Networking that Works – The INBOUND Series

Anna-Vija-McClain1

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 annavija.com, 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: Piccolomarketing.com or on her personal site at: http://annavija.com.

ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Rob Kischuk. I am live at HubSpot’s Inbound Conference in Boston, and I am joined right now by Anna-Vija McClain. She is based out of Nashville, Tennessee. She is the CEO of Piccolo Marketing and the President of Nashville’s chapter of Women in Digital. Welcome to the podcast.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me.

 

ROB: It’s fantastic to have you here.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah, this is great. At the happy hour.

 

ROB: It’s happy hour, but somebody needs to take our drink order, I think. [laughs]

 

ANNA-VIJA: That would be awesome, yeah.

 

ROB: Really long line for drinks.

 

ANNA-VIJA: It’s not a full service happy hour. [laughs]

 

ROB: Anna-Vija, why don’t you start off by telling us a little bit about Piccolo Marketing and what makes Piccolo great?

 

ANNA-VIJA: I started Piccolo Marketing about 4-½ years ago—again, in Nashville, as you had mentioned. I saw a hole in the market for small business owners, specifically business owners that had enough money to spend on marketing but not enough that they would hire a full-time in-house marketing director—or, even if they hired that person, that they would really know what to expect out of them or get from them.

 

Our team has experts in all different forms of marketing, and we come together into an outsourced marketing department specifically for small business owners.

 

ROB: Got it. What did the first few customers look like? Who were they?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Anybody I could get. [laughs] We have some niches now, but the first couple of clients were people that I knew.

 

I’m actually here at Inbound, talking about networking and the power of using relationships to grow your business; that’s how I built mine. I reached out to people I knew and basically said, “This is what I’m doing.” I had a lot of people in my network that reached out to start services as a client to begin with.

 

ROB: What types of services do they typically need? Obviously, you’re kind of the “all things marketing,” so is it email, pay-per-click, web? What’s the scope of what you’re doing?

 

ANNA-VIJA: You got three of the five. You were so close, yeah. [laughs]

 

Foundationally speaking for small business owners, if you have a lot of money and you want to go bells and whistles, you can do big ad campaigns or whatever. Foundationally speaking, we do web development and management, email marketing, search engine optimization, and social media.

 

Then the thing that ties all four of those together is lead funnels, is the best way to name it, where you do an ad to a landing page on your website, put that over into your email campaign and follow up with people regularly.

 

We start with those four/five core services, but then as clients grow with us, we can help with the bells and whistles—things like video or photography or really anything, promo products.

 

ROB: Do you have an army of contractors at your fingertips, or do you have people you partner with on some of those services?

 

ANNA-VIJA: A whole army. We’re very intimidating. [laughs] Yes and no. We have our consistent group. We’ve got several people that are full-time W2’s, so we’ve grown quite a bit in 4 years. Then we also have a small group of people—piccolo.

 

It’s pronounced “pick-a-low” if you’re just looking at it online from America, but piccolo is the Italian word for “small.” When we did a little bit of rebranding a couple years ago—apparently, I said that we’re a small group of people helping small business owners—I used the word so often that the branding company was like, “That’s what your name should be.”

 

So, we intentionally have small groups of people that work on our clients so that they get that really personalized service. As we grow, we don’t try to maximize our staff members; we bring in new little pods of staff to work on new clients, so they get that customized service.

 

ROB: What led you to start the company in the first place? You mentioned you told people, “Hey, I’m doing this, can I help you?”, but what came before that?

 

ANNA-VIJA: I started working in restaurants when I was 16 because I wanted a car and a cellphone and pizza—so much pizza. [laughs] So I started in hospitality, I worked at private clubs for a while. When I was 28, I was running a private club. That’s the highest thing you can do in a club unless you’re Donald Trump and can own a private club.

