I recently had the honor of being a guest on The Hustle Indy Show. During our interview, we talked about what we’ve been up to the last year and our plans for the future of Open In Indiana.

Here’s a simplified transcript of our interview.

Brendon Helm: What is up Hustle Indy Show listeners. We are back with another episode of The Hustle Indy Show, and this is going to be a great one. I’m Brendon Helm, your host joined as always by Ian DeFelice. How are you doing this lovely afternoon?

Ian DeFelice: It is a Monday afternoon. It’s already been a long Workday. We recorded a great episode with Ryan Henry who founded with his wife Carly, Open In Indiana and he gave us some awesome stickers. So, first, thank you so much, Ryan, for coming on and taking your time to talk with us. This episode reminds me kind of a lot of the IndyHub episode in the fact of just connecting and this time, instead of just Indianapolis, all of Indiana, and really connecting Indiana and Indy together as a business forum. And I just thought it was an extremely helpful episode for any, for any small business out there for any small business owners out there, check out Open In Indiana.

Brendon: Yeah. They have a lot of awesome stuff that they have to offer anywhere from free to paid. They do all kinds of stuff and that is what is really cool about Ryan and his wife, and what they are doing at Open In Indiana is just their passion to help Indiana, to link arms with the community. And again, like the sticker says, Support Local Business, it’s what we’re all about here. We are passionate about ourselves and what we strive to continue to see happen in our city. And that is linking arms with each other, helping build each other up and making connections with people that you could help or could help you. And so being able to see a platform and a structure that just makes that happen for people, it was just super encouraging, and it was really cool to learn about the heart behind it too, not just the structure and the infrastructure that is going on, but the people that are behind what’s going on.

Ian: Absolutely. Well, let us not keep them waiting any longer.

Brendon: Thank you for tuning in. We hope you enjoy this episode. Let’s get right to it. All right. Well, hello, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of The Hustle Indy Show. I am your host, Brendan Helm as joined as always by the wonderful Ian DeFelice. And today we have quite an amazing guest that we can get behind here at The Hustle Indy Show. We love supporting local businesses and learning about different ways that we can be kind of linking arms together. And so, we would like to welcome Ryan Henry, who is the Idea Guy for Open In Indiana to the show, Ryan, welcome.

Ian: How are you doing today?

Ryan Henry: Oh, I’m great. It is above freezing!

Ian: Exactly. Yes.

Brendon: So, let’s get started. Just share with us a little bit about what you do and what Open In Indiana does.

Ryan: Sure. Open In Indiana originally started as a project called Open In Carmel in September of 2016. And that project started after a conversation with a client of ours while operating a marketing company at the time. She was concerned that a major road construction project was going to affect traffic into her business. So we built this online directory that catered specifically at the time to only Carmel, Indiana businesses. There was no charge to get listed on the site. And then it just showed all of the methods of contact that business had available. So their phone number, of course, their social media, their website. And then the one thing we built in was directions that would route them around the construction in Carmel. And so within a year that took off really quickly. We ended up with 50 businesses on there in a matter of weeks.

Ian: Wow.

Ryan: in that first year we added Indianapolis Greenwood, Avon, Fishers, Noblesville, and Zionsville. Before we officially decided to change our name to Open In Indiana and create one big directory that serves the entire state.

Brendon: Cool.

Ian: Very cool. That’s a great synopsis. So, you start in Carmel. So how does it really begin? When this lady comes to you and asks you, I need help? Like how, did the idea like really get started?

Ryan: So the client of mine operated a salon. And so, I previously provided other services like social media marketing, and built her website. And so we were just having a casual conversation because anytime you’re running a business, you have to make sure that your clients are in the loop. And so, after talking to her about what that concern was, we decided that, hey, this is our wheelhouse. We can really put something together out of it. So that’s kind of how it came to be.

Brendon: How long have you been rocking and rolling with that?

Ryan: Open In Indiana, going all the way back to its roots will be celebrating five years in 2021.

Brendon: Wow. Okay.

Ian: Okay. Awesome. That’s very cool. At what point did you decide from Carmel to grow beyond Carmel and go to all of Indiana? Like what was the stage after, was it year one or was it just a couple months or how long did that take?

Ryan: It was about a year and a half before we officially changed our name. But in that first year we had added all of those additional cities just because of demand from our existing client base and folks that they kept in touch with.

