On this week’s episode of An Agency Story podcast, we have Jordan Fowler – owner and founder of Moon & Owl Marketing, a full-service marketing agency based out of Fort Worth, Texas that focuses on helping their clients reveal their radical empathy they have for their customer’s situations.
From minister to marketing, Jordan embarked on a personal journey that would test his resilience and determination. Facing numerous challenges along the way, Jordan’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the impact of his agency’s efforts.
Jordan and his team have gained a reputation for its unwavering commitment to providing clients with educational, authentic, and transparent resources. Jordan and the agency worked tirelessly, often putting in long hours of hard work. In fact, their dedication was so remarkable that it inspired the name of the agency itself, as much of their initial work was done after hours in the moonlight.
Jordan’s journey was not without setbacks. There were times when funding was scarce, and doubts crept in. However, Jordan’s resilience and perseverance shone through. He remained focused on his mission, exploring innovative ways to secure funding and sustain his agency’s operations. His tenacity and resourcefulness paid off, as his agency continued to thrive and positively impacted the lives of others.
Today, Jordan and his agency stand as a beacon of hope, providing educational opportunities and empowering others to overcome adversity. Jordan’s personal journey exemplifies the power of passion, and resilience. His unwavering commitment to his vision and tireless efforts to make a difference have transformed his agency into a catalyst for positive change.
Enjoy the story.
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Welcome to An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. From the excitement of starting up the first big sale, passion, doubt, fear, freedom, and the emotional rollercoaster of growth, hear it all on An Agency Story podcast. An Agency Story podcast is hosted by Russel Dubree, successful agency owner with an eight figure exit turned business coach. Enjoy the next agency story.
Welcome to An Agency Story podcast. I’m your host Russel. This week’s guest on the show is Jordan Fowler, founder of Moon Owl marketing, a search marketing agency based out of Fort worth, Texas. Jordan has a unique approach that focuses on helping clients reveal the radical empathy for their own customer situations. From minister to marketing Jordan embarked on a personal journey that would test his resilience and determination. Facing numerous challenges along the way. Jordan’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance and the impact of his agency’s efforts. Enjoy the story. Welcome everyone to the show today, I have Jordan Fowler with Moon and Owl Marketing. Welcome to the show, Jordan.
Thanks. I’m glad to be here.
Glad to have you. Like everyone else, start us off with a quick overview. What does Moon and Owl do and who do you do it for?
I tell people that we do radical empathy, which sounds like a strange introduction, but basically, we help our clients reveal their radical empathy they have for their customer situation. Every one of their customers either has a problem they need a solution for, or a possibility that they want to seize. We show this potential customer or patient or whoever, our client understands your problem exactly. They understand where you are in life. They know your pain or they know the joy you would get if you could seize that possibility. We convey that radical empathy through two ways, messaging, we use an exercise called the LUCID Process. It helps us extract the message from the client that differentiates how they most benefit that end user. Once we get that message dialed in, we market that message, and in most of our clients’ cases, that’s making sure their website conveys a message. We pretty much have a hyper focus on SEO, in that content piece, and paid marketing. As far as who we do that for, we aren’t really vertically focused, but right now our portfolio happens to be heavily medical. We have some financial services clients, some industrial, some technology, even a cycling company. I’d say who we don’t serve, cuz they didn’t fit what we do is home services or real estate. Other than that, we’re niche agnostic.
Where you started a career is certainly not where you’re at today. What was young Jordan thinking or doing in college in the younger years into the first part of your career?
I started college on a full scholarship as a music major. I was living life in the practice room while my friends actually had a life. I took a hard look at the economic feasibility of being a pro French horn player, and it wasn’t so great a feature. There are only so many principle horn positions in symphonies across the world and French horn isn’t a prevalent instrument in rock or top 40, so I thought it might be a better hobby than a career. I shifted and I became a geopolitics major. I thought I might go into the CIA or the Foreign Service Corps, but in my college years my faith started playing a really prominent role in my life and I felt a call to ministry. I always told people I’m going into the Foreign Service Corps, but just as an ambassador for a different kingdom than the US. I got outta college at Stephen F. Austin State University, went to Southwestern Seminary, got a master’s in New Testament. I served around, but by the end of it I was a communications director and a teaching pastor at a large church in Texas for about 10 years.
