Conversational Marketing – The INBOUND Series

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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 sprockettalk.com for unbranded HubSpot tutorials. His agency’s website is impulsecreative.com.

 

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I am live here, kind of early on Friday morning, at HubSpot’s Inbound Conference, and I am joined right now by Remington Begg. Remington is the Chief Remarkable Officer of Impulse Creative based in Fort Myers, Florida. Welcome.

 

REMINGTON: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

 

ROB: It is fantastic to have you here. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about Impulse Creative and what makes Impulse great?

 

REMINGTON: Sure. I’ve had the agency since 2007. We’ve gone through a couple iterations of growth, but one of the key things—right now we’re at 14 employees . . . Sunny southwest Florida . . . Almost half of my team is remote. We’ve gone after best of breed instead of just what’s available locally.

 

The agency is built around—we call it our compass, and it’s built around the four tenets of what I think any successful company needs to be. You have to have a strong sales message, a strong marketing message, you have to have a really great foundation, and design and development.

 

By having all of those things synergistic, then that essentially reinforces brand—which is one of the things that was missing in the flywheel.

 

ROB: So, there’s this flywheel. Elaborate a little bit. That was announced yesterday or the day before.

 

REMINGTON:  Yeah, HubSpot announced the flywheel. It’s a new methodology, and it’s supposed to be focused on the customer. I’m going off on a tangent, but essentially I’m a huge brand proponent. We were talking about my orange shoes when we sat down here.

 

ROB: They’re awesome.

 

REMINGTON: Thank you. [laughs] But it’s one of those things that the model has to have the customer in the center. Then there’s sales, there’s delight, there’s engagement, and there is—oh my gosh, it’s early.

 

ROB: [laughs] The flywheel is new to us all. We’re working on it.

 

REMINGTON: Yeah. As we were talking about, basically it’s service, sales, and marketing—essentially how the different parts all come together. But brand is nowhere mentioned, and I think people take brand for granted. But it’s very intentional.

 

That’s really where our sweet spot is at Impulse. We focus, we’ve got experts—as I mentioned in a couple sessions this week, T-shaped employees that are very much focused and experts in an area but also understand and can communicate with others in different segments.

 

We cover design, development, marketing and sales, predominantly on the HubSpot platform, and we help people achieve remarkable results in growth.

 

ROB: Awesome. It’s interesting that you say you’re half virtual and half not. When did you start having a remote team? When did that come into the DNA of the agency?

 

REMINGTON: That’s a great question. I was a huge proponent of in-house only. I still love the learning by osmosis and the management by osmosis of in-house teams.

 

But I also realized that logistically, south Florida right now is in a really good real estate market, which means that rent is ridiculous. Getting people to relocate or move, especially if they have families, is not necessarily ideal.

 

We’re very much human-first, so I had to create an opportunity and a way of working at Impulse that suits our customers the best way . . . and also suits our team the best way—which ties into our core values. We use a lot of technology like Zoom and Slack. We probably use Slack a little bit too much. But the idea is to keep those human conversations going.

 

That was I think just over 2 years ago that we hired our first remote employee. Danielle is her name. She’s still with us today. I told her when we hired her, “This is going to be fun, but feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

 

ROB: When someone mentions core values, I love to drill into that and ask what those core values are. What are those at Impulse?

 

REMINGTON: Reliability. You have to be able to rely on others and trust them. Growth-oriented. Everything we do needs to be very much focused on how we can grow personally, professionally, and as an organization.

 

Perseverance. Any agency owners out there know that it’s not a cakewalk—and if it is a cakewalk, that means that you’re on the peak, but there’s always valleys in business. If you’re doing things the right way in the peak, then the valley isn’t as painful. So, having the perseverance and making sure the North Star is there.

 

ROB: Are there particular roles that you have found are better suited to remote work, or is that more a function almost of yourselves and the processes you have in place?

 

REMINGTON: That’s a really great question. I think one of the things that CEOs or owners or managers, even, don’t realize is that the success of a remote employee is as much the manager’s fault or the owner’s fault as it is the employee’s. Communication is a two-way street.

 

When we’re talking about the types of work that work really well remotely—I know there’s quite a few agencies that are 100% remote—but communication is one of those things that you have to be intentional about, just like brand. We have inbound marketers that are remote, we’ve got content marketers that are remote. Our graphic designer actually was in-house and just moved to remote.