Brendon: So, for those that want to be clients, or maybe even those that are clients, what does the process look like for someone getting involved and plugged in with what you guys are doing at Open In Indiana?

Ryan: Visit www.openinindiana.com and there’s a join button in the top menu. We’re unique in the sense that we offer free and paid membership options. And that’s because small businesses are sometimes one person shows, they don’t have a very large marketing budget and we feel that even inside of that free option, we can provide some value. And then down the road, they find value, and eventually upgrade their membership with us, but they start off by signing up for their accounts and submitting their business listing. Once we review that, just to make sure it is a real business that we can verify some of the information then we publish it on our site and it’s available for everyone to see.

Brendon: Very cool.

Ian: So, you’re the Idea Guy. How many of you guys on your team are there? Is it just you or are there a handful or what does that look like.

Ryan: Open In Indiana is two people. It’s myself and my wife, Carly.

Brendon: Wow.

Ryan: So, we kind of split our duties. Carly’s expertise is the web. So, she can design it, make it do whatever you want it to do and make it look good while you’re visiting the site. My expertise is to visit shows like this and share our passion for helping others.

Ian: Wow. So is this like your full-time job then? This is what you guys are all in on.

Ryan: Yes. That’s it.

Brendon: Wow. That’s so cool! So, at what point did you jump all in? I want to hear a little bit more about your story. So Open In Indiana is only five years old. What were you doing before that? Are you from Indiana or are you from Indy and really kind of tell us your story?

Ryan: Well, so I originally came from Hammond, Indiana, that’s the extreme Northwest corner of the state. I moved to Indianapolis because I was looking to kind of start my own thing and try a new place. Once I got settled into a job, I quickly found out that my career, which I’m an accountant by trade, I couldn’t stand so I had that conversation to myself, ‘how, how bad do I really need this job?’ And so around that time, it occurred to me that people would pay me to come to their home and fix their computers, something that I didn’t perceive to be work. And so that quickly caught on. Within and a few months of doing that, I decided that I enjoyed fixing computers more than I did accounting. So I switched and that was my full-time job from there. Now, we had a couple of failures along the way. We tried expanding the computer repair company into retail, big mistake.

Not enough people will be open about the mistakes that they make along the way. And they’re inevitable when you build a business. So for us, that was a misunderstanding of who our clients were and what they wanted, what they wanted was a great computer repair shop. What they didn’t want was something that was going to cost more than a big box store to purchase computers. They kept bringing it back to us to work on, but we didn’t need to have this store that they wander into. So we officially closed that and decided retail was never going to happen again. But inside of doing this we met a lot of work from home professionals. So folks who can transact all their business without leaving the house kind of looks like ahead of its time. And so in doing that, we started to meet people who ran their own business and they started asking more complicated questions. Like, can you help me with a website? Can you help me understand how to use Facebook? Can you help me use email marketing? And so around 2015, we decided that it was time to change from focusing on it only to overall marketing with some technology support.

Brendon: Gotcha.

Ryan: Then from there, it continued to grow. We expanded our audience of those work from home professionals. And then it came to us that I learned about networking about six months into the marketing company. And it was this concept I’d never thought of before. I like going to sit down and have lunch with my friends and it never clicked before that eventually this group of people that I’m intimidated by are going to become my friends. And you know, through that, getting to know each other and watch each other’s businesses grow.

So, I got really involved in different networking groups. A few months into that, the organization that operated some of the networking groups I attended completely folded. They were no longer a thing. So, we took it upon ourselves to keep the couple of groups that we had volunteered to host and just affiliate our own thing. Now we had started Open In Carmel, so it was just natural to connect those things. In addition to this online directory that we had started building up, now we introduced face-to-face networking as a component of it. We wanted to meet you. We wanted to learn what you’re passionate about and how we can help you, what a good prospect looks like. And inside of that, we all get together for one reason, we’re trying to build our business and become better professionals.

So, we also started integrating learning into it. We started with Five Things You Can Do On Facebook, and all of a sudden, we had a huge influx of audience that was coming to the meetings. And so, by providing those things, we found that it helped people and while we talk about business, revenue and profit and clients and everything, we just love the fact that people said to us, ‘Hey, we love what you were doing, it helped my business.’ And so that for us was enough to say, all right, we have to figure out how to make this the only thing we do.

