Doug Morneau is a serial entrepreneur, host of the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast, and author of Three Big Lies: The Real Truth about Renting Email Lists to Generate Targeted Leads and Sales. In this interview, he shares his experience responding to COVID-19 as a digital marketer and investor.

John Meese 0:01
Doug, thank you so much for joining me. How are you doing today?

Doug Morneau 0:04
I'm doing really well. Thanks so much for inviting me.

John Meese 0:07
Well, it's my pleasure, Doug, you know, this is actually we flipped this right? Because not too long ago, I was actually a guest on your podcast. And so I appreciate you being willing to reverse the roles and also be a guest here as well.

Doug Morneau 0:20
Oh, absolutely. No, we had a great conversation. So I'm happy to have another hopefully great conversation.

John Meese 0:25
Well, let's hope so. I think so. So, Doug, even though you've I and I have had this conversation before, I'm sure there are people who are listening to this podcast, who haven't had the pleasure of getting to know you a bit. So why don't we start if you wouldn't mind, I would love if you would just summarize. What are you up to? I mean, what gets you out of bed in the morning and how do you spend your days.

Doug Morneau 0:45
Normally, I get up when I wake up. So I've given up when the alarm clock and so I follow my natural body and my goal is to get at least eight hours of good sleep every night. And most mornings I head off to the gym. So I start off that Olympic lifting. Start at And then move on to CrossFit exercise and then back home to put my hands on the keyboard and see if I can help my clients with their sales and marketing problems.

John Meese 1:09
Well, that sounds like a pretty good day. So what kind of sales and marketing problems do you solve? And how do you solve them?

Doug Morneau 1:15
Well, typically, you know, the the clients have got a business that the business is running. You know, it's been up and running for a while they're spending money on advertising. So lots of times, they're using their internal team to do that. And so they're needing need some external resources. So I'll come in and help them with the strategy and then help their team to execute. But often they've got another agency. I just finished a project with a client and they had two other agencies. So I was the third one in and we said, we need you to fix this. And it was it was really interesting. So they made some changes, some staff changes, some agency changes, and hopefully we got them in the right track. So anyhow, they're looking for leads, right they're typically looking for leads, they're not getting enough flow, they're not enough sales and right to try and get everybody out. is doing so the herd mentality?

John Meese 2:02
Yeah. And it's not working for them

Doug Morneau 2:04
not working for them.

John Meese 2:07
Well, that's why you're here, right? So we'll get well appreciate you sharing that a little bit. Now, for our purposes today for this conversation, I would love to talk for a minute about the economic crisis that we're in the midst of right now. And of course, COVID-19 started as a health crisis. But it's become much more than that, you know, the lockdown has become really an economic crisis, and perhaps even a marketing crisis. And so, I love to dive in and talk about that. But first, Doug, before we get to the business matter, I would love to know your personal experience. Specifically, I'd love to know if you remember when you first realized that COVID-19 was a real threat. In other words, was there a moment where you were talking to someone or you're in a location and you suddenly realize, wow, this is not just another headline? This is something very different.

Doug Morneau 2:51
Yeah, I remember it because I was when I first heard about it. I thought it's just a bunch of people blowing up numbers out of context. And you know, so I went and looked at statistic To validate my feelings to justify what I was thinking, and I went, well, you know, I look at how many people die every year because they don't have clean potable water. You know, I look at how many people die from all these different diseases, type two diabetes and thinking if they want to do something, why don't they tackle that problem instead of a flu? And then to your point, then I realized, oh, man, this is this is real. It's not just a runny nose and a bit of a fever. I mean, people are dying from this, and to better pay attention. And so that was, you know, that was kind of a wake up call when I went when I realized that it was not just the media hype, but it was actually a real thing.

John Meese 3:36
Right. So when you so for you, that was actually that came from digging into the data a little bit. It sounds like, Yeah, well, that's good. I mean, I'm sure that that comes up. I'm sure that comes from that data focused marketing. But you know, that's you. I'm a data nerd when it comes to pretty much anything so I get that. Well, so as a business owner, and as a consultant, how did you respond?

