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How Being a Faithful Business Servant Empowers Your Mission:
Interview with Vince Baker
Nonprofits and churches ignore or devalue online marketing, which limits their effectiveness and reach and compromises their ability to secure sufficient funding to achieve their mission.
Vince Baker is a highly motivated Business Marketing Agent, Internet Marketing Coach, Public Speaker, and Author. Vince has a proven track record of succeeding in competitive sales markets, internet marketing, leadership roles, problem-solving, and coaching top sales reps.
His years of experience ranges from Yellow Pages, Direct Mail, Internet Marketing, and Business Coaching. His multi-dimensional experience in all these forms of marketing has enabled him to bring success to a vast array of business owners and sales agents
Read the Interview Transcript
Hugh Ballou: Greetings, everyone. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision Leadership Foundation, where we create synergy with a common vision. We show up in life as a person of faith. I have a fellow person of faith today. SynerVision works with all nonprofits. It’s about leadership generically. We are called as people of faith, my guest and I today, for good sound faith principles.
In church or synagogue or nonprofits, we are stewards of other money. It’s not our money. Everything is a gift in our faith from God, but it’s a gift from donors that we actually use for philanthropy. We improve people’s lives. At SynerVision, our work is transforming leaders, transforming organizations, transforming lives. Today will be a transformational experience. Vince, tell people a little bit about your journey from seminary to business. Why in the world do you have this business Agora? Tell us about that.
Vince Baker: I had a little bit of a rough childhood. When I was 17, I had an experience with God that changed my life. I ended up helping the homeless. I got involved in ministry and helped the homeless. I went to Bible college. The first part of my life, I was really involved with church, and I thought I would be spending a lot of time in ministry. It is still a big part of who I am, and I do it a lot: helping people and the homeless as much as I can.
In my 30s, I got into the business arena. God really helped me and changed me in my 20s. Out of those changes, I had a newfound confidence and vision. I knew God was with me. When I went into the business arena, I was very successful, and I attributed it to God’s help and changes. I became a top salesperson in Yellow Pages. I broke national records. Any company I got involved with, I would break records with them. I attributed it to what God had done in my heart, positive thinking and things like that.
I joined this company Agora Advantage, thinking I was going to be working in it. I was one of the top salespeople. The CEO stepped down, and they asked me to take over. At first, I didn’t necessarily want to do it, but I knew if I didn’t take it over, we could have problems. Maybe a new person wouldn’t do all the things I felt needed to be implemented, so I took on the challenge.
We were $1.5 million in debt. They couldn’t pay me, but I felt from God to do it. I ended up turning the company around. We transferred the debt into equity into a new company, so $1.5 million of debt got wiped off the books. It was a miracle. They gave me ownership in the company, sweat equity. Then I made the company cash flow positive, and they were able to pay me after a certain amount of time.
Now we’re doing really well. We did take some hits during COVID. We are an internet marketing company, so my CFO said, “Vince, are you prepared to lose 75% of your business?” I am a man of faith. I take charge. I don’t doubt; I don’t live in fear. I said, “No, we’re going to be fine. We’re going to get through this. God’s always helped us.” God really has helped us. A lot of miracles with this company.
We got a loan, not a lot of money. We went through that money. After that money was taken up, we got one of the largest clients I’d ever gotten in my life. At one point, this company was doing $44 million a year. For internet marketing, that is a very large company to obtain. We had one of our best years because of it.
I brought in another guy that built eBay and put a million people in an organization. He became one of the owners. We rebuilt Agora. Now we are rebuilt, transformed, took us a year after COVID to rebuild everything. It’s really exciting what we have put together. We have put together a really powerful program. That is the business side in a nutshell.
Hugh: Agora is a platform that could be relevant to pretty much any business that does marketing.
There are a lot of myths that we tell ourselves, starting with the word “nonprofit,” which is not a philosophy. It’s a tax classification. Then we have this scarcity thinking. Even people of faith running a synagogue or church, we think we can’t do marketing. We can’t spend money that way. That’s not what we’re called to do. Wait a minute. We need to be in touch with people where they are. It’s the new vehicle. We read Jesus on the sermon on the mountain, and there were thousands of people there who could listen to him. We don’t do that in today’s world.
