e57 Pete Grett

57: Pete Grett, founder/CEO of the BlackRock Group

First Customers episode 57 with Pete Grett (full length YouTube version)

Summary

Pete Grett, founder and CEO of the BlackRock Group, shares his experience of acquiring his first customers in the supply chain logistics industry working with over 100 customers, including FedEx.

Takeaways

  • Nurturing relationships and leveraging personal connections are key to acquiring first customers.
  • Social media platforms like LinkedIn can be valuable for staying connected with potential customers.
  • Using AI tools can enhance content marketing strategies.
  • Balancing digital scalability with personal human interaction is crucial for service-based businesses.

Links & Mentions

Peter Grett Quotes

  • “It’s still very much about relationships, which is kind of an old school thing.”
  • “A lot of the self-help or kind of fiber flavored marketing, Chat GPT just does a phenomenal job.”
  • “I really do believe in kind of that content funnel that Matt Bush talks about where you kind of go from a rented audience down to an own audience.”

Chapters

00:33 Getting First Customers through Relationships

01:23 Reaching Out to Potential Customers

03:19 Content Posting and Marketing Strategy

04:01 Utilizing AI for Content Creation

05:10 Process of Generating Content with AI

06:19 Benefits of AI in Marketing

07:32 Moving from Rented Audience to Owned Audience

08:40 Using AI for Social Media

10:23 First Customer and Initial Outreach

11:21 Starting without a Website or Branding

12:26 Investing in Relationships over Digital Assets

13:40 Advice for Entrepreneurs Focusing on Digital Assets

15:29 Fostering Relationships Outside of Digital Connections

18:14 Influence of Tech Startups on Business Tactics

19:11 Different Marketing Approaches for Service-Based Businesses

21:35 Recommended Books for Entrepreneurs

23:01 Combining Ancient Wisdom with Modern Technology

24:27 Finding Mentors and Building Relationships

25:30 Importance of Faith and Authentic Relationships

Show Transcript

Paris Vega (00:00.392)
Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the First Customers Podcast. Today we have Pete Grett. He’s the founder and CEO of the BlackRock Group, a company that installs commercial software for the supply chain logistics industry. They’ve worked with over a hundred customers, including businesses like FedEx. Pete, welcome to the show.

Pete (00:23.966)
Thanks, Paris, I really appreciate you having me.

Paris Vega (00:26.44)
Of course. Let’s get into it. How’d you get those first customers?

Pete (00:33.086)
Yeah, so even in the large area of supply chain, large corporations, so much of my first customers were built on relationships, relationships I had with people over the years working in the corporate world and then coming out and starting my own business in the consulting perspective. I really tried to nurture those relationships, feed into those relationships. I use LinkedIn a lot in order to keep up with where people are at and what they’re doing.

And really some of my first customers in the third part of the logistics space came from those relationships. They were people I knew, people I’ve worked with either at the same company or they were customers of mine when I worked in the corporate world. And then when I went out on my own, I was able to develop those relationships and really expand those and mine those for customers.

Paris Vega (01:23.432)
Okay. And when it came time to start your business and expand and start getting customers, did you just like reach out over the phone, LinkedIn, email? How did that process go?

Pete (01:40.67)
Yeah, I did a lot of stuff on LinkedIn. I used a lot of the contacts that I had in my phone accumulated over many years, honestly, to reach out to either through emails or texts. A lot of what I do today is very social. So this is just kind of the world that we live in. It’s still very much about relationships, which is kind of an old school thing. But the new twist to that is really doing that in a social setting, right?

Paris Vega (01:58.982)
Yeah.

Pete (02:07.806)
So where you used to have a Rolodex back in the day, have little pieces of paper and people’s phone numbers and things on them. It’s just much more sophisticated than that today, right? We stay connected. We still see at least on the periphery where folks are and what they’re doing and being able to kind of occasionally speak into that, engage with them and kind of cheer them on, encourage them, see where they’re going, where they have challenges. And then hopefully as things align and…

they have a need and we have an offering, then we can put those things together.

Paris Vega (02:40.648)
So do you have like an intentional content posting schedule or do you just kind of engage organically as you see fit?