 

I went to a mentor of mine and said, “Hey, I want to get out of this industry, but I don’t know what I want to do.” He gave me some very life-changing advice. I’ve shared it with a lot of people since then. Essentially, he said, go to your office. Lock the door. Write down everything that you do for your job or in your past jobs, from ordering office supplies to managing a P&L to selling, whatever.

 

When you’re done, rank them in the order you like doing them. “This is my favorite thing, my second favorite,” and so on. When you get to #4 or #5, stop ranking them. Then go find a job that is only those things, and stop tolerating all of the other stuff. Or, if you can’t find one, you make one.

 

That was really powerful for me. I spent the next 6 to 8 months trying to find one that matched all of my passions and my skillsets, the things I really love doing, and I wasn’t able to. At one point I was on unemployment. It was only for a month or two.

 

But I was like, if I really want to do something that I’m passionate about (which is helping small business owners), I’m going to have to take a leap and make this happen. So that’s what started the agency.

 

ROB: Wow. Who were your next couple of hires? Who were the strange people—

 

ANNA-VIJA: [laughs] Who were the poor sad sacks that accepted that?

 

ROB: I brought a new hire on this trip with me, and it’s their first week.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Oh, wow.

 

ROB: You’re trying to figure out who each other are as people and as coworkers . . .

 

ANNA-VIJA: Traveling with people is hard, too, if you don’t know them that well. You’re brave.

 

ROB: It just made sense.

 

ANNA-VIJA: They’re not here, are they? Over at happy hour drinking to get over this first week? [laughs]

 

ROB: Maybe. They’ve had to put up with me a lot. But they’re in sales, so hopefully they’re out selling. [laughs]

 

ANNA-VIJA: Hopefully, they’re selling. That’s perfect.

 

When you said who were the first clients, they were people that I knew, people I could find. Within the first 6 months of the company, I had 17 clients. Obviously, there’s a very big need for this service for small business owners, which was great, but I had to find some help.

 

So, I went back to some people I knew what we lovingly call “in the real world.” Our company is digital; we don’t have an office. It’s remote. Everybody works from their home or the coffee shop or whatever. It keeps costs down.

 

I hired a lovely woman named Jaleesa who had worked for me at my last country club job, who was always one of my favorite employees. I’m proud to say she is still working for me. She was actually sending me text messages earlier today about things.

 

From there we started hiring contractors, and as contractors became more familiar with what we were doing, we started promoting them into full-time W2 continuity positions.

 

ROB: Got it. That’s an interesting way to onboard. It sounds like you have some people who are very adaptable. They can do a lot of different things—because you do a variety of different things.

 

ANNA-VIJA: We do, yeah.

 

ROB: Do they come from a digital marketing background? Or how do you get them up to speed and make sure they’re going to serve a client well?

 

ANNA-VIJA: That’s a really great question. Actually, for the first time yesterday—it’s funny, you just hired a salesperson and so did I—Wednesday was my first hire of a business development person with digital marketing experience. Everybody else on my team, I’m just a firm believer in finding good people first.

 

We say this to clients too: what we do is not rocket science. Sending a MailChimp email—I don’t have a degree in that. We’ve developed systems and training processes. I can teach someone how to do email marketing in an hour.

 

What I’m looking for is quality people that are passionate about what we do—not the digital marketing necessarily, but the helping small business owners. Then, when we bring them in, we don’t hire specifically for job holes. We bring in good people, we figure out what they’re good at, and then we move them into those positions.

 

Most of the people that were hired—“marketing manager” was the name of their title—they had to cross-train and learn all about what we do. Then as they get good at one thing, we move them into that full-time.

 

ROB: Got it. As if you didn’t have enough to do running and scaling an agency, you also have chosen to spend time with Women in Digital, the Nashville chapter.

 

ANNA-VIJA: I have, yeah.

 

ROB: What makes that something you’re spending even more time doing and investing time there?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Women in Digital is a national organization. The Nashville chapter, we’re going to call it a reboot. It rebooted a few months ago. My business coach had reached out to me with the opportunity to be—they call it the “City Champion,” but in layman’s terms it’s the president position.

