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 email@example.com.
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
ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Rob Kischuk. I am live at HubSpot’s Inbound Conference, and with me right now is Krista Ankenman, Cofounder and Vice President of Client Services with Tank New Media, based in Kansas City, Kansas. Welcome to the podcast.
KRISTA: Hey, thank you.
ROB: Glad to have you here.
KRISTA: Glad to be here.
ROB: Why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about Tank New Media and what makes Tank New Media awesome?
KRISTA: So many things make us awesome, come on. Like you mentioned, we’re out of Kansas City – on the Kansas side, not on the Missouri side. We’re out of Kansas City, Kansas. We’re a digital marketing agency. We work primarily with the internet, so we treat the website as a hub and have everything else pour into the website, so to speak, from ourmarketing perspective. We became HubSpot partners in 2015.
One of our differentiators is how we look at the overall aspect of all of our services. We pull everything together on the experience side, so we really think about how clients’ customers are experiencing their brand. We think about it from the sales side – how are the messages resonating with their customers?
And then carrying that all the way through to post-sale, and how is their service department dealing with customers as they come in? How can we make that experience that those customers are having the best that it can be all the way through?
ROB: Map that out onto an actual or hypothetical client. What’s an example of that entire process and how you think about that experience for someone?
KRISTA: For instance, we work with a lot of clients in manufacturing. Let’s say we have a manufacturing client and we’re pulling a lot of leads for them through PPC or inbound. A lot of leads are coming through online. We want to make sure that messaging resonates with the initially on what they’re looking for.
Then when they actually start engaging with the sales team, with the type of clients we usually work with, there’s still a high touch sales process. They’re still communicating a lot with the customers. They’re still having a lot of interactions there. So, we want to make sure that the way that they’re talking about it, the pieces of content that they’re sharing with them at that point are similar, are consistent, are giving the same brand messaging as they got initially from the website or from the ads that they’d seen.
Once they’re through that sales process, again, the kind of customers that we work with will have some after-the-sale service components to it. Whether that’s immediately or whether it’s a year or two down the road, what are those components? What are those campaigns that we’re continuing to send them to keep them informed on what’s happening with their products or services?
How can we, again, keep that a positive experience for them? We try to be ahead of the game with things that they might need so that they always have a positive outlook or a positive reflection of the companies that they’ve been working with.
ROB: You mentioned this is a high touch sales process, which means it’s probably also a high value sales process. With this focus on service, does that mean a lot of times you’re also working with people who—it’s going to be a recurring purchase? It’s going to be a recurring and ongoing relationship. It’s not so much a buy once kind of thing.
KRISTA: Yeah. A lot of times it might be a big purchase, but it’s not the only purchase that they’re going to make from that company ever. For instance, they might buy a piece of equipment that’s $100,000, but hopefully in a year or two their business continues to grow and they need to buy another one that’s maybe $200,000, or they need to add to their manufacturing line or something like that.
Again, it’s really important for a lot of these companies just to have that positive impact on those customers and make sure that the experience they have is good so that they can continue to come back to them. It goes a lot into the service side as well, especially when we look at manufacturing lines. If machines are down, it’s a huge issue for those companies. It just leaves a really bad taste in their mouth.
So, 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?
ROB: I think in a lot of industries, when you jump that barrier from sales into service, the brand voice almost always shifts massively.
ROB: How are you navigating what are probably often different siloes within the organization, and getting those conversations to the future sales value of properly voiced service now?
KRISTA: It’s so crazy, because once they get into the service side, it’s almost like they don’t even think about sales. It’s just a totally different beast that they’re attacking in a completely different way.
What we’ve found is just try to get into a conversation with those groups of people, and look at it like that big picture. How 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. Can we make all of these make sense together? That’s really how we’ve been attacking it so far.
ROB: Interesting. That seems like an interesting challenge overall. If we rewind, you started Tank new Media. What led you to do this? How did you reach that decision? What was that process?