Doug Morneau 3:56
Well, I tell people that I had more time but that's simply not true. I actually doubled down my effort. So I'm pretty much working six and a half days a week now. And I'm working longer hours. But what I've done is I took a step back and I looked at, you know, every year I normally take a couple weeks, and I think of, you know, what did I do last year that worked well, what didn't work well in terms of system, people, customers, and I realized the business model that I had wasn't going to be sustainable. Moving forward. It wasn't a business model one to keep growing, right. And I looked at where I was spending my time and my team was spending their efforts. And we just stopped doing a whole bunch of stuff.

John Meese 4:33
Yeah, stopped doing a bunch of stuff.

Doug Morneau 4:35
Yeah, I just said, You know what, we're not and my, my team that does a social media freaked out, they thought they're all going to get laid off. I sent them a note say, Hey, stop all the posting on all the social platforms. And, you know, we're posting You know, every hour on the hour on Twitter, so 24 posts a day on Twitter, they created and, you know, doesn't post on LinkedIn and posts on Facebook and they went, I got this thing, boss. There's something wrong. It's like, nope, we're just going to shut it off. We're going to see see if there's a difference in terms of response and inquiries and leads and big surprise, there was no difference.

John Meese 5:05
So you shut off all the social media, by the way. I don't know. I don't remember we talked about this in our last interview, but you know, I don't have any social media accounts.

Doug Morneau 5:11
Yeah, we did. Now that you mentioned I do remember that conversate Yeah.

John Meese 5:16
So this was unplanned, right. I'm not just trying to, you know,

Doug Morneau 5:19

John Meese 5:22
But uh, so you you deleted all your or you stopped posting on social media. You had a whole team focused on this you had them stop that and how did that how did that affect when was this is this irrelevant? Or is this unrelated to the current crisis was

Doug Morneau 5:35
No no, this is definitely with the crisis because I had a little bit more time to think so when I said I'm working more hours I mean, I'm working a lot more hours but some of my hours now it's what I call thinking time. Yeah, so cup of coffee and physical paper Notepad, leave my phone, a laptop in the house, go sit out in the in the yard, and distinct so about whatever comes to mind jotted down and just, you know, get some time to think about stuff instead of just doing stuff all the time.

John Meese 5:59
Yeah. So during this time, one of the things was cut back on social media, and what was the impact?

Doug Morneau 6:04
Well, in terms of responsiveness and people reaching out to me, it didn't change at all. So I was still getting the same number of inquiries or LinkedIn for people for, you know, new business leads. Nobody sent me a note and said, Hey, are you okay? I've noticed you've stopped posting, right. But so what I did is I moved my team's effort to recreating and rebranding all of our materials. So we went back. And because I've got a team, we went back historically, and I've just recorded my 205th podcast. So we've redone Thank you, we've redone every image with the new image going back 200 episodes. Oh, wow. And, and now we're going to go back and we're going to redo all 200 episodes and SEO them better. Okay, so, building tons of content, I've got it I've got now this problem I'm having is I've got thousands of posts that we've created. And now we need to get them organized so our team can start re executing in September.

John Meese 6:59
Yeah. So, you mentioned there was no immediate drop off. But I'm just curious. I'm imagining the skeptic, the social media lover and skeptic who listen to this right now. How long has it been since you cut off the social media water hose or fire hoses? And has that, you know, is it appear that to beer that there's still no difference?

Doug Morneau 7:17
It does. I mean, now I in fairness, I've been posting a little bit more. Okay. So I've had I've had one of my VA is posting half a dozen posts for me on Twitter. I'm posting myself now manually on LinkedIn trying to get a better, better ranking on my posts. So now, you know, I'm posting maybe two, three times a week instead of a dozen times a day. And then my focus moving out will be less third party content and more of our own in house content. So you know, I'm going to release these podcasts these 200 episodes, including your episode, we're going to start putting press releases out for the rereleased episodes. Cool, and we've created you know, a whole bunch of new material, you know, to support We're doing like you said, you're publishing a book, I published a book and a whole bunch of people gave me reviews on Amazon and a bunch of people wrote the foreword. So we've created graphics to support that we're creating audio files to support that. So it's really about what can I do to to get our brand out there in a larger way. So pulling back was a good thing for us to kind of regroup and say, Okay, we're just going to put this on pause, and then we'll relaunch again in September.