 

What I really love about the organization is that it is all about women supporting one another. I’m in my early 30s; like I told you, I came up in hospitality and private clubs. You want to talk about environments rife with sexual harassment and older men taking credit for your work? Unfortunately, those are things that I would love for them to not be issues, and they’re certainly not as big a problem as they used to be, but we still deal with those.

 

So, the thing I love about the organization is it’s not just another networking event. You don’t go and hand out cards and we all just say, “This is what I do” and we’re done. They have some unique programs or processes to get us talking about ways to help one another in a real way.

 

Our first real event—I say “real” event, after the reboot—was about sexual harassment in the workplace. It was the most open, honest—we had some women tearing up. It was a big thing. There was a lot of good discussion about how to deal with it and overcome it. I had more positive feedback from that one event, women going, “The next morning something happened to me at work, and because of that event I was able to deal with it.”

 

As somebody who wishes I had had more mentors as a young woman, I want to not only be a mentor for younger women, but I want to really encourage that support.

 

ROB: I think good environments in digital, the more of those that there are, the more of these sorts of honest conversations people can have—I was sharing with someone this morning, I became very aware of these issues about 5 years ago at South by Southwest. I should’ve known before, but I didn’t have a context.

 

I was hanging out with a good friend who runs an agency and she’s fantastic, and she’s like, “That dude’s groping me.”

 

I’m like, “What do you mean? That’s not a thing. I’m not like, ‘Hey, I’m at a marketing event. Let me go grope somebody.’” But . . .

 

ANNA-VIJA: But it happens. Yeah.

 

ROB: It was through that time. I was like, man, this is really messed up, and it’s pretty prevalent. Somebody’s company paid five grand for them to go to South by Southwest and grope somebody. I don’t think their company wanted that from them.

 

ANNA-VIJA: No, no. I think that’s really what it’s about, when you said it’s about talking about it. We’re not going in there and having a whole bunch of women around—it’s not like a man-cursing session. It genuinely is about women supporting other women and helping them.

 

I’m lovingly calling it my legacy project. I have a 2-year term that I just started, and my goal is to basically facilitate a mentorship/internship program, where the women that are adult professionals, that are part of the group as members can bring in—we’re going to partner with local universities like the Vanderbilt Women in Business program and we’re going to ask those students to come to our events.

 

We’ll not only teach them how to network and connect so that that helps their career, but also teach the adult professionals how to have quality internships and support one another so that there’s that really strong generational connection.

 

Again, the more exposure, the more talking about it, the more resource-sharing and support we give, the faster we can get rid of the groping at the conferences. [laughs] I did not come here to be groped, for one.

 

ROB: Yeah, I sincerely believe that. You did come here to give a talk.

 

ANNA-VIJA: I did. I did that just a few hours ago.

 

ROB: The talk that you gave was, “Networking That Works: The Proven Formula for Sales Follow-up.”

 

ANNA-VIJA: It was, yes.

 

ROB: Tell us what we should know. What should we be thinking about for networking that works?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah, key takeaways. It was about a 45-mintue presentation. Actually, I have it available on my online whatever.

 

ROB: Where should we find that?

 

ANNA-VIJA: You can go to annavija.com. Which I’m sure all of your listeners know how to spell, right? [laughs]

 

ROB: It’ll be in the show notes.

 

ANNA-VIJA: It’ll be in the show notes, there you go.

 

Key takeaways from the presentation are the “give to get” principle. So many people go into networking events and use the shotgun approach. They go to a bunch of different events, they go once, and they hand out as many business cards as they can, they collect as many as they can, and then they put those in a drawer in their desk.

 

No one ever calls them, and they go, “Well, that was a bust and networking sucks. That guy had bad breath and he talked to me all night.” There’s always that.