Ian: Wow. So it truly evolved. So everything you’ve done, maybe besides accounting has really evolved into this kind of the desire to help people. Has that really inspired you guys to keep moving forward or what’s like at the root of what you’re doing?

Ryan: Absolutely. Some people are today just starting their business. I’ve been there. I didn’t know where to turn to next. I didn’t know what resources were available as a business owner. So, it’s nice to be able to put those out in a way that people go ‘Great, I needed this!’ And so even beyond what we do a lot of it is connecting folks with other organizations that can do the same things. I’ll give you a great example, SCORE. They are funded by the Small Business Administration. It’s 11,000 volunteers across the country and they’ll match you with a demonstrated expert in each industry area. So if you’re trying to build the next distribution hub to bring into town, they’re going to match you with someone who knows logistics. If you need help writing a business plan, they’re going to match you with someone who does that. If you need help, understanding how to build out your employee workbook and hire a great team, they’re going to fix you up with someone who can do that. And there is never a cost to work with SCORE. And so, organizations like that, we share with our members.

Ian: Wow.

Brendon: I love that. Very cool. So in terms of size and scope of all of the stuff that you guys are doing, how many different local businesses do you have on your network? Or how many do you work with typically?

Ryan: So there’s a couple of different ways that we have categorize. So, let’s go first by business listings because that’s our largest. We just this past week, surpassed 1,000 businesses listings.

Brendon: Wow. Yeah, that is awesome.

Ryan: And so those are the people who have their information about their business published as a listing.

Ian: Gotcha.

Ryan: So, then a couple of other categories that we have, we have registered members. So those are people who have come back to the website and logged in at least twice and interacted with it, we have just over 300 registered members. And as far as clientele, our client life cycle is a little longer than I would’ve ever expected it to be, so I’m still working with a couple of my very first clients.

Ian: Wow. That’s awesome.

Brendon: That’s kind of rare to have the lifecycle that long, I mean, you’ve really been working with these people for a long time.

Ryan: Yeah. It’s all about identifying new needs that your audience has, because it only takes a very small percentage of your clients that you’ve already done business with to continue to add value to them. And since they’ve already had a great experience with you, you don’t have the hurdle of trying to win over a new customer. They already have that illustrated point for you. So that’s your best chance of making a new sale out of the gate.

Brendon: Very cool. So what are some of the, for the clientele side of things that category, what are some of the services that you guys provide or that you typically find yourself drifting more than most?

Ryan: So a lot of what we offer is one-on-one consulting and tech expertise. We found that a lot of people that are going into entrepreneurship now it’s a second career for them. They’ve either been downsized or early retired, or just otherwise are no longer with the company they may have been with for years. And so they find themselves with a decade or two, or maybe even three before they’re ready to retire, but they have all of these skills that they’ve amassed through their career. And so there’s almost always an opportunity to take those skills and present them in a business format that would allow them to keep working until they’re ready to retire. So a lot of what we do is sit down with them individually and say, okay, what do you do? What do your clients or customers find value in? And what can we do to help make it where since it’s most of the time, only that person to be able to make all of those touches necessary to convert a website visitor into a prospect, a prospect into a customer, a customer, into a repeat customer and so on.

Ian: So for your experience that you’ve been with these companies for quite a while, a lot of them, is there any really one that stands out to you as like, this was like a big success or where we’ve gotten really close with this certain person or this certain company, is there one that really stands out to you?

Ryan: There’s actually a couple. So I’ll give you an example of a tax expert that I’ve worked with. We met when she started attending a network meeting we had in Carmel, it took three years of seeing her at the table every week. Every time we did the meeting, until she finally said, yes, let’s build a website because that’s one of our wheelhouse areas. And since we’ve built that website for her, there is not a week that goes by that she doesn’t tell somebody about her experience. Her clients can book an appointment instead of having to call her, they can find answers to their questions through her website and even people outside of the folks that she already knows are able to locate her services. So last year alone, she said she had a huge increase in her business by adding an online scheduling component and a basic website to her marketing arsenal.

Ian: And last year it was a great year to do that. Yeah. I was going to say kind of going in that direction, I’m assuming last year, how did that affect your business? You get a lot more, I mean, with what you’re offering that online expertise, every business, if it wants to stay alive at this point kind of needs that, have you seen kind of an increase of need? And have you been able to match that or how does that look like?

