Thought Leadership Studio Podcast Episodes:

Digital Marketing Mastery and Entrepreneurial Evolution with V Michael Santoro

Episode 72 - Charting the Journey: From SEO Expertise to Digital Marketing Innovation and Self Mastery in Business


#ai, #artificialintelligence, #authors, #entrepreneurship, #inspiration, #interview, #management, #marketing, #marketingstrategy, #seo, #strategicthoughtleadership, #thoughtleadershipexamples, #thoughtleadershipmarketing, #thoughtleadershipmodels

Or Click here to listen or subscribe on app

What this episode will do for you

  • V. Michael Santoro's Entrepreneurial Journey: Dive into Vito's extensive experience in SEO and digital marketing, tracing his path from founding innovative companies to becoming a thought leader in the digital space.

  • Building a Strong Online Brand: Unpack Vito's strategies for establishing a powerful online presence, emphasizing the critical role of SEO and content in creating brand authority and trust.

  • Work on Your Business Strategically: Learn how Vito leverages his expertise to guide entrepreneurs from working in their business to working on their business, focusing on productivity and customer-centric solutions.

  • Partnerships and Trust: Explore Vito's approach to cultivating lasting relationships with customers through trust and mutual respect, and how this foundation is key to business success.

  • Overcoming Entrepreneurial Challenges: Gain insights into the hurdles Vito has faced and how perseverance and adaptability have been vital to his achievements.

  • V. Michael Santoro and Chris McNeil's Collaboration: Discover the groundbreaking program integrating Strategic Thought Leadership with AI-assisted SEO, a partnership designed to empower entrepreneurs with cutting-edge strategies for digital dominance.

V. Michael Santoro.

In this episode, I'm excited to introduce Vito Michael Santoro.

Vito is an expert with over 18 years in SEO and digital marketing. Vito's career showcases his deep understanding of digital strategy and innovation, particularly through his ventures like Brand and the pioneering Vaetas, LLC. His work, recognized by a U.S. patent for interactive video technology, highlights his ability to blend technology with impactful marketing solutions.

In our conversation, Vito emphasizes the essence of building a strong online brand and the pivotal role of thought leadership in today's digital ecosystem. He stresses the importance of shifting from being deeply involved in business operations to adopting a strategic overview focused on solving customer problems and enhancing productivity.

Vito believes in the power of trust and partnerships with customers, underlined by effective content and SEO strategies that establish brand authority. His advice to entrepreneurs includes observing their business closely, listening to customers, respecting employees, and persisting through challenges.

Additionally, Vito and I, your humble host, Chris McNeil, have collaborated on a unique program that combines Strategic Thought Leadership with AI-assisted SEO.

This partnership aims to leverage our collective expertise to provide entrepreneurs with innovative strategies for achieving significant online presence and engagement .

Join us as we delve into Vito's journey and explore how our collaborative effort can offer a new dimension to digital marketing and brand building.

Some of Vito's coordinates:

Curated Transcript of Interview with V. Michael Santoro

The following partial transcript is lightly edited for clarity - the full interview is on audio. Click here to listen.

Chris McNeil: I'm Chris McNeil, with Thought Leadership Studio, and I'm sitting here across Zoom with Vito, otherwise known as V Michael Santoro, who is a seasoned SEO expert with over 18 years experience in business development digital marketing.

He also founded Vaetas LLC, which developed an interactive video platform that was awarded a US pad in 2017 for its real-time call to action video technology. And they successfully exited the company in 2020 as an award-winning published author, including the book right of passage about the entrepreneurial journey and all these challenges we face in the self-mastery aspects of it.

And he's been recognized for his expertise in the industry and was twice featured in Authority Magazine. His contributions have been featured in top tier publications such as Forbes Inc, American Express, Yahoo Finance, and several others. And he is also the founder of brand Welcome, Vito, great to have you here.

Vito Santoro on Thought Leadership StudioVito Santoro: Thanks for the invitation, Chris. Look forward to participating.

Chris McNeil: My pleasure. So to get our audience up to speed - those that may not be familiar with your work so far - was there a pivotal moment in your own entrepreneurial journey that was a defining event or set of circumstances that's led you to where you are now writing books, like Rite of Passage for the entrepreneur, running companies like and doing this great work in online marketing that you're doing?

From SEO Beginnings to Interactive Video Innovations: The Entrepreneurial Journey and the Power of Overcoming Internal Struggles

V. Michael Santoro: Well, to be honest with you, I started around 2004 with search engine optimization. A friend of mine I worked with because I was in high tech, came out with a product that was a child safety product and he had a difficult time getting it into retail and he thought I talked to him that I was just getting involved with building websites and the like, and I said, why don't I try to sell it online? Had no clue, right to the degree of what the internet can provide at the time.