KRISTA: Oh, my gosh. Well, if I’m being completely transparent, it was actually a low point in my career, to be honest. I started it with my husband. At the time it was right around the big recession in 2008-2009. I had worked for a very large advertising agency around Kansas City. There’s a big group of them around there. They lost their flagship client, and they laid off a whole mess of people, and I was in one of those groups.
ROB: This is like a Sprint level event kind of thing? [laughs]
KRISTA: Yeah. The big agencies around us have a reputation for hiring and then letting people go, and it’s one of those on-and-off games. At the time it was like, what am I going to do? Nobody was hiring because it was the recession, especially in marketing. Nobody wanted to spend money on marketing at that point.
It was really quite an opportunity for us, because the risk was gone. We weren’t quitting a job. We didn’t really have anything to lose. We’d been talking about starting something, and we said,3 “Hey, let’s just try it. Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work out and we go get a job.” [laughs]
That was almost 10 years ago that we did that. My husband was working full-time for about 2 years while I was getting it up and running, and then he quit his job and we’ve been going ever since.
ROB: So, you have both been running this thing together the whole time.
ROB: Did you hire Employee #1 before or after he went full-time in the business?
KRISTA: It was around the same time. It was probably within a few months of each other that we did that.
ROB: I think when you bring that first stranger into your business, it’s odd, right?
KRISTA: It is odd.
ROB: And it’s probably super weird for them being the third wheel with a husband and a wife. How do you navigate that?
KRISTA: It’s always interesting. People always ask our employees, “Wasn’t that weird?” At least to me, they tell me it’s not, so hopefully they really think so. We do have a very clear mutual respect for each other in what we do. We have very different strengths.
At the end of the day, we both came from a design background, but he really stayed with that path and I moved into more of the account service and project management side, kind of the operations stuff. We respect the boundaries that we have, so there’s not a lot of back and forth about what should and shouldn’t be done. If it’s his call or my call, it’s pretty clear. That’s how we’ve been running it.
ROB: I think that’s something that people sometimes forget. Lots of small businesses are crazy, and the crazy isn’t always like, “Oh, it’s a husband and a wife.” If somebody acts crazy, it’s going to be crazy. If someone doesn’t have boundaries, they don’t have boundaries and it’s going to be bad.
KRISTA: Big or small, that’s how it is. [laughs]
ROB: Yeah. Interesting. So you’re here speaking, and your talk – I’m going to read it to make sure I nail it – “Growth Stacking: How to Scale Healthier Accounts, Maximize Value, and Deliver Results.” What have you been sharing? What should we be thinking about from your talk?
KRISTA: Gosh, that was yesterday, so I have to remember. [laughs] No, just kidding. What it really boils down to, the big thing that I was discussing with everybody was how we’re really in a business of relationships. We really need to nurture those relationships in order to grow our accounts.
It’s very difficult for us to continue to churn through accounts, to have to replace them constantly. If we can spend a little bit of time working on those relationships and building a lot of trust with our clients, they actually start coming to us for more things. Like I was mentioning earlier, we can start connecting the dots across different departments and find additional ways we can help them and provide more value.
ROB: How do you then balance going deep with a client and – then are there things that you say “no” to, things that are out of bounds and not something that Tank’s going to do?
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. We like to think of ourselves as a full service agency, but there’s definitely boundaries. We’re not going to create a software product for you, those types of things. We can help you find somebody to do that.
That’s really where we go. If it’s not something that we do internally, that’s okay, but we’ll try to point you in the right direction and we’ll try to give you some guidance. Or we’ll help you oversee it. It doesn’t have to be something that we complete internally to help provide value. We’re just always looking to be helpful and provide that value to our clients.
ROB: You’re a big believer, then, in going deeper with your clients. A lot of people will tell you that – to look to the people who have already paid you to find more money. How do you balance that with the possibility of being over-concentrated with the client?