 

What I want to encourage people to do is really look at showcasing who you are. There’s a personal branding side of it. Showing people that you give first, showing that you provide value—kind of like what you’re doing with this podcast. Developing quality relationships and understanding that if you know who you’re developing those relationships with, you’ll find more, for example, referral partners than just direct sales leads.

 

When I go to a networking event, I’m not trying to sell marketing services to everyone in the room. I’m looking for other people that work with small business owners, and then I’m trying to find ways to bring value to them, because then they’re going to remember Piccolo and what we do, and they know a lot of people that we’re trying to work with.

 

That’s, again, the overarching concept. I have some really fun formulas and templates for that, like how to follow up with people.

 

ROB: Do you have a recommended frequency to follow up with people? How do you think about that? How often, or how, or what are you sending people?

 

I think that’s a hard thing, too. I have a friend who calls these the assets that you have, that you share with people, and they have a library of and they think about it. But that can be hard for people to structure. How do you think about follow-up and timing?

 

ANNA-VIJA: I think frequency is all about the person and how valuable they could be to you. I don’t think there’s a really standard frequency.

 

One of the things that I suggest during the talk is—invite everyone to coffee. I know that seems a little counterintuitive; “I met 100 people, how would I invite them all to coffee?” We’ve done a lot of research, not only from my own networking but through clients. We work with dozens of clients that we’ve done networking and sales admin for, and 95% of those coffee invitations go unanswered, or they don’t take you up on it.

 

Basically, by inviting people to coffee, you’re giving them that good impression of you. Then the next time they see you, they’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I missed . . .” They remember you because it’s an outstanding thing. So, I recommend, right after an event or right after a meeting, inviting everyone to coffee. Or if they don’t live near you, a follow-up phone call for 20-30 minutes.

 

Then, from there, I’m all about batching things together. You can’t reasonably follow up with 100 people individually. It’s just not going to happen. But if you connect with them all on LinkedIn and you post a few times a week on LinkedIn, they can all see that. If you have an email blast that goes out to the whole list once a month, that’s top-of-mind awareness.

 

You don’t have to do anything crazy if you just have some consistent value-add content going out. Just make sure everyone’s on the list.

 

ROB: Got it. Do you have a coffee shop that’s a customer that benefits from your coffee habit?

 

ANNA-VIJA: I do not, actually. I was joking.

 

ROB: Opportunity.

 

ANNA-VIJA: I know, right? Any coffeehouses that are looking. What’s funny is I actually don’t drink coffee. I have Meniere’s disease, so I can’t have caffeine or alcohol or anything like that. But I drink a faux coffee. I drink a hot tea that they flavor to be like coffee.

 

I have a local one called Pinewood Social in Nashville, which is my go-to hang. And I’m a fan of the Panera, which I know is everywhere.

 

ROB: There you go. Panera should be a customer too. [laughs]

 

ANNA-VIJA: That’s a very large customer, yeah. Small businesses, we work with. You heard that, right? Small ones.

 

ROB: I did hear that.

 

ANNA-VIJA: I don’t know if Panera qualifies for that or not. [laughs]

 

ROB: Yeah, that’s a little bit different. What sort of events do you find, then, that you’ve had to invest in over time from a networking perspective for your own business? Whether it’s local Chamber of Commerce type things, or—she made a face on that one.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Okay, I am all about a Chamber of Commerce. However—and I went over this in my presentation today—one of the things that I think we do is, again, we go out and pick a networking group that sounds like “the” group to join.

 

My best example is there’s this really amazing group in Nashville called NAMA. It’s the marketing association for people in that industry. I’ve been around for 4 or 5 years as a company and I’ve never joined. I know a lot of people in it. A new gentleman who just started working for me is in it, and he’s in a leadership role. It is a great organization.

