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How a 24 Year Old CEO Uses Hotjar to Grow His Agency & Get More Clients

Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO of Directive Consulting, an agency he started in Southern California when he wasn’t even old enough to legally have a beer yet. Fast forward a few years and his agency is now an Unbounce Partner and MozLocal Recommended Local Company that serves small-enterprise level firms all over the globe. Garrett recently sat down with us to tell us how Hotjar has been essential in helping his agency grow and get clients. Keep reading to see what he had to say.

Brian: Garrett, thrilled to talk to you. Can you tell us a bit more about who you are and what do you do?

Garrett: Yeah, it’s good to talk to you. I’m currently the CEO for an agency I founded in Irvine, CA when I was 21. We currently run about 15 people and we’re growing like crazy, both internally and externally. We do pretty much everything anyone would ever need online: SEO, PPC, social, content marketing, copywriting.

Brian: Wait. I still can't get past the age thing. You were 21 when you started?! That’s awesome! How’d you do it?

Garrett: I get that a lot, haha. Thanks. To make a long story short, my partner Tanner Shaffer and I just hustled. I graduated high school and college early (with a Masters degree even) and have always been a doer. I take action. And so does Tanner. So, while a lot of younger people are still living with their folks trying to figure their lives out, we were starting my own business. In college, I was the captain of my soccer team and wanted to pursue professionally. But due to an injury, I got could no longer do that so after I graduated I started applying to agencies because I needed a job. But it was in the midst of applying to all of these places that I decided to just...start my own company. So, along with Tanner, I did. And a fun fact for you - everyone who works with and for us is still under 24 years old!

Brian: Wow, you don’t hear this kind of stuff every day. What’d you start doing initially? How’d you guys scale in the beginning?


Garrett: At first we were a two man show. We started small. SEO was our niche originally so we began by ranking sites for friends and family. We also did (and still do) a lot of guest posting to get our name out there. Along the way, we picked up PPC, social, copywriting, all of it. We’re both crazy about reading and learning too so after awhile we knew we wanted to start a full-blown agency. Now just a few years later we’re one of the highest rated agencies in Orange County, CA.

Brian: Again Garrett, great stuff. You have an amazing story. So looking at the present, what kind of clients do you guys have? How are you helping them?

Garrett: Typically we’re a one-stop shop for businesses. Instead of having an “SEO guy”, and “ad guy”, a copywriter, and a “social media guy,” we handle it all at the same time. But I’d say that the main source of income and what we spend most of our time on is landing pages, PPC, SEO, content, and social, in that order. We do a lot of case studies too, which helps us with client acquisition.

Brian: So, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had scaling so far?

Garrett: The most difficult aspect of scaling the agency has been handling the unexpected. Helping clients find product market fit is time-consuming and can be tough if the product or service isn't resonating with the buyers. Some people only want one thing (e.g. SEO) when they really need a whole lot of things (e.g. SEO, PPC, content marketing, updated copy, landing pages, etc.).

Communicating with clients who aren't on the same page takes work, practice, and patience. When we don't see eye to eye on things, that can be tough.It also takes a lot of money to hire for talent and culture simultaneously. We value both equally so if one doesn’t exist, we don’t make the offer. Which means, it takes a lot of time to find the right people. And lastly, finding clients at higher price points has been happening, but it’s taken a lot longer than we originally thought it would. There’s a lot of competition out there, so courting clients who have deeper pockets requires persistence (although we still love and cherish our smaller budget clients just the same).

Brian: We can identify with a lot of that too. I’m right there with you on the talent/culture piece. Well, it seems like you guys are moving forward with tenacity and intentionality which is exactly how you should be scaling if you want to get noticed and grab a big slice of the market share. So before Hotjar came into the picture, what tools were you using for CRO and growth optimization? What’d you like? What’d you dislike?

Garrett: Honestly, I’ve used them all: Unbounce, Moz, SEMrush, Long Tail Pro, Buzzsumo, DivvyHQ (an enterprise level content platform for managing content/calendar), Trello (we outgrew it fast) and Slack (internally).

Brian: Sounds about right. We’re big fans of some of those tools and use them ourselves. Now the question we’ve all been waiting for (at least, I have): how’d Hotjar come into the picture for you?

Garrett: I saw it on Product Hunt actually. I was using Crazy Egg and Optimizely, but when I started using Hotjar as a BETA tester, I was blown away. The price point was and still is unbeatable, and it’s just straight up a better product all the way around. It was a no-brainer. I was hooked immediately.

Brian: I like the sound of that. So, how’d you guys use it? What features did (and do) you enjoy using?

Garrett: We used Hotjar for everything. Still do. On our side and the client side as well. It’s part of who we are. Here’s a few ways Hotjar helps us do what we do:

  1. Recordings. We can see everything everyone does on every site we look at. This stuff is gold. Probably the most used feature on our end. We use Recordings with Unbounce, a lot actually.

  2. It’s affordable. Anyone can use Hotjar for free and the highest plan starts at $89 a month. Again, kind of a no-brainer when it comes to running an agency.

  3. Lead gen. Hotjar’s form analysis and surveys help us understand what visitors are doing on our site. We can see their behavior, and they actually tell us why they do what they do at the same time so we can tweak things as needed.

  4. E-commerce. The funnel analysis, polls (along with Google Analytics) tell us everything we need to know when we’re trying to optimize ecom sites. If people aren't buying or they're bouncing off the site, we know exactly why and can make adjustments.

  5. UX/UI tweaks. When you use all of the tools in Hotjar, you start to find and hear about issues that you wouldn’t have known about if Hotjar wasn’t around. We’ve fixed a lot of stuff for ourselves and our clients after Hotjar helped us see bugs and find issues.

  6. Sell on case studies and consult on data. When we’re courting leads or trying to prove something to a client, Hotjar helps us do that. It’s something we use to show clients results, get new case studies, and show people why we need to do what we’re doing. Hotjar has been “the bad guy” for us hundreds of times. Basically, we don't have to tell people news they don't want to hear, we just show them.

Brian: Describe your world now, after becoming a Hotjar user, in comparison with your world pre-Hotjar?

Garrett: Before Hotjar came around, we didn't have any useful insight on our landing pages. We had some, but it wasn’t comprehensive. We didn't have any “proof” to show clients when we were consulting or selling either. So when Hotjar came around, it opened things up a lot for us. Now we have something to show people. It really is an all in one solution like you guys say. We use it for consulting all the time because it gives us real tangible data for the high-level recommendations we offer to clients. I just can’t say enough about how much Hotjar has helped us scale.

Brian: Garrett, I appreciate the time you’ve given us. Awesome stuff, really. So, thanks.

Garrett: Likewise! Thanks for the chat.

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Case Studies, Interviews

Brian Lenney

I'm a full-stack marketer & creative copywriter @ Hotjar. Besides being a part of the Hotjar team, I'm also a lover of leather bound books, an IPA snob, and a strong advocate of the infamous and glorious Oxford Comma.

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