Ryan: So, prior to COVID last year, we launched a magazine in December of 2019, and that only survived one issue because as the stay-at-home orders happen back last March, that was the day we were sending our second magazine to the print shop. So that one didn’t happen. We also had nine different network groups in the Indianapolis area that were meeting in person. All of those got discontinued. Now, aside from a one week break where we kind of regrouped, we came back all virtual the following Monday. And all of our members were able to just plug right in. And that also gave us the additional benefit of since we’re not meeting in a noisy restaurant, we can record everything now. So, one of the additional values for our membership is if you really wanted to attend any of our network events, where we have a featured speaker or a topic you’re interested in, or even the workshops or webinars that we offer, you can always go back and watch them at a later time.

Brendon: That’s awesome.

Ian: Cool.

Brendon: What have been some of the biggest challenges in terms of not just this past year, what have been some of the biggest challenges for your guys’ area of expertise in terms of networking and events and all this stuff?

Ryan: Honestly, it’s making sure that you stay consistent about everything. That’s something that is frequently talked about as something small business owners need to focus on, but not enough people do it. And ourselves included. Sometimes you get bogged down with a lot of clients you’re trying to help. You want to maintain that excellent experience, but at the same time, you still need to be making phone calls and getting new people lined up. Because when that work finishes, you still need to you know, keep things going. So a lot of that just comes down to really think, what does your client life cycle look like? How long is it going to take between that first touch a contact? And it always takes more than one touch. You’re almost never going to close the deal the first time you pick up the phone or send an email. So you have to make sure you’re putting time in your schedule every week to look for new prospects. And at the same time of doing that, you need to do the same with your email marketing, because you’re already happy customers are the ones who are going to be your biggest advocates. They’re going to go out and tell their friends, if they need your services or products again, you’re going to be the first person they think about to call. So make sure that you’re always reaching out to everybody in your audience,

Ian: Keeping a high touch point on people that you’ve been. You mentioned that you’re with these companies for a long time, how often do you actually contact them? You have like a weekly meeting, is that correct? Or how does that work?

Ryan: Okay, so our weekly meeting is every Monday at 11:30 AM and we meet by Zoom. It’s a networking event, so we start with our introductions. Who are you? What is your business? What’s a good prospect look like for you. And then we always switch it up and ask an icebreaker question.

Brendon: Gotcha.

Ryan: And the idea is that its so far out of left field, that it kind of puts everyone on that same level. I’ll give you a great example. ‘What’s one of the worst commercials you’ve ever seen?’ We’ve asked that icebreaker question.

Ian: Gotcha.

Ryan: Just something that kind of gets everyone on that same level. And from there, we always make sure to establish contact no more than quarterly with everyone that we’ve ever worked with. And we’ll continue to do that until you either opt out because they’re no longer in need, because there’s no reason to reach out to someone who doesn’t need what you have to offer.

Ian: How many people or how many businesses are typically on those meetings and events?

Ryan: So, today’s meeting earlier, we had 12 people on. And that fluctuates depending on our speaker. Our largest in-person meeting ever was about 30 people.

Brendon: Cool.

Ryan Henry: We emphasize its usually under 20 most of the time, and that allows everyone plenty of time to talk, interact, and feel more personal about things.

Brendon: Yeah. So, again, COVID aside, on top of these networking meetings, are there events that you put on? Are there different things that you guys facilitate?

Ryan: Yes. we also offer workshops and webinars. In fact, we have just done one this week called Help! My Logo Printed The Wrong Color. This is a true story, it happened to me. When I first started my computer repair company, I picked out a color that I loved on the computer. It was this Royal blue, and I was so disappointed when I went to the store to pick up the business cards. The color of the logo was purple and I’m like, ‘how did this happen?’ I understood how to use the programs, but I didn’t understand that RGB color designed on the computer Isn’t the format that the printer is going to spit it out. So, I had to kind of go back to the drawing board with our branding.

And about a month ago I was having a conversation with someone and they mentioned the same thing happened to them. I’m like, you know, I wonder how many people that happens to, because there’s so much to know inside of every category. So we just wanted to put together a presentation that tells you this is the different color formats. These are types of color combinations. Some of the psychological stuff behind each color. For example, yellow is happy. Red could be medical, but it’s also easy to express rage if you’re using too much of it. So, things like that, you can really start to set the mood of your prospective clients before they even contact you, colors can do that. And so, it’s just a lot of fun to be able to dig into that and then present it to someone else that may have not thought of that before. It’s awesome.

