Behind the Blueprints: Getting to Know Amanda | Ep. 33

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Ever wonder how smaller agencies can make such a big splash?
Our very own Amanda Joyce can help you out with the answer. In fact, her short-lived history in corporate America led her to start her own small agency at a young age and she’s never looked back.
There’s something to be said about the zest with which Amanda lives her life and how that spills over into Elevation Marketing.
In our latest episode of the Trades Secrets podcast, we chat with her about her early years in marketing and how the pivot from corporate to entrepreneur has contributed to our ongoing success within the agency.
Episode Covers:
  1. Amanda’s jump from corporate to starting her own agency
  2. Details about one of Amanda’s most proud projects
  3. Amanda’s thoughts on AI and how it fits into your content strategy
  4. Amanda’s #1 piece of advice for contractors wanting to improve their marketing
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Hi. I’m Amanda Joyce.

Devon Hayes: And I’m Devin Hayes. And today’s topic is Behind the Blueprints, Getting to Know Your host, Amanda Joyce, and here’s why you should care. Gain insights into the expertise and unique perspectives that shape the valuable contractor marketing advice we share on our podcast. 

Welcome to Trade Secrets where we demystify digital marketing to help contractors get the most bang for their marketing bucks.

Amanda Joyce: This is for you if you’re a contractor looking for actionable marketing insights.

Devon Hayes: Learn from home services’ industry experts to elevate your business through simplified marketing strategies.

Amanda Joyce: Let’s dive into today’s trade secret.

Devon Hayes: I am so excited for this topic. Amanda Joyce, one of my favorite people of all time, one of my best friends, my business partner, and I have the pleasure of hosting this beautiful podcast with you. So I’m so excited for the world to get to know more about you because I just think you’re wonderful, and I know it’s your least favorite thing to do is talk about yourself. You never do. So I love that we are focused on just learning more about you and, I don’t know, sharing your history and background and sharing with our audience, I don’t know, more of our expertise and, I don’t know, who you are. So with that, here’s an easy question. Why don’t you start by telling us how your early career, how you got into marketing, your whole history, your path, what led you to where you are now?

Amanda Joyce: Yes. Okay. So I actually got my degree in journalism and PR so I always thought I was going to go the PR route. And then my first job out of college, I was hired by a company called iCrossing, which is an international search agency, so I just got thrust into the world of search at 22 with no idea what I wanted to do with my life and it just stuck, which I do think is common with a lot of people. Where you tap your toe early in your career, a lot of times, it can end up really just shaping the direction of where you’re going to go. So I started out at that agency and they taught me how to run AdWords, is what it was called at the time, Google Ads today. It was crazy though. Two weeks in, they’re just like, “Here’s your list of accounts. Go manage them.” I’m like, “Is this a good idea?”

Devon Hayes: So you thought you were going to get into the PR world and that’s what you studied but then, there is definitely a relationship between PR and agencies, marketing agencies. 

Amanda Joyce: Oh, for sure. Yeah. So even when I went and interviewed, the guy was like, I went in with my packet that they make you put together as a PR person and showed it to him and he was like, “Oh, this all totally … This has nothing to do with what we’re wanting you to do, but your writing skills and your communication and all that is a perfect segue into what we’re going to have you do.” I didn’t know it at the time, but it actually ended up being super applicable to that world. And then initially, I was running paid ads, but eventually, I started realizing that I could use my degree in PR and writing to move into the SEO content realm. So it all just fell into place that way.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. So how long were you at iCrossing?

Amanda Joyce: It’s crazy. I was actually only there for 18 months, and I was young enough that I was arrogant enough that I’m like, “Oh, I can do this by myself.” Somebody that I’d been working with over there got a big contract and asked me if I’d come and help manage the paid media side of stuff so I was like, “Sure.” And at the time, you could still buy health insurance and stuff as a 22-year-old. You could just go in and pay 150 bucks a month and have health insurance. So it was just this magical time that it’s not so easy for kids now to probably just go off and do something like that. But I got a lot of really good experience and met a ton of really great people in that short period of time and then was able to go off and start doing contract work at 23 and a half.