I joked about Sprint; I’m in Atlanta, we’ve seen agencies live and die by Verizon, by AT&T. This is 70% of your revenue. So how do you go deeper without going too deep and become this at-risk extension of the marketing department of the big client?
KRISTA: That’s a really great question. We don’t only sell to our existing clients, and we try to limit what we expand on with our clients so that we can balance that out. We’re bringing on new clients and starting to nurture those relationships as we’re adding on additional services. We try not to push it too much with them; just really when we think there’s a value-add that they actually need to move forward with.
ROB: Got it. We’ve been here at the conference for about a day and a half now. What have you been learning? What has been surprising, what are you going to take back with you?
KRISTA: Oh my gosh, so much stuff. We’ve just started the full Inbound conference, and already I really get a feeling that one of the themes I think they have for this year is overall positivity and happiness and bringing joy to your work. I think that’s so amazing. It’s something that we all can try a little bit harder with and do a little bit more of.
I hope that continues. There’s been a few speeches that have touched on that so far. There’s a lot of great tactical stuff, of course, but when we look at that bigger picture, like how we can better ourselves, I think that’s a really great message for them to bring to everybody here.
ROB: You’re talking about that positivity – it sounds like one of those things that starts to become things you talk about with core values in the business. Do you have some kind of guiding principles that you share with your team and tell them, “this is what we’re about”?
KRISTA: Yeah, absolutely. We always root things with our “why.” “Why do we exist, why are we here?” Ultimately, we’re trying to create a better experience for us, for our employees, for our clients, and then our clients’ clients. At the end of the day, that is the root of what we do. How can we make things better?
Anything that relates back to that – we never want to make anybody feel uncomfortable if we don’t have to. Of course, we have to deliver bad news, but can we do it with tact? [laughs] You don’t have to make them feel bad about it. Bad news doesn’t get easier, so if we can find a good way to deliver it . . .
But again, we’re straight shooters. We want to be honest with people, we want to be innovative. We formulate all these things around really creating that great experience for people we’re working with.
ROB: Awesome. What have been some of the other key hires along the way – roles or people that you hired that made a difference in the trajectory of the business? What have you learned from that?
KRISTA: Oh my goodness. I absolutely love everybody on our team. I know probably everybody says that, but I really do.
ROB: [laughs] Not everybody.
KRISTA: Everybody’s really been key. Everybody’s really on board with what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and moving towards those things with all the projects that they’re working on.
When we look for people that we hire, at this point with the size that we’re at, we don’t necessarily hire specialists – somebody who just does one specific thing. We look for people who are willing to do more than one thing, willing to wear more than one hat, but definitely have that core focus.
A big thing for us is getting a really good strategist that can come in there and help us and lay all these things out, do wire framing and understand how the work flows are going to work and those types of things. Having great account management that’s going to be front-facing on the lines of everything. Video has been a really big thing for us in the last year, adding a lot more video to our clients’ content.
There’s been a lot of really great hires, really great additions to the team.
ROB: I think one of the interesting tensions in building a business, but in particular an agency, is there are certain patterns, there are certain held wisdoms, certain ideas about how you’re supposed to do things. You get to choose which ones you will or will not accept, and you probably ignore all of them at your peril. You can’t say, “we’ll do none of that.” I guess you could; it might not go well. I don’t know.
KRISTA: [laughs] You could try.
ROB: Is there a thing or two that you think is a commonly held wisdom about building a creative organization, an agency, that you just think differently on?
KRISTA: Yes. Let me think about how I want to say this. For us, we’re a creative agency, but really, what we’re doing is solving problems.
For us, when we look for hires for creative specifically, we’re not going out there and finding the wackiest, most creative, most out-of-the-box thinker. We’re looking for a creative that’s a little bit more analytical, can find the patterns, can find the systems with the designs that they’re doing. A lot of people will say, “they’re the most creative, they’re the ‘best’,” but those are actually the people we don’t hire. They can bring a whole bunch of other things into the organization that maybe aren’t so great.