Pete (02:51.102)
I really do both. So I really spent the last year growing a following on LinkedIn and being very intentional about expanding beyond just the folks I’ve personally knew. So we have over 11 ,000 followers on LinkedIn right now. And I use that to produce content or to distribute content that I produce every day. So I try and do one of two things every single day. One is to engage in other people’s conversations.

and topics that are of interest in the supply chain world, but also just general topics. So like one of the things that I posted on recently is a lot of what’s coming out of the Copa trial with Wright, Dr. Wright from a Bitcoin perspective and whether he really is the founder of Bitcoin or I also post original content. So we use that today to post into supply chain topics, topics about entrepreneurship, topics about

different things in just life in general.

Paris Vega (03:51.4)
So do you manage this yourself or do you have like a team or a marketing agency handling your content marketing for you?

Pete (04:01.118)
So I do a lot of that myself. I’ll be real upfront is I’m a big proponent of OpenAI. So with Chat GPT -4, it really takes the nugget of what I want to do and helps craft the narrative that goes around it from a content perspective. And then I hone in on it at that point. It does better copywriting than all of the marketing resources that I’ve used previously.

Paris Vega (04:07.848)
Okay.

Paris Vega (04:20.104)
Okay.

Paris Vega (04:29.)
Yeah.

Pete (04:29.758)
I’m sure from a high end perspective, that’s quite a difference of what you can get from a really experienced marketing resource. But a lot of the self -help or kind of fiber flavored marketing, Chad GPT just does a phenomenal job. And it really lets me leverage beyond my own capabilities.

Paris Vega (04:40.422)
Right.

Paris Vega (04:48.744)
Talk a little bit about that process. So you start with an idea or a topic you want to discuss, and then you’ll have a conversation with ChatGPT. Do you have like some built out, you know, you can make your own little custom GPTs now. And do you have little helpers built out like that, or how does your process look like?

Pete (05:10.398)
Yeah, it usually starts with, you know, I’m really excited about the expansion of chat GPT in the memory, where it’s going to remember some of the prompt information that I get it. So I typically start with the same kind of prompt information about who I am and kind of what my branding flavor is. I give it some specifics about the tone that I want to have or what I want to include and then give it an idea. I do. Yeah. So I just see the conversation with a…

Paris Vega (05:31.592)
So you do that at the beginning of the conversation.

Okay.

Pete (05:39.838)
I want to talk about, you know, yesterday we had an implementation that went live. I want to talk about a good implementation for supply chain software, give it the background information about me again, and say, you know, this is where I want to go with this information. Then I’ll typically refine that and say, ah, no, that’s a little too formal in tone, or I want some more practical steps. Give me three steps on how to do X, Y, and Z, include my branding, marketing, and then…

just really build out from there. And now with GPT -4, with the image inclusion, I usually ask it to produce an image that goes along with it. I’ll be excited to see with Sora, with video coming out, where that’s able to go. But yeah, it’s…

Paris Vega (06:19.944)
Right. Yeah. Now that’s a good, that’s a good topic. Talk, considering how fast AI is moving and how that’s going to affect the marketing industry and kind of empower entrepreneurs to do way more on their own.

Pete (06:37.79)
It really is. It’s a really, I really think of it as a force multiplier, right? It’s like a lever. I can take the energy that I supply and multiply that with a huge effect at a really, really low cost. And especially when you layer in tools like Tapio, where it lets me use GPT -4 in kind of a focused area to understand what…

Is getting engagement in my network? What is getting engagement in areas of interest or in particular topics? You know, is that going to be just a straight post? Is it going to be an article? Is it going to be carousel? Is it going to be some sort of, you know, top 10 XYZ steps, one, two, three, four, what’s going to engage and really be able to metric that and learn very quickly about, Hey, that’s, that’s not getting much engagement. This is.

And eventually what that helps dial down into is, you know, I really do believe in kind of that content funnel that Matt Bush talks about where you kind of go from a rented audience down to an own audience. And that’s where monetization starts to happen and that you can refine that from a customer perspective. Right? So I want to go from an audience, lots of people hearing what I have to say down into people who are paying to hear what I have to say. And those are customers.

Paris Vega (07:48.904)
Okay.

Pete (08:02.526)
And those can be customers in lots of different ways. They’re kind of non -traditional, just like social is, right? Maybe they’re people that subscribe to a paid newsletter. Maybe they’re people that take advantage of consulting opportunities, take advantage of one -on -one coaching. These are all areas that we want to expand with on our customers that kind of let us go into different price points and also give us more intake into that funnel. If more people are listening to what you have to say, are engaging in conversation, are seeing you as a…

expert, they’re much more likely to come to you when they have something that’s of need in your space.