Devon Hayes: Oh my, gosh. That’s so impressive. I remember when I first met you and you had your own agency and I was in corporate America, and I just thought it was the coolest thing. I’m like, “God, what a badass.” We were late 20s and you had been doing it at that point, four or five years just on your own, and you had this beautiful house in Phoenix. I’m like, “Damn.” It was so impressive because for me, it was military and then corporate, corporate, corporate. So when people at a young age have the balls to just go in it and be self-employed, I just think that’s so impressive. What do you think, what was one of the hardest lessons you learned when you went and just from your short time in that corporate iCrossing agency umbrella to you’re on your own? I don’t know. Tell me more about that.

Amanda Joyce: The constant stress of what if we lose these few contracts we have? There’s no set salary coming in. So it was definitely like you had to really scrap to just make sure that you were going to have a healthy client load, which even today is something that you and I are … I don’t lose sleep over it at night. I think we have a really good consistent thing going, but it was just to be that young and be like, “Oh, wow.” There was something to be said for that corporate cushion of somebody else … knowing where your paycheck is going to come from every Friday or every other Friday or whatever it would be. That was interesting. But then beyond that, it was just so much fun to have so much more freedom and not feel like I had to, especially that early in your career, your butt needs to be in a seat, it was so nice to not feel like I was constantly in detention.

Devon Hayes: That’s true. But talk about having some skin in the game. If you are a client, you literally, you’re doing everything in your power to make those campaigns successful because your livelihood depends on it. I think that’s something that I don’t know that we talk about that enough. There’s the massive agencies that have proven methods and stuff like that, but then there’s the smaller ones too where it’s like they’ve got a lot of skin in the game. They need your campaign. They need the work they do for you to be successful.

Amanda Joyce: Yeah, to keep you around. Yeah. I don’t know. I think there’s something to be said for that too with small agencies like ours because they’re not just a number. Because we don’t have a million of them, they do mean so much to us. And it’s crazy too, though, to think about that stage of my career. I got to work in a bunch of different verticals and industries. Obviously, it took a while for both of us to end up solely focused in the contractor space. But back then, I ran paid ads for a while for Mary Kay Corporate and Highlights Magazine and just all over the place. Yeah, it was crazy. And there were actually guys in the SEO, they had rules on our computers that you couldn’t go to certain sites and stuff like that. They had some pretty good … But then we would have clients. There were some guys in the SEO, other wing of the building that literally got the Playboy account and they had way looser rules on their computers than the rest of us.

Devon Hayes: Well, they’ve got to do their research. How are they supposed to vet out the competition? I can only imagine that browser history.

Amanda Joyce: Yeah. Who was vying for that account? Can I go to that meeting?

Devon Hayes: I really think I could bring some value if I could just get a seat at the table there. So that’s fun. So you worked in, so you said Highlights, you said Mary Kay, just all over the place. I know you have experience in healthcare. 

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. Yeah. Symantec antivirus, that software, that was a big account for us for a while and so I was managing their paid ads. It was crazy. You were learning a whole bunch of different industries real quickly. And it was cool too, though, to get my training on Google Ads or AdWords or whatever you want to call it, at that time, with large budgets that were coming from huge companies that had a ton of money. I could just learn on their dime basically, and I had plenty of people that had been doing it for a long time, training me and looking over my shoulder, but it was a great way to cut my teeth really fast so then that way … Yeah.

Devon Hayes: Oh yeah, because the way Google Ads, well AdWords now, works is, the more you’re in it or the more time an account is running, the more you can learn from it and learn what’s successful and pull some levers and check some boxes. And it’s harder to do that with a smaller set budget, which is what we see with a lot of our contractors. We want it to work, but when you’re so limited on budget, it’s very hard to get the data to learn from it, to have this-

Amanda Joyce: To really be able to double down on it. Yeah, exactly. To be able to say if they’re paying $70 a click and we hit our daily budget by noon with three clicks, it just takes a long time to learn that. But yeah, when it’s one of those huge corporations that you’ve got a three grand budget a day, there’s time to gather the learnings and then really make good decisions that you’re like, “Okay, emphatically, I know this keyword works. It wasn’t just a nuance that we had a contact last month and won this month and maybe it won’t work again for three more months.” With those huge budgets, you can make pretty sweeping decisions and you know that they’re correct.

