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 Getting that Video Reaction, Working in the Fast-Paced Worlds of Sports and Video 06/14/2019
Getting that Video Reaction, Working in the Fast-Paced Worlds of Sports and Video Ryan Pritt, President and Co-Founder of Pritt Entertainment Group (PEG), took a youngster’s avid interest in sports and an adult’s realistic assessment of his own athletic prowess to chart his sports-related career. For the past 11 years, he has run his sports creative agency, which specializes in video production, animation, graphic design, and live events. Today, PEG serves a roughly 50-50 mix of corporate and sports clients, and prides itself on constantly evolving to meet client needs, generating fresh inspirations, and utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. The mix of sports and corporate client is challenging. Sports, in particular, results in long hours and crazy timelines, particularly during the playoffs. Video technology changes rapidly. Ryan notes video’s increasing use of drones and the evolution of virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) – things that were not available when he started. He finds VR and AR interesting, but adds the caveat that people should not use those technologies just for the novelty of using them . . . that there needs to be a purpose behind their use. Ryan warns that a company working in video has to be “nimble,” to be dedicated to staying up-to-date with the newest equipment and technologies, to be willing to choose which services it will provide and which services it will not . . . and to decide where it is willing to partner. Key to solving a client’s problem is asking questions . . . the right questions. “What do you want? When is it due? And What is your budget” are not enough. Ryan believes that it is important to discover more about the business – the client’s motivations, usage plans, and social channel resources – so his agency can recommend ways to expand the use of the marketing piece and optimize value for the client. His agency focuses on the Big Four socials platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. A tool Ryan has found particularly helpful, Frame.io, is a program/website where PEG uploads videos for client review and on-screen feedback. Frame.io integrates with Slack, which notifies PEG of any client activity in the channel. Ryan observes that some very advanced capabilities have been rapidly moving down market. Today, clients may be able to produce smartphone-videos to meet some of their more day-to-day video production needs . . . such as a warehouse walkthrough . . . and save the agency for higher-end promotional/ showcase pieces that need the higher quality equipment, professional lighting, and precise editing PEG offers. Part of developing a company or organization’s strategy is when the agency should step in. Ryan can be reached on his company’s website at: prittentertainmentgroup.com, on the subsite for his company’s sports clients: PEGsports.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
info_outline Using AI to Create Long-Game Scalable Content . . . FAST 05/23/2019
Using AI to Create Long-Game Scalable Content . . . FAST Aki Balogh, Co-Founder and CEO of MarketMuse, a company that works with companies and agencies to transform content marketing into performance marketing, speaks on a topic that is relevant to both agencies and companies – content – and talks about the benefits of long-game strategy vs. the short-term transactional “push.” Every company needs to create content to build product and brand awareness, drive demand and lead generation, and engage their audience. The problem with content marketing is that the research process can be tedious, the writing process unwieldy . . . and the results can be unpredictable, unscalable, ineffective, and inconsistent—everything is done by hand. Additionally, many companies write generic content, miss the opportunity to specifically answer people’s questions, and fail to describe the “sandbox” they play in. MarketMuse utilizes a proprietary intelligence and strategy technology to compress the research phase by downloading a million relevant articles from the web and crunching the data to provide a metadata blueprint of how to cover the topic comprehensively, what questions to answer, what subtopics to develop, and what recommended resource links to include. This work is done at scale, so every article the client writes generates a blueprint and a spec – a foundation that lets the client scale the company’s content channel as effectively as it can scale the ad tech channels and the paid acquisition channels. MarketMuse’s focus, for the most part, is on long-form (1,000 to 2,000 words) top of the funnel and middle of the funnel informational or comparison content. Aki feels it is important to develop that top of the funnel content first – before talking about the specifics of your company and your product – and to use a branched hub and spoke model—one detailed long-form pillar content item with subsections and then links from those. Links provide content that is shorter but way more targeted. The objective is to provide logically-structured content for every topic (from 2 to 20.000) relevant to the client’s company for every stage of the buyer’s journey. MarketMuse’s software is also able to do shorter form content at scale. Additionally, MarketMuse’s self-service SaaS platform provides Customer-side strategists at small clients the ability for to perform website content inventory and build content strategy. These smaller clients may be writing 5 to 10 articles a month . . . instead of 250. How does MarketMuse convince potential clients to go for the long-term win? In looking at a website on a first contact phone call, MarketMuse’s consultants can show initial or first value within minutes. Even in just looking at a site, MarketMuse experts can identify areas to improve rankings or traffic, then create a content brief, and send it to the potential client. The solution is so data and science-driven that MarketMuse is able to predict the ROI companies can expect to make if they implement recommended website changes. Aki says that their AI-supported process accelerates content analysis and planning very effectively . . . results typically show within the first 3 months. Aki can be reached by email at email@example.com. Visit the company’s website at marketmuse.com, to see the product, the free preview version of the brief and posted blog articles and case studies.
