AJ Wilcox is a LinkedIn Ads Expert, course instructor, author, and speaker. He is the founder of B2Linked, a marketing and advertising company whose mission is to bring the highest performing LinkedIn Ads strategies to accounts of all sizes, and help get you the best ROI on the platform. Aside from his passion for digital marketing, Wilcox also loves triathlons, outdoor endurance sports, and fast cars.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
In my early childhood I grew up in Utah, but most of my childhood I remember is when we moved to Arizona. My family is very financially conservative and religious.
My dad was a banker for my entire life, and from this, he got to meet a lot of wealthy and influential people. For as long as I remember, I was in love with fast cars, and I would talk endlessly about someday owning a Dodge Viper or a Ferrari.
One of the most memorable things my dad would share with me was that most of the people he knew who drove those kinds of cars couldn’t actually afford them. And on the other side, he knew so many people who could afford those cars but drove a 20-yr old Toyota Camry’s instead. That instilled in me that image doesn’t tell the whole story, and that’s been an invaluable lesson to me in marketing.
I got into Brigham Young University in Utah and knew I wanted to study business, but I had to choose an emphasis. I saw marketing as a choice and remembered back to when I used to watch Star Trek with my dad. During the commercial breaks, he would ask me things like, “Who do you think the audience is of that commercial? What do you think they’re trying to communicate?”
I remembered those experiences and how much fun it was, and decided to study marketing, and boy, am I glad I did.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
When I was young and in school, I was hungry to learn. But these were the days of the Dewey Decimal System, where learning was much more time consuming than it is today. I, unfortunately, resigned myself to just waiting to go on to the next unit and chapter in school, waiting for the education to come to me.
What I wish I could do now is to go back and tell myself that I can learn anything that interests me and I don’t have to rely on the school curriculum. Nowadays, that is so easy – with the Internet, we can learn literally anything about any topic we are curious about. I think I would be a lot further along if I could have told that to myself.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The worst recommendations I hear in sales and marketing right now are those about it all being a numbers game. The thought is that if you reach enough people, you’ll get enough sales.
We see this especially on LinkedIn, where now a lot of people are starting to do systematized, scaled outreach on the platform. The way that most are doing it is, essentially, mass spam.
My recommendation is to go completely to the opposite end of the spectrum. Work harder at creating one-on-one relationships, that will eventually turn into a sales conversation or a partnership down the road. But don’t churn and burn your LinkedIn connections. People can tell when they are just a number to you, and that relationship won’t count for very much down the line if they remember when you treated them as less than a VIP.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
One of the hardest times in my life was before I had started my own company. I was working for a B2B company pre-IPO. I had been working there for about two and a half years. When my boss walked me to the Human Resources office, and I found out I was being laid off.
It doesn’t matter why you’re laid off – it always feels like a slap to the face.
I had to go home that day to my wife with three kids, and one on the way, to tell her that I didn’t have a way to provide for them.
After deciding to start B2Linked.com, the first five months were a big question mark. Would this company work? Would it be able to support our family?
I remember one instance when my wife and I got into an argument because she bought Kraft mac and cheese and the generic version was $.10 cheaper. We saved everything to be able to start this company.
We learned a lot of lessons from those experiences, but one of the most impactful ways that I used to believe that stability was having a 9-5 job with a predictable paycheck. After seeing the side of being a business owner, I realized that running your own company is far less risky because I can’t be kicked out of my own company.
I never considered myself an entrepreneurial individual, but now that I’m on this side of the grass, I can tell you the grass really is greener on this side for me.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I think the biggest contributor to my success has been my insatiable love of learning new things. Every company I’ve worked for, I wanted to learn everything about that industry, and about the way, things were done.
I’m never satisfied, never resting on my laurels. And a career in digital marketing has really fueled this for me because there is so much to learn and it’s always changing.
I did the same thing with LinkedIn advertising. I dug in and asked every question and learned everything I possibly could, and that leads me to the last 6+ years of my life where I’ve made a career out of deep expertise in that platform.
What is your morning routine?
I’ve always been an early riser – I get so much more done before the family wakes up. My alarm goes off at 5 am every day and the first thing I do is work out. And I love long-distance cardio.
After the workout, I shower and get ready for the day. Then I immediately jump into my office to take care of my high-priority projects before meetings start.
I like to skip breakfast as I’m a fan of intermittent fasting, and I’m also a fan of getting as much done without distraction in my most productive hours.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I’ve been an early-morning runner ever since jr high school. A few years back, after listening to that same Rihanna song for the 16th time, I realized that my body was getting a workout, but my mind was wasting that time. So instead of turning on music, I started putting on audiobooks to learn about something that was interesting.
That habit quickly turned into listening to podcasts. I subscribe to so many that I have to listen to them on 2.5X speed and still have a hard time keeping up. I find I’m so much happier with my brain learning than when I was just listening to the top 40 hits repeatedly.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
This has always been a hard question for me because I felt like I had to find the magic cocktail of circumstances in order to get really productive. Finally, last year, I was diagnosed with ADHD and got medication for it, and then I got to experience what productivity probably feels like to the majority of the population.
When I got on medication, I found that it was so much easier to get into the zone and stay productive for a long amount of time, and that was monumental for me. I know this is not for everyone, but I wish I would have gotten diagnosed sooner.
I also work in my home office where I won’t be interrupted by too much, and I love listening to lyric-less electronic music while I work – it helps me stay most efficient.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I’ve always been someone who just detests reading the written word, so books really haven’t influenced me all that much, but podcasts sure have.
I absolutely love learning, and podcasts, especially the interview shows, tend to bring on the world’s most amazing leaders. They deliver their message and research in bitesize ways that allow me to learn and get a real breadth of knowledge of what’s going on in the world.
I especially love listening to guests who are outside of the world of marketing, because I feel a lot more well rounded and educated, even if I just heard one podcast episode about a topic, this one time.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
I have a philosophy of investing. And that is, every moment of every day, we can choose to invest our time, money, or attention.
At times, early on in the business. When I didn’t have money to invest, but I had time and attention to spare. I would invest that into activities that would bring value down the road. Those were investments in things like doing favors for people, sharing knowledge, helping answer questions, and creating good valuable content.
And I’ve seen now over time, as I have more money and less time and attention to provide that the quote by that this quote is increasingly more appropriate:
“I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.” – Coleman Cox