How Small Agencies Can Climb to the TOP: Focus, Training, and Collaborative Journeys – The INBOUND Series

Pete Nicholls, Director of HubDo, the only 100% wholesale-only Platinum HubSpot Partner, talks about his company’s purpose: to help smaller (1 to 5 employee), inbound (mostly B2B) agencies grow and to deliver client success. As a partner for HubSpot partners, HubDo has identified areas where small and start-up agencies typically have problems—marketing the agency, the sales process, service delivery, and growth issues, such as hiring staff and managing finances—and provides the tools, programs, services, and a collaborative “incubator” to nurture these agencies as they grow.

HubDo offers 1) Hubspot Certified Training, 2) HubDoClub, a community of SilverPeak graduates (explanation to follow), with access to a library of recorded MasterClasses and discounted PandaDoc (document automation) services, and 3) several HubDo Services. By “grouping” a lot of smaller clients, HubDo is able to offer services that HubSpot cannot scale at the individual, small agency level—full-time people working with small agencies one-on-one would be inefficient and prohibitively expensive.

Pete discusses why his company adopted the Hubspot platform: HubSpot’s completeness of vision regarding inbound marketing, its ability to execute, its dedication to R&D investment, and the quality of its software. HubSpot offers an integrated suite of CRM, Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub software, popular enough that third parties have built ancillary software around the HubSpot platform. Agencies may use the stripped-down, HubSpot-branded components for free for an unlimited amount of time. Beyond that, pricing is tiered, based on supported functions. Startups can apply for scholarships to accelerate their marketing and sales traction. HubDo works exclusively with HubSpot partners or those considering the HubSpot platform.

Pete presented “How to Grow Your Small Agency: Pro Tips from the Silver Peak Team” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. The biggest takeaway from this compilation of HubDo’s Silver Peak participant responses is that marketing agencies often fail to market themselves.

HubDo’s 9-month Silver Peak program provides a roadmap, instructor-led sales education, weekly coaching sessions, and collaborative group dynamics to empower small agencies to become HubSpot Silver partners . . . or even to go beyond that. To qualify as a “Silver” HubSpot partner, the first level of recognized accomplishment, an agency must sell services that generate as least $1,125 in monthly recurring revenues for licenses sold within the past year. The next Silver Peak team is scheduled to start its climb in April 2019. For more information about joining the “expedition,” see:

Pete observes that LinkedIn has proven to be a very effective B2B channel, and the number one channel for agencies. The marketing channel that works best all-around? The human channel.

Pete also talks about LinkedIn’s social selling index, which measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships—and provides tips on improving your score. LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index can be found at: Pete stresses the importance of focus by noting that, when an agency can recognize and say “no” to a “bad fit” client, the universe tends to bring them the right kind of clients.

Pete can be contacted on Twitter @hubdo, on LinkedIn at: His company’s website is:

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Analytical Creatives Solve Problems – The INBOUND Series

Krista Ankenman, Cofounder and Vice President of Client Services at Tank New Media, a digital marketing agency that treats the internet as an activity hub, with everything else marketing pouring into the website. Tank New Media became a HubSpot partner in 2015 and works primarily with manufactures in the B2B world.

experience how clients’ customers are experiencing their brand

sales how are the messages resonating with their customers

service how is their service department dealing with customers as they come in

most of our clients have high touch sales process high value sales process potentially repeatable after engagement

custom mix of the pieces that we feel are going to get them traction and get them going to meet their goals

building trust, so they let you do some of those experimental things that could really work great – but they’ll also forgive you if they don’t. If you have those solid relationships, you have a little bit more flexibility there.

Analytical creatives, problem solvers


consistent, are giving the same brand messaging as they got initially from the website or from the ads

in a lot of industries, when you jump that barrier from sales into service, the brand voice almost always shifts massively.

from sales and marketing to service? Then get all those people together and say, these things work together. It’s not siloed. It’s not just one component piece. Everything connects. Can we make all of these make sense together? That’s really how we’ve been attacking it so far.


Krista Ankenman presented, “Growth Stacking: How to Scale Healthier Accounts, Maximize Value, and Deliver Results,” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. She emphasized the need to”go deeper” with clients, nurture those relationships, and build trust . . . and to “connect the dots” across different departments so that brand messaging from the marketing, sales, and service department is consistent. Siloes don’t work.



