The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast
Conversations with Leaders and Founders of Marketing Agencies, sharing wisdom on how they built their company, lessons they wish they knew when they started, and marketing and agency strategies for the months and years ahead.
info_outline To Survive . . . ADAPT! 04/18/2019
To Survive . . . ADAPT! Joseph Jaffe, Admiral and Co-Founder of the HMS Beagle, a small consulting boutique agency, opens this interview with the story of how the HMS Beagle, the British ship that 200 years ago, carried Darwin to the Galapagos Islands, a voyage that inspired Darwin’s theories of evolution and the survival of species. He then explains how the amazing pace of change in today’s business environment forces all businesses, from small startups to “large, lethargic legacy corporations,” to be in the “survival business.” Small businesses understand their vulnerability. Large institutions don’t. Joseph believes, if the government does not break up large corporations like Amazon and Google, the organizations will, ultimately, break themselves. So, what is the fast track to survival? Adaptability to change. For today’s agencies, this means keeping a small, strong core of talent; creating a highly branded, scalable, expandable, cut-and-paste-able structure; and contracting with “armies of partners from mercenaries, freelancers, boutiques.” Joseph does not believe in “long contracts.” He feels effective change can result from a no longer that a three month “workshop” engagement, followed by small scale advisory interventions. Joseph spoke at the 2019 South by Southwest conference on: “Built to Suck: The Inevitable Demise of the Corporation . . . and How to Save It?” He’s also the author of a book by the same name. Joseph believes that corporations, by their very nature, suck and that the very things that helped large companies grow will bring them down: Size: The size, scalability, economies and efficiencies of scale, and cost-cutting ultimately creates a strangling overhead of politicization, dysfunctionality, siloization, risk-aversion, and conservatism. The world is speeding up. Big corporations, dragging anchor, are slowing down. Age: Companies that started before 1980 are less likely to last . . . the baggage of legacy is not always a good thing. Public Ownership: Being a public company is the kiss of death. Culture: The cultures in big corporations don’t reward failure and the ability to change. Joseph foresees massive cultural disruptions as technological advances change our priorities and what we value. He predicts that the substantial shift from tangible to intangible, from commodities to services, will result in the cataclysmic collapse of the real estate market. He believes companies need to change their focus from “courting strangers (first time buyers) and prostitutes (a customer who arbitrarily switches brands) to strengthening loyalty and community with their established customers. On his “Built to Suck” website https://builttosuck.com/bonus-content, Jeff offers a free-to-download Survival Planning Canvas, a template that underpins the HMS Beagle process. Joseph can be reached on his company’s website at: http://thehmsbeagle.strikingly.com/ or at his email at: email@example.com.
info_outline Tweet This! Experience Marketing—When B to B is B to C 04/16/2019
Tweet This! Experience Marketing—When B to B is B to C Three years ago, Patrick Walldén sold of the majority of his 165 employee agency to a real estate billionaire looking to diversify his portfolio. Arena group was formed when Patrick created Engage, a new lead agency, and combined it with leftovers from his previous company: Kobama, a digital production agency; and Parapix, a film company. Engage works on building engagement within companies . . . and between companies and their customers . . . .to build brand loyalty. Patrick describes Arena as “where brands meet target groups and interact with them in some positive way.” Rob met up with Patrick at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX. The two discussed some of the differences and similarities between marketing in Scandinavia and in the USA—the most notable difference being the difference in market size. Arena does work with some large clients. Patrick describes Arena as an activation and communication agency which provides experiential marketing content and event marketing – theater blended with brands and events. A lot of what Arena delivers is product-based. When Scandinavian Airlines faced constant pressure from discount airlines, Arena helped them establish House of Scandinavia, a physical and digital “bonding platform” where Scandinavian Airlines’ frequent flyers can interact with the company. The focus is on “all things Scandinavian” – food, innovation, and such trademark Scandinavian values as equality and diversity. Arena creates big brand pavilions for such companies as Volvo and Ericsson in telecommunications. Before social media, it was difficult to get an ROI on huge event marketing platforms. Patrick believes that Social media spin provides the leverage that now makes these big events profitable. Originally, people thought social media and digitalization would eliminate the need for physical interaction. Au contraire, Patrick claims. Social media actually drives the need to meet more in real life. No longer are the high-priced marketing experiences targeted to VIPs. Social media has exploded the number stakeholders or influencers that can leverage this type of marketing campaign. So, business to business marketing is becoming more “personal,” – much of it is becoming business to individual or business to person. How does Arena measure campaign impact? Patrick emphasizes the importance of setting clear targets from the beginning, knowing what you are trying to achieve, and knowing what you could lose. You not only need to know what you need to measure . . . but how you will measure it. If you don’t think it through from the beginning, you may be forced into “faking it” by clever post-campaign KPI placement. Patrick has found the huge explosion of skilled gig freelancers in the past 10 years has greatly reduced the need for having a large permanent staff . . . agencies can now expand quickly to meet the demands of a large project . . . and easily reduce staff when the project is complete. He feels flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt will become increasingly essential for agency survival. Patrick can be reached on his company’website at: http://www.arenagroup.eu/ or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
info_outline Compassionate Capitalism 04/04/2019
Compassionate Capitalism Michael Skolnik, co-founder of Soze Agency, a social impact agency selling compassion, equity, and authenticity, believes that, if his company is going to build creative campaigns about these values, then the company itself has to operate internally according to these values. How is that implemented? Soze Agency is a worker-owned cooperative. Vacation time is unlimited. What? How does that work? Soze employees are deeply vested in the success of the company . . . because, to varying degrees, they own it. Michael gave 62% of the company to his workers in the first 3 years and divests himself of 8% more of his ownership every year. In 7 years, he will be out. It is, he says, “an experiment in compassionate capitalism,” a model he would like to see in many more companies. He wants to see everyone win . . . and believes this is one way to make it possible. Employees at Soze don’t take unlimited vacations because they know the company they own and the bonuses they receive depend on their being there and doing the work. Michael started his career and attended his first South by Southwest conference as a filmmaker, which is a medium for storytelling. Today, his company is rooted in storytelling. At South by Southwest’s March 2019 conference, he participated in a panel, “Moments, Momentum, Movement,” which addressed how cultural “moments become movements, what’s happening now in America and where we are, the work that we do and how that correlates to this temperature rise in the heat of this country, and how we hold onto that for the long term.” Michael feels this country is in a “tough spot,” uncertain about where it is going and what it wants to become. In the marketing world, this is reflected in brands’ insecurity about how to interact with their customers in critical “moments.” Younger people, in particular, are demanding that companies respond. Michael emphasizes the importance of authentic and relevant communication. Michael can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.wearesoze.com/, on Twitter at: @WeAreSoze, on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-skolnik-4998365/, or on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/wearesoze/
info_outline The Purpose-Driven Company: Optimizing Financial Performance 04/02/2019
The Purpose-Driven Company: Optimizing Financial Performance Ann Barlow, West Coast President/ Head of Employee Engagement at Peppercomm, a strategic communications and marketing firm whose purpose is promote, protect, and connect clients—and “to use its innovation and imagination to inspire people to come to know and trust the organizations it works with.” The 23-year-old Peppercomm has its roots in PR, and, although its focus today is on integrated communications, the PR influence persists in the questions it asks: What do clients need? What problems need to be solved? and What is the agency trying to create? Ann participated in a panel, “Prescription for Sexual Harassment,” at the March 2019 South by Southwest creativity conference in Austin, TX. She places the onus on companies to create opportunities for people to “actually listen to each other.” Solving workplace problems like sexual harassment will require open discussions about things people might think are okay, but actually are not. Clarity about such issues . . . and working toward solving them . . . will improve individual and business performance. People work better in more collaborative, purpose-driven, listening environments, which Ann calls “cultures of innovation.” Ann sees a difference in what the younger generation of workers demands as employees from the companies where they work—that their companies take a stand on social issues. She feels that companies that have a “North Star” will have an easier time attracting and retaining talent . . . and that companies that are purpose-driven perform better financially Ann is researching what needs to change inside organizations . . . and the interrelationship of employee engagement, business structure, how people within organizations listen to each other, and productivity. She intends to publish the results of that study on her company’s website at: http://www.peppercomm.com/ Ann can be reached at her company’s website or on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ann-barlow-4a42371/
info_outline Recipe for Success: Do Less of Better, Not More of Crap 02/01/2019
Recipe for Success: Do Less of Better, Not More of Crap Lee Caraher is Founder, President, and CEO of Double Forte, a “fiercely independent public relations and social media firm” with offices in New York and San Francisco. They select clients that are good companies doing great things in their categories (in particular – consumer lifestyle, digital life, and professional services); and set goals based on business outcomes (ROI)—not PR outcomes. At least 50% of the company’s employees has a minimum of 8 years of experience. In this interview, Lee provides tips on how to communicate effectively in email messages and why it is important for an agency to be “easy to work with.” She believes that measuring against business goals comes first, because the closer an agency is to meeting its clients’ business goals, the longer term its contracts will be. The longer term its contracts are, the more profit the agency can drive out of those contracts and the longer it will keep its employees. Her company’s average client engagement period from Day 1 is 5-½ years, double the average retention rate in San Francisco. With an eye for the numbers, Lee points out that these strategies also help on the staffing side: Her 16-year-old company’s average tenure for people under 30 is 4-½ years and over 30 is 6-½ years. During the 2008 recession Lee re-engineered her company. Originally, she had required new hires to have at least 10 years of experience. With the economic downturn, she knew she had to bring on less-experienced people so that when things turned around, she would have a continuum of experience instead of a “hard times” hiring freeze “doughnut hole.” She cut frills, diversified the client base and increased the percentage of consumer goods clients (working with consumer goods clients on a national basis), and told her employees to dig deep with prospective clients. Instead of saying “No” as a first response to clients that didn’t appear to “fit,” she told her agents to say, “Yes, tell me more.” If they got to “No” in the end, they would have arrived there by going through, “Yes,” and not bypassed an opportunity. Lee can be reached on her company’s website at: double-forte.com or follow her on Twitter @DoubleFortePR.