Ian: So you said it’s just you and your wife working on all of this, what, or how are you able to do that with just a two man team working with all these different companies, doing all these different events, these coming up with all these ideas, what have been the challenges and what have been kind of the rewards of being such a small little team doing such a big thing?

Ryan: Well let’s start with the advantages. So being a small team means that it’s really easy to make sure you have 100% support behind the idea. With a larger team, you’re not always going to have 100% every time. So with it being just the two of us, if we both don’t love the idea, it doesn’t happen. But some of the challenges to that is because we’re only two people, there are only so many hours in a day that you can work. And there is no such thing as a 40 hour work week in entrepreneurship. If you want to work 40 hours, I suggest looking for a job. But if you learn to be very rigid about scheduling your time and making sure that the important things have precedent in your schedule, and that includes time to rest and time for you, because if you’re burnt out, if you’re working too much, the quality of the work you’re going to give is just not great. So, you must make sure that everything that you want to do both in your life and your business is on the calendar, you’ll get notifications about it.

And then in addition to that, make sure you have someone outside of your team that is holding you accountable. Friends who are aware of what you do, other entrepreneurs, someone who goes, how’s that idea that you came up with? Are you actually doing it? Or if you pledge to make a change to follow up and make sure that you’re sticking with it.

Ian: Very cool.

Brendon: Logistically what does timing in terms of making sure that all of these touch points are made, all of this work is getting done for your clients, but also for those that are registering and all of the marketing that you guys are doing in terms of communication with these people logistically, how does that look for you to tackling such a big workload?

Ryan: Most of what we do is scheduled in advance. Emails can be infinitely scheduled into the future. In fact, I think some of our emails are done all the way through quarter three of this year and the only time we’ll have to revisit those is if we have a major pivot somewhere in the business strategy later in the year.

But otherwise it’s just making sure that you sit down to do things in advance. For example, if you make two appointments a month, you can do half a month worth of material in one sitting. But the first time you sit down to do it, you need to understand what every day of the week looks like. So for us, we do Monday quotes. So some kind of inspirational quote from a prominent entrepreneur or historical figure. Other things throughout the week sharing some of our members off the website, we host our own weekly podcasts, the open-end Indiana podcast. So as we put all this content together in advance, it’s scheduled, so that by the time most of it posts, we’re in another meeting, but you can do that off hours. You can do that on the weekend. You don’t have to do it nine to five, which is when you’re supposed to be ready to accept any calls or emails from your clients.

Brendon: So, you’re very organized, but it sounds like you have to be.

Ryan: I wouldn’t say very organized. We’ve kind of been forced into the organization structure that we have, but there’s always room to grow for someone that’s listening. And I mean, us too, anyone can grow in terms of organization.

Brendon: Have there been any, like, I know we just started using Trello. Have there been any like systems or software that have really helped you to organize and structure and make sure things do get done?

Ryan: Yes. So, if you do anything that’s managing client information, as far as understanding any historic contact or interaction with them, you absolutely have to have a CRM. That’s the one-stop shop where you can look up how to get ahold of your clients, anyone else on your team who’s had contact with them, what they’ve purchased, and even depending on what a CRM you’re using, how they review your product. So, and then the fewer different systems you can plug in together the better. So you want to make sure that you start out the gate with something that’s fairly comprehensive, and then as you expand, look for other things that easily connect to it. So, for us for example, we use something called Jetpack CRM, formerly named ZeroBS. So, and that’s kind of what drew us to it was that the name was funny

Quick branding tip: If you can make someone laugh, they’re going to remember it. If you can make someone angry, they’re going to remember it, but not in a way that helps your brand.

Brendon: Yeah.

Ryan: But in doing that, make sure before you implement any solution, first and foremost, that if you don’t feel 100% confident in doing it, reach out to someone who does. Someone in your network knows how to do it, or know someone that knows how to do it. Second is think of all of the other things that you want to do with it, what email marketing system are you using? A lot of stuff plugs in with that. Well how are you connecting it to social media? So are you doing any kind advertising through Facebook? Make sure that any data you’re collecting about your clients, that it’s clearly written in your terms of service so that they know what’s happening. And don’t share that data with anybody. I know there are companies out there who publish things that say they share your data. As a small business, there is nothing of value to be gained by going that road.

