Rob Ristagno | Capitalizing on Prospect Pain Points

At consulting firm Sterling Woods Group, CEO Rob Ristagno and his team help middle market companies use data to create sales, marketing, and other strategies to accelerate revenue growth. 

Best of all, says Rob, it’s data that is already there. It’s just that owners and executives don’t know how to analyze it – or come up with insights that can impact the business.

It’s a vital service, yet Rob admits that the value of his company’s service isn’t always apparent and often seen as a “luxury.” It can be a struggle to get hired.

We take a deep dive into how to change that perception. Starting with identifying his ideal client and their pain points and going from there. If you’re facing a challenge in strategic growth and haven’t pinpointed your obstacles, this conversation is a must-listen.

Tune in for details on…

  • A strategy for leveraging your current list of prospects
  • How to use podcasts to get your foot in the door with potential clients
  • The 3+ biggest obstacles to getting hired as a consultant or professional service provider – and how to overcome it
  • A strategy for identifying not just ideal clients… but when it’s the right time to talk to them
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Steve Gordon: Hey, everyone, it’s Steve. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. Today, we got a really special episode for you. And we’re going to do something a little bit different. We are continuing our series where we’re actually sitting down with a business owner and we’re actually going to tackle some real-life marketing challenges. And the goal is not only to help the person that I’m speaking with but also to give you some insight into how to think about these problems yourself and understand some different ways to approach them. 

So our framework for doing that, as always, is the inevitable growth scorecard. And so if you haven’t gone and taken that, go to and you can get your score. And like I said, that’s the framework we use to look at this. So today I am joined by Rob Ristagno, from Sterling Woods. And Rob, great to have you here. And I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about your business and what you do.

Rob Ristagno: Thanks, Steve. Yeah, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m looking forward to this discussion. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. I can tell already. So yeah, so, Robert Ristagno here. We run Sterling Woods Group. We’re a consulting firm. And basically, we help middle market companies come up with smarter, more effective go-to market strategies by crunching the data that’s been sitting in front of them this whole time but they haven’t necessarily had the time or resources to take action on. 

We like it a little bit to that show Antiques Roadshow, where we kind of go up into grandma’s attic and we find that there’s a bunch of stuff up there in this case data. But in the Antiques Roadshow situation holds paintings and furniture and jewelry and we kind of can figure out what’s worth money and what’s not worth money and it’s like finding hidden nuggets of gold up in your attic. But, you know, of course in the data instead. 

Steve: That’s cool. That’s a, you know, it’s such a needed thing. Most of the business owners that I talked to have data but they don’t have it really well pulled together and organized and they have no idea how to make any sense of it. So I would imagine you come in and it’s probably relatively easy to find those little hidden treasures in there because most people aren’t looking for them, right?

Using Overlooked Data to Grow Your Business

Rob: That’s right. Yeah. And we often hear either, we don’t think we have any data, or we have data but it’s a total mess. And we’ve just worked out ways to cut through the noise and say, hey, look, we’ve done this a lot so the answer is going to be custom to you. But the methodology has been repeated and tested time after time. And so no matter how bad you think your data is, we can find a way to use it and help you come up with some insights to grow your business.

Steve: That’s awesome. So, I mean, it sounds to me like at the end of the day, what you’re really selling is money at a discount, right?

Rob: That’s right kind of answers to the test, sometimes, we say too. Kind of, you know, the answers are out there in the data that we’re just kind of helping you find them so they can get more money.

Steve: Yeah, so everybody should want that. So what are some of the challenges you’re having around marketing? What are some of the things that we can work on today?

Rob: So I think the first thing that comes to mind is, to some extent, we’re a luxury good. We’re not like the IRS. We’re an accountant. We’re not like an accountant where you have to file forms with the IRS every so often and we’re not a doctor that you have to go to whenever you have, you know, an injury or dentist when you have a toothache. We’re really just about the future and growth and good things. 

And sometimes, that means there’s not a very specific buying occasion. There’s no one who wakes up in the middle of the night like, we exactly need Sterling Woods because, you know, we’ve, you know, there’s no, I’ll say like, precise acute pain point. And so to the extent, we can think about creating that pain point or honing in on buying occasions, I think that would better help us target our marketing efforts.

