Victorious’ Michael Transon: “Stay Disciplined”

Michael Transon is the founder and CEO of Victorious SEO, a company he started in 2013. Through his leadership, the company became Inc.500’s 26th Fastest Growing Company in California, and the 371st Fastest Growing Company in the United States.

At Victorious, Michael Transon aims to fulfill his mission of unleashing “every company’s true search potential.”  He continues to lead the San Francisco-based “SEO-exclusive agency” in its continuing quest to deliver “process-driven SEO for well-resourced and agile companies.”

Also, thanks to the leadership of Michael Transon, Victorious has become the only marketing agency in the United States to win SEO Agency of the Year twice, from the US Search Awards and Search Engine Land.

Michael Transon and Victorious have found success by leveraging “a wealth of performance data and market research to create scientifically-driven SEO strategies.” The company uses its “proprietary technology” to combine technology and people in order to deliver “business-impacting results” at impossible speeds.

Over the years, Victorious and Michael Transon have worked with leading brands, which include SoFi, Drift, FanDuel, and AngelList. He has also led the company to three SEO Agency of the Year awards since 2016. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Marketing at the Arizona State University.

Check out more interviews with SEO experts here.

The most valuable lesson I learned in this season of the company was: your company must limit its growth by your ability to attract enough of the right people. Michael Transon, CEO of Victorious

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Michael Transon: I graduated with a marketing degree from Arizona State University in 2012. I had a full time job in marketing right out of college, but I wasn’t pulling enough hours so I decided to pick up freelance work on the side to supplement my income. I helped companies with digital marketing and social media marketing. That was the beginning of Victorious. Success came quickly. In the span of a couple months, I ended up quitting my job and I gave my freelance work all of my time. I hired some friends and close contacts to help with the workload as I brought in new clients from my sales efforts.

But a short time later, I realized I wasn’t happy with the value I was creating with my time. I was bringing in new business constantly, but I wasn’t fulfilling a greater purpose. I decided I wanted to pivot from just making money, to building an enduring company. I read the book Good to Great by Jim Collins and that experience deeply inspired me to transform Victorious in a remarkable way. I embraced fundamental, philosophical concepts of what makes a company great — hiring self-motivated and disciplined people, cultivating a culture of ownership, and defining a clear core-focus we can be the best in the world at.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Michael Transon: One of the hardest things I dealt with early on was determining who were the right people and who were the wrong people to get on my proverbial “bus”. We needed people who could execute on the vision of our company while aligning with the established culture and values that establish our day-to-day actions. It’s a lot harder than you think. For example, there’s a temptation, when you’re first starting your company, to take any piece of business that walks through your front door. That same temptation extends to hiring employees. Hire anyone who’s willing to take the financial risk of joining your unestablished company.

What I realized quickly is I was operating out of a scarcity mindset — and I made some less than effective personnel decisions. These decisions addressed immediate short-term concerns but, in the long run, were bad decisions. Those people didn’t line up with the culture and vision for the business. The most valuable lesson I learned in this season of the company was: your company must limit its growth by your ability to attract enough of the right people. For us, we defined “right people” as self-motivated, disciplined, empathetic professionals with the self-drive to be a part of something great.

Every entrepreneur deals with self-doubt at multiple stages of the journey. Anyone who says they haven’t is probably not telling the truth. It’s about being committed to your vision for a better future while embracing the brutal facts of your current reality — and then having the paradoxical response that no matter what, you will succeed in the end. Coming into contact with hard times or difficult circumstances is not a matter of if, but when — and a positive mindset is a large part of what defines those who persevere and those who do not.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Michael Transon: During the first year or year and half of my business, I exclusively hired all of my college friends as part time employees of my business. If you want to know what it feels like to lose all control and discipline in your entrepreneurial endeavor, then hire your drinking buddies! But seriously, I did learn that a healthy lifestyle for an entrepreneur involves clearly defined lines between work, family, friends, and recreation. While I certainly don’t think it’s unwise to make close friends with those in your professional circle (I have many myself), it’s important to be intentional and thoughtful with how blurred the lines become. It’s difficult to be friends with employees who report to you — choosing those relationships wisely and not overextending allows an entrepreneur to maintain healthy relationships and boundaries that benefit every area of life.

Great companies know greatness does not happen overnight.

Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Michael Transon:

  1. Getting the right people on and the wrong people off the proverbial bus. As Collins shares in Good to Great, people are not your greatest asset. The right people are. If a CEO is struggling to determine if someone is the right person on the bus, a great question to ask oneself is, “If I could go back in time, knowing everything I know about this person, would I still hire them?”
  2. Identifying and leaning into your company’s core focus. This has been one of the most important transitions for Victorious as we started our journey from Good to Great. A company must have the discipline and honesty to look at their business model and ask, “Can we be the best in the world at this?” and “Are we truly passionate about this?” and “Can this create enough revenue for us to succeed as an entity?”. If so, the next (and most difficult) part is creating a “Stop doing list” of all of the things that do not fit the intersection of these three questions. It might mean eliminating some of your greatest profit centers — something we did at Victorious. We eliminated every marketing service except for SEO, so that we may become the best in the world at it.
  3. Instituting a culture of self-motivation, discipline, and accountability. I believe many employers over-emphasize ”hard-skills” as a way to compensate for internal cultural dysfunction of “soft-skills” — things like self-motivation, team discipline, and peer accountability. Who on your team cares if your new hire is the best engineer on the team if he’s a total jerk? At Victorious, “A-players” are personnel with the soft-skills to succeed in whatever area they direct their focus and drive towards. Hard-skills can be taught — soft-skills, much less so.
  4. Having a leadership team that is egoless and anti-cynical. At Victorious we believe as the leader goes, so goes the organization. If you want an egoless and anti-cynical environment where people are valued and they put forth a genuine effort, you have to institute it at the leadership level first. “Leadership” as an important concept may seem like a given for a Great company, but too often, we humans are drawn to affability and dynamic personalities — which do not define great leadership — rather than humility and sanguineness.
  5. Embracing the idea that greatness happens incrementally rather than suddenly. Great companies know greatness does not happen overnight. It requires long seasons of fanatic discipline to the vision of the company. This creates slow moving, but incremental, momentum as an organization. While it may feel unfulfilling to narrow your core focus and see revenue come in much more slowly, the unwavering belief that you will succeed in the end keeps the motivation to stay disciplined and realize the eventual breakthrough into greatness.

Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

Michael Transon: At the end of the day, everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. You see that play out in the social sector, the education sector, or even religion. It’s an inherent part of the human experience. So it makes sense that this same human desire would extend itself to the area that people are spending their most waking hours and energy towards — work. People desire purpose and meaning in their work — and that’s a good thing. What “purpose driven businesses” enable is a social, inherent good that’s being generated by the time and energy that people working at the company are spending towards it.

At Victorious, one of our core values is “process perfection”. What this actually means is we’re fully committed to becoming a better version of ourselves, both individually and corporately. It’s important for companies to embrace the value of a working relationship between itself, its employees, its vendors, and its customers — it should create a better world for anyone that comes into contact with it.

Find ways to convert visitors into contacts in your database and implement effective drip marketing. Michael Transon, Victorious

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

Michael Transon:

  1. Target the right visitors. Not all website traffic is good website traffic. If visitors are coming to your website that are not qualified buyers with a purchase intent, your conversion rates are going to decline. This comes back to making sure your website has effective content that is targeted to a specific audience or a specific purchase intent.
  2. Find ways to convert visitors into contacts in your database and implement effective drip marketing. Some folks think that a buyer’s journey simply consists of the buyer being interested and then purchasing. Behind the scenes, there is a lot of emotional and mental work that goes from just being interested in a product to actually purchasing. Companies should recognize that their ability to be influencing and engaging with a potential buyer through that emotional journey gives them a greater opportunity to end up with a purchase. Examples of this includes offering a free purchasing guide or a free research study in exchange for their email address. From there, start a consistent email campaign that provides them with free, valuable information to help inform their decision making process.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Michael Transon:

  1. Deliver on what you say you will in your marketing and advertising — never overpromise and underdeliver. One of the biggest reasons why brands are seen as distrusted is because the experience that people receive is vastly different than what they were sold.
  2. Find a way to celebrate and socialize those moments of delight when customers are over delivered on what they expected to receive from your business.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Michael Transon: Readers can find and connect with me on LinkedIn.

For more information on Victorious’ services and offerings, visit our website.

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!




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