We have a fast-paced moving world. People need to be connected. You have paid the hard price and taken a company where you spent a whole lot of money building out the website and on technology. I like to say in my work in ministry that I continue to learn because I became a fine-tuned instrument for God to use. That’s my journey.
We are talking to a lot of people and a lot of places in life. We are not here to convert you. We are here to help you reframe from these myths, from this down thinking to transforming your thinking. Paul said, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” How do we renew our thinking so that it takes us where we’re called to be? There are other myths, but there are myths around we can’t pay good salaries, we can’t do marketing, we can’t take any risks. We bury those talents, and nothing happens with it.
We are not selling here, but we have to talk about this amazing platform Agora. This solves a lot of problems that save people a lot of time. What are some of the issues that this platform addresses that help people who are busy community leaders?
Vince: Everyone needs internet marketing. In one of our base level packages, we have unlimited funnel building and website building. We help people with those workflows and getting reviews. I teach a thing called Five Pillars of the Internet: your website, review marketing, video marketing, social media marketing, and getting on Google. Every company needs those five pillars. Churches, nonprofits, I don’t care who you are. I work with nonprofits and churches and businesses.
You really want to be found on Google. People want to see good reviews. You have to have a social media game plan. You also want people to find really good stuff. A lot of companies don’t even take advantage of video. YouTube is owned by Google, the second strongest search engine on the planet. A lot of people don’t do much with that.
We put together very simple strategies. We help people grow. When I look at a company, I take the five pillars of the Internet. Within five minutes, I could tell you how successful they are or are going to be online. I can look at their reviews on Yelp and Google. I look at their website.
Another thing is we teach people to study their competition. You want to make sure your deals and offers are competitive with anyone else. You put that all together.
I also teach companies to be #1. That doesn’t work for a nonprofit. Let’s say you’re a chiropractor. I took a local chiropractor in my area. He had few reviews, terrible website, very little presence. I made him #1 in reviews. He had a better website. We made an awesome website for him. Now he has more reviews than anyone. It brought in a lot of business because of that. We try to make it where that company really shines on the Internet.
Hugh: Let’s look at the reviews piece. Donors are going to give money to trusted sources. It’s not a return on investment; it’s a return on impact or a return on life. You’re giving money for a return, but it’s not coming back in our pockets. Grantmakers want to see specific outcomes.
I think maybe the same paradigm would work for a church. Churches are in trouble because they don’t really have a way to communicate the uniqueness of each church or synagogue or faith community. They don’t have a methodology. We are taught to be humble, but wait a minute. You really need to tell the story of how your work has impacted people’s lives.
Vince, I’m thinking the same work. It’s the business of church, the business of nonprofit. It’s not a for-profit business. It’s a for-purpose enterprise. Our measurable outcome is the quality of life for the people we serve. That’s what philanthropy means: the love of humankind. That’s the business we’re in. Golly gee, we tie our hands, so we don’t have these tools at our disposal.
Vince: Jesus was a businessman. He was a carpenter, which was a business. When He went to Peter, He told him to cast a net on the other side. He did it twice and multiplied the fish. That was his business. He had the ability to multiply the blessing on a business.
When it comes to reviews, many times, when He did a miracle, He told people not to say anything. If you look at the man in the Gadarenes, He told him to go back and tell people what good things the Lord had done for them. He went back to those 10 cities, told everyone, and they came out. Also, the woman at the well, when He spoke to her, she went and testified and brought them. It’s no different. We need to get those reviews and testimonies of what God has done on the internet. He didn’t have the internet, but he was still using people to do testimonies.
The Bible says we overcome the Devil by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. Testimonies play big parts in churches. We need to be out there. Jesus was able to go back into those 10 cities after the man at the Gadarenes went there, and they received Him. He was a forerunner to Him.
Testimonies play a big part in business and church. People want to see reviews. They want to hear what’s going on. They want to get feedback from the community that you’re doing good.
Hugh: The argument I hear from everybody in this sector. We have 1.6 million 501(c) something organizations. Most of them are 3s, which would include chambers of commerce, churches, synagogues, charities, educational institutions. We have a lot of people in this tax classification. There is a wide variety of effectiveness, which to me, boils down to leadership.