Not marketing, or maybe you’ll tell the story on how that connects. Why did you ultimately decide to transition from your pastoral career, and how did you decide what you were gonna do next?
In 2011, I call that the dark night of the soul, I was completely burned out. There was a lot of things going on in my personal life. I had a massive battle with anxiety. I’m talking, waking up dry even every morning. To the point of pretty dark depression. Not actively suicidal, but if a bus would’ve come at me, I might not have jumped out of the way for a few months. I had little kids at the time and I didn’t know how to do that. At the same time I went through a divorce, it was just an extremely dark year and a half for me. I knew it was time for a change. My relationship with God would be less professionalized, but also I needed a season of change that there wasn’t some of the external pressures that come from being in a ministry. I thought, let me see what I can do, what can I do in the, quote “secular” world? I was a communications director, I wrote a lot of stuff. I was a teaching pastor, so I had to write a lot. We did direct mailing and stuff, so I said, okay, I’ll look at marketing. That’s probably the closest field to what I’m currently doing. I started sending my resume back then into the black hole of Monster.com, right? I probably put 300 resumes with cover letters in there and I didn’t get one hit back. Not one, because if you’re a pastor, people think you just sit around, drink coffee, write worship songs, messages and that kind of stuff. In reality, part of my role as a worship pastor was, I had 200 volunteers. I knew how to lead people, it just was very tough to convey that in a resume. Finally, I made this crazy cover letter that looked like a Facebook profile, like it looked in 2011. I basically listed out all my skills in a humorous way in this cover letter. I actually was on Craigslist and I found this agency near me in Texas, and they were looking for a social media person. I sent that crazy cover letter off on my resume and they called me back. They interviewed me, I was thinking yes. They call me the next day and say, hey, you’re overqualified. I’m like, man, I’m desperate. Just gimme the job. I’ll take whatever. The CO said, no, you’ll get frustrated and quit. I was like, oh man, okay, but then they called me back the next day and said they were actually gonna create a position for me. I started as an account executive there at that agency. It was an all medical agency. There I learned marketing really suit to nuts. When you worked there, we were so small that you had to go from onboarding the client, you had to create their budget, you had to do all their copywriting for print and radio and TV scripts, all that. You had to track success. You had to oversee the creative team on design, and then you had to communicate all that with the clients. In that sense, it was a real blessing to be there because I had to learn the industry front to back, in the fire itself. That was how I made the transition over into marketing and agency work.
I appreciate you sharing, which was obviously a very difficult time in your journey and glad to see you came out of that. At some point you decided to start your own agency, and as I understand it, how you got started played into your name. When did all that happen and what did that look like?
At the agency I was at, after I came outta ministry, it was all medical. Our CEO let me take on clients that weren’t medical in my own time and I started getting a few web design and copywriting clients, past relationships or somebody I knew. I did ’em at night, after hours. They call that moonlighting. I was moonlighting them. I called some of my friends at other big agencies and said, hey, I’ve got a web design project. Do you want to design and code this site? It’s outside of what your agency does, out of their niche of your day job. Do you wanna do it? And they said yes. We had to come up with a name, so I called it Moon and Owl Marketing because at the start we literally moonlit everything. Everything we did was done after hours on our own computers. At the medical agency, another twist. I got fired from that agency. The culture there was toxic. We would get dog cussed, the entire staff, by the CEO. I mean coming in screaming, she was gonna fire us all. The expectations there weren’t set in the world of reality. I took a stand for some things and then the week before I was getting married to Amy, I got fired. I had to come home to my fiance and be like, hey, guess what? We’re still going on the honeymoon, but after that we’re gonna have to tighten down. It wasn’t ideal. So again, I started the whole resume process. A head hunter contacted me and I almost became the director of the Texas Historical Society in an executive position, and I made it really far but at the last second, they said they wanted the person who took that role to have a PhD in Texas history. I’m a lifelong Texan, I love Texas, but I didn’t wanna get a PhD in Texas history to get a job. During that job hunt, I kept getting more and more clients via word of mouth or through relationships I had. I finally told Amy at some point, I think I’m supposed to stop sending out resumes and try to take Moon and Owl full-time. She, I have to give her a lot of credit. She was very supportive and said, hey, let’s try it for a year and see how it goes. See if you can get it off the ground. Here we are eight years later.
