Meet Matt Aldrich. Founder of Pet Engine Marketing
March 12, 2021
MK: So, Matt… What’s your story? Give it to us in full, drawn out detail (we want the long boring story).
MA: Well, obviously it’s quite a long story but I’ll do my best to zoom through the boring parts!
After graduating college (Trinity University, TX) I attempted a career in teaching history at the high school level. It didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t in the right spot emotionally or professionally for that. After a year I moved back from San Antonio to my hometown in Ann Arbor, MI.
My first job was working 80 hours per week going door to door around southeast Michigan selling AT&T bundles. It was hard, and I experienced a lot of growth, but I burned out of that after climbing to the point of running a franchise before getting a position at a marketing agency in Ann Arbor. I was only there 8 months before, discouraged, I resigned.
I felt unemployable. I needed freedom to work with who I wanted to work with, where I did the work, and when it happened. Going into business for myself was the only way to do that, and a little over 3 years ago my business was born. The last 3 years have been an extensive amount of growth, skill development, toil, ups and downs, new experiences, new people, and the slow process of figuring myself and my business out.
MK: Growth is fantastic! But 3 years? That sounds like a long time. What was the experience like? Was it easy from the start?
MA: Definitely not. For almost 11 months my business was barely making enough money to pay my bills. I started working with a business advisor about 9 months in and things began to change as I got more organized, more relentless, more focused, and started to direct my energy into the right people, places, and things.
Initially, I really didn’t know how to bring prospects through a smooth sales process and close the deal. The entire sales process required a lot of work. I wasn’t confident in what I was doing because, honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t have a niche, or a limited set of service offerings, or adequate pricing for them – I was just taking anything I could get and hoping for the best. That’s no way to run a profitable business.
Another major struggle for me was just really figuring out why I was doing it. “Feeling unemployable” was not a “why” that would drive and push and pull me. Setting goals, identifying my dreams, envisioning possibilities were all things that I had never stepped back and sorted through.
MK: As I mentioned before this interview, the team and I are a bit jealous that you get to work in the pet industry through your business, Pet Engine Marketing. But, for those that don’t know, tell us what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart.
MA: I run two marketing agencies, Fangorn Media and Pet Engine Marketing.
Fangorn Media is industry-agnostic providing a variety of digital marketing services including graphic design, website construction, social media management, social media advertising, and videography.
Pet Engine Marketing is niched down to the pet industry, specifically independent, local pet retailers (pet stores or pet shops).
I’m proud of the work we do in both businesses, but Pet Engine Marketing is unique in the space and has become an impactful member to a number of small business owners that desperately needed a marketing partner to help them grow their pet store.
We offer the same services as Fangorn Media, with the addition of SEM and email marketing. What began as one client in Ann Arbor has now flexed to nearly 10 across the country, and one in Canada! We’re the only marketing agency built by, and built for, independently owned pet stores (I was a pet store manager during High School / College summers).
MK: What’s next? What keeps you and your business moving forward?
MA: Professionally, success to me is achieving my goals while also providing great value to my clients. I wake up every day and strive to be proud of the work that I accomplish, whether that’s creating unique content, building ROI-driven ad campaigns, creative construction of websites, or leading my team. I believe that the service and culture we have is high quality, delivered at a rate that suits retailers.
Personally, I am proud of my success over the past year – I bought my first house! I certainly have revenue and personnel goals for this year and in the next 3 years but I am hoping to get out of the day-to-day technical work in my business and move into a role where I am heavily influencing growth, client management, leading my team, building a brand, and developing a strong internal culture.
I don’t know if I’ll ever “arrive” at those points as I consider them organic processes to undergo and continually improve at, and they’ll probably take 1-3 years minimum.
MK: Where has some of your inspiration come from? Or, are there any resources you’d recommend we check out?
MA: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is my favorite book and one that I re-read every couple of years. A reminder to follow your heart and reach for your dreams is a good reminder.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek is one that I recently picked up and have been going through slowly as the questions he poses make me think through them for days or weeks at a time. It’s highly impactful and is, at this moment, shaping the way my business is growing.
I also read Profit First, and while I did learn from Mike Michalowicz on healthy business finances, the primary takeaway I had was to reward myself quarterly for the success of my business. Too often in America we think we’re in some contest – who can hustle the hardest, sleep the least, work the most? It’s not a contest I’m interested in. My business is the vehicle to my dreams, and if I pass up on all of my dreams because I’m too busy with my business, I have some figuring out to do.
I also have to shoutout my advisor, Drew Brogden, at Cultivate Advisors. His influence has changed my business and my life and I am extremely grateful.
Last but not least I have to shoutout one of my mentors in marketing, Ian Mathews, co-founder of AutoGrowl. He taught me a ton, inspired me to go into business for myself, and continues to push me to be a better marketer, business owner, and person.