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Web Design Agency Founder, Partner, Podcast Guest and 90s Bassist?

A few months back, our founder Jesse McCabe was invited to interview on The Journey Map podcast with Dave Hale. Their conversation topics spanned music, programming, Solid Digital’s start, and Jesse’s connection between client selection and project success. (U2 may or may not have also been mentioned.)

Variation on a Theme: Music and Programming

Podcast host Dave Hale and Solid Digital’s founder Jesse McCabe both have a musical background. Jesse spent his 20s in Los Angeles, playing bass in a band who managed to cover a song on a Limp Bizkit tribute album. As time went by in 90s Los Angeles, Jesse found his way into marketing agencies, including a role as a director of technology. At the time, the internet was just becoming mainstream, which is where he found his “interactive” niche (as it was called in those days.) He spent his time assisting in campaigns during the advent of Internet and digital marketing.

These days, Solid Digital itself is chock-full of musicians, with 70% of the staff polled confirming another facet of their life exists as musicians—the creative roots run deep.

In the same way that music could feel meditative and enigmatic, programming also felt therapeutic to Jesse. His passion was always computers, and programming was the space in which he lost track of time. Eventually, he found himself programming instead of playing or practicing music in his free time. He set down his bass and now fills his spare time with solving satisfyingly small problems (that solve bigger problems) within the next or new challenging technology puzzle—particularly in VR or Alexa apps.

Press Play: The Start of Solid Digital

Jesse made the move from Los Angeles marketing agency life to Chicago, Illinois. Having started in a close-knit agency, he kept in touch with many of the creatives he’d worked with. Once he began freelancing in Illinois, and client projects put him over capacity, he asked friend and previous co-worker Travis McHattie (Solid’s COO) to moonlight with him. As the work grew, the two agreed to create a web design agency in April of that year, which then ended up tripling in revenue over the first 12 months.

And that was the start of Solid Digital.

Sight Reading: Takeaways from The Challenger Sale

One of Jesse’s favorite books is also a favorite of host Dave Hale. The book focuses on solving problems to close deals, which was something Jesse had already picked up on in his unlikely journey from programming to sales.

In his band, the manager had given Jesse the nickname of The Irritant. Not for nothing: Jesse commonly pointed out what needed work (“this part sucks”—his own words) so that it could get better. Much like an annoying grain of sand in an oyster that’s necessary to create the pearl. Genuine, honest feedback makes something better. The Challenger Sale gave additional boundaries and recommendations to confirm the path Jesse was on.

Dave Hale’s major takeaway from The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Mathew Dixon was: Don’t be afraid to talk about money. A sales call that transparently walks through payscale, the economic model, and the breakdown of the charges and rates can help clear out leads that are not aligned (i.e. if you’re too expensive) with you. After those money talks, you can move into the timeline. When buyers have the details of the costs, they have a better understanding of what’s involved (and the value that web design and digital marketing bring).

Digital Growth Digest

Honest Guidance for Marketing in a Digital World

Hidden Track: Being Picky with Clients

The secret sauce? It’s more than wanting to do (and doing) your best. According to Jesse, it’s also about being picky with clients. Because doing a website redesign or a digital marketing campaign is process-oriented, Solid’s clients must be willing to trust the team and the process. That trust allows our crew to work efficiently and effectively, allowing us to do the best work possible. Working with the marketing team is vital—as they should be the ones distinctly in charge of the brand’s marketing website.

Equally vital: the culture match. Collaboration and partnership is built into the relationship, and it’s best if Solid Digital is working with a team that’s gone through a website design process before. To better serve a long-term partnership, Solid Digital created its Digital Growth program, where enjoyment (for both teams) accompanies positive results and outcomes.

Reelin’ in the Years: The Ups and Downs of Agency Business Ownership

Solid Digital started from an overflowing freelancing business, and morphed into a team of creatives, programmers and marketers that pay attention to data, numbers, and results.

With four new awards from Clutch (just this year), Solid Digital continues to reach higher for target clientele and beautiful websites that delight users and surpass brands’ goals.

Solid’s net promoter score is higher because we’re picky about our partners (clients). Jesse mentions that if you can say no to a poor fit, do it. Of course, all businesses may go through a dry spell or the doldrums; but taking everything a little less seriously allows success to feel more normal. 

Jesse continues to learn, progress, and challenge himself.

As far as music, it hasn’t all burned out or faded away. Jesse still sometimes taps into his first talent; recently, he wrote a custom rap song (to everyone’s delight) for the website launch party of Solid Digital client Hireology

Jesse constantly says “what gets measured gets done”—and it’s the metronome behind every decision at Solid Digital.

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