Devon Hayes: Yeah, that is a beautiful thing. That’s nice. You’re like, cool, I’m learning with this massive corporations, millions of dollars in ad spend. That’s great. 

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. I didn’t take it as personally as I do now when I know the contractor and where they are and I talk to them and we talk about their overhead and I know exactly what they need it to cost. It bothers me a lot more when I’m like, “Oh my, God. That was a hundred dollar click.” We had that happen recently where we just went into a new market for a client and I ran a couple of ads for them and I just turned it right off and I reached out to them and said, “The clicks in that market,” because they just had a storm and it was a roofing company, we drove two clicks at $124 a piece, and I was like, “No.” Turned it off. And they were very thankful that I didn’t run it any longer than that, but that’s working with a tiny budget. With a bigger company, I didn’t take it personally if we saw a spike in cost per point.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. You’re like, well, let’s look at this data and see what it does. Yeah, I think that’s one of the … I feel bad for you because I know you definitely stress out over every dollar a client is spending on their ads. We stress about it on the SEO end also, but where you literally have control of what’s happening with their budget. I can just only imagine the stress of constantly worrying about it because we work with a lot of small businesses where every dollar counts. So I see it every morning when we’re talking, we’re catching up on our client checkpoints. We’re like, “This is keeping me up at night. This is what I’m seeing. I know that they want to spend it, but it’s not getting anywhere. They’re not going to get any conversions. It’s going to be a big fat waste of money and then they’re going to blame me, but I can’t control the market and what the costs are per click, and I just want to help them.”

Amanda Joyce: Exactly.

Devon Hayes: But paid media is really, really, really … Yeah. So it’s a tough thing, and I think that this conversation really speaks to you as a person in terms of you really care. You literally lose sleep over these dollars, and it’s not you just being like, oh, I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s you knowing exactly what you’re doing and exactly what’s going on. Whereas when I look in your paid media world and I look at an account, I’m like, “I don’t know if that’s good.”

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. And it’s so crazy, too, that we’ll see it in different markets. What’s working in Denver, a keyword that’s killing it in Denver, and it’s just like in the SEO world when we do our keyword research and find that search behaviors are different, but it’s just funny that it’s not like we can be like, “This is a winning keyword in every market around the US.” It’s literally from one to the other where I can be like, “This is so cost effective and amazing here and here, it’s not even doing anything.”

Devon Hayes: Yeah. So I want to go back to you’re an incredible writer and you head up our content team and you definitely edit everything. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into the topics and everything you choose. I wanted to ask you, what is, we’ve seen a lot of shit storms, but what is one project or outcome that you’re super proud of that whether it was a paid media strategy or if it was a content strategy that you’ve just seen pay off in leaps and bounds? Tell me a happy story. 

Amanda Joyce: Yay. Yeah. The one that really sticks out to me is that I just am so proud of our whole team on what we’ve done for them as our Vancouver electrician. We’ve created a content strategy that’s just continued to pay off year over year for them. They’re so engaged and they’re so great with our content interviews and stuff, and then I’m able to take that information they give us and share it with the team, and we’ve created so many pieces of content for them that rank and drive quality traffic, position them as a thought leader, and it just feels good to see all of the levers we’re pulling really come together and work for them. 