Paris Vega (08:40.2)
I like that terminology, rented audience versus owned audience. That’s a good way to kind of visualize going from paid ads to, you know, getting more out of your organic content. And then you mentioned Tapio.

Pete (08:55.518)
That really is it, right? Yeah. So Taplio is a SaaS software that lets you integrate some of those AI features directly into a widget really that works with LinkedIn, works with Twitter, some of these different areas that lets you kind of see what is working out in the…

Paris Vega (08:58.546)
Could you talk more about what that is?

Pete (09:23.93)
marketplace of ideas, what’s getting engagement, both from yourself and inspiration. Maybe there are particular mentors or particular influencers you follow and you want to engage in that same conversation. It really gives you that ability to hone in on that message, see where it’s landing, see where you’re getting a lot of engagement, and then helps you craft either hooks, posts, full carousels, really anything you want that feeds into that.

So again, it’s this idea of I’m going to take a little bit of me that’s really the special part and craft it into something that’s much more without a lot of my energy and a lot of my time. I want the focus to be on I came up with the ideas, I see the direction, and the software really helps to fill in everything else. And it helps to draw that picture, really.

Paris Vega (10:17.)
I’ll definitely add that as a link in the show notes and check that out. That sounds cool.

Can you talk?

Pete (10:24.574)
Yeah, yeah, and we really just see that.

Paris Vega (10:28.744)
No, you go ahead. I think we had a little delay there.

Pete (10:33.214)
Yeah, no worries. We just really see that as that’s where growth is happening, right? Is in some of those assistive technologies.

Paris Vega (10:41.576)
Are there any other tools that you use?

Pete (10:46.654)
Those are the main ones that I’m using right now. I’m really trying to exploit. We’re a Google shop, so we use all of the things online. There’s not anything that no one downloads software anymore. Everything’s in the cloud. All of that’s readily available. And then we just kind of integrate that with some of those more cutting edge tools like generative AI.

Paris Vega (11:09.232)
All right, so do you remember who your very first customer was and how that specific kind of reach out and onboarding went?

Pete (11:21.918)
Yeah. So my first customer on my own, I spent a lot of time in the corporate world and then about six years ago I went out on my own and my first customer was actually DHL, supply chain. So it’s a big third -party logistics. They do distribution. Everybody knows DHL for shipping things, but in the U .S. they really don’t do that a whole lot. What they do is third -party distribution. So they’ll ship things on behalf of other people, store it, pick it, pack it, ship it. You know.

And so I had a colleague, a former colleague that worked at a vendor that was, DHL was a customer and they needed some extra help. They just needed extra set of hands. And he saw that I had reached out on LinkedIn with a direct message and engaged me and was like, Hey, are you available to do this? Can you go to Atlanta next week? And I was like, yeah, that’d be great. You know, I needed, I needed work at the time. And so that was really my first large customer.

out of my own.

Paris Vega (12:26.714)
So did you have like a website that you were advertising your services on yet? Did you go through some kind of like branding or marketing setup at first or was it just pure you reaching out?

Pete (12:40.262)
Pure reaching out at that point. All of that stuff came later as we continued to grow and add a website and all sorts of other kind of traditional things from a communication perspective, an outreach perspective, whether that’s cold emails or paid LinkedIn ads or anything like that. But at the beginning, it was always relationships. And quite honestly, some of our best customers and our biggest customers as I look back.

have been about relationships, fostering those, maintaining them, making sure that we are staying in communication with folks. And that’s really an advantage of the day and age that we live in, is I don’t have to call a thousand people on my Rolodex. I can stay in at least peripheral vision of a whole lot of people and stay top of mind so that when their need comes up,

You’re there.

Paris Vega (13:40.936)
What would you say to entrepreneurs out there who are trying to get something started and maybe they’re getting stuck in this kind of pre -launch cycle of I got to get my logo just right. I got to get my website and all this trying to focus on all the digital things that are kind of low, buried entry, easy to get right into, but can kind of hold you up from doing the more important things.

Pete (14:08.734)
Yeah, I so resonate with that, right? Because I did the same thing, right? You spend like hours and hours on like getting the right color on your logo or something. And the bigger thing is just like with any investment, right? You should invest where it yields results. And no one really cares about your logo. No one really cares about your website beyond just the perfunctory.

the perfunctory basis it serves. What people do care about is relationships. The two biggest things you will ever have to offer anybody are your time slash experience and your relationship. So you should be investing as much as you can as an entrepreneur in those two things. Leveraging your time, because that’s what people are really paying for is your time, not your current time if you’re doing it right.