LinkedIn. Feel free to reach out to me and connect with me. Or email me at


what can they do to help make sure that their equipment is always up and running? Can they get ahead of the game? Can they pre-sell them on component parts kits or something along those lines to help smooth out that process?

ow do all of the components connect, from sales and marketing to service? Then get all those people together and say, these things work together. It’s not siloed. It’s not just one component piece. Everything connects.


The Sale Does Not Stop with the Sale

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When You Stop Believing in Advertising, Brand by Experience – The INBOUND Series

In this interview, Adrian Ho, CEO of Zeus Jones, talks about how his company collaborates with clients on the simultaneous development of products and their branding—specifically by integrating service and experience into product design, facilitating customer engagement with the client, and developing ways to make it easier for customers to do business with the brand. Food and health-care-related companies are key verticals for Zeus Jones.


What is a marketer to do when s/he stops believing in advertising and stops believing that advertising is the right way to build brands?


Four employees of Fallon, a “world class agency in the middle of the prairie,” spun off Fallon’s digital marketing department when it no longer “fit” with the larger agency. They founded Zeus Jones with the vision of creating an agency focused on building branding into products and services, rather than wrapping advertising around those offerings when the products were ready to hit the market. Adrian refers to the idiom, “Actions speak louder than words,” and notes, “If you can build remarkability into the products and brands, obviously you have to spend a lot less trying to create remarkability afterwards.”


Three services Zeus Jones provides are:

  1. Service and experience design – designing better ways for customers to engage with companies
  2. Marketing innovation – building the marketing into the products and services
  3. Brand and product innovation – working with product development and R&D to build branding and product at the same time.


Adrian presented “Bridging the Gap between Brand and Experience Design” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018, where he discussed how brands could be defined by experience, and how to bring that about. He believes a “new kind of marketing” is emerging. Patterns of this are evident, but he feels it is not yet understood . . . nor has it been mastered.

Adrian can be reached through his company’s website at or on Twitter @adrianho.

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Gaming the Web: How Google’s Search Engine Got Smarter – The INBOUND Series

Daniel Russell serves as COO of Go Fish Digital, a cutting-edge marketing agency serving small, medium, and large companies and providing everything digital except video and email marketing.


In this interview, Daniel, an attorney, explains how law school provided him with not only “a business background,” but also “the rules of the game.” He notes that Bill Slawski, Go Fish Digital’s Director of Research, is also an attorney. Bill studies Google’s patents for insight into how Google is changing things. The company’s founders started their careers as FBI contactors before becoming marketers, so the company, now with 42 employees, has some interesting roots.


Daniel presented, “Google’s AI Is Smarter than You: What Does That Mean for AdWords and SEO Campaigns?” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. He talked about how Google, as part of its DeepMind project, developed the AlphaGo computer. AlphaGo beat top players at “Go,” an ancient Chinese boardgame with a “near infinite number of moves and possibilities” and no rules for “your next move.” The learning algorithms, neural networks, and artificial intelligence that came out of AlphaGo research have dramatically increased the effectiveness and accuracy of Google’s voice search. Daniel also talked about AI in relation to Google ad quality scores, SEO, and SEM, how AI might potentially affect them in the future, how AI has changed the search process, and the nonconformity of AI use on different platforms.


Influencer marketing, currently the fastest growing part of Go Fish Digital’s business, intrigues Daniel. Consumers often tune out advertised content. When an influencer, a trusted “name” with whom target consumers identify, promotes a product/company, these consumers find the information more credible, even though they know that the advertised companies sponsor influencers. Today, influencer marketing is not necessarily just celebrities talking about your company. It may YouTubers talking about your website on their videos, Instagram postings, and less so, Facebook pages. LinkedIn can be effective for B2B services.


Daniel is available on Twitter at @dnlrussell or by email at His company website, Go Fish Digital, can be found at

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Focus and then Go, Go, Go! – The INBOUND Series

Greg Williamson, director with Concentrate, a Platinum HubSpot partner, is all about focus. He identifies his company’s mission as, “to help companies focus,” because “that’s the secret to good marketing.” In a country where sheep outnumber people 7 to 1, technology has become the third largest industry—and that technology is Concentrate’s chosen niche. Converge works primarily with companies exporting technology to Europe and the US. Greg feels the key to success is to “choose a small, achievable market that provides some profitability, and dominate that as quickly as you can.”