Steve: Yeah, so let’s talk about that. So the place I always like to begin is getting really clear on your ideal client, you know, what I call who is your who. So, how would you describe like, the perfect client for you?

Sterling Wood’s Ideal Client Profile

Rob: Yeah. The perfect client for us is the CEO of a middle market business, probably 25 to 250 million in revenue, owned by a private equity firm who has really high expectations, wants to succeed, knows is really no room for failure. As soon as there’s a little bit of a crack, they’re in big trouble and the job’s at risk. 

But they’re up for the challenge. So they know they have to deliver. And we can help them with that, with the confidence of knowing that they’re spending their limited time and resources on the right things so that they can hit their targets and be in good graces with their private equity owner.

Steve: So, it sounds like you’re pretty clear on who that is. I mean, you describe them almost kind of to a tee. And I hear some potential pains in there, you know, that if they don’t hit their numbers, they’re going to have issues. They’re not going to be in the job long-term. When you’re working with companies like that, do you find that there just aren’t any natural triggers?

Rob: What I guess we find is, sounds good, I’m glad I heard about you. We definitely can use this but I have five other things I’m working on right now and I just don’t have the time to bring you in. Or in this COVID environment, look, we just have a flat budget freeze in place. And I know budget freezes are often done for optics rather than reality. But yeah, there’s a lot of sounds good. I really want this, but I have a lot on my plate right now. And can we talk again in a month in two months in three months?

Steve: Yeah. That’s kind of the traditional, like consulting brush off, isn’t it? I mean, no matter what kind of consulting you do. Because you’re coming in, and I would imagine there’s some overlaying footprint on the time of the executive or the leadership in the company, you know? So they’ve got a carve out time for you. You know, what are some of the reasons they wouldn’t hire you aside from the surface? You know, you talked about some of the objections there. But what are some of the, maybe as you dig down deeper with people you’ve worked with in the past, what were some of the real reasons?

Rob: One thing that we find if we don’t come in at the very top, sometimes people feel like if they hire us, they’re admitting that they don’t know what they’re doing. And we hate that because we feel like we’re checking our egos at the door and clients like working with us and we’re there to help uncover the answer and help make the client look good. 

But I think sometimes, there’s just if I hire Sterling Woods, that means admitting to my boss that I don’t know what I’m doing. So we try to come, you know, avoid that by trying to come in at the C level, CEO, CMO CRO, sometimes CFO. So it’s them suggesting to their team Hey, you may want to speak with Rob and his team rather than going bottoms up.

Steve: You know, one of the things I always, when people describe who their ideal client is and then they come back and they say, well, there are all these reasons that they don’t say yes. You know, it’s good to get those out, it’s good to acknowledge that they exist. But there are those clients that when they see your value proposition, they go, I got to have that and not only that, I got to have it right now. 

And so, one of the things that I want to challenge you to do is think about your ideal client even more narrowly, okay? Because I think one of the things people oftentimes they’ll miss on is, you’ll define that ideal client in terms of demographics, like the size of the company, maybe the industry they’re in. I mean, you identified some things that are really specific, which I think are great. 

You know, they need to be owned by private equity, you know, and they need to have some fairly significant growth goals. But you also need to have somebody who already recognizes and is humble enough, you know, they recognize they’ve got the need to grow more, that the answers are in the data and humble enough to know they don’t have the capability to pull the answers out themselves.

Rob: That’s right. That’s a good point. Yeah.

Steve: And a lot of us, I think, stop short of that because we think, well, there aren’t enough of those people. But there probably are. I mean, it, you know, in a perfect world, forget what’s happening right now, economically. You know, you had plans for 2020 that we’re going to be growing. You know, if you added all of the clients that you wanted to add, how many clients were you guys looking at over the course of the year?

Rob: Over the course the year we’re looking to have 20 clients or so.

Steve: Okay. So I mean, that’s not, that sounds like a large number, but in the grand scheme of things, you know, it’s an achievable number. And the next question I think you got to ask yourself is, are there 20 people out there that would already have the right mindset that I need? That are already bought into the idea that they need something like me, you know, someone like me somebody like Sterling Woods.

You know, and if the answer is Yeah, there’s at least 20 people and there’s probably 2000 or 20,000, maybe, then the question is, okay, how do I go out into the marketplace and begin to filter for those people so that I’m only getting those leads and I don’t have to convince anybody that now’s the right time. And that’s a little bit more difficult thing to do. But I also think a mistake I see a lot people make is they stop short of a really defining the ideal client in terms of what they ideally want, you know? And I think they sell themselves short a little bit.

