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.

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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..

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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:

  1. Developing relevant mission statements and defining how to live out those missions
  2. Implementing core (foundational) values and effective patterns, processes, and rhythms
  3. Caring deeply for their teams and the rhythms around their teams
  4. Keeping people and teams accountable and leading them to all walk in the same direction.
  5. 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:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge nonconforming behavior, with a friendly offer to help or explain
  2. Make a less-friendly suggestion that the employee work on the problem
    1. The employee’s failure to follow core values
    2. That the employee must follow core values for the company’s health
    3. That the issue has been discussed
    4. That the employee knows the rules and knew them when hired
  3. Meet facetime (in-person/virtual) with a manager pointing out:
  4. 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.”
  5. 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/.

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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:

  1. Developers need to create websites with good user experience in mind: good websites, good content, fast websites, and mobile-responsive websites
  2. 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:

  1. What concepts should get links?
  2. Who is going to link to it?
  3. Who is going to care?
  4. Who will actually look at that content and go “yes, I’m going to link to it”?
  5. 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/.

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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:

  1. Be aware that a growing company will change significantly at different stages in its growth and impact hiring and promoting decisions.
  2. Create a structured path to guide people in their personal and professional growth within the company.
  3. 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.

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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/.

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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.

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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: ryan@smartbugmedia.com, and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanmalone Continue reading “Virtual Marketing Success: 60 Employees, 3,000 Miles, 25 States, 2 Provinces, & 4 Time Zones”

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.

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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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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

Continue reading “When the Agency Outgrows its Name and its Geography”