Interview with John Doherty
Founder & CEO @ Credo

Credo started in 2013 to solve the problem of businesses not knowing which SEO or digital marketing agency to hire. They vet all digital marketing providers before they join the platform. They currently accept approximately 30% of providers who apply. Since 2013 they have helped over 2,000 businesses connect with the right help.
Hi John! Could you please introduce Credo and what led to your founding the company back in 2013?
Hey there! I'm John Doherty and, I'm the founder and CEO of Credo. Credo is a marketplace and site where businesses that are looking to hire digital marketing, professional SEO, content marketing, link acquisition, all those good things can come and be connected up with, matched with the right professionals for their unique needs. I started it in 2013 when I was working in house because, for two reasons. One, I was getting leads wanting to work with me and, I was not personally taking them. And secondarily, and most important, I saw some of my friends hiring bad digital marketing agencies, especially about SEO agencies and, it made me really, really mad. I had one friend that lost about 75 percent of his business because of hiring a bad SEO agency. So, I decided to do something about it and, I built out a Google spreadsheet of people I knew that could work and, the budget they took, what they specialized in, and I start referring work to them. So, I bootstrapped it from nothing. I started off super lean and, the first money I made was 50 dollars from my friend Brandon in Utah, where I emailed him. And, because I had a client lead that I thought would be a great fit for him and said, would you like this lead? would you be willing to pay 50 bucks for it? He goes, What´s your Pay Pal? So, three minutes later, I had 50 bucks on my PayPal accounts send him the lead. He went on to close it and made thousands of dollars from it. I went and bought a domain name and, threw up a site and, it's gone from there. We've changed our business models a few times. We rebranded at the beginning of 2016 and, I went full time on the business in September 2015 when I was laid off from my previous job and, decided to give it a go. So, a couple of years later, here we are. We generated over 30 million dollars in project work in 2018 and, it's myself, one full time employee and, one half time developer and, we are based in Denver, Colorado.
A lot has changed in the SEO and digital marketing worlds since Credo was first founded. How has being an early player helped you to position yourself in the market?
You're absolutely right that a lot has changed in the SEO and the digital marketing world since Credo was started in 2013. But, at the end of the day, it's digital marketing and marketing overall is really about building businesses. So, in that way, it hasn't changed at all. The tactics have changed, some of the strategies have changed, because of that and, obviously, Google is always changing their algorithms. Facebook is always changing their algorithms. Everything is changing often in digital marketing but, at the end of the day, if you're not just focusing on tactics, you're focusing on strategies, mindsets and, looking at what affects the business's bottom line, you're still going to be able to be extremely effective overall. So, being an early player in the market really helped us out, because still, no one is really doing what we're doing in the way that we do it. There are a lot of directories out there, who we kind of compete against in different search results. But, you know, we're still a pretty unique model in this space so, being early in 2013 really helped us out, because we were able to get to market and then just been able to move pretty quickly since then. You know, being bootstraps and moving slower than maybe, some of that was venture funded that can hire a big team. But, we still been able to move relatively quickly. I would say the biggest thing that has helped us is focusing on building an audience. So, I brought my own audience from the SEO and digital marketing world into the business and, from there we've concentrated on providing as much value as we can to directors of marketing, marketing managers and also, the agencies and consultants on the supply side. Because, ultimately, if they succeed, if they saw better work and they succeed than, we succeed. And, we're all about making our customers more successful, both on the client side and also on the pro side.
Every company's SEO and digital marketing strategy is slightly different. What is your service pipeline when introduced to a new client?