And I’m proud of when we talk to him, he talks about how there’s certain … used to, we were really focused on how many leads we could drive, and now there’s leads that he’s referring out because he’s so busy. And I like to believe we’ve played a big role in helping him get there. So that’s one that talk about one that when you put your head down your pillow at night, that makes you smile. You can check that box so you’re not worried about it.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, it is. And with that one, it doesn’t stop. The work doesn’t stop in terms of the content and what you’re doing and how you’re making sure it’s still relevant because we know now, it’s late July 2023 as we’re recording this, AI and ChatGPT, it’s just taken off since February of this year. You’ve got marketers that are saying, “Oh, all you need is AI content.” What’s your perspective on that? You know firsthand and I know firsthand, but for everyone listening, I guess the content strategy, yes, we’re in a great place and it’s been massively successful. In your opinion and what you know about the market and the shift with this technology, what do you think? Is it just this whole set it and forget it? Or are you month over month still continuously analyzing data and looking at how to improve and what changes we need to make and how we present the content, all those kinds of nuances that maybe people don’t think about?

Amanda Joyce: Yeah, no, I definitely think there’s a space for AI in everything we do. We can lean on it for things, but in terms of content planning and a bigger strategy and really thinking about the end user, there just still needs to be so much oversight from a human brain. And one of the big things that we do when we write content is go look at the search results at what Google is actually favoring and that really plays into what we’re doing, whether we’re refreshing an existing piece of content or coming up with a brand new one. And I think even with a really great prompt with ChatGPT or whatever you may be using, there’s not a replacement for actually going out and doing that research and looking and then thinking to yourself, okay, these are the three to four pieces that Google is really favoring for this keyword. What do they have in common? Why do I think Google is picking those over the others? 

And then as a consumer, which of those is actually speaking to me better, which is making me want to take that action that ultimately everyone is vying for? I don’t think there’s any replacement for that, at least at the moment with AI. This could be one of those funny things that someone can play back to me in three years and I’m like, that didn’t age well, but right now, I feel very strongly about that.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I think we both agree there’s a place for it, but I don’t know that there’s replacing some critical thinking and some analysis that you just can’t get from even … There’s a ton of content tools out there, let alone AI-

Amanda Joyce: They do the same thing, but they’re doing it for everyone else. Everyone is copying each other’s homework. And Google is not … Then who’s that benefiting? Google is constantly trying to benefit the end user, and they’ll tweak to that and start to be able to recognize like, oh, everyone has decided that we want you to answer these three FAQs on your homepage to rank for roofing contractor Sacramento or whatever. That doesn’t work anymore because they’re constantly changing their rules on us, so it’s crazy to beat it. 

And I also feel like if you get too dependent on it, you’re going to just get sleepy on it, then you’re going to get too lazy, and then the strategy really slips. It’s one thing if you’re leaning on it a little bit, but you’re still trying to close the loop and do the strategy. But if you’re just like, “Oh, I can just throw this prompt into ChatGPT. It kicks me back my content for the month that I can move on the next thing.” Then how far down the line are you going to get when you hear something like, oh, wow, we were missing the mark and I was sleeping on the job.

And half the stuff that I think we come up with, it’s the very best. When we’re on one of our quarterly reviews with clients or I’m doing a content interview and they’ll just casually mention something. I’m like, “Wait. What? What are you talking about?” And then they’ll go off and tell us something that we’re like, “Oh my, gosh. What a cool angle we need.” And that’s happened so many times with that electrician we’re talking about where then we have this really cool piece that actually there’s some search volume around what people are looking for that it’s like a honeypot keyword that would have never shown up if we weren’t just doing the work, having the conversations, thinking through it. And I don’t believe that a chatbot is going to kick that back to us, at least not the way it is right now.

Devon Hayes: No. Well, and that’s where your experience comes into play. You’ve been doing this a long time and can pick up on those nuances that a client, when they’re just rattling off what’s happening, you’re like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Go back. Go back.” And then I know that we spend a bunch of time doing content clusters around whatever that topic might be and what are the problem-based searches and solution-based searches on that topic and then delving into that. 

I think there is really something to be said about your experience in this realm and even your cross market experience because we have niche down and focusing on contractors and builders, remodelers, things like that, the trades. We can look at our own set of data across the country and other countries and see what’s working. AI, they’re limited to whatever the programmer has inputted up to whatever date, at least at this juncture. I’m sure there’s going to be realtime AI at some point, if there isn’t already. 