John Meese 8:25
Okay. Well, that's interesting. Okay, so you're really looking this current transition we're in right now. We're talking in early July. So you're kind of in the midst of in your mind, kind of like a reef like a refresh or a rebuild in a way?

Doug Morneau 8:35
Yeah, I mean, we got I've been off social now in a big way for a couple months.

John Meese 8:39
Wow, okay. So well, how is the economic crisis impacted your business so far? So you mean, I'm familiar Forgive me for not being more familiar with the inner workings of the your products and services, but you mentioned that these kind of marketing consulting, you know, operations that you have going on? Is that your primary bread and butter?

Doug Morneau 8:57
It is? Yep. Yep. So typically a good In an offer, you know, strategy try to fix the problem from a high level. Before we get into tactics. Everyone wants to start with tactics like hey, I was at the seminar I was on this webinar and I heard that I got to be on Tik Tok. It's like, Who's your Who's your customer?

John Meese 9:13
Right? I gotta I gotta use I got to use mini chat. I got to have all these

Doug Morneau 9:16
Yeah, Gary Vee said I should do this. It's like, Well, yeah, you know, he's, he's doing it is working for him. But you're not Gary Vee. Like, if you don't like video don't do video,

John Meese 9:23
right? Yeah. Yes. So well, how is that? How is that impacted? In other words, are you seeing mean where you're looking? And we're mostly retainer clients, or were you relying on a steady stream of incoming clients? And has that changed in the current crisis?

Doug Morneau 9:37
It has, I mean, I was focusing mainly on the real estate world. So I was helping people to raise money for for real estate buildings. So these guys are syndicating. They're buying up, they're buying up property. They're redeveloping it, they're putting up high rises. So you know, that just became very difficult to work with that client. So that client we did that project ended. It had a sunset. It wasn't it was pretty, you know, they always want to do seminars like Dude, no one wants to go sit in a room and listen to your pitch about real estate. Oh, yes, they will. Oh, it's not working. It's like, No kidding. It's not working. It's costing us $300 on Facebook ads to get somebody in the room. And so what happened is, I think, you know, what happened with me Anyhow, I can't speak for other companies, is there are a lot of companies that were probably marginal in terms of where they were financially. And I know you've got an economic background. So they were probably a little bit close to the edge. And when this hit it gave them permission to just stop paying people. So you know, it left us with some debt. Some people bailed in, and and, you know, didn't pay and didn't pay the Google bills and didn't pay that. And, you know, that's just the way it is. But for me, that's also a learning lesson. I think the best way that I can judge somebody's character is see them under pressure.

John Meese 10:48
That's true. That's true. Yeah, yeah. No, I think I think that's right. Okay. So well, where are you at now? I mean, like you mentioned, like some of these early clients, you know, some of them either didn't pay the bills or You know, maybe may have dropped off the betta like you said, not pretty sunset. But as you have another opportunity that's come up in the midst of this.

Doug Morneau 11:08
Absolutely, yeah,

John Meese 11:09
yeah. So what does that look like?

Doug Morneau 11:11
I can play a little bit about I can

John Meese 11:14
You don't have to reveal your whole business plan. I'm just, yeah, just trying to just try to get a pulse on what's going on.

Doug Morneau 11:18
Well, and so my thinking for the entrepreneurs that are listening to this is that I think that when there is adversity, there's also opportunity. So you know, you're a money guy, or at least you've got an economic understanding, and I read a book years ago, okay, your money guy, so what blood on the streets and they say, you know, what do you do when there's blood on the streets talking about the stock market, then? So you look at the people who are super successful, and their buyers, not sellers. Right? Yeah. So you know, look at your own business and look at what your competitors are doing and how are they responding. Another book I read was blue ocean strategy. So you know, I just shared that with one of the guys in the gym. He goes, What's that mean? And I said, Well, you know, so to use an advertising example. The the blood in the water right now is Facebook, everyone's on Facebook. So that's why Facebook sales went from 8 billion and advertising last year to 70. This year, and a bit of a bump. Because everybody's there. So what does that tell you? When there's everybody there? You probably missed the opportunity. Should you still advertise there? Yes. But I would be looking for better channels. Right. So that's, that's what I'm doing. That's what I did the last economic crisis to await 209. The stock market crashed 100% of my clients were private equity clients raising money, or public companies raising money.