info_outline Leveraging Personal Swag for the Right Brand Message 01/24/2019
Leveraging Personal Swag for the Right Brand Message Izzy Lugo is COO at Urban Misfit Ventures, an 8-month-old, start-up holding company that Izzy confesses “pivots a lot.” One agency subsidiary, IEEG, specializes in storytelling and influencer marketing – often by creating a video to tell a brand’s story. The influencer marketing portion of their work is based on stories told by influencers, but the influencers are Urban Misfit Venture’s employees, each of whom has a massive individual following. Because the employees are the influencers, they can consult with clients and carefully craft the messages that need to be presented. No paying an influencer and trusting that individual to say “the right thing.” IEEG knows what message it wants to send . . . and knows it is going to get it. Urban Misfit Ventures’ clients include Milwaukee’s professional sports teams and national and international clothing and design brands, who are amazed that the agency and the influencers are one and the same. The second Urban Misfit Ventures’ subsidiary, MKE Misfits, is an events company that tells the client’s brand story, is very involved in that story, and then provides “quirky” experiential promotions to differentiate itself and its client companies. The company has a major reputation in the Milwaukee area. Urban Misfit Ventures is planning to introduce a number of other specialty subsidiaries I 2019. How did it all start? After a period of separate careers, Quentin, Izzy’s college roommate, had met with two of the company’s other founders, and then approached Izzy to pitch the idea of Urban Misfit Ventures. After an hour conversation, Izzy was on board, and two weeks later, he quit his job at the bike share. In eight months, the team has grown to 10 employees, including interns. When they started, they traded services for their space at a co-working space, truly starting from scratch. Izzy can be reached on his company’s website at: urbanmisfitventures.com, as can anything related to IEEG or MKE Misfits. His company is also on LinkedIn and Instagram. Izzy, Israel Lugo III uses @IzzyLugo for all his handles..
info_outline Avoiding Chaos to Expedite Agency Growth 01/23/2019
Avoiding Chaos to Expedite Agency Growth Jason Blumer is CEO of Blumer and Associates, a CPA firm dedicated to providing strategic growth strategies to creative design, digital, and marketing agencies ready to go to “the next level.” Key areas of influence include transforming people to facilitate growth, leveraging teams to scale, and recrafting business models. Areas of greatest impact are pricing . . . and how a business is run. Jason notes that an agency’s pricing reflects its value to its market or its niched expertise. It will take 2 to 3 years for an agency to transition from hourly pricing to value-based pricing – a process that starts with new clients. Legacy clients who refuse to abandon the old hourly-pricing model become “legacy baggage.” No matter the form, the co-existence of legacy systems (the old way of doing things)—whether pricing, organizational, or operational – and new, conflicting, growth-targeted policies and procedures causes confusion, and what Jason refers to as “chaos.” This kind of growth problem is often the result of an owner not letting go and letting the business become what it is meant to be – or the owner pulling rank and violating the new “rules,” destroying credibility. Much of the focus of Blumer & Associate’s work is on moving toward simplicity, eliminating chaos (chaos inhibits growth), and transforming business owners into organizational leaders. These leaders are then charged with: Developing relevant mission statements and defining how to live out those missions Implementing core (foundational) values and effective patterns, processes, and rhythms Caring deeply for their teams and the rhythms around their teams Keeping people and teams accountable and leading them to all walk in the same direction. Encouraging collaboration. Collaboration leads to strength Jason warns companies not to hire people who are unwilling to collaborate and outlines a process to safely release an employee who refuses to collaborate or fails to follow an organization’s core values: Recognize and acknowledge nonconforming behavior, with a friendly offer to help or explain Make a less-friendly suggestion that the employee work on the problem The employee’s failure to follow core values That the employee must follow core values for the company’s health That the issue has been discussed That the employee knows the rules and knew them when hired Meet facetime (in-person/virtual) with a manager pointing out: Meet facetime (in-person/virtual) with a manager telling the employee that s/he has to follow the core values and then stating, “You will do it and this is the last conversation we’ll have asking you to do it.” Let the employee go in a way that does not hurt the firm and or the released employee Jason can be contacted by googling “Jason Blumer,” on Facebook, on Instagram, on his website at jasonblumer.com, @JasonMBlumer on Twitter, or on his company’s LinkedIn site at https://www.linkedin.com/company/blumer-&-associates-cpas-pc/ , or website at: https://www.blumercpas.com/.
info_outline Building Strong Links to Move the Needle 01/17/2019
Building Strong Links to Move the Needle Four years ago, Paddy Moogan, author of The Link-Building Book and Co-Founder of Aira, sat with Matt Beswick in the Aria casino in Las Vegas, and over a half hour and too many drinks, planned out the company that would be Aira. Today, the company employs 34 people and provides SEC, paid search, content marketing, digital PR, and link-building. Clients range in size from local companies with 3 to 4 employees on up to FTSE 100 clients earning billions—but most are “in the middle.” Aira’s focus, now that they are big enough to turn down clients they don’t want, is on companies big enough to have their own marketing department . . . those that have enough of a budget to work with Aira long term. Paddy participated on a panel discussing, “How to Drive Inbound Links in the Age of Content Skeptics,” at the January 2019 SMX East in New York City. Panel members provided tips on how to establish links by producing and promoting good content. Paddy presented seven different techniques Aira uses to create more engaging content . . . to build links and onboard bloggers and journalists (see Addendum below). Addendum Paddy Moogan’s seven tips form the January 2019 SMX East Conference panel discussion, “How to Drive Inbound Links in the Age of Content Skeptics”: Develop reusable content: If someone releases data on a regular schedule, make an infographic and swap new data into the same template as it is updated. Make Outreach an ongoing activity: Build a content bank for non-stop outreach. Learn what works across industries: Analyze campaign, link, industry, and content type effectiveness. Track link attributes. Use the tracking data to prioritize future efforts. Exclusive content: Select a client-relevant, top-tier publication. Contact a journalist for that publication and offer an for 24-48 hour coverage exclusive on a data-backed story. Outreach to second-tier websites: Discover who links directly to your content, and links through others who are covering you. Reach out to secondary linkages and invite them to link to you directly. Use keyword research for more links: Find these keywords in analytics, the open graph, title tags and descriptions. Think about the keywords that you can rank for in content pieces and campaigns. Get past gatekeepers: Internal PR teams and may guard their contacts. If you can determine their campaign plans, you can create and share a content calendar with those PR people. Establish, build, and share your own contact lists. (Be careful in the EU to comply with GDPR regulations) Retrieved 01/15/2015 from https://searchengineland.com/how-to-get-links-to-your-site-create-content-that-people-want-to-link-to-307096 In this interview, Paddy talks about what marketers need to do to build strong links: Developers need to create websites with good user experience in mind: good websites, good content, fast websites, and mobile-responsive websites Developers need to build and promote website content that is link-worthy. Link-worthy content scales well. A website with a wealth of link-worthy content will get links beyond those that are expected. At Aira, Paddy’s team might generate 50, 60, 70 content ideas for a website. They then go through a validation process—asking a lot of questions—to determine which ideas are link-worthy, including: What concepts should get links? Who is going to link to it? Who is going to care? Who will actually look at that content and go “yes, I’m going to link to it”? What will inspire people to link to the site? Paddy notes that there is “a massive difference between a good piece of content and a good piece of content that can get links” and that content should be appropriately updated, because Google prioritizes fresher content. He also provides a “timeline guideline” that Aira uses to handle client KPI impact expectations. Paddy can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.aira.net/ and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paddymoogan/.