There you are. Was that enough business in those early days to sustain yourself? How did you get more clients and ultimately get past that year timeline you set for yourself?
My wife is an elementary school counselor. We had an income to lean into, but I’m a real firm believer, your destiny’s tied to your relationships. The pastor of the church I go to now says this all the time, and I think that’s really true and I saw that come to fruition. People I knew when I was at the previous agency, we bought from a lot of radio reps, those radio reps started calling me up when they heard I’d left and said, hey, I have a client that’s not medical that wants a website done or some social media done. The word of mouth started getting out of a lot of friends that I had, hey, Jordan’s doing websites, or Jordan is doing social. He’ll write your stuff. Very slowly, we started getting clients and then that client would refer another client. We’ve had consistent growth over time, which has been a real blessing.
How did you pick up your digital marketing chops? Obviously you had some time in the agency, but maybe even more particular, the complicated world of SEO. How’d you pick up that?
That agency did not do SEO. They hired out. When I started Moon and Owl, we didn’t offer SEO. I was very skeptical of SEO. I viewed it like voodoo snake oil. Particularly because every agency we had worked with would never tell us what they had done. I’d be like, okay, so what did you do for the client to earn their rank? And they’d be like, that’s proprietary. Even when we started Moon and Owl, a client would need SEO strategic partner. They didn’t white label for me. I brought them into direct relationship with a client cuz I was already skeptical, and we ended up having to fire like four or five agencies for four or five different clients. During that, our clients, would say, hey, why don’t you guys do SEO? We trust you. I’m like, I don’t want to do SEO. I don’t believe in it. I don’t want to do it. Finally enough of ’em kept clamoring and clamoring. I said, okay, we’ll do it. I am an Enneagram five, show me a spreadsheet, INTJ and the Myers-Briggs data-nerd architect prototype. I said, okay, if we’re gonna do SEO, we’re gonna do it the right way and we’re gonna base it off of the first principles of how a knowledged graph database, which is what every search engine is, works. I started reading patents. I got connected from Google and others. I got connected with a mastermind group that really thought in terms of first principles and what works based on empirical evidence. It wasn’t GuesSEO, it wasn’t SEO by analogy. I’m a curious learner by heart, so I soaked it up and we ran tests. Somebody would say, this works, so I’d run some tests to see if it moved the needle or if it was just hype. Over that time, have become more and more knowledgeable about SEO, very into what Google’s doing with machine learning, how that’s changing the face of SEO and how all the elements play into that. It was a hesitancy, but once I jump into something, I jump all in, and it’s funny that’s become the largest part of our agency. I’d say the largest part is SEO. The second part of it is probably branding and messaging, and then the third part of it’s web design. The beautiful thing about moving into SEO is it’s offered us, whereas you do web design, you design our website, you might do some maintenance with hosting, but you gotta hunt somebody else. SEO gave us a very stable, recurring monthly revenue. Right now I think 80% of all our revenue is monthly recurring, which is a very healthy place to be in as an agency.
Highlighting the juxtaposition of where you were in the first part of your career to where you ended up, what were some of the key elements that you used from that past experience to help you in your role as an agency owner?
