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How Ross Brezovar Is Breaking Records in Aruba - His Success Story and Tips for Expanding Your Business!
Episode 44th February 2023 • Breaking Marketing • Liana Ling
00:00:00 00:32:46

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In this episode of Breaking Marketing, hear from Ross Brezovar, entrepreneur and founder of A+ROI, a successful full-service digital marketing agency.

Celebrating their 23 years in business and now expanding into the USA, Ross shares his remarkable journey to success as well as key insights for growing businesses in small communities and beyond.

Tune in to learn how to make ROI your priority and unlock the potential for growth without compromising quality!

Transcripts

Speaker:

You're listening to Breaking Marketing, where we uncover the cuttingedge strategies disrupting the marketing industry. Join host Liana Ling, CEO of Ad Skills, as she takes you behind the scenes to access insider knowledge from industry leaders and innovators pushing and breaking the boundaries of marketing. Are you ready to discover the secrets of the marketing elite? Let's begin. Breaking marketing. Marketing.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker:

Let's go.

Speaker:

Well, hello, it's Liana Ling, and welcome back to another episode of Breaking Marketing. Today, I am really excited to have my good friend Ross Brezovar here. He is the owner of Aroi Marketing, which is automation plus marketing on the beautiful island of Aruba, which is where we all want to be right now because I'm in the middle of winter at the time that we are recording. Thank you for bringing the warmth and the sunshine as you always do. Ross, it's great to have you here.

Speaker:

Thank you. That's my goal.

Speaker:

I thought let's dive in because I think that your story is just so interesting in terms of how you're basically dominating where you are in Aruba and expanding now. I didn't even realize this before until we started chatting the guy behind the scenes of some pretty big brands. I think what you're doing is just really interesting. Why don't you tell us about what you're doing there in Aruba and also, like, how you're expanding, beyond those borders.

Speaker:

Oh, yeah, I'd love to. Well, I think I should start off by saying that the gray hair is definitely from the fact that I've been doing this now for over 20 years. Our company will celebrate in two weeks from tomorrow, 23 years in existence.

Speaker:

Congratulations. That is huge. That's huge.

Speaker:

It is. I think it says a lot to the team that we have now. You can imagine 23 years ago, there wasn't a lot going on. I think I was one of two companies on the island that actually was building websites. And, it gives you this the the strength and the power to adapt as you need to because the market changes so quickly. It changes a lot quicker now than it used to back in 20 years ago. Just getting people to say that they even know what a website is, why they need one. Then mobile marketing came along. I had probably one of my easiest sells. I'll have to explain it to you one time for mobile marketing and then with software development and moving forward, trying to get more use out of my degree information technologies is trying to figure out better ways to make things more efficient.

Speaker:

Also more effective when we incorporated in 2015 is when I moved back here to Aruba and ran into the owner of Domino's Pizza and I had found out that he was frustrated with the agency that they were working with. I said, well, we can support you. We tried to help them with some projects, but then he decided to go with the largest one on the island. That lasted about three months until he figured out that every time he picked up the phone, he was getting charged 15 minutes. They were building by the 15 minutes lot. He came back to me and said, I like that idea that you had about a retainer, a set amount every month. I said, yes, that helps both of us. We can both budget a lot easier. I made sure that I gave a really good price because my goal then was to build up my agency.

Speaker:

Before that was just sole proprietorship, just me doing stuff with some of the team we had and knowing that Domino's Pizza is a brand that globally no one on the planet has never heard of. I knew that would be well worth it to have in my portfolio. We worked it out and coming up next month is seven years. Now, we've been doing pretty much everything you can imagine for this, whether it's TV, radio let me stop you there.

Speaker:

For a moment because I don't know too many agencies that can say they've had a client for even three years or five years, and you've had a client here for seven years. So what's your secret there?

Speaker:

Well, I will say that I think one of the biggest things is service. Our team is amazing at how quickly they're able to not only respond, but also to take care of issues regardless of what it is, almost to a fault. I think that's why some of the I mentioned earlier about babysitting services, because with clients, especially big clients like this, you've got to be available. Of course, when what hits the fan, you jump into action regardless of the time or day. It gets to the point where stupid little things will come up at 11:00 at night and one of the big resorts will send a message. You're like, really? Now? On a Friday night? I think service is probably the best. I'll give you a great example. When I met with the owner of the franchise, Domino's, about a year or so ago, I asked him, he said, what happens if something happens to you?