info_outline Growing (Exponentially) with the Clients you Grow . . . in 20 Native Languages 01/15/2019
Growing (Exponentially) with the Clients you Grow . . . in 20 Native Languages Bastian Grimm is CEO and Director of Organic Search at Peak Ace, a full-service marketing agency located in Berlin. Peak Ace provides organic and paid search, SEO, content marketing, and AdWords services. Bastian, with an organic search background, and his partner, Marcel Prothmann (now Director of Performance Advertising), with a paid search background, met when they found themselves working on the same projects. They started Peak Ace at the beginning of 2008 with a focus on German, Austrian and Swiss markets and grew to around 15 employees in 5 or 6 years, then added France, the Netherlands, Italy and Holland. Europe has a high cultural and linguistic diversity. Peak Ace started to add language capabilities for existing clients who wanted to a penetrate additional markets. Key to the success of its program was the understanding that pure translation—extending languages by using freelancers or translation agencies—does not work in communicating messages and the nuances of messages across cultures. It is critical to also understand the culture and the applied marketing technology. As its customers requested more language facility, Peak Ace hired natively fluent speakers to meet their needs and demands. The company wanted the same high level of quality across all languages—from German to French to Chinese and Japanese, and all the varied accents of the Arabic Emirate. About 3 years back, Airbnb, with one of the top 10 marketing budgets in the world, took note of Peak Ace’s language capabilities. Working with Airbnb gave Peak Ace the opportunity to scale from their 15 employees and original 5 or 6 languages to 130 staff natively fluent in 20 languages in one office. Bastian recognizes that, if his company had not grown in its language capabilities, its clients would have had to deal with its counterpart competitors in other countries. Shortly thereafter, the company found itself doubling every year, with attendant growing pains as its processes and structures struggled to keep pace with the company’s growth. Increased language capabilities increased headcount, which changed the office dynamics and the clientele in a spiraling feedback loop. When Peak Ace works with multinational clients, it builds a master template in English, and then localizes the message into the various languages. Bastian feels it is important to keep a common structure whenever possible—as this provides one more tool to ensure consistent quality Bastian finds working in a multi-culti environment to be highly rewarding. But managing a company that, over the past few years, has doubled in size every year creates challenges. In this interview, Bastian outlines the strategic decisions behind his company’s success, and the values he has found to be increasingly important in today’s market: Be aware that a growing company will change significantly at different stages in its growth and impact hiring and promoting decisions. Create a structured path to guide people in their personal and professional growth within the company. Build appropriate scalable software solutions and business processes from the beginning. Bastian can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.pa.ag/en/agency/, on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bastiangrimm/, and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/basgr.
info_outline Talking Technology and Featured Snippets 01/12/2019
Talking Technology and Featured Snippets Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting, spent 15 to 20 years providing SEO, content marketing, and social media for large enterprise clients, including several Fortune 50 clients. The company distinguishes itself with a strong commitment to solving actual problems, rather than pitching generic formulas and “hoping they stick.” Stone Temple Consulting became part of Perficient Digital, a $500 million public consulting firm, in July 2018, after a 3-month courtship. Today, Eric serves as General Manager of Perficient Digital. Lead co-author of The Art of SEO, the 900+ page “bible of SEO,” contributing author (Forbes, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Search Engine Watch, Copyblogger and Social Media Today), host of 2 live video broadcasts a week (The Digital Marketing Excellence Show and The Digital Marketing Answers Show) and a Coursera Instructor, Eric spent the first 10 years of his career at Phoenix Technologies, manufacturer of BIOS, a software piece that “boots” most of the world’s computers, and then 5 years running his own business development consulting firm. He took a right turn when a friend asked him to build business development strategies for a DVD e-tail site. Eric researched ways to use search engines to drive traffic the company’s page. A year later, organic searches had generated $3 million in annual sales. Eric became the SEO digital marketing expert. Approaching problems from unconventional angles is characteristic of his work. A global Fortune 200 e-commerce site that requested that Stone Temple audit their site, check the SEO, and add some content marketing to overall increase organic search traffic and sales from that traffic. Stone Temple discovered 95 percent of the company’s business came from the US site, but Google spent 70% of its crawling time going to the international versions of the site. In a bold move, Stone Temple blocked Google’s access to the international versions of the site. The result? Total aggregate site traffic increased 30% in 60 days. In this interview, Eric provides a wealth of information on: 1) the goal and impact of Google’s 2018 updates (how to make query responses relevant to users—by looking at not only the content that answers user’s question, but also the content that would answer the related questions that would tend to follow), 2) the role of “featured snippets” and “speakable markup.” (A featured snippet includes an answer that has been extracted from a webpage, a link to the page, the page title and the URL. Because the featured snippet block appears above the organic search results and below the AdWords block, it sits, not in position 1 of the Google search results, but in what is referred to as “position 0.”), and 3) the future of conversational interfaces. He asks what a good conversational interface looks like and what it will take to build it. “People will shift to voice experience,” he says, “once it becomes a better option for them than their keyboard experience.” Finally, Eric talks about “who to hire” and why and how he sold his company as he approaches his retirement Eric can be reached on Twitter at @stonetemple or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericenge/.
info_outline Remarkable Sales! Getting Clients to Know, Like, and Trust You 01/08/2019
Remarkable Sales! Getting Clients to Know, Like, and Trust You Mike Lieberman, CEO and Co-Founder, Square 2 Marketing (the first Hubspot Diamond agency), describes his company as a revenue growth agency. Its purpose is to create revenue generation “machines” for its clients that will provide scalable, repeatable, and predictable revenue growth results – starting with attracting website visitors, turning them into leads, and the helping clients convert these leads into new customers. Mike feels that driving revenue growth is far more complicated and complex than it’s ever been before, Key to the process is the idea of, “How are we going to create an amazingly remarkable experience for our prospects?” and “How do we continue that experience?” He uses Disney’s “Experience Mapping” in describing a better (more remarkable) form of customer “sales experience.” A remarkable sales experience starts when 90% of the initial conversation is about the customer. “What’s going on in your business? What brings you here today? Tell me what’s going on. What’s working? What’s not working? Why marketing? Tell us what you’re thinking.” Asking a lot of questions is the only way the sales team will know enough about the client to be helpful. Mike believes that, when you ask people about themselves, “magical” things happen – they like talking about themselves and get comfortable. You have to give them the chance to feel safe with you – a nervous or uncertain client is more likely to balk at going forward. Mike notes that people buy emotionally first . . . and then later rationalize the decision. The key things that make someone feel safe are that they have to feel that they know, like and trust you. Marketing today in a complicated mesh of strategy, tactics, technology, and analytics. Mike feels that many companies, large and small, “miss” because they fail to have a compelling message. He references Seth Godin, a savvy marketer who says your business has to be remarkable . . . as does your message. “Me, too” or vague and generic messages fail to communicate product and company strengths. Mike is looking forward to more HubSpot add-on technology services and has developed a piece of comprehensive artificial intelligence software that scoops up date from HubSpot and Google Analytics (and other eventually other data-generating software), and then analyzes and synthesizes the data to provide insights and make recommendations. MaxG at maxg.ai is promoted as “the First AI-Powered B2B Marketing And Sales Insight And Recommendation Engine.” Agencies can sign up for pre-launch access on the maxg.ai website. Mike is available on his company’s website at: Square 2 Marketing and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-lieberman-7a9579 or https://www.linkedin.com/company/square-2-marketing.