Overcoming Entrepreneurial StrugglesAnd I ended up building the website and then learning about search engine optimization and I just dominated all the search engines for the search phrase and I ended up earning enough through selling that product to put my daughter through Florida State University. So I was hooked from there. I migrated into helping local businesses to increase their leads and the like.

And as we were getting towards the end of that cycle, we realized that video was very important because we would record screen, record their website and we'd use it for sales. But the problem was there was no way of capturing the lead unless they replied to the email, were sending 'em to YouTube and the like. And we knew that wasn't good for really running a business. So we had this idea, what if the video can actually do the lead capture?

And we looked around for a solution, couldn't find one. So we ended up using the revenue we were generating from the SEO business to start betas, which was an interactive video platform. And we built that and we went through from a whiteboard or flip chart at the time, right through exit. So I lived all the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship and the reason I ended up writing the book was I realized that our internal struggle, our fear, the way we have the mental challenges of doing things was actually one of the biggest things that can be your challenge to success.

And I thought if I could document my journey as well as other entrepreneurs and be honest about it, people, I think I wanted to connect with the reader and it ended up winning award that the book did for its social impact because I hit on topics that formally, they might've been talked about in the psychology book, but most of the entrepreneur books were written on how to do a term sheet or the usual marketing things or structure in a company or whatever. And I wanted to kind of bring the two together and talk about things that are unexpected, challenges along the way and what we did and just some suggestions.

The Inner Game of Entrepreneurship: Cultivating Growth Beyond the Comfort Zone

Chris McNeil: That's awesome. So through that and from reading the book, I'm in the midst of it and I'm loving it - and to the listener, you want to get Rite of Passage and I'm linking to it on the episode page - has it led to an awareness of entrepreneurism, maybe as a path to self-mastery?

V. Michael Santoro: It really does.

Chris McNeil: ... or mental game...

V. Michael Santoro: Yeah, it really is. You can be your own worst enemy or your ego can get in the way and cause you to make poor decisions. Your ego in managing, maybe even though you hire people that are smarter than you, you're threatened by it. A lot of things that can interfere because you're starting something brand new as an entrepreneur and you have to look at it like you had a child and a baby and you have to really work and nurture and do what's best for it and put your ego in your back pocket.

Also, I do a part on reinventing your, I call it reinventing your comfort zone. We love to be in our comfort zone and when things happen outside the comfort zone, we tend to kind of either distract from it or try to work on what we know versus what we need.

And unless you're aware of that, because if you're in your comfort zone, the next zone up is fear. So that's why I talk about how fear can be a major inhibitor because you're doing what you know and when you have to get out of it, the next level up is the learning zone.

And if you live more in the learning zone and you become more of an observer than a participant, you're going to increase your skillset. You're going to know how to talk with resources who maybe can do things and you become a better entrepreneur, you have a better chance of being successful.

Chris McNeil: How would you rate the potential success of an entrepreneur who stays in the comfort zone versus one who through self-discipline or self-mastery stays in the learning zone more?

V. Michael Santoro: 99.9% failure if you remain in your comfort zone? Because even if you're, let's say you're a great, you work in a product development, let's say you come up with a large company and they don't want to do things that you come up with an idea that could be in your mind a revolutionary product. The thing is, if you don't have a mind shift from a person who's an employee to that of a business owner, you're going to be working in your comfort zone, you're going to build a product, but nobody cares.

Inner Game of EntrepreneurshipYou've really got to get out there and there's a multitude of skill and thought process and everything that you need as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, and you're going to hit struggles. There's no question. A lot of people fear, well, if I share this idea, somebody will steal it. The truth is, unless you have tons of revenue and traction, no one's going to steal it. They don't want to do the work.

They'd either rather buy you or look at the way you're doing it, go after your market and try to put you out of business. Those are the two choices. But no, if you're a successful entrepreneur, your chances are still difficult. It's all based on the marketplace. If people love what you do and they're willing to buy it, you're successful. If you love what you do and no one else does, you're going to fail.

Chris McNeil: So there's a good example of a disempowering belief, this "If I love it, everybody must love it" without doing that check for market fit. I mean I imagine there's a whole set of typical common belief systems that might help define that comfort zone that we have to challenge within ourselves on the entrepreneurial journey. What might be some others that you have run across or that would lend themselves to discuss?

V. Michael Santoro: You just mentioned something - that our subconscious is in control a lot of times and we're conditioned from birth with all kinds of stuff, and it's subconscious, so you're not really thinking about it when you're doing it. You're reacting or your behaviors based on your subconscious. So a lot of these beliefs that you mentioned are inhibitors.