 

But in terms of who I’m looking to network with, I’m looking for smaller business owners that need marketing services, and everyone in that room at NAMA does marketing. There’s just different kinds of networking. If I’m looking to network with people who are going to help me with industry things, those are really great groups. If I’m looking to find my target audience, maybe not.

 

So when you say Chamber of Commerce—Chamber of Commerce doesn’t really have a strategic target audience. It’s just any business in the geographic territory. I’ve been to a lot of those events in my history, and they’re not bad events by any means—and our Nashville Chamber is amazing. They do a lot, and they have very segmented groups. But I would rather go to some of those segmented gatherings that have some targeted approach to who’s going to be there.

 

I like to go onto Eventbrite and just type in—they have a Business & Networking category—and look through and try to find the ones that are catering specifically to either the target audience I want to sell to or the target audience I want to partner with before I just show up to an event and hope that the right people are there.

 

ROB: I’ll try some events once to figure out if they’re a fit. Not to see if I can network, network, network and get a deal done, but sometimes to evaluate if it’s worthwhile and if I want to come back.

 

ANNA-VIJA: I recommend that you go to an event that you think has the right audience, and if you like it, don’t just go to the events. Immediately volunteer to be in a leadership position.

 

During my talk I was telling people, checking people in at the door isn’t very glamorous, but do you know who everyone in the room knows? The door check person. You get to meet every single person and have a little moment with them before they walk in.

 

I volunteer for a couple of nonprofits as well. I’m a big believer in just because you’re doing something out of your passion or the goodness of your heart, doesn’t mean that you can’t connect and find business leads there. The nonprofits that I’m part of, I’ve been part of for years, and I not only am able to feel good about giving back, but it helps to increase your exposure by doing that as well.

 

ROB: I wish I would’ve listened to you like 5 years ago, because I joined the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Sounds reasonable.

 

ROB: It’s very successful. Very relevant people to our business there who can be our customers, and some of them are. But I didn’t volunteer to do anything. Actually, I had to hang around long enough that they basically dragged me.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Oh, into leadership? Yeah.

 

ROB: Yeah, they’re like, “Can you help coordinate this docuseries?”

 

ANNA-VIJA: They want all the help. Everyone running a networking organization wants help. It is not hard. If you just go up and go, “Hi, how can I help?”, they will find something for you to do.

 

ROB: I consider it a win just to be accepted into their tribe. In the marketing and networking world, people can be a little bit wary of the wolf in the henhouse. You don’t want to be the wolf in the henhouse. You just want to be a hen.

 

ANNA-VIJA: That’s the thing. The wolf in the henhouse has a very clear—there’s a goal there. Maybe I’m thinking in idealistic terms, but I know that I’m a wolf trying to sell something to the hens—let’s make it the nice metaphor where I’m trying to sell them stuff—but I don’t have to go in hardcore trying to sell. You can go in and just do good things and give value, and people will recognize that.

 

I told you about the gentleman that I hired yesterday. I’ve never placed a job ad for my company. Every person that I’ve hired has been based on referral. I take the top 40 or 50 people in my referral network, I send out an email with a job description, and I say, “Who do you know that you would hire that fits this description?”

 

I sent that email out last Tuesday, and within 5 hours I had the perfect candidate, from somebody that runs a networking organization that I’ve known for years.

 

People think of it as, “I go to networking events to sell stuff.” If you’re doing that, I think it’s the short play. It’s shortsighted.

 

ROB: You’re giving me ideas I’m kicking around in my head while we’re talking. I know a way I’m going to be a nice wolf.

 

ANNA-VIJA: A nice wolf, right?

 

ROB: A nice wolf, a friendly wolf.

 

ANNA-VIJA: A friendly wolf that’s just like, “Hey, let’s grab coffee,” right?

 

ROB: [laughs] You said it’s been about 4-½ years now; if you reflect on the company, on the history of the agency, what are some things you would do differently if you were starting from scratch today? What are some lessons learned along the journey?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Oh, that’s a challenging one. Do you do personality testing or Myers-Briggs testing?