Speaker:

Like the company, the business, everything else? He explained, he said, yeah, but I've got a great team. They could keep going, the family would just continue with it. He turns to me and he says, I'm actually more worried if something happens to you. And I said, why me? He said, Because you guys handle things with corporate that I don't even know how it works or what you do with, because we managed the online app and the website with all the promotions and stuff. He said, if something happened to you, I would not know where to start. He said, I think you're actually more valuable in this relationship. I was like, well, I appreciate that. I also know that I also have a good team that could just continue on if something ever happened. It just goes to show that the relationship is strong because we continually provide the best service that we possibly can.

Speaker:

Yeah, I think that's a really interesting situation because there's more and more stuff with AI, there's more and more automation. I mean, you're all about automation plus marketing, right? Yet you also have a big emphasis on the personalization, the service which a lot of people think that's very manual, right? To put that personal touch there and I'm just personally seeing that is the more we automate, the more people also really appreciate that extra personal touch too. How many times have I been on the chat just checking it out and somebody goes, this is a real person, I don't want to talk to a bot, right? Are you real? And then I say they're real. I'm like, okay, I just wanted to know that and now I'm going to Bot High, right?

Speaker:

Yeah, I totally agree with you.

Speaker:

Yeah, so please continue. I just thought that was a really interesting point there no worries.

Speaker:

I think that one of the things that we pride ourselves on is how flexible but also how forward thinking we are. COVID hit, obviously everyone was like, what are we going to do? We did a complete Pivot, which were obviously forced to. We saw a lot of businesses struggling so we figured how can we help the restaurant industry? As a matter of fact, this is how we met Jeff, our close friend. Was because of this and because we sold right away, one of the first things we did, we ended up selling both Benihana and Hooters, an online ordering system that allowed them to do delivery and takeout because a lot of restaurants, especially here, did not have that. Domino's was in a great position because they're all about delivery, right? The systems were in place, the people were in place. It wasn't as big of a changeover.

Speaker:

A lot of the other restaurants could not do that. We've been working with them since 2020 just because of that one thing. And now they have a new manager. He's asking us to implement a lot more things both with social media management but also with, delivery of QR code systems so that people can join their Hoot club, VIP club. That automation again comes into play because it allows them to offer more things because of our background and our experience. We have a lot of clients and I mean, our economy, 98% of our economy is on tourism. You can imagine we have hotel clients. Marriott is one of our clients with the casino, which is an area that's very interesting, but we have a woman on our team who used to work in marketing in a casino here and because of COVID fell away and was not able to, the casino closed.

Speaker:

That was to our benefit and it really supported us because now we have a tremendously strong person on our team but also has that experience. It allows us to go after these larger names because of our experience, right.

Speaker:

Some people, when they're in a small community, I mean you're on an island and then some people are in maybe a very small community in their area, they just might think, oh, I can only service a couple of different people. You've really pivoted to be able to service a number of different companies just because you're trying to make the most of where you are. Now you're able to expand because you have this tremendous amount of experience. I think that's a bit opposite to what we kind of teach a lot of other people who are starting on business and you have to niche down and I see a lot of power in that. We don't see too many people who are saying hey, I'm just going to dominate this area with all this different just the variety of things you can do, right?

Speaker:

I think that's a good point you make because we're forced we literally are 19 miles long by 7 miles wide. By geographically we are a small market, but that doesn't mean that we can't expand. Our operations manager now moved to Curacao, which is the island next door. We have plans to expand there as well. Of course take advantage of the fact that I've got team members in other countries that also want to expand in their own area with our support. That's one of the big reasons why fulfillment is so important to us, so that we can help other marketers like we're doing now with Google business profiles and a few other things from California all the way to Canada. That is important for us because it allows us to have tentacles on different areas and be opportunistic when things become available. I think the Marriott casino was one of those that we didn't expect to have or just expect to go after.

Speaker:

Like you mentioned, you can't niche down here. If you do, you're going to be a very small player in a small niche.