I think it is that element of radical empathy, understanding that concept. There is a genuine care about the success of others. Maybe that came somewhat from a pastor’s heart. That you really wanted to see others win, including our clients. I think the other part of it is valuing rigorous honesty and transparency. We tell clients exactly what we did activity-wise in regards to SEO for their site to gain traction. We don’t spin metrics. I was surprised how novel that was because every client we’ve had is man, our previous agency didn’t tell us any of this. They would just shoot us a couple words that we ranked on. I think that builds incredible trust in the relationship and that’s allowed us to have real success. Radical empathy and rigorous honesty are probably our two core values.
I don’t know if you’ve trademarked that term, but I love it and I hope it catches on, radical empathy. At this point, obviously you’ve been doing this for a while. When you look back, what are you most proud of in your time as an agency owner?
I would honestly say I do believe in relationships, and I think our client retention rate is a point that we can be proud of. We don’t do long-term contracts with clients. They can just give us 30 days notice if they don’t think we’re delivering results and they’re out. We’ve only had two monthly recurring revenue clients leave since 2011, and those are both because of cash flow issues. You say how does that happen? It comes back and we pride ourself on our transparency, both in the efforts taken and the results they got. We try to measure as close to their pocketbook as possible. We’re not just blowing smoke, we’re not just going, oh, we ranked you number two for left-handed blue eyed LASIK surgeons. We’re going, no, from organic search, you got this many consults booked, or if we’re running AdWords or pay digital, you got this many consults booked. From the business owner standpoint, that’s what they care about, right? You can go broke and rank in number two for some terms, but if you can generate revenue from organic traffic or paid media, then it’s a real win for them. I would say client retention rate is definitely what I’m most proud of.
In most episodes I do and folks I talk to, the pandemic comes up at some point. How did that affect your business?
We took a 39% revenue hit in April and May of 2020. Clients didn’t quit, but they did scale back a lot. Everybody was scared. We run super lean. I’m pretty meticulous about going through, making sure we don’t have softwares that do the same thing that we don’t need. We don’t get too far ahead of the cash flow on hiring. We have a formula we use to know when it’s time to bring someone on. We were able to do okay through that. Even though it was a 39%, we only had at that time one W2 employee beside me. We got a P that covered that. Our strategic partners, we helped them get their P for them so they could stay in business too. We’ve come out of it, we operated about a 41% profit margin versus revenue. By Q4 of 2020, we had really started growing again. It’s been steady growth ever since then, and this year we’ll have a revenue and profit growth of about 43% over last year. We’re seeing an uptick. I am aware, there’s talk of a recession and we do listen to that and try to scale back expenses and things like that even more. When we think something like that might be on the horizen.
It’s always good to have some reminders to stay lean. Given where the business is at today, what are you most excited about?
I love seeing organic results in SEO and for me I’ve almost gamified it. Google, yes, is our client’s ally, and other search engines are too. At the same time, I know that they exist to make money and the only way they’re gonna make money is through AdWords, so everything’s gonna always, ultimately, in their mind have to co-op that way to a degree. It’s me versus Google. That’s exciting to me because they’re always changing their algorithm, so I’m having to go, okay, what did they just change? Can I dissect what happened? Okay, they’ve moved to machine learning. What is that gonna mean? Schema and entities are gonna be way more important than keyword density. All those kind of things. It’s not a static environment. It’s not like print where I’m just, okay, this is a great ad. Send it to the print shop or send it to the magazine. It’s changing all the time and it makes it a fun challenge for us.
That is quite hard to stay on top of the Google machine.
Which is funny cuz our paid media guy was an organic SEO and he’s just like, man, I got tired of it. Because it was just way easier to measure paid medias. He’s awesome at it, but he hates organic SEO.
What is your long-term focus for the business? What’s the big goal here?