info_outline Virtual Marketing Success: 60 Employees, 3,000 Miles, 25 States, 2 Provinces, & 4 Time Zones 01/03/2019
Virtual Marketing Success: 60 Employees, 3,000 Miles, 25 States, 2 Provinces, & 4 Time Zones Ryan Malone, Founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, an inbound marketing agency, HubSpot Diamond Partner, and winner of more than 100 awards, founded his company on this premise: That clients would be best served by providing them with marketing strategists who had in-the-trenches P&L, product launch, skin-in-the-game experience and an understanding of the impacts of wrong decisions. Ryan started his career leading marketing teams for publicly traded and early-stage technology companies. He saw agencies that threw any available talent at the strategic function – using interns, copywriters, and graphic designers to develop marketing plans, then blaming poor performance on his company’s failure to provide the correct inputs for the marketing agencies’ “whiz-bang” strategic processes. Ryan wanted to build his agency with the best veteran marketers he could find. But, how could he do that in Orange County, CA, where local talent would be limited to those who would be willing to drive in community that ranks first nationally in stressful (nightmarish) commutes? Ryan decided to hire the best-fit marketers for his agency, regardless of location, and to put his strategists front row with clients, instead of interjecting “account managers” into the company-client relationship. Today, his company has almost 60 employees, all completely remote . . .located in 25 states and 2 provinces. He warns that the idea that companies will save money by hiring remote employees is a misconception – the cost savings of not having physical facilities is more than offset by the added costs of building a strong team and company culture. Every year, SmartBug brings all the employees and their families together at a top West Coast resort for a training, team-building, quality-time event, SmartBugaplooza. Ryan believes the quality of talent he has been able to acquire through hiring remote is a strategic advantage – but, focusing on culture is critical to making the long distance relationships work. Another practice that Ryan has found to be effective is that he interviews prospective new employees ahead of need (SmartBug is always hiring) and queues up candidates with scheduled onboarding. Again, his hiring field is not local . . . it’s all of North America . . .and having potential hires “ready” means he is not forced into making potentially risky “emergency hires.” Ryan also explains why it is important to establish corporate policies when a company is small. Ryan talked about growing his agency and covered some of what is in this interview in more depth when he presented “Building a Remote Agency at Scale: The Big Decisions You Will Face and Must Conquer” at Hubspot’s Inbound 2018 conference. Ryan can be reached on his company website at: smartbugmedia.com, by email at: email@example.com, and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmalone
info_outline Why You Need to Know How Your Clients Define Success 12/27/2018
Why You Need to Know How Your Clients Define Success Jackie Hermes is Owner and CEO at Accelity Marketing, A Hubspot Gold partner that provides B2B inbound marketing and lead generation, conversion, and nurturing. Accelity works primarily with B-to-B software companies operating at a pre-revenue, fundraising, or bootstrapping level on up to around $80 million in revenue. Accelity guarantees results: warm leads every month, and coordinates. product launches for unknown companies, helping them to bring new products to the market. The company focuses on building long-term, “deep” client relationships with fewer clients . . . Jackie observes that internal marketing initiatives often don’t fail so much at promotion as they do in the ancillary functions: testing, measuring, and reporting successes. At the same time, conflicting objectives, failure to identify and appeal to the correct target market, and a lack of understanding of and clarity about the desired result all play a part in marketing initiative failure. Jackie feels it is important to meet a client’s leadership team and stakeholders to learn their industry and their pain points and who they’re targeting. Have they identified the correct target market? Are they approaching that target market correctly? Who are their decision-makers? Have they done all of this work? Does her team believe the information is accurate and complete? What is the potential for long-term success? As a project is conceptually developed, Jackie believes it is critical that stakeholders reach consensus on who they’re targeting, what comprises the project deliverables, and what success looks like. An agency can only be effective when this foundation is set – when it truly understands the client’s business – and when the client stakeholders are aligned in their expectations. Within Accelity, Jackie tracks each employee’s profitability every month to monitor agency health and track the impact of internal projects on productivity. Many agencies use unpaid interns as profit centers. Jackie doesn’t do this because she wants to ensure her clients get top quality services and interns can’t provide the full-time, long-term relationships (typically 3 years) Jackie thinks are best for her clients. Jackie sees many companies making the old-school mistake of tasking cold-callers to generate business, and shorting the budget on the marketing side . . . because they don’t understand that marketing can function as a powerful lead generator. For companies using cold-calling, she highly recommends HubSpot ‘s Sales Boot Camps (These programs are only available to HubSpot partners) as a way to dramatically improve cold-calling results. She took the program early in her career and spoke about it a Hubspot’s Inbound last year. Jackie is available on LinkedIn at /thejackiehermes and is @thejackiehermes on every platform (Instagram, Twitter). Accelity is on all of those platforms as well.
info_outline When the Agency Outgrows its Name and its Geography 12/20/2018
When the Agency Outgrows its Name and its Geography Kade Wilcox, CEO and Owner of Primitive Social, was working at a church when he started managing business Facebook pages in 2011 as a “side gig.” Two to three years into this work, a friend challenged him by labelling his Facebook work as “a hobby.” It was time for some planning, goal-setting, and business “underpinnings.” Some 5 years later, Primitive Social offers a far broader range of services, including custom software development; custom designed and developed websites; content marketing; a full inbound marketing, lead gen, marketing technology setup and implementation; social media management; and creative work—end to end business solutions that address customer needs. Primitive Social addresses marketing issues and the heavy tech solutions that can make a business’s internal organization more effective and efficient Expected revenues in 2018 should come in around $4 million. In this interview, Kade talks about the quandary a company can face when it “outgrows its name.” Primitive Social? What about all the other things his company does? Kade feels his company needs a new name to convey the broader scope of what his company now has to offer. But, if he changes the name, how does he maintain the value of his brand and the goodwill his company has earned through the years? Primitive Social is headquartered in Lubbock Texas, which, in 2018, had a reported population of 252,506. That’s not a lot of people if you want to keep a company growing. In addition to the limited number of potential clients in the Lubbock area for the services the agency offers, Kade has found the Lubbock area to be slower that other parts of the country in adopting technology and digital solutions. In order to grow, the company has had to “develop a presence” in other locations. Lubbock is also not a hotbed of creative talent. Kade likes to hire local, but when local talent ran out, what could he do? He did not want to restrain his company’s growth. He did not want to limit the company on what it could do to serve clients. or the quality of the work. He did not want to expand by investing in brick-and-mortar in new locations. Solution? He hired remote employees. Today, twenty of his 50 employees work remotely from other parts of the country. Kade notes that it takes thought, intention, and consistency to make sure remote employees are allowed to contribute to the corporate culture. He has had to make an extra effort “to create opportunities for organic communication and getting to know people.” Although having remote employees has not worked perfectly, Kade describes it as being “a blast.” Future company direction? Kade intends for the company to simplify what it is doing and what it is leveraging to accomplish success for its clients . . . and go deep. Based on his experience, Kade identifies some of the lessons he learned (the hard way): It’s better to grow slowly with the right client at the right place than to grow rapidly with the wrong client at the wrong price. Think about how you are growing as you are growing . . . How do we think about growth? What do we do with our growth? Who are we? Who do we want to be? How are we going to get there? Don’t focus on the growth of gross revenue—focus on the growth of profit. Kade can be reached on his company website at: primitivesocial.com
info_outline Branding for Everything in Between 12/18/2018
Branding for Everything in Between Greg Andersen is CEO at Bailey Lauerman. Fifty years ago, before Greg’s time, Bailey Lauerman published a lifestyle magazine promoting activities around Lincoln and Omaha and created ads in the publication for companies in exchange for their financial support. When these companies asked Bailey Lauerman to create ads to use in other venues, the publisher pivoted to start the journey to become the agency it is today—focused on authentic brand connection with people outside America’s 10 largest cities. Why that target market? Greg feels that too much of marketing’s focus has been on the people who live in the 10 largest cities in the US, when 92% of the population lives elsewhere, in what Greg refers to the “Everything In Between.” He thinks that metropolitan agencies have a hard time understanding these “overlooked segments,” but Bailey Lauerman, located in the middle of the “Everything in Between,” Omaha, Nebraska, is positioned by geography and philosophy to understand these diverse people. Greg believes that social media has made influencer marketing too slick, too formulaic, and mainstream. In response, Bailey Lauerman launched the Everything in Between Influencer Network. The company partners with hundreds of bloggers, influencers, and tastemakers “across a range of geographies, verticals and platforms” who will share their pride, values, attitudes, and opinions about the communities where they live. Marketers will have access to small/mid-sized influencer communities from people living “Everywhere in Between.” Expect increased engagement, lower cost, and reduced follower fraud as people from these less populous areas share their pride, values, attitudes, and opinions. A native of Nebraska, Greg spent 23 years in New York advertising agencies and 3 years leading RAPP’s LA offices. Omaha, Nebraska is not a hotbed of high-profile advertising agencies, but Greg had been aware of nationally-recognized Bailey Lauerman for years. When he got the call that the agency was looking for new leadership, he knew it was time to return home. The first challenge—how could he take what would be considered a competitive disadvantage (geography) and turn it into an advantage? By being what it was . . . just as so many years ago, Greg had learned to succeed by being himself—the boy from Nebraska. When Greg started working in New York, he tried to play it as he expected a big-time New York agent would . . . until he realized that people valued his midwestern background. He had a different perspective and could tell them how things would be perceived in places other than New York. Creating brands that resonate with highly populated metropolitan areas does not guarantee that those same messages will work for the 92 percent of the population who don’t live in those super-cities. That, Greg says, is the strength of his company . . . Bailey Lauerman has a long history of “connecting brands to a part of the country” that companies need to reach in order to scale their businesses. Greg is leveraging that history to continue his company’s legacy of excellence. Greg can be reached on his company’s website at baileylauerman.com.