Speaker:

How do you manage that with your team? Because again, most people will say, okay, because I do this, I stick to one industry, I build all the templates. With that I streamline my operation so I know I can fulfill with quality and with efficiency. Whereas I would imagine if you have to be able to serve all these different things and pivot I'm thinking do you have to have all these different specialists on your team. How you approach that where you don't end up with a ton of different specialists on your team and it just kind of bogging everybody down because you have to learn something new all the time.

Speaker:

I do think that a lot of this comes down to what the foundation is. So I'll give you a great example. One of our clients from last year is the Aruba Trade and Industry Association. They have about 150 businesses as members and we decided to join and then they invited me over. I ended up doing a workshop and then they became a client of ours and we handle all their registration funnels for all their workshops and all their things. Well, that registration funnel because it's automation, especially in the tool that we use. We now have a new client which is the largest, I want to say nonprofit organization, but they're not a typical nonprofit like the YMCA or something like that. They're the ones that go knocking on the big doors in Europe and the US. Bring in $100,000 or $250,000 worth of investment that they can then apply toward either a localized project that's specific or to help out with other projects or other nonprofits that don't have capacity to get that kind of funding.

Speaker:

They just took over a government project at the end of last year where they're going to manage eleven neighborhood centers and they chosen us to help them with their automation and set up for their CRM personally within their organization. They want us to apply that to all of the eleven neighborhood centers so that it allows them the capacity to invite people to do certain events, be able to track the information that comes and goes. The registration funnel that we've used for athya the Trade and Industry Association I can just as easily use somewhere else. There's just the change over using custom fields that allows us to just quickly change who it is and what they're doing and then they can go in and make changes to the text and the email and such. I think it comes down to more what exactly you're offering that you can then use across the board and it doesn't matter what niche you're in, right?

Speaker:

You're basically creating a similar backbone and then that enables you to pivot very quickly depending on the different industries.

Speaker:

Absolutely. Like last week, we gave it two and a half hour training to this organization, the nonprofit. It was as much a training about the system, but also about understanding their processes. There was good communication back and forth, even within themselves to understand what the process they do now that they may have to change so that it makes it easier and more efficient for them, but then also taking advantage of the CRM. You learn right then and there when you're actually training to use the system and then we can come back, make some adjustments and move forward.

Speaker:

Right. I noticed something too. Whenever I talk to you about processes and systems, you always hone in on, well, what's the goal here? You also talked about, well, let's also take a look what their purpose is. There's so many tools and systems out there. It sounds like that's really your go to in terms of helping people just kind of figure out what you're supposed to do and how to design it versus other people going, well, there's like 5 million different tools. Let's just try this and kind of hope it works.

Speaker:

Yeah, I think you're right. It's funny because my go to line when I'm with a prospective client always is where are you today and where do you want to go? That for me is the most educational thing. Whatever they tell me, I'm able, especially when I'm in sales mode, right. I'm trying to get them as a client is to understand where they are and what they're struggling with. I'm sure many people that have been doing this as long as I have or even longer would say the same thing. The idea in my mind is how can I creatively help them get from where they say they are today and where they want to be? Not just from tech or efficiency type of thing, but also what's the biggest impact that would help them get there and do it quicker and something that we can support?

Speaker:

That to me is usually the starting of that conversation. I can then use my creativeness to say these are the avenues I believe we should travel to help you get there.

Speaker:

Yeah, I am 100% agreement with you on that. I think the more people that really focus on that, especially as the world gets busier and busier with AIS and tools and stuff, you have to be able to do that as a consultant, as a company to help steer the way and manage the way for them.

Speaker:

In this craziness, with my 30 plus years in the hospitality industry, that's where I cut my teeth. That makes it easier for me also to have a good communication with this industry because I've been there. I've done everything from bar back behind the bar all the way to assistant general manager. The conversations are easier to have that way. I've also found that if I were to niche and say I'm going to only do hotels, which would make sense, right, because of my background and experience. I also find that every hotel has different infrastructure. They have one hotel has the reservation supervisor helping us with social media. Why, I don't know. You have another hotel that does it completely different. And also their goals are different, right? Like in Aruba, we have a lot of timeshare resorts. They deal not just with the people like yourself if you're coming here and staying here, but owners.