But what about growth? For a while, Concentrate dabbled in some other industries, including a winery and some funeral homes. Today, Concentrate grows by working with technology companies in other parts of New Zealand and, more recently, Australia. Concentrate knows immediately the top three marketing issues of its technology clients.


Greg presented “The Courage to Focus” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018. He related how his company—based in a small city in a small country in a small economy—has grown to be in the top 10% of HubSpot’s partners. He recommended that agencies that want to grow faster at lower risk and lower cost focus on a discrete group of customers, leveraging the knowledge of what the chosen customer group needs. Refer clients that “don’t fit” to people you know who work in other agencies.


He sees the future of marketing as moving from the traditional process of “getting people into the funnel, converting them, and selling them,” to a focus that includes servicing a customer’s needs to ensure customer success.


Greg can be reached on his Concentrate‘s website at: or on LinkedIn at gewilliamson/?originalSubdomain=nz.

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Win-Win Point-Pricing How To – The INBOUND Series

Jessica Miller, Vice President of Services for PR 20/20, explains how her company, HubSpot’s first agency partner, builds and implements services around HubSpot’s marketing automation software. Focused on B2B clientele, the PR 20/20 team often serves as a full extension of a client’s marketing team . . . and helps its clients “think through more than just marketing.”


Jessica spoke at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 and covered the details of point pricing, where PR 20/20s clients are billed for services based on the assigned point value of that service rather than paying for the time it takes PR 2020 to deliver that service. This provides value for customers and ensures that customers do not pay for PR 2020’s inefficiencies or learning. More complex, higher cost services are broken into smaller pieces, and the pricing structure is locked onto a Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 . . .) to minimize quibbling over point values.


Originally the company based the cost per point on the volume of services a company purchased . . . the more services purchased, the lower the cost per point The purpose was to incentivize buying a “better” package, but the reality was that it priced the “little guys” out of the market. Today, the company has a flat rate of $150 per point, regardless of whether a client purchases a Basic, a Moderate, or an Enterprise package. The “incentives” now come in the form of free enhanced services and more “hand holding” for the higher point cost service plans.


PR runs a number of interesting websites which may be helpful to companies and agencies.


Jessica can be reached on Twitter @jessica_joellen or on LinkedIn at jessicajoellenmiller/.

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Conversational Marketing – The INBOUND Series

Remington Begg, Chief Remarkable Officer of Impulse Creative, runs his company according to a “compass” with four business tenets: a strong sales message, a strong marketing message, a great foundation, and design and development. Because the South Florida real estate market is “hot,” half of his team is remote—he wants to hire the best, not just what is available locally. He feels he has T-shaped employees—specialized, focused experts who can also understand and communicate with their team members who have different talents. Key to keeping the organization bound together is a body of core values: Reliability; personal, professional, and organizational growth; perseverance, a “North Star” focus, and open communication and collaboration


Impulse Creative focuses on design, development, marketing and sales, predominantly on the HubSpot platform. HubSpot provides inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Unlike traditional “Go out and get ’em ,marketing,” inbound marketing uses digital content customized to address the needs and problems of a company’s ideal customers to attract qualified prospects, build trust, and gain credibility. Remington explains it as a “methodology that is just a smart way of interacting with people and the way they buy.” Impulse also partners with the Drift conversational marketing platform.


In this interview at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 conference, Remington discusses HubSpot’s newly introduced customer-focused marketing methodology, the “flywheel,” which is based on synergistic service, sales, and marketing. Remington feels that brand, although implicit, is a critical fourth component.


As a presenter at HubSpot’s conference, Remington spoke on, “Conversational Marketing: How to Think About It and How to Package It.” He discussed the core principles of conversational marketing: 1) conversational strategy, 2) personalized experience, 3) real-time response, and 4) a feedback loop. He emphasized that, whether using chatbot or live chat, the conversation has to feel like an individualized person-to-person communication. Reviewing recordings/transcriptions of these interactions provides a company with a rich opportunity: to discover the questions customers are asking, and then to address those questions on its website, in a video, or in content.