Rob: Yeah, that makes sense.

Steve: You know, and so to me, that would be the first thing is like, we’re talking ideal client. This is somebody who is already so predisposed to work with you that all we need to do is put the really good offer in front of them that you have, right? And then from there, now we can reverse engineer everything. And now we’re solving the right problem. So for somebody like that, I mean, if you ever worked with anybody like that, who is already sort of predisposed? 

Rob: Yeah, yeah, I think Yeah, when we get a quick yes, a few situations one would be, it’s a new CEO, they just acquired, the private equity firm just acquired the business and they want to hit the ground running. And they’re maybe not sure about the team they inherited yet, or they proactively kind of decided they want to change the team. But before they decide who to bring in, they want someone to objectively look at the business. 

The other thing we kind of see is if there is a first-time chief marketing officer or chief revenue officer added to the team, it shows that the team is probably going to pivot toward more of an organic growth strategy instead of growing through acquisitions are going through cutting costs, growing margins and cutting costs, they’re investing in expanding their market. So that could be another touchpoint for us. The one that’s maybe a little harder to detect is when companies first hit the skids. So they’re not in a turnaround situation, they’re not going bankrupt. 

But they had been growing, you know, 10, 15 20% a year, and they kind of hit a rough patch and they’re not growing or they’re declining two or 3%. And they’re kind of in the middle of a holding period. And the PE firm doesn’t want to really extend the holding period too much longer because time is money and the enemy of IRR. So they need to turn things around relatively quickly to get back on that growth track.

Steve: When you’re going out to potential clients, are all of your contacts typically with the target company or are they more with the PE firm or do you have any contact with the PE firm?

Rob: We do both. We try to do top-down and bottoms up. So we build relationships with private equity professionals who, you know, once we do a good job for them, they introduce us to other CEOs in their portfolio. And then we also to go bottoms up. We’ve talked directly to the CEO if we can come across them. So yeah, we try to do both top-down and bottom-up.

Steve: Okay. So I mean, it sounds like you’ve got some triggers in place, like, you know, if a new CEO shows up for the first time, the chief marketing officer, chief revenue officer is in there, and then you said the third one’s a little bit more difficult to, you know, to observe maybe when they’re first beginning to hit some headwinds in terms of growth. And I mean, I think then the next thing to look at is how do you message to the, you know, out to the market so that you’re speaking to those CEOs that sort of have that humility baked in. 

And that can become a little bit challenging at first to sort of figure that out because you really have to explore the conversations that you had with the clients you’ve already brought on, right? Who fit that mold, you know, and really kind of dig into that. But there are probably some nuances to the messaging that attracted them. That if you simply just emphasize that more, you’re going to tend to bring more of those types of people who are already predisposed to work with you.

Rob: Yeah, yeah. Now that you say that, Steve, I think that makes a lot of sense. The first thing that comes to mind is, a lot of it is that, look, I know you could do this, you just don’t have the time to do this. You, Mr. CEO, or Mrs. CEO, come from the sales and marketing world. You could totally do this yourselves but you’re also busy managing investors, working on cash flow working on operations. Can we sort of be your clone? Like we speak the same language so we’ll get along really well and we can help drive some of the things that you’ve been meaning to drive, but just frankly, don’t have the bandwidth to do.

Steve: Okay. Are there other parts of your messaging that jump out at you as being in alignment with that type of client.

Rob: Yeah. And well, maybe just in terms of a mindset thing, just kind of we’re all about test and learn and experiment and grow. So we want someone who has that mindset. That we’re going to look at the data but we’re not going to say, you know, we spent four weeks analyzing your data, here’s the answer. Good luck. Bye. We’re going to say we spent four weeks looking at your data and this is what we think 80% likely the answer is, but let’s go run a small pilot to make sure it works in the real world. And then once we have a proven victory there, we’ll figure out the right way to resource this and scale it up.

Steve: So it’s almost kind of like a lean way of thinking about it, that whole iterative cycle of growth. So they need to be thinking in that way. That’s certainly something that you can put into your marketing and your messaging to speak to those people. Is there anything else?