Speaker:

These are people that have invested to actually own a piece of time versus maybe a Marriott, which actually has timeshare too. The point here is that it doesn't really necessarily mean that if you're niching that, it's all going to be easier because you still sit down with that GM or that person that you're trying to sell, and their goals are going to be way different than the next person to the next person.

Speaker:

Yeah. I wanted to switch gears a moment because I've heard you talk about some of the events that you've run, and I know you've talked about this other event that you did with Qantas where you had a phenomenal night. I never had a chance to ask you about the details. I selfishly want to ask you because I was really curious if you could walk us through what you did for that event. I think also people think, oh, it's a small island. You're only going to be capped at raising a certain amount of money or getting a certain number of people because it's small. That's why that really keeps sticking out in my mind. I know you've mentioned a couple of times, I want to just ask you if you could spill some of the details about that. I was really curious.

Speaker:

Yeah, absolutely. It's funny, for those who don't know, Qantas is a global organization, right? There are clubs all throughout the world. It's funny. My first year in Qantas was about seven years ago. I went to the international event, which I believe actually was in Toronto. I remember as a first year, I was going there to educate myself. I was going to these different workshops, and one of the workshops was about fundraising, which I love doing. I wanted to go in there and listen and hear what everyone else was doing. All these people were talking about their great success with this and with that, and they were saying, oh, we raised $2,000 in this one pancake breakfast, or we did roses for Valentine's and we raised $1,500. When they got to me and I was like, I almost felt embarrassed to say anything. This year, February is our 24th annual masquerade party, except for COVID, of course.

Speaker:

We didn't have so as like Mardi Gras in the United States. We have carnival here every year. We have the event, and it's a fundraiser. It is strictly a fundraiser. We get everything donated as far as the prizes, cost and prizes and that kind of stuff. We cover the cost of the convention center and that. When they asked me, I said, well, our best project is a one night masquerade event where we might raise $140,000 from ticket sales. I mean, everyone in the room just went, yes. Who is this guy? I'm like and I'm a newbie. I don't know enough, but I was almost embarrassed to say because everyone else was so excited about what they've done. And we do stand out. We're one of the largest clubs in this entire region, which is actually part of the Eastern Canadian and Caribbean district. Of course, we do raise a lot of funds.

Speaker:

To your point about this being a small island, it makes sense that one, carnival is very important to the locals. People who grew up here with Carnival every year. Ours is a very particular type of event, where we have three or four of the best bands that come to play. Everyone's dressed in just the most bizarre. My very first year, I was part of a foursome that did Kiss, the rock group that were all which one were you? Yeah, that's a good question. The one with a star on his face.

Speaker:

I think it was okay.

Speaker:

I don't know. They're actually using that picture as our advertisements this year.

Speaker:

I need to see that picture. Did you stick your tongue out?

Speaker:

Yeah. It's very interesting. To your point or to your question, this is the first year we're going digital. We used to print tickets. We'd get, like, a local bank that would pay and cover the cost. My company, when they talked about it, I said, well, we have developed something that we could use. We have no problem with donating it, so we have our name on every ticket that goes out. We've actually created a digital platform that allows people to let us know. They're requesting a ticket, letting us know because we don't really have true e commerce here. We have, like, one payment processor that nobody likes to use because it's expensive, or the banks, so they either do cash in hand or bank transfer. Well, you can't automate that, right? Because by the time you finally get to sit down and do the bank transfer, then you have to send us.

Speaker:

The way we have it set up is you basically are requesting a ticket. The system knows who you are. It signs you a ticket number and gets you 14 days for payment. When you've made payment, you can send that payment receipt to the accounting firm that's collecting all this for us. They go inside, they log into the bank account, they verify that we have, in fact, received your payment. They just go to our system and say, yes, Ross has paid, and it will generate the ticket and send it to them digitally. What will happen now is that when we go to enter, they have a single use QR code that will scan when they enter in, and they'll get access to the system. It's funny, they came to us last week and asked because we're doing so many raffles and we typically do the drawing prior to the event because during the event, everyone's partying and having a good time.

