Marty McDonald | How One Digital Marketing Agency Combined Their Passions with Their Strengths
Smart Business Revolution

Marty McDonald is the Co-founder and CEO of Bad Rhino, a full-service digital marketing agency based outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been in the digital marketing world since 2002 and has consulted with all kinds of small businesses and startups, helping them succeed online. Today, Bad Rhino is a social media marketing and digital agency that services clients locally, nationally, and globally, especially in the world of beer and golf. They’ve won top social media agency awards. Marty is also the author of Great Beer is Not Enough. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Marty McDonald, the Co-founder and CEO of Bad Rhino, about building a digital agency. They also talk about Marty’s expertise in client success management, his recruiting background, and why he loves working with craft beer and golf companies. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Marty McDonald explains how a business networking event in 2002 led him to digital marketing
  • Why Marty worked in recruitment — and why he left it for digital marketing
  • Is recruiting for Bad Rhino easy for Marty?
  • How Marty started working with craft beer and golf companies
  • Dedicating time to side projects
  • Marty talks about his experience working with restaurants and craft breweries during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • What Marty has learned about managing clients, nurturing them, and providing a great experience
  • The peers Marty respects and how to get in touch with him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:10

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right, welcome everyone, John Corcoran here and the host of this show. You know, check out some of our archives. We’ve got some great episodes there with CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies. Check out Netflix ,Kinkos’, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, lots of great ones there. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects with done for you podcasts and content marketing. And my guest here today. first of all, I want to give a shout out to Jason Swenk of the Smart Agency Masterclass Podcast and Digital Agency Elite. He’s been a great mentor and friend and connected us with our guest here today. His name is Marty McDonald. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Bad Rhino Inc. It’s a full service digital marketing agency based outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has been in the digital marketing world since 2002. And it’s consulted with all kinds of small businesses and startups help them succeed online. Today, Bad Rhino is a full service, social media marketing and digital agency and services clients locally, nationally and globally, especially in the world of beer and golf. So if anyone likes beer or golf, you definitely want to listen to this. They’ve also one top social media agency award and many different years by the research firm clutch, which is really well respected. He’s also the author of Great Beer Is Not Enough

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media where we help b2b businesses, get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. Go to or email us at [email protected] and learn all about it. Alright, Marty, excited to have you here. I know we this was in the works for a long time. And I want to start with your journey back in 2002. And you’ve got this story. You’re a lot younger than you go into a lot more hair back then. And you through hamper happenstance, you end up going to a business networking meeting on a Saturday morning. And you’re probably the youngest one in the room by at least 20 or 30 years old, the older people in the room there. And they’re all saying, I need a website and you raise your hand and say I can do that. Even though it wasn’t something you’ve done a lot of then but that’s how you kind of got into the world of digital marketing. So tell us that story. How that ended up coming to fruition and what entrepreneurial gumption you had to just like be like, hey, I’ll do that.

Marty McDonald 2:55

Yeah, no, first of all, thanks for having me on. Yeah, it’s been a while in the making is bouncing back and forth with you and Jeremy and doing all that. So I appreciate that. wholeheartedly. I think it would be fun conversation. Yeah, I love what I say like 2002. Now it’s 20 years almost right. So it’s not quite because this was towards the end of 2002. And I have been messing around with a couple of different things online. And my brother had you introduced me to early forms of like paid advertising online and banner ads and these other things with affiliates. And I walked in, it was a headhunter, and I saw this, I forget what I even saw. It was something that like a group of people and I was looking at network through these folks that are accountants, lawyers, they always have great contacts. And I was just going to this breakfast meeting. I was like, I can do this on a Saturday, I got nothing else to do is like 730 on a Saturday morning, I’m gonna show up and yeah, there’s all of them were well in their late 60s, early 70s. And like I’ve said before, but I tell the story is unfortunately many of them are no longer with us. And when I think about it, 20 years of doing it, when I walked in, they were just talking about like, Hey, we’re trying to sell our business we’re trying to get out of here my child, you know, their children, their grown children didn’t want to take it over if they did, they want to monetize it and they were all having the same issue. And the same issue was they had either a very very very, very very, very basic website that was built like when it was first websites were first there now to modernize it when it sounds crazy when I talk about now, like a simple five page website, you know, with a place to for an email newsletter. The only difference is that in other words, yeah, so I don’t even know I was I was playing around with like landing pages and some basic stuff and I just raised my hands and I could probably put that together and get you guys something they could work off of. And I did I actually taught myself pretty much everything. I just wanted to come up with something that would work and you know, might have been Dreamweaver I can’t really remember now. But I walked in I showed them and next thing you know, I had, you know 16 Others were like yeah, I will take One of those, and I got smart. I outsourced it because I was a recruiter, I knew a couple of web developers and we put it together. And off we went. And then after that, I had 16 clients on a side business and eventually became our, you know, agency now Bad Rhino for the past 12 years. So but it does seem weird going back. And it’s been a long time doing it and seen a lot of different things.

