The story that drove Brian McCracken to digital marketing and front-end development
The story that drove Brian McCracken to digital marketing and front-end development
He has built websites for public utilities companies, government organizations, and businesses ranging in size from Fortune 500 companies to small operations that are just getting started. He has also worked with personal brands and has donated his time and work to charitable organizations that would otherwise be unable to afford a full development team to launch their initiatives.
He is currently the publisher behind the no-code course that is aimed at helping small business build their first websites without having to know a single line of code called ‘No-Stress WordPress.’
In the future, Brian intends to launch a fully done-for-you free service to help minority owned businesses just getting start with their initial personal or business websites at no cost.
I grew up in a single home in Cleveland, Ohio with my parents and my grandmother. Life was great until the first day of school. I absolutely hated it. I remember standing outside of my pre-school crying uncontrollably because I just didn’t want to deal with the regimented structure. My parents didn’t understand that I wasn’t necessarily misbehaving as much as I disliked the ‘Every size fits all’ box that typical American schooling forces you to conform to.
I wasn’t particularly great at making friends throughout grade school, and while I did enjoy sports, I tended to prefer individual sports like wrestling where the outcome was completely dependent on my effort. I later learned how to work in a team effectively, understanding that sports involving other players weren’t about each individual trying as hard as they individually could, but rather about each player helping each other be better by passing the ball, or putting the other person in a more advantageous position to score.
I wasn’t particularly close to my family, but while I was in 7th grade, we got our first computer. I vividly remember the details of it. A 33Mghz 486 with a math co-processor, 10mb of ram, and a 4GB hard drive! At the time, it was amazing.
I did the normal things kids did with computers at that time. I spent a lot of time in AOL chatrooms I probably shouldn’t have, and began to discover what the internet itself was.
In 1995 I learned that literally anyone could make a website, and by 1996 I had made my first site. Back then, CSS wasn’t even a language yet. Everything was done with tables, which was not a great choice for design, but allowed us to lay things out easily in grids and columns versus what we had before. Shortly there after came floats, and wow, that was a whole new world for layout!
Shortly thereafter, I began to get curious about how computer programs themselves were made. I didn’t know much about computer science and my school didn’t offer anything in terms of education along those lines, but I was able to find a copy of Microsoft Visual Basic and a few books. Before I knew it, I had made some basic calculators as well as ‘Tools’ to use in those AOL chatrooms I mentioned earlier.
I graduated high school very unsure of what I wanted to do. I knew that to a degree, most common school programs at the time weren’t really well suited for me, or perhaps, I wasn’t well suited for them.
I bounced around jobs until one day when I met some police officers from a local Suburb at the age of 21. We got to know each other on friendly terms over time and they mentioned the idea of going through the police academy.
With few other serious career prospects, and having worked some security jobs in the past, I thought maybe it could be a good fit. So I went through the academy, scoring very highly in virtually every test, and finishing the final state exam with a 96% score, among the top 10 students who sat for the test that day. I later went on to work on some small departments but ultimately I decided that career was not for me; likely for the same reasons I had trouble with conforming to regular school scenarios as a child.
Shortly after leaving that career field I was offered a management position in a small financial services business. On top of it, I was getting married! (for a few years anyways) Things were definitely going well it seemed.
During a meeting, the owner of the business asked if we knew of any companies or independent contractors that would be interested in making a website for the business. After a few seconds of thinking about it, I voiced that it was likely something I could help with for minimal cost in comparison to hiring out for it. The owner agreed and there I was, back in web development.
Webservers had matured. Hosting companies were now EVERYWHERE. There seemed to be so many resources at my finger tips and yet, no real clear cut way to get to exactly what I needed to, when I needed it.
I quickly became frustrated with this new availability of technology because it was limited in how it was being delivered. There was no YouTube yet, and places like Udemy just didn’t exist at the time. Video itself was hard to handle on the web as there were basically no standard codecs or methods for deliverability or playback – it was the wild wild west in a way.
But, it was this period of frustration that is what drives me to understand what a small business owner might be experiencing today when forced with the task of making a websites themselves, or finding someone who will do it for them.
Whenever I’m approached by a new potential client, I always keep in mind what I experienced when I was just getting my feet wet again. I truly understand how frustrating and uncomfortable of a process it can be.
There I was, in a new career, but given the opportunity to dive back into the world of development. It was both a gift and a curse.
On one hand, it let me get back into what it turned out I really loved – development.
On the other hand, it made me quickly become disinterested in the new career I just began, although not immediately. I hung around for over a decade. Google Ads, and later Facebooks Ads became important. SEO was a huge factor. That job allowed me to get a ton of experience in those areas as well fortunately.
It didn’t take long for our little company site to dominate the search engine results for just about every keyword we wanted.
After mastering SEO, I dove head first into Google ads, learning how to drive our costs down as low as possible, and chasing only the most profitable clicks. I began to learn about how to build high converting landing and squeeze pages in this time, and pretty soon we had a 20,000+ subscriber list that I could learn the ropes of email marketing with.
I began to build sideways sales letters, and learn about story telling over a an autoresponder chain that ultimately drove to one final conversion point and business objective that we wanted to achieve.
Soon there after, I began to play with Facebook Ads, eventually scaling to a very profitable daily ad spend of beyond $15,000 a day.
It wasn’t long after this that I discovered I should really become a developer or ad buyer versus wasting any more time in the financial services industry.
Shortly there after I left my job and took a support position with a small development company in Beachwood, Ohio. I quickly rose up to the position of senior front-end developer and then later became the interim CMO for another multi-service digital firm.
Today, I’m the Vice President of Marketing for a Cleveland based digital services agency. I enjoy white water rafting with my girlfriend (when she’s not pinning me underwater between a rock and her raft as she’s running my face over with it), and have what may be an unhealthy addiction to Big Bang Theory.
At times in my life, people have looked back over this and asked if I ever felt like I failed.
I can see how some people might view these things as failure, but there weren’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve failed – A LOT – but my failures always moved me right along the path I needed to be on to live a happier and fuller life in the end.
I got back into the career field I love, and had I not left it for a period of time, I may not have so well and deeply understood the frustration of business owners when they are just starting and confronted with having to build a website, and establish a real authentic brand identity.
I understand the pain and frustration that small business owners face, particularly in challenging times financially.
At the end of the day, I’m really only happy taking on projects where I really feel like I can help and with people that need it. If I can’t help, I much rather refer them to the person or team that can then sit there and possibly get in the way of their success.
If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you would like to work together now knowing who I am and where I come from, I’d love to see what we can do together.