 

It’s very much intentional for communication on the employees’ side. They’ve got to speak their mind and they’ve got to share their feelings. You can’t be like, “I’m not feeling good and I really wish that Remington would do this.” and then not tell Remington what you wish he would do, because he can’t tell via—

 

ROB: [laughs] You’re not a mind reader, especially remotely.

 

REMINGTON: Yeah, exactly. You can’t see if someone’s having a good or bad day. There’s technology you can throw in, like Zoom or Slack, but it’s the communication flow that has to be always open. There’s a lot of communication and a lot of collaboration.

 

Sometimes remote can be tougher, but everyone on the team has to embrace the culture. How we combat that is we have early morning stand-ups. We use Zoom Rooms so that literally anyone can jump in, like the Brady Bunch, on the wall without being invited and have a conversation or ask. If they’re at home, isolated, wanting to know an answer to a question, all they’ve got to do is jump on the TV and be like, “Hey, what’s up? How come you’re not answering me?” Just like it would be if you were in another room.

 

I think that as long as the company is aware of the communication, you can do just about anything nowadays online or remotely. That’s an exciting thing and a scary thing at the same time.

 

ROB: Right. If we rewind a little bit, what possessed you to start Impulse Creative? How did it come to be?

 

REMINGTON: I went to school for graphic design and advertising, Flagler College in St. Augustine. I was very much focused around having—obviously the internet started to be a thing. I think AOL was still a big thing. Facebook wasn’t even a thing.

 

As marketing was evolving—and it wasn’t even evolving anywhere near as quick as it is right now—but as marketing was evolving, I noticed branding was a super passion of mine. Then you have all these different ways you could advertise. I went to school and took all the classes to understand each of the pieces.

 

I’m blessed with having a photographic memory and being able to understand how things can fall together. When I got done with school, I went around to a couple places, and—I didn’t understand it until I started hiring people, for the record—they’re like, “You’re overqualified.” Because I knew how to do websites, I knew how to design logos, I knew how to write content. I knew how to do all the pieces that I thought were important, and that came across as a threat.

 

When I started the company, I jumped in with both feet. That was ’07. Since then, I’ve really made it a point not to be threatened by someone who’s overqualified because employees that are overqualified can be amazing gifts. But as an owner, if you’re threatened by that from the get-go, that can be really tough, too.

 

ROB: Yeah, for sure. In 2007 you might’ve been doing some sort of wrinkles and sprinkles of inbound marketing, but probably not too much. Talk about the evolution over the life of the company.

 

REMINGTON: It’s been fun. I’ve been following HubSpot since the beginning, since they were just a blog. They were just a blog, that was it. SEO was always one of those things that I was trying to move the bezels and figure out what was going on. I saw the value of content really early. It was a lot easier back then. You could write about something and it would show up.

 

ROB: You could rank for something by writing about it. It’s amazing. [laughs]

 

REMINGTON: Yeah. But at that point it was my wife and myself. She runs me and the business in the most beautiful way possible. She’s a saint.

 

ROB: Could be a big job.

 

REMINGTON: It’s definitely a big job. The big thing with that was we worked solopreneur, and that was coming right out of the Recession, so everyone’s in a really bad spot. We were very wide in regards to the services we offered, for survival and also there were a lot of areas that companies needed help.

 

As we started growing and getting more clients, referrals were a huge thing, and as we started doing that we realized that we started getting clients further and further away from the office. We’re in southwest Florida. If you put an ‘L’ between Tampa and Miami, we’re at the base of that ‘L.’ By doing that, we realized there was this opportunity for more reach.

 

HubSpot started to gain some early traction. We were always looking for differentiation, and inbound marketing was this “new thing”—and I’m using air quotes, for your audience—when it’s really this methodology that is just a smart way of interacting with people the way they buy. It’s an interesting concept.

 

In 2012, obviously I’d been on the HubSpot blog for a few years at that point, and they knew that, so they started nurturing me into the next—Dan MacAdam, who still works at HubSpot, was my account rep. He called me up a couple times and I remember shutting him down pretty hard. I was like, “There’s no way I’m paying for HubSpot. That’s ridiculous.”

 

Fast forward to today—that was 2012—we signed up, and we jumped in with both feet because we saw this opportunity to have clients understand the metrics more. It proved the ROI of what we were doing. When we’re ranking on Page 1 for something, that’s really great, but it might not be the keyword that client was looking for. But when we were able to prove that we were driving results for the client, it was amazing.

