and then there are 24 freelancers. We have everything from producer/writers to animators, drone operators, voiceover artists etc so based on the pipeline and the projects that we have going on, we kind of scale as needed. Basically clients come to us with whatever video need they have and we can pretty much fulfill it.
Benjamin Dell: Yeah, because I would imagine video is such a broad sort of topic and when you sort of layer that with the specifics of all the nuances of the business that you're creating a video for, I can imagine there being such a mesh of skills needed; different styles, different sort of geographies and all sorts of different things going on there. That means that there probably isn't one single person that could do all of that work, no matter what the requirement. So you've got 24 freelancers; that's a sizeable number. Okay.
Let's just dive into the content a bit more specifically now. So we know what the general strategy there is that you're producing a blog post for each project/story that you publish. What is it you actually want people to do when they land on your site? I noticed you have a ‘get a quote’ button there, which seems to be your call to action. And yet I imagine that your projects aren't a fiver style sort of, sub a hundred dollars sort of thing. I would imagine they’re a high ticket sort of value. So you're not necessarily going to be expecting people to click and contact you immediately or follow up, or even just have the need for your services immediately. So how do you manage that process where you might find someone reading your content today, but not necessarily needing your services for maybe another couple of months? How do you balance that?
Nathan Delack: Yeah. We want to establish a relationship. First we want to introduce them to the brand and what we do, that we create stories for your brand and people click around and they look around our website. It's not just one video there we literally have hundreds of video examples on our website and blogs. And so people just kind of look around and then they contact us and they're like, I was looking around your website. I was on there for like half an hour before I knew it. And when I realized how much time had passed, I'm like oh my gosh, I need a video for my company just like this. And it's all about establishing that relationship. Like tell me more about yourself. Tell me more about your brand. How did it get started? What do you guys enjoy doing?
Benjamin Dell: But for those that don't follow through; what are you doing to increase the chances that they're not going to fall off the radar? So are you encouraging them to sign up to a newsletter so that you can drip things out to them over an 8 or 12 week period? Or are you just sort of falling back on and relying on the fact that they hopefully have remembered your name, your brand, and they will find you again organically in the future.
Nathan Delack: There is a couple things. The first is we have a kind of a downloadable e-book that talks about best practices. Where do you even start if this is your first video project that you've done for your company? Where do I get started? So we have an e-book that they can download for that and that's on delackmediagroup.com. It's kind of like seven questions to ask yourself before starting a video project. We put a lot of time and thought into it based on kind of the feedback that we had from people who just pick up the phone or send us an email and go through all the things that you should kind of ask yourself before you start a project. And then second we'd like them obviously to follow us on social media. So we have links to social media as well. We're on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, all that kind of stuff.
Benjamin Dell: Okay. Do you happen to know any numbers for that e-book because I'm super fascinated on that. How many people are downloading it? What sort of conversions are you getting? Do you have any sense as to how effective it is in a sort of numerical sense?
Nathan Delack: Yeah, that's a great question. I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but I can tell you this; since we started doing not only Missinglettr, but we created the e-book we kind of have more of a social media presence now online, we're finding out that the leads who are contacting us are just not like blind calls like they're dropping 10 different contact forms to 10 different video production companies. They're specifically contacting us because the work that they've seen us do, and we are the only ones that they want to work with. They just basically make that initial contact to see what we can do for them.
Benjamin Dell: Interesting. I mean, that would certainly suggest that your marketing message is accurate and focused enough that it's grabbing the right people, which is cool. I mean that's great if that's happening. Okay, great.
Nathan Delack: It's in the background too. It's like in my background with the television news, being in news for so long, we told people's stories every single day. And to have that kind of background is invaluable for a brand. Because it's like you can go to a marketing agency or whatever and they've kind of like had to learn storytelling through the years, but to have someone who told people's stories every single day is beneficial to the companies that we work with.
Benjamin Dell: Yeah, not just everyday but with rolling news, being what it is, I mean, multiple news stories every day and probably having to then rehash them and rephrase them multiple times for the six o'clock, seven o'clock, the eight o'clock news bulletins.
Nathan Delack: Like we'd be sent to a story and we'd kind of know like the general idea of what's happening but we didn't know all the players and stuff like that. So when you get to the scene, you have to develop that story on your toes, you got to think immediately right there and put this together for the five o'clock news in a couple hours or whatever it might be. And so having that background and constantly churning out these stories at such a certain caliber. It's like the skills that I took from news, and now put that into the video productions that we create; clients value that.
Benjamin Dell: Love it. It's an interesting parallel there. Okay. Let's wrap up with a quick fire round. Short answers if you can. If there was one social network you could use for your business to promote it, which one would you use?
Nathan Delack: Facebook.
Benjamin Dell: Facebook. Okay. What's your favorite online tool to help you build, grow or manage your business?
Nathan Delack: Táve
Benjamin Dell: Táve. And what does that do? I haven't come across that one.
Nathan Delack: It's a project management tool. So I found out about it a few years ago and it's kind of automated the whole process. After a client wants to book us we can take them through e-contract signing to payments to all the way through. It's an automated system where I can send out emails after the project's done kind of follow up. How did things go? It has also been a huge time-saver.
Benjamin Dell: And how do you spell that one?
Nathan Delack: That's Tave.com
Benjamin Dell: Okay.
For someone that’s already running a business, but who's only now just getting into content marketing – what one tip would you give them? Or on the flip side, what would the one thing be that they shouldn't be doing depending on how you like to look at things?
Nathan Delack: Put content out there that people want to read. Put yourself in your consumer's shoes and say, what information do they need and create content around that. Then they not only want to hear it but that they will want to share with others that they know.
Benjamin Dell: Yes. Key point there, not just what they might want to hear, but something that is shareable and that other people might be happy to share. Okay. Finally, is there a CEO or marketer that you're following right now?
Nathan Delack: Oh, good question. No.
Benjamin Dell: You take it all from yourself and all that unique brainstorming.
Cool. Love it. Well, there you have it. That was Nathan Delack. He started out in the news and it gave him the tools and the skills that he's using today in his new business. He branched out in 2009 to form his own company. He started out focusing on weddings, but saw an uptake in interest from commercial outlets and businesses who were looking to use his services to help them weave their own stories. He operates two blogs, one for the commercial side of things and one for the weddings that he’s kept on maintaining. He generally writes a long form write up for each project once they've completed it as a way of drawing people in and engaging with them. That equates to around 5 to 10 blog posts per month.
In terms of the team it’s two full-time and 24 freelancers that he uses as he needs to. And for those that land on the site, apart from being able to fill out a quote form, he also makes use of an e-book to great effects to draw people in. Nathan, thank you so much for sharing your story and we look forward to catching up with you soon.
Nathan Delack: Thanks so much for having me, Ben. It was great talking to you.