John Meese 12:34
Wow. So well, let's talk about that for a second. Because I mean, if we're looking at patterns here, obviously the 2008 economic crisis is very different from this economic crisis. But they're both crises and you were involved in that one. So how did you respond to that? How'd you recover?

Doug Morneau 12:47
We didn't recover. We, we made so much money for ourselves and our clients. It was almost embarrassing.

John Meese 12:53
Oh, no.

Doug Morneau 12:56
You know, we went to our suppliers and and said, Hey, you know, we want better prices. on buying media, so I was buying advertising from them. And we reduced our advertising costs. And my client said, Well, what should I do? I said you should double your budget. Right? Well, yeah, have less money. You need to talk to more people. So you know, they were spending. I mean, Now admittedly, some of my clients had bigger budgets. So they were spending about 70 grand a week on advertising. And they said, so you want us to go to 140? Yep, they went, Okay. So I had two or three clients go to 140. And they went, Wow, this works really well. And then what happened was some of the the media companies that we wanted to buy advertising from that didn't like the stuff we were advertising. Now we're open to take us on as a client, you needed revenue. So some new media came so some new opportunities to advertise and our clients said, What should we do now to double your budget again?

John Meese 13:45
Yeah, wow. So So what kind of you were advertising financial service packages of some kind?

Doug Morneau 13:50
Financial services, investment opportunities, and marketing specific companies

John Meese 13:55
Gotcha. Oh so, marketing specific companies less of like a kind of mutual fund or like Yeah,

Doug Morneau 14:00
here's an oil and gas company, a solar company, a CBD company, whatever, fill in the blank.

John Meese 14:04
Cool. Gotcha. So that's interesting. So you did really well during that time.

Doug Morneau 14:09
And our clients did really well. I mean, we we moved our budget from 70,000. We had one client stay with us at 300,000 a week, they went to 400,000 a week. So it made me one of the largest purchasers in the US have rented and sponsored email.

John Meese 14:21
Wow. Yeah. And that's is that still I know, for a while, by the way, I know that was for a while your main focus? Is that still your main focus? is renting access to email list?

Doug Morneau 14:30
It is.

John Meese 14:30
Okay. Yeah. So

Doug Morneau 14:32
Only because it works, right? I think it works out really well.

John Meese 14:37
Yeah, exactly. Well, is that Do you think there's interesting, you know, there's a lot to think about in terms of comparative thinking about that crisis and this crisis. So in both of these crises, you've been able to adapt your business strategy, double down as it were . What do you think makes that possible, you know, your ability to see that opportunity and dive into it? Is there anything you're doing on the back of your business, financially or strategically to set it up where you can Can't make those kind of decisions.

Doug Morneau 15:01
I wish I could say yes.

John Meese 15:03
Okay. Yeah.

Doug Morneau 15:04
But the reality is it part of it's my personality. And and you know, they said will this work? I said, Yes, it will, I hope.

John Meese 15:13
Yes, it will. I hope let's go do it.

Doug Morneau 15:15
Yeah, let's let's go do it. And you know, in the in the guise of testing, let's see if it works.

John Meese 15:20
Yes. Okay, under the guise of testing like that. So that's interesting. Well, well, let's talk about that back end, though. For a minute, though. Is there anything you're doing right now in your business in terms of rethinking? Because like you mentioned, you had some rough ends with some of these clients. I mean, that's not I'm sure that's a huge burden. So do you think that changes any of your strategy moving forward to how you structure client relationships or your business finances or contracts or anything like that?

Doug Morneau 15:44
Yeah, it does. I've been telling people that I want to get to a point where I don't work with any outside clients anymore.

John Meese 15:50
oh, really,

Doug Morneau 15:50
my latest, my latest newsletter, I put a PS at the bottom. I'm so excited to say that I'm not accepting any more clients and winding down my client relationship. So I'm going to focus on building our own internal businesses.

John Meese 16:03
Well, any pushback from that?

Doug Morneau 16:06
uh, No.