info_outline Scaling your Business for Inbound Marketing Growth . . . In Any Language 12/14/2018
Scaling your Business for Inbound Marketing Growth . . . In Any Language Verity Dearsley is the Managing Director at The B2B Marketing Lab. In this interview, Verity explains how and why B2B Marketing Lab, originally a public relations company, changed its focus from content to inbound marketing and grew to become the first Hubspot Diamond partner in the UK and Singapore, a Hubspot trainer, and the largest Hubspot partner in London. Public relations is marketing targeted to enhance the image of the client . . . and that personae is the “product that is being sold.” But, when your “product” is your client’s public image, how do you measure sales? When B2B Marketing Lab had difficulty tracking client ROI impact metrics, Verity “crawled through Google metrics and numbers,” then latched onto 5-year-old Hubspot, and launched customers on its marketing automation platform as well. Using Hubspot helped Verity realize that, when clients paid for an agency to create great content, it didn’t make sense to present the material on a website in the form of a static online brochure. Instead, content could be the beginning of an outreach to customers. Blogging valuable information targeted to interested potential clients helped build relationships. Strategic content “gating” – holding back some critical pieces of information – could provide fuel for future lead generation. Verity also learned that, beyond marketing, it is important to create effective sales, customer engagement, software implementation, and client management processes – to build a robust backside infrastructure to support client growth amd healthy marketing company scaling. Hubspot Partnership enabled B2B Marketing Lab to “grow another business” – and with great success. Verity’s presentation at Hubspot’s Inbound 2018, “To get to Platinum, you just have to sell, but to get to Diamond, you have to scale up your business,” covered the strategies B2B Marketing Lab uses to support the high level of sales, managed services, and ongoing retainers required for Diamond ranking. She discusses working past the fear of bringing on non-client-facing staff, the challenges of finding and retaining great talent, the necessity of firing certain clients, and the pain of corporate introspection. She says, “Holes in anything will only get bigger if they’re left unattended,” Verity also talks about the differences between her company’s work in EMEA and in Singapore and explains the importance of knowing how Google processes multiple language websites. She warns that improper website setup can result in cross-country customer cannibalization and lauds Hubspot for deploying the Hreflang tag on individual language pages. Verity can be reached on her company website at www.b2bml.com, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, and on Instagram
info_outline A Strategic Marketing Merger: Why Invoke Marketing and Tank New Media Got Married 12/12/2018
A Strategic Marketing Merger: Why Invoke Marketing and Tank New Media Got Married When Jon started Invoke Marketing, a scrappy startup agency, he made things up as he went. As the company pivoted and grew, his clients also pivoted and grew, and agency and client interests diverged. Jon, in his eagerness to help, also took on too many clients who were poor fits. Jon’s intense drive for growth and eagerness to help led him to take on clients that didn’t fit the services Invoke wanted to provide. Pushing too hard too fast led to making mistakes fast, and then moving on too fast to learn from those mistakes. Jon warns that agencies need to be careful about their growth rate and about making sure that they select clients who need the services their agency wants to sell. When relationships were no longer mutually beneficial, some clients left, and Invoke found it needed to release others. That resolved the immediate “poor fit” problem, but financially? The company either had to reinvent itself fast . . . or “join forces” with another agency. Invoke was a Hubspot Gold Partner. Surely, among Hubspot’s 4,000 partner agencies, Invoke could find another agency interested in a synergistic partnership. In his research, Jon was aware that he wanted to find an agency that would be good for his clients and one that kept him employed. Invoke’s assets included a great client base, Hubspot implementation experience, Jon’s ability to grow an agency (to 7 employees in 3 years), his leadership skills, and his passion for sales. (He notes that he understands marketing, but he is good at sales.) Some of the 9 interested agencies wanted only part of what Invoke had to offer. The initial search to signing on as a partner with Tank New Media took a quick 4 months. Jon and one other employee remain anchored in Lancaster, the other 7 members of Tank New Media are located in Kansas City. (Jon says that Thad and Krista, at Tank New Media, Kansas City are “phenomenal marketers,” but don’t enjoy sales.) Tank New Media focuses on brand experience, creating healthy partnerships with its clients, collaborating to develop the right strategies, the right solutions, the right tactics and building a cohesive experience across the entire relationship lifecycle. Proof that it excels in building relationships? Tank typically retains clients for about 4 years, a long time in the marketing world. Jon has three roles with Tank: 1) new business development (selling), 2) working with client sales teams to facilitate sales (which includes a sales-aligned CRM system), 3) growth-focused leadership. The “Why?” at Tank? Creating a great experience for customers, employees, and customers’ customers. Jon warns that customer relationships are important, but, even as an agency takes care of its customers, it also has to take care of itself. Overzealous attempts to keep customers happy can destroy companies. A company has to survive to be able to continue to support its customers. Jon can be contacted LinkedIn, on Twitter, but probably most easily by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
info_outline Transparency: Staying True to your Core, to your Strategy and to your Passion 12/07/2018
Transparency: Staying True to your Core, to your Strategy and to your Passion Perry Nalevka, CEO at Penguin Strategies, has almost 20 years of working in technology at various start-ups, with the last 10 years in sales and marketing. For the past 5 years, he has run Hubspot’s first Israeli Partner, Penguin Strategies, a niche agency for technology firms with its “packages” named for different species of penguins. Why penguins? “They’re just a cool bird,” Perry says. Penguin Strategies’ website is very transparent on how much a client is buying of what and for what price. Using a system of “credits” enables Penguin to be far more flexible, transparent, and nimble in its response to market conditions. Penguin can adapt its strategy to changing customer goals as needed on a month-to-month basis. Posting the prices for the its services means that, if clients want to add something extra to the mix, they don’t have to haggle over what it will cost them . . . they already know. Posting prices also has the benefit that clients can see that they aren’t being charged any more or any less than the next client. Initially focused on Israel’s technology firms, Penguin bridged to the international market when tech firms sought it out. Ten time zones between Israel and Silicon Valley proved a challenge, so Penguin opened a subsidiary in the U.S., which has greatly facilitated scaling. Perry believes that focusing on a niche, “on something smaller, you’ll get more.” When Perry took on some manufacturing companies, the methodologies he had set up for the tech companies did not work, and his employees started to leave. Perry considered setting up a division to work with the manufacturers, but, in the end, decided to stay true to his vision. Divesting Penguin of the manufacturing companies led to some hard conversations and cut revenue 15 %, to the tune of $25,000 to $30,000 a month. Perry says most agencies know marketing tactics, how to use the marketing automation platforms, and how to create beautiful designs. Yet, very few agencies have the creative and strategic thinking to help companies get “to the next level.” Creativity and strategy are what “really make the difference.” Perry can be reached at his company’s website: penguinstrategies.com, or by email at email@example.com
info_outline People Don’t Buy Widgets—So What are you Marketing? 12/05/2018
People Don’t Buy Widgets—So What are you Marketing? Frank Cowell is CEO of Elevator Agency, a full-funnel digital agency providing a fully-integrated, synergistic marketing “ecosystem,” differentiates his agency by a number of things. The first one is that accounts are managed by strategists instead of by account managers. Why strategists? Frank has found that strategy development, system testing and optimizing, and working with the client is a big, full time job, and should be a billable function, not something to be covered through the less transparent means of skimming off other line items. In this interview, Frank explains why he believes that most agencies (and many other companies) fail to sell the “right thing” . . . they more often talk about the “line item” services or skills their companies offer instead of selling outcomes. His company’s “elevator formula” involves understanding “what you want a business to ultimately be,” the “outcome of what you are selling,” and “the methodology for achieving those outcomes on a consistent, predictable basis.” Everything must be crafted with that end in mind, including the client selection process and team-building. He feels that companies start out as “consultancies,” and only become “businesses” when the principals can walk away for a month and the company continues to operate. To achieve this level of organizational maturity, Frank notes that a company has to have a completely clear vision on its branding: Who is it going after as clients? What is its value proposition? and What brand promises does it need to make to win this business? It also needs to implement some variety of an Entrepreneurial Operating System whereby the organization focuses on a limited number of issues over 90-day cycles so that problems are truly solved and the company can move forward. In marketing itself, the company has to sell outcomes . . . and to differentiate itself from the competition. Frank outlines his Elevator Formula, which provides a both repeatable methodology and service differentiation. The Elevator Formula is a defined process the agency uses for selecting clients, developing a winning proposal, and delivering a strategic plan that produces the outcome a client wants. Assume the majority of contacts don’t have a problem you can solve, or, for some other reason, are not a fit for your agency. Only consider taking on a client when you are certain they are a right fit . . . and that you will be able to help them accomplish the desired outcome. Is the outcome what this prospect wants and/or needs? The next part of the process is discovery. What are the prospect’s target markets? What is their business model? What outcomes are they targeting? The purpose of discovery is to identify the “opportunity,” but also to qualify the contact at a high level. Does the contact have the budget and the authority to act? In the collaborative planning stage, the prospect and agency work together to fill in the blanks on the Elevator Formula blueprint, building a high level strategy. When the client helps build the plan, they are more likely to accept the presented solution/proposal . . . because they already have vested interest in it. Frank’s emphasizes the importance of an agency fully understanding itself, what is it really selling, who is it selling to, and what is its desired outcome . . . and mirrors that model when describing what an agency needs to do to effectively serve a client: to understand the client, what is the client selling, who is it selling to, and what is its desired outcome . . . These critical questions that can redefine marketing strategies for both the agency and the client. Frank can be reached on his company’s website at: elevatoragency.com, on Instagram and Twitter as @FrankCowell or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