But I think that’s something that hands down, your experience in the space in terms of writing but also analysis and having these critical conversations with clients and getting to know them and their business, AI is not going to get to know them and their business and their location and the geography and where they want to work and nuances of this really cool marina project. It’s not the same.

Amanda Joyce: Exactly. 

Devon Hayes: Yeah.

Amanda Joyce: It’s actually the fun part of what we do. That would be so important.

Devon Hayes: It really is.

Amanda Joyce: That was what got cut out. I love it. Even we have a new landscaping contractor that we’ve been interviewing, and I’m like, every time he opens his mouth, he tells us some amazing thing he’s doing in his community and their unique approach to customer service and all that stuff. And AI bot is not going to, I don’t know, they’re not going to be able position it the way it-

Devon Hayes: Yeah, casually.

Amanda Joyce: Yeah, casually mentioning that not only is a 25-time Ironman that he donates organic food to the local elementary schools and stuff. That’s not what those … Those are meant to just turn and turn and turn and turn and turn. If you know that about your client and you’re plugging it in, it’ll help you but you got to get it there. It’s only as good as what you give it. And if you’re sleeping on the job and you’re just like, come up with my next four topics for next month about landscaping, it’s probably not going to … Unless you’re really smart about what you ask it to ask you back. But I think it can just get a little too sleepy if you’re doing that. 

And guys, just as you’re listening to this, we’re definitely talking about our approach to things. And if you are wondering why this matters to you, at the end of the day, the stuff we’re talking about right now, our approach to things and our experience, our hope is that you’ll understand that that’s why then when you tune in sometime and we’re talking about content, that you understand why, my AI is talking to me, you’ll understand why you should trust us, what we’re coming to the table with, what our chops are. And we want you to trust us and we are excited to get on here all the time and share our knowledge with you about all the stuff and things that are contractor marketing related.

Devon Hayes: Absolutely. Okay. So with your unique insight and perspective, what are some emerging trends that you see in this contractor marketing space?

Amanda Joyce: Oh my, God, great question. So from a paid perspective, Google local service ads all day. So most of you are probably familiar with them. Hopefully most of you are running them if you are investing in paid. Google rolled it out a couple of years ago, slowly rolled it out in different markets and for different service offerings, but it’s those ads that take prime position at the top of search results that you can click on and make a direct phone call or message to people. Depending on the market, we’re seeing them cost anywhere from $50 to $80 a call, and then cost per clicks in Google Ads are 40 to 75 or up for a single click so it’s just a better investment. And we’re finding over time that Google is just showing less and less of the Google Ads for those service terms that they want you … They’re trying to force people’s hands into GLSA. 

So I just say that’s one that definitely, if you’re not running it, start running it. You also get that Google guarantee when you go through the process, which is another trust signal that you can share on your website. And not that Google Ads is completely going away, but especially in the contractor space, I think it’s just GLSA all day.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. Minus maybe a brand play for AdWords. Yeah.

Amanda Joyce: A hundred percent. And then you can run YouTube ads. There’s all kinds of other stuff you can do. You can run stuff in the display network, and I’m not saying you can’t still run on, maybe if it’s your hot time of year where stuff is really booming in your business to run them, but you’re probably going to find that if you’ve got GLSA really rocking, you’re going to look at the cost-pers and the story is going to be so obvious that you’re going to know that your budget is better spent over there, at least maxing it out in GLSA, and then whatever is left, you can run on your brand, maybe some competitors’ brands and maybe some general service terms. In the zip codes, you absolutely want to make sure that you’re owning this space in. 

And then from a content perspective, it’s just I think continuing to make sure that you’re really focused on content that is super reflective of your brand and it’s personalized because Google is going to gobble that up. We’ve talked about this in other podcasts as well. Google recognizes that there’s this surge of AI content everywhere and they’re looking for the cool golden nuggets, the cool interesting stuff that a consumer is going to want to digest. So even if you’re using AI, just make sure that you’re going back over it and you’re adding your own brand backend and your own personality, and that’ll make all the difference in the world in your rankings.