 

We’ve really been pushing hard on that. That was 2012. That’s kind of crazy. Lots of inbounds, lots of employees. We hired our first employee in 2012 as well, because we were like, “Oh cool, retainers. Crap, now we don’t have any time left.” That started the journey. It’s been a lot of fun.

 

ROB: Very, very cool. You were here this week sharing a talk as well. Your talk was “Conversational Marketing: How to Think About It and How to Package It.” Tell us a little bit about what you were sharing and some key takeaways from that.

 

REMINGTON: Conversational marketing is all the rage right now. It’s funny because I’m very active in the HubSpot Partner community; there’s some jokes going around that I have a neural implant for the Facebook group because of how quickly I respond.

 

But as we’re going through and talking to people about conversational marketing information that is available to help people convert, there’s a lot of misconceptions—and of course, HubSpot just came out with the Live Chat tool—and in conversations in general.

 

I talk to a lot of agencies and they don’t know how to sell it and they’re very confused on where to start with it. It’s so funny because it’s kind of like SEO. People have dumbed down their brains to communicate on an SEO standpoint. Nowhere did we say, before Google came out, “pizza Fort Myers.” In natural language you would say “Where’s the nearest pizza shop?” to someone. That’s the question you would ask.

 

With conversational marketing, it’s going back to the roots of human one-to-one communication. In my talk, I talk about the four core principles of conversational marketing and sales. It’s essentially having an actual conversational strategy, and I dug into that in regards to—you can dig in, and you have to understand what that conversation should be.

 

The other core principles are a personalized experience, a real-time response, and a feedback loop. When we’re talking about a personalized experience, most inbound marketers and people who are along the inbound movement are very much focused on buyer personas.

 

It’s amazing how many people don’t have buyer personas. When I asked everyone to raise their hand if they had a buyer persona, it was like 50% of the room—and we’re talking agency partners. Come on, people.

 

ROB: Cobblers’ children have no shoes, right?

 

REMINGTON: Exactly. When I ask those questions, the personas are always like “CEO Sally” or something like that. It’s great to have this profile or this identification, but it’s usually pain points that they have, and it’s usually the solutions they have and how large they are as a company. It’s not really ever like starting conversations.

 

What are the initial questions that they would ask? Who is this one person that is available? That personalized experience is not taking just that avatar, but going from—I heard another person say it, and I don’t know who it is; otherwise I’d attribute it. But they were at Inbound. They said it a lot better than I did.

 

They said you’re dealing with a human on the other side. Taking that persona and actually focusing on the person. Person over persona. If you’re hearing this and you said that, hit me up, because I want to talk to you.

 

So person over persona. We’re talking about one person rather than a group of people. Marketing today is very easy to feel like you’re speaking to a group of people in the room. Conversational marketing cannot work as a group. You have to be having that one-on-one conversation just like you and I are having right now.

 

ROB: I’ve seen some weird variances of faux conversation marketing, chatbots. I took my kids to drive a fake car around in traffic, and they basically had a Facebook chatbot that was a really fancy and complicated version of an email opt-in. That’s all it really was.

 

What do you think are some of the industries that are missing the most opportunity right now in conversational marketing?

 

REMINGTON: I think everyone—and I hate using the word “everyone,” but everyone who has humans as a customer. Really, when you think about it.

 

Dharmesh from HubSpot stood on the stage and was talking about the Customer Code, which is crazy. You’ve got to check it out. It’s customercode.com. He was talking about the Customer Code and solving for the customer—and they’ve been talking about solving for the customer for a long time.

 

But going back to your point, some companies try to hide things or try not to communicate effectively. Agencies for sure have this black hole of who they are and what they do, and they think it’s all secret sauce. I heard another quote that was really great, like, “We all have the same stories, it’s just different characters.”

 

Going back to some of the other segments in the talk, one was the feedback loop. The feedback loop for me is one of the most important things for marketing and salespeople. If you think about sales managers or people who are working with salespeople or just wanting to get better at their craft, they usually are going to go back through and listen to their recordings—or they should be.

 

Then they’re trying to understand the questions that are being asked. Any marketer that’s worth grit is also communicating with those salespeople or looking into those questions.

 

We’re at a point now with conversational marketing, with chatbots and with live chat, that we literally have a transcription of all of the questions that are being asked that we could look into. If that question is not answered on our website in a video or in content? Hello! You’ve got content for days.

 

Agencies leverage this and literally can be mind readers. So that’s a really big piece.