John Meese 16:08
Okay, great. Well, cool. Well, um, so how are you pivoting to pursue opportunity? I mean, so like you kind of mentioned about some of the opportunity you're seeing right now in terms of doubling down on your own business and rethinking, you know, are your, where you focus your efforts such as social media, for example, but how do you actually identify which opportunity that you should pursue? Because even if you've got the lens that that that where there is adversity, there is opportunity, that can be a little overwhelming if you see all these options. So how do you decide what to pursue?

Doug Morneau 16:34
I think the first thing is you need to pay attention. So you need to look at where you're currently at your business and realize that you might need to restructure change your business or you know, if I was a restaurant, you know what I want the bailout money or should I just admit right now that I can never operate at 50% and just close it today? Well, quit, quit, you know, buying into the dream that it's going to be okay because for 50% of them, it's not going to be okay. So look at your current situation and have Have a hard look at, you know, where are your customers going? What are your customers expectations now moving forward? And can you? Can you meet those under this crisis? And what's it going to look like a year from now? And maybe it's time to you know, I don't want use the P word because I don't like it. It's overused. But you know, you know, maybe it's time for change. So that's what I'm doing. I'm looking at you know, where's where's the marketplace going? The marketplace has moved significantly to e commerce. So the days of having a discussion when you and I would be at a chamber of commerce or at a conference talking about getting online and people say, Well, I'm not online. I don't need to be online on you know how to turn a computer on it's like, that's over Yeah, it's over. So you're, you know, you're done. So where people going? So I was looking at some statistics yesterday in the UK. 85,000 new ecommerce sites went live in the last last month and a bit.

John Meese 17:52

Doug Morneau 17:54
So where's the market moving? Yeah, I looked at all the companies that are going into receivership and us all the all the brick and mortar companies that are filed for bankruptcy like Brooks Brothers and some of the big, you know, Gold's Gym and GNC and GNC and thinking I buy from GNC What's the matter with them and my wife went, when's the last time you saw somebody in the store when we were in the store? Aside staff members? It's tough to order from them online.

John Meese 18:19
Right, right. No, no, I mean, I'm imagine so many legacy brands right now that are I heard Macy's is in trouble. I don't know if they've officially declared the end. But you know, JC Penney, all these major businesses, they're really just, you know, they're like, legacy company, you know, companies in America who've been around for a long time, you know, some of them with a global presence, and they're just saying, like, we're out. We're done. You know, and I think that's, so

Doug Morneau 18:42
you want to learn from it, look at their failures and go, why are they out? Like, why did Sears Roebuck close down when they had the catalog business because they didn't go online?

John Meese 18:50
Right, right. Right where the catalogs went because the catalogs went online.

Doug Morneau 18:53
Yeah, catalogs went online and you know, they had the perfect they had the perfect storm, the perfect opportunity because you could order something online. And if you didn't like it, you could return it to a store. So now you see Amazon. What's Amazon doing? Amazon is now looking at buying brick and mortar stores, they're looking at buying JC Penney,

John Meese 19:09
right? Because the return to the return industry is incredibly expensive. And so they can optimize that. Awesome. Yeah, good for them. Well, that's interesting. So what advice do you have for the business owner who's listening to this? And maybe so they might actually be part of that. 50%? Like you said, these small businesses that really are, you know, in, they maybe not admitted yet, but maybe they need to go belly up and rebuild something from the ashes? What advice do you have for them about how to do that and do it in a sustainable way?

Doug Morneau 19:35
Well, I just say, you know, I tell people that you need to find something that you're passionate about that you like to do, and so it's not work. So it sounds a little bit trite. I mean, that was my advice to my kids, find something that wakes you up 30 minutes for your alarm. Do that and hopefully someone will pay you. But also pay attention to kind of where the world's moving and I don't mean from listening to two analysts. I mean, who can really predict the future All we know is that the future is going to be you know, we're gonna have more people So COVID is gonna go away, or they're going to get a vaccine. But what's the next crisis going to be that shows up? Right? So you know, I think you need to be flexible. And I just think you need to pay attention. If you pay attention, look around, ask questions. And listen. There's so much opportunity there right now. I mean, for me, I'm always ADD, it's like, wow, there's so much stuff, I have to shut all the noise out, because it's like, I could do this. I could do this. I could do this. I could do this. So I could write a book on all the opportunities that I see every week. So there's First of all, you know, look where you're at, and then be open to new ideas, and don't believe that there's no new ideas. There's a ton of opportunity.