info_outline Why a Catch and Release Agency Practices Client Psychology 11/29/2018
Why a Catch and Release Agency Practices Client Psychology Matt Hodkinson, Chief Exec Agent, Influence Agents, introduces his agency as “mutinous.” He feels the old agency model of schmoozing for long-term retainers is not in a client’s best interest. Instead. Influence Agents tells clients from the beginning that it “will not be there forever” and targets a two-year client relationship with these small companies, which are mostly mid-market B2B tech companies. The agency’s “sweet spot” clients are the IT Managed Service Providers and Value-Added Resellers – techie companies that rarely excel in self-promotion. Matt notes that these companies are “not the best at telling stories about how great their technology is, and certainly not doing it in a way that engages people in the right way.” They will often talk about solutions at a technical level – an ineffective approach at best. Effective marketing, he says, talks about challenges and heightens problem awareness and need. Influence Agents coaches clients to “marketing greatness.” filling in the gaps, designing strategies, implementing technologies, and providing in-depth training to ensure long-term success. At the end of the relationship, the “educated” client owns the marketing knowledge and expertise as a company asset. Matt is in the process of creating a knowledge base of marketing strategies, which will be exclusively available for Influence Agents’ clients. Catch, set up the client for success . . . and release. Influence Agents, a HubSpot Gold partner (almost Platinum), focuses on customer psychology – understanding B2B prospects’ emotional and logical triggers for making purchase decisions – and marries that with producing tangible outcomes – the metrics of revenue, qualified leads and customers. To gather psychological information about a client’s ideal prospects, Influence Agents defines and identifies them, interviews them away from their work environment, and asks open-ended questions about the challenges they’re facing – in all aspects of business. By recording and reviewing the stories and examples these ideal prospects provide, Influence Agents can tease out trends and themes, gain an understanding of the challenges and pains these prospects face, and discover how to add real value to help these potential customers. Knowledge of what the ideal customer needs directs the marketing strategies Influence Agents develops for its clients. Matt cam be reached on his company’s website at: influenceagents.com or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthodkinson/ -- but please send a personalized intro.
info_outline Build a Thriving Digital Agency Where? 11/28/2018
Build a Thriving Digital Agency Where? Jacob Baadsgaard is Founder and CEO of Disruptive Advertising, an agency that helps companies grow to the next level using Google and Facebook ads, leveraging the platforms with revenue—through a CRM- or lead-gen-based campaign or by ensuring that the ecommerce analytics are strong so everything is revenue-driven, testing website experience to see what resonates with potential customers, and perfecting the website experience so clients can effectively scale. Jacob started his career in web analytics implementation with Omniture. He soon discovered that pay per click (PPC) was the easiest metric to track and provided the most insights, and left Omniture shortly after it was acquired by Adobe to go out on his own. As his agency grew, it leaned heavily on Google-Adwords-based paid search to drive traffic to landing pages—but had no way to measure conversion until they implemented Unbounce.com to refine the landing page experience. Disruptive Advertising is located in Lindon, Utah. With a 2017 population of almost 11,000, Lindon nestles between beautiful Mount Timpanogo and Utah Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Utah. In 2009, 2011, and 2013, CNN Money Magazine listed it as one of the "100 Best Small Cities to Live in America." Lindon is part of the Provo-Orem Metropolitan area, with a 2016 population of slightly over 600,000. Lindon is not the bustling metropolitan area where one would expect to find a thriving advertising agency with over 100 employees. Disruptive Advertising has around 500 clients—and they’re not the mom-n-pops. An enterprise team manages accounts with monthly spends of $100 to a million dollars. A small business division works with lower-spend clients, e.g., healthcare and home service companies. The majority of Disruptive’s clients have an average Facebook and/or Google monthly spend of $20,000 to $50,000. Hardly average. How does that happen? Jacob credits his company’s success to the fact that it takes its own marketing and branding very seriously, to the tune of a million dollars a year. Disruptive drives a lot of inbound, but, at the same time, maintains a laser focus on its performance-driven PPC and PPC ancillary services. When clients request “other” types of work, Disruptive provides these by partnering with agencies that excel in those specialties. Quality control is also critical for keeping Disruptive’s customers happy. In order to track the performance of over 100 employees, Disruptive uses a technology that continually audits all accounts to confirm that best practices are consistently and universally implemented. Employees and their managers are likewise responsible for ensuring this is done. In addition, product owners in the areas of Google Ads, Facebook Ads, site testing, and analytics review all accounts on a specified schedule—a triple redundancy that ensures customers get the services they expect. For years, Jacob put all his energy into growing his company, to the detriment of his health and his relationships. He felt the success of his business was a reflection of his value as a human being and that, the minute his company stopped growing, he would no longer be a good person . . . he would be a failure. A company valuation and mergers & acquisitions expert asked him some pivotal questions: “What is your plan with the business? What is your exit strategy? What is going on?” When Jacob didn’t know whether he wanted to sell the business or what he enjoyed about it, the expert told him, “If you love what you’re doing and you love the people that you’re working with, run it the way that you love running it, take a little more off the table along the way, and just be involved with it long term.” When Jacob realized he could define his own success, he fell in love with his business all over again. Jacob can be reached on his company’s website at disruptiveadvertising.com or on its LinkedIn account at: https://www.linkedin.com/company/disruptive-advertising/
info_outline Quick Wins for Long Term Profits 11/20/2018
Quick Wins for Long Term Profits Josh Dougherty and Polly Yakovich own A Brave New, a 4-year-old boutique marketing agency focused on branding, inbound marketing, and web design. A Brave New uses strategy, marketing, content, and technology to help clients around the USA tell their stories, expand their reach, and connect with the right kind of customers, clients, or donors, “who will benefit from whatever they have to offer.” A Brave New believes in developing a “smart strategy” and diving quickly into execution to get “80% of the way” to the final results—energizing client companies with quick wins, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and leveraging that experience to refine the strategy. Targeting perfection from the start wastes time and strategy does not have to be “complete” at the time of implementation. Companies can learn a lot by “doing,” adjust their course, and develop strategies iteratively over time. A Brave New has found that flexibility and nimbleness empower companies to leapfrog over the competition. In simple words, “Get to the marketplace quickly, then fix it.” Both Josh and Polly came from a “big agency” and executed carefully-planned, strategic, employer-supported exits from big agency life. They honestly and openly shared their long-term goals with their employers and maintained good relationships with them as they adjusted their work schedules and phased into working at A Brave New full-time over a period of two years. In this interview, Josh and Polly address the curiosity, discomfort with the status quo, and drive to explore new ideas that characterize the entrepreneurial spirit. They give a lot of credit for A Brave New’s success to great mentors and a network of entrepreneurs who advised and encouraged them through the hard times so typical for start-up companies. Josh comments that, “Fortune and the future really favor people who are bold and set big goals.” Polly agrees. Josh can be reached on Twitter at @doughj or on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/jdough/ Polly can be reached on Twitter at @pollyyakovich or on Linked in at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/polly-yakovich-5a5151b/ Both are also available on the company’s LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/a-brave-new/ or on their company website, a Brave New, at https://abravenew.com/
info_outline Branding and Bonding on the Floor 11/16/2018
Branding and Bonding on the Floor Rhiannon Andersen is Co-Owner and CMO at Steelhead Productions, a company that designs exhibits and tradeshow environments, customizes displays to the clients’ specifications, rents out the components, and oversees shipping, setup, onsite union labor workers, and teardown. Many companies sell complete exhibits or tradeshow environments. Steelhead Productions has been in the “rental business” since Rhiannon’s father started the company 22 years ago near Seattle. Rhiannon and her business partner, Sean, bought the company in 2006. In 2007, they decided to move to Las Vegas, thinking that, although they were doing well in Seattle, opportunity would be much greater in convention-rich Vegas. They arrived just in time for the economy to take a dive. Riding out the 2008 through 2010 economic downturn by providing a lower-cost “rent vs. own” option for cash-strapped exhibitors, Rhiannon believes today’s “collaborative consumption” (e.g., Airbnb, Uber) is transforming how people have access to they want and is “right in line” with Steelhead’s rental philosophy. Steelhead buys infrastructure components and maintains its massive inventory (and some of its high-end clients’ properties) in a 50,000 square foot warehouse near the Las Vegas convention center. The company provides flooring, infrastructure components, backdrops, furniture, specialty lighting, video screens, monitors and more—everything tradeshow and event managers need for temporary, impactful, and sustainable branding. Each display is customized to meet the renting client’s requirements. Rental exhibits have another advantage in addition to lower cost and curated setup—flexibility. Because companies don’t buy high-cost displays, they can easily update and refresh their “image” with every show. Due to high fuel costs, the cost of crating tradeshow infrastructure and shipping it long distance can be prohibitive. Rhiannon recommends that exhibitors or tradeshow marketers develop relationships with exhibit rental companies like Steelhead near where they are exhibiting. Rhiannon has found her company’s membership in Entrepreneur’s Organization and exposure to other entrepreneurs has brought an increased understanding of smart ways of being a business owner. She feels that the future of the tradeshow industry does not rest on techno-glitter as much as on the human-to-human connection and bonding that can happen on the tradeshow floor. Rhiannon can be reached on her company website at exhibithappy.com, which resolves to: https://www.steelheadproductions.com/. On LinkedIn, the company shares thoughts on industry trends. Instagram and Facebook speak more to how the organization works.
