Tom Cote Is Your Sidekick to Success

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Tom Cote, CEO and managing partner of Sidekick Digital Media

Tom Cote has grown Sidekick Digital Media into a company that manages more than $5 million in digital marketing spending for their clients. This growth proves that the company philosophy of not skipping steps and falling for “growth hacks” remains a smart and effective marketing strategy even in today’s digital economy.

At Sidekick Digital Media, Tom Cote and his team takes over the digital marketing aspect of any business, so that they can focus on managing their operations. With a 100% performance-based compensation model, the company also makes sure that their clients get only the best results.

While working with clients, Tom Cote focuses on “creating digital ecosystems” for their businesses. These ecosystems will help their clients’ brands achieve long-term success by helping them thrive in the marketplace. Also, the company uses modern digital marketing tools to keep their clients competitive. These tools include Facebook ads, Dynamic Display ads, email marketing, Google PPC, and brand management.

The company follows a secret sauce, too. Through Sidekick’s in-house attribution system, Tom Cote and team can point out exactly where you need to spend your marketing budget. This way, you won’t be throwing your money away in the hope of finding something that sticks.

If you want to build a long-term brand, you won’t go wrong with Tom Cote and Sidekick Digital Media.

Check out more interviews with leading CEOs here.  

Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Tom Cote: We’re a social media company turned incubator. We’ve successfully launched two companies in the productivity space.

After years of working with clients, it became apparent that not owning any upside in the brands would now allow us to scale the way we needed to. We slowly started to give up some of the clients that weren’t as easy to work with and invest in launching our own products.

Ten months later, we’re operating an agency with a few amazing clients and a couple private brands. I went from making $2,000 a month to making ten times that in a few months so it’s been quite the year for us.

Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Tom Cote: Two things stand out to me. 1) Have a positive, healthy outlet. For me, it’s yoga. For my business partners it’s prayer, basketball and music. Taking time to invest in your health — whatever that means for you — is key to maintaining balance and avoiding burnout. 2) Work with people you love and trust. I have a team that I’ve known for 10+ years. We grew up together so there’s a level of comfort we have where we can be honest, work hard and have fun together without any of the awkwardness of a typical work environment.

Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Tom Cote: You’re absolutely right and I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by parents that support me and some of the best friends a person can ask for. I’m a big believer that you are who you’re surrounded by, so I’ve been very clear to surround myself with supportive and uplifting people. My mom has been a huge influence on me, and I’ll be forever grateful for that. When things looked the worst and my life savings were gone, she kept encouraging me to stay in the game and that I’d figure it out. Turns out, she was right 😊

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?

Tom Cote: We’ve been focused on ecommerce for 3+ years now. It’s a space that changes rapidly, but two things remain consistent; you need a product people want and a way to get it to people.

One of the best channels not enough businesses are using is e-mail marketing. The smartest ecommerce brands are optimizing for that channel and seeing people convert through giveaways, discounts and educational content that triggers people to buy.

Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?

Tom Cote: No matter the strength of brands like Amazon and Walmart, ecommerce businesses have an advantage those companies don’t — speed, creativity, and the ability to focus on niches. You have to carve out a niche for yourself and differentiate your product/brand through copywriting, creative imagery, video and use of different platforms that the bigger companies don’t know how to utilize yet.

Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Tom Cote: Not having a strategy when it comes to their funnel. In some cases, we see e-mail drive as much as 40% of revenue for a brand. 40%! Optimizing for sales on a first-time visit is not the best move. People often need time to think, compare and test your product to others. By engaging them through content delivered straight to their inbox you can demonstrate your value easily. Find someone who is a talented e-mail marketer and take their advice in regards to landing pages, advertising to specific pages and e-mail marketing.

Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Tom Cote: There’s a lot of components to running a successful brand, but the main thing is your team. We’ve built up an amazing team of copywriters, designers and video editors that make generating graphics and ad creative fast. Testing your ad creative is an essential part of increasing margins and lowering acquisition costs. You can’t do it all by yourself so I think people underestimate how important it is to have a team in place to help execute.

Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?

Tom Cote: Bad reviews happen, even to good companies. In our experience, we seek to do a couple of things. First, take complete responsibility for the poor experience they’ve had. Whether it was a bug, shipping error or the product doesn’t fit their need, we always lead with understanding why it didn’t work for them. From there, we seek to make it right — in their minds, not ours. Sometimes that means giving up more than we think they deserve, but ultimately that is the cost of doing the right thing and we think it’s worth it every time.

Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Tom Cote: Our country is at a standstill in a lot of areas. We’re all wrapped up in the election, Covid— it’s serious stuff. But I think we’d be a lot better as a society by putting a stronger value on mindfulness and exercise. Even though we are a company that utilizes social media, we can’t let it control our lives and thoughts. We need to get outside, take walks, be intentional about our screen time and get back to a place where life is lived with each other instead of on the phone.

Reducing screen time will have an enormous positive affect on society.

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

Tom Cote: We stay off social media 😊

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

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