Speaker:

No one wants to stop and see who won the fruit basket. Right. So we do that in advance. What we're trying to come up with now is a solution that when I scan and I know that you're one of the winners, that it notifies us.

Speaker:

Oh, nice.

Speaker:

Trying to figure out how that way that right away we know you're one of the winners, we can give it to you right away.

Speaker:

Sure.

Speaker:

Because the rest of the night, usually in the manual system is figuring out how many people are there, figure out where the ticket is and then we have to go find these people. That's not easy.

Speaker:

Yeah. It sounds like you really streamlined it. Obviously it's an event that people really wanted to go to, but I love how you just blew their minds. Everybody's like, oh, I'm raising 1500 and you're like 140. You know, I love that flex. That's awesome. In terms of the hospitality industry and today's industry and now we're kind of coming out of this crazy time, what do you see are kind of the biggest challenges that they're facing as we're trying to just get back to, quote unquote, whatever normal is now, I.

Speaker:

Think it is the same everywhere in the US. As well as labor. I think a lot of the hotels, casinos that either restaurants that closed, people were able to pick up in other areas. I see that too many of our clients are still putting out. We need a buster, we need somebody in the kitchen, we need reservation as we need and one of our clients just posted and I just happened to see it because we don't do their social media, but there must have been like 1518 open positions they were trying to fill. That's not good, obviously, because from a service standpoint, obviously Aruba is well known for our service, but at the same time there's also building that's going on, that has been going on prior to COVID with new hotels, opening that. I'm not sure how we're going to cover that labor wise.

Speaker:

I think that is one of the biggest challenges and why is that important from us, from marketers is because who is on their staff now that can actually help us with doing it right? Because I can't create a hotel's content because obviously it's very specific to their activities, what their amenities are, what they offer and of course their facilities. There needs to be somebody there that's our liaison to help us and they lost two good people that used to be who we are now and luckily they did find someone who's really stepped up. I think that's a big challenge for a lot of us is that and I'm very fortunate, I think out every day that we have maintained such a great team for as long as we have that really are the backbone of everything we do.

Speaker:

Do you think it's also because it's just population size and you need more people to move to Aruba? I mean I would think who would not want to get a job on a beautiful island?

Speaker:

Well, we'll go into more politics now but I think yes, I mean who wouldn't like to move here? I know there's a lot of people that would probably be open to that. One of the challenges was getting the government to release the ability for work permits to be accepted because during COVID everything was obviously they wanted to take care of their people right on the island. Those that were here that maybe hadn't received their permit yet, they had to leave during COVID because there's nothing for us here. For them. That's a slow process. Every government agency across the planet, I'm sure it's not a speedy, efficient system. Unfortunately, getting the permits and getting the people in little complicated, a little difficult. I think we're in a better position because I can go to an upwork or wherever and find someone or fiber and find someone who can help us because they're desperate for work as well.

Speaker:

I love helping others that can get some revenue from us because we need that. I don't necessarily need to worry about finding people that need to fill in because I've got such a strong team and it's a pretty healthy one considering with what went through as well. Not only did we maintain but we also added. I think it put us in a better position and it also is why I think automation is a great solution because if you don't have the personnel we can automate certain things that allow you to be more efficient and not need to worry about those extra people.

Speaker:

Sure. Could you give an example of that in the hospitality industry?

Speaker:

Well, I can definitely give it from the Trading Industry association I mentioned earlier. I have a meeting with them this week with the director and it's mainly to show them what they can do to do some of the things that we do on our side for them on their own. It's literally the director and two people in this office that manage everything and I think by showing them this it just makes life easier. Well for both of us because then we don't have to maintain it. The hotels can win from this as well because it's not something that somebody on their side has to physically always think about and something on our side that we always have to ask for. Please, please, can we get this information? The more we can automate, the easier it is for all of us. One client in particular now even though we've shown them how to use it, they.

Speaker:

Literally just send us the content for their newsletter every month and we just pop it in and be done. It still makes life easier for everybody because it's an automated system. For the most part, they just have to email the contents instead of doing it themselves.

Speaker:

Sure, yeah, that's interesting. Do you see anything that you think is there a way that you think the hospitality industry should be changing based on everything we've learned kind of going through these last couple of years that maybe that they're not so quick to be doing that's just really changed from how they operated beforehand.