info_outline Be Here First: The Future of Voice-Interface Marketing 05/16/2019
Be Here First: The Future of Voice-Interface Marketing Emily Binder is Founder and Voice Marketing Lead of Beetle Moment Marketing, a voice-first marketing agency focused on helping companies develop branding strategies for when voice is the primary interface for interacting with technology . . . a strong trend now and for the future. Voice-activated devices (Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home [which recently gobbled up Nest], Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana Home Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby are some of the bigger players in this highly competitive and rapidly growing market) are “new,” but will be increasingly used for making purchases. Emily recommends that companies should have their basic content—website and Amazon listing—optimized for voice search. She encourages companies to optimize for Google if they are only going to do one thing and for Alexa if the company is doing ecommerce on Amazon. Voice search itself has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out . . . but the abilities of these devices are expanding daily. Voice-assistants (developed primarily by men) need to get better at recognizing and processing women’s speech patterns. Text-based search bar queries rely on key words. Voice search needs to be optimized for natural language patterns. Emily believes that all brands should at least “play” in Alexa’s ecosystem—and get into the action right now with a flash briefing and a custom skill—a very powerful combination. Flash briefing provides quick daily news bites, typically hourly or daily, covering “weather, local news, daily motivation, productivity tips, gardening tips.” With 100 million Alexa devices and only 8,600 briefings, there is a great scarcity of content. If companies put out a quality message on a regular basis, they can climb to the top of the rankings for their niche . . . fast. Flash briefings should be no longer than 10 minutes. Emily would not go over 2 minutes and considers 30 to 60 seconds to be “the sweet spot.” Emily also recommends, “If you skip any day, make it Sunday,” and notes that listenership is highest in the early morning or early evening, at “moments of transition,” when people are getting ready for work, making coffee . . . preparing dinner and their hands are busy. In the past year, Amazon Developer has simplified its user interface and provided templates, making it easier for people, even those who are not developers, to build custom skills for voice-activated devices. A WYSIWYG free Alexa skill-building and publishing tool, Storyline, was the foundation of up to 60% of early Alexa skills. Storyline pivoted at the end of 2018, changed its name to Invocable, and now provides prototyping for voice UX designers. Emily also talks about some the leaders in the development of voice technology and the revolutionary developments that could come out of voice interfaced devices—from practical applications to the ability to have cross-generational conversations with people from the past. Emily can be reached on her company’s website at: Beetlemoment.com, on Twitter @emilybinder or on Instagram @beetlemoment.