They’re paying for everything that you did up till then. Right? They’re paying for that experience and in your relationships, right? How many people are you reaching out to? Who are you directly contacting? Who are you spending time with? Who are you speaking into their conversations and being a part of? Who are you engaging with? All of that yields way, way more returns than anything you do with the logo.

Paris Vega (15:29.992)
So outside of digital connection through social media, email, what are other ways that you kind of foster your relationships, keep them alive, you know, in those, in kind of the physical world?

Pete (15:44.126)
Sure.

Yeah, so I still go to lunch with a lot of these folks. I’ll spend time with them. I’ll text them rarely just to check in. Phone calls for some of the closest ones to say, hey, how’s it going? What’s up in your world? Anything new happening? Try to engage with them and make sure that you’re seeing where they’re struggling or kind of encouraging them as they go along. That’s really one of the best ways, honestly, is not just reach out and saying, how’s it going? But, you know, hey, I saw you posted. You had a challenge here with this.

thinking of you, praying for you, whatever it is as a way to encourage them and get them to keep going.

Paris Vega (16:22.12)
I know that may sound super basic of a question to ask, like, how do you connect with the human in the earth? But I feel like myself and maybe many other entrepreneurs have gotten into this, uh, mode sometimes where you’re kind of hibernating in the digital world and hardly ever having physical interaction. You’re just so focused on doing all the digital quote unquote scalable things that you.

Pete (16:31.326)
That is.

Pete (16:46.078)
Absolutely.

Paris Vega (16:49.896)
kind of lose touch and maybe even lose that, the social skills involved with the actual human contact.

Pete (16:50.398)
Thank you.

Pete (17:00.414)
That’s so right. You know, there are something to be said for kind of like that old school salesperson engagement with others, knew somebody’s spouse’s name, what their kids were doing. You know, I look at some of the people when I started my career who had that just ability to be involved in other people’s lives. And not necessarily like in a deep, intimate way, but just in a familiar way. And we still need to do that. People are still the…

Paris Vega (17:13.448)
Yeah.

Pete (17:30.046)
the biggest capital expenditure you will make is investing in those relationships. And that’s where I think it’s really neat to be able to pair both of those skills together, right? Very old school people -centric relationship building in the real world. And these cutting edge force multipliers with things like generative AI and being able to scale things very quickly from the little bit that’s…

the real and authentic you. And I think that two of those together are just a powerful combination to still be involved in people’s lives, see where they’re at, see what’s resonating, and be able to make connections that really endure the test of time.

Paris Vega (18:14.024)
I wonder if it’s maybe the like explosion of the tech startups, the SAS software or e -commerce businesses where it is very much these online compulsive decisions that people can make the full transaction and go through the full sales funnel without talking to a human. It’s like that became such a huge part of the business stories of the past few decades.

that it seems like that’s influenced all businesses, you know, to kind of lean more that direction where I think maybe that those super scalable actions definitely benefit the SaaS or e -commerce businesses a lot more. But like yourself being a service based business or like I’m part of a digital marketing agency where we’re offering services, service based businesses, you’re all, you still have a lot of human contact and interaction from the sale throughout offering the service all the way.

Pete (18:48.062)
Yeah.

Paris Vega (19:11.304)
you know, through the life of the customer. And it seems like those types of businesses require a lot more humor and interaction and engagement. And maybe the popular businesses that get all the headlines have kind of overflowed their tactics into everybody that may not even apply to that model of marketing.

Pete (19:11.836)
Absolutely.

Pete (19:19.87)
to do.

Pete (19:35.614)
Absolutely, right. And I think that there’s a space, you know, we, we tend to really favor hybrid solutions, whatever it is, right? Cause I want the best of both worlds and the best of both worlds is that only do what only you can do. Right. And so when it comes to personal relationships and making people feel valued in her, that is something that takes a personal punch. And then the services industry, you nailed it. That’s gotta be me. I got to lead with that.