 

The last part was the real-time response. I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s stats out there that say if you respond to an inquiry on a website within 5 minutes, you’re 100 times more likely to connect with that lead.

 

Real-time response in chat, I bring back to phone conversations. Everyone’s like, “I don’t know if I can get started with conversational marketing. It’s too hard.” Then you call their office and it says “For sales, press 1. For support, press 2.” Then it goes, “Thanks for reaching out to sales. Are you an enterprise company or are you a small business company?”

 

That is a conversational chatbot that’s giving you options that you have to press on the phone. So, they’re doing it already. It flows naturally, and it usually goes straight to a person. If you could imagine waiting 5 minutes on the phone after you choose that button, that is supposed to be awesome.

 

And yet if you go at conversations or live chat with a 5-minute response, you’re not only going to not connect with that person, but they’re probably going to be super pissed off.

 

At Impulse we have—and when this is published I’m going to get a slew of tests; just say “hi” and say you’re testing it for us. On impulsecreative.com we have (we use Drift currently, and HubSpot is going to be implemented as they grow a bit) a 14-second response rate.

 

That means within 14 seconds—and I’ve been doing it, and Jackie on my team has been doing it all week—if someone comes to the website and has a question, we have to keep that number going down. It’s gone from a couple minutes down to about 14 seconds, and we’ve closed entire deals on chat without even talking to anyone.

 

ROB: Wow. Go to the site and see how long it takes. I think it’s not coincidental that earlier this week Drift had a conference here in Boston.

 

REMINGTON: They did. Hyper growth.

 

ROB: Right adjacent to Inbound. That’s probably not coincidental.

 

REMINGTON: Yeah, I think there’s a little bit of competition going there. I’m a Drift Partner and I’m also a HubSpot Partner. I go for platforms that are best of breed. Right now I believe that Drift is that for live chat and chatbots.

 

But the focus overall and the big thing, going back to that session, was there’s a humongous opportunity for agencies to drive some value for their clients. When we talk about ROI, there’s use cases that I shared in my presentation, but it really comes down to we implemented live chat and conversations, and within about a month we almost two-and-a-half-timed our conversions. Like that. I looked at that and I was like, holy crap. We’ve got to do this.

 

Now we do a lot of teaching, a lot of learning. Since that “aha,” I’ve created 95 tutorials on how to do conversational marketing, which led to the talk. I was really blessed. I had two standing room only sessions at Partner Day. It was fantastic.

 

ROB: I think one thing, for people coming from outside this ecosystem, that would strike them as a little bit weird is this dynamic where as a HubSpot Partner—I don’t know Drift’s partner program as well—you’re sort of asked to convince a client to sign up for a thing that costs a non-trivial amount of money. It’s not an arm and a leg, it’s not enterprise stuff, but it’s not free and it’s not $20 a month.

 

Do you see, with a long view, does that actually present an opportunity when it comes to driving the pricing you can put to a client? If someone’s going to invest what it takes to implement HubSpot, is that in some cases actually more of an opportunity because you know they’re not completely cheap?

 

REMINGTON: A hundred percent. There’s obviously a selection process, if you would. I think HubSpot is a really great way to qualify a lead.

 

ROB: That’s a better way of putting it, yeah.

 

REMINGTON: But at the same time, there’s certain attributes of people who want HubSpot that tie really well into agencies.

 

There’s usually two tracks. One is: “I need more data. I want to know more about what’s happening in the life of my marketing and sales.” The other one is: “I need this to be easier.” Both of those present some amazing opportunities.

 

And now, with the size of the HubSpot tool, there’s another one, which is: “This is so much.” I mean, it’s a behemoth. George B. Thomas on my team does Sprocket Talk, and it’s a daily tutorial for how to use HubSpot. It’s insane, because he does a daily tutorial and he still has hundreds to do after that.

 

So, I think HubSpot and Drift, while they both have free tools, they’re really great gateway drugs. But when we start to dig into the reasons that people would want it, there’s really untapped opportunity for all of us here.

 

ROB: He’s helping train and equip people. Where do you think it all goes? I would argue in many industries, but especially in agencies, there is a dearth of talent in a number of disciplines that are necessary to operating the agency.

 

How much do you think goes towards the tools becoming better, more people becoming capable, or maybe specialization and people working together, and people with a very narrow focus doing a little bit of inbound marketing for a lot of people on the very most technical sides of it? Where do you think it might go?