Rob: Yeah, I mean, there’s something about moving fast, you know, getting some, this is an overly-used consulting term, but quick wins. Playing through whatever cliche you want to use. Yeah, just know that, hey, we’re gonna get some momentum, we’re gonna go fast. I think a pain point a lot of CEOs were paid to be impatient. So there’s a little bit of how can you tap into that. Like, you need to get twice as much done with the resources you have. And how can we turbocharge some of that without stepping on anyone’s toes or breaking the bank for you?

Steve: Yeah, that makes sense. And I would imagine that you’re well-positioned as a solution to that, because their internal teams already have a full plate, you know? Or they wouldn’t be employed, you know? So, you know, sometimes getting, the best way to get speed is to bring in additional resources from outside. So you can, I think you can speak to that well. So, I mean, we have some kind of ideas about messaging. 

And again, you know, if we’re sort of focused on, you know, on searching for these CEOs that are already predisposed to work with you, then the next kind of thing to look at is how are we going to get in front of them? And so, I know you mentioned before we started recording that you had been speaking. So how are you handling, you know, kind of top of the funnel lead generation right now?

Lead Generation Tactics Sterling Woods Have Used

Rob: Yeah, you know, you’re right. We did, we got more than half of our business from speaking engagements from meeting people in person. Also just kind of being part of local business community and going to networking meetings and all that is, as you know, off the table. So we’re trying to think of a few different things and maybe just I can share some things we’ve tried in the past that did not work. 

And maybe you can help me diagnose why they didn’t work, potentially, because I’ve often found with my clients, you know, it’s not the tactic that failed. It was kind of how in the context of your business, that specific tactic the way was executed didn’t work. And then I can share some things that we’re thinking about or we’re working on, we’re in the process of rolling out or piloting. A few things we’ve tried in the past, one is we’ve tried direct mail. So we just have an assessment on our website. 

People have taken it love it. They said spot on. It’s 11 questions and you take it and you get put into a, basically, a persona and you get a little report saying, Hey, if you’re this type of leader, these are different ways you could be using data to grow your business even faster than you are today. So we decided to send out a postcard to 3000 people in our target market. And, you know, some people took the assessment but it just did not really lead to significant amount of business there. 

So there was something about that offer that didn’t get a huge response rate and then the people who responded weren’t necessarily as qualified as we’d hoped. The other thing we’ve tried in the past is we’ve tried sponsoring webinars. So we think we have good content and we’ve been totally having good content and we did sponsor webinars for, on a media brand that’s focused on CEOs, middle market CEOs, which is our sweet spot.

They, we got the highest ranking ever from a webinar, you know, at the end you have to fill out these surveys on Zoom or GoToMeeting and we got 94 out of hundred, which they said broke all kinds of records for them. But we didn’t get any business out of it. So again, maybe there wasn’t quite the right call to action or there wasn’t quite the right setting the stage and resonating with the pain point

Steve: What was the call to action?

Rob: The call to action was again, to take the survey, to take this assessment. And it just didn’t get, some people took it, a lot of people took it. We did fine, however, the webinar that we did get some value out of that because it’s a good middle of the funnel piece for us so we could tell clients or prospects Hey, go check out this webinar. 

And it gave us an excuse to reach out to some leads that had been kind of frozen or, you know, I was looking for a good reason a, value-add reason to reach out to prospects, not just a Hey, are you ready to buy now email. So it was, I don’t think that was a failure. It was useful middle of the funnel but it wasn’t really helpful for top of the funnel. 

Steve: Okay. Is there anything else you’ve been doing?

Rob: I think we’ve been trying to do some, just in general reaching out on LinkedIn. But I think that’s not, that hasn’t been super successful. And I think personally, I get annoyed when someone adds me as a contact and then immediately sends me a sales message. So we’re not doing that. But as we see people kind of making comments or posts about stuff that we have an opinion on, we’re trying to do a better job at reaching out to them. 

That hasn’t led to anything yet but that could be something else that we may need to tweak. In terms of new ideas, I have no data yet to see how well these are going to work out but they’re a work in progress. We’re launching a podcast in the fall, and actually, what happened when COVID hit back at the end of March, we decided to have a weekly Zoom call with all of our clients so they could share best practices. And then that kind of morphed into, there was a protagonist, one client spoke up and went into detail about what they were doing and people could ask questions and share related experiences. 