Ian: Interesting. Interesting. So, I want to get back to a little bit more of kind of what Open In Indiana does for its clients. You mentioned there’s a difference between paid and unpaid and kind of like entry-level versus people that have been there a while utilizing your services. So, can you kind of dive into that a little bit more like the difference between the paid and unpaid membership?

Ryan: Sure. So we have four different membership levels. The first one we’ll talk about as our Forever Free Membership. We named it Forever Free because we decided years ago, there’s always going to be some variation of membership that doesn’t cost money that allows you to get on the website, create your member profile. Your member profile shows your location, your company, how folks can contact you, phone number, email, hobbies, education then you can communicate directly with other members. You can add other members as friends, you can send messages, you can join groups. You can also create a business listing, which is the public facing component of the website. So that’s where you share, for example, The Hustle Indy Show. And then you talk about all the details of what are you about, what do you do and then how visitors can contact you.

If you upgrade to what we call our Local Favorite Membership, on top of all the stuff we give you in our Forever Free Membership, you get the ability to plug in a URL for an online scheduling platform. So if you book appointments online, you can plug that in. If you have a video introduction or commercial, you can embed that into your listing. You can add order and shop online links. So those both are the same thing. They go to a web store, but depending on the industry, it’s worded differently. If it’s a restaurant, we think of order online. If it’s a retailer, we think of shopping on their website. And we offer some advertising on our website with rotating placement of our Featured Members.

Our Local Connector Membership is a recent introduction for us that came out in September of 2020. That’s targeted towards business associations and Chambers of Commerce. So, what that does is in addition to being a directory listing, we have something we call our Membership Passport that allows your organization to offer our Forever Free Membership to everyone in their organization.

We just recently added SHOPNoble, which is a project of the Noble County Economic Development Corp; and the Kendallville Indiana Chamber of Commerce. And so that brought us last week being our best week ever of new listings.

Ian: Wow. Okay. That’s again you had some big milestones.

Ryan: Yes. We also have our Regional Favorite Membership, which is targeted at businesses with more than one location.

Brendon: That’s really cool. So, when you guys are getting an influx of potential partners or networking clients, what exactly are the things that you’re looking for as far as deeming them as qualifying candidates for Open In Indiana? Or are there people that you have to say, no, we don’t, we don’t support this. We can’t put you on our web.

Ryan: So it really comes down to the individual industry. In my outreach, I look for people who are doing their own thing. So, a family-owned business something that has a story behind it, like someone baking a delicious cake and their neighbors telling them ‘you’ve got to own a bakery’ and now they own a great local business, those are the kinds of businesses I really look for. Now, let’s say for example, financial services, because it’s heavily regulated, and depending on which brokerage they’re signed up with, most Financial professionals are not even able to advertise themselves outside of their Corporate brand. Then there’s certain wording that the Securities and Exchange Commission regulates. So, it’s just better to not advertise to that industry. Because we host networking events, we do welcome every industry who wants to participate. No one is turned away, we love connecting with new friends.

Ian: Yeah. Gotcha. Very cool. For, so you said you have over a thousand businesses now. Location-wise, you’re just focusing on Indiana. Is it only in Indiana because you started in Carmel? And is it mostly in Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville area or have you really succeeded in spreading out all across the state?

Ryan: So, up until COVID last year, we were mostly focused on the Indianapolis area. However, the Indianapolis Metro area, is now our slowest growling segment in comparison to Northeast Indiana. Fort Wayne and just North of there is our fastest growing. Around Evansville in the opposite direction, we’re picking up some extra traction. Now, a lot of that comes from having the realization back in March, if I can’t walk into a potential client’s business, it means no one else can either. So it kind of leveled the playing field for us, where marketing to someone in a different part of the state isn’t any different than sitting down today.

Ian: Interesting. Interesting. So, you you’ve had a lot of success, so when you’re reaching out, what’s your most successful avenue of marketing to new clients? Is it typically people respond best to an email or people responding best to a phone call? Or what does that look like?