Speaker:

Right, you mean related directly to marketing itself?

Speaker:

Sure. Or any way that you think I've just been observing some industries where some of them are just going back to whatever they did before and the world has definitely changed. I'm thinking, well, I don't know how long that's really going to last. I see some other industries where they've really kind of taken the lessons from what happened innovated and now they've come out on the other side and like, we actually found better ways to do this or we've actually figured out maybe there's another new kind of horizon for us to kind of go into. I was just curious if you're seeing that in the hospitality industry or more people are just kind of going back to oh, this is over now, people are traveling now, we're just going to go back to whatever were doing before.

Speaker:

Well, I can answer that in two ways. One is I think a lot of it comes down to the people that are there, right. Whoever was GM and manager and so on and so forth, whatever their mindset was before hasn't changed a whole lot when it comes to that. I will also say because we have another hotel client that has really dived into the need for not just automation, but just making life easier also for their customers or their owners, their timeshare and putting things online. Now. Like your guest comment card is now online where it wasn't for. It isn't so much about COVID and touching and the whole thing where it started. I think more now they're realizing, hey, this is actually easier. Right. Because that data comes in now and it's a lot easier for us to do something with that data than what they used to do where they would have a card that they literally have to handwrite and then somebody would have to manually read and input or do something with it.

Speaker:

Right, yes.

Speaker:

I think, yes, they are seeing that there is a need and I think a lot of that is driven from the market. The market is pushing back saying, well, if you're going to continue to be where you were before, we can also spend our money elsewhere. I think that's going to force some people to change their mindset. You have people that are kind of hard set. We have one client who was just he was the CFO, didn't like, spend money, and he's now the champion. He's like, whatever we can do, he's all for it because he realizes how much more how it makes his life easier.

Speaker:

Sure. Yeah, definitely. Before we go into our last question, tell us how we can get in touch with you. What's the best way if somebody is trying to find you?

Speaker:

All right, well, locally, if you go to Aruba ROI, which stands for Return on Investment. So Arubaroi.com is our local website. We also have Ari Marketing, which is our website outside of Aruba. Just to quickly explain, it's just easier to use our US company for clients that are outside of Aruba just because of the currency conversions and the wire transfer fees and a lot of the back and forth. It's so much more efficient to do it this way. Either of those websites would be an easy way to find either a phone number or a WhatsApp or an email address.

Speaker:

Okay, well, thank you so much for spending the time with me today and just showing us how you are breaking the marketing rules and thriving in Aruba and beyond. I think it's very inspiring. I'm just curious, what do you think will be a disruptive marketing strategy or tactic this year? Like something that is going to break the marketing world for the better?

Speaker:

I think the one thing that and I've done this in years past, but I think this is the first time that I've really been disruptive, I guess, to our own strategy. I think any business, marketing or otherwise, needs to do this more often. I think with the technology changing as quickly as it is now, with the AI and all kinds of different things going on, you need to be flexible, you need to be quick, but I think you need to be introspective. And I think that's what we've done. We typically get everything done by the second week of December, and then we have quiet time for about three weeks. I usually take that time to spend looking back and then figure out what we're going to do next year. Well, because of our team decision to expand and grow outside of our borders here, the biggest thing was how can we be disruptive?

Speaker:

Meaning what can we do to break our own mold? I think a lot of people don't do that, especially in our case. You are here because of you, right? You're our client. I'm doing what I'm thinking is to try to help you. A lot of times we forget about ourselves and whether it's time efficiency or just efficiency, period, and getting things accomplished. I think if you can look back at yourself and be introspective and try to break those molds that are not working as well as they should be or just stepping out of your comfort zone so that you can actually try something new that you've been scared to do before. It doesn't kill you, right? Or as my wife says, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger. Those are the kinds of things that I think most business people need to do a lot more of.

Speaker:

I think that's for 2023, that's for sure what we're doing, we are breaking several molds. We're moving in much different directions. We're not looking to become the agency for you anymore. We're looking now to be more slicing up and packaging our services and our products so we can scale more and actually help a lot more people than just one off right decline.