Now the burnout rate with all those sectors is very high today. We can blame some of it on COVID, but we can blame some of it on the bad leadership that we have been taught and the systems that we have been handed. It’s time to rethink the systems.
One of them that you provide is not a shortcut, but it’s a tool that you can magnify what you’re doing without adding a lot of time, especially- This isn’t the top leader, the pastor or the executive director ought to be doing personally. It ought to be somebody on their team that really gets technology that can amplify the work of what everybody is doing. How difficult is it for somebody who has a passion for technology and wants to learn to develop a program with all of these things you’re talking about and start putting the organization on a significant road map to success?
Vince: One thing we do is handholding. We do have a lot of group sessions. When someone buys one of our packages, we also have an hour where we get them set up. We do a lot of classes, teachings. We have a lot of stuff that is already pre-recorded they can listen to. We try to handhold people as much as we possibly can.
To go to the reviews, we have a product, patent pending, that is the only one you can get a video testimonial from a text message app from a phone. We are able to use that product. We like to handhold companies as much as we can because there is nothing worse than buying something, and you don’t know what to do with it. You don’t know how to initiate it.
Hugh: We teach people there are multiple streams of revenue. SynerVision is an affiliate partner of Agora; we haven’t done anything with it yet. We want to be transparent about it. One of the eight streams of revenue is earned income from book sales, product sales, other things like that that are within the mission of what you’re doing. The IRS wants to see the business generated revenue related to your mission. Then it’s not taxable revenue. It’s one of the solid streams.
On Agora Advantage’s website, is there a place for people to connect with you?
Vince: We have two different options. One is if you are a business owner and just want help, or if you would like to make money and resell these products. We have a number of package options. These are our starter packages. We provide the entertainment guide. I got $7 off a meal the other day with it. We have the Agora Opportunity, University, Max Support, a video conferencing tool. These things are all included inside of these packages.
Hugh: We make it more difficult than it really should be. Our goal is to help people develop systems. What happens when you’re not there? Being able to delegate is one of the most difficult things that I have encountered with leaders anywhere. Really, we have this mindset in our faith communities and nonprofits. The narrative I hear is “As a leader, I ought to be willing to do it myself.” The operative word there is “willing.” Finding someone who is willing to do it, and you tutor them, and you offload that piece. They are a volunteer because they have a passion for supporting the mission of the organization. When you are doing stuff, you are getting in their way. You are robbing somebody of that ability to step up and be a volunteer.
Vince: You have to think about it, too. Every organization is trying to grow. I can give you multiple examples. I was working with this community, and they were doing Messianic Christianity. They meet on Saturdays. There is only a few of them in the area. People had come to that group because they found them online. They came from an hour away, two hours away. I have also seen churches where they didn’t do much. They didn’t have reviews, or the time was off with their service. I was going to go to one, but their time was off on Google.
What happens is people want to grow their businesses. You don’t realize that people are searching on the internet. Let’s say a new family comes into the area. They are going to look for a new church. Based upon what they see is where they’re going to go. If they don’t have word of mouth- A lot of ministers are depending upon word of mouth, which can really grow, don’t get me wrong. If you have something powerful, it will grow by word of mouth.
But there are tons of people searching online. They want to hear your message. They want to see what you have going on. If you don’t present that very well online, you could miss out on a whole bunch of people who would come to your church, or your organization or nonprofit. Whatever it is, they are looking. Millions of searches are being done for all types of things. They are looking at reviews. They are looking at what you have to offer. They are looking at where you’re located. You want to have all that stuff clearly mapped out on your website and your Google Business.
Hugh: I can tell you any mid-level organization, church, nonprofit, we aren’t very good at the website piece. We are not very good at keeping it updated. There is an integrity piece. When people are confused, they are going to leave. They won’t come if they can’t trust you to have the information. There is only so much that people will wade through before they have had enough.
SynerVision is doing a leadership empowerment symposium here in Lynchburg, Virginia. It’s also going to be a virtual event. Talk a minute about hybrid events. Events are a big piece of what we do. Churches and synagogues gather on a regular basis. Nonprofits do things. But we could have regular sessions where we do things live, and we can also make them virtual events. It’s an income generator, and it’s also a motivator for all those people who are stakeholders. It’s acquainting people to who you are as leaders, and it’s also letting people know of the stories that have happened. It’s establishing your relevance. Why is that so hard for leaders to figure out that those are all priorities?