info_outline Putting Headlights on the Business 05/10/2019
Putting Headlights on the Business Ben Kunz is Executive Vice President of Media Associates, an independent media planning, buying and analytics agency working with clients with $2 to $30 million advertising budgets. Although the company “does media,” its primary focus is on tactic and channel selection and on predicting, controlling, and maximizing advertising investment results. Ben explains the structure of advertising as having three prongs: the creative/branding/message piece; the increasingly-fragmented media channel piece (social media, Twitter, mobile devices, over-the-top (cable free) television, satellite radio); and data. Ben feels data is critical to targeting, understanding, and optimizing advertising return. Ben’s company uses predictive analytics, modeling outcomes before starting an advertising campaign. He says, if you can measure what happened, you can turn it around and forecast what will happen – use data to get ahead and put some headlights on your business so you can see where you are going. He gives this as an example: If you are going to spend $10 million on an ad campaign, is it going to drive $30 million back in sales? If you don’t know, run some predictive models . . . this is the only way to control outcome. Ben says that barring the time and expense of gathering a lot target audience information, the best way to change or influence consumer behavior is to advertise on 3 very different channels over a period of time. He cites Rex Briggs, author of the book What Sticks, who analyzed billions of dollars of marketing spend and concluded that, if a brand presented advertisements on television, billboards, and digital ads, customers responded much more than if they just saw a bunch of Facebook ads. Digital may be “hot,” but it is not everything. Channels should be selected based on the target audience. Attending South by Southwest for the 10th year, Ben commented on how fast technology had changed. But, he added, human psychology has not changed. Too often, advertisers or marketers get caught up in the “bright and shiny,” when they need to balance their efforts across all channels. Ben recommends using the 70/20/10 rule, where 70% of the marketing effort focuses on what you expect will work because it has worked in the past, 20% uses innovative, emerging ideas that you have confidence will work, and the last 10% is “the crazy new stuff.” That “new stuff,” could prove to be the source of the big ideas for your clients. He describes TV as “the James Bond of media right now” – a very powerful, but blunt instrument. He notes that 37 million Americans (a number which is rapidly increasing) have cut the (cable) cord and are using other means to access programming. Ultimately, this will make market segmentation much more granular and facilitate market targeting. In this interview, Ben also discusses the importance of culture, team-building, empowerment, and motivation. Employees need to know “the next rung on the ladder” and how to get there. They need to feel empowered if they are to be motivated. Invest in ongoing learning opportunities. You have to nurture your employees if you want them to continue to be engaged. Ben has found it helpful to have non-competing partners who can provide the skills his company does not provide. He also touched on the risks of the Internet of Things, a topic presented by past chess champion, Garry Kasparov, at the South by Southwest conference. Ben can be reached on Twitter @BenKunz or on his company’s website at http://mediassociates.com. (One ‘A’ in the middle)
info_outline Artificial Intelligence: Trust the Machine to Master Marketing Automation 05/07/2019
Artificial Intelligence: Trust the Machine to Master Marketing Automation Magnus Unemyr, Marketing Automation Expert, helps companies install and set up website-based marketing automation systems. He recommends using site lead magnets (calls to action, buttons, banner ads), caging some content behind landing pages with registration forms, offering incentives to register information e.g., a PDF that can only be downloaded in exchange for contact information, and adding nurturing sequences with follow-up emails. (He uses Tripwire.) Each piece of content should drive the customer or potential customer one step closer to making the purchase. In this interview, Magnus clarifies the difference between today’s narrow AI software and strong AI. Narrow AI learns from data and self optimizes over time by iteratively improving its original function. Narrow AI in email application might learn the optimal time to deliver an email to an individual customer to increase the likelihood of that email being opened. Strong AI has the capability to learn things outside of its originally targeted function . . . to reason on its own, to start to get feelings . . . which is still the stuff of science fiction. Traditional marketing automation systems; e.g., HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, or Act-On, are fairly basic in autonomous decision-making. Magnus sees a natural progression from using AI-powered algorithms/marketing automation systems to automatically harvest