info_outline How to Grow a Happy & Healthy Digital Agency 11/13/2018
How to Grow a Happy & Healthy Digital Agency Clodagh Higgins, author of A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency: 6 Pillars to Build a Profitable Business with Ideal Clients and Digital Agency Coach/Consultant for GROWIT GROUP, consults with digital marketing agencies and provides them with the resources they need to make wise business (financial, hiring, and recruiting) decisions. Her company, Growit, targets agencies new to inbound marketing or looking to accelerate team success, analyzes their goals, evaluates current go-to-market strategy effectiveness, and builds strategies aligned with the desired results. Growit has clients in Canada, the U.S., the UK, and South Africa. In this interview, Clodagh explains that digital marketing entrepreneurs and their employees are two distinct kinds of people. Marketing entrepreneurs open their businesses because they love marketing, marketing strategy, and exploring new ideas. Given training, they may learn the intricacies of sales, marketing, and software technologies, but often have little idea of how to scale, how or when to hire, or even how to evaluate profitability. Employees of marketing entrepreneurs choose to work for entrepreneurs, but they want to know their career paths and the work process . . . and need structure and support to do their best work. The most prevalent (and deadly) problems Clodagh sees in agencies are: Chasing sales and not paying attention to services Failing to hire a “traffic manager” when the service department gets beyond around 4 employees. Clodagh emphasizes the importance of and reasons for a company to: Define its 5 core values . . . and post them on the its website Understand the DNA of the purchaser and the lifetime value of a customer Mine current customers for more work . . . and for referrals Time-track services and target 70% utilization of a services team Post a page, “We are always hiring,” with 5 core values in sentence form Make sure that clients are aware of an agency’s value add Clodagh provides guidelines determining expertise, so agencies can offer higher value to their clients . . . and charge more for their services . . . because they are experts. She also recommends several software solutions to help agencies make operate more effectively. Clodagh believes, “The future of agencies is all in the value and insights that they bring to clients” and an agency needs to remind its clients every single month of the results it has produced. Clodagh can be reached by email at: Clodagh@GrowitGroup.com or email@example.com The company website, where Clodagh blogs about agency life, challenges, ups and downs is https://www.growitgroup.com/. Her book, A Happy & Healthy Digital Agency: 6 pillars to Build a Profitable Business with Ideal Clients, is available in paperback on Amazon and on Kindle.
info_outline Control Risk? At What Cost? 11/09/2018
Control Risk? At What Cost? Chris Denny is Founder and President of The Engine Is Red, an integrated creative agency which Chris claims functions more like a startup than like a traditional agency. The company provides a variety of services—branding, campaign work, and a lot of interactive and digital work—but it has eliminated the classic methods agencies use to try to control the risks and variables inherent in creative work—timesheets, project plans, change orders, scopes of work, contracts, and retainers. The result? Changing the way business is done changes results . . . Chris found that when his clients and agency were freed from old marketing paradigms, interactive creative collaboration resulted in bolder, more innovative work with less risk. Chris says, What does it take to produce risky and exciting and high-quality ideas? We’ve learned a lot about the sense of community and culture, the security and safety to explore dangerous things. In this interview, Chris offers a number of operational insights he has discovered over the years. He believes that relationships are key to the quality of work produced . . . it’s not just a matter of talent. The major cause of poor client relationships? Rigidity. Big ideas only break through when there is freedom and a trust in flexibility, when the client and agency representatives can sit down and hash things out from the beginning. He says, Find the right balance of predictability and safety, of freedom and autonomy, and focus on trust and empowerment. When things go wrong, be an educator and an encourager, not a critic – The more people as leaders focus on that, the more teams thrive and the more clients thrive. It makes all the difference. At times, hashing things out does not produce expected results. One client wanted to expand its business of repurposing older buildings. In working with the company’s full leadership team, The Engine is Red discovered that a great barrier to “adaptive re-use” is not that people need to be informed about it . . . the real problem is that it is difficult to quickly estimate renovation costs. The company didn’t need a marketing campaign—it needed a tool. The Engine is Red worked with the company’s estimating team to prototype a product and ended up building a mobile application that fully specs cost, size, and occupancy of an adaptive reuse project—in under a minute. The whole process of examining a campaign, pivoting to a product, and launching that product was completed in 10 weeks . . . on time and on budget—and all done with the original paperwork. And why put an agency in Minneapolis? This was an early decision for the company, based on locating where there was a wealth of creative talent. Chris describes Minneapolis as “one of the most vibrant creative cultures in the country right now.” Chris can be contacted on The Engine Is Red on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, on the company’s website at: theengineisred.com,, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He encourages listeners to stop in The Engine is Red’s studios, either in Sonoma County or in Minneapolis.
