Leader to Watch: Patrick Dillon, Founder & CEO of WISE Digital Partners
In today’s business market, tapping into the power of digital marketing helps you stay relevant, reach new customers, and build on your successes. Of course, traditional mediums like television, newspapers, and magazines still work. Still, there’s no denying the impact search engines, social media platforms, email marketing, online directories, review websites, and much more can have on a business.
A strong digital marketing strategy and execution can help a business grow exponentially. And savvy business owners know that partnering with an agency specializing in digital marketing—with a proven track record of building up businesses—is smart.
WISE Digital Partners is a San Diego, California-based digital marketing agency headed by founder and CEO Patrick Dillon. The company is well-known in the industry for helping businesses, and national brands grow, be more visible, and, most importantly, increase their profits.
‘I Started My First Business When I Was 12’
Patrick Dillon is a successful entrepreneur who has founded two marketing agencies, a software company, an apparel company, and several service-based businesses. He started WISE Digital to fuel his passion for teaching business owners about marketing and to help them achieve similar growth that he’s seen first-hand as a result of digital marketing.
Patrick has been featured in Entrepreneur magazine’s list of 100 Most Brilliant Companies, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and other notable publications. He is also a member of the Forbes Agency Council and a regular contributor to Forbes.com.
“I started my first business when I was 12,” says Patrick. “My parents were business owners, and I saw how well it impacted their lives, so I wanted that same thing for myself.”
After that early start, he began a more deliberate dive into entrepreneurship in his mid-20s. He says he learned a lot in those early years and kept pushing forward despite struggles and setbacks. When asked what kept him going, he says, “Grit. At some point, things will start working if you just keep pushing.”
That ” grit ” led him to launch ten companies in his 20s and 30s. Today, he owns and operates three businesses, including WISE Digital Partners, his main focus.
WISE Digital is currently transforming into a hybrid service and technology provider. Patrick and his development team designed and built NEST™, an all-in-one fully hosted website and digital marketing platform. The idea was to create a solution with better performance and flexibility compared to platforms like Squarespace, Wix, and even WordPress—and that delivered better marketing results.
Planning and development for NEST™ began in 2019, and the first pilot client was launched in 2020. Today, over 50 WISE Digital clients have websites built on the proprietary platform, which offers faster web page speed, is more secure, and is highly scalable.
“Things have, and will, continue to get more complicated online for business owners,” says Patrick. “There are so many tools, platforms, disciplines, and strategies to understand, and trying to do it on your own is impossible today. More people are realizing that and looking for a partner like us.”
At no time was that more evident than in 2020 when the nation went on pause amid COVID.
“COVID brought about a major realization for business owners who were gun shy on digital for far too long,” says Patrick. “When the lockdowns started, networking disappeared, referrals dried up, and everyone who had a business that was struggling to grow started to decline. That wasn’t the case for those already investing in digital with a great partner like WISE. Our clients, for the most part, saw a lot of growth. They doubled down on our partnership in a lot of cases, and their businesses came out way ahead of the competition. I believe COVID actually expanded the market for digital services.”
‘Find Smart, Talented People and Treat Them Well’
WISE Digital Partners is Patrick’s second digital marketing agency, which he founded in early 2019 after building and selling his first agency, Lightpost Digital in 2018. When forming WISE Digital, he brought three key people from his first agency with him, and his small team launched with 50 clients on day one. That number quickly doubled, and the team has since grown to around 20 full-time employees, with another dozen freelance resources in the mix.
Patrick is intentional about who he hires to work for WISE Digital. Each team member has years of experience and expertise in their respective disciplines, and is highly vetted for the unique culture the team has developed. He’s assembled a group of people who are leaders in their craft. And he’s grateful to the core people, including the three who came with him from his previous agency, and who make up his management team.
“I couldn’t do this without them,” he says. “They are amazing at what they do, and they keep this business going at a pretty remarkable pace (WISE has been growing steadily by about 60% per year since it started).”
He admits that his biggest challenge in 2022 has been bringing on more talented people to WISE Digital as the company continues to grow.
“We’ve had to expand our search globally,” Patrick says. “We’re now operating with employees in eight states and three countries, and there’s been a lot of learning and trial and error with that expansion.”
Once he hires great talent, he works hard to keep them. His philosophy? “Find smart and talented people, then treat them well. And never stop trying to qualify for your job as a leader.”
‘Check Your Ego at the Door’
Patrick is working hard to lead WISE Digital into the future, but he also values a strong work-life balance that allows him to travel and enjoy a global community of friends and family. His spare time is filled with cooking and writing his first book – a guide for business owners on digital marketing.
His habits for success include a lot of reading (books, articles, and blogs that focus on business), getting up early and starting work before 6 a.m., eating well, and staying healthy.
“I try to swim or work out every afternoon just after lunch,” he says. “It helps me work through problems and get my energy back.”
His advice for other entrepreneurs is simple—pay attention to the financials because they’ll tell you when to pivot or when to keep moving forward. And, if you own a business and want to grow it, find a solid marketing partner like WISE Digital.
But his most important piece of advice? “Check your ego at the door. You’re about to learn a lot.”