 

REMINGTON: That’s a loaded question. I think there’s this opportunity—and I love it, they’ve mentioned T-shaped employees like 12 times here as I’ve been going through the talks. I feel like our agency is T-shaped. We’re super good at driving results, and we’re doing it in a few different ways that I believe are what’s needed.

 

But when we’re talking about marketers, technology has advanced so quickly. I don’t know how colleges are going to keep up, but that’s for another podcast.

 

When you have this technology, there’s two problems. One is the strategy behind why and how you would use a tool, and the other side is actually knowing how to use the tool. Especially with how quickly they change. What are you trying to accomplish? So that endgame, knowing your numbers, that kind of thing. And then on the flipside, how do I tactically do this?

 

Agencies can come in at two different points. They can be at strategy, or they could be at implementation, because it takes time to do what we do. I think as people are maturing in the space—and when I say maturing in the space, I mean helping with sales ops or helping with marketing ops or just helping with tech stack in general—AI is doing a lot of things that I don’t think we should ever have been doing in the first place, but it’s necessary information.

 

So, I think our roles are going to change a little bit, but the people that can think about the strategy but also understand the tactics are going to be very well-compensated in the future.

 

ROB: Right. Strategy is a very resonant keyword right now in the agency space. There’s this metaphor I’ve heard that people don’t buy a shovel because they want a shovel; they buy a shovel because they want a hole.

 

I think there’s a lot of different stops along that train, actually. You can get stuck selling shovels, you can get stuck selling how many hours you want somebody to shovel something. Nobody would actually buy that on purpose, right? But that’s what a lot of people are selling, I think: hours with a shovel.

 

REMINGTON: Yeah, that’s actually a really great analogy. I love it. I thought Dharmesh’s talk was really cool, and I’m super geeking out about this Customer Code. In the Customer Code he talked about making pricing (and he has data to back it up) more visible across the board.

 

As an agency, the easiest thing to do—and we’re struggling with this, too—full disclosure. We want to show a whole lot, but at the same time it’s a whole lot of what we do. At Impulse we have 67 different services that fit into our plans that we custom fit for what a client needs.

 

How do you take all of that and make it so that people understand the value prop at the same time? That’s a journey that we’re all on together.

 

But he put in this thing about pricing and removing the friction, and it’s a really big thing to be thinking about. As employees, or as the price for how deep you want to dig, it’s our recommendations and our experience that we can get behind as an agency to say how long it’s going to take to dig a 6-foot hole. How do you want to slice this? Do you want to dig 3 feet and I’ll dig 3 feet, or do you want us to both dig 6 feet? I don’t know why I chose 6 feet.

 

ROB: [laughs] Maybe because you’re putting a body in there, I don’t know.

 

REMINGTON: A body, it could be. It’s been a long week. [laughs] But in general, it’s one of those things that I think agencies could be much more transparent.

 

If you’re doing marketing for a company, as an agency or as an individual, there shouldn’t be this cloud of opinion about what you’re doing. Metrics should be there and goals should be set so that you know whether you’re on track.

 

ROB: Right on. I think from a strategy perspective, maybe the question we should really ask is, “Why do you want a hole?” Right? [laughs]

 

REMINGTON: A hundred percent.

 

ROB: Remington, when people want to find you, they should go to your website and chat and see how long it takes you to respond. How else should they find you?

 

REMINGTON: I’m @remingtonbegg on just about everything. You can search that and I’m sure you’ll find quite a bit. If you are an agency or loving HubSpot, go to sprockettalk.com and you’ll get to see a lot of the tutorials that we’re doing. It’s unbranded content, so any agencies can be sharing it as resources for their clients.

 

Actually, it was really cool—sorry, tangent—yesterday a guy came up to George and I and was like, “I’m from Istanbul. I watch all of your content.” It was one of those confirmations. It was just really cool, because you want to just make an impact in one person’s life, and the fact that the internet shrinks the world is so incredible.

 

My agency’s website is impulsecreative.com. We put out a heck of a lot of content, and if you have any questions about agency life, or even as Connect Partners, you want to know more about what we think HubSpot should do or where there’s opportunities, you can hit us up.

 

Socials are always the best way to get in touch with me. Email, I battle with every day.

 

ROB: For sure. Remington, thank you so much for swinging by and chatting. It’s a pleasure to meet and learn from you.

 

REMINGTON: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

 

ROB: Have a great last day.

 

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 info@convergehq.com, or visit us on the web at convergehq.com.

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