It’s two things. We’re gonna keep plowing in the same direction. We don’t have any radical shifts planned in sense of that. We’re gonna help clients develop their radical empathy message and then make sure it saturates, everything they do, every page of their website, every piece of marketing, even their email responses, right? Does it contain that core radical empathy message where people go, oh yeah, they understand me? That’s number one. Number two is I think we’re gonna stay committed to being a constant learner of what Google and the other search engines are doing in terms of algorithm developments. Reading patents, running tests, and then strategizing, okay, how do we leverage this in the best way for what we know to be true about the search engine for our clients?
Last big question for you. Always love to hear people’s different answers on this, but are entrepreneurs born or are they made?
What a question. I was gonna say it’s both and, but I think it might be more either or. Some people are just born as daredevils and they have a high risk tolerance. They love to push the boundaries. They push back against authority. You can tell from the time that they’re a kid, they’re not gonna be a nine to five job type. I was never the, hey, I’m gonna live on a hundred percent commissions type personality. I always prefer the steady paycheck and that, but, you heard this story. I had to get something going. I left the agency that I was at to get out for my own sanity. I call myself a reluctant entrepreneur. I did try to get the regular nine to five job. It didn’t come to fruition, so I said, okay, let’s try this thing for a year. I’ll take on some risk, but I want a seatbelt. Some of my friends who are just like, oh yeah, I’m gonna start this company and that company and this company. I think there are a lot more folks out there that are wired like me, that could be entrepreneurs but didn’t realize it. I think there are a lot of entrepreneurs right now who are working big corporate jobs and they hate it. If life or someone else gave them a little push, they’d realize they can succeed at it outside of the corporate structure and they’d end up loving it, but they, I had a friend, he goes, man, I’d love to own my own business like you. I’m like, why don’t you? He goes, oh man, I’m too scared. I was scared too. Do it scared if you really feel like that’s where you’re called to go. Yeah, I think it’s an either or.
Fascinating. I do a lot of work with a local small business development center and collaboration, and one of the things they saw out of the pandemic was this onslaught of people coming from all these industries. I think particularly nursing, obviously we’ve heard the stories of them getting burnt out. I’ll be curious to see the statistics, several years from now, how that all panned out. They probably had a lot of people that otherwise would’ve ended up as reluctant entrepreneurs. Make that leap or something along those lines.
I think a lot of people jumped into the gig economy as well, right? I do know, we’re working with this company that is building a roofing app, and evidently there’s a new law, it’s in debate, is if somebody is a contractor and they only work for you, that owner is almost gonna be forced to move them to W2 if this new law comes to fruition, which is gonna shake things up, Uber and the roofing industry and all that kind of stuff. I’m curious what’s gonna happen to the gig economy. If that law takes effect, it’s gonna be very interesting.
We’ll have to wait and see, but if people don’t wanna wait and see and they wanna know more about Moon and Owl, where can they go?
The easiest place is a website, moonandowl.com. There’s a contact form. You can get a free consultation if you’re interested. Or just email me at Jordan J O R D A N @moonandowl.com and I’ll be happy to converse with you.
There you have it, folks. You know where to go. Thank you so much for being on the show today, Jordan. It was an absolute pleasure to get to hear your story and I wish you the best of luck down the road.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of An Agency Story podcast where we share real stories of marketing agency owners from around the world. Are you interested in being a guest on the show? Send an email to email@example.com. An Agency Story is brought to you by Performance Faction. Performance Faction offers services to help agency owners grow their business to 5 million dollars and more in revenue. To learn more, visit performancefaction.com.
I’m an agency owner, we love to have passionate clients. We have one surgeon who is really passionate about his niche, so he sent us a picture of his new personalized license plate on his car, and he’s standing next to the car in the shot. He’s beaming, smiling, and the plate just says, hernia. Not hernia doctor, just hernia. I think it’s pretty funny and yet awesome at the same time. He’s all in on complex hernia surgeries. I do wonder what other drivers think when they drop by and see, and they’re trying to figure out the backstory on that but that was pretty awesome.
Some people are probably reading it trying to determine if it’s an acronym. Like surely no one just has hernia as their license plate.