Vince: Golden question. I don’t know. The ones that do get it really take off. Technology and COVID. Technology creates where we can do much more online, which is unfortunate when you don’t tap into that. A lot of people are afraid of technology. I believe technology is of God. All technology can be used either for God or the Devil. People have to make a decision what they’re going to do with it. Like Zoom, we are doing right now. You can reach more people on Zoom than you ever could in your local community.
Hugh: We have listeners all over the world. We have members in our online community all over the world. There are people doing good work in Africa that come to our gatherings on a regular basis. They are able to do it for a click of a button with technology. I know people and am close to people I have never met in person in Australia and Africa and Europe. I have been in groups with these people. I have never seen them face to face, but we have developed a relationship online. It doesn’t replace face to face, but golly gee, we can get a lot more done. Just think of how much travel time you’re saving when you have a bunch of Zoom meetings.
You mentioned a multi-dimensional experience. Let’s define terms. There is PR, public relations; marketing; and sales. Those are very distinct channels. Do you want to describe your sense of those three and why they are all important?
Vince: PR is your image, what you’re about, what’s your why. People want to know about if you’re a good person. It’s your presentation.
Your marketing is how you get that presentation out all over the place. It could be billboards, magazines, the internet, a website, a video.
When you’re talking about sales, I like to say this: Back in the day, you could be the greatest salesperson and excel. Nowadays, you could be the greatest salesperson, but if people go online and find bad reviews about your company, you are sunk in the water. PR and marketing help sales nowadays. Before, people could pull it off. They could smooth talk someone and get the sale. Now, you can’t do that because if someone goes online and finds a bunch of bad stuff about you, you’re dead in the water. But if they find a bunch of good stuff about you, it can really increase your sales. Those are the three angles: PR, marketing, and sales.
Hugh: PR, you were talking about the reviews. That’s part of your PR.
Vince: PR and marketing go together. What people think about you in your community. People want to see a number of people you have done business with who think well of your company.
Hugh: Let’s talk a minute about the power of video. I’m working on a seminar for Dr. Roberta Gilbert for clergy, specifically Bowen Family Systems. I’m getting some testimonies from people. When you can see people and feel their passion, and the testimonies have to be spot-on with, “This is why I took the program, and these are the results of this program.” Give us some context on how you structure a testimony for video. How long should it be? What are the components of that?
Vince: There are three parts to a testimony. You have who you are, which states your name. No need for a full name.
Then you need to state exactly what happened. It’s not, “SynerVision’s great!” That doesn’t do anything. You want them to say something in particular that people can relate to, like, “They helped me with a thought,” something that people can relate to.
Finally, a call to action. “If you need help in this area, I would call SynerVision.”
It doesn’t have to be more than 30 seconds to a minute. Get down to business. Don’t make it too long. The shorter, the better. Not too short or long. 30 seconds to a minute, you can get a really good testimony. You want to give a real nugget of how they helped you.
I know one gal who was a real estate agent. She said, “We wanted to hear the sound of a train, and our real estate agent put us near a railroad track.” Or, “This real estate agent, during Christmas, I would call them, and they would answer the phone all the time.” Some people want to find out in real estate if they are going to be there for them. “They didn’t charge me too much. It was a fair price.” “They didn’t make a mess after they were finished. They cleaned everything up.” Something in particular you want them to say that relates to what they did.
Name, what they did, and call to action. Some people don’t know how to end a video. Just say, “So, if you need help, I recommend this plumber.”
Hugh: Saturday, my Rotary group volunteered at a Food for Families charity, where people come through and get food; otherwise, they wouldn’t have food for their families. We had these executives mingled in with people with shopping carts. Some people needed help physically because they were disabled. The amount of clarity we had on the need for this. Many people who volunteered didn’t know this long-standing charity existed. They knew something about it. “I came here, I saw this, and this is the value it gives to my community.” It doesn’t take long.
We tend to want to tell people everything about it. It’s like the young son who went to his mother and said, “I want to ask a question about this.” She says, “Why don’t you ask your father?” He said, “Because I don’t want to know that much about it.” That could go either way. We tend to go on and tell people everything about it when really, we want to help those people give a testimony. They’re excited, and they want to share a lot. Here’s what we need. It’s our job to give them an outline. We might need to edit it a little bit, but we want to be concise. We’re not in a marathon society; people don’t read long things as much as they do the sprint society and short things.