Then that got expanded to friends of the firm, then it was friends of friends of the firm. And people started saying, Hey, I can’t make it next week. Do you mind recording it and sending it to me afterwards? And we said, Hey, if the content’s that useful then we should create, turn this into a podcast. So we’re launching something called the CEO Campfire Chat sometime after Labor Day. We’re recording a bunch of episodes this summer. So we have multiple things to launch with. 

So we’ll see if that drives any leads for us. And then the other thing, and this one may be worth exploring, we’re thinking about kind of just trying some more, I’ll say old school tactics. So some potential telesales, not that we’re expecting someone to buy on the line, but if we have some sort of training or some sort of valuable content, if we could have some people used to appointment setting for lack of a better word, call some influencers or maybe even senior executives themselves and get them to attend some sort of valuable content-based training session, that might be another way to generate some leads.

Steve: So on your podcast, if I understood you correctly, you’re taking these group calls where you’ve got multiple CEOs there, right? And one person is maybe sort of the focus of it each time. And you’re sort of talking through best practices. Others, maybe you’re giving them feedback. Am I understanding that correctly?

Rob: Exactly right. Yeah. Maybe not too dissimilar from this format here.

All Media Works. Question is, How Long Does it Take?


Steve: Okay. So, you know, again, what I hear in the things that you described that hadn’t worked is something that I see a lot of firms get into, is that you’re doing something that is really thin marketing, you know? Like a postcard for an assessment for someone. And I don’t know where your fee range is. I’m just gonna guess that’s probably in the five to six figures and maybe more than that when you work with a client. 

And I had no idea and you don’t need to reveal it, but I’m just gonna guess that probably you’re in that range. And, you know, we’re trying to get a postcard to get us a prospect that’s going to pay that. And it’s not that postcards don’t work. You know, all media works. Question is, how long is it going to take to work and how many exposures are you going to need with that particular type of media to move the dial, right? And, you know, one of the things that, I love that you’re doing that podcast idea. 

I love the way you’re doing it, actually, because you’re really combining a couple of ideas. And we’ve seen something similar work for one of our clients. They didn’t, they aren’t actually using it as their podcast content. They’re doing a podcast separately and then they’re pulling in a group of their prospects on, I think about a once a month basis for a similar kind of group call to talk through best practices and things like that and then actually pulling podcast guests in as guest speakers for this group. 

There’s lots of ways you can skin that cat. But the point is, if you’re very strategic about who gets invited to the roundtables, pretty soon, you’ve got intimate access, direct access and relationship created with all of the people that you want to do business with over the next 12 to 36 months, okay? Because they’re coming in here because there’s such great value to them. If you think about right now, for a CEO, I don’t care what size company, but for the size you’re dealing with, you know, these kind of mid market companies, the number one thing everybody’s trying to figure out right now is what’s going to happen next. 

And for most CEOs, the thing that they desperately want is connection to other people who are also thinking about that problem and maybe one or three or five steps ahead of them in their thinking, right? Think about the value in that for a CEO. You know, and so the image that comes to mind is, you know, when kids play board games and you get that card that jumps you ahead of all of the other players, well, it could be that being on that call that you’re facilitating gives them an insight that they couldn’t have gotten anywhere else and it jumps from five squares ahead. 

To me, that’s tremendous value. And it, not only does it allow you to get in a relationship with them, so the CEOs that come to that, particularly if you’re very thoughtful about the process you used to bring people in, in other words to get into the group, maybe there’s an interview process where you’ve got it, you know, they’re recommended in by someone, you have, you’ve already created a little built-in referral network. 

Rob: That’s a good idea. Yeah. 

Steve: You know, and so if you go to your members one by one, they’re already participating and say, Okay, we’re gonna grow this thing out and we’re looking to add another 30 people are whatever, and you sit down with each of them and ask them to contribute, you know, to brainstorm with you one or two or three names. They’re gonna know who they want to bring in, you’ll be able to sort of filter that a little bit and then what you can simply do is say, Okay, well, we don’t want to let just anybody in. 

We want to make sure it’s the right fit. So what I need you to do is connect us. Tell them, you know, let them know why you’re inviting them and the value that you’re getting and then we’ll set up a call, you know? So now, for anybody to come into the group, they have to meet with you one on one anyway. So now you know them. When you go to call, they’re going to pick up the phone. When you email, they’re going to reply, Right? That’s, all of your other marketing was trying to get you to that point. 