Being able to nurture somebody who understands a little bit deeper than just surface level is really something that we look for.
ROB: Very interesting. Adjacent to that, having been at this for a little bit now, let’s talk about what we might call lessons, what we might call mistakes sometimes. What are things that you’ve learned from building Tank New Media that you might do differently next time?
KRISTA: Oh man. There’s lessons every day, I think. Small ones every day that if you’re paying attention, you can see and learn from. Teachable moments, so to speak.
One of the biggest things I think that I would do if I was talking to myself previously would just be—don’t be afraid to take risks. We take our fair amount of risks, obviously. We started a company, there we go. But if you don’t try, you can’t succeed.
So just being willing to step back and say, “I’m going to give it a shot and see what happens. We’re going to go after that client, or we’re going to try this new tactic that seems a little out-of-the-box or crazy.” I’d just say push yourself and see what happens.
ROB: It sounds like you’re talking about taking understandable risks, though. Or are you not?
KRISTA: If you read my personality profile, it would say that I take risks, but calculated risks. We’re not ones to throw all of our money into one investment and cross our fingers, but there’s a lot that you can do to really push yourself along the way. Like I said, if you’re paying attention and you’re really thinking about what makes sense, a lot of things aren’t as scary as they seem.
ROB: Yeah. We recently hired someone on the sales side, and talking to friends and mentors – you always hire people with the plan that everything is going to go well.
KRISTA: Right. Best intentions.
ROB: However, almost the unfortunate blessing and curse of sales is everybody knows what the score is. So, if it’s working, yay, you’re all happy. If it’s not, the downside is the understood risk of if it’s just not a fit between the company and the person selling and the audience. And that’s not a value judgment on anyone. It’s like, we tried a thing and it didn’t work out so well.
ROB: Some of what you’re talking about – we had a guest on, David C. Baker. He’s written an interesting book, he’s out of Nashville, smart guy. Do you know this guy?
ROB: He talked about kind of what you’re talking about, stretching yourself. He has a podcast. Do you know his podcast?
ROB: With Blair Enns.
KRISTA: Oh yeah, yeah.
ROB: The 2 Bobs podcast. (I’m giving you guys a pitch. You’ve both been on the show. I appreciate it.)
They talk a lot about how you have to overextend yourself a little bit, but not too much. It’s that tension. You can obviously jump off a cliff and it’s not going to go well for you, but you also have to stretch. You also have to find ways to build a client and tell the client, “We’re going to try this.” You’re not betting the whole budget on telling them it’s going to work. You’re telling them you’re going to try something together, and you get better and they get better.
KRISTA: Absolutely. That goes back to some of the things we were talking about in my presentation. It’s 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.
ROB: Right. I think I might have seen in the description of Tank New Media something about – did I see “traction” in there? Was that word in there?
ROB: Does that descend from the traction thesis around marketing experimentation and trying different things? Is that part of that? Are you familiar with that?
KRISTA: Yes, the EOS system?
ROB: There’s two tractions. That’s the really confusing thing. There’s the EOS traction, and then there’s Traction by Gabriel Weinberg, who started DuckDuckGo. He talks about 19 different ways by which he’s focused on tech startups, because he’s in tech startup land. He’s like, there’s PR, there’s outbound sales, so on and so forth.
KRISTA: Yeah, it’s kind of similar. Our traction is really how we get clients going. How do we get them traction in whatever their market is? It can be a combination of some of those different things, like you just mentioned. It’s kind of their custom mix of the pieces that we feel are going to get them traction and get them going to meet their goals.
ROB: Very cool. It sounds like it’s been a good trip; it sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress in the business. Looking forward, what is coming up either in Tank New Media, or in the way that you serve clients and how marketing in general happens – what’s coming up that you’re excited about?
KRISTA: We’re looking forward to a strong year next year, and hopefully many years to come. We’re really being a lot more aggressive in the growth phase of our organization. We’ve built very stable and sustainable in the past, and we’re looking to amp that up a little bit and grow a little bit more over the next few years.