You may get lucky and have a few that really work, but in 80% of it's in the way. It's kind of like running a race with hurdles. That's what entrepreneurs like and you're going to trip over hurdles as you're going. You can't keep up, but a lot of it is your own subconscious that is your biggest. It holds you back. It holds you back because you're doing things without realizing it. And unless you're conscious of it or work with someone like yourself to bring out a lot of the important things and take your customer first and not have an ego, you're going to fail.

Purpose Beyond Profit: The Entrepreneur's Journey as a Hero's Quest

Chris McNeil: You mentioned the ego issue several times, and obviously that's a big impediment in the entrepreneurial journey. So if it's all about me, then what about the customer?

V. Michael Santoro: That's correct.

Chris McNeil: And what about my team? What about my collaborators? What would you suggest for people on the entrepreneurial journey and wherever they're at on the journey, unless they've already cashed out and they're living on an island, they're facing personal growth challenges along the way for developing more of this self-awareness to recognize these things that maybe have been subconscious until they end up becoming an obstacle on the journey.

V. Michael Santoro: Self-actualization is really an important part, which is the hardest thing. It's like extracting a wisdom tooth. You have to really take a hard look. One way I dealt with it was I started a management program that I call lead follower, get out of the way. I believe an entrepreneur should have a flat organization. You shouldn't build this organization before you know what the customer's going to buy and you need to stay up accordingly, but there's going to be things that you do well that you can control.

Entrepreneurial purpose beyond profitThere's going to be things that other people can do better than you. They have the skill or whatever, and there's other times you don't have a clue, but you know it's necessary and you need to manage it, not micromanage, but you need to make sure that the objectives are being accomplished. But sometimes you got to get out of the way and let people, it builds leaders within your company if you follow that kind of structure because they have ownership.

If people take ownership of something and they have, they're proud of it and they feel responsible for it, they do better or they're the wrong match. But you're going to know right away. But if you try to control everything and because of who you are, and believe me, a lot of it, it's not even age related. There are people that have been egomaniacs their whole life and they don't get it, but they're kind of narcissistic in a way and they think it's my way or the highway, and they end up with a lot of turnover and they fail.

Chris McNeil: Yeah, that's definitely an issue in business, but it's those who give themselves to a higher purpose...

V. Michael Santoro: That's correct.

Chris McNeil: ... they can really find the satisfaction. Maybe it becomes more like the hero's journey when every obstacle becomes the "guardians of the threshold" to your personal growth - and through that personal growth is intrinsically rewarding in itself. Just like the attitude about athletics. Some people look at athletics like "beat the other team", but enlightened athletes look at it like we are there to challenge each other, to be our best, to bring out the best in each other. And that's true sportsmanship in that arena.

And now you've talked about the difference between things that are motion and things that are productivity. That's an important distinction that I think a lot of people miss in business because we feel like we're busy, so we must be achieving, but the busy-ness isn't leading somewhere.

V. Michael Santoro: That's correct.

Chris McNeil: Can you shine some more light on that and how to recognize that in ourselves? Maybe give us a story or two?

The Comfort Zone Trap: How Entrepreneurs Mistake Motion for Productivity

V. Michael Santoro: Sure. It was interesting when I was doing some research for the book, there was a small business site survey they did, and they interviewed so many different people in business on productivity that was at what do you do? And they had a checklist of all the different things that people said, and they set out of a nine hour workday, about an hour and 45 minutes was productive. And they had checking email, reading a newspaper ... I mean, people were very honest. My favorite one was looking for a new job that was on the list as well.

Chris McNeil: Oh, that's not a good sign.

V. Michael Santoro: And once I really looked at it, you could be mentally engaged and all that means is that I'm thinking about it and I'll get to it tomorrow, which is zero. But as you dig deeper, productivity is interesting. And when you're in your comfort zone, I'll tie that back in with productivity. There's two kinds of productivity. One of them is it's more where you're checking email, you're going to social, it's motion disguises productivity, right?

And what happens when you're in your comfort zone, if something comes up that you don't feel comfortable with, you go check your email, you check social media, you get on endless conference calls that don't go anywhere. And at the end of the day you feel you really worked. But the question is, did you move your business forward? That's true productivity if you're completing objectives, if your business is really going to benefit from what you've done and you've helped your customers and you know that because you're checking to make sure they're happy.

That's true productivity or doing marketing where you post some Instagram photos or something and you're getting all these followers but don't get any sales. I consider that motion. It might be good for branding to get out there and get visible. That's kind of like the misnomer about branding that you're out there and everybody sees you.

They have to see it seven times. There's some truth to that, but if it's not leading to a conversion or acquiring a new customer, what have you really provided the end user other than some entertainment? Absolutely. Have you helped them solve a problem? Have you given 'em some information that they didn't know where you build trust? That's the true productivity.

Chris McNeil: And so a lot of that is about working on your business instead of just in your business, isn't it?