The postcard, the assessment, the speaking engagements, all, the purpose of all of that was to get you to the point where that prospect CEO would return your calls and return your emails and be in a relationship with you, right? So I think you’ve maybe accidentally created something that allows you to skip all the way to that and do it really strategically. Now, I love the fact that you’re publishing it as a podcast because now that gives you content to continually attract new people like the ones that you’re bringing in and it makes you kind of a magnet. Now you’re a leader. And you’re based where?

Rob: We’re in West Hartford, Connecticut, but we have, our people are scattered all over the country.

Steve: Okay, they’re all over the country. Okay. I thought, I had a feeling you’re in the northeast. I know, like, Boston area, in that area there’s a, it’s probably a hotbed of the type of companies that you’re looking at. I know private equity does a lot of work in that area with tech companies. I could see it becoming a thing where, you know, within certain circles now you’re the leader of the band, sort of. And when you can begin to create that kind of gravity around you where the prospects actually are sort of orbiting you, now the whole thing becomes really powerful, right? 

But the flip in thinking is, instead of trying to go for these mass marketing plays that you’ve been doing, how do I bring it down to a very strategic very kind of intimate level? But once I’ve created that, right? So your interaction with these people on the calls is very intimate, very small. People are very strategic. Now take that, take the byproduct of it and use that as what goes out to the mass market. Because what better demonstration of your value, okay? I think you’ve got, I think, a really fantastic opportunity there. And it naturally lends itself to growing towards all of the right prospects that you want. 

I mean, if you’re real thoughtful about who you’re going after, so one of the things we talked about is the, and it’s the second of the mindsets on the inevitable growth scorecard, is the target 100 advantage. And, you know that that idea is called by lots of different names but the purpose is to name all of your ideal prospects by name. Like the companies you want to work with, the name of the CEO. Build a list. And you may already have that. I don’t know. Have you guys gone through that exercise before?

Rob: We do. We only have 50, so we need to get to work here to get to 100.

Steve: Okay. It’s a working list. And that’s the thing. I mean, 50 is great. I mean, 50 is more than most people have. As you build that out, you can now go to the people in your network that are in this group and show them the list and say, Look, these are people that I’m trying to bring in that I think would be really good people. Who do you know, right? And so you’re now building out really close connections with the people you want to do business with. 

And, you know, you may get to a point where this group can only grow to be so big because it becomes nonfunctional beyond that and when you get there, you just spawn another one, you know? And so I think you got the makings of something really powerful. The thing that I might pair it with would be, and I don’t know if you’ve, did you guys have other marketing assets? I mean, have you created any intellectual property? Books? Any other kind of thing like that?

Rob: Yeah. We published a book back in 2018 and we do weekly blog posts. And yeah, the webinars and keynote speeches and whatnot.

Steve: And I assume you’re probably building an email list and staying in touch with people and that sort of thing?

Rob: That’s right. Yes.

Steve: Okay. So, you know, you’ve got all the tools and the book can be a great door opener, you know, assuming it’s really closely aligned with some of the problems that, you know, that you identified earlier. And you may even come back and decide, you know what, we need a few other, you know, target-specific books. Like you mentioned new CEO. So maybe you have the new CEO’s guide to, you know, diagnosing a growth opportunity within the company. I’m just making this up. 

Rob: Sounds good. Yeah.

Steve: You get the idea. And it’s specifically for that. So anytime anybody in your network finds out there’s a new CEO at a company that they’re aware of, they know you’ve got this book and they can say, Hey, you know, you need a copy of Rob’s book. You know, let me see if I can get him to send you one. And, you know, maybe the same thing for the CMO, CRO. I don’t know enough about how they would describe themselves to kind of frame that but same idea though. Maybe it’s the first hundred days is the new CMO or something, you know, a battle plan for success.

I don’t know. You know, and then maybe one for companies that, you know, where growth has stalled. If your growth has stalled, here’s the blueprint for diagnosing it and restarting growth or something. And those don’t have to be big, long books. Those can be really short and focused. You know, I always like to, you know, tell our clients, you know, we’re going for a plane ride book, it needs to be read in like an hour, you know? So it doesn’t need to contain all of your wisdom but if it’s really focused for that person around that trigger, it’s going to lead you to a lot of the right people. 