 

ROB: Have done, yeah. StrengthsFinder or DiSC. There are many. There’s the whole color thing.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah, you could be all kinds of metaphorical things from a personality standpoint. When I first started the company, I very much believed in the importance of understanding each person’s skillset and their strengths and weaknesses, especially my own.

 

One of the things that I know about myself is that I’m very entrepreneurial. On the DiSC, the ‘D,’ Dominant, I’m 1 point from the top. My ‘i’ is one behind that, and my ‘S’ way down at the bottom. So, I know about myself that when I get stressed, when I get excited—which are all natural emotions for an entrepreneur—I tend to default to the behavior of moving too quickly.

 

So, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over and over again in the past 4-½ years, it’s that when you’re developing a team and building a scalable business, the most important thing is you have to give a roadmap to the team.

 

My business coach was the one who pointed it out to me at first. I was like, “Everything seems to be going really well, but my team seems to be really confused.” She’s like, “Have you given them a roadmap, or are you just running as fast as you can down the path and hoping they’re behind you?” I’m like, “Ooh . . .”

 

Actually, our employee handbook is called The Roadmap to lovingly remind me to calm down. But that’s the thing that I think is the most challenging when you’re building a business. There’s so much opportunity in the digital world right now. Things are changing all the time. This is working, and then that goes away and then this new thing crops up.

 

You have to try to stay focused on the core value that you’re bringing to your clients and make sure that you’re finding scalable ways to work with your team to deliver that.

 

ROB: I’ve heard of entrepreneurs actually writing a document saying, “This is how to work with me.” At first blush it sounds a little bit presumptuous or haughty or just kind of weird, but also I think that small businesses are kind of crazy because people are kind of crazy.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah. We’re all crazy. [laughs]

 

ROB: Your crazy is front and center in that close-quarters environment. In a large enough company you can sort of hide your crazy. I could be Bob, the guy that plays backgammon and brings his lunch every day, and that’s all anybody knows about me. But my team gets full force Rob–

 

ANNA-VIJA: We have 12-15 people on our team. Even though we work remotely, we structure gatherings where we get together and work together and talk, and quarterly meetings. We’re working closely enough together with 12 people that you’ve got to be able to navigate, for sure.

 

ROB: You mentioned things are changing all the time, clearly. What are some things that are starting to work for small and local businesses, and what are some of the things that are starting to not work for them?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Interesting. One of the things I always say is that search engine optimization is very sexy. Everyone really likes the thought process, like, “Ooh, you mean I just put stuff . . .”

 

ROB: Like three-dimensional chess, all these “beat the system . . . ”

 

ANNA-VIJA: That’s the thing. Search engine optimization is one of those things—I’m not going to say it doesn’t work, because it does.

 

Most small business owners don’t have the time or the amount of money that’s necessary to do SEO well. They don’t come to me and say, “Hey, can you do SEO?” They come to me and say, “How do I get to the first spot in Google results?” Then you have to explain to them about how that is the case for multiple keywords in different geographic areas and different meta-tagging.

 

ROB: And different people get different rankings. The best you can get out of Search Console is your average position.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Exactly. Small business owners are already wearing 15 hats. They’ve got a lot going on. A lot of them come to me going, “I want SEO” because they like the sexy idea that the internet is just going to make them higher in the placement and will bring them this business that they didn’t have to go fetch.

 

We’re able to explain that SEO is a long-term play, and that if we put a small amount of your budget towards it, we can do some really good things—over time. But what small business owners are really looking for is that ROI, that faster ROI where they’re seeing the dollars, where the dollars coming in are paying for the marketing efforts.

 

The things that are really working now—I’m part of a Mastermind group in LA. The people that are teaching this thing are spending a million dollars a day in Facebook ads. Some of the things that are trending right now—Facebook ads are still the number one engagement tool. Building out lead funnels where it goes to a landing page where you’re giving away something. It could be an actual service or item that you offer; it could be what they call a lead magnet, so some sort of little eBook or something like that.

