Sam Michelson was in town, and he is the CEO of Five Blocks, a digital reputation management firm based in Jerusalem, Israel. We spoke about how Sam started, which actually was via an e-commerce site selling cell phones as an affiliate.
Sam explained that they sold tons of cell phones but there were a couple of complaints here and there and those complaints really showed up at the top of the search engines. So he started to write refund checks to these customers, but some of those customers were frauds. During that process, he thought about how to manage the reputation of his company online.
Sam was born in Pittsburgh, he is the son of an army family, so they moved around. He went to Yeshiva University, then went to graduate school in Israel, then the Israeli army and then had jobs at technology companies in Israel. That is where he learned his technology and online skills. I believe we met first at an SMX Israel, where he may have spoken and sponsored at past events.
We then discussed business client development, ie, getting new prospects and customers. Sam said this was all done organically; it happened out of solving their own internal issues. Sam said he was willing to spend thousands of dollars per month, but larger companies are likely willing to pay more. So once they figured out how to do it for themselves, they then moved to figure out how to do it for others.
So they decided to go the public relations route to get some business. That PR company became their first client, and they started to work by trial and error. So on LinkedIn they tried to talk to people and firms within the public relations space. They did not find new clients through online marketing but rather by reaching out through connections.
It was a lot of outreach through LinkedIn and word of mouth. And they spoke about reputation management in terms of building up the positive stuff and not about hitting or destroying the bad stuff – being positive versus negative. Sam also shared everything and didn’t keep any secrets, and that helped them get more attention despite sharing competitive knowledge. Sam was doing content marketing, in a form, before most.
Five Blocks proposals are 15 or so pages that spell out the steps you need to take to solve the problem. They spell it out and many ask him why? He said because the clients that he really wants will hire them to do those tasks.
He said they close about 50% of all proposals, which is super high. But he said a lot of this is because he is getting a lead from a word-of-mouth reference and they are not shopping around.
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