info_outline Re-wiring Attitudes and Behaviors, Embracing Change, and Winning New Markets 11/06/2018
Re-wiring Attitudes and Behaviors, Embracing Change, and Winning New Markets Bree Groff is CEO of NOBL Collective, a global change agency that helps quickly-growing startups or huge legacy organizations seeking to grow or scale to negotiate change. NOBL does not provide the strategy, or the brand work. Instead, it looks at decision-making, communication, meeting patterns and day to day interactions—the company’s culture—and collaborates closely with the company to steer the “human side of things,” embed the capacity for change and the feeling that change is productive and energizing, and help its clients get good at change—which is a critical competitive advantage—all without losing their “core.” In this interview, Bree talks the “critical mass” for companies . . . when the number of employees requires new ways of doing things. She references Dunbar’s number, which is a rough measure of the upper limit of loose relationships a person can maintain . . . and still remember people’s names. Organizations reaching certain sizes often need to develop new ways of working in order to “move to the next level.” How do you change large corporate cultures? Bree has found that, if you can effect behavioral and mindset changes at the individual level—even with very large organizations—and by repeating this enough times, change the organization to what it wants to become—more agile, more digital, more collaborative, more authentic, more engaged . . . and ultimately, more profitable. Meeting-heavy company cultures tend to have a lot of ad hoc status meetings. Bree feels meetings should be intentional, with a “strong cadence around what you’re talking about with what frequency.” NOBL published Team Tempo, http://www.blurb.com/bookshare/app/index.html?bookId=7693002#, a guide to effective meetings. Bree recommends companies consider quarterly team retrospective meetings to evaluate the company’s internal environment and strategic sensing meetings, where teams discuss customer, industry, and technology changes that may impact the company. How a decision is made can have a major impact on decision quality . . . and acceptance. After numerous client queries of, “How do I make a decision?”, NOBL developed a “Decider app,” available as a Slackbot at thedecider.app/slack or as a web version at https://thedecider.app/. This tool asks a series of short questions and then recommends and defines the decision-making process that best fits the circumstances, highlighting the process’s advantages and disadvantages. The decision-making methods include: autocratic, avoidant, consensus, consent, consultative, delegation, democratic, or stochastic. Bree can be reached on her company website at https://nobl.io/, on LinkedIn at /in/bree-groff-94281136/
info_outline Advanced Digital Sales in the Middle of the Funnel 11/02/2018
Advanced Digital Sales in the Middle of the Funnel Bob Afsari, CEO of Campaign Creators, a Platinum HubSpot Partner, started his career with “a love for business development and a love for sales.” Disillusioned after companies he worked for consistently failed to deliver the products he sold, Bob decided to start his own company so he could control the whole process. Bob presented his story, “Shattered by Embezzlement: How We Rebuilt Our Agency to Become Happier, Healthier, and More Profitable,” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. In this interview, Bob provides a brief overview of his presentation, describing how a trusted employee diverted $330,000 in payroll taxes to her personal account over a period of 5 years, how the theft was not discovered until his accountant called the IRS, and the actions Bob had to take to save his company and avoid personal financial ruin. He provides precautions to prevent such embezzlement—a hard lesson learned. To save his company, Bob developed a laser focus on his company’s mission, slashed its services, learned to say “no” to clients who weren’t the right fit, and made a huge number of changes that had only before been “under consideration.” His strategy, born of fear and desperation, worked. Bob notes that the wealth of information on the internet, the credit crisis of 2008, and “the millennials” have transformed the way that consumers make purchases—they no longer want to be “sold.” Today, Campaign Creators helps companies craft and frame consumer communications in a way that is personal, relevant, meaningful, and, respectful of how 21st century consumers want to receive marketing communications. It implements sophisticated lead nurturing strategies, digitizes sales processes, and turns the typically-outbound middle-of-the-funnel (consideration stage) sales cycle and sales journey into an automated, custom, curated educational process. Middle-of-the-funnel marketing automation workflows and the wealth of information provided to potential clients empowers them to autonomously determine their fit with a company and its products. Bob can be reached at his company’s website: https://www.campaigncreators.com/ or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bafsari/
info_outline Changing the Marketing Game: Technology and the Gig Economy 10/30/2018
Changing the Marketing Game: Technology and the Gig Economy Daryn Smith is the Cofounder and Director of Mpull, a full-service inbound marketing-technology agency serving South African companies and, to a greater extent, partnering with and supporting agencies from around the world. Mpull has 50 employees as of this interview and is a Diamond HubSpot Partner. Working together at Verizon, Mpull founders, Daryn Smith and Graeme Wilson saw a huge waste of marketing dollars. Six years ago, they started Mpull with the dream of having a Software as a Service business, providing a software for managing marketing and tracking return on investment. The company pivoted into an agency when they discovered that this type of product was already offered by a number of MarTech providers. Software as a service still remains a long-term goal. In this interview, Daryn talks about technology’s impact on marketing . . . many brands are replacing work that agencies used to do for them with marketing technology software . . . and getting faster, better results with more scalability. The result? Fewer brands are interested in signing long-term retainers. Daryn presented ““Why Agencies Need to Pay Attention to the Gig Economy” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 conference. In a gig economy, you only pay for what you need, when you need it, and where you need it. Daryn sees a big trend in this direction. So who needs it? Much of what marketing agencies have done in the past can be done today with software . . . better, faster, and with greater scalability. With software “lifting” much of the load, many brands are starting to build “in-house agencies” The result? Fewer brands want to sign long-term retainers with marketing agencies. But, just as one marketing agency rarely excels in all aspects of marketing, software cannot do everything. When Mpull started getting “a lot of small project requests,” the administrative overhead made an hour project massively complicated and expensive. Daryn realized the growing gig economy needed an easy way for agencies to engage with brands on a gig basis, with integrated payment processing and administrative functions, brand-to-service provider matching, and the ability to start work immediately Because Mpull works with a lot of agencies, Daryn was also aware that highly-skilled agency staff still pull salaries, even when they are “on the bench.” How could Mpull give its agency partners around the world an additional way to make revenue when their employees weren’t busy? Daryn describes Mpull’s “On The Bench” platform, which manages gig administrivia overhead, enables agencies to engage in the gig economy, and provides agencies with “burst capacity” when needed. He talks about the policies needed to protect your client base, managing rates to prevent commoditizing services and a consequent “race to the bottom,” and how to maintain a base of recurring revenue. Daryn can be reached by email on the company website: Mpull.com, at @darynsmith on Twitter, and on Linked at (https://www.linkedin.com/in/darynsmith/). The “On The Bench” website is: onthebench.io.
info_outline Proof of Performance: Good Work Breeds Opportunity 10/25/2018
Proof of Performance: Good Work Breeds Opportunity Dan Altenbernd, COO and Partner of H2M, works with clients to align objectives with allocated marketing budgets. He estimates that 75% of his company’s clients have never worked before with a marketing agency and 75% of his clients are from outside the Fargo area. His company provides key marketing strategy development and tactical deliverables based on a client’s true needs. Faced with so many marketing “newbie” clients, H2M has a newbie on-boarding process to help clients feel comfortable, using in-depth conversations to discover the client’s pain points, expectations, and objectives. H2M requires clients to define goals clearly and works with them to determine how effectiveness will be measured—not by views or click-throughs—but by proof of performance metrics such as growth percentages. The company strives to deliver intellectual property in a way that tangibly “answers the client’s questions.” Proof of performance is almost a company mantra. In this interview, Dan speaks of due diligence as being critical for clients that are selecting their first agency—look at the work of agencies under consideration, randomly call clients listed on their websites, and find an agency with that will be comfortable to work with. H2M only works with clients with whom it is comfortable --without contracts! Trained as a graphic designer, Dan started his career setting type by code in a print shop, providing services as a graphic designer, and as a bartender/waiter . . . all at the same time. He fell into advertising as a traffic manager, scheduling and learning marketing operations. A couple of hops later, Dan ended up at H2M. Dan’s partner, David Hanson, H2M’s CEO, knows marketing strategy. Dan thrives on being out here, growing relationships, finding new opportunities, and understanding businesses and their challenges. The company’s internal culture is focused on supporting employees, but also allowing broad autonomy, with open paid time off and untracked vacation time. What matters? Relationships and the consistent quality of the work—and not slacking off efforts for clients who “have been around a while.” Dan offers a few life lessons to ponder. He believes ego has no place in growing true relationships. He warns people and companies to “not believe your own press.” He emphasizes the importance of honesty and transparency in retaining clients, growing friends within the business, and promoting success. Dan can be reached on his company website at h2m.bizor by email at email@example.com.
info_outline When We Need to Use the Funnel to Feed the Flywheel 10/24/2018
When We Need to Use the Funnel to Feed the Flywheel Ingunn Bjøru, COO of Avidly’s inbound line and Country Manager for Norway, is based in Oslo. A very recent merger of four former HubSpot Diamond agencies, Avidly is now the world’s largest inbound agency and HubSpot partner. With additional offices in Stockholm, Sweden, Aarhu, Denmark; and “all over Finland,” Avidly enables growing companies to use one agency to promote their products across four Nordic countries, with a fifth (unnamed) country to be added in the near future. The increase in staff from the merger brings the company an increased breadth of critical skills. The merger of four companies in four countries has created some expected and unexpected problems. For instance, outsiders are often not even aware of the geographies of these countries and frequently assume that the Scandinavian countries are culturally similar. What to do with “all the staff” has been less of a problem since employees have taken advantage of the opportunity to redefine themselves and choose their areas of concentration. Ingunn discusses how Avidly is involved in HubSpot’s Sales Enterprise launch, how that product will enable larger companies to convert their sales teams to inbound, and the product’s growth strategy. She suspect’s that it will be easier to add sales functionality to HubSpot’s Sales Enterprise Module than it will be for sales management software SalesForce to integrate marketing into its product. Ingunn presented “Recipe for Growth: How We Became the World’s Largest Inbound Agency” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. She talked about cultural differences, recruitment, and forecasting. One cultural difference is the concept of Tillitsbasert ledelse. Tillitt is trusting somone, basert is basing it on something and ledelse is management. Management trusts the team it has hired . . . inspiring the team to rise to the challenge and deliver. New employees don’t have to earn trust. Trust is implicit in the hiring and is only taken away when they fail. Ingunn mentions how it is always difficult to know when to hire new staff. She described how Growit Group, a company that helps agencies grow, built Avidly’s budget and supplied a template using sales metrics to trigger hiring and identifying the roles to fill at various sales levels. She endorses service level agreements as a way to manage intracompany and client expectations and compares and contrasts HubSpot’s non-transactional marketing flywheel with the marketing funnel. In particular, Ingunn notes that the flywheel model, which is built on the idea of maintaining long term customer relationships, is not appropriate for businesses selling a one-time product. Ingunn is concerned that, while marketing professionals migrate from the funnel to the flywheel, they will come up with too many “versions” and confuse the market. The Avidly company website is http://avidlyagency.com and Ingunn can be reached on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ingunnbjoru/