V. Michael Santoro: That's correct.

Chris McNeil: And how would you help, say the listener who's running a business - and even if you're a solopreneur, it's a business. There are systems, there are processes, whether we've defined them as such or not, whether we've documented them as such or not, or habits become processes that can be approved by looking at them, working on it instead of just doing things out of habit.

The Comfort Zone for EntrepreneursSo I think that would apply just about any listener, but how do you know the difference between working on the business and in the business and what would you offer our listeners is some examples to help ground it in something tangible.

V. Michael Santoro: Working in the business means you're doing a lot of hands-on work, for example, if you have a finance background, you love looking at the numbers and doing your Excel spreadsheet. Well, the rest of the business is being neglected in a lot of ways because most solopreneurs or startups, whatever, don't have a big staff. So if you're working in your business, you're doing what you think is important because you have control over that or skill, but you're not really looking at holistically at the business.

Working on the business means that you're managing the whole business. You're looking at it, you know what you can do to help, but also you know what to do to outsource. For example, we outsourced all our finance and accounting. You can hire inexpensive resources to help, but you have to know what you need. Working on the business means I understand that I need this financial information tracked or however you're going to do it. The other thing we did is we invested in lower cost software. Like there was God, I just had a brain.

Well, anyway, there's two software, we'll get to it in a second, but well as it comes back. But what we decided to do, rather than try to hire more people for tech support, we wrote the system so that their input could come through our user interface and broadcast end user to our staff, including our developer. So without having email, we got rid of email with the customers. We didn't set up a help desk because then you got to train help desk people that can leave. So we set it up so that we could automatically automate any kind of customer service.

So you could do things like that cost effectively to kind of improve your systems so that you don't have to work in the business all the time. But knowing good outsourcers is really important, but they have to work as a team. You have to make sure you share the objectives and you don't have a lot of silos working on things that don't come together. So you're kind of working on the business being a maestro, right? And you're making sure you understand the necessity and you're bringing the resources together in order to do it. But we had to do that because we didn't have the investment money to build more staff. So we had to work smarter in order to automate things. And Slack, I'm sorry, we used Slack. It just came to me. Yes.

Slack and Intercom. It was Slack and Intercom. Intercom was a chat feature. We integrated it. You can use Zapier. Boy, it's all coming back now with Zapier to tie it all together. So if a client came or if a customer was on our user interface and had a question or whatever, they could get into chat, but it also broadcast to developers, us and we can immediately get back. And they love that because they came first in how we did things. Does that answer your question? Or?


The transcript is lightly edited for clarity and is a partial transcript- the full interview is on audio. Click here to listen.


Free Stuff and Offers Mentioned in Podcast



Written by Chris McNeil, Strategic Thought Leadership NLP Coach and Consultant, Founder of Thaut, host of Thought Leadership Studio podcast, and Creator of the Thaut Process of Strategic Thought Leadership.

Click here to connect with Chris on LinkedIn (please mention this episode in the request)

Click here to follow Chris behind the wheel of Thought Leadership Studio on Twitter.

Click here to follow the Thought Leadership Studio Magazine on Flipboard.

Instantly get a Free Site Membership to access members-only content, including the Marketer's Guide to Strategic Thought Leadership.

Click here to schedule a FREE 30-minute discovery session with Chris to brainstorm on or troubleshoot your or your organization's thought leadership or marketing.

Listen or Subscribe to Podcast

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Listen on Goodpods
Listen on Spotify
Listen on iHeart Radio
Listen on Castbox
Listen on
Listen on TuneIn
Listen on Google Podcasts

Recent Episodes

Closing the Deal with Bob King

Closing the Deal with Bob King

Episode 78 - Mastering the Art of Sales: Bob King on Ethical Closing Techniques, Building Customer Trust, and Transforming Sales Teams

Intentional Leadership with Jamie Damsker

Intentional Leadership with Jamie Damsker

Episode 77 - Awakening to Authentic Leadership: Jamie Damsker's Journey from Fighter Aviator to Transformative Coach

Mastering B2B PR with Michelle Garrett

Mastering B2B PR with Michelle Garrett

Episode 76 - Strategies for Building Credibility and Thought Leadership: Insights from a Top PR Pro and Author

Unlocking Creative Team Dynamics through Art with Karen D Grosz

Unlocking Creative Team Dynamics through Art with Karen D Grosz

Episode 75 - Transforming Corporate Culture: Harnessing Creativity and Silent Collaboration to Foster Innovation and Change with the Founder of Canvas Creek Team Building

Mastering Strategy with Rich Horwath

Mastering Strategy with Rich Horwath

Episode 74 - Elevating Leadership: Harnessing Strategic Thinking and Planning for Executive Success with the Author of "Strategic"

Browse or Search All Podcast Episodes