data, eventually moving toward more complex functions – developing “insights,” and, eventually, making autonomous decisions about and triggering individualized marketing outreach initiatives without human intervention. This future AI will be able to do highly personalized outreach – to send the right content to the right person at the right time, in the right channel, and at the right frequency – improving the customer experience and minimizing the “spamminess” of cookie-cutter automatic responses. However, when deploying new marketing automation systems, companies need to budget for content production, and each piece of content should send the reader or viewer one step further toward the purchase. Also, major marketing automation tools are not standalone solutions – they need to be integrated with additional specialized smaller marketing automation systems – webinar platforms, proprietary databases, etc. AI can fail. For instance, AI algorithms are trained by historical data. Without enough historical data, any AI system will not be able to make accurate decisions. If the data is skewed or flawed, the AI algorithm will produce flawed predictions or behavior. The software supplier needs to be able to prove that the software is behaving and producing accurate results. Magnus describes his book, Data-Driven Marketing with Artificial Intelligence, as the definitive guide to understanding and using AI in marketing. He has also written: Mastering Online Marketing, Internet of Things, Turn your Knowledge and Skills into a Profitable Online Business, and eBooks and Beyond. Links are to Amazon. Every marketing automation system vendor provides video courses to teach users about their product, but invariably fails to discuss the features that should have been included . . . but weren’t. Magnus created a detailed marketing automation course (about 70 videos) that explains concepts, strategies, use, and what comprises a good marketing automation system – without covering proprietary instructional material. The credit-card accessed course is available on his website at: http://unemyr.com. Magnus can be reach on LinkedIn or on his website at: http://unemyr.com, where you can find his blog, his video episodes, and his training courses.
info_outline Why Shoe the Cobbler’s Children 05/02/2019
Why Shoe the Cobbler’s Children Mike Popowski, CEO of Dagger, is The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast’s first repeat guest. In this interview, live at the 2019 South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, TX, Mike explores the direction his company, Dagger, a strategic content agency, has taken over the past year. Dagger’s trademarked statement, “Content at the Speed of Culture,” reflects the company’s focus. Mike describes content as a rallying touchpoint and lists content strategy, brand strategy, analytics, and media as “flanking disciplines.” Mike notes that modern brands that appeared to be doing very well and staying culturally relevant almost act like media companies. He gave the example of Red Bull, where much of its marketing content is not about selling cans of energy drink, so much as it is focused on the thrill of adrenaline junkie activities that its customers enjoy . . . but have a Red Bull first. Flat on his back for six weeks after surgery, Mike conceived of the idea of creating a “differentiator.” He and his team loved what Red Bull was doing and decided to launch a media company, dedicated to the culture of Atlanta, and funded through funneling company profits . . . back into the company . . . and into the community. Mike finds Atlanta’s energy dynamic . . . with an exciting influx of talent and brands. @Butter.ATL features articles about topical issues in Atlanta – from emerging artists and restaurants to repeating episodic features such as SneakHer Heads (covering women sneakerheads) or Atlantipedia. This project has proven to be the differentiator Mike sought. Now, instead of telling clients what Dagger can do for them, @Butter.ATL shows them. Dagger, a cobbler and a cobbler’s child, has a pair of fine shoes! @Butter.ATL has been quite successful, with about 22,000 Instagram followers in the first 6 months and recent recognition at the ADDY awards. Dagger is already reaping ROI results, which Mike did not expect until 2020 – ROI in terms of @Butter.ATL being a door opener. Unlike similar work that Dagger might do for its clients, Dagger is free to say what it likes on @Butter.ATL, and free of the constraints of client agreements and NDAs. Some of the coverage is not laudatory, but Mike places great value on authenticity. What Dagger does for its clients, it is now doing for itself with @Butter.ATL serving as a learning lab, a “work sample,” an influencer, and a draw for new brands that are now reaching out to Dagger. American rapper, actor, and activist Killer Mike, a big fan of Atlanta, follows Butter. Mike Popowski can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on his company’s website: http://dagger.agency/
info_outline Cracking Carbon: Making a B2B Brand a Household Name 04/30/2019
