Craig Mount, owner of the digital marketing firm Classy Brain, never wanted to start his own company.
He changed his mind when he recognized a critical need for change in the digital marketing industry.
Originally from Rapid City, S.D., the 29-year-old journalism major dropped out of college and moved to Colorado to build a career in digital marketing.
After working for a few different agencies, he observed a manipulative cycle that he didn’t want to be a part of.
“There is this idea in the industry to put as many accounts under an account manager as possible. That leads to a knowledge gap in the market that often results in sellers taking advantage of buyers,” he said. “The business model is very lucrative right now, and there is more manipulation than I would like to see. So I decided to start my own business a few years ago and further educate small business on Search Engine Optimization.”
Recently, Mount discussed his business, the digital marketing industry and what makes Classy Brain different.
What brought you to Colorado Springs?
I became a manager at the clothing store, The Buckle. One of the team leads ended up working for a digital marketing company in town, and I eventually got hired. That’s when I re-entered the search world — after I’d worked in marketing in Denver.
By that time, SEO had evolved into something different and was much more interesting.
What got you interested in SEO?
After reading more on Search Engine Optimization, a branch of digital marketing, I grew to love the process, trying to figure it out and realizing the power behind it. It was eye-opening to me that just by making a few changes to website copy, the algorithm somehow knows what the user will enjoy.
And by making a good product, SEO rewards that — when users use re-marketing and Google AdWords.
There is something so undiscovered right now online. It’s still figuring itself out.
How has SEO changed?
Around 2009, it had a weird stigma associated with it. It seemed very manipulative in the way you could manipulate the algorithm and by 2011-2012 Google cracked down on being able to do that. Also, links used to determine the vast majority of where your site ranked, but not anymore. Now it has more to do with keywords, content, location and reviews. SEO has become more respectable and now you can get some decent results.
What is your next goal?
I want to get to 20 clients and continue to see how far I can scale the company — I would like to grow it nationally. With this market saturation that’s going to occur, people are going to see these profit margins and want to be a part of it. There are probably only about four other companies in Colorado Springs that do SEO and thousands of businesses in the city. The barrier to entry here is low. We’re partners with the Better Business Bureau, and I also guest-teach at the Small Business Development Center and at UCCS about twice a semester, sharing with students the history of search engines and where they’re going.
Why do you volunteer to teach digital marketing locally?
Because of the lack of transparency in the industry — I want to help change that by educating others.
And businesses need to educate themselves on SEO. Businesses nowadays are two to four years behind current marketing trends on the local market specifically and need to be thinking about SEO leads and AdWord leads. Everything has shifted online, and in the search world, and you have write and show the search engine who you are and what you know.
How do you stay updated with SEO trends?
I read more than 100 blogs a week. I’ve bookmarked about 35, will open all of them and scroll through the headlines. There is so much going on in the industry, so you have to cast that big net to see what’s happening because somebody in an obscure blog might post something that will be completely groundbreaking. You have to be looking everywhere to be able to adjust your strategies. The business is constantly evolving.
What has been your biggest challenge?
There can be a lot of pushback, skepticism in this industry. That was the biggest issue by far that I encountered when I was first starting out. But I’ve found when you make things more competitive, competition will naturally weed out bad practices.
When I first started my business it was very important to me that we built infrastructure first — because you can grow incorrectly or too quickly. The idea has been to make a meaningful impact.
Is your company hiring?
Yes. If someone is interested, they can check out Classy Brain’s website or email me at email@example.com.
Right now I have two full-time people and some freelancers consisting of different content writers, an ad specialist and an advanced SEO professional.
How can Colorado Springs retain more young professionals?
There is so much innovation occurring in Denver, Boulder. Colorado Springs needs to catch up. I think the city needs to promote a great culture, and it starts with education. In Denver, the digital market is very full and here, we’re still trying to figure it out.
The most successful tech startup in this city I’ve come across is BombBomb software development. I appreciate its culture because they take care of their people and provide a great product.
I don’t think there are enough opportunities for young professionals in this city and so they go elsewhere. I think some solutions could be for local schools to develop more robust tech programs and for companies to offer more jobs that pay well and allow young professionals to grow.
Colorado Springs is a great market and there is a lot of room for growth. I think there are going to be more people in this city with great ideas and will be rewarded for them.
What advice do you have for other young professionals?
Build a network of people smarter than you. If you want to be the change in Colorado Springs, pull in knowledge from other places.
If you’re looking to start a company in Colorado Springs, you absolutely need to pull in information from other markets doing it better.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love culture. I think we’re very much in a Golden Age with television shows, music and movies and I try to be as much a part of it as I can. I also love reading and enjoy video games.