Ryan: Email is always King. Now, phone calls do have their value. But think of it yourselves, your phone rings during the day, you’re in the middle of something else. You don’t pick it up, it goes to voicemail. You leave a message, ‘Hi, I’m Ryan and blah, blah, blah.’ You’ve never heard of this Ryan Guy. So you just delete the message and it’s gone. Email works out well if you properly prospect. We found that out of doing email and sending something that kind of plays on that pain point of many small businesses, wouldn’t you love some ideas to advertise yourself that works out really well for us? So, we always work to add new emails into our database of perspective clients. Now, with that, I will emphasize, do not ever buy email lists. Half of them are trash out of the gate, 80% of the ones that are good will either unsubscribe or mark you as spam. And maybe for every thousand, you’ll have a couple that turn out to be profitable or completed sales. So, build it organically only reach out to business types that you’re fairly familiar with.

Ian: So, coming out of the pandemic and your business is still growing. You have a great business plan. What do you, how do you see yourself growing? Is this going to go beyond Indiana? Is this going to have, are you going to have to hire more people and just focus more on Indiana? Or what does that look like?

Ryan: Well, so we’ve got a few ideas on the table that we’re looking at now, of course, expanding outside of Indiana looks promising. But one thing you have to keep in mind is with us to some extent, being classified as a social media network, there’s data collection and data privacy laws in different States. Illinois is a little more enhanced than Indiana. And then as we go all the way out West towards California, they’re the strictest in the country. So we’re not looking to roll out outside of Indiana until we have enough team members and legal guidance from a lawyer that tells us how can we build this in a way that respects the most stringent policy. As far as what we’re looking to do in the future, we just really want to increase the library of topics that we covered this year. So, if we keep our existing members happy and continue to add value, then they’re going to do more for us as far as advertising and helping us grow than any other campaign would.

Ian: How do you plan on doing that?

Ryan: So rounding back to the scheduling thing, you put time on the schedule. And from time to time, we ask our members, ‘what’s something you’d really love to learn about?’ So right now, email is a big question that our members have. So, we’re in the process of building out a series of videos about how to use MailChimp from getting yourself started to how to A/B test content that you send out to your audience. So things like that. And you must ask questions otherwise you never know, in any business, you’re never done asking questions.

Brendon: Very interesting. So, moving forward still on the aspiration side of things with COVID happening and kind of a shift of focus in terms of how communication happens, do you plan on continuing virtual stuff or are you going to try and just completely full swing back into in-person meetings and networking events?

Ryan: No, I think virtual is here to stay because it allows us to reach a much wider audience with fewer events. Now, there are a couple of events that I would love to get going in person again on a little larger scale. We’ve started late last year with getting our once-a-month networking going again. That’s actually at Books & Brews (3803 Shelby St, Indianapolis), just a little down the street from you guys here. So that that’s on the fourth Friday of every month. And of course, with COVID, we must make sure we’re appropriately spaced for that event. I’d really love to be able to bring it back at scale. It was building momentum coming into everything last year, but otherwise our regular networking events and workshops are going to stay virtual. If for anything else, because it’s hours every week that we got back, not sitting in the car.

Ian: Yeah. That’s very fair. And again, you said you record all of those too, which is reaching people, in a timeframe that seems like a pretty effective way to get that reach out as broad as possible.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Brendon: So, for those that are watching or listening or interested, even in utilizing Open In Indiana, or just learning more about you guys, what is the best way for them to one learn about you and to get in contact with you

Ryan: Visit our website, www.openinindiana.com. You’ll be greeted with Your Search for Local in Indiana Starts Here. You can search for any product or service that you want to find. We have a member that would help you with that is almost every industry. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @OpenInIndiana. We’re also on YouTube and LinkedIn.

Brendon: Very cool. Is there anything that you want to share for anyone that might be listening advice wise or just anything in general off the top of your head that you feel necessary to share?

Ryan: Yes. For the love of God, write a business plan, please don’t start a business without one. Half of businesses fail because they don’t have a business plan. And even if you do have a business plan, make sure you’re revisiting it on a regular basis. Things always change, and share that business plan with someone you trust to get honest feedback on it because a good idea can come from anywhere.

Brendon: That’s awesome. Well, some great advice. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Thank you so much for spending some time with us and just getting us familiar with your company, what you guys are doing and just all the stuff that’s going on here in Indiana and Indianapolis and at Open In Indiana. Thank you guys so much for listening to another episode of The Hustle Indy Show. We look forward to seeing you in the next one.

To learn more about The Hustle Indy Show, visit their Open In Indiana listing here.

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