John Corcoran 5:21

Yeah, I’m looking at your career trajectory here. And you continue doing recruiting for a lot of years after that. So what point did you make the switch

Marty McDonald 5:30

was interesting, because my whole goal was to build something on the side, that would then help my income no matter what I was doing very well as a recruiter headhunter. And I was good at it, too. When I walked away from it, a lot of people were shocked, because I did enjoy it. You know, I liked helping people. I also liked getting in and designing organizations and helping startups. And I liked the interview process of working with somebody to find the right fit for them. And vice versa for the client, finding that person that will work well. And I think my biggest claim to fame within the recruiting industry, and working there was always just, you know, tell the truth. I mean, it sounds simple. But always make sure that you’re finding the right fit. And sometimes it took a little bit longer, but my hires and the interviews were always good. Everything worked. And I was just trying to build something on the side. And I knew that no matter what you do in your career, things change. The economy changes, the world changes. And I just saw something that I was like, I think this is the avenue in digital marketing, that is really going to be something and I had no idea like social media wasn’t even there yet. It was very early forms of social. And I just knew, you know, in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to be a recruiter all the time, maybe I might do something slightly different. And I was building that on the side and doing some direct sales and some affiliate sales and a wide variety of other things. And right at the time, when my business partner approached me, I thought it was the right time that kind of jumped in, and through all the bumps and bruises and roller coaster, here we are 12 years later.

John Corcoran 7:02

And, you know, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But did you see the potential with digital marketing to build a bigger team, like recruiters, there are bigger recruiting agencies, but a lot of recruiters are kind of like cowboys, they’re kind of out on their own. And he kind of realized, you know, if I’m not working, if I’m on vacation, or I’m sick, or something I’m not making money, was that part of the potential?

Marty McDonald 7:25

I think I it’s 100%, the where I was going and how I stumbled into a John, when I started putting everything together way back when he was into I started leveraging LinkedIn and other forms of connecting with as many people as possible as fast as possible, rather than picking up the phone and calling one person at a time, like, even mass email wasn’t as cool slash effective is probably the right word as it was, you know, even a few years later, where you could take a whole list and then just hit that whole list of tools weren’t all there, you’d have to do that almost manually and even CRMs. And employee or applicant tracking systems weren’t built to do that, like that. So when certain technologies came out, yeah, I started doing some of the marketing for their staffing firm I was working with and start getting that out digitally. And then also just leveraging LinkedIn to build that out. And you know, I saw a lot of success with it, where people were connecting, but they’re connecting me with other people faster than again, making that phone call grabbing that cup of coffee or going out for drinks with somebody and saying, oh, yeah, well, you’re not interested. Well, who else do you know? And then starting that process over? I saw that as an avenue to do it as fast as possible.

John Corcoran 8:40

Right. And I have to ask, have you found recruiting for your agency to be a superpower for you? Or is it something where, you know, like, you have nothing to do with it? Because that was your old life?

Marty McDonald 8:54

No. What’s interesting is a great question. Um, because I also understand and I would say anybody as an agency owner that’s watching this hire recruiter, because what they can do for you, you may not use them all the time, you might be able to put in systems and things like that. But it’s such a time suck as an owner to go out and recruit your own people. That is one thing you should outsource to at least get a feel on a flow and a system if you’ve never done it before. Now for myself, and my business partner, we’ve both done it. So it is a both a blessing and a curse. You know, it’s a strength but it’s also a weakness. Do I spend time doing that versus there, but I will say this, like I’ve interviewed over 10,000 people in my life and hired over 1500 or there abouts. And that skill set, no. That’s invaluable way I interview somebody so that’s really the big thing. But outside of that, yeah, I outsource majority of that and then just do the final interviews but it does help tremendously.

John Corcoran 9:59

Right. It’s it’s The point that you make I say this oftentimes that, you know, your greatest strength eventually becomes your biggest bottleneck, you know, because if you keep it to yourself, you hold it in, then you’re gonna be the last thing that you give up. Because, you know, you can do it really well, like, you know, my background is, as a writer, I worked in the Clinton White House, as a writer, speech writer, for Forbes has done a lot of writing. And now we have a whole team of writers, and I don’t even touch the writing, but it took a long time, everybody comfortable with that right to, to let that go. And to know that others are going to be able to do a better job than you are, you know, and you have to be able to oversee, but not not, you know, you know, put your your own subjective opinions at everything.

Marty McDonald 10:44

It’s called growth, right? Sometimes it’s painful to like, go that stuff. And I find the same thing, like, even strategy for our marketing clients, like, I love to talk strategy all day, every day. But I also know that there’s other things I need to be doing to make everything move. So I can’t just be talking to clients every day. And that part of it is like, as you start to grow, it’s like, okay, let’s, you have to let that go, too. So it’s like understanding where your strengths are, they may not be strengths that you need in that moment, they just need to be something that you’re sharpening that you’ll need somewhere else down the road. But you have to understand where your time spent what’s going to be most valuable for your organization.

John Corcoran 11:24

Right now, I teased it in the intro, but you work with golf companies, and you work with beer companies, both two things that are wildly popular, popular with people who like beer and like golf. And we were talking beforehand about how you kind of made a conscious decision and you ended up this is a really interesting way of going into a niche. He said, we’re going to start a brand and we’re going to build it up ourselves. We’re going to test those systems ourselves, and then we’re going to be able to deploy it for clients. So talk a little bit about how you did that in the golf niche, particularly then we’ll talk about beer.