On Tuesday, earlier this week, the sixth Managing an Agency Business event took place. The event was hosted by our friends at Metis Communications with food / drinks sponsored by our friends at WhatArmy. The turnout was fantastic with our panelists sharing their experiences in marketing their own agencies.
Vlad Antohi, a freelance marketing strategist, was kind enough to put together the following notes on the event that he was willing to share with the MAB community:
How do you handle marketing your agency?
“The cobbler’s children have no shoes” problem - you sometimes spend so much time on clients, you neglect developing lead sources. Answer: Treat yourself a a client. Allocate time and money to marketing. Establish benchmarks and get leads. If you don’t, you won’t be in business very long. Might be a Sunday evening activity - it’s consistency and effort that gets results. Focus on what has netted leads and business in the past. Play to your strengths.
What are some emerging channels or trends to keep an eye out for in the future?
Better CRM integration - Tracking the same person the whole way through the funnel. It’s not easy now, but will get easier.
Quality Videos - Using multiple touchpoints. Blogs are saturated and posts have a one week shelf life. A good video potentially has 6-12 months.
Importance of UX/Design - Many times you are getting lukewarm leads that stumble onto your site from Twitter and have no idea why they are there. How do you engage that person? “What do they see that makes them feel like they want to reach out and connect with you?” Sometimes you need to nurture the lukewarm leads rather than going into the hard sell.
What channels or trends are you currently leveraging?
Teaching and Speaking - Startups especially respond well to teaching, they might be doing it on their own now and wanting to learn, but they know they’ll need someone eventually. Connecting you to tribes and groups that find what you do interesting.
Complementary Agency Partnerships - Building relationships with others that will send you business that is “not in their wheelhouse” and vice versa.
UX/Analytics Education - Put away the agency PowerPoint deck, just show them Google Analytics. “Here’s WHY your visitors aren’t converting.” Google is “the master” currently and it resonates with clients, provides an unbiased view, and allows them to see what is going on.
Repurposing Content - Have a clear process for taking a blog post and making it into a SlideShare and other channels. Have 5 or so “content themes” and leverage existing content by repurposing it for a different audience, industry, or format. Or deliver it via a new channel.
What Suite of Tools or Best Practices do you use or would you recommend?
Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Developer Tools, Google Webmaster Tools, Hubspot, Nuvi, Slideshare, Vimeo, ConstantContact, SiteCore CMS, SproutSocial
→ Currently disparate tools are used in an attempt to “connect the dots together” and get an end-to-end picture of the contact from beginning to sale and beyond.
Social Media ROI and value quantification is the big elephant in the room. That will change this year. How do you separate the noise from quality?
Quantified testing on Audience and Messaging → 80% of traffic will come from one channel. Marketers need to become more technical. Google Webmaster/Developer Tools.
What does your Process and Execution look like? How do you track Impact?
Set aside 5-6 hours per month and devote them solely to Analytics. Build reports, analyze them, look at them month over month, print them out if needed to see where you are, what the trends and patterns are, what content is resonating, and where you should go.
It should be a Senior person that runs the internal marketing and analytics. You can delegate the detailed tasks to more junior folks, but the senior person needs to “QB the effort” - and it sometimes means setting aside time on Sunday evenings to do “not-so-fun” things that, if done consistently, end up yielding great leads and clients down the line.
It can be “fuzzy” to see ROI from things like thought leadership or events - but the key thing is to keep nurturing contacts over time, repurposing content and delivering it to those who may benefit from it, at the right time.
What does the proposal/closing part of your sales process look like?
“Having a process” is much more important than what the process is. If you have a process, you can iterate and improve and optimize. Get really good at getting the wrong people to “No” fast. Qualify the prospect - set goals during the initial meeting - then use the proposal as a talking point for the second meeting. Use Case Studies of success in a similar industry.
50-99.99% of the new business came from Referrals. When a lead comes in, ask yourself: “Can we help them? What’s motivating them? What is their definition of success?” and then go through a “Get Real” process, which can be a bit of a song and dance, to see what they are really looking for - customers, exposure, validation, etc. “We’ve made love out of nothing at all, plenty of times” → It’s not always a perfect fit, but by having a process and going through it, you can screen out the wrong clients and focus your time/energy on the right ones.
How do you show off your skills without giving everything away and missing out?
If you show PROCESS - “The more you show them, the better it makes you look” (because they know they don’t want to be the ones doing it, because you are much more efficient, etc.
Come up with a Boilerplate proposal and send it - “If that’s not enough to sell them, it’s just not enough” and they might not be a good fit for you. Having those boundaries with yourself enables you to show off more of your work. BEWARE of “Pick your brain”
“Give-Get” Sales Process - If they want something, ask for something back (talking to the decision maker, seeing their road map) before “lifting up the skirt”
How do you convince everyone to carve (non-billable) time to work on marketing?
Bring up past failures! If there was not enough time and effort put in, the result will be FAILURE → Learn to Love to bring this up when they try to cut corners. “Remember that time when we didn’t…” You have to GROW UP - can’t do it half-way, it’s always worth the time. Building in the time and being Super Honest with yourself and others. “This will take 15 hours. Do we have that? If I spend 20 minutes on a 15 hours job, it’s going to be shitty.” Commit to the process, and there will be wins.
How do you go about asking for referrals? (50-99.99% of new business)
Nurture the customer and then Go for the Ask! “Can you make an intro?”
→ Know which clients will provide referrals and which won’t. Startup CEO’s spend their time meeting lots of people. Marketing folks in a large company just hang out with themselves. In Month 3, once you have great metrics, pop the question - Can you intro us to anyone?
Also use Speaking Opportunities, get yourself in the Spotlight! Write/speak about what’s topical and send it to new and past clients. Make it easy for your clients to help you!
What KPI’s do you measure? What matters?
Waseem’s Weeklies: (gotta love the alliteration)
1) Organic Traffic
2) Bounce Rate
3) Average Visit Duration
Look at Content produced in the last 2 months, is it top 10 or at least 15 on site? If not, then I might be writing about the wrong things. For example, Facebook Ads might be working even if they don’t yield any leads, if that traffic is spending 7+ min on site vs. other traffic spending much less.
What are the best ways of getting new clients?
You want to always optimize for “Time & Dollars Spent per Lead” → The highest number and quality of leads for the most efficient time and money investment.
Referrals, Partnerships, and Teaching were Andrew’s big three avenues. He knows that X hours into this will yield Y return, so it becomes the Control that we can test new lead generation methods against. If we put 2X into Twitter and it doesn’t return, we dump it.
Use your Strengths! “Who do you have working here, what are you guys good at?”
Your existing Customers are what matters the most! They should be a main focus from a lead gen perspective. Customers are your best Assets!
a) Are we being awesome?
b) Are we helping them?
c) Are we helping them help us?
The more quickly you can get someone to a “No”, the better. The problem with going after Startups isn’t the clients you sign, it’s the people that will never sign. Get to a No FAST.
Different expectations for different industries. For a healthcare of biotech focused company, 2-3 qualified leads per month is a goal.
Bring in Partners to help you when needed. Pay them their usual rate, don’t ask them to take a rate cut. If someone helps you out by sending you a lead, Acknowledge it and close the loop by following up and saying what happened - whether it was a huge deal or not. It also helps train them on what clients you want. A thank you is free and it means a lot, and a bottle of wine can go farther than a 5% commission.
Gain Skills Over Jobs