So we’re really excited about that, ready to push ourselves a little bit and see what we can do and try to push our clients in that same direction. Use some more experiential marketing and those types of things.
ROB: Is there anything that’s being touted and buzzed about that you think might not quite be ready for clients in 2018-2019?
KRISTA: Sure. [laughs] Oh gosh, that’s a good question. The interesting thing is, I think it really depends on each client. You’re going to find clients that are going to be more ready and willing to do that stuff that’s out on the fringes versus others.
A lot of clients we work with are a little behind because of the industries that we work with, but for them it’s new and exciting, which is great. Versus if you’re working a lot in that tech startup world, you can push it a little bit more, do a little bit more crazy stuff, and they’re okay with it. They understand the “fail fast” scenario, so you can get away with a little bit more.
ROB: That’s kind of nice, because you get to do both. It’s an experiment, but you’re really pretty sure it’s going to work, right? It’s been around for a little bit.
KRISTA: Yeah, and then you’re like, “If this works, I can use this on everybody else.” [laughs]
ROB: What’s something like that that a more industrial client is just now coming around on that may be held wisdom in a high tech company?
KRISTA: Oh my gosh, you guys might laugh at us. Let’s see. We’re doing a lot more targeting with social and stuff for industrial clients. They held out on social for a really long time, a lot of them. Like, “this isn’t the space for us, we’re B-to-B, this isn’t where businesspeople go to find information.” It’s like, well, everybody’s on social. Literally everybody is.
A lot of them, we’re starting to be able to do a lot more targeting, a lot more sophistication around the types of groups that we’re using for targeting and those types of things. It’s opening their eyes a little bit to, “Oh wait, maybe this does make sense and work for us.”
ROB: When I think about an industrial type company – if it’s somebody making factory equipment, farm equipment, who knows – what I also think of is an underinvestment in the kinds of assets that you would want to use to feed targeting. The website is sometimes a little tired, the email list is possibly nonexistent. They just haven’t been in the mindset of, “Oh, somebody bought from us, let’s get their email address.”
KRISTA: Right. A lot of these guys are trying to move out of that traditional mindset. These companies have been running a certain way for a long time, and they know that it’s changing. They can see it’s coming or is here for them – one of the two, depending upon where they’re at and how things are working – and they see the need to make those changes. They see the need to update their website, start collecting emails, start being more places, being a little bit more sophisticated.
If they can relate it back to – even what happens in manufacturing, where there’s artificial intelligence and stuff can move through, it’s very similar. If they can just get themselves in that right mindset, it all makes sense.
ROB: Is some of that turning the ship? It’s turned slowly, but it’s turned a lot now. Is that part of why you get to dig in deeper and touch on the service side as well as the sales side, because they’re ready for – I hesitate to use the phrase “often,” but in that digital transformation mode, they need it. Whether or not you call it that, it sounds like it’s what they need.
KRISTA: Absolutely. You can’t push everything on them at once, but you can start prepping them and getting them ready. Maybe they just start with changing their website and getting on marketing automation. Then in a year, we can move them on to sales automation, and then it’s service automation.
Some of them you have to spoon feed it a little bit, but some of them are raring to go. They know what’s coming. They see the digital transformation, like you said, and it’s something that’s very important to them. They know they have to do that in order to stick around long-term.
ROB: Excellent. Krista, when people want to find you and Tank New Media, how should they find you?
KRISTA: They can always find me on LinkedIn. Feel free to reach out to me and connect with me. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ROB: Excellent. Thank you for your time. Pleasure to learn from your wisdom today and hear your journey.
ROB: Thank you so much.
KRISTA: Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you for listening. The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast is presented by Converge. Converge helps digital marketing agencies and brands automate their reporting so they can be more profitable, accurate, and responsive. To learn more about how Converge can automate your marketing reporting, email email@example.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com