But there’s a whole part of my work life that really can be scaled using a digital assistant and to fill in kind of all of those gaps, those building blocks. And even with SaaS software, there’s a whole portion of this, you know, if you want to ask about a particular feature or function, you don’t need a salesperson to know all thousand things the software does. What you do need is a salesperson who can kind of craft that story about

What’s your problem as a customer? How do we solve it? And how can we engage with you and add value to you? And for me, it’s really is that kind of that Sherpa mentality of helping someone else climb a mountain. I’ve been up the mountain a thousand times. I know where to step. I know where not to step. I’ll lead the charge. I’ll get you to the top of the mountain, Mr. Customer. When we get to the top of the mountain, I’m taking your picture.

you’re the one who’s going to be waving the flag, you’re going to be the success. And there are portions of that that are very rote and planned and they don’t require creativity and they don’t require human touch because we’ve been on the path a hundred times. But there’s a lot of that where, you know, it takes encouragement, cajoling, extra handholding.

to really give that personal touch to our customers. And that’s where we want to find that balance. And I think that when you can hit that the right way, then you’re really going to be able to still be scalable and still be very human.

Paris Vega (21:35.048)
What books would you recommend for entrepreneurs?

Pete (21:42.212)
So there’s a couple of really good ones. I’m gonna be really, really old school and go, you know, as controversial as it may be, the Bible’s full of a lot of wisdom. You read the book of Proverbs, a lot about listening and not talking so much. That’s a really great one, right? Calm in the storm, a lot of just really foundational principles about how to apply wisdom. That’s a big one.

I’m a big fan of how to win friends and influence people as well with Dale Carnegie. It’s like another old school book, 1950s, really about, again, listening, engaging other people, adding value to other people, making other people feel heard, understanding their problems, letting them lead, let them talk. And that’s a great one to kind of review. And even today, because I think timeless wisdom is just so

relevant at any generation.

Paris Vega (22:44.328)
Yeah. Okay. We’ll add links to those two books. It’s weird to call the Bible a book, but yeah, we’ll add links to the show notes.

Pete (22:54.366)
Yeah, for sure.

Paris Vega (22:57.384)
Epic. But this has been really good, man. This is some really solid advice, I think. Taking it back to the human level of remembering that people are still people using the ancient wisdom combined with the modern technology. That’s kind of how I look at things as well and trying to figure out how to balance that both in business and in just life in general these days.

Pete (23:01.086)
Yeah. Yeah.

Pete (23:05.532)
Yeah.

Pete (23:26.078)
It is. Yeah, yeah, absolutely, man. And you see social not in just personal, but in like professional settings now. And it’s a tough balance. And it’s tough balance for our kids. You know, I have a 19 year old and a 23 year old. That’s a, that’s a tough space for them to be in where like, it feels like life has lived in front of everybody. And everybody knows everybody else’s stuff, but it’s like the plasticized version of it.

Paris Vega (23:39.558)
Yeah.

Paris Vega (23:48.776)
Yeah.

Pete (23:54.206)
And in some ways they’re more connected than ever and more isolated than ever because they’re not really real or authentic with very many people at all. And you got to have people that you can do life with. That’s true personally. And that’s, that’s true in business, right? There are still mentors that I can call and I know that they would be there for me. That’s because I built those relationships.

Paris Vega (24:03.782)
Hmm.

Paris Vega (24:16.68)
So is it through like church or there are other social kind of ways that you kind of find mentors or build relationships? You mentioned just reaching out, calling people and that kind of thing, but what are some of those kind of honey pots of social activity that you find?

Pete (24:27.75)
Yeah.

Pete (24:35.102)
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, so I think one of the best things you can do when you start a career, if you don’t start out as an entrepreneur and you start out in the business world, worry less about like, oh, I’m going to get to go work for Google or Apple or something like that. Find a fantastic boss. You could do nothing better for your entire career than to find a fantastic leader who you’re going to be able to see live it out every day. See how they…

do their life, see how they do their job. They’re further down the road. Find someone who’s in a spot that you want to be in. You find a great boss. That’s where some of my best mentors and men that 20 years later, I would still call those people and ask for advice and just go, man, how they handle the situation, how they handle challenges, how they handle difficulties, how they handle success was always great because it kind of went back to that old.

cliche of they always took a little less than their share of the glory and a little bit more of their share of the blame. And I could see it lived out. So that’d be number one. And number two is definitely people to do life with. So for me, faith is very important to me. My wife and I, our faith is very important to us. And so finding people who can plug in and really live that out authentically and that you can be real with.

is just so important, it grounds us in kind of this crazy world where, you know, everything’s lived out in front of everybody else. You still need people who can come over and, you know, open your refrigerator door without asking, because they know you that well.

Paris Vega (26:11.88)
Right.

Well, Pete, thanks for being on the show today. It’s been a great episode of the podcast. Everybody check out the show notes and we’ll have your website, LinkedIn, all that kind of stuff. But yeah, thanks again.

All right, see everybody next episode.


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