You're absolutely right that every company's SEO and digital marketing strategy is slightly different and, especially, types of businesses have very different SEO strategies and needs. And, same on the social media side. So, B2B business be very different from a B2C business, just because what you're looking to do, generating leads is very different from just going for raw user acquisition and getting thousands, tens of thousands millions of people. So, how we do it when someone comes into Credo is, we have a phone call with them and, go deep on what their business is, what their team structure looks like, what they're currently doing, their experience in the channel. Ask them about other channels that they thought about, Are they doing it?, Are they happy with it? I asked them about their budget, to see if their expectations are aligned with that. Really, what we found is, the things that make a client successful, when it comes to doing SEO or doing any kind digital marketing is, Do they have the budget to compete in their market based off of how competitive it is? Do they have a team in place that knows what they're doing? and, Are they able to work effectively with an agency or a consultant? So, when we talk with someone that's had bad experiences in the past, we dig into that a little bit and we ask them, Why do you think that fell apart? were they unable to deliver because they couldn't meet expectations, because they didn't communicate well, because the client didn't communicate well and, really try to understand what made it not successful in the past and, why they're looking again. So, that's really the most important part. Obviously, it helps if they have a base set. If they have a base of knowledge that sort of thing but, a lot of that can be solved through good consulting, good strategy and, you know, enough budget to make it happen and also, enough time to get it done and, to really show results. So, we really try to spend time with each client understanding who they are, what they're looking for, what they value in someone their work with, how they communicate. So, culture as well as qualitative and quantitative and, that really helps us be successful in getting companies matched up regardless of the industry that they're in or, the type of business that they are.
What is your process for vetting the service providers who apply to be part of Credo?
We have a set process for vetting our service providers so, the digital marketing agencies and consultants that are within the Credo network. We purposely don't accept everybody. We actually only accept about 25 to 30 percent of the people that apply to be a part of our network and, I expect that to change coming up as we make some changes within the business. But, basically, we look at a few things. One, we look at the results they've gotten for their clients. So, we asked them for, Who the client is? What the project is that they did for them? Ask them and then, we go, we look at their metrics and SM results somewhere like that. The digital marketing tools that everyone uses to look at the metrics and basically corroborate that. And, we'll often actually reach out to the client and, ask him if they would recommend them as well. Then, we look at their Website and, we look at how professional it is, Do they have case studies? that sort of thing. Basically, to an end, Are they communicating who they're doing the best?, What work they're doing? and, Who they're doing the best work for? We find that, when an agency is very laser focused on their client services, they provide as opposed to saying that they do anything and everything, they actually have a much higher success rate in closing work and getting results for their clients. So, we look at that as well. And then, finally, the last step, which we're implementing moving forward is, to actually have a culture call with them. So, 15 to 20 minutes where we hop on the phone with them and, chat with them about their business and, who they are and, how they do it, how their business works so, that we can understand if they're set up for success. Also, talking about their close rates and that sort of thing to understand if they're going to be successful on the Credo platform. And, also to suss out if we would like to work with them as well. If we think that they would be a good client, we think they would be good to the clients that they have. So, it's an involved process. It takes a few days always but, we've had very, very few problems with a provider on our platform.
What's next for Credo? What are the main markets, services, or projects you'll be focusing on throughout 2019?
That's a great question. So, in 2019 we're focusing on a few things. One is, we're continuing to grow our audience, trying to convert in more clients that are looking to higher. That's our number one metric and, it's the thing that drives the business best. We're also focusing a bit more on the marketing agencies and consultants on the platform, in terms of getting more into the platform. I already mentioned in a previous question, overhauling our vetting process just to make it tighter and to make it better. So, we are going to be focusing on continuing to grow out the network, which is great but, also focusing on more education for them in terms of selling work, managing clients, that sort of thing. So, a lot more training and education there. That's a side of the business we haven't really focused on in the past. We are not going into web development and, design and, that sort of thing. We have people ask us about it but, we're not planning to do that currently, simply because there's so much more to do in the digital marketing space. Things are growing really well at Credo but, there's so much more to do that we're trying to stay laser focused and give ourselves, to give the focus to build the right thing. And, we're also working on building out our product on the back and we're going to, it is going to enable a lot of things. That will enable bringing in better clients or, enable agencies and consultants to sell better work and, will enable agencies and consultants to grow, therefore, to grow their businesses and, it's going to grow the Credo business as well. And, finally, focus on building out the right team. We're all based here in Denver. I've tried in the past to build a remote team but, didn't really work out well and, I happen to find the people I wanted to work with here. So, we're gonna continue to build the team here in Denver while also keeping a remote and travel-friendly business. I like working from home, my team likes working from home and, I want to continue that. And, we'll figure out how that works with the culture as well. So, big plans in store for Credo in 2019 and, I'm looking forward to it.