Devon Hayes: Absolutely. I think some very sound nuggets in there. So I want to shift it a little bit and then I want to talk a little bit more about you personally. I think that’s the fun part. Okay. You have to share, tell us about your family, where you live, and then I want you to talk about that and then we’ll wrap it up with maybe a final golden piece of advice you’d give contractors. 

Amanda Joyce: Okay, awesome. 

Devon Hayes: Please tell us about your beautiful family.

Amanda Joyce: Yes. Okay. So I have two beautiful sons. One, my baby is going to be two in October, and my oldest will be four in November, so I’m in the thick of it with raising two little wild men and they’re awesome. And my husband is amazing. He’s British and he gets away with a lot because of his charming accent. And yeah.

Devon Hayes: Not fair.

Amanda Joyce: No, it’s really not. We live in Phoenix. It’s currently the summer while we’re shooting this right now, so it’ll be a solid 115 today so we’re just sweating it out here in the desert. But yeah, that’s the top level of it. I don’t want to bore people or get too detailed, but yeah.

Devon Hayes: No, I think a lot of people that listen to us are probably parents and have littles at home, and I think it’s a beautiful thing to have this time where you can help companies grow but you also have your own beautiful family that’s growing at the same time, and I think it’s a good thing to share. Okay, so I could just talk to you forever, but we’ll wrap this up with, I guess, what is one piece of advice you would give to contractors looking to improve their marketing efforts?

Amanda Joyce: I would say my piece of advice, and this to some might sound easier said than done, but it would be find a marketing partner that you trust. Definitely go with your gut. Do some research into their chops and why you should trust them. Ideally, find someone that’s got experience in your space and can provide references. So you’ve identified this trusted partner and then come up with a strategy and stay the course. You’ve got to give it the time. I feel like the people that we run into the most when we’re pitching business or they’re just trying to get to know them to even see if they would be a good fit for us. 

The ones that are jumping ship all the time, changing SEOs, changing who’s managing their paid, they’re reaping what they sow because you’re not giving it the time to improve upon. Just like we were talking about earlier with paid ads. It doesn’t happen overnight, and if you’re just like, oh, I don’t like my conversion rate, I’m out of here, or I feel like I’m not ranking number one for this keyword, let’s go. Let’s do something else. Maybe SEO is not good. You basically are just burning all that money you just spent on your latest marketing test if you’re not going to let it stay the course. So just find that trusted partner and stay the course. I’m not saying to do it for 10 years.

Devon Hayes: Yeah. I think that’s great advice.

Amanda Joyce: But give it a fair amount of time. Maybe going into it, ask them, what would you consider a fair amount of time for me to stop and analyze if this is working for my company? And make sure you’re comfortable with the answer they give you, and then stick it out until you’ve hit that point.

Devon Hayes: Yeah, I think that makes a lot of sense. Take some time. Don’t make a quick decision because you’re at a trade show and you got sold by someone in an expo booth on your services. Really take your time upfront, vetting them out and ask a lot of questions and see what it’s like to interact with them, I would guess, in their response time. If you feel comfortable upfront and you vet them out upfront, then you’re not going to be ready to jump ship after two months and just have that wheel of frustration because you’re making quick decisions on an agency partner. I think that’s very sound advice.

Well, thank you, Mrs. Amanda Joyce. That was beautiful, and you shared some great information as well as told all of our listeners about yourself, so thank you for agreeing to do this episode.

Amanda Joyce: Of course.

Devon Hayes: I always love hearing your professional background. It’s awesome. Thanks for listening.

Amanda Joyce: And thank you for being such a wonderful interviewee or interviewer, excuse me.

Devon Hayes: Yes, yes, naturally, of course. So thank you for listening and tune in and share, like, subscribe, all those good things. We appreciate it. That helps us keep things going. Until next time.

Amanda Joyce: That was today’s trade secret. Thanks for listening.

Devon Hayes: Did you find this helpful? We’re just getting started.

Amanda Joyce: Subscribe and don’t miss our next reveal.

Devon Hayes: Until next time.


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