Cracking Carbon: Making a B2B Brand a Household Name Megan Cunningham is CEO of Magnet Media, a vertically-organized strategic studio that uses storytelling and data to drive business results. Megan feels the best way to engage customers or clients in meaningful, lasting ways is to tell stories that matter, that touch both head and heart. To accomplish this for Magnet clients, small, nimble SWAT teams (pods) pair an account strategist (head) and a creative lead (heart) along with subject matter experts familiar with a client's industry and specialists with the capability to deliver on the desired platforms—so each team is customized to meet the client's business objectives. Megan believes that a company has to have a process in place in order to scale, but too much “don’t color outside the lines,” can be demoralizing. There has to be flexibility and enough “blank canvas” on the creative side that employees can feel ownership and find meaning in their work. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content. Magnet Media has been structured with a “think, make, reach” – “We’re going to be strategic, we’re going to produce content, and we’re going to distribute it at scale in a way that’s measureable.” That process, coupled with properly-leveraged technology enables hypergrowth power. It works. Clients and colleagues comment that Magnet Media has cracked the code on scaling branded content. Megan developed a Global Trends Report, which addresses where storytelling is going, and started as a whitepaper. When such companies as Google and Mattel found value in Megan's insights, the report morphed into its current form of a series of 1-hour webinars and downloadable eBooks. The first four trends Megan projects for 2019 are: A greater concentration on brand purpose and addressing the idea of the belief-driven buyer, who used to be a “fringe buyer.” Today, beliefs about what a company stands for contribute in a major way to people's purchase decisions. Influencer marketing and next generation influencer marketing strategies—the use of brand ambassadors, customer stories, brand representation. Podcasting and smart audio is a massive trend. One of Magnet Media's more aggressive data partners forecasted that over 50% of searches by 2020 will be voice searches. Delivering experiences and distributing content. how it’s being distributed and measured when it comes to storytelling. Megan was a featured speaker at the 2019 South by Southwest in Austin, TX. In her presentation, “The State of the Story: How Carbon Won the Big Game,” she discussed a win-win partnership between Carbon , a 3-D polymer printer, and Adidas shoe and clothing brand. Carbon has developed a revolutionary process for printing high-resolution 3-D polymer parts with consistent, engineering-grade mechanical properties. This technology revolutionizes product capabilities and is an integral part of Adida’s lattice-soled 4D shoe line. Working with Magnet Media, Adidas partnered with Carbon to launch the printer’s B2B brand at the Super Bowl. Carbon continues to use its associations with such companies as Adidas and protective helmet manufacturer Riddell to make its brand a household name, so that customers will associate greater value with consumer products “Powered by Carbon.” Megan can be reached by email at: email@example.com or on her company’s website at: http://www.magnetmediafilms.com/
info_outline Non-Obvious Trends that will Turn the World 04/26/2019
Non-Obvious Trends that will Turn the World After an 8-year stint at Ogilvy, a New York City-based British advertising, marketing, and public relations agency, and 3 more at Leo Burnett in Australia, Rohit Bhargava left the agency world to write. He blogged the Non-Obvious Trend Report (January 2011) to share some unexpected insights about business for the coming year. That blogpost became a digital report that morphed into an e-book that, in 2015 became a hardback, made the Wall Street Journal list, and took off. For 2020, the 10th year, Rohit intends to do a retrospective of the big themes/megatrends across more than 100 trends, and then ask what these trends tell us about the future. Non-Obvious Megatrends is scheduled to come out in December 2019. Rohit’s “signature book,”The Non-Obvious Guide to Small Business Marketing without a Big Budget provides a wealth of information for companies that can’t afford to hire the “big guys” – how to position a business against competitors, create a good tagline, pick a website URL and what a company should know about search marketing and buying search terms. Non-Obvious, Rohit’s company, is a consultancy that provides workshops, trainings, and keynotes to try to get people think in non-obvious ways, to spot patterns, to be able to see what other people don’t see, and to be more innovative. Non-Obvious, the brand, is a “point of view on the world.” Rohit spoke on a variety of topics at South by Southwest 2019 in Austin, TX. He discussed “Why Trend Predictions Suck and How to Fix Them.” Rohit believes that “trends often indicate wishful thinking” and don’t actually forecast anything new or provide insights. Futurists may make predictions, put them on the market, and talk about them. Individuals may look at trends, synthesize them, and distill personally useful, career-trajectory