John Meese 20:38
Yeah, I love that. So does your advice differ for, I mean I think there's kind of two different groups right now there's, there are people that that they just need to rebuild from scratch to rebuild from scratch. And these are people that either existing business owners that had to declare bankruptcy or walk away from an old business model, or some of the, you know, 10s of millions of people that just got promoted from employee to entrepreneur. So they're the They were there that same boat, right? They're gonna build something from scratch. Do you have any difference and advice for them versus the existing business owner that has to use the P word.

Doug Morneau 21:08
And we say post that once pivot

John Meese 21:10
will say once they know we're talking about, yeah,

Doug Morneau 21:13
We're not gonna say the new normal anymore, either. Yeah.

John Meese 21:16
Yeah. So is your advice any different for those two groups?

Doug Morneau 21:20
I would just say do do some research. I mean, there's tools available these days, I was just talking to somebody this morning about that I said, you can anticipate demand of products and services by what people are doing online. So get online and use the tool. So use a tool like a simple tool, like word tracker. It's a few hundred dollars a year to own the tool, but you can get a month trial. You could type in any term you want. You can look at any country in the world, you can look at Google versus YouTube. And you can see raw data of what people are searching for every single day. It'll tell you that in the last 30 days, you know, 500,000 people search for this term, and it'll show you all the related terms. So you do a little bit of research and try to anticipate where the market is. And where maybe it's it's going and don't come up with the excuse that well, it takes money to make money. Yes, you have to have some money I get that but a domain is nine bucks.

John Meese 22:09
Yeah, nine bucks a year,

Doug Morneau 22:11
a year, right. And my and my business I set up in the US, I set up my first C Corp I ran a year without a website. I did have to register domains, I need to send an invoice to a new client. So I secured the contract, ran home, bought the domain, set up the email, emailed them an invoice, picked up the check, went to with the clients check open my new bank account with a client check. And I was in business.

John Meese 22:35
Yeah, that's great. I love that. So where can we find you and learn more about you online, Doug, because I think this has been incredibly insightful and helpful.

Doug Morneau 22:43
Well, I hope so. You know, my my primary websites Doug

John Meese 22:50
That's great. That's great. Any any final thoughts or words of encouragement for anybody listening?

Doug Morneau 22:55
I think that you know, it's it's a sad we're in a sad place right now in terms of how this has affected people economically, personally, health wise. But out of that out of those ashes, I think that the ability to rebuild with the human nature is there, we want to rebuild. And I'd say that you know, you're gonna have good days and bad days and just don't beat yourself up. It's okay to have a bad day. It's not okay to sit and suck your thumb for a year.

John Meese 23:22
Yes, yes.

Doug Morneau 23:23
So you get get moving. And and, you know, if you're going to ask people for advice, find people who have done what you want to do. So, you know, don't go ask your neighbor, should I start an e commerce business? If you know, he's a tree follower? Because what does he know about e commerce? Go find someone who's an e commerce if you want to start a coffee store, go find someone and just, you know, believe that the opportunities are there because, like I said, I'm not kidding everywhere I look. To me, it's just so much noise. I just say there's lots of chance to believe in yourself, find some people who have done what you want to do. plug into those people and No, I find that people right now are super generous. They're willing to hop on calls with you. They're willing to answer your questions. They're willing to help folks. They want to see people succeed. They want to see the economy get back. So don't be afraid to reach out and ask for some advice.

John Meese 24:16
Well, I love that, Doug. Thank you. I appreciate your your perspective today. appreciate you sharing your story and your insight and keep up the good work. Thank you.

Doug Morneau 24:23
Thanks so much. It was great to see you again.

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John Meese is the author of the #1 bestseller Survive and Thrive: How to Build a Profitable Business in Any Economy (Including This One). An entrepreneur himself, John is on a mission to eradicate generational poverty by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools and training they need to build thriving businesses from scratch. He is the CEO of Cowork.Inc, co-founder of Notable, and host of the Thrive School podcast.

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