Rob: Yeah, those are all great ideas. 

Steve: You know, and those things are relatively easy to create, particularly if you’ve already got a book, you know, because you probably already got blog posts and all that, so you’ve got all the raw materials. 

Rob: Yeah, I mean, that’s how we wrote the book. I just had it outlined and every week, I wrote a blog post that eventually became part of the book. I mean, you know, some effort in weaving everything together logically and smoothly but that was how we came, the first book came to be.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that paired with, you know, with a regular webinar that’s targeted at, you know, primarily at the people that are coming to your meetings. You know, just listen, using those meetings to listen to what are the topics that they are, like craving information about right now and then tailor the webinar to that. You know, you’ve got such great market intelligence from that group. What an advantage you have over every competitor.

Rob: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s great. It’s everyone who presents loves it because they get great questions from the audience.

Steve: Yeah. So, I mean, to me, that’s the mix right there. And then you can forget about having to do a lot of these other kind of larger-scale things that haven’t been paying off. And then just look at how do you really strategically put the right people into that group over time? Build your systems and processes around that. And I think that gets you right where you want to be at that, you know, 20 clients a year and growing.

Rob: Yeah. I think this is great. This is really helped clarify how these various moving pieces, you know, can all fit together.

Steve: Awesome. Well, yeah, I hope that’s been helpful. Anything else you want to cover? Have we gotten you what you needed?

Rob: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure if there’s any problem solving to be done on just building relationships when you can meet in person in the interim. What we’re about to launch but it got canceled from COVID was just having a local dinner, where we’re going to get a local university professor to give it a little, you know, short talk in a private room at a nice restaurant and invite 20 local CEOs to it. You can’t really do that right now. But any other things you’ve seen in terms of something a little more creative or unique than a Zoom meeting to make people feel like they’re having an interactive experience with us?

Steve: Well, I mean, all of the ones that I’ve seen and I’ve participated in a number of them have been on Zoom. I mean, you need some medium to facilitate seeing one another. You know, but the ones that frankly, that I personally have enjoyed the most and seem to have the most positive response are some combination of, you know, one time sort of mastermind meeting and cocktail hour all rolled into one. 

So it’s sort of a cocktail hour with an agenda. And those have seemed to work fairly well and I’ve seen good relationships come out of those. But, you know, what I question is, do you need that? I mean, with what you’re doing right now, with, what, you’re calling them fireside chats?

Rob: CEO Campfire Chats.

Beware Zoom Fatigue

Steve:  Campfire chats. You know, I question how many of those different things you need. You know, I mean, that’s one advantage of doing things virtually is that, you know, in the past, we would have to have the in-person meeting and you might have to have it like, you guys are nationwide, you might have to have it in multiple locations. And so, you know, or multiple times to hit all of your market but virtually, you can bring a few more people in. 

The geographic limitation isn’t there. And so you may not need as many individual events to make it happen. But yeah, those are some of the things that I’ve seen work. But I think it’s a challenge. I think everybody’s getting a little bit of Zoom fatigue, you know? So I would be careful about overdoing it.

Rob: Yeah, I used to get together with a group of friends every Friday on Zoom but finally, we kind of said, I love seeing you guys, but I’m on Zoom for 10 hours a day. Let’s phase it out a little bit.

Steve: Yeah. So I think if there’s a good purpose around it, I think it works. And then I think when that purpose goes away, it becomes more difficult to get people to engage. So, like with what you’ve got right now, there’s a clear purpose and there’s clear value where people wouldn’t keep showing up. They wouldn’t be asking for the recordings. So if you do decide to add anything, I think those are just sort of the guiding principles.

Rob: This is super helpful, Steve. Thanks.

Steve: Awesome. Well, Rob, how can everybody find you? Where can they go and learn more about what you guys are doing?

Rob: Sure. Come visit our website at or just shoot me an email rob.ristagno, And maybe we’ll screen you and see if you’d be a good candidate for a podcast guest or audience member.

Steve: There you go. There you go. That’s the way to do it. We’ll link all that stuff up in case anybody wants to talk with you a little bit more about what you do. So it’d be linked in the show notes. And hey, thanks for being here today. It’s been a lot of fun.

Rob: Yeah, thanks, Steve. It was fun.

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