valuable information or even use that information to help individual’s clients. Rohit described innovation envy as a future trend in his South by Southwest presentation, “7 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the Future in 2019.” Innovation envy happens when a company looks at what other companies are doing in the way of innovation, and then tries to adopt the “trappings” of these innovative companies . . . the beanbag chairs . . . the flex time. Yeah. That will work. Another trend he discussed is the creation of Instagram-postable strategic spectacles, “bright, shiny” events that attract a lot of attention. These spectacles need to be created in a strategic way to provide value. In all trends, are they actionable? And what happens with the trend? In 2017, Rohit identified a trend he saw as “fierce femininity.” Rohit sees the counterpart to that as “muddled masculinity.” When women can be anything, but men can only be one thing, the challenge is one-sided. As women are freed to embrace new outside-of-the-norm self-definitions, men, likewise need to be freed to develop those human facets that have been denied them (feeling pain, showing emotion) in the name of “classic masculinity.” Rohit runs IdeaPress, a business book publishing company, which operates more like an agency than like a publishing company. He is publishing a guidebook series, The Non-Obvious Guide to multiple things, which will provide “smart advice for smart people.” (not for dummies and idiots.) To keep the books “up-to-date,” information that may become dated within 10 years will be posted online for download. Rohit can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.nonobvious.com/, on his personal website at: https://www.rohitbhargava.com/, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
info_outline Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, and Boosting Your Brand 04/23/2019
Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, and Boosting Your Brand Neil Davidson is Managing Director of Hey Human (London), “the behavioural communications agency.” Hey Human started five years ago – the world was changing, brands were changing, and people were changing (and all of them still are), but agencies? Same old, same old. Neil questioned, “What could be done to change the way agencies work . . . so they could effect change in the way brands behaved?” Hey Human is an attempt at an answer. The company may be structured by classic relationship strategy and creative skillsets, but team members are not siloed in their roles. Anyone can contribute to the client relationship building, to strategy development, to the creative piece . . . the work is done through collaboration. How is branding different today? Neil notes that the relationships between people and brands are shallower and more fleeting than in the past. Brand loyalty is tenuous. Brand LOVE is rare. Brands that are thriving in today’s marketplace connect with people in more human ways than legacy brands have in the past. How can brands better connect with their customers? Neil discovered that what a brand could do depended on its category. Some categories, like sporting or alcohol brands engender high, positive emotional engagement. People are likely to feel less-connected/neutral to negative with other categories; e.g. financial services. A new brand in a category where people are less connected may benefit by projecting more human-centric content in its marketing communications. Hey Human relies on behavioral sciences and neuroscience to identify ways to reinforce connections with people, and develop more connective content. Neil presented “Advertising Detox: How to Reduce Cognitive Load” at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX, where he and Hey Human’s neuroscience consultant, Aoife McGuinness, utilized brain monitoring equipment to “demonstrate the cognitive effects of different forms of advertising.” His company applies this knowledge with its clients, with the goal of “creating effective content that stimulates rather than drains [potential customer’s] brains.” He feels strongly that companies need to recognize their key brand assets. Even though most people know that a logo is not the same thing as a brand, they often shortcut their thinking to that conclusion. The proof of that statement comes in those cases where a marketing communication is shown to be more effective without the company’s logo. Hey Human won the Drum Agency 2018 Business Transformation Award and was a finalist for the Thought Leadership Award. The Business Transformation award recognizes Hey Human’s application of new ways of thinking and working to unlock growth for the agency and its clients. Their byline: “We grow Human Brands through changing behaviours” sums up their approach to working with clients. Neil can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn, through his company’s website at: https://heyhuman.com/ or by email at: email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com/.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org, 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com.
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/