That’s a really good tip. Get some video. Put it on YouTube, and embed it in your site with the code. On YouTube, what are some secrets for getting it found, like keywords or descriptions? People don’t find it unless you help them find it.
Vince: When you’re loading up a video on YouTube, there is a term called “SEO,” search engine optimization. That has to do with the terms people are searching for. If you’re a plumber, you want to say “plumber.” You want to have a search term people would use. I also like to add the name of my company. You can put 100 characters in there. Your title will be the most important.
Secondary, what you have put down below in your subtitle, a place for your description. I use the copy of the title down there, too. I also put a link to my website there, or a phone number. I put a whole bunch of keywords, as many as possible.
Then they have tags. I stick those keywords in the tags, too. If you do that, your video will climb and get found quickly. If you don’t put a search term that people are using, it’s going to sit there, and no one will find it.
If you do windows, put windows. Did your sink break? Did your window break? Do you need a new window? Is your garage door broken? You want to put a key term. How to fix a broken garage door. Then state your company name. In the description, you want to put a link to your website. A lot of people don’t do these simple things. How can they find you? Where is your phone number? Where is your website link? Also, if you put a link to your website in your YouTube account, it’s one of the best backlinks to your website, which could cause your website to climb up in the search engine rankings.
I worked at a company and put over 550 videos online. I put a backlink to his website over and over again. That is one of the best backlinks you can get for a website. You can use the video to help your website.
On a side note, people will stay on a website 80% more when video is present. It will convert 85% more if you have video present. People will stay longer, and it will convert more. They have already proven this.
One thing I like to do is take testimonies and turn them into a marketing video. I will take a small clip of a testimony, put your logo, have them state what you’re saying, and put some nice music behind it. Then I will do a call to action on the end. Those are very effective. You could do them pretty inexpensively.
Hugh: Vince, this is the biggest gap I see. People are so pleased with what they’re doing, but they don’t tell anybody, and they don’t have a system like this. One more piece. It has to be done on a regular and consistent basis, doesn’t it?
Vince: Yeah. Let’s say you have 500 reviews, but the last one you have is from five years ago. People want to see some recent stuff. You don’t have to do a lot, but you want to see if this was within the last month or the last two or three years. If it’s further back, they think they might have been great then, but they’re not great now. You want to keep things current.
Plus you should be popping up videos on YouTube on a regular basis. They really keep your company relevant. On the reverse, a video can last a lifetime. I have done some videos for people back in 2008 that are still working for them. But you want to have new ones, too.
Hugh: Our motto is we can get together and magnify our effectiveness if we learn how to collaborate together. Vince Baker, you have given me some really good ideas. I have done 310 of these interviews, and I learn something every time. This has been very helpful today. You are very busy running this company, and I asked you yesterday if you could fill in an open slot. Thank you for accepting that.
There is a lot of pivots I have had today in my thinking. Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we recruit somebody and let them learn how to do this? We can set the goals. It’s the leader’s job to articulate the vision and define the goal. That person can do the work. You have given us a lot of useful, applicable information in this short interview. Thank you.
As we end this interview, what challenge or tip do you want to leave with people today?
Vince: We talked about the business. Our title was “How Being a Faithful Business Servant Empowers Your Mission.” I do want to say this. Always operate with your conscience. Never violate your conscience in business. If you do that, you will always be successful. We have all these great things going on.
I was in a business meeting, and I was working with this multi-million-dollar client, and I was going to bill him. My conscience triggered me and said, “Vince, you didn’t do that work you’re billing him for.” I had a moment right there. He didn’t know it, and I could have taken his money. He went to write the check, and I asked, “What do I do?” I told him, “I didn’t do the work right here, but I will do the work.” He agreed to that.
In business, all these things are great. Operate by your conscience. Let it always be your guide. Don’t do anything to violate it in business. That is a nugget to end with.
Hugh: Those are strong principles. Vince Baker, Agora is the company. It’s the place to learn about. Thank you for being on the show today.
Vince: Thank you for having me.