Remington can be reached @remingtonbegg on most social platforms, which is the best way to reach him. Agencies or HubSpot lovers can go to for unbranded HubSpot tutorials. His agency’s website is

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Networking that Works – The INBOUND Series

Anna-Vija McClain, CEO of Piccolo Marketing (Nashville, TN), serves as President of Nashville’s chapter of Women in Digital and spoke at HubSpot’s Inbound 2018 (Boston, MA) on using relationships to grow your business. Her Inbound presentation, “Networking That Works: The Proven Formula for Sales Follow-up,” covers personal branding, the “give value to get value” principle, selecting and building quality relationships with the right people, and guidelines for follow-up frequency. Anna-Vija attends networking events based on the potential for meeting either customers or partners, and recommends volunteering immediately to gain visibility. The presentation is available online at, as is a link to “Build Your Damn Business,” her online group learning community.


Anna-Vija’s company, Piccolo Marketing, functions as outsourced marketing department for small businesses with marketing budgets, but without sufficient resources for dedicated in-house marketing directors. Piccolo utilizes full time employees and small “pods” of contractors to provide personalized core services—with the objective of building lead funnels—and adds other promotional services as clients’ needs grow.


Anna-Vija does not hire to fill “slots.” She believes in hiring good people passionate about helping small businesses. She does not post jobs, but hires contractors recommended by her referral network, finds out what they are good at, trains them with the systems and training processes the company has developed, and puts them to work according to their strengths. After these contractors gain familiarity with Piccolo’s operations, they are onboarded—promoted to W-2 positions.


In this interview Anna-Vija discusses how people can find work they really love, how to make networking profitable, sexual harassment in the workplace, the necessity of providing a roadmap for your team, and “what is really working now in digital marketing.”

Anna-Vija can be reached on her company website at: or on her personal site at:

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When the Presentation “Platform” is a Stage: Speaking Your Message – The INBOUND Series

Kenny, Cofounder and CEO of ThreeSixtyEight, presented Assembly Required: Why Your Small Business Should Have An Event Strategy at the Hubspot Inbound 2018 marketing conference on September 5 in Boston. In this interview, he talks about hosting events as an outstanding way to create positive customer experiences—to pick up new clients, grow accounts, retain talent, and position your team members as leaders. Kenny also discusses the power of eye-to-eye contact and the distancing effect of the “theater effect,” when the speaker is elevated on a stage.


Kenny’s agency focuses on user experience and strategy. His Big Fish Presentations service line helps presenters and brands better present and communicate their messages. His user experience/human experience/customer experience philosophy applies not only to the website interface, but also to face to face interactions. He groups these as:

  1. the networking/customer appreciation event,
  2. the salon, featuring small workshops or a series of speakers, and
  3. the conference.

Kenny feels that the most effective agencies are those that teach their clients.


Strategy is more holistic than tactics—it is the “why” behind the tactics (e.g., I need a new website [tactic] because [the why] I need to improve my sales.)—where the “Why” may even, upon deeper investigation, reveal that a “different” tactic (e.g., improved social media conversion) may better produce the desired results. Kenny emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions up front in order to discover the whether the identified problem is merely a symptom of a larger problem.


Kenny can be contacted on LinkedIn at Kenny Nguyen, by email at, or through the company’s websites, or

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Niche Down and Thrive

When Joe Apfelbaum, CEO and Founder of Ajax Union, a B-to-B digital marketing agency that early on serviced over 1,100 with as many as 400 active accounts, realized he’d grown a business he didn’t want to run, he ramped down his agency. He defined his “ideal customers”—those who were investing in the top of their funnels, valued strategy, and understood the value of nurturing the lead from the top of the funnel to the bottom line. His tips? Pick a niche, go deep, and have a solid strategy. The results? Massive.


Ajax Union runs a Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp that teaches people a step-by-step digital marketing strategy. Joe emphasizes the importance of using and understanding your product ladder—a range of services and prices that will meet the needs of different clients. Offer free value at the front end, and increasingly higher-priced, higher value products for clients who “grow into them” or new, larger clients that you may onboard if you have the products that meet their needs. Strive for a backend ladder of $10,000 a month and then eventually grow that to a million dollars a year.


Joe notes that there is a lot more to building a business than making money and trying to grow. He says, “You have to be able to be profitable. You have to have a lifestyle. You have to take care of yourself. You have to be there for your family.” About the time he figured out how to make his company healthy, he lost 95 pounds, kept it off, and wrote a book about it: High Energy Secrets: How to Have More Energy than Ever.


Joe can be contacted on Linkedin at Joe Apfelbaum, on his website at:, (where you can also order his book, High Energy Secrets: How to Have More Energy than Ever), or you can register for his Digital Marketing Strategy Bootcamp at:


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