Colton Bollinger, founder of Jumper Media, explains how he started his business by simply helping a friend.
I recently had one of those heart-to-heart "I love you so much; thank you for all you've sacrificed and done for me" talks with my dad. As our parents get older, I think we tend to cherish those moments more. He told me the best thing I'd ever done was starting to play golf when I did. Reflecting on this, I think he's right.
My company, Jumper Media, provides social media marketing tools and services for small businesses and, in two short years, has grown to have more than 3,000 clients and 50 employees, with plans to hire 50 more. Of course, I didn't set out to be the CEO of a marketing company. My first love was golf, and Dad was proud when I went on to compete in college after barely making the cut on my high school team. However, it wasn't my scores that made him call golf the best thing I'd ever done – the lessons and relationships that came out of it were key.
After college, I noticed a trend: My friends were talented golfers stuck in minimum-wage jobs and lacking opportunities to coach or teach. They had knowledge and skill that they wanted to share but no idea how to get the word out. I predicted that social media would be the way to bridge the gap. After all, if you're a golfer or have close friends or family who golf, you know how ravenous we are when it comes to consuming golf-related news. These instructors just needed a bit of guidance on how to frame and showcase their value on social media. This led to me start Jumper Media.
When people ask me how I went from a golf addict helping my golf friends score coaching and teaching gigs out on the course to running a full-service marketing agency with $6 million in annual recurring revenue in under two years, I often reflect on the parallels between golf and marketing. On the surface, it seems like they couldn't be more different, but once you dig a little deeper, you find that the two activities share similarities.
First, the secrets to success both in golf and the world of social media marketing are purely psychological. Golf may seem like a physical sport, but even if you allow a full second for each stroke (which may be generous) and have an average score of 85, that means the "physical skill" element of your entire round of golf has taken 85 seconds. And if you've just spent four hours playing, that means most of your time has been spent leading up to every shot you took – planning, strategizing, visualizing, measuring and tracking. This is very much like a successful social media marketing campaign.
Golf connects people. No matter your skill level, everyone who plays knows how every up and down in the game can affect your headspace. In any given round, you might have moments when you are at your most vulnerable and your most indestructible; it's a real metaphor for life. If you can overcome self-doubt, remember your fundamentals and put your own unique spin on your efforts, you'll succeed.
Golf is also a game of skill and character, and you can learn more about a person by playing around with them than you can ever gather from their online profile or any bio. The way they react and handle situations on the course provides insight into their business and personal tendencies. The game is like old-school social networking – it's always been a catalyst for building businesses, even if just for the sheer number of deals that are decided over 18 holes.
I had a chance encounter in Miami with a great instructor named Evan Cather. After his struggle to find new students came up in conversation, I offered my help for free to see if I could add any value for him. Today, he has more than 67,000 loyal Instagram followers who love every piece of content he posts, countless new in-person clients who first discovered him on social media, and a new revenue stream of online teaching created from his audience on Instagram.
Naturally, once Evan broke through to the public eye, everyone wanted to know how he was generating his new clientele, making him not only a shining example of social media success, but also a valued professional relationship. He began referring new business owners from all fields (who took lessons from him) to me, to help do the Instagram magic for them.
Once I reached 27 clients in a few months just from word-of-mouth, my time was stretched thin, and I had two options – stop taking more clients (not a real option!) or figure out how to develop processes and find help to leverage my sudden, unexpected success.
Two of my best friends, Peter Sercia and Gian Pepe, who had been following along during the whole journey, jumped at the occasion to build this together before I could even finish asking them. They both had been making incredible strides in their respective corporate backgrounds: Peter has the magic touch when it comes to sales, and Gian was born to be a business/organization guru.
In the beginning, it was just like the bootstrapped business cliche. We all worked out of a living room in San Francisco, hustled on the weekends, and made the kind of ridiculously ambitious forecasted growth goals that get squawked and laughed at on Shark Tank. We couldn't help but be optimistic, and yet we were surprised when, after six months, we compared the projections with our actual sales. We had hit every single goal, and Gian pointed out that we were no longer the typical bootstrapped business – we were growing at the same rate as well-funded, investor-backed startups in Silicon Valley.
At that point, we figured it was time to get an office and decided to call San Diego home from then on. This might be the second-best thing I've ever done for myself.
Committing to the company and its clients
Fortunate timing, in that our business came together when people were realizing the power of social media and wondering how to harness it, likely played a significant role in Jumper Media's first-year success, as did our preference to focus more on Instagram than other social platforms. However, we think that the corporate culture we created and the customer-service values we hold dear were also major contributors. Our goal with each new client is to always be thinking of new ways to add value: to the client, to their followers, and to social content as a medium itself. When social media campaigns are built with integrity and the focus on adding value before all else, each effort is more impactful, and success is far more likely.
As Jumper Media moves forward, the company will continue to reinvent, solidify and evolve, hoping for our share of indestructible moments but never shying away from being vulnerable and trying for those long shots. My five-year goal is to have at least 150 employees helping us share our clients' stories, and I have no doubt the Jumper team will achieve it with our core values and principles guiding the way. I love what I do every day, and if I can get in a few rounds of golf and the occasional lesson from Evan Cather, even better!