 

Trying to build up your email list in order to follow up with people on a regular basis is really—I won’t say the fastest because I don’t know all the marketing things out there, but that’s been a winning model for us in the past few months. We’re able to implement that for some of the small business owners where they’re getting 50 new email leads a month and they can go right to that list and start contacting each person individually and go, “Did you want to talk to us about this, about services or a product?”

 

ROB: Sure. I think it’s interesting with SEO. There’s always been these like “secret SEO tricks.” I think what we see over time is that Google wants to make money, but for the most part they’re kind of triangulating towards authenticity over time.

 

ANNA-VIJA: For sure.

 

ROB: Some of the things that you could beat before were, they were using criteria to rank things that were a proxy for authenticity that could also be gamed. Those are going away. It’s how long you spend on that site when you get there. Is your site worth finding?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Oh, yeah. It’s the relevancy of your blog title. I know that sounds funny, but when we write blogs for clients, we write quality content, but the title and the word optimization that we’re putting in there—some of our clients are like, “This is a really crappy blog title.” We’re like, “Yeah, we know, because we’re not talking to you as a human.”

 

Some person is going to type in this arbitrary combination of long-tail keywords. We have the data and keyword research to prove this is what they’re looking for. Business owners think about it in terms of industry names. They’re thinking about it in abbreviations and their own industry speak. It’s like, but that’s not what your clients are searching.

 

So, I agree with you. I think that it’s something where the algorithm changes often. We’ve been doing it for clients for a long time, where something will happen. They’ll deindex the site, or a few years ago they changed it to where it wasn’t the quantity of server backlinks you were on, it was how much traffic the servers were getting. Totally jacked up—like, “Okay, now we’ve got to have a new . . .” But I agree, it’s all towards that authenticity.

 

ROB: And then somebody’s WordPress gets hacked.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah, that was fun.

 

ROB: That’s a problem too.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Yeah, we’ve all had one of those as well. [laughs]

 

ROB: Anna-Vija, when someone wants to find you and find Piccolo Marketing, how should they find you?

 

ANNA-VIJA: Piccolo Marketing is a lot easier than my first name. Piccolomarketing.com is our website, and it tells a little bit about what we do. You can meet the team there and all that.

 

My information, again, is on http://annavija.com, which you can click in the show notes because my name is a fun thing to spell. It’s Norwegian. But that’s where I’ve got information about my public speaking and a lot of the programs I do, including a link over to Build Your Damn Business, which is my online group learning community.

 

We do a monthly webinar there, and there’s a whole resource library of things like the networking best practices. I have an entire checklist on how to do that within the Build Your Damn Business community.

 

ROB: Wow, that’s kind of like an Inception-level community for you. It’s like, how do I help you grow your business so you’re ready to be my customer? It’s like Facebook and Google trying to get people to use the internet more. You’re helping local businesses succeed.

 

ANNA-VIJA: That’s the goal. I have a lot of small business owners that come to me. I volunteer with SCORE, and the reason is because they genuinely aren’t big enough to hire someone yet. But their hope is that they get to that point eventually, and whether it’s us or somebody else, my hope is that they know what to look for as opposed to just hiring somebody and being like “fingers crossed they get the job done.”

 

ROB: Very cool. Thank you so much for taking time out of your conference to meet up and for sharing your experience and wisdom.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Absolutely, thanks for having me. Hey look, the happy hour line is almost gone. Yay! [laughs]

 

ROB: The happy hour line is almost gone. The beverages are—but you can’t enjoy it anyhow. That’s sad.

 

ANNA-VIJA: No, that’s okay. I’m sure they have a Sprite or something.

 

ROB: There you go. All right, we’re signing off. Thank you so much.

